Is Koch Brothers Money Fueling Criticism of Pope Francis on Climate Change?
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 13, 2015 at 09:54:02 AM EST
In my last post I examined conservative criticism of Laudato Sii, ("Praised Be"), Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment and poverty. Indeed, some of the loudest howls of disapproval have arisen from Catholic Right pundits and think tanks. But clearly, there are other sources as well.

Is some of this criticism being fossil-fueled by the Koch Brothers? Well, let's follow the money!

(3 comments, 783 words in story)
Politics in Theocratic Times
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jul 10, 2015 at 10:03:18 PM EST
The matter of religious exemptions from civil rights and labor laws is at the cutting edge of the contemporary political strategy of the Christian Right. We will continue to see this play out under the banner of religious liberty at all levels of public life for the foreseeable future and certainly throughout the 2016 election season.

That's the theme of my latest essay in The Public Eye magazine:  "When the Exception Is the Rule: Christianity in the Religious Freedom Debates."

A few broad stroke excerpts follow after the jump.

(1 comment, 627 words in story)
Why Is the Christian Right Remaining Silent About the Dennis Hastert Affair?
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jul 07, 2015 at 08:30:36 AM EST
In early June, the Associated Press' Mary Clare Jalonick reported that a Montana woman interviewed by the FBI claimed that "her brother was sexually abused while in high school by [former House Speaker] Dennis Hastert, the wrestling coach who would become speaker of the House."

According to the AP story, Jolene Burdge of Billings, Montana, said "that the FBI interviewed her in mid-May about Hastert. She said her brother told her before he died in 1995 that his first homosexual contact was with Hastert and that the relationship lasted through all of his high school years."

Burdge, who in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" identified her brother as Stephen Reinboldt, "said Hastert had been a father figure to him at high school. But she also said she believed that relationship had caused irreparable harm. 'He damaged Steve, I think, more than any of us will ever know,' she told the morning show," AP reported.

(1 comment, 1356 words in story)
Remembering James Dunn: Baptist Champion Of Religious Freedom
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jul 06, 2015 at 01:07:32 PM EST

When I began working for Americans United in 1987, one thing confused me: Why were there so many Southern Baptists hanging around?

Southern Baptists were the enemy - or so I thought. After all, they were extremely conservative and always advocating things like school prayer amendments and anti-LGBT legislation.

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Resistance Is Futile: Some County Clerks Say `I Won't' To Marriage Equality
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jul 02, 2015 at 04:35:20 PM EST

One week ago, the U.S. Supreme Court extended marriage equality nationwide. So where are we now?

To no one's surprise, leaders of the Religious Right and some of their political allies have been huffing and puffing. The U.S. Catholic bishops didn't much like it either.

(2 comments, 694 words in story)
Celebrating July 4th
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jul 01, 2015 at 03:07:11 PM EST
A decade or so ago I was vacationing in Hot Springs,  Arkansas.  It was July 4th and I attended the First Baptist Church in the city.   The bulletin for the church stated the message would be a patriotic sermon about the nation.  I braced myself for what I feared would be some misguided attempt by clergy to mix the worship of God with the idolizing of the state.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The sermon dealt with religious liberty and how the nation was not founded by making the nation an official Christian enterprise, but the great American contribution to the world was the concept of separation of church and state.
(1 comment, 1043 words in story)
Nine Mainline Protestant Christian Martyrs
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 27, 2015 at 10:20:09 PM EST
This is a tricky time for the Christian Right. Immediately following the mass murder at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, some Christian Right leaders jumped onto the airwaves to claim the shooting was an example of the campaign against religious freedom in America. It turns out they were onto something, just not what they had thought it was. There has been an eerily-telling silence since then.

The horrific Charleston massacre in which nine people were killed has tended to derail the Christian Right's narrative of how faith and Christianity are under attack in America. On its face, this would seem to be an unlikely consequence of the episode, since it happened at a Wednesday evening Bible study at the church. This is significant in part because the constellation of dubious claims about the persecution of Christians and the threat to religious liberty in America is at the center of the Christian Right's approach to politics and public policy--and is increasingly the go-to gambit of conservative Republican politicians trying to demagogue their way into office - or out of a difficult issue of public policy.

Nevertheless, it would seem that this episode would fit the narrative: Christians killed right in their own church. Isn't that in line with what the Christian Right is saying about Christianity being under a wide-ranging siege in America?

(4 comments, 1173 words in story)
Terms, Definitions & Glossaries for Writing about the Religious Right
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jun 25, 2015 at 10:27:55 PM EST
One of the challenges in writing about the Religious Right and what to do about it is the matter of terms and definitions. That's why from time-to-time I revise and update this post.

From the earliest days of Talk to Action, we have written about how unfair labels and terms of demonization are not only inaccurate and opposed to basic standards of scholarship and journalism -- but conflict with the basic values of all people of good will. (They tend to be politically counterproductive as well.) The purpose of this post is not to go over all that again, but simply to highlight some useful resources on basic definitions and usage for those who are interested in trying to get it right.

(3 comments, 446 words in story)
Top Southern Baptist Official Admits Churches Won't Be Forced To Marry Same-Sex Couples
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 22, 2015 at 11:47:42 AM EST

For years now, Religious Right leaders have been whipping up hysteria by claiming that, should marriage equality become the law of the land, conservative churches will be forced to host same-sex marriages.

As arguments go, this one is just not very good. Several states have had marriage equality for years, yet no member of the clergy has been compelled to officiate at a same-sex marriage. As far as I know, no lawsuits like this have even been filed.

(4 comments, 581 words in story)
The Pope, Climate Change and the Catholic Right.
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 20, 2015 at 09:43:29 AM EST
The conservative criticism of Laudato Sii, ("Praised Be"), Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment and poverty that began even before its release, has now reached a fever pitch.

It is of more than passing interest that many of the cadre of naysayers are members of the Catholic Right. And not coincidentally, many of them have strong ties to conservative Evangelicals. What is it that they truly fear about Laudato Sii? Is it the encyclical's inconvenient discussion of the disastrous implications climate change has upon the world's poor - or is it something else? To wit, does the Jesuit Pope Francis threaten to undermine the power of the Catholic Right-Evangelical political alliance?

(4 comments, 924 words in story)
Simply Put -- LGBTQ rights are not a threat to religious freedom
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jun 12, 2015 at 11:37:29 PM EST
I'd like to underscore the conclusion of this piece, which is crossposted from LGBTQ Nation.  The advance of civil rights for LGBTQ people is not to be conflated with religious persecution and martyrdom. What's more, no one gets to choose which laws they are going to obey. Not even conservative Christians. And certainly not in the name of religious freedom. -- FC

In 1964, hundreds of civil rights workers, many of them college students, traveled to Mississippi to help African Americans register to vote.  Over the ten weeks of what was called "Freedom Summer," more than a thousand people involved with the campaign were arrested, 80 Freedom Summer workers were beaten, 37 churches and 30 black homes or businesses were bombed or burned, four civil rights workers were killed, four people were critically wounded, and at least three black Mississippians were murdered.

Since then, summer campaigns on a variety of concerns have sought to subtly (or not so subtly) cast themselves in the heroic moral tradition of the Freedom Summer - though none has been as dramatic as the events of the summer of 1964.

Now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is preparing a short summer campaign that is long on hyperbole. The Fortnight for Freedom is an annual two-week campaign (from June 21 to the Fourth of July) intended to highlight alleged threats to religious freedom in the United States.

These threats are said to come primarily from advances in LGBTQ rights generally and marriage equality in particular.

(2 comments, 834 words in story)
The Birth, Near Death, Rebirth, and Online Explosion at the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jun 09, 2015 at 10:20:45 AM EST
The Rev. Jerry Falwell envisioned a university. That university would bring young Christian men and women to a beautiful campus in his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. The student body would multiply and the campus would expand. But due to Falwell-esque hubris, and the sexual scandals that took down fellow televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, that university would be brought to the edge of financial ruin. The Unification Church's Rev. Sun Myung Moon, would help bail out that university, and it would again grow, adding students, professors, and more buildings. Falwell's university would develop a first class athletic program, with a new football stadium seating over 19,000 people.

University leaders envisioned the future, and that future was online. Now, the little institute of higher learning that the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority, envisioned as being the pride of Lynchburg, Virginia, and the Petri dish for developing conservative true believers and activists, has grown to become the largest private nonprofit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia, the largest Christian university in the world, and one that has the second largest enrollment in online education courses for any non-profit university in the world.

Welcome to Liberty University, where they are "Training Champions for Christ," and where a few months back, those "champions" were mandated to hear Senator Ted Cruz announce his presidential candidacy and, later, during graduation season, many "champions" heard Jeb Bush deliver a commencement address.

(4 comments, 1192 words in story)
Pluck Of The Irish: Same-Sex Marriage Vote Shows Yearning For An End To Clerical Domination
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 08, 2015 at 11:57:37 AM EST

A provocative headline from Reuters news service last week caught my eye. "Irish plunge stake through Catholic Church's heart," it read.

The headline is perhaps a bit hyperbolic. The column, by John Lloyd, co-founder of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, is a thoughtful analysis of how quickly the Catholic Church's influence has fallen in Ireland - and why that has happened.

(2 comments, 644 words in story)
Religification as a Tool of Massive Resistance to LGBTQ Equality
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jun 06, 2015 at 08:47:40 PM EST
So much of the contemporary religious liberty campaign being conducted by the Christian Right is demagogic fear-mongering designed to justify discrimination against other Americans, particularly LGBTQ people. While most of our attention is directed to larger-than-life marriage equality dramas being played out in courtrooms, legislative chambers, and major media outlets, the foundation is being laid for massive resistance to marriage equality and much more.

This is the story of one such effort that has received little attention.

(2 comments, 1236 words in story)
Happy Birth (Control) Day!: A Golden Anniversary That Shouldn't Be Overlooked
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jun 05, 2015 at 09:53:34 AM EST

American women today enjoy a right that for thousands of years of human civilization was virtually unheard of: The power to decide if they will have children and if so, how many they will have.

For that, you can thank lots of people, chief among them the scientists and researchers who invented and later perfected safe and effective forms of contraception.

(1 comment, 757 words in story)

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