Da Snark MUST Be Shared!

Ever notice how in certain weather, your head and chest just seem to fill with ‘stuff’ and you sneeze, wheeze, gasp and cough until you think surely you’ve coughed up a lung?  Well, in certain political climes, my head just fills to the gills with snark, and there’s only one way to alleviate the symptoms … share it!


You could’a knocked me over with a feather …

Yesterday was a red-letter day in the United States Congress!  Why?  Because the Senate … members on both sides of the aisle … actually agreed on something and voted 95 to 1 to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO!  95-1 … can you believe it???  I think this is the most cohesion we’ve seen in the Senate since … since … maybe 1867 or thereabouts!  Granted, there is little reason to object to allowing these two nations to join NATO … it is a win-win, for it adds strength to NATO and provides protections for Sweden and Finland, but these days, there doesn’t seem to be a need for a reason to split the two sides!

Oh … that single ‘nay’ vote?  That was ol’ Josh Hawley, the brunt of many jokes since the January 6th committee aired video showing Josh of fist-pump fame running desperately from the insurrectionists that day!  His reason for naysaying the treaty expansion was, in his words …

“NATO expansion would almost certainly mean more U.S. forces in Europe for the long haul. In the face of this stark reality, we must choose. We must do less in Europe (and elsewhere) in order to prioritize China and Asia.”

No, it made no sense to me, either, but then … it’s Josh ‘fist-pump’ Hawley, so I don’t expect intellect, but merely nonsense.  Rumour has it that he sees himself as a presidential candidate in 2024 🤣 🤣


Religious freedom?  I think not.

It was on June 27th, just over a month ago, that the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the case of Kennedy v Bremerton School District.  In a nutshell, the case was filed by Joseph Kennedy, a public-school football coach, who had taken the practice of praying at the middle of the field immediately after each game. The school board were concerned the practice would be seen as infringing on the Establishment Clause separating church and state. They attempted to negotiate with Kennedy to pray elsewhere or at a later time, but Kennedy continued the practice. His contract was not renewed, leading Kennedy to sue the board.

The Supreme Court ruled that the school’s actions against Kennedy violated his rights under both the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.  This decision has bothered me for over a month now, and last night I had a thought that I would share with you, my friends.

I don’t deny that Mr. Kennedy or anybody else has the right to pray … here, there, or anywhere.  However, public schools are not the place for public displays of religious acts!  They are institutions of learning … learning math, science, literature, history, and more … not religion.  In case the U.S. Supreme Court has not noticed, this is a secular nation.  We have people of every religion here and many of us are non-religious … that is our right, per the U.S. Constitution!  So, the thought I had was this:  Would the United States Supreme Court justices have been so quick to defend the man’s ‘right to prayer’ if he were a Muslim publicly praying to Allah?  I’m betting not.

Some of the boys on the team Mr. Kennedy coached said they were uncomfortable with his habit … some boys joined in, and those who did not believe or did not wish to join in were made to feel left out, felt that to belong, they had to join in.  THIS IS NOT what public education is about, my friends!  I would take umbrage if my child or grandchild were subjected to a teacher or other school employee praying in public during school hours or activities!  Again … if it had been a Muslim … can you just imagine the furor?

The U.S. is a nation founded in part by religious freedom.  That does NOT mean that one religion, ie Christianity, dominates the spirit of the nation.  It doesn’t.  The Court made a grievous error on June 27th, one that some were just waiting for in order to pounce and turn our schools into religious institutions.  We must not allow that to happen.


Say WHAT???

Ryan Kelley was running in the GOP primaries for governor of Michigan.  He lost.  In fact, he lost by a lot, coming in at fourth place with only 15% of the vote, or 165,016 votes as compared to the leader, Tudor Dixon, who received 434,673 votes, or 40.6%.  (I will have more about Tudor Dixon at a later date)  Now, one would think ol’ Ryan Kelley would tuck his tail betwixt his legs and go home to lick his wounds or cry in his beer, yes?  But nope.  He is planning to contest the election!

Kelly made the announcement early Wednesday morning as primary election results began to roll out that he refuses to concede and is contesting the election results.  Oh … and it may not surprise you to know that Kelley was one of the insurrectionists who was arrested for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election on January 6th by breaking into the Capitol, destroying property, attacking Capitol Police, and calling to hang Mike Pence!  And it surely won’t surprise you that he was endorsed by the former guy who incited the attempted coup.

Methinks he can contest until the cows come home, but he ain’t gonna be the one running against Democrat Gretchen Widmer in November!

Taking Religious “Liberty” Too Far …

There is a recent push for a thing called “religious liberty”.  We already have constitutionally-mandated freedom of religion in the United States.  As long as your religion does not involve human sacrifices or some such atrocity, you are free to believe as you will, attend the church of your choice – or not – and live your life in a manner consistent with your beliefs.  What you do not have, however, is the right to force your beliefs on others.  This is, in a nutshell, what the “religious liberty” movement seeks to do.

In October 2017, Ryan Coleman took a job as a painter at a construction company, Dahled Up Construction, in Albany, Oregon, about an hour south of Portland.  After being hired, Coleman was told that it was a job requirement to attend Christian bible study classes.  Mr. Coleman is half-Native American (Cherokee and Blackfoot) does not follow the Christian faith and had no desire to attend the classes, but the company’s owner, Joe Dahl, insisted that it was a requirement, not a request.

Coleman has children to feed, and unwilling to risk losing his job, attended the classes for a few months, but eventually became too uncomfortable with the ‘teachings’ to continue.  He decided to stop attending, and he informed Mr. Dahl that he had tried, but the classes went against his own personal beliefs.  Mr. Dahl’s response was, “Well, I’m going to have to replace you. You’re not going to tell me how to run my own company.”

Coleman responded with, “I’m not trying to tell you how to run your own company, but you’re not going to tell me what god to pray to.”  Coleman was fired in April 2018 for refusing to follow the company mandate to attend religious classes.

Mr. Coleman has filed a lawsuit, the details of which I won’t get into here, but Mr. Dahl’s lawyers’ response is interesting, for they claim the requirement is perfectly legal since the employees are on company time and therefore are being paid to attend.  That, in my book, is akin to saying that whatever an employee is asked to do while ‘on the clock’, is legal.  Hmmmm … it seems to me this has the potential to open some cans of worms.  So, if I order an employee to commit murder, as long as I’m paying him, it’s okay?  I think not.religious demographicsThe above chart by Pew Research Center shows global religious demographics.  Note that, while Christianity has the largest following worldwide, it is far from a majority.  Other religions, Islam, Hindu, Judaism, Buddhism and hundreds of lesser-known religions have equal legitimacy. Note, also, that a fairly substantial portion, 16.3%, choose to follow no religion.

The United States has laws against workplace discrimination.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.  What part of this, I wonder, did Mr. Dahl not understand?

I am all for freedom of religion – for all, not just one sect or another.  I support a person’s right to run his or her business in a manner that is profitable.  These two, however, need not be mutually exclusive.  Why on earth anybody would think it’s acceptable to dictate the religion of his employees is beyond my comprehension!  Not only that, but it is beyond the rule of law.

According to guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

“An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.”

This seems fairly cut and dried, and one might be tempted to be complacent in the belief that the court will rule in Mr. Coleman’s favour.  But wait … this is the year 2018 … the year in which the Supreme Court decided (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission) that a baker in Colorado, Jack Phillips, had the right to refuse to serve a gay couple based on his religious beliefs.  Although in that case, the court ruling warned that there were extenuating circumstances and this decision should not be interpreted as giving other businesses carte blanche to do what Jack Phillips did, some in the Christian community seem to have disregarded that warning.

In May, Donald Trump signed an executive order, “Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative”, that he said would “vigorously protect religious freedom”.  Taken at face value, that would indicate that Mr. Coleman’s freedom to refuse being forced to attend the Christian-based bible study courses would be protected and Mr. Dahl broke the law by terminating his employment. However, thus far it appears that Trump’s order has been interpreted to mean protecting only the Christian religions rather than all religious beliefs.

This will be an interesting case to follow. Will it end up on the docket of the Supreme Court?  It’s anybody’s guess at this early stage, and one would hope that the lower courts have the good sense to see that Mr. Dahl crossed a line.  But, this is the Era of Trump, the day of ‘alternative facts’, where up is down, red is green, and wrong is sometimes right. Hang on to your hats, folks.

Re-defining “Liberty”

Two weeks ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a “religious liberty task force” to help protect the right of every American “to believe, worship and exercise their faith in the public square.”  Religious liberty … what exactly does that mean?  To me, it means the right of every person to believe as he or she sees fit, to belong to any church of their choice, or none at all.  It is, as I see it, an individual ‘right’. It is not, however, the right to inflict your own beliefs upon others.

George Marsden, a religious historian at the University of Notre Dame, describes religious liberty as ‘inclusive pluralism’, a society in which no religion is preferred over another, and all believers can worship as they see fit.  Sounds about right, don’t you think?

But by Trump’s, Sessions’ and the evangelical’s definition, it changes to connote freedoms and privileges granted mostly to Christians — specifically, the white conservative Christians who form a vital part of the Republican base. Instead of inclusive pluralism, it now stands for exclusive primacy of the Christian faith.  Politicized religion.

In 2016, as he stumped along the campaign trail, Trump met with a large group of nearly 1,000 evangelicals, and here is what he said …

“This is such an important election. And I say to you folks because you have such power, such influence. Unfortunately, the government has weeded it away from you pretty strongly. But you’re going to get it back.”

I have two questions:

  • Why should any religious group have ‘power and influence’ in a secular government? Or society?
  • What the Sam Heck did the government “weed” away from the evangelicals?

bullshit

In the same meeting, he also promised them that they would be allowed to say “Merry Christmas” again. Excuse me, but nobody ever said they couldn’t!!!  Some businesses asked their employees to use “Happy Holidays” instead, as a courtesy to those of us who are not Christians, but are Jews, Muslims, Hindus or atheists, but nobody stopped anybody from saying “Merry Christmas”!

Then, to add insult to injury, Trump promised them that if they voted him into office, he would abandon the Johnson Amendment that forbids tax-exempt organizations from campaigning for a political candidate.  It doesn’t say that members of a church cannot campaign for a candidate as individuals, only that the church itself cannot endorse a specific candidate if they wish to maintain their tax-exempt status.  It is intended to keep religion out of politics – remember the concept of ‘separation of church and state’?

And that is precisely what he did with the religious liberty executive order he signed in May, bypassing Congress altogether … again.  Not that it would have mattered, for when he says “Jump!”, the boot-lickers in Congress ask “How high?”  And when he signed the bloody order, he commented, “We are giving our churches their voices back.”  They. Never. Lost. Their. Voices.

Only about 70% of the American public profess to be Christian.  What about the other 30% of us?  Religious liberty as defined by this administration and its supporters is liberty only for white Christians. In a recent Supreme Court decision, the Court granted Christian business owners the right to refuse service to LGBT people. The next logical step is that Christian business owners will be granted the right to refuse service to a Jew, or a Muslim, or a non-believer.  Perhaps business owners will be allowed to refuse service to African-Americans … or Latinos.

Envision a nation where your drivers’ license has a section for religion. For gender orientation.  Remember Trump’s comment a week or so ago about having to have a photo ID to buy groceries?  Maybe he was projecting into the future he envisions where an ID distinguishing religion, ethnicity, gender identification, and length of toenails are revealed.  Or perhaps … or perhaps all non-Christians will just wear a yellow star and have a number tattooed on their forearm like the one my Uncle Leon had.

Far-fetched?  Maybe, but … seemingly innocuous phrases like “religious liberty” and “family values” have become buzzwords for discrimination against any whose ideas or lifestyles differ from the Christian community.  It has become harsh and discriminatory.  ‘Values’ and ‘Liberty’ have somehow become something very ugly.

When Sessions announced his ‘task force’, he had a little celebratory ceremony … yes, by all means, let’s celebrate widespread discrimination!  He made a comment that was neither true nor sensible, referring to “nuns ordered to buy contraception” under President Obama.  To set the record straight, no nun in the history of the U.S. has ever been forced to buy contraceptives under any president!  And guess who was the guest speaker at Sessions’ little celebration?  None other than the bigoted Jack Phillips, the baker in Nevada who was so offended at being asked to place a topper with two men atop a wedding cake that he went all the way to the Supreme Court and forever changed the face of the nation.

I recently read an OpEd that said the founding fathers would not recognize the definition of ‘religious liberty’ in this, the 21st century.  To be honest, I don’t recognize it myself.  We have taken “white Christian privilege” too far, and this nation is headed down a very dangerous path.  It is one you can find in the history books if you go back to the early 1930s in Europe.