Access Denied: The Religious Right Opens Up A New Front On Its War Against Birth Control
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 09:57:41 AM EST

Some commentators continue to insist that the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was no big deal. It's a narrow ruling, they insist, and there are other ways to ensure that women can get access to birth control.

Birth control is a vital component of women's health, and I find it disturbing that so many people are blithely dismissing a high court ruling that has the potential to curtail access to millions of women. Yes, generic birth control pills are cheap, but not all women can use generics. In fact, not all women can or want to use birth control pills. Other options, such as IUDs, sterilizing operations and cervical caps, tend to be more expensive.

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William Barber Takes Us to Church at Netroots Nation
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 12:53:28 AM EST
Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the leader of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina gave a rousing, perhaps historic keynote speech at Netroots Nation.  Part of what makes it so remarkable is that he was featured at all -- and in that sense it may be a turning point for the liberal/left and the Democratic Party.

It was not so long ago that a pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ rights religious leader who favors separation of church & state would not have been given such a platform, let alone the many lesser platforms from which they were quietly excluded. Indeed, a few years ago, many of the 22 authors of a book I edited, Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America, were marginalized because of their approaches to social justice.   In fact, the book was published partly in response to what I called at the time, creeping Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party. I told one contributor who had experienced marginalization that I was offering a platform.

This marginalization was of a piece with a certain mad pursuit of, and pandering to white evangelicals and anti-abortion Catholics who were deemed to be "gettable" by elements of the Democratic Party.  Those elements were willing to downplay or negotiate away the civil and human rights of others (see here and here, for example). Some went to far as to try to silence religious progressives who disagreed.

Those were extraordinary times. But this is a new day -- or at least I would like to think that it is. I would also like to think that the emergence of Barber as a national figure signals a trend. Time will tell.

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Will Ukraine Be the Christian Right's Next Anti-Gay Battleground?
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jul 19, 2014 at 12:49:12 PM EST
There is no contesting the fact that high-profile religious right leaders from the United States helped set the table for Uganda's appalling anti-gay laws. Now, emboldened by "victories" in Uganda and the prospect for further discriminatory legislation in other African countries, and Vladimir Putin's anti-gay laws in Russia, some elements of the religious right appear to be setting their sights on Ukraine.

Last summer, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a report titled "Dangerous Liaisons: The American Religious Right & the Criminalization of Homosexuality in Belize." Although the report focused on a dangerous situation for the LGBT community in Belize, Heidi Beirich, the author of the report and director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, offered an overview: "Many ... American religious-right groups know they have lost the battle against LGBT rights in the United States, ... they're now aiding and abetting anti-LGBT forces in countries where anti-gay violence is prevalent. These groups are pouring fuel on an exceedingly volatile fire."

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Hobby Lobby Case Linked To Secretive National Prayer Breakfast Group, "The Family"
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 07:17:07 AM EST
As I introduce my new Center Against Religious Extremism report Hobby Lobby Case Linked To Secretive National Prayer Breakfast Group, "The Family"),
In 2010 on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, author Jeff Sharlet publicly accused "The Family", which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast, of being directly responsible for the notorious Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill, signed into law in early 2014. As this Center Against Religious Extremism (CARE) special report demonstrates, The Family is also tightly linked, through its affiliate The Gathering, to the controversial Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case which gave broad new religious freedom rights to private corporations.
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Lessons in Taking the Long View in the Long Form
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jul 17, 2014 at 11:26:56 PM EST
Historian Leo P. Ribuffo recently published a wise and erudite essay at History News Network. In it he discusses trends among historians regarding how to approach foreign affairs and religion generally (something he says has become fashionable) and some trends regarding the role of conservative Catholicism and evangelicalism in particular.  It is a refreshing summertime read -- a long form essay, taking the long view: undistracted by the heat of the political and religious moment and perhaps more importantly, unemcumbered by the distortions of self-interested political and religious factions.  
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Missing Pieces of the Story of Sun Myung Moon
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 08:12:29 PM EST
The recent coverage of the life and death of Richard Mellon Scaife, a transformational figure in recent American history, was pretty underwhelming. (Fortunately, our own Bill Berkowitz provided some alternative critical perspectives.) The situation was reminiscent of the truly horrible coverage of the life and death of Sun Myung Moon two years ago. It is worth recalling how quickly we forget. -- FC

The reporting and punditry in the wake of the death of Sun Myung Moon left a lot to be desired. Even long, seemingly comprehensive treatments of Moon's life and empire, such as the one that ran in The New York Times, did not delve deeply into Moon's profound far right and criminal involvements; antidemocratic politics; or even the mysterious sources of foreign cash for The Washington Times, and extensive political operations in the U.S. for decades, let alone the Moon organization's broad, insidious affects on American culture and democracy. There has also been some embarrassingly credulous material published about the nature of life in the Church itself, and some odd, unsubstantiated pooh poohery about the problem of cultism.  

Of course, history lives, despite the best efforts of some of us not to notice.

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When I Won One Over My Old (Former) Friend Jerry Falwell
JerrySloan printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 03:32:52 AM EST
July 13th was the anniversary of our friend Jerry Sloan's confrontation on live television with Moral Majority founder, the late Reverend Jerry Falwell. This confrontation set into motion a lawsuit and the eventual establishment of the Lambda Community Center (renamed the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Community Center) in Sacramento and from the opening of the center, many other Sacramento LGTB organizations.

As we have in years past, we are posting Jerry's remarkable and heartening story. It is important to celebrate and remember victories. -- FC

Although it happened over 20 years ago almost everywhere I go people still ask me to tell them about my confrontation and lawsuit with my former Baptist Bible College schoolmate, Jerry Falwell.

Falwell, in the height of his Moral Majority days, was in San Francisco the week prior to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, to harass the Democrats and the fairies of San Francisco.

On Friday, July 13, he flew up to Sacramento to appear on a local live morning show, "Look Who's Talking." The producer, knew I had gone to Baptist Bible College with Falwell invited me to be in the audience and gave me a bunch of tickets for my friends.

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Vatican Defrocks A Bishop Over Sexual Abuse - But Not Finn.
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 09:41:38 AM EST
Pope Francis recently indicated he is serious about ending child sex abuse and cover-ups by Catholic prelates by defrocking a former apostolic nuncio (a nuncio is essentially a high level Vatican diplomat) for having sexual relations with young boys.

But while the Holy See should be applauded for this decisive action, there is unfinished business with the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. And the bishop in question is Robert Finn a darling of the American Catholic Right who have very little to say - at least now that he is a convicted criminal.

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Richard Mellon Scaife, Pioneering Fundraiser for the Right, Dead at 82
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jul 10, 2014 at 08:12:14 AM EST
Long before the billionaire Koch Brothers and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson began polluting the American political landscape with obscene amounts of money, decades before the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, years before the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth mobilized a platoon of millionaire financiers to put the kibosh on John Kerry's presidential campaign, and before folks like Rex Sinquefield were bound and determined to have their money loom large over the legislative process in the states, there was Richard Mellon Scaife.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Scaife and his family were among the top donors to a myriad of right-wing organizations and causes. Back in the day it didn't take long before researchers following the money behind the conservative movement ran headlong into the Scaife clan.

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Meet the New White Nationalist 'David Duke' GOP Candidate
jhutson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 11:02:44 PM EST
Cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

White nationalists from the League of the South -- the premier neo-Confederate group -- are hailing the recent Republican primary victory of Maryland's Michael Peroutka -- who won his party's nomination in an Anne Arundel County Council race, as well as a seat on the GOP Central Committee there -- as "a political victory for us."

The race promises to be a bellwether for the kind of theocratic, secessionist politics espoused by Peroutka (the Constitution Party's 2004 presidential candidate), whom a conservative columnist for the Annapolis­-based newspaper, the Capital Gazette, compares to another prominent white nationalist: former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and former Republican Louisiana State Representative David Duke.

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Bob Jones University and the Real Roots of the Religious Right
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 12:25:35 PM EST
Historian Randall Balmer notes writing in Christian Ethics Today, that the real beginnings of the Religious Right lies not in 1973 Roe v. Wade, but in Green v. Kennedy.  In 1969 a group of Blacks from Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the state for allowing tax exempt status to segregated schools.  This court ruling was to prove to be the unseating of Jimmy Carter and the solidifying of a political movement.
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Becket Or Wreck It?: Little-Known Religious Right Group At Heart Of Hobby Lobby Case
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 09:56:59 AM EST

The Supreme Court's recent (and horrendous) ruling in the Hobby Lobby case dealing with workers' access to contraceptives has turned the spotlight on the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the group that sponsored many of the legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate.

Profiles of the group and its founder, Kevin J. "Seamus" Hasson, appeared in The Washington Post and the Salt Lake City Deseret News. Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn was quoted in both stories.

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Christian Warriors: Apocalyptic Dreams, American Nightmares
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 08:23:55 AM EST
Visions of apocalyptic battles are not only taking place in End Times novels, and on theater and television screens these days. Some in what might be considered mainstream right-wing circles also seem to be cranking up the rhetoric and spoiling for such battles at a series of rolling conferences.

In a new piece published by Political Research Associates (PRA), Talk2Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson quotes Republican campaign and conservative movement strategist David Lane, who last year wrote on a conservative website: "If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years, let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end."

(3 comments, 957 words in story)
Bishop DiMarzio's Stilted Hobby Lobby Analogy
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:52:24 AM EST
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the overseer of the Diocese of Brooklyn-Queens New York, recently weighed in on the recent US Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the case concerning the ability of certain closely held corporations to opt out of one of the preventive health care  provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") that required that insurance packages provide free birth control for women. In praising the High Court's decision he offered an analogy that was fractured and misses the point.
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The Creeping Risk of Theocratic Violence
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:37:07 PM EST
Imagine if you will, that some of those who once thought America could be restored to the bright, shining Christian Nation they believe had been stolen from them (but arguably never really existed) -- now doubt the dream.

As it happens, some of those people are entertaining such doubts. So much so that they think that a gradual dismemberment of the America they thought they held dear may be necessary to the point of martyrdom, secession, and civil war.

Of course, there are many Tea Partiers in tri-cornered hats or Confederate uniforms that they wear for reenacting the glories of the Old South. We needn't necessarily take such people seriously.  But it is my observation, after 30 years of researching and reporting on various elements of the Right, that there is something else going on. Something has changed -- and merits our attention.

(4 comments, 825 words in story)

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