Even Snarkier Than Usual Snippets …

Lies, LIES, and more LIES!!!  Does anybody really believe a word the ‘man’ in the Oval Office utters anymore?  Does anybody still believe this is a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”?  Does anybody blame me for being MAD???  Our friend Gronda told me yesterday that I can never be too snarky for her.  And so, if you thought I was snarky before … welcome to the Filosofa of 2019 … the Uber-Snarkstress!!!

So many bloomin’ lies … where to start?  Remember this one regarding the ‘need’ for a border wall …

“This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me.  And they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it.”

Turned out, just as we could easily have predicted it would, that of the four living former presidents, not a single one ever said that to him, or even discussed it with him.  Just another lie that suited his purpose at the moment.  But his lapdog, Mike Pence, found a rather unique way to justify it.

“I know the president has said that that was his impression from previous presidents, previous administrations. I know I’ve seen clips of previous presidents talking about the importance of border security.”

Um, no Mikey … seeing a president say something on television does not constitute a direct, private conversation.  And talking about ‘border security’ does not necessarily imply a wall.  Wow, Mikey … how low will you stoop to shore up Trump’s lies?  Does it not leave a horrid taste in your mouth?  🤢

One down, 19 to go!

“I continue to stress that there is no good reason for a shutdown. The reality is thousands of federal employees & contractors have no paycheck in sight, small businesses that rely on them are suffering & there’s no reason they should be held hostage to a political dispute. It’s important that we continue the debate on how we address border security & address the President’s top priorities, but it’s possible to provide for security & to address the humanitarian crisis on our border, while still doing our jobs to keep the government fully functional.” – Lisa Murkowski, Republican Senator from Alaska

True or false?  

Senator Lindsey Graham spoke with Trump’s potential nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, recently.  After the conversation, Graham was asked if he felt Barr could be trusted to protect the Mueller investigation.  His answer?

“They’ve been personal friends for over 20 years. His opinion of Mr. Mueller is very, very high in terms of ethics and character and professionalism.”

He went on to say that Barr’s and Mueller’s wives attend Bible study together and Mueller has attended the weddings of two of Barr’s daughters.

Not exactly a written guarantee, and I’m not sure I trust Lindsey, but still, there’s something a bit comforting in knowing that Barr & Mueller are friends.  Let us hope Barr has a conscience and doesn’t pander to the whims of the madman in the Oval Office.

Ever hear the term ‘separation of church and state’???

The headline reads …

North Dakota lawmakers want to require Bible study in public schools

North Dakota is one of those states that largely seems to go unnoticed, so I have to wonder if this isn’t simply a cry for attention … “Hey … Look at us … We’re going to defy the Constitution … nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah … “

“A group of North Dakota lawmakers — all Republicans — have introduced legislation that would require the state’s public schools to teach a unit on the Bible. The unit could be on the Old Testament, the New Testament, or a mix of the two, and would count toward students’ social studies credit requirements.”

YO — North Dakota ‘lawmakers’ of the republican variety!!!  Listen up … some of us are NOT Christians, do NOT ascribe to the bible, but still, we send our kids to school!!!  Just what are we … those of us who are Muslims, Jews, Hindus and atheists … chopped liver???  But wait … North Dakota is not alone!  A member of the Florida State Legislature, Kim Daniels, has proposed a bill, HB195, that would require — rather than just permit, as is the case now — high schools to offer an “objective study of religion.”  In 2017, Kentucky passed the “Bible Literacy Bill”, the purpose of which was to “provide to students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture.”

In normal times, I would look for all these cases to land in front of a judge quite quickly, but … these are not normal times.  However, in the interest of fairness, I think each of these states should also require equal time for the study of Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood!!!

The temper tantrum …

Since when is it appropriate to react to a temper tantrum by giving the thrower of the tantrum lots and lots of attention?  Try that with your toddler sometime and watch what happens!  So, on Wednesday, Trump met with Pelosi and Schumer for the 895th time in two weeks, and predictably Trump said, “I want my wall … WAH!  Gimme gimme gimme my wall!”  Equally predictable were Pelosi’s and Schumer’s responses:  “NO!”

So, Trump slams his little tiny fist on the desk and storms out, slamming the door behind him.  And then … the parents of this brat … the media, go into full circus mode and report it multiple times in every single media outlet both here in the U.S. and abroad.  Every. Single. One.  Thanks, guys … thanks a lot for giving the spoiled brat in the Oval Office the attention he was seeking!  Oh, and by the way … Trump brought candy to the meeting … did he really think a pack of Skittles was going to be worth $5.7 billion???

This little temper tantrum should have been ignored, just as we are well-advised to ignore the fits thrown by our two-year-olds.  It should never have even been reported, let alone turned into “the breaking news of the day”.  We already know he is a hot-headed bully … we really didn’t need to be reminded.

And now, I shall stop and breathe for a little while, perhaps even read a book that has nothing to do with politics in hopes of stabilizing both blood pressure and heart rate.  Good Morning, my friends.

The Conversation — Part II

This is Part II of the series I started yesterday afternoon, in response to a very thoughtful and thought-provoking comment I received from friend Mary on Tuesday.  Mary’s comments are in normal text, mine are in blue.  The conversation continues …

paragraph divider 2

1When I look around and see the support trump still has after 2 years, I believe it is hopeless … truly. I do hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling. 2Education is not getting better, 3politics are even more corrupt, greed is rampant, 4our government supports killers over their own intelligence agencies, selfishness is rampant, 5far right religion is out of control with their end times desires and pushing their own special brand of bigotry, 6fires being blamed on not raking leaves, wars without end, 7the real fake news (Fox and their ilk) are taking over the simple minded and on and on…  Let me take these one-by-one:

  1. Trump’s support is still the minority. His approval ratings have never, since his first week or two in office, come above about 43%, and typically run in the mid-to-high 30s, lower than any other president in modern times.  The thing about his supporters is that they are loud and obnoxious, have radical and hateful ideas, so, as the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”.  They are given the attention of the media, making them seem much larger than they actually are.

  2. Education has been in decline for more than a decade, though I agree that under Trump it is certain to decline further. Betsy DeVos would make college available to only those in the upper 1% of the income bracket and would siphon funds meant for public schools serving the many, into charter and religious schools serving only the elite few.  The problem, however, traces to parents who prefer their children to be schooled in a skill or a trade, so that they are prepared for a specific sort of job when they leave school, rather than receiving a liberal arts education that gives them a broad scope of knowledge, and most importantly, teaches them to think, to ask questions, to find solutions to problems.   Thus, the future leaders of this country, as well as the future scientists and inventors, will likely come only from among the very privileged.  It is a problem, certainly, but not one without a solution.  The solution is that we, as parents and grandparents, must step up to the plate, must demand that our children be given the same opportunity as the children of the Koch family. And we must motivate our children, for today’s youth is the future of this country.  Spend time with them, teach them what they need to know, teach them to reason, to ask questions, not to simply accept the easy answers.

  3. Yes, Mary, politics are as corrupt as they have ever been. The first thing that needs to be done is to take the money out of it.  Citizens United was the single worst decision ever made in terms of campaign finance, and even a few Supreme Court Justices have since regretted their vote.  It has left the door wide open for large corporations and lobbying groups, such as the fossil fuel and arms industries to buy members of Congress.  Today, it isn’t about the candidate’s platform and ideologies, but rather about how much money he can bring in.  I would personally like to see a system where donations are made to a central organization and divvied equally among all candidates.  Not going to happen, but it’s the only way we can ensure that our elected officials are truly representing us, We The People, and not in the pockets of the wealthy, industries, or the NRA.  Another suggestion I have is that we expand the current two-party system to either make it easier for an independent to get on the ballot, or to have a multi-party system such as many European nations have.  The United States is the only nation that has a duopoly, a two-party system where all power rests with those two parties.

  4. It appears that it is Trump’s decision alone to support Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and to ignore the evidence of his role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Members of both parties in Congress are displeased with this decision and I cannot imagine that any other president would be so unwilling to listen to his own intelligence agencies, but Trump … well, he thinks he knows more than anybody else.

  5. The far-right religion, the evangelicals, as a whole are a problem for our nation only to the extent that the government and the courts allow them to be. Trump promised his followers that he would nominate justices to the Supreme Court that would be willing to overturn Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges, and thus far he has seated two such judges.  It is to be hoped that he does not get the opportunity to nominate others, and that the rest of the court has respect for the decisions of past courts.  Our laws call for separation of church and state for good reason.  Ours is a secular government and has no right to interfere in any religion, but by the same token, religions must not have the right to determine law.

  6. I agree that Trump’s response to the forest fires in California was abominable. The good news about that is he surely didn’t make any friends or find any new supporters in that state!  The only thing he did do was prove his own ignorance, as if we needed further proof.

  7. Trump’s close ties with Fox News are indeed worrisome, especially when he is said to call Sean Hannity for advice! And to add insult to injury is his demonization of the legitimate press, calling them the “Enemy of the People”.  I must admit that, while I see the danger quite clearly, I am at a loss as to how we can make people think for themselves, make them wake up and realize that Fox News is naught more than state-sponsored television that panders to Donald Trump.  I think we must rely on the organizations that are established for the purpose of being the watchdogs to monitor freedom of the press, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and hope they do their job and get the word out. 

And once again I am at over 1,000 words, so I shall stop here and wrap up with Part III later today.  Please feel free to join in the conversation with your own ideas!  And thanks for not throwing those rotten tomatoes!  🍅 🍅 🍅

Link to Part I in case you missed it:  The Conversation — Part I

Another … sigh … Trumptian Terror

On Wednesday, the day after the mid-term elections, Donald Trump demanded the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  We all knew it was coming, and I think others will follow. While I have no love for Jeff Sessions, who is a proven racist, I am greatly disturbed by his termination.  With Sessions gone, the door is open to either terminate or stifle the Mueller investigation.  The Mueller investigation is no ‘witch hunt’, as Trump has claimed, but I strongly suspect has uncovered scandal and corruption beyond what we can even imagine.  Methinks Mr. Trump doth protest far too much, and his claims of innocence are a joke … a bad joke.

Let us take a look at the man who will be serving as a temporary replacement for Session.

Matthew-whitakerHis name is Matthew Whitaker.  He is an attorney with a rather unremarkable career thus far, his biggest ‘claim to fame’ being that he has run for public office three times … and lost ‘bigly’ two of the three.  Whitaker ran as a Republican for Treasurer of Iowa in 2002 and lost by 12%.  He ran for the Iowa Senate seat vacated by Tom Harkin in 2014 but came in only 4th in the republican primary with less than 8% of the votes.  After the 2014 loss, he became a paid advisory board member for a company called World Patent Marketing, a fraudulent business based in Florida that deceived inventors into thinking that the company had successfully commercialized other inventions.  The company was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2017.

In September of 2017, Whitaker was appointed to be Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff at the Department of Justice.  The month before, he wrote an opinion column for CNN titled “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump is Going Too Far.”  His premise was that the Mueller investigation should be limited and should not probe into Trump’s finances.  And in June 2017, three months before becoming Chief of Staff, he said publicly …

“I also think, you know, we have another hearing in front of Congress where there is no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Democrats continue to conflate the collusion issue, which there is no evidence of, with, with the fact that Russians did try to interfere with the election.”

His views on the Mueller investigation are high priority and would take an entire post to discuss, and while that is the most urgent issue that he will likely face in the coming two months, there are others that are equally appalling.  Let’s take a look at a few …

  • On gun control“The mass shootings we’ve seen in our country have been often times and always executed by mentally ill individuals who those laws never would’ve impacted in the first place. So I don’t think infringing on Second Amendment rights will prevent those types of events.”  Right-o … why bother to try to save a few thousand lives every month … they aren’t your lives, after all!

  • On climate change“I think the evidence is inconclusive, but there may be a human component to global warming. But that’s very small and it may be part of the natural warming or cooling of the planet. I’m certainly not a climate expert, but I don’t believe in Cap and Trade or those types of regulations that try to hamstring the U.S. economy as other countries continue to put carbon into the air. I don’t believe in big government solutions to a problem that doesn’t appear to be that significant or quite possibly isn’t man made.”  Yeah, again … what’s a few million lives as long as they aren’t yours?

  • On education“I think the Department of Education should be disbanded and the resources either returned to the taxpayers or put into the schools. Bureaucrats in Washington D.C. shouldn’t know how to better educate my kids than I do.”  Heh heh heh … like you’ve shown yourself to be so bloomin’ smart???  🤣🤣🤣

  • On marriage“I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Throughout history it’s traditionally been up to the churches and to God to define that. I don’t have an omnibus solution. Certainly it’s affecting all sorts of parts of our country. Here in the state of Iowa we can’t even get our elected officials to do anything about it and that’s really frustrating. It’s affecting our military. There are chaplains in the military under a lot of pressure to go against their religious beliefs.”  Bigot.  Homophobe.

  • On federal judges“I’d like to see things like their worldview, what informs them. Are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice? — which I think is very important. And what I know is as long as they have that worldview, that they’ll be a good judge. And if they have a secular worldview, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge.” Hey Jerkface … every hear of separation of church and state???  Has anyone ever told you that this is a SECULAR government???

Add to that he has indicated his belief that Social Security is unconstitutional and that basic labor laws like the minimum wage must be struck down.

In an interesting twist yesterday, a number of prominent attorneys including none other than George Conway, Kellyanne’s husband, have claimed that it is illegal for Trump to appoint Whitaker as acting Attorney General because he is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.  Don’t hyperventilate over this one, folks.

Under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, otherwise known as the “appointments clause” of the U.S. Constitution, a principal officer, that is one who reports only to the president, must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.  Legally, I agree with Mr. Conway and the others, but … this is the reign of Trump, where Trump considers himself above the law, and the relevant people in Congress and the Supreme Court have upheld his lawlessness more than once.  And the bottom line is that if Trump is forced to bring Whitaker before the Senate to confirm his nomination … well, need I say more?  It will mean not much more than a delay of a few days.  Remember Brett Kavanaugh?

Turn a Blind Eye …

Consider this from yesterday’s Washington Post

“A group of prominent U.S. evangelical figures, including several of President Trump’s evangelical advisers, met Thursday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose role in the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi remains unclear.”

What strikes me about this is how these same evangelicals openly condemn women who have an abortion, take birth control, or leave their abusive husbands, but they are willing to meet with a man who has blood on his hands and is a known violator of human rights.  Can anybody explain to me how a woman who refuses to be a punching bag is worse than a man who just this year threatened to behead a woman and her husband for being human rights activists?  Or how the marriage of two men is somehow more terrible than the bombing of innocent men, women, and children in Yemen?khashoggi-posterAll indications are that Mohammed bin Salman authorized or ordered the brutal murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi last month, yet Donald Trump continues to throw his support behind bin Salman.  And why?  In part, because his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to, but also because Trump has significant financial interests in Saudi Arabia.  Trump has denigrated the leaders of many of the nations who are our allies, such as Canada, the UK and Germany, but at the same time, he is willing to befriend a cruel dictator … a man who almost certainly murdered one of our own.toon-3That Trump is such an unconscionable ‘man’ should not surprise us, but I am highly confused by a group of so-called evangelical Christians who are willing to turn a blind eye to bin Salman’s many human rights violations and sit around the fireside chuckling and telling jokes as if he were just another of the ‘good ol’ boys’.Evangelicals meet MBS.pngJust as an aside, does anybody remember that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia?

toon-4The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act allows the president to impose sanctions, including freezing of assets, against individuals or entities responsible for or acting as an agent for someone responsible for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” or if they are government officials or senior associates of government officials complicit in “acts of significant corruption.”  In other words, Trump could freeze any assets held in the U.S. by the Saudi government or by bin Salman.  Instead, Trump sends a delegation of his trusted ‘religious advisors’.

The group was led by author/activist Joel Rosenberg (pictured at top).  As to why they agreed to meet with bin Salman, an article in Religious News Service (RNS) sums it up …

“U.S. evangelical leaders decided to meet with the Saudi crown prince despite the Khashoggi controversy because Saudi Arabia is among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most important nations in the Middle East, in all of history.”

So … still have any doubts about what takes precedence in the evangelical community?

The Saudi royal family is consistently ranked among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights.  Their human rights violations include capital punishment, torture, human trafficking, censorship and imprisonment of journalists, killing of homosexuals and transgenders, and the list goes on.  But, the religious leaders seem to have no problem overlooking those minor details.toon-1Trump’s evangelical advisory board has come under fire before for having tested the limits of separation of church and state by advising Trump and White House staff on issues including taxes, health care and judicial appointments.  And now, they are assisting in setting foreign policy, supporting a cruel dictator.  Ah well, they’ve been turning a blind eye to Trump and his obscene behaviour for two years now, so what’s a little bit of murder, beheading and dismemberment among friends, eh?  Especially when there’s a profit to be turned.toon-2

Is This Any Way To Treat A Kid?

School has been back in session in most areas of the country for less than two weeks now, and while I am thankful that thus far there have been no school shootings (at least none that I’m aware of), I am furious over the blatant discrimination against kids … little kids … by two private parochial schools, one Catholic and one Christian.

CJ Stanley is a six-year-old African-American boy who was happy and eager for his first day of school on August 13th at A Book Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida.  Look how happy he looked …CJ Stanley-happyBut then … the school’s administrator, Sue Book, wiped that smile right off CJ’s little face when she sent him home for having long hair, or more likely for having dreadlocks.

“I still have the same rules I always had. The girls wear skirts, the boys wear trousers, hair above their ears and off their collars.”

The school is very small, only about 50 students and a half-dozen teachers. It was founded by Sue Book’s husband, Reverend John Butler Book, a man who believes a woman’s place is in the home, women should wear dresses, and who once wrote that he is “trying to save Central Florida from the same fate as Sodom, both inside his school and out.”  I fail to see what a little boy’s hairstyle has to do with anything relevant to education.

CJ StanleyCJ’s father wisely told the school, after a few attempts to reach some form of compromise, to remove his son from their roster, for he will not have anything to do with the school.

Faith Fennidy is an 11-year-old African-American student who attends Christ the King Parish School in Terrytown, Louisiana.  Faith’s school resumed on Monday, August 20th, and as was the case with CJ, she was sent home because of her hair style – she wore braided hair extensions.

Faith FennidySchool officials told Faith on the first day of school that her hairstyle did not align with school policy. So, the next day Faith changed her hair, spending a “considerable amount of money in the process”, but still the school officials were not satisfied, and Faith was told to pack her belongings, leave, and don’t come back.  It should be noted that Faith has worn the braids she began school with for the past two years … at the same school … but this year she was told they were “unnatural”.

For the past week or so, my dear friend David and I have been having a conversation about parochial schools and whether they should even exist, whether they do more harm than good.  We are both of a like mind that education should be about … well, education … academics.  The Constitution calls for what Thomas Jefferson referred to as “a wall of separation between church and state”.  The forbearance of religious schools, it seems to me, violates that ‘wall of separation’.  In the past, I didn’t think much about religious schools as being a bad thing, for I spent most of my youth attending Catholic schools.  But, with the recent evidence of massive abuse of children by priests and others in Catholic schools that has been going on and hidden from the public view for years, and then these cases of blatant racism that would not be tolerated in public schools, I think it may be time to re-think, reconsider the role of parochial schools in the U.S.

These two children did nothing wrong.  They were wearing their hair in the manner that many in their culture do.  I have heard the arguments on both sides that this was racism bordering on white supremacy, and that it wasn’t racism, but merely “Christian” rules.  Whichever it was, it was wrong.  It was discrimination.  It had absolutely nothing to do with education.

The U.S. education system ranks 15th in the 2018 Global Education Report, below …

  1. Russia
  2. UK
  3. Singapore
  4. South Korea
  5. Canada
  6. Ireland
  7. China
  8. Japan
  9. Sweden
  10. Finland
  11. Denmark
  12. New Zealand
  13. Israel
  14. India

It is time for us to focus on teaching our young people about history, literature, mathematics and science and leave the religious education to the parents and churches, if they so choose.  It is time for us to dedicate resources to public schools where children go to gain the foundation for their futures, where they go to learn to think, rather than allocating precious resources to vouchers for parochial schooling. This is not a ‘Christian’ nation, but a secular one where all religions are welcome, but no single religion is favoured over others.  I can see absolutely no value to a religious school to begin with, but when they ignore Civil Rights and feel that they have the right to discriminate against children based on no more than a cultural hairstyle, it is time to say, “Enough!!!” Parents:  if you don’t like it, then homeschool your children.  At least you will only be imposing your beliefs on one child, not an entire school.

Meanwhile, my heart breaks for CJ and Faith who got a first-hand lesson about discrimination at such a young age. Shame on those who taught the lesson.

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?


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.

Don’t Be Fooled, Pennsylvanians!

On Tuesday, the good people in the 18th congressional district of Pennsylvania will head to the polls to choose a new representative to the U.S. House of Representatives.  I am begging you, Pennsylvania, to please, please vote with your heads and do not send Rick Saccone to Washington!  We do not need any more of his ilk … we already have plenty like him!

In January, I wrote a piece about Mr. Saccone, who is running against the democratic candidate, Conor Lamb.  A quick overview of the reasons not to vote for this ‘man’:

  • He is such a staunch supporter of gun rights for all, that he tried to push through a bill to force children’s restaurant/entertainment center, Chuck E. Cheese, to allow people to carry guns into the establishment. He claimed that to bar guns inside the restaurant was discriminatory.  Children’s lives matter less to this man than adult’s feelings.

  • He eschews freedom of religion, as he tried (and luckily failed) to pass a bill that would have required public school districts in Pennsylvania to post “In God We Trust”in every school building.

  • He supports budget cuts to K-12 education, childhood education programs, public libraries, child welfare, and other state programs as a means to reducing federal debt.

  • His own legislative expenditures far exceed those of his fellow representatives in the state legislature.

  • He holds a Christian nationalist ideology that seeks to institute a nation governed by conservative Christians based on their personal understandings of biblical law. (Hey, bud – ever hear of the 1st Amendment, or is the 2nd the only one you remember?)

  • He defended sexual predator and child molester Roy Moore during Moore’s failed Alabama senate bid last December.

I think this should be enough to convince every voter that we do not need his kind in the federal government, though to be sure, there are already plenty there that believe as he does.  Until a week ago, I had written Saccone off as a loser, certain that Conor Lamb would carry the day.  But …

A series of events took place that may well shove Saccone down the throats of an unsuspecting public.  First, there was Trump’s announcement that he is imposing import tariffs on steel coming into the country.  Pennsylvania is a steel-producing state.  Approximately 14% of the nation’s steelworkers are in Pennsylvania. Though there are some 34,000 currently employed in the steel-related industry, most experts agree that the tariffs won’t add many jobs in Pennsylvania, and will cost jobs in other industries.  However, the facts are often not the point, and to make certain that Pennsylvanians didn’t get their heads filled with too many facts, guess who arrived on the scene?

Donald Trump entered the fray this weekend to stump for Saccone.    While Trump spent the bulk of his 75-minute speech tooting his own horn, as is typical of Trump, he did manage to get in a few plugs for Saccone.

“I love this place. Hello, Pittsburgh! Hello, Pittsburgh! You know what? Do me a favor — get out on Tuesday, vote for Rick Saccone. Personally, I like Rick Saccone. I think he’s handsome. (Seriously???) The world is watching. I hate to put this pressure on you, Rick, but the world is watching, because I won this district.”

Conor Lamb (left) & Rick Saccone

Okay, so it’s not exactly a glowing recommendation, but the people in the crowds ate it up and cheered Trump and Saccone.  Perhaps more important is the media.  The largest newspaper in southwest Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has glowingly endorsed Saccone.  And not only did they endorse Saccone, but they took the opportunity to take a swipe at Conor Lamb for something he hasn’t even mentioned.  They claimed that Democratic control of the House would hurt the country by setting the stage for a presidential impeachment, and that a Democratic House would drive the country to “distraction” by immediately pushing to impeach Trump.  Lamb has not once mentioned impeachment.

“If Mr. Lamb, 33, wins, it could well be the start of a Democratic wave. The prospect of a Democratic House may please partisans, but it might be bad for the country. The Democrats in the House have only one agenda item at the moment, and it isn’t health care or jobs. It is impeachment. Regardless of whether one likes this president or his policies, one must ask what the consequence for the country will be if we dive into so great a distraction.” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11 March 2018

Now, Conor Lamb has had the support of the unions, even deep in what is called ‘Trump Country’.  But it remains unclear how the news of the steel tariffs, as well as Trump’s claim to bring back the coal industry, for Pennsylvania is also a coal-mining state, may affect voters’ views.  The race at the moment is very close, being called a ‘dead heat’.  Again, I urge you, Pennsylvanians, do not be swayed by Trump’s and Saccone’s words, for we do not need a bigoted, guns-on-steroids idiot taking a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives!

Kentucky Governor Strikes Again …

“The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion.” 1797, The Treaty of Tripoli, initiated by President Washington, signed by President John Adams, and approved by the Senate of the United States

Recently I wrote a post about Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin because of his ridiculous notion that the solution to gun violence was to have roving ‘prayer groups’ throughout the city of Louisville.  Today, I find I must re-visit Governor Bevin, for he has crossed a line that I find intolerable.

church-state“Separation of church and state” is paraphrased from Thomas Jefferson and used by others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Governor Bevin is a former businessman, and apparently has very little knowledge of the Constitution, and the same must surely be true for the members of the state legislature.  For last week, Governor Bevin signed into law HB-128:

“AN ACT relating to Bible literacy courses in the public schools.

Create a new section of KRS Chapter 156 to require the Kentucky Board of Education to promulgate administrative regulations to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible; require that the course provide to students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy; permit students to use various translations of the Bible for the course; amend KRS 158.197 to permit a school council to offer an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.”

The Kentucky House of Representatives is currently comprised of 100 members, 64 of whom are republicans.  The Kentucky Senate is currently comprised of 38 members, 27 (71%) of whom are republicans.  There seems to be a disconnect between the state of Kentucky and the rest of the nation, for most of us understand that religion is not to be taught in public, taxpayer-funded schools.  It crosses a line. Yet, this law allows Kentucky schools to teach from and about the Bible, a document that is unique to one religion, the Christian religion.

Within the United States, there are nine major religions outside of Christianity.  There are also a number of Native American religions, as well as those who identify as agnostics, atheists, secularists, or simply ‘unaffiliated’.  In fact, the percentage of Christians in the U.S. has dropped from 93% of the population in 1962 to just 70.6% in 2014, according to Pew Research Center.

According to Bevin, “The idea that we would not want this to be an option for people in school, that would be crazy. I don’t know why every state would not embrace this, why we as a nation would not embrace this.”

church-state-2According to the bill, the courses must discuss all aspects of the Bible — such as characters, poetry, and narratives — because they are “prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture.”  Excuse me, but only the culture and society of Christianity … what about the rest of us?

The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land. It provides that state courts are bound by the supreme law; in case of conflict between federal and state law, the federal law must be applied.

Why does it matter?  Apart from the illegality, it matters for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that non-Christian parents will almost certainly have strenuous objections to their children being taught another religion that may be contrary to their own.  Think about it this way … how would Christian parents react if they found their child was being taught the Qur’an in their public school?

It matters because religion is a very private, personal choice, and even among Christians, there are numerous sects who practice their religion in a variety of ways.  It matters because, while the intention of the Kentucky law is said to be simply to use the Bible as a teaching tool for literature, art, culture, history, etc., there is a fine line between that and pushing beliefs. It is, after all, Kentucky, one of the most homophobic states in the nation.

If there were to be any fairness in this law, then they would also teach from the Qur’an, the Talmud, the Tripitaka, the I Ching, and … well, you get the picture.  At this point, the schools would no longer be teaching Math, History, Literature, Science, or anything but religion.  We send our children to school to learn to think for themselves, not to be told how to think.

Then, of course, there is the taxpayer’s viewpoint.  I willingly pay taxes and am happy to support public schools, however I draw the line at paying for children to learn a religion.  Teaching religion is the responsibility of parents and churches, if the parents so choose.  It is not John Q. Taxpayers responsibility.

Mind you that I have nothing against Christianity, though it is not my own.  I also have nothing against Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Jain, or a hundred other religions. I believe everyone should have the freedom of religion, but also the freedom from religion.  When it becomes a part of public school education, or workplace mores, then it is taking rights away from some and it is tearing down the fundamental premise of separation of church and state.

The most likely outcome is that the law will be challenged in the courts and ultimately struck down as being unconstitutional.  That is the right and proper outcome.  However, it will take time and money – taxpayers’ money.

On Religious Freedom and Separation of Church and State

I generally steer clear of the topic of religion.  However, today I read an article on WorldNetDaily (WND), a politically conservative news and opinion website and online news aggregator. No, it is not one of my regular sites, but the headline dropped onto my radar from another site and my curiosity was aroused:

Dobson: Trump would ‘unleash Christian activists to fight for beliefs’

dobsonIn the course of the article, Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, recounted a June meeting in which he met with Trump and other Christian leaders at Trump Tower in New York City. While reading the article,  I found a number of points highly disturbing.

  • Dobson told Trump, “Our Supreme Court has struck down Bible reading in schools and even prohibited prayer to an unidentified God. Then, they banned the posting of the Ten Commandments on bulletin boards. From there, the limitation on religious liberties has become even more egregious.”
  • Trump responded by calling it an “outrage that Christians have been deprived of their rights to speak openly on behalf of the values and principles in which they believe.”
  • Dobson noted that Trump criticized the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 piece of tax code that bans political participation by churches, as well as other tax-exempt not-for-profit groups. Dobson said Trump’s promise to overturn the amendment “would have a great impact on Washington because it would unleash Christian activists to fight for their beliefs.”

Before I comment on the above, a quote from the U.S. Constitution:

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

The two parts, known as the “establishment clause” and the “free exercise clause” respectively, form the textual basis for the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the “separation of church and state” doctrine. Three central concepts were derived from the 1st Amendment which became America’s doctrine for church-state separation: 1no coercion in religious matters, 2no expectation to support a religion against one’s will, and 3religious liberty encompasses all religions. In sum, citizens are free to embrace or reject a faith, any support for religion – financial or physical – must be voluntary, and all religions are equal in the eyes of the law with no special preference or favoritism.

c-sOne of the things that disturbs me most is that it appears Mr. Dobson does not understand that ours is a secular government.  Public schools are government organizations, and as such, the reading of a Christian text, the Bible, or the reciting of Christian prayers must be prohibited, otherwise it forces children of other faiths to participate in a religion that is not their own.  Parents who want their children to read the Bible in school have other options, i.e. parochial schools or homeschooling.

Then there is Trump’s response, which again gives the appearance that he believes the U.S. is a ‘Christian nation’, when in fact it is a secular nation that protects the freedom of religion to all.  Freedom of religion does not simply mean that one is free to be a Christian, but that one is free to be a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or an atheist.

Religion is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

  1. the belief in a god or in a group of gods
  2. an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
  3. the belief in a god or in a group of gods: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

Today, however, it seems to me that many, including Mr. Dobson and Trump, ascribe to the line from Henry Fielding’s novel “Tom Jones.” where he has one character say:

“By religion I mean Christianity, by Christianity I mean Protestantism, by Protestantism I mean the Church of England as established by law.”

I feel qualified to write on this topic because from my earliest days, I was ostracized on religious grounds.  I was born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, and our household semi-observed both religions.  Though we did not strictly keep kosher, we did not eat pork, nor did we eat meat on Fridays. I attended Catholic schools most of my childhood, where I was ridiculed and occasionally beaten for being a Jew, and attended Hebrew school on Saturdays, where I did not fit because of my Catholic heritage.  In later years, after I married a Protestant, I was told by members of his church that I could “be forgiven” for my religion, but that I must convert to their religion (I did not!).  The end result of all this is that as a mature adult, I claim no particular religion. However, I vociferously defend anybody’s right to freedom of religion so long as they do not attempt to force it upon others.  This is where I take umbrage at Dr. Dobson’s and Donald Trump’s ideas which seem to embrace Christianity to the exclusion of all others.

There is another major issue I have with Dr. Dobson, as well as all religious leaders who support and encourage their followers to support Donald Trump.  It seems to me that, as Christians, they are compromising their values.  How is Dr. Dobson not offended by Trump’s abuse of women, his many marital affairs and infidelities?  How is he not offended by Trump’s proven dishonesty in his dealings with employees and contractors?  How is he not offended by the racist and discriminatory remarks he has made against other races, cultures and religions?  How is he not offended by the violence Mr. Trump promotes?  I am puzzled as to how Dr. Dobson can even consider Mr. Trump for membership in the Christian religion, let alone as the leader of our nation.

It is not my intent to denigrate Christianity or any other religion, but simply to point out that this nation, from the very beginning, has been based on open exchange of ideas, on tolerance for all, not just a few.  Dr. Dobson’s article seems to defy one of the core principles on which our nation was founded.

When Justice is Unjust …

moore-1What do you call a judge who refuses to follow the law?  Suspended without pay.  Such is the case of Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice, Roy Moore.  Moore’s suspension is for the remainder of his term, which ends in 2019, at which time he will not be able to seek re-election due to age restrictions.  Justice Moore decided that the law should take a backseat to his own personal religious beliefs, and this is the price he pays for that decision.

Last year, Moore defied the federal Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states.  Moore took it upon himself to tell the state’s probate judges to ignore a federal judge’s ruling that same-sex marriages could proceed and told them not to issue marriage licenses.  His order stated that probate judges in the state “have a ministerial duty not to issue” marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He also said, “I ask you to continue to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity. Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.”

The portion of the Alabama Constitution to which he referred was Amendment 774, known as the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, an amendment to the Alabama Constitution that makes it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions.  However, what Moore left out of the conversation, or simply chose to ignore, is Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing [sic] in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) launched a complaint, prompting an investigation by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission.  The commission found that “Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority as the chief administrative officer of Alabama’s judicial branch.”

moore-3Moore is not without supporters, many of whom were angered by the ruling, claiming his suspension is “an unbelievable violation of the law.”  Moore blames the Southern Poverty Law Center and “atheists, homosexuals and transgender individuals” for the charges that led to his suspension.  Sorry, Mr. Moore … you have only yourself to blame and it should have happened years ago.  Judges are sworn to uphold the law, not to override the law with their own personal prejudices.

Moore has a history of picking and choosing which laws he will enforce, often applying his personal religion in place of the law.  During the 1990s, he came under fire for opening court sessions with a prayer seeking divine guidance for jurors. In his 1999 campaign for the position of chief justice, he vowed to “ … return God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law.” Then came 2001 …

In July, 2001, Moore literally snuck, in the middle of the night, a 5,280-pound, granite monument to the Ten Commandments into the rotunda of Alabama’s state judicial building. At a press conference the next day, he announced, “May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.” This would lead to Moore’s first suspension in 2003, but meanwhile ….

In 2002, Moore wrote an opinion in a contentious child-custody case, stating in part “parent-conduct involving a sexual relationship between two persons of the same gender-creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or prohibiting the adoption of the children of others.  Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this Nation and our laws are predicated.   Such conduct violates both the criminal and civil laws of this State and is destructive to a basic building block of society-the family.   The law of Alabama is not only clear in its condemning such conduct, but the courts of this State have consistently held that exposing a child to such behavior has a destructive and seriously detrimental effect on the children.   It is an inherent evil against which children must be protected.”

In November, 2002, U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson ruled that the placement of Moore’s monument violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, writing that it created “a religious sanctuary within the walls of a courthouse.” He ordered Moore to remove it within 30 days. Moore appealed the ruling, lost the appeal, and ultimately refused to obey the final ruling in August 2003.  On orders from the eight other justices on the Alabama Supreme Court, the monument was removed and the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with violating the state’s Canons of Judicial Ethics by refusing to follow the federal court order. He was automatically suspended from office.

In 2012, Moore was once again elected as Alabama’s chief justice, bringing us full circle to today’s ruling.

For the most part, I withheld my own comments from the bulk of this post, as I preferred letting the reader draw his or her own conclusions based on the facts of the matter. For nearly a quarter of a century, this man has placed his personal beliefs above the law of the land, and the most amazing part is that it has taken this long to permanently delete him from the judicial system.  Has Mr. Moore never heard of “separation of church and state”?  Does he not understand that his religion is not necessarily the religion we all ascribe to?  Is he unfamiliar with the concept of “freedom of religion”? Has he never understood the idea that his job was to ensure the laws of the land were upheld?  If he could not do that job as required due to the tenets of his own religion, then he should have stepped down and found another career. His blatant disregard for the law is arrogant, bigoted and narrow-minded, and he should have been removed long ago.  A judge commands, or at least should command respect.  I can have no respect for former Justice Roy Moore.