Tag Archives: religion

TN Legislature Grandstanding Over Nonexistent Threat

Apparently Tennessee legislators are unfamiliar with the First Amendment of our Constitution because they have been crafting a “Pastor Protection Act” to make sure no pastors are forced to perform gay marriage ceremonies:

A new bill in Tennessee seeks to “protect” churches and clergy from performing same-sex marriages. But is it necessary?

The move comes after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage on Friday. State Reps. Bryan Terry and Andy Holt anticipated the Supreme Court ruling and have been working on the bill for several months, reports Nashville’s CBS affiliate.

Both representatives reject the validity of yesterday’s decision. “God is the ultimate Supreme Court and he has spoken. Marriage is between one man, and one woman,” Representative Holt said in a press release.

The proposed law would reiterate protections already in place. As Representative Terry noted, “The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.” He also cited Article 1 Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution and said “personal freedom of religion is protected and no human authority can interfere in the rights of conscience.”

Oh. So they know this law is unncessary but they want to “reiterate” protections already in place because Tennessee politicians can never pass up an opportunity to grandstand on the culture wars. Which they are always losing, I might add.

Hey, if you guys want to write in stone how you’re yet again on the wrong side of history, be my guest.

What this really comes down to, of course, is religious conservatives wanting to be protected from criticism for being on the wrong side of history. Sure as day follows night, there will be a case where a same-sex couple wants to use a pavilion or building owned by a religious non-profit and they will be denied — legally. And it will hit social media, and they will be mocked for their recidivist stance, and there will be pearls to be clutched and couches on which to faint, and once again conservatives will confuse free speech with the free hand.

This will happen because this always happens. Hell, churches around the South still have a problem with interracial couples.

So why don’t we dispense with the bullshit and remind everyone that nobody is forcing anyone to perform a ceremony they don’t want to perform — hell, religious groups have been refusing to officiate ceremonies between divorced couples, interfaith couples, etc. since forever. None of that is changing. Lots of churches already refuse to rent out their buildings for weddings to couples who are not church members. Why? Because weddings are a huge pain in the ass for church staff.

So nothing is going to change. And every time you idiots grandstand about how God doesn’t wants gays to get married and God Hates Fags and all that crap we’re going to mock you and tell you you’re wrong and call you names. And that noise is just going to get louder and louder.

[ALSO, let me repeat: Tennessee Republicans are really off the mark when they grandstand on the homophobic crap but can’t be bothered to grandstand with a vote of disapproval when the goddamn Ku Klux Klan holds their annual meeting at one our state parks.]

6 Comments

Filed under culture wars, gay equality, GLBT, religious right, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

Was Discovery Communications Complicit In Covering Up A Crime? Inquiring Minds ….

I first wrote about the Quiverfull movement waaay back in 2009. I called it a cult, and it is a cult, a creepy pedophilia cult (if you aren’t familiar with this group or its beliefs, Gawker has a handy dandy rundown under the headline “Quiverfull of Shit.”)

I’m not the least bit surprised to learn that Josh Duggar has admitted to sexually molesting children as they slept — some of them his own sisters. I’m not the least bit surprised to learn that one of the leaders of this movement, Bill Gothard, has himself been accused of sex-based offenses.

What I do find interesting is that it’s become increasingly clear that The Learning Channel/Discovery Communications knew of Josh Duggar’s sex offenses years before the first show of the reality series aired, while the Duggars were starring in specials on sister network Discovery Health. And, despite knowing this information, they still signed the family to star in their own reality show, falsely promoted the family as some kind of wholesome Christian novelty, misrepresented the family to the public, and profited from it. They lied to their advertisers and they lied to their viewers. How is this not fraud?

According to the police report published by InTouch, the investigation was sparked when someone tipped off an Oprah Winfrey staffer in 2006, in advance of a taping by the family on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Here’s how it all went down:

The Duggars told police that at the time Josh was accused of, and admitting to, these sexual acts, “a family friend aware of what had happened had written down in a letter what he knew of [redacted, Josh’s] actions…That letter had been placed in a book and had subsequently been forgotten about. Just recently [in 2006] the book had been loaned to someone else with the letter in it and another person discovered the letter.

The Duggars refused to tell police who wrote the letter and who found it.

When the family was scheduled to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show in 2006, an email was sent to the show warning them about the alleged molestation. The email was written by a 61-year-old female who is not identified.

Harpo Studios faxed the letter to the Department of Human Services hotline. The report was then opened for investigation, leading to the investigation by Springdale police.

When police asked Jim Bob to bring Josh in for an interview in 2006, he attempted to hire a lawyer and refused to produce his son for questioning. At least two lawyers refused to take his case. “Det. Hignite received a voice mail from Mr. Duggar stating that [redacted] had hired an attorney and would not be coming in for an interview.”

Oprah Winfrey has been very open about her own history of being a survivor of child sexual abuse. So good for her and her staffers for starting this whole ball rolling. And shame on everyone who subsequently covered it up: the Arkansas state trooper who let Josh Duggar off the hook and two years later was himself jailed for child pornography, and most especially Discovery Communications. Because it defies belief that TLC and Discovery didn’t know about this — indeed, after the Oprah cancellation, the internet was on fire with rumors about Josh Duggar’s sexual offenses. At the very least, Discovery Health would have wanted to know about the abrupt and last-minute Oprah cancellation.

This needs to be investigated. The FCC needs to look into this. If a basic-cable network is covering up crimes against children and then promoting a pedophilia cult into the popular culture, they are not acting in the public interest. This is far worse than Bono saying an award is “fucking awesome” or Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. These are real crimes, and it appears the network not only knew about it, but ignored it so they could promote this creepy, far-from-wholesome family for their own financial gain.

Shameful.

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Filed under cults, culture wars, media, religion

When A Religion Dies

The two religious groups with the largest influence over our domestic policy continue to die:

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

[…]

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

Not coincidentally, these are the two groups who have been screaming the loudest over domestic issues like education, marriage equality, abortion, and women’s access to birth control. These are the people who sued over the Obamacare birth control mandate. These are the people trying to exert even more influence over our state legislatures and federal government.

Of course they are dying. This flurry of activity in the public arena is a symptom of a dying religion. They are trying to regain their influence over American public life through legislative activity, because they are losing the battle on the cultural front.

This is what happens when a religion dies. And this chart should send shudders through the Republican Party, so closely intertwined with the Christian/evangelical faith that the two are practically indistinguishable. Unaffiliated, up 6.7% in the past seven years. That’s atheists, agnostics and “nothing in particulars.” Non-Christians, up 1.2% in the past seven years. That’s Muslims, Hindus and “other.” Christians, down 7.8% in the past seven years.

These are the trends, and I don’t seem them reversing any time soon.

29 Comments

Filed under religion, religious right

Religious Freedom

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is threatening to pull its 2017 convention out of Indianapolis if Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs a bill allowing companies to discriminate against GLBT people under the guise of “religious freedom.” In a letter to the governor the denomination writes:

“Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry,” Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.

Adams said the Disciples of Christ would instead seek a host city that is “hospitable and welcome to all of our attendees.”

I’d love to invite them to Nashville. After all, we’re the city whose Metro Council passed an anti-discrimination bill. Unfortunately, IIRC, it was later over-ridden by the bigots in our state legislature, so we don’t exactly have much moral authority on this issue. But can I just tell you how refreshing it is to see a church denomination take a bold stand on issues of equality?

More:

“As a Christian church,” it read, “we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow – one who sat at (the) table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord’s Table.”

The letter was signed by denomination’s General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins, Division of Overseas Ministries Julia Brown Karimu and Disciples Home Missions President Ronald J. Degges.

The Disciples of Christ has held its annual convention in Indianapolis three times since 1989. Adams expected up to 8,000 people to attend in 2017. The estimated economic impact would be about $5.9 million, according to VisitIndy.

Well, so much for Indianapolis. Two other major conventions have also alerted the governor that they will skip Indianapolis if the bill becomes law, one a music festival and the other the city’s largest annual convention, a group called Gen Con.

Look, there’s just no money in being a bigoted asshole. Just cut it out.

Let me also say, if your religion requires you to be a bigoted asshole, then I have no use for your religion. Can you just imagine? Whatever happened to “Love one another as I have loved you”? Of course, it’s not about the Bible. It’s about belonging to a club that needs to breed hatred and fear of “the other” to justify its lack of cultural impact. You people are supposed to go out and be salt and light in the world, that’s your Great Commission, and yet all you can do is fight for the right of a bakery to not make a gay couple’s wedding cake.

Losers.

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Filed under GLBT, religion, religious right

Faith-Healing And Snake Oil In Nashville

Nashville’s largest healthcare provider, St. Thomas Health, has been running this super-creepy “faith-healing” ad campaign for the past year or so now. I can’t even tell you how offensive and obnoxious I find it. It exploits is based on a quote from the Gospel of Luke, “nothing shall be impossible with God,” and while they leave out the “with God” part, the images that accompany the campaign are so overtly religious, it’s obvious what they’re selling here: faith-healing, snake-oil, and promises of miracles for those who believe.

Imagine seeing this image plastered all over town, on billboards, buses and full-page newspaper ads:Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 5.36.07 PM_0

How does this not trivialize religion?

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The TV ads are even worse. Seeing a team of doctors and nurses holding hands in prayer over an operating table does not make me want to go to this hospital. It makes me want to run in the opposite direction, as far and as fast as possible. It does not inspire confidence in the surgical team. It makes me think of this charlatan:

faith.healer

On top of which, there are quite a few things that are impossible at St. Thomas Hospital. An abortion, for one thing.

I’ve been really uncomfortable with this ad campaign for a long, long time, and while I haven’t posted about it, others have (notably the Huffington Post, here, and this medical blog, here.) Interestingly, some of the campaign’s biggest detractors are religious people. From the latter link:

As I drive home from work (at an unashamedly for-profit hospital) everyday, I pass one of Nashville’s omnipresent “Nothing shall be impossible” billboards. While I am a Bible believing Christian with complete faith in God’s miraculous healing powers, the sight of the ad campaign makes me uneasy. I’m not one to be particularly politically correct or easily offended but the ad campaign gives off the illusion that if you become a patient at St. Thomas, God’s healing power is on your side.

To me, the scriptural slogan seems to imply an unintended opposite effect- it minimizes the power of God. My God cannot be contained within one hospital’s walls. He does not work in ways that we can direct with publicity stunts, let alone ways we can ever hope to understand. He may choose to heal you as a patient at St. Thomas…but he may not. That’s for him to decide, not for hospital admins looking for a raise to direct.

It’s just so tacky to exploit peoples’ religious feelings to sell something. It’s gross, and it’s disrespectful. And let’s take a look at exactly what kind of miracle we’re selling here, shall we?

Few of the people I spoke to had any idea about the actual context of Luke 1:37. It comes when Mary questions the angel Gabriel about how she will become pregnant since she is a virgin. Gabriel points to her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant after many years of having been barren, and announces, “nothing will be impossible with God” (NRSV). Indeed, Mary does become pregnant. The implication of draping this verse across a hospital entrance is that any kind of healing is possible: a barren woman becomes pregnant, and then even a virgin becomes pregnant.

St. Thomas Health does not offer fertility treatments.

So much fail.

9 Comments

Filed under advertising, Nashville, religion

If Only Those Brown People Didn’t All Look The Same

Or, “I don’t think religious freedom means what you think it does,” or, “I don’t think the Constitution works the way you think it does,” etc. etc.:

When we reported last fall on a Hot Springs firing range that was declared a “Muslim free zone” by its owner, several blog commenters asked, “how will she know who’s a Muslim?” The answer, unsurprisingly, seems to be good old fashioned racism. The Times was contacted over the weekend by a college student from Hot Springs who went to the Gun Cave with his father for a round of target practice.

They’re not Muslim, but they do happen to be South Asian. They were told to leave by a woman, presumably Jan Morgan, the owner.

“My dad and I used to go to this gun range,” said the young man, who asked not to be identified by name, “but we haven’t had as much of a chance to go in recent years since I’ve been at college. It’s changed ownership recently.”

“When we went in, a woman asked, ‘Where are you guys from?’ We told her we were from Hot Springs. She said, “this is a Muslim free shooting range,” so if we are [Muslim] and if we don’t like the rule, then leave. We said that we’re not Muslim, but my dad asked, ‘Why is it Muslim free?’ and they started having a conversation. Then, all of a sudden, I don’t know what went wrong, but she stopped us from filling out the paperwork and said ‘I don’t think you guys should be here.’ She told us to leave or she’d call the cops on us.”

Not wanting to cause a scene, they left.

“We’re brown; I don’t know if she assumed we were Muslim,” he continued. “When she first asked us, she said, ‘I would hope if you were Muslim you guys wouldn’t be cowards and would be up front about it.'” The student told the Times he was born in the U.S. and lived in Hot Springs for ten years before going to college in a different Arkansas town; he considers Hot Springs his home.

Sadly, it’s not the first time a gun loon decided Muslims had no business exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.

Shocked face.

[UPDATE]:

Seems to come with the territory. Gun loons = racist assholes. Who knew?

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Filed under Guns, Islam, racism, right-wing hate

Unhappy Holidays

I have this theory that fundiegelical Christians are so wrapped up in the War On Christmas, not because of what the holiday represents Biblically, but because it’s the one time of year when they aren’t culturally out of step with the rest of an increasingly secular country. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s the one time of year when even secular America is in step with them.

And having people say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” or demands that a menorah share space beside a traditional Nativity scene in the public square encroaches on that last little square of cultural real estate that they can call theirs.

Kinda makes me feel sorry for them in a way.

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Filed under Holidays, religion, War On Christmas

Lamar Advertising: Hate Profiteers

Notoriously despicable billboard company Lamar Advertising is profiting from homophobia by accepting this billboard north of Nashville. It was apparently paid for and purchased by “concerned Christians.”

Yeah, this is why people are leaving the church in droves. Just stop the crap, already, religious people. Apparently the tone and message has prompted complaints:

Mayor Wilber said he’s well-aware of the discussions surrounding the sign; one resident called him to complain.

“Thought it was not fit for the time that we’re in, just thought it was out of place, just sent a bad message,” he explained.

Good for the people of Portland, Tennessee. And really, Lamar Advertising is profiting from this? What a horrible company. I’m reminded of this story from just a few years ago in which they refused to run ads from Georgia Equality, saying,

…”We just didn’t feel the copy was right for those markets” …

The offending copy?

The billboards proposed by Georgia Equality feature images of professionals, such as a male firefighter and a female doctor, and include tag lines that read, “I protect you. And … I am gay. We Are Your Neighbors.”

Yeah, so not right.

What a bunch of assholes. Profiting from hate never works, Lamar Advertising.

4 Comments

Filed under GLBT, religious right, Tennessee

Doing It Wrong

I am not sure why East Tennessee State University has opened its campus to crackpot evangelists who harass students, but apparently being fat-shamed and berated as a “fornicator” is something you must endure as an ETSU student. From the Johnson City Press:

One student, whose identity will be protected by The Press, emailed the newspaper complaining that she was verbally harassed by Jackson in front of a large group of her peers when the streetcorner deacon said she “looked like (she) weighed as much as a football linebacker.”

[…]

But Jackson, who travels a circuit of U.S. college campuses issuing provocative condemnations of nearly every vice, bad habit, alternative lifestyle and differing viewpoint, properly filled out and submitted his application to speak in ETSU’s Borchuck Plaza, one of the college’s defined limited public forum areas, Smith said.

Apparently this guy is part of a fundie outfit called Revival Mission Ministries, which sends preachers out to college campuses to do “open-air preaching,” in which they rail and rant against pretty much everything they don’t agree with. They look an awful lot like the Westboro Baptist Church cult. Here they are at East Carolina University back in March:

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Note the joy on the students’ faces. /sarcasm

According to the story, Jackson’s ranting was followed by yet another raving street preacher the next day, with the campus public safety office erecting wooden barriers around him, something deemed necessary after Jackson’s appearance the day prior. Ye shall know them by their fruits, folks.

This isn’t preaching, it’s harassment. It’s ego-indulging, attention-seeking, self-promotion. In fact, people like this aren’t doing themselves or their cause any favors:

A landmark Pew Research from 2012 shows that attachment by young people to organized religious bodies is on the decline. Many of those who don’t belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque still practice religion informally to a certain extent. However, they have grown wary of the way that traditional institutions mix political power with the pursuit of otherworldly aims.

Nine out of ten older Americans are directly affiliated with a religion, a statistic that goes down to two-thirds with the youngest adults. Softened commitment generally means less strong attachment to God and less frequent attendance at services. It also entails more liberal political views, a higher likelihood of voting Democratic, and support for abortion rights.

Here’s a video of Jackson, pulled from the ministry’s website. As one might expect, he doesn’t seem to be winning many converts. Instead, he seems to be indulging his ego. He also seems to have a very narrow view of “sin.” Intolerance and unkindness are just as much sins as what you do with your naughty parts. Not sure why college students should be subjected to this. Jackson seems young and inexperienced, perhaps in a few years he’ll wake up and realize he’s Doing It Wrong.

8 Comments

Filed under culture wars, Tennessee

Religion Is Dead

That will be the upshot of today’s completely outrageous Hobby Lobby ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court has effectively killed religion.

I know, it looks the opposite, but what have I said here a gazillion, bajillion times, folks? When religion gets forced on people by government or corporations, religion always dies. People don’t want this shit foisted on them. As I’ve said a thousand times before, the surest way to kill off religious belief is to declare a “state religion.” The bigger religion’s role in the secular aspects of life, the more people run away from it.

And in this ruling SCOTUS said some corporations can impose the beliefs of some religions on some employees, effectively legalizing discrimination against women and certain religions. If you’re a company owned by Jehova’s Witnesses, sorry, you have to pay for blood transfusions. No out for Scientologists who object to psychiatry and psychiatric drugs. Christian Scientists who don’t believe in most healthcare at all still have to pony up. But if you’re a Christian fundiegelical who believes completely erroneously and incorrectly that IUDs cause abortions — even though they don’t! — you can refuse to offer a healthcare plan covering that form of birth control to your female employees. That’s what SCOTUS just ruled.

The debate wasn’t even really about the Hobby Lobby peoples’ religious beliefs, it was about their completely erroneous, counter-factual scientific beliefs cloaked in religion:

Hobby Lobby already covered 16 of the 20 methods of contraception mandated under the Affordable Care Act, but it didn’t cover Plan B One-Step, ella (another brand of emergency contraception) and two forms of intrauterine devices because of aforementioned ideologically driven and not medically based ideas about abortion.

“These medications are there to prevent or delay ovulation,” Dr. Petra Casey, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Mayo Clinic, told the New York Times in a piece on the science behind emergency contraception. “They don’t act after fertilization.” As the Times noted, emergency contraception like Plan B, ella and the hormonal IUD do not work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb. Instead, these methods of birth control delay ovulation 0r thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, meaning that fertilization never even occurs. That said, when used as a form of emergency contraception, the copper IUD can interrupt implantation, but this still does not mean a pregnancy has occurred.

This ruling was stunningly ham-fisted on so many levels. In a nutshell, in “going narrow” SCOTUS picked a religion — the fundiegelical Christian kind — over the rights of female employees who may not be of that religion, and also over the rights of every other religion out there. This is going to have repercussions, people — and not good ones for the religious folks. It’s gonna get messy, and I think it’s gonna smack religious people on the ass so hard they won’t sit for a month. Stories like this one are going to ripple across the workplace in every state. It’s a ruling that basically legalized gender discrimination and religious discrimination. When it all shakes down it’s not going to be pretty for the people currently doing a happy dance.

In the meantime, folks calling for a Constitutional Convention to repeal corporate personhood just got a little more ammo.

[UPDATE]: ThinkProgress agrees with me.

[UPDATE] 2: Charlie Pierce at Esquire also agrees with me. SCOTUS just perpetrated an act of religious discrimination while professing to do the opposite. WTF is up with that, people?

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Filed under birth control, corporations, healthcare, religious fundamentalism, religious right, Supreme Court, women's rights