The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Religious Right Praying Justice Ginsburg Dies

The Daily Escape:

Winter, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, CA – photo via wallpaper studio

 This week Right Wing Watch, who follow America’s least attractive thinkers so that we don’t have to, had a column about how Evangelical Christians are circling around Ruth Bader Ginsburg like vultures. The article included this tweet from anti-abortion and anti-gay activist Matt Barber:

We know that RBG just had cancerous tumors removed from her lungs. Yet, what has been made public so far is that RBG was given a clean bill of health, and is expected to make a full recovery. That diagnosis seems to be a big disappointment to many on the Christian Right.

They were extremely happy with Donald Trump’s choice of Neil Gorsuch. They weren’t so thrilled with Brett Kavanaugh, preferring Amy Coney Barrett, who they saw as totally committed to overturning Roe v. Wade. And they want more. In addition to overturning Roe v. Wade, they want prayers back in schools, and they want same-sex marriage abolished.

Things get interesting when you consider just how much Evangelicals truly, deeply hate RBG:

  • In October, pastor Rodney Howard-Brown, who has prayed over Trump in the Oval Office, guest-hosted The Alex Jones Show on Infowars, where he said that Ginsburg should be shot for treason.
  • Lou Engle, a dominionist organizer of stadium-sized prayer rallies, urged Americans to engage in three days of fasting and prayer over the Supreme Court. Earlier, he led prayers asking God to “sweep away the judges” who support the right to abortion.
  • A few weeks ago, Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles re-distributed a 1993 Phyllis Schlafly attack on Ginsburg’s feminist philosophy.
  • Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver has argued that Congress should have impeached justices who supported Roe v. Wade and Obergefell vs. Hodges (the case that legalized same-sex marriage). (BTW, Liberty Counsel opposed the Senate’s bill that would outlaw lynching in the US because the bill extends the right not to be lynched to gays and transgender people.)
  • Earlier this month, former Trump campaign adviser Frank Amedia insisted that Chief Justice John Roberts has not proven to be sufficiently reliable to the Religious Right. That means God has to remove more justices so that Trump can fill Roberts’s seat with another justice whose “values and morality” reflect a “kingdom enlightenment as to what is required by God to change the law of this land now.”
  • Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow John Malcolm told the Daily Caller that Trump would be under pressure to replace Ginsburg with a woman, and named Amy Coney Barrett as a preferred successor.

You may not believe that God spends much time thinking about who sits on the Supreme Court, but these people are deadly serious. They think God is a “family values” Republican. They believe that they know who God wants on the Supreme Court.

America needs to look very closely at any group that argues for followers of a specific religion as a test of who is worthy to sit on the Supreme Court, or who should head our government.

Praying for the death of RBG ought to repugnant to all Americans, but sadly, it isn’t particularly surprising that some “Christians” exhibit such callous inhumanity. They, and their kind of thinking, should be repudiated by all Christians.

There’s some consolation in the fact that RBG has worked to make America a more fair and equitable place. She has made that her life’s calling.

Contrast that to these phony Christians who are working to make America a one-party political entity that follows Jesus Christ.


Saturday Soother – August 4, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Moraine Lake, Alberta Canada – 2018 photo by theoxernius. This is the third picture of Moraine Lake that Wrongo has published, including one of his own. This spot is about a 5-minute climb from the parking lot, so everyone who goes near the place takes a similar photo. The distinctive water color is from the sunlight reflecting off of dissolved particles of finely ground rock called “glacial flour”. It’s one of the most beautiful places in North America.

Will Mueller breach the castle’s walls? Certainly not just by winning the Manafort trial. Trump has supposedly given Jeff Sessions a “couple of weeks” to end the Mueller probe. If not, Trump will move to fire Ron Rosenstein. As Wrongo has said, Trump has everything in place now to fire Rosenstein from a technical aspect: When the previous number three official as Justice, Rachel Brand resigned, the Senate confirmed Brian Benczkowski, a buddy of Jeff Sessions. He can fire Rosenstein. That brings us to now.

Will Trump move on Rosenstein? The negative political fallout could bury Trump. Interesting times.

Then there was this from Jeff Sessions:

Let’s be frank. A dangerous movement undetected by many is challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom….We’ve gotten to the point where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law, where ministers are fearful to affirm holy writ from the pulpit, and where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them hate groups. This President and Department of Justice are determined to protect and advance our heritage of freedom of religion.

Good Morning America subsequently tweeted:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces “Religious Liberty Task Force.” Sessions says the task force will “help the Department fully implement our religious liberty guidance,” including “making sure our employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith.”

That led to a tweet storm, of which this was the very best:

Has there been an instance where Christians have been persecuted in this country? Except by other Christians who thought the persecuted ones weren’t the right sort of Christian? We can find plenty of instances where Christians have persecuted others, but neither the Gay Cake decision, nor Hobby Lobby were about religious persecution. How can Christians be persecuted, when roughly three of four Americans self-identify as Christian?

There is a tendency by some Christians to think that Americans need to accept the Christian version of religion. Those Christians ignore the separation of Church and State, despite the fact that the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause clearly outlines the concept:

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

Sessions is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. American Christians have the freedom to exercise their religion as they deem appropriate (within reasonable limits, which applies to all faiths). What the GOP and conservative Christians don’t have is the right to use the government to help establish their flavor of conservative Christianity as America’s official religion.

If Church and State become one, religious faith becomes a weapon, to punish or persecute those who believe differently. That’s not our America, unless you want your America to look like a Christian version of Saudi Arabia.

When the power of government puts its thumb on the scales, it surely will create religious tyranny.

Another week of big issues for us to try and thread our way through. It looks like a hot weekend across the country. Good luck to the firefighters in California, it seems that their work never ends. For the rest of us, we can take an hour or so and try to forget about the world’s troubles (and Trump’s) for a while. If you can do that, you will almost certainly be soothed.

Let’s get started by brewing up a large cup of Hawaiian Kona ‘Volcanic Estate’ Coffee ($59.95/ lb.) It comes from the Big Island. There, the volcano Mauna Loa creates excellent growing conditions for coffee trees. Volcanic Estate coffee is grown at between 800 and 2,500 feet. It has a light acidity that is complemented by slight chocolate and fruit undertones.

Now, settle back in your favorite air-conditioned spot, and listen to an exemplary classical guitar performance by John Feeley. He is performing Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1 in D. Obviously, it has been transcribed for guitar:

Feeley performs for nearly 20 minutes without a break, and without a score to follow. Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.


Roger Williams and Separation of Church and State

Wrongo spent part of vacation reading John Barry’s Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, an important (and very readable) book that describes the evolution of Williams’ beliefs about the proper role of religion in civil society. To the extent that we know anything about Roger Williams, it is that he founded Rhode Island. But, Barry makes a very persuasive case that he is an important reason why America has separation of church and state today, since Williams was the first person to describe individual liberty in modern terms.

We all learned in high school that colonists came to America for reasons of religious freedom. What few know is that, once they got here, the Puritans were more than willing to persecute those of the “wrong” religion. They built a society in which the heads of the church also ran the government, and only those who were admitted to their church (requiring a unanimous vote) had the right to vote.  In fact, Barry says that one study found that only 21% of emigrants to New England were know to have ever been admitted to church membership. This was very similar everywhere else in the Christian world in the early 1600’s.

The Puritan-run Massachusetts Bay colony was a place of religious authoritarianism. The origin of the conflict between church and state was the view of John Winthrop’s “city on a hill”, an authoritative and theocentric state, while Williams called for utter separation of church and state and respect for individual rights, such as the right not to attend church services.

Massachusetts banished Williams, who moved first to Plymouth and then was banished again to what is modern Rhode Island. Over time, Williams provided both an example, and an intellectual foundation that led to America institutionalizing religious freedom.

Americans are rightly grateful to our founding fathers, who set our Constitution in the right direction, imbedding in it that there would be no official religion, no religious requirement for public office, and a separation of church and state.

The founders didn’t develop those ideas on their own. The philosopher John Locke is often credited with inspiring the idea of religious freedom in Jefferson and Madison. Barry shows that Locke was influenced by Roger Williams, and that Williams had an even more inclusive idea of religious freedom than Locke, thinking that atheists and Catholics should also have religious freedom, ideas that Locke didn’t share.

Williams got his ideas about the supremacy of individual liberty from his work in England with Sir Edward Coke. Williams worked for Coke, taking shorthand, and Coke was a major intellectual influence on Williams’s philosophy. When King James tried to assert the divine right of kings in England, Coke stood up against him with little behind him but the common law. Coke fought to establish the power of habeas corpus. He said “every Englishman’s home is as his castle.” He fought for the supremacy of Parliament over the King, and the supremacy of the Magna Carta as a basis for deciding individual vs. state rights.

Some of the rights Coke fought for in England, and spent time in the Tower of London for espousing, ended up embedded in our American Constitution.

With Rhode Island, Williams created the first government in the world which broke church and state apart. King Charles II copied the concept and some of the language on religious freedom in Rhode Island’s charter into the charters of New Jersey and Carolina, despite establishing the Anglican Church there. Rhode Island was also the first colony to declare independence from England in 1776, two months before the rest of the colonies.

Barry makes the point that few of the founders read Roger Williams, who had died in 1683, but they had read Coke, and most members of the Constitutional Convention knew Williams as a symbol of religious and political liberty.

Since the rise of Christian conservatives in the 1970s, the debate over these issues sounds depressingly similar to that between Williams and Winthrop in Massachusetts. In more obvious ways, each day brings us a new conflict in America over defining the proper role of religion in the matters of state, whether it is pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control, states closing abortion clinics, bakeries refusing to provide wedding cakes to same sex couples, or companies refusing insurance coverage for drugs or procedures they believe violate their religious principles.

Williams risked his life for freedom. His ideas, and his kind of courage were both rare in the 17th century. His was not the 21st century, cartoon-kind. We need more of his kind of courage today.

He was a rare man of faith who thought religious freedom and personal liberty were completely consistent with religious faith.


Monday Wake Up Call – April 13, 2015

Today’s Wake Up is for the House Judiciary Committee, who last month cleared a bill to the House floor that if passed, would grant asylum to families who want to home school their children, while it would restrict current levels of asylum-granting to children fleeing violence in Central America. The committee vote was 21-12.

Think Progress reports that this provision of the bill grants asylum for up to 500 individuals fleeing home school persecution in countries where home schooling is illegal (Germany is one). The bill refers to people who home school as a “particular social group” and indicates that a person is eligible for asylum if he/she is:

Deemed to have been persecuted for failure or refusal to comply with any law or regulation that prevents the exercise of the individual right of that person to direct the upbringing and education of a child of that person.

This provision seems to put homeschoolers ahead of others seeking asylum who experience much more dire circumstances. The bill also includes provisions to limit asylum claims generally, prohibiting:

• Unaccompanied alien children, like the ones who crossed the southern US border last year, from applying for asylum if “such child may be removed to a safe third country”
• Increasing the number of full-time immigration judges and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lawyers

In addition it raises the information standard for those children who try to prove that they would be threatened if they were deported back to their home country.

So, the Republican Party is saying that home-schooling is a priority for asylum, ahead of murder, rape, or child abuse. They say that the denial of the right to home-school is persecution, while most lawyers would say it is religious discrimination, a bad thing, but not a reason to let homeschoolers into the US.

Today, applicants must prove that they would face persecution, torture, or even death if they were returned to their native countries. Out of 3,996 asylum requests from Mexico, only 38 were granted.

So sure, homeschoolers, just cut to the head of the line.

This is the state of the Republican Party: Escaping from drug cartels makes you a moocher. Escaping from the tyranny of public education makes you noble.

Or, as Thoroughly Republican Jesus might say: “That which you did for the Home Schooled, you did for me.” Forced to learn about evolution? You’ve got asylum. Forced into prostitution or drug-muling? You better be able to prove it, kiddo.

So, wake up Republicans! To help with that, and in honor of yesterday’s Masters golf tournament, listen to The Texas Tornados doing “A Little Bit is Better Than Nada” from the movie, “Tin Cup“:

For those of you who read the Wrongologist in email, the song is here.

Monday’s Hot Links:

The avocado is ‘transgender’ and has overnight sex changes, a botanist has discovered. Soon, the “avocado-phobic” brigade will be all over this! Apparently, eating avocados does not make you bi-sexual.

The Onion has a list of The Pros and Cons of body-cams for police. The #1 pro? Provides accurate record of where the cop was when he turned off the body-cam.

Muck Rock reports that Homeland Security can download your PC’s hard drive when you enter the US. Based upon the opinion of any US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer, your device can be searched and its contents read. With approval of a supervisor, the device can be seized, its contents copied in full, or both. This is despite the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Because, terrorism.

Huge oil find near London’s Gatwick airport hypes stock of tiny company. The BBC says it could be as much as 100 billion barrels. The North Sea field has produced 40+ billion barrels over the past 40 years.


Alito: What Could Go Wrong?

What’s Wrong Today:

“If it ain’t broke, fix it until it is.”

This saying has been around for about 20 years. According to Barry Popik, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway” was first cited in print in May, 1993 in the Virginia Pilot by Jerry Alley.

The sentiment applies to the Supreme Court now that the Hobby Lobby decision’s slippery slope reasoning is out there being reviewed by lawyers. On July 3rd, just three days after Mr. Justice Alito issued his decision, lawyers for two Guantanamo Bay detainees filed motions asking the DC District Court to intervene after the prison’s military authorities prevented them from praying communally during Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims. The banning of communal prayers at Guantanamo is one of a series of recent measures against detainees who are on hunger strikes.

The lawyers argued that, in light of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, the detainees’ rights are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Requests for Temporary Restraining Orders were filed this week with the Washington DC district court on behalf of Emad Hassan of Yemen and Ahmed Rabbani of Pakistan. The filings were made by a UK-based human rights group Reprieve.

The detainees’ lawyers said courts have previously concluded that Guantanamo detainees do not have religious free exercise rights because they are not persons within the scope of the RFRA, but the lawyers now argue that the Hobby Lobby decision changes that:

Hobby Lobby makes clear that all persons – human and corporate, citizen and foreigner, resident and alien – enjoy the special religious free exercise protections of the RFRA

Which is exactly what Mr. Justice Alito said in his ruling. Despite his claim that it was a narrow ruling, the ruling itself is big enough to drive a truck through. Meet the truck, folks.

More from Cori Crider, an attorney for the detainees and a director at Reprieve:

Why are the authorities at Guantanamo Bay seeking to punish detainees for hunger striking by curtailing their right to pray? If, under our law, Hobby Lobby is a ‘person’ with a right to religious freedom, surely Gitmo detainees are people too

This is one of the unintended consequences from the Hobby Lobby decision: While the owners of Hobby Lobby certainly did not have Gitmo detainees in mind when they took Obamacare to court, it’s clear the ruling has become far bigger than its original purpose. Citizens United argued that “corporations are people,” Hobby Lobby focuses on religious rights and the idea that the government cannot force those corporate people to do things that are against their beliefs.

That could mean anything from refusing to teach evolution in school to ignoring laws designed to prevent discriminatory hiring practices against LGBT people.

The Defense Department did not directly address whether the men were being punished for their hunger strike. US Army Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins III:

We are committed to religious freedoms and practices for the detainees, keeping in mind the overall goal of security and safety for detainees and staff

The overriding question is if the RFRA is compatible with the First Amendment. It seems to create a special privilege for religious groups that are not enjoyed by anyone else. How is this not itself an establishment of religion? If corporations can say: “but, it is against my religion” to escape the equal application of the laws, isn’t that a special right being bestowed based on religious belief?

Having the Supreme Court actually expand the RFRA beyond the protections put in place by the First Amendment only compounds the problem. Writing new rules to create certain forms of religious privilege seems dubious at best.

Try this thought experiment: Imagine atheists who have a family-owned corporation. Call them the Browns. They hold exactly the same views of birth control and abortion as the Greens, but their beliefs are based on their personal moral views, and not on any religious teaching. Would they be exempt from this mandate?

This isn’t Ms. Justice Ginsburg’s slippery slope, it’s a cliff.

The Supremes have now defined religious freedom not in terms of our own behavior but in terms of our ability to control the behavior of others. The Supreme Court just ruled in favor of more Corporate power, not religious freedom.