Religious Freedom Or Persecution?

Religious freedom … now there’s a term that has almost unlimited definitions.  My own, and one that I believe is in synch with that of the Founding Fathers back in 1787, is that each person has the freedom to believe in and practice his/her religion without interference from the government.  But today, there are those who define it as having the freedom to declare that their beliefs are the only correct ones and that every person should be forced to follow their religion and believe as they do.  Well, that ain’t how it works, and if you study history, you will see that this line of thinking has led to many of the wars that have been fought throughout past centuries. 

The United States is a secular nation.  This means that government and laws are not based on any religion and do not favour any one religion over others.  Many today seem to want to call this a “Christian nation”, but that is so wrong it makes my teeth hurt.  This is not a Christian nation, for we have a most diverse population that includes Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Jains, atheists, agnostics, and more.  Each person, regardless of religious beliefs, has the exact same rights and responsibilities under the U.S. Constitution.

Religious freedom means the right to practice and believe any or no religion.  It does NOT mean one religion has the right to impose their views on others.  Period.  Every religion on earth has its biases, and in the U.S. those biases have led to discrimination against others such as the LGBT community and women.  Today, there is a bill working its way through Congress called the Do No Harm Act.  Our friend Nan has written an excellent post about this bill, so rather than re-invent the wheel, I will let her tell you about it … thank you, Nan!

Nan’s Notebook: Religious Freedom

This bill, if passed, would not take away anyone’s rights to observe their religion as they wish, but rather it would restore the civil rights of all, would make it illegal to discriminate based on religious beliefs.  It’s really so simple.

Filosofa Is Grrrrrrrrowling

Some days, you look at the news and you just want to punch something.  The ‘grrrrrrrrrr’ started this morning when I read that we the taxpayers are paying $3,000 per month for the Secret Service people protecting Ivanka and Jared to rent a bathroom in the house next door, because Jared & Ivanka don’t want them dirtying their house!  My first thought was that then they don’t deserve the protection of the Secret Service … and they don’t, for they are a couple of entitled snobs.  And then, the ‘grrrrrrrrrrr’ got louder as the day progressed.


Has he learned nothing?

rittenhouse-3You remember Kyle Rittenhouse, right?  He’s the young white supremacist punk who killed two and wounded a third with a gun at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  As I wrote a while back, some influential people with more money than sense posted Rittenhouse’s $2 million bail last November.  Rittenhouse was arraigned January 5th on two felony charges of homicide in the deaths of two men and a felony attempted homicide charge in the wounding of another man.  Pretty serious stuff, yes?  You’d think a 17-year-old kid would be on his best behaviour, quaking in his boots at the thought of what could happen to him.  But not Kyle!

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Just 90 minutes after leaving the arraignment, Kyle and his mother were seen in a bar where he was drinking beer (the legal age limit in his home state of Illinois is 21) and flashing white supremacist hand signals to other people in the bar. What kind of mother takes her underage kid who has murdered two people to a damn bar???  Prosecutors have asked the Kenosha County Circuit Court to modify Rittenhouse’s bond conditions. 

rittenhouse-1The office is requesting that Rittenhouse be prohibited from possessing or consuming alcohol or being in any establishment that serves it; be prohibited from making any public display of any “white power” or “white supremacy” signs, symbols, or hand gestures; and not have any contact with any known militia members or members of any violent white power/white supremacist groups including the group identified as the “Proud Boys.”

This kid needs to be locked up for life, and his mother along with him!  And yet, to some he is considered a ‘hero’ … oh yeah, folks, don’t tell me racism isn’t alive and well in the United States … you need look no further than this little punk and those who applaud him.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


Franklin Graham once again proves his lunacy

More than a few times, I have criticized (that’s putting it mildly) various evangelical leaders, and Franklin Graham is the one who seems to cross my radar most often.  Now, let me state in advance that I am not a Christian, not religious at all, however I respect other people’s right to their beliefs as long as they don’t try to inflict them on others.  Franklin Graham is an idiot extraordinaire, and once again he seems intent on proving my point.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Graham wrote, in part …

graham“Shame, shame on the ten Republicans who joined with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in impeaching President Trump yesterday. After all that he has done for our country, you would turn your back and betray him so quickly? We have never had a president like him in my lifetime. He gave us lower taxes, a strong economy, and low unemployment. He made NATO take notice and pay their own way. He had the guts to take on North Korea and meet with their leader personally. He didn’t let China walk all over us. Just his Mideast peace initiatives in the last couple of months deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. He has defended religious liberty like no president before him, and that matters to all people of faith. He has worked to bring prison reform and secured our southern border. He defeated the ISIS caliphate in Syria, and he strengthened our military. He was also the most pro-life president we have ever had. But the House Democrats impeached him because they hate him and want to do as much damage as they can. And these ten, from his own party, joined in the feeding frenzy. It makes you wonder what the thirty pieces of silver were that Speaker Pelosi promised for this betrayal.”

Well, I wonder if Mr. Franklin has been living in some alternative universe?  The hell of it is, though, that with over 9.5 million followers on Facebook, some will undoubtedly buy into his trash talk and some will no doubt join the planned insurrection next week, fully believing that they are doing ‘god’s work’.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


And speaking of religious freaks …

brandon-burdonBrandon Burdon, pastor of Kingdom Life church in Frisco, Texas is less well-known that Franklin Graham, but no less a lunatic.

During a long rambling sermon just days after the Capitol coup, he told his (maskless) congregation to stock up on weapons, celebrated a God-ordained siege of Washington, spoke in tongues to give his statements added oomph, claimed Apple would create a national blackout, railed against FOX News and Mitch McConnell for not being conservative enough, urged everyone to stock up on generators and food, and said with absolutely certainty that Donald Trump would be president for eight straight years.

“We are locked and loaded at the Burden house.  We have an executive order — not from Congress or D.C., but from the desk of the CEO of heaven, the boss of the planet. He said from his desk in heaven, this is my will; Trump will be in for eight years.”

Is it any wonder that I often say religion is the cause of most wars and most hatred in the world?  I wonder how many people from Frisco, Texas will be among the gun-toting nuts planning to converge on D.C. next week?

The Big Hack … and Other News

We are all so wrapped up in the election, in Donald Trump’s utterly ridiculous behaviour, his inane ramblings and threats, the surging number of daily new cases and deaths from the pandemic, and the upcoming runoff elections in Georgia, that few seem to be paying attention to what would ordinarily be the biggest story of the day:  The Big Hack.

Thus far, hackers working for a Russian intelligence agency have breached the following:

  • Department of Energy (including Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
  • Department of Treasury
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of State
  • National Institute of Health (NIH)
  • Commerce Department’s telecommunications policy agency

Officials have spent days scouring federal networks for more information about the breaches but are still unsure of what the hackers took.  Federal agencies were not the only victims, as at least three states were also breached.  The true scale of the breach is still unknown but looks to have extended beyond the US government. On Thursday, Reuters reported that Microsoft was also hacked as part of the suspected Russian campaign.

The hack began as early as March, when malicious code was snuck into updates to Orion, a network safety tool used extensively by government agencies.  So far, the hackers are known to have at least monitored email or other data within the US departments of defense, state, treasury, homeland security and commerce.

Now, I don’t pretend to understand the mechanics here, but I know that anytime such agencies as Homeland Security, the Nuclear Security Administration, and Department of Energy are compromised, there is a very real threat to our nation, to our safety, to our very lives.  This is too important to ignore … yes, folks, it’s even more important than Trump’s babbling rants.

There are far more questions than answers:

  • What are they seeking?
  • What have they already obtained?
  • Why?
  • How?
  • Why now?

The timing … I’m not given to conspiracy theories, and frankly don’t have a theory about it, but I have to be suspicious of the timing.  We are very vulnerable right now in many ways, given that we essentially have no coherent leadership, and given that we are largely distracted by the surging pandemic and the post-election chaos.  There is some reason for these hackings, and some reason for the timing … but what?  Former homeland security advisor Tom Bossert chillingly predicts …

“It will take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy.”

The FBI and other agencies have scheduled briefings for members of Congress today, and we may learn more after that, though I’m not holding my breath.  Not surprisingly, Trump has been too busy making threats and accusations to be bothered commenting on the situation.  This must not turn into a political game … our members of Congress must all pull together to give the agencies involved the tools they need to figure out the what, why, when, where and how of the breaches, and to minimize the damage.  My hope is that once Joe Biden takes office in 33 days, our security will once again be considered a top priority.

For now, however, it is important that we keep our eye on this ball.  People refusing to wear masks because they say it violates their civil rights, a lame duck president acting like a toddler, political arguments and name-calling should fade into the background until we understand just what the threat here is and how dangerous it is.


In other news …

  • In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear issued an order requiring all K-12 institutions to temporarily cease in-person classes because of rising coronavirus cases. A religious school, Danville Christian Academy, joined by Kentucky’s attorney general, said it should not be subject to the order, and they took their case to the Supreme Court.  The Court, in an unsigned order noted that schools are about to begin their holiday breaks, and Governor Beshear’s mandate expires before schools reopen Jan. 4. If Beshear reissues the restriction, the court said, the plaintiffs could return to court.  My thoughts?  A school is a school is a school.  Why should a religious school be exempt from a mandate that is intended to protect teachers, students, and their families.  Good grief, people … do we have to tie you to a tree to make you understand that these mandates are for your own protection?

  • This morning at 8:00 a.m., Mike Pence and his wife Karen are scheduled to receive the coronavirus vaccine … live on television.  Ho hum.  First of all, who really wants to see somebody’s bare arm have a 4-foot long needle plunged into it?  Seriously?  Secondly, to what purpose?  Allegedly, it is to assure the people that the vaccine is perfectly safe, so that more people will be willing to take it.  But … since 90% of us will not even be able to receive it until next autumn, it really doesn’t matter, does it? And anyway, the after-effects that worry me most, given the haste with which the vaccine was developed, may well be long-range, such as people developing cancer 3-4 years from now.  And what if Mike or Karen have an anaphylactic reaction like the nurse up in Alaska … on television?  Then how assured are we going to feel?  Nice try, Mikey, but keep your arms to yourself and stop the voyeurism, please.

Someone Please Invent a Cure for Crazy

Our friend Jerry over at On the Fence Voters shares his story of a recent encounter with some people and it explains, in part, why this nation is so divided today … it is almost as if the human species has split into two sub-species, neither of which can possibly understand the other. Thank you, Jerry, for sharing this story with us!

On The Fence Voters

Despair. Despondency. Gloom. I see dark days ahead. Yes, Donald Trump will be out of office soon—or should be. But the crazies who put him in the White House aren’t going away.

Even if Trump were to concede graciously—any bets on that?—the insanity he brought to our nation’s political system will be with us for the foreseeable future. And my former people—white evangelicals—will be the primary perpetuators of the madness.

My despondency is tied to a series of recent emails with an evangelical pastor and his wife I’ve never met or conversed with until a few days ago. Here’s how it went down:

I watched a YouTube clip of this pastor on a program hosted by another white evangelical. The first question the host asked the pastor was about services at the pastor’s church. The pastor replied that his church had experienced no disruptions to their weekly services. Then he…

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Grim SCOTUS

Most religious groups are no doubt applauding the latest Supreme Court ruling, but when you dissect it, the ruling is actually one of the biggest blows to religious freedom in the history of this nation. Clay Jones of Claytoonz has an excellent cartoon and accompanying commentary on the SCOTUS ruling …

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The biggest takeaway from the Supreme Court’s ruling that churches in New York can remain open, because placing restrictions on them is infringing upon their Constitutionally-protected religious freedom, is where the court will be years from now.

The court ruled on similar cases just a few months ago, and ruled 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberals, that the government can place restrictions on churches. On Wednesday night, it was another 5-4 ruling, this time in favor of the churches and again, with Roberts joining the liberals.

The big takeaway here is that Amy Coney Barrett was the vote putting it over the top. The last time the court voted on this, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was on the court and actually understood the case.

The argument here is that New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, was being harder on churches than places like retail businesses. But the thing is…

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Five to Four

Our friend Nan wrote the post that was in my mind, but hadn’t yet reached my fingertips (spent the day cooking, y’know). In short, the United States Supreme Court ruled that religionists’ rights supercede our rights to be as safe as possible. Nan’s post is great, but the ensuing comments and conversation adds depth to the topic. Thank you, Nan, Vic, and others for your insight!

Nan's Notebook


As many of you have probably heard or read by now, the U.S. Supreme Court just gave Religion a vote of confidence. Of course, for many of us, this comes as no surprise since we knew Ms. Amy Coney Barrett was going to be an influencing factor in church/state decisions.

However, what was surprising – and gratifying – is that Chief Justice John Roberts took a much more egalitarian approach to the issue. A good sign, hopefully, of things to come … although we should never get too confident.

The entire matter is addressed in this article.

Beyond the fact the decision favored the churches in this case, I found the overall reasoning lacking in so many ways. It was Justice Neil Gorsuch’s comments, in particular, that really stood out to me.

He noted that other businesses, such as bicycle repair shops, did not have similar restrictions and went…

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Musings From The Rabbit Hole — Unity

Joe Biden, who will take the Oath of Office in just 67 days, has promised to try to unify the people of this country … unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office who has done nothing but divide us.  I applaud that effort, and until yesterday I naively thought it might just be possible.  I still hope that it can be done … certainly if anybody can, Biden is among the best candidates to do so.  But today I have my doubts.  I don’t want to be negative or a naysayer, for we all need all the hope we can find, but I am nothing if not a pragmatist, a realist. Yesterday as I perused the news, considered what was happening, it occurred to me that a large number – about half – of the people in this nation do not want unity, but rather thrive on division and chaos.

Certainly, there have always been political divisions in this country and always will be, for we are a nation of humans, but what we are experiencing now goes beyond ideological differences and into the arena of personal hatred.  This “Reign of Cruelty” as I term the past four years, has changed us, has made us more willing to accept things that we once abhorred.  It has made us less human.

I hate that it has boiled down to Republican vs Democrat and the language of hate, the finger-pointing, the blame game is always … always the fault of everyone who identifies with one party or another.  I, too, have been guilty of saying, “The republicans only want …” or “The republicans are the cause of …”, and it’s not something I’m proud of, but admittedly it will likely happen again, for I am human.

Today, thousands of people are gathered in Washington to … what?  I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish, but they are protesting the results of the election, results that clearly prove Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. They are parroting Trump’s false claim that the election has been ‘stolen’, that there was massive voter fraud, even though this has been disproven.  They’ve brought their guns, they’ve brought their Proud Boys, their maga hats, their Trump banners, and while so far nobody has been killed, I won’t be surprised if there is violence and death before the day is done.

I am neither a democrat nor a republican, but for the past twenty years or so, I have found nothing particularly valuable in the republican platform, while I do support the same sorts of things the Democratic Party supports, things like providing affordable health care for everyone, women’s rights, equal rights for the LGBT community, equal opportunities for people of all colours and religions in such areas as housing and employment.  I support raising the minimum wage, workplace safety, and perhaps most importantly, taking care of the planet that we have long neglected.

The pandemic perfectly highlights the differences between the two ‘sides’ in this nation.  We cannot even agree to protect each other from a deadly virus, cannot agree on something so simple as wearing a mask in public, else staying home.  If we cannot agree on even that, how can we possibly come to terms on such things as environmental regulations, universal health care, and ending systemic racism?

This nation was founded on freedom of religion, which also means freedom from religion, and yet today a growing portion of the population believes that their religious beliefs ought to be the basis of the laws that we must all live under, even those of us who do not share their beliefs.  This only further divides us … wars have been fought over this very thing, but we fail to learn the lessons of history.

The effort to unify will require compromise, and I just don’t see a willingness among the people of this nation to budge so much as an inch, let alone meet the other side at the halfway mark.  What will it take to bring the people of this nation together, united in a common goal?  Will it take bombs being dropped on us by an outside entity?  Will it take the deaths of half the people in the nation before we open our eyes and realize that we cannot keep killing each other?

Can we possibly set aside our vitriol and hate for a moment and think about the things we have in common?  Or do we still have anything in common?  I think we do … we all love our families and want the best for them, we just don’t agree on what is the best or how to achieve it.  We all have certain basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and breathable air … we just don’t agree on how to achieve those things.  We all want our children to have a good education … we just don’t agree on what, exactly, that is.  So yes, we have much in common, but we view it from different perspectives.  All of which would be fine, if we respected each other, respected others’ viewpoints and agreed to compromise.  Instead, we try to shove our views down the throats of others.

If you’re waiting for me to tell you how we can fix this … don’t hold your breath, for I have no idea.  I only hope that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are far wiser than I and can make decisions and policies that will help narrow what I refer to as the Great Divide.

Trump Will Take White Evangelicals Down With Him

It would seem, based on the evidence, that evangelical Christianity produces some of the world’s most gullible fools. Sigh. Our friend Jerry takes a look at some of the lunacy and hypocrisy.  Good post, Jerry … thanks!

On The Fence Voters

Ralph Reed, president of the conservative evangelical Faith and Freedom Coalition,recently stated, “I think the 81 percent of the evangelical vote that Trump received four years ago is the floor. I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that he could end up in the mid-80s.”

No Moving the Truly Faithful

While polls have found every other demographic class leaping from the disaster-bound Trump train—and that includes white menin general—most white evangelicals are determined to hang on for the wild ride to the last stop—Obliteration Station.

While polls have found every other demographic class leaping from the disaster-bound Trump train—and that includes white menin general—most white evangelicals are determined to hang on for the wild ride to the last stop—Obliteration Station.

Yes, even many of Trump’s basest Congressional grovelers have finally deciphered the writing on the doomed king’s wall and havebegun to…

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An Answer To My Letter …

You may remember the letter I wrote to Senator Rob Portman a week or so ago regarding the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  One thing I will say about Senator Portman is that he always responds to my emails, and this was no exception.  On Saturday I received this response …

rob-portmanDear Jill,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter and the opportunity to respond.

As the second woman in history confirmed to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg served our country in this important role for 27 years. Her death on September 18, 2020 created a vacancy on the Court.  The U.S. Constitution provides that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint… Judges of the supreme Court.” Considering we are less than two months from a presidential election, there is controversy regarding whether the Senate should take up a nomination before the election.  The Senate’s historical precedent demonstrates that when the same party controls the presidency and the Senate and a vacancy arises during a presidential election year, the Senate almost always confirms a nominee.

In the more than two dozen vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court that have arisen during a presidential election year in our nation’s history, the sitting president made a nomination in every single case.  Leader McConnell has said that he will hold a vote on any nominee President Trump sends to the Senate, and I intend to fulfill my role as a U.S. Senator and judge that nominee based on his or her merits. The president was elected in 2016, in part, based on a commitment to nominate men and women to the judiciary who would fairly and impartially apply the law and protect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, not advance public policy goals by legislating from the bench.  Likewise, in both 2016 and 2018, the American people have re-elected a Republican Senate majority to help President Trump fulfill that commitment.

In 2016, when the vacancy occurred following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, I said “the president has every right to nominate a Supreme Court justice … But the founders also gave the Senate the exclusive right to decide whether to move forward on that nominee.” Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposing-party president’s Supreme Court choice when the vacancy occurred in a presidential election year.  In contrast, when the presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party – as it is today –the precedent is for the president’s nominees to get confirmed. In the occasions that a vacancy has occurred when the President and the Senate are of the same party in a presidential election year, the Senate has confirmed the nominee and filled the seat in every instance but one where there was a bipartisan ethics concern. I look forward to seeing who President Trump plans to nominate and thoroughly assessing his or her qualifications for this important role.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. For more information, I encourage you to visit my website at portman.senate.gov . Thank you, and please keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Rob Portman
U.S. Senator

My response, if I felt inclined to respond, would be to remind him that the United States Supreme Court is intended, by the Constitution he places so much stock in, to be non-partisan.  They are supposed to judge cases by their constitutionality, not by how the results play into the hands of one political party or another.  What I hear in Senator Portman’s response is that he will continue licking the boots of the Ass in the Oval Office and will vote to confirm the nominee, for he hasn’t the cojones to stand up to either Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell.  I hope I’m wrong.

A Prominent Theologian’s Risky Rationale

Our friend Jerry over at On the Fence Voters offers an enlightening view of how the evangelicals have been able to set aside their own values and morals to support a ‘man’ who has none. Thank you, Jerry, for this excellent viewpoint!

On The Fence Voters

Anyone who attended any conservative Bible college or seminary during the last few decades—as I did—is almost certain to recognize the name Wayne Grudem. Grudem’s 1,264-page digest on systematic theology—given the apt but boring titleSystematic Theology—is required reading on many if not most conservative Christian campuses.

Policies Over Principles

Though unfamiliar to most rank-and-file evangelicals, among evangelical scholars Grudem is one of the most-respected evangelical leaders in the country today. He also happens to be an unapologetic Trump supporter. Last month, the website Townhall publisheda letter Grudem wroteto a Trump-opposing evangelical friend (yes, there are a few of us).

Grudem’s letter is far too long to reproduce here. The main point—not surprisingly—is that while Trump is a less-than-admirable person, his policies are largely in line with evangelical Christian doctrine—as Grudem defines such doctrine. So, as most evangelicals now concede, favorable policies trump character issues.Character mattered…

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