March 02, 2006

Weird Stuff

from - smijer

Monday night was the first time since before I turned 18 that I was made to go to church... So who makes a 33 year old man go to church? Well, in my case, it was my employer. And, it wasn't technically church... it was on the Southern Belle, and the preacher (and ex-NFL player) was billed as a "motivational speaker". In addition to the preaching, there was a nice dinner, and there were opportunities to have interdepartmental mingling and mixing.

I am only writing this today, even though it happened Monday, for the simple reason that this raised my eyebrows in so many ways that I couldn't figure out how to even approach it... So, I'm just going to throw in all the juicy bits in whatever order I can... But, first - a word to educators, parents of public school children, and those concerned with such matters: this info is of interest to you! If you are a concerned citizen, then spread the word... If you are an educator or parent of a public school child, then you should know this before you consent to have this "motivational speaker" appear at your school's event!

So what raised my eyebrows Monday night? First in order of mention, but not chronologically, was that I was sent to a mandatory conference, the central point of which was to hear the evangelism of a Christian speaker. Don't misunderstand me... some, who are particularly sensitive to such things, might hear a blessing said, or the name of God or Jesus spoken, and proclaim an entire event "church", when really the central issue was elsewhere. I am not he. At my company, many large meetings start with a prayer and continue with mentions of God's will for the company... and I've sat quietly through every one of them... This was church. The man talked briefly about his football career, then spent the remainder of his time giving his testimony and exhorting us to a better Christian life. Another clarification - I wasn't offended... at least not by the fact that I was made to go to church. This type of event is once-per-year, and I can live with it. It makes the company brass feel warm & cozy. They, in turn, are not motivated by malice - they are simply oblivious to the fact that the company includes Unitarian atheists, people who prefer a little less church (or a little less of this particular variety), and Jews. Where I was a little miffed, I'll explain as I go along...

Ok... so the speaker was Herman Weaver... known at one time as "Thunderfoot"... When he took the microphone, he began by reading a longish list of cutesy maxims and quotations... And now we come to the first raised brow: He read the story of the reporter and Abe Lincoln concerning whose side God was on during the civil war. He remarked that, in his opinion, God favored the south... This despite having at least two blacks in the crowd, and several on the boat staff who were listening as well. Pretty dumb... You'd think, having made a second career in public speaking, he would know better than to glorify the south (which is indeed a wonderful place to live, in many ways) by implying that God condoned slavery. So, this was either very stupid, or he's a racist. I won't try to guess which.

The next brow - again in order of mention, not necessarily chronologically, was when he explained to a room full of conservative southerns just what qualified them as "true Christians"... yikes!

But what really made my hair stand on end whas what he told us about his missionary work to the public schools. But, I'm getting ahead of myself... First, I want to tell you about Herman's life-changing miracle, and why it's weird. See, when he was a backslidden Christian, his daughter fell from a tree, and was hurt very badly. So he took her to her grandmother's home (?!), where she continued to be hurt very badly... so he took her to the hospital. The doctors there told him she had broken her back - that she may never walk again. This is where it gets weird... She had to have a full body cast for up to a year, you see, but for some reason this had to be done at the Children's Hospital. So the doctor gave him the x-rays, and told him to take her there... in his car. It becomes anticlimactic at this point, I'm sorry to say, but the story must be finished. He drove her to the Children's Hospital, gave the x-rays to the doctor, and after the examination, the doctor proclaimed that "it must be a miracle", because there was nothing wrong with her. Shortly after, she was able to do a little walking. So there's the miracle... Naturally, I suspect that no doctor actually said that her back was broken, or any of the rest of it... I suspect the doctor at the first hospital said something else entirely, and either Mr. Weaver misunderstood completely or has later exaggerated, distorted, or lied about the experience. I won't speculate about which... but here's a further element of weirdness about the case. Later in his talk, he informed us that he had told students during his presentation that if anyone could "prove that there was even one lie in the Bible", he would change his beliefs. I don't know about you, but if God cured my baby girl of a broken back, I don't think I would abandon Him on the basis of one falsehood in the Holy Book... So, yeah... I suspect Weaver doesn't really believe his own story... or that he wasn't being all that truthful about his willingness to give up his religion in the face of opposing evidence. And that's the weirdness of the miracle.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story isn't so weird. It's remarkably normal in these United States. You may have gathered that this company meeting was more like a tent revival than business session. Well, a lot of what Mr. Weaver said was about how he gave precisely this same talk to school children in the public school system. A lot of it was about the students', parents', and teachers' reaction, and how he dealt with that. And, let me tell you - he doesn't take well to criticism. You see, according to Herman Weaver (who apparently has an inside line on Divine preferences), "God doesn't care about the separation of church & state". The kids need a little dose of church during school, because God forbid their parents have any say in when and where they get their church. So Herman Weaver has made it his personal business to make sure they get church when God wants them to. Weaver boasts that being an NFL star gives him access to places where it's hard for other people to get in... Apparently, he means the auditorium at City High.

Science teachers don't fair well with Mr. Weaver... After his talk a teacher came to him. To quote, "He didn't like that I told the kids they were created. He said, 'no they weren't. They evolved.'" Either he encountered one of the least literate science teacher critics of creationism out there, or he's bending the truth out of all proportion. I won't speculate which. In any case, the science teacher was (like most of his critics) "little", and not worth much bother. In fact, this was the case with almost every teacher or administrator that got in the way of his self-appointed task of God's liason to the public schools.

Have you noticed by now that Mr. Weaver came off - to me, anyway - as arrogant? That's the last eyebrow that I'll mention. Whether he was talking about his football career or his career in evangelism, the subject was himself and his achievements. God gets credit for the weird miracle... and a coach gets some credit for special punting training... The rest is a litany of "Thunderfoot's"
super-star talents.

In short, the dude is an boor, and has no respect for students or their tax-paying parents with regard to how he approaches them at school. I would like to ask him one day, if God cares so little for the separation of church and state, then maybe he wouldn't mind the government sending teachers in to his church to teach the kids a little science. I'm sure it couldn't hurt. I might remind him, then, that Allah doesn't care too much about the separation of church and state, either.

Herman Weaver's Homepage
Sports World, the organization that dispatches Weaver to his engagements.

December 21, 2005


from - smijer

Ok, I only have a second & then I have to be about getting out of here... Just a quick question for anyone who might have an opinion on it, having read the decision from Dover.

Did the judge "ban" the teaching of ID in public school science classrooms as all the news reports say? Or were it requirements that ID be taught the only "banned" policies under the ruling?

Inquiring minds want to know.

November 17, 2005

It's rare that I give good advice to partisan GOoPers to help them keep their electoral majorities, but I agree with George Will and John Cole, and if you are a Republican, you should, too.

October 12, 2005

September 29, 2005

Via US Chatter:

The ACLU understands and respects the difference between an individual and the state.


September 28, 2005

August 07, 2005

Who can deny that there is propaganda war going on in this increasingly politically and religiously polarized society? I mentioned, in passing, the work of "the religious right's propagandists" in the comments of this post at the Jeff Blogworthy blog. That comment inspired Jeff Blogworthy to begin a whole series of posts about leftist propaganda, to show me that the propagandists of the religious right are not acting in a vacuum. From this post:

Welcome to the new Leftist Propaganda series. Readers have Smijer to thank, because of his passing crack about religious propagandists of the right (paraphrase). "You wouldn't know real propaganda if it hit you upside the head," I thought to myself. Well, I decided to show him. What an inspiration you are, Smijer. I intend to post a minimum of 10 examples of outrageous Leftist propaganda - and I may do more. There are so many to choose from, after all. When the Left does propaganda, they do it big.

Just a couple of clarifications:

  • I made a crack in passing. I never pass crack. ;-)
  • I'm actually pretty adept (if I do say so myself) at recognizing propaganda. One of the first examples I remember being exposed to was the rebranding by Reagan of the Nicarauguan Contra terrorists as "freedom fighters", equivalent to America's founding fathers. I remember as a child hearing a close family member coming home from church to speak sincere praise of the Nicaraguan "Freedom Fighters". I remember witnessing terrible indignation among my own family at the prosecution of Colonel Oliver North, the "American Hero". Readers of smijer & Buck know that I do my best to apply a smell test and do due diligence before I post anything to my own blog to be sure that my posts reflect my own values and conform to objective fact as closely as possible in this medium.
  • I preferred my own phrasing to JB's paraphrase of my remarks. My own phrasing was to deal with a specific bloc of political and religious operatives known commonly as "the religious right". It is the propagandists of that bloc to whom I was referring, and I feel that my phrasing keeps the focus of my comments clear. Furthermore, lefty though I may be, I don't particularly like being lumped in with "the Left" for purposes of critique, unless the critique is specifically limited to the mainstream, modern, Western left. It's not hard to critique the "right" in general by taking shots at Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, or Adolph Hitler. But, it isn't helpful. Likewise, it isn't helpful to take shots at the "left" in general by airing grievances against Jane Fonda, Che Gueveras, or Chairman Mao. You can make just about any kind of accusation against "the left" or "the right", if you cast your net wide enough.

So, anyway... I learned something from Jeff's post. Previously, I had not heard of Rigoberta Menchu or her fraudulent autobiography. I may be in a minority on that, so I won't snark about the relative ineffectiveness of leftist propaganda. And I am truly distressed by seeing people on "our side" weakening our case by making us more susceptible to charges of dishonesty. In fact, I'm discouraged to see people on "our side" - or anyone for that matter - trying to deceive others. Life is hard enough without having to figure out when you are being lied to.

The reason I post is that I'm going to try to go head to head with Blogworthy. I intend to present an example of propaganda from the religious right, or possibly even the American right in general, each time he presents one from "the left". That way, both of us will have a shot at seeing how this propaganda looks from the other side. It should be enlightening for all concerned. So, Jeff, I see your Rigoberta Menchu with National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, who publishes a Bible curriculum and textbook for use in public school systems. The NCBCPS claims that 284 school districts in 35 states use its curriculum. With those numbers it can surely be said, "when the religious right does propaganda, they do it big."

The Texas Freedom Network asked religious scholar Mark Chancey to review the curriculum for overall appropriateness to the public school classroom. What he found was truly startling. Here's the link (PDF).

The simple purpose of this review was to determine if the curriculum passes constitutional muster as a non-sectarian text. Clearly, it does not. But, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The curriculum is not only fraught with religious doctrines portrayed as fact, it is also generously peppered with egregious errors of fact, poor research and outright plagiarism.

Here, we have layers of propaganda. Before we get into the actual propaganda going into our students' classrooms, I'd like to share a bit of about the methods of the NCBCPS itself. One propaganda technique, seemingly becoming a favorite of American conservatives, is that of doublespeak. The NCBCPS bills its curriculum as non-sectarian and will waste no time reassuring us of this. From their response to Chancey's review (PDF), we have these words:

As the TFN report concedes, the curriculum does not suggest, and the NCBCPS does not recommend, that any public school teacher ever take a personal position regarding the truth or falsity of any Biblical passage, nor commentator’s positions about such passages. The NCBCPS carefully instructs teachers of the course that public schools must remain objective and neutral in their treatment of religion.

Any course material, in any classroom or subject area, is subject to abuse by a rebellious instructor. NCBCPS recommends that this elective be periodically monitored for constitutional compliance.

Very noble, and non-sectarian... if only the curriculum itself did not take a position regarding the turth or falsity of Biblical passages, and the Bible as a whole.

Another note of propganda - demonizing the opposition, poisoning the well: this response is posted on NCBCPS' web-site under the heading, "NCBCPS RESPONDS TO ATTACK BY ANTI-RELIGION EXTREMISTS". Who are these "anti-religion extremists?" Well, they are the Texas Freedom Network whose executive summary of Chancey's report begins with this extremist language:

As a national debate rages over the proper place for religion in public education, more and more public schools are adding elective courses in Bible literacy. When taught with credible materials and from a nonsectarian perspective, such courses are an appropriate and even laudable way to help students learn about history and literature. This report, commissioned by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, reveals that what may be the country’s most aggressively marketed and widely used Bible curriculum fails on both counts.

In further describing the Texas Freedom Network, Director Elizabeth Ridenour says these things:

NCBCPS noted that it should come as no surprise that a small group of far left, anti-religion extremists like the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) is so desperate to ban one book – the Bible – from public schools. “It is ironic that a group which claims to be against censorship is now attempting to become the biggest censor in the State of Texas,” said Elizabeth Ridenour, president of NCBCPS. “At its root, TFN’s real objection to our curriculum is not the qualifications of our academic authorities, but the fact that we actually allow students to hold and read the Bible for themselves, and make up their own minds about its claims. This is something no other Bible curriculum does, and TFN can’t stand it,” Ridenour added.

“TFN is actually quite fearful of academic freedom,” Ridenour stated, “and is trying to deny local schools and communities the right to decide for themselves what elective courses to offer their citizens. This is not freedom, it is totalitarianism.”

What she fails to do is give a single example of an actual word or action from the TFN that would support her depiction of them. We must take her word for it... something which I will not willingly do, having seen the blatant disregard for truth and accuracy manifested in her Council's curriculum, especially knowing that she has a large financial stake in keeping her product in the classroom.

Of course, the real culprit here is not the TFN, but Mark Chancey, who compiled the report. Surely he is the real anti-religious extremist? No... From the report, about the author:

Dr. Mark A. Chancey teaches biblical studies in the Department of Religious Studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at Southern
Methodist University in Dallas. He attended the University of Georgia, where he earned a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Religion (1990) and an M.A. in Religion (1992), and Duke University, where he received a Ph.D. in Religion with a focus in New Testament studies and early Judaism (1999). His research interests include the Gospels, the Historical Jesus, archaeology and the
Bible, and the political and social history of Palestine during the Roman period. He is a member of the Society for Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical
Association, the American Academy of Religion, and the American Schools for Oriental Research.

From Chancey's own introduction:

I write from the perspective of someone who is a proud product of public schools and who has fond memories of reading Job and Genesis in my
high school English class. I was first introduced to the academic study of the Bible at a public institution, the University of Georgia, and am a staunch supporter of public schools. I am also a professional educator who specializes in biblical studies and a person of faith who currently attends a United Methodist Church. This background and my experiences inform my belief that Bible courses
taught in a nonsectarian manner by academically qualified teachers can be an enriching part of a public education.

Maybe not a Bible-thumping fundie, but certainly no anti-religious extremist. But that's enough of the propaganda that targets adults... let's talk about the propaganda that targets children for a minute.

The report is rich in detail, and I would encourage you to read it in its entirety to see the scope of the propaganda directed at public school kids. But it's worth pointing out a couple of the more outrageous examples. Here goes:

The Cyrus cylinder, a sixth-century BCE clay cylinder with an inscription, is described in the curriculum as “confirmation of one of the most astonishing events in the pages of Scripture,” Ezra 1:1-3. This biblical passage asserts thatCyrus, King of Persia, announced that the god of the Jews had commanded him to allow captured Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. The curriculum asserts that the inscription proves that Cyrus was a “moderate and God-fearing monarch” (p. 179). [The inscription on this cylinder does indeed corroborate Ezra’s account that the Persian king Cyrus treated some of his subjects well, though it does not mention the Jews, Jerusalem, or the temple. The cylinder also does suggest that Cyrus was god-fearing — but the god it mentions is not the Jewish god but Marduk, a Babylonian god.38]

Not much to add to that one... just ... "Ahem..."

The curriculum presents an urban legend as a scientific finding, claiming that scientists have confirmed the accuracy of the famous story in Joshua 10 of the sun standing still so that the Israelites would have sufficient time to defeat the Canaanites. Page 117 suggests that the class “note in particular the interesting story of the sun standing still in chapter 10. There is documented research through NASA that two days were indeed unaccounted for in time (the other being in 2 Kings 20:8-11).” Both this page and page 116 provide the address for a Web page that presents this “interesting story” and NASA’s alleged discovery of a “missing day” as facts.50 Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand has documented the evolution of the rumor that scientists have found a missing day, tracing it from the original claim made by an army officer in 1890 to the updated version cited above, which emerged in the 1960s in the early heyday of space exploration. Brunand’s study verifies the nature of this claim as an urban legend with no basis in fact, as does a Web page posted on a NASA Web site.

To which I can only say "Holy cow!" I've known this was an urban legend since the first time I found a version of it in my e-mail and checked Snopes. And now, tens of thousands of students are being taught this as fact? Another question: what are they going to think of their leaders in the religious right if and when they discover they were lied to?

“Read ‘The Magnificat’ [Luke 1:46-55, not 1:48-55 as specified in the curriculum] and Hannah’s ‘Song’ in I Samuel 2:1-10. Compare and consider the simple monosyllabic words used by Mary to those of Old Testament poetry. How is this typical of the Hebrews?” (p. 138)

[The words in these passages may be monosyllabic (consisting of one syllable) in English translations, but they are quite different in Hebrew and Greek. How English syllabification provides insight into the ancient Hebrew mindset is not explained.]

Ok... these are just samples... examples abound. I'm not certain if this was the same curriculum, but my own stepsons brought home xeroxed assignments from their Bible Studies elective in middle school. I glanced through them and found that more than one question was "loaded" with a sectarian viewpoint, and - if I remember correctly - there were factual errors implied in one or more of the questions as well. At the time I thought it was just because we lived in Podunk, Tennessee, and the teachers didn't know any better. I certainly didn't take it upon myself to correct them. It's more important to me that the boys be able to work through a math problem, or understand their science. But the fact is that the propaganda from the religious right is so pervasive as to almost seem like background noise at times.

The good news is that I should be able to keep up with Jeff Blogworthy's leftist propaganda column pretty dang well...

Until then...

July 08, 2005

Tennessee Liberal has the scoop...

Even if he did make the absurd-sounding statement that we've had "not enough [Andrew] Jackson's"... That wasn't how he meant it.

June 15, 2005

None at BlogsAgainstTerri'sWishes, though a priest says the facts don't mean anything, if that helps.

Matter of fact report of the autopsy results at Justice From Terri Schiavo's Parents' Perspective. The only comment at this time seems to be a bit of sour grapes.

Terri Schindler-Schiavo Wasn't What She Called Herself mentions the priest. No apology.

The rest of the pretend-doctor-and-make-believe-detective-o-sphere seems to be silent for now. I'm sure they will append their apologies just after Bill Frist takes the Senate Floor to make his own.

Update: None yet at the ironically named Apologies Demanded. Gosh... you'd think they'd be the first one out...

Udpate#2: Prolife or reasonable facsimile thereof Blogs has a roundup of (non-) apologies from various interested parties. (This blog has apparently deleted my trackback ping)

Update#3: An actual apology, found amongst the links rounded up above. This apology only extends to the Florida Press. I do not think that the author explicitly condemned Michael Schiavo as many others have done, so he need not apologize on that point. On the other hand, he allowed himself to be used by the religious right's propaganda to assist the effort to interfere with Michael's attempt to carry out his wife's wishes, and therefore owes them both an apology. Curtis still labors under the mistaken belief that Terri was never tested for PVS while living. In fact, she was and was so diagnosed.

Update #4: More at "Justice"... Surprisingly, the parents "don't believe" the autopsy report. Who'd a' guessed it? Plus, a commenter who still hasn't figured out the extent to which he or she has been duped asks, innocently, "How is it that the autopsy report states she was blind when she was able to track a balloon?"... Honey, the answer is that she wasn't able to track a balloon. The appearance that she did, along with many other false appearances were the result of very carefully edited video. Don't worry, though - You're in good company.

June 09, 2005

I know it's old news... but I just noticed Brainwise doing a post on it, and I thought this would be a good way to keep it in the archives. The Christian Majority in Charge of the Government is under attack because sometimes a school board or judge makes the wrong call on issues of separation of church and state... We need an archive of all the other people who are "under attack" when something like that happens.

Judge rules parents cannot teach their own religion to child.

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

A judge who tries to tell me what religion I can teach my children is just itching for a fight. I hope he's disbarred.

June 02, 2005

A Few Things

from - smijer

I got up at three in three in the morning to use the potty. I went in, sat down, and the next thing I remember is looking up from the floor trying to focus my eyes on Mrs. smijer, who was informing me that what happened was a seizure. The second in three years that she has witnessed.

I'm about to leave for work, late, after spending some time to rest and recuperate... Grand Mal seizures leave you hurting and drained.

Notes of interest on church/state separation:
Daily Kos documents the efforts of the Ohio Restoration Project, an attempt to further place the evangelical church into the service of the Republican Party, and provides a blistering rejoinder from a thoughtful Presbyterian pastor:

This is not America's mission. This is frightening, diabolical stuff for non-Christians and Christians alike. It is blasphemous to claim that any earthly kingdom is God's kingdom. The theological foundations of this movement are vacuous. They are set on the sands of opportunism, self-righteousness and greed. [...]
The media must investigate and show this movement for what it is. Courageous preachers must help their congregations understand what is at stake. Silence is not an option.

Coincidentally, I was reading an interview at BeliefNet last night with Max Lucado, who gave the benediction at the Republican National Convention last year. He, too, seems to have a much more tempered attitude toward the role of politics in the Evangelical church:

One of the things that amazes me about Jesus is that when he had a moral difference with somebody, he drew near to that person and they dialogued about it. There’s the story about little Zaccheus, the tax collector; the guy was a crook, but he could legitimately justify his income through the way he interpreted the law--but it was wrong. Jesus hung out with him, and as a result there was a change in Zaccheus’s life.

I wish there could be some way in which people who have a preconceived notion of the church, of religious people, could hang out with church-going people for a while. I think that they think every time we’re in church we’re beating the abortion drum or bashing gay people. We’re not doing that—most people are not doing that. We’re struggling like everybody else, trying to figure out what we’re supposed to be doing in life. So I wish there could be some way that blue states could kind of intermingle with the red states.

And then vice-versa, I wish we could come to a better understanding of the struggle that a homosexual has and why abortion seems to be such a threat to so many people who are pro-choice. There’s not that dialogue taking place right now.

Actually, I take issue somewhat with the implication that our notions of the church are "preconcieved"... I do hang with church people to a certain degree, have attended a variety of evangelical churches, and really have tried to understand them. And yes, the church experience is deeper than just gay-bashing and beating the abortion drum... but you'll still have to sit through quite a bit of both if you go to one of theirs. The Ohio Restoration Project is closer to rule than exception. Nevertheless, Lucado's attitude seems a very much healthier one than, for instance, James Dobson's.

For more temperate thoughts from the Christian side, see this piece on stem cell research by the executive director of the Baptist Cetner for Ethics.

A couple of notes of interest on the Ongoing War In Iraq:
Don Rumsfeld has been let out of his closet again and immediately goes to rattling sabres at nations that might assist Al-Zarqawi:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned Iraq's neighbors today not to give medical treatment or safe haven to Iraq's most-wanted insurgent, Jordanian fugitive Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Well, excuse me. If Zarqawi shows up on my doorstep asking for medical treatment, I'm going to try to get it for him. Of course, I'll also notify the proper authorities and have him arrested, but the problem isn't with providing medical treatment - it's with providing him safe haven. I, personally, still believe in "innocent until proven guilty," though I'm afraid I may be alone in that regard.

But what is Rumsfeld accomplishing by threatening nations that give Zarqawi safe haven? I don't know about you, but if I'm Syria, with the U.S. military stretched to its breaking point, and unable to uncover the simplest intelligence of what I may be doing, I'm more afraid of terrorism from Zarqawi's people than I am of irritating the Holy American Empire. I think there is room to worry that the U.S. really will become the "Paper Tiger" that Republicans warn you against the Democrats creating.

What do you think?

May 15, 2005

I was playing disc golf with a friend of mine Sunday morning and we started discussing the East Waynesville excommunication. My friend classifies himself as an agnostic and is definitely in favor of the separation of church and state. However he brought up an interesting point. He asked me if I did not think that by threatening to take away the tax exempt status of a church the government was not, in effect, denying them their freedom of speech. My personal opinion is that my freedom to speak is more important than any tax exemption I might be offered. But I guess if I were a business instead of an individual then tax exemption would be more important to me. The Constitution supposedly guarantees freedom of speech but it does not guarantee exemption from taxes. Maybe the reality is that if you offer anybody enough money they will be willing to keep their political opinions to themselves.

April 25, 2005

Justice Sundays

from - smijer

Yesterday we saw "Justice" Sunday. We also saw Social Justice Sunday.

I link, you decide.

April 19, 2005

The Family Research Council is running a campaign to garner public support for the "nuclear option" on judicial filibusters. Tennessee Republican and Senate Majority leader Bill Frist plans to join forces with them. The theme of this power-grab is "Filibuster against Faith", or "against people of faith".

Last I checked, overtime rules, federal civil rights laws, and sexual harassment or discrimination laws were not religious issues. Sure, the judges being filibustered also have religiously motivated conservative viewpoints: anti-abortion and anti-gay, for instance, but those are not the sole reasons for their rejections by a Democrats en-masse. And even then, it is their viewpoints, not the underlying religious motivation for them, that is objectionable to many senate Democrats.

As one prominent "person of faith" put it,

The news that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to join a telecast whose organizing theme is that those who oppose some of President Bush's judicial nominees are engaged in an assault on "people of faith" is more than troubling; it is disingenuous, dangerous, and demagogic. We call on him to reconsider his decision to appear on the telecast and to forcefully disassociate himself from this outrageous claim.
Senator Frist must not give legitimacy to those who claim they hold a monopoly on faith. They do not. They assert, in the words of Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, that there is a vast conspiracy by the courts "to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms." There is no such conspiracy. They have been unable to ram through the most extreme of the President's nominees, and now they are spinning new claims out of thin air.

Alas, this is not an isolated incident. This past week, the Christian Coalition convened a conference in Washington entitled, "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith." Their special guest speaker was the House Majority Leader, Rep. Tom Delay. When leaders of the Republican Party lend their imprimatur to such outrageous claims, including, at the conference, calls for mass impeachment of Federal Judges, it should be of deep concern to all who care about religion. It should also be of concern to President Bush whose silence, in the wake of the claims made both at the conference in Washington and in the upcoming telecast, is alarming.

The telecast is scheduled to take place on the second night of the Passover holiday, when Jews around the world gather together to celebrate our religious freedom. It was in part for exactly such freedom that we fled Egypt. It was in part for exactly such freedom that so many of us came to this great land. And it is in very large part because of exactly such freedom that we and our neighbors here have built a nation uniquely welcoming to people of faith - of all faiths. We believe Senator Frist knows these things as well. His association with the scheduled telecast is, in a word, shameful. We call upon to him to disassociate himself from the claim that the Senate is participating in a filibuster against faith, and to withdraw his participation from the April 24th event.

- Rabbi Saperstein

Or, as another "person of faith" puts it, more humorously,

Question: How do you convince Americans that theocracy is better than democracy?
Answer: Tell evangelical Christians that they are being persecuted.

Question: How do you get enough votes to repeal the First Amendment?
Answer: You can't. There aren't enough evangelical Christians.

Question: How can you establish theocracy without changing the constitution?
Answer: Get judges to interpret the First Amendment as establishing a theocracy.

Question: How can you get judges to interpret the First Amendment theocratically?
Answer: Elect them, bully them, and elect people who will appoint theocrats.

Question: How do you get the votes needed to elect theocrats?
Answer: Tell evangelical Christians that they are being persecuted.

Question: How do you change the judiciary when filibusters screen out theocrats?
Answer: Put an end to filibusters.

Question: How do you get Americans to support ending filibusters?
Answer: Tell evangelical Christians that they are being persecuted.

Dr. Bruce Prescott, via Hippy Dave

April 14, 2005

Bad news for gays and lesbians in Oregon, where a judge has invalidated the marriages of 3,000 gay couples, and the people have voted to add a hate amendment to their constitution, designed specifically to exclude gays and lesbians from the rights enjoyed by others.

I think it is time to start thinking outside the box on this. Obviously, it is hatred that motivates people to begin crusades against marriage rights for all. Obviously, those who carry the banner against homesexuals are full of hatred. But their followers... I cannot believe that majorities in states like Oregon and Michigan are following the banner of exclusion simply out of hatred. I believe that they are moved by fear. They were too easily convinced by trusted preachers that equal rights will endanger or weaken the "institution" of marriage. So, I think we need to be looking for solutions that will negate not only the campaign of hatred, but also the campaign of paranoid fear-mongering. I don't have many good ideas, but I have the germ of an idea, and I want to run it up the flag-pole and see who salutes it...

My germ of an idea is this: civil disobedience, in the form of mass divorce. What this would amount to is a show of solidarity, and a means by which to raise awareness of how anti-gay bigotry affects real people. If enough people were willing to do it, what they would have to do is hire a lawyer and file for an uncontested divorce. After divorcing, protesters would continue to live together and raise their children as a family, but they would let it be known at every opportunity that they were unmarried despite being in a life-long monogamous relationship. At every opportunity, protesters can share the various ways in which they are living as second class citizens, and explain why they are choosing to live that way. At work, they may ask if they will be granted bereavement leave or family medical leave for their now-divorced partner. Military spouses can complain to others living on base about their inability to buy from the PX - they can even ask others living on base to help them with their shopping if there isn't a civilian alternative available. They can explain to their accountant why they cannot file jointly or "married, filing separately". They can worry aloud about the possibility that they will not have access to their partner in a medical emergency, and will have no say over their care. They can do all of this and more (pdf), but the biggest hit will be when they get a divorce decree from the judge. If there is a sudden, double digit, surge in the divorce rate, this will get some attention. People are going to want to know why.

And when people want to know why, that's when we will be ready with an answer: because this is the only way the anti-gay activists will allow equal treatment between ourselves and our gay brothers and sisters.

It's a real sacrifice. But then, when is real civil disobedience not a real sacrifice? People get hungry on hunger strikes. Divorcees will really give up the benefits of marriage to make people aware of what the anti-gay activists are really doing to the families they attack.

I'm pretty sure that I'll have to answer to Mrs. smijer for even suggesting this course of action. It may be that there is a less painful or more effective approach to raising awareness of the issues. So, if you don't think my idea will catch on, what other options can you think of?

March 16, 2005

A bit of trivia for those who don't know: smijer was born in Decatur, Alabama. Earlier this month, the Decatur Daily ran a column by Southern Baptist preacher Jim Evans, of the First Baptist Church of Auburn, AL. Go have a look:
10 Reasons to not post 'Big Ten'.

Go check out Divine Right of Nino. I don't have anything to add... just a link to bring attention to what would have been a scandal back when the populace cared about civics.

March 03, 2005

Found on the Nets

from - smijer

Or, instead of whining, feel free to exercise your right to leave, because frankly, I find it offensive that you want to kick my Father out of society. - Teen Vicky S., quoted here
Why? Are you actually afraid that it will work? That we can remove your Father from society against his will? Just asking, because I would think you would be more optimistic about his odds... And that should leave little for you to worry over.

Brent's rejoinder must be included (same link)

No one wants to kick your "Father" out of society. You can pray anywhere you want to, go to church everyday, attend any of the millions of Christian churches in America. All of our politicians, practically, share your faith. You have an 85% majority in this country, Vicky. Did you know that?

However, it is illegal and unconstitutional to allow your "Father's" earthly representatives run our government as a theocracy.

Well said. If I were God, I'd be rather tired of hearing my followers use me as dishonest rhetorical shield to deflect criticism of their (not my) efforts to blend church and state. In a booming voice from on high, I would tell them, "Quit your bitchin'. You are lucky to live in a country that protects your right to worship. Use it instead of trying to force your beliefs on everybody else." Heck, if I was God, I might even go so far as to include an instruction that went, "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

March 02, 2005

H.R. 235

from - smijer

Aimed at letting churches get away legally, what they get away with anyway. If you like the idea of giving churches even more influence over government, then let them do what no other non-profit can do - campaign without paying taxes. Personally, that thought sends a chill down my spine. Brainwise has the scoop. Also chilling is the Orwellian language H.R. 235's uses to deceive people about the nature of the bill.

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to protect the religious free exercise and free speech rights of churches and other houses of worship.

Noooooo....... the bill is meant to leave intact their free exercise and free speech rights, and allow them continued use of the tax-exemption benefit they are awareded, even while they assist in political campaigns. Want to see the church take over the government? Let them run political campaigns more cheaply than the political organizations can. This is a very, very, very, bad idea.

And meanwhile - anti-separationists, take off the sheep's clothing. I hope your congregations figure out what liars you are.

March 01, 2005

More entries in Church/State Separation...