Jilting Justice for Jesus
Tim Mitchell printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon May 21, 2007 at 08:03:28 AM EST
Monica Goodling, Fundamentalist Education, and the Impact on Religious Civil Liberties

In light of the recent controversy surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Department of Justice (DOJ)--particularly the involvement of one Regent University graduate by the name of Monica Goodling--I thought now would be a great time to take a look at what the Religious Right is doing to screw up our religious civil liberties.  Here is the fruit of my labors: a hefty-sized article with a cast of thousands, including the Bush administration, the DOJ, John Ashcroft, Patrick Henry College, Native Americans, and the Amish.  Go grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Over the last few weeks, one of the latest of seemingly endless Bush administration controversies--this time involving the Department of Justice (DOJ)--has been making front-page headlines across the United States. Here's a summary of this recent example of a Bush-brand brouhaha of incompetence, cronyism and arrogance: eight high-rated U.S. attorneys were suddenly fired last year from the DOJ for no clear, justifiable reason.  Subsequent federal investigations have yielded a wide range of suspicious activity and absurdity, from the sudden disappearance of millions of e-mails related to the firings to U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' April testimony where he, the head of the DOJ, said "I do not recall" 55 times in his first round of questioning by a Senate Judiciary Committee about what he knew about the firings.

Most of the coverage I've seen so far centers on the aforementioned firings and how the DOJ under Gonzales was involved in voter intimidation efforts in favor of the Republican Party during the 2006 Congressional elections.  But another interesting detail--a detail that hasn't gotten quite the same level of attention from the media--involves a certain DOJ official who served as liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling.  She initially pled the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify under oath when e-mail evidence revealed that she played a prominent role in engineering the firing of seven of the attorneys.  Goodling is also a 1999 graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University, a conservative Christian university that intends to provide (as its motto declares) "Christian Leadership to Change the World."  In this article, I will examine the DOJ's association with Regent University, and how such a relationship has impacted the DOJ's role in legal decisions and federal legislation that affect religious freedom.  I will also look at other major conservative Christian universities and home schooling, a practice favored by many Christian fundamentalists, to see how such biased educational endeavors could impact the future of religious freedom in both the United States and around the world.

Hypocrisy Recapitulates Theocracy

It has not been much of a secret in the last several years that the Bush administration favors loyalty over competence when placing people in key federal positions.  However, as the current controversy is demonstrating, the DOJ was affected by Bush's cronyism in a very profound, previously unthinkable way, particularly in the area of civil rights.  Since its rise to power, the Bush administration has been drastically reshaping the DOJ's Civil Rights Division to better suit the needs of the Republican Party and one of its key constituents, the Religious Right.  As summarized by Charlie Savage in his article, "Civil rights hiring shifted in Bush era," for The Boston Globe:

The Bush administration is ... filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights. ... Only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds. ... The Civil Rights Division disbanded the hiring committees made up of veteran career lawyers. ... For decades, such committees had screened thousands of resumes, interviewed candidates, and made recommendations that were only rarely rejected. Now, hiring is closely overseen by Bush administration political appointees to Justice, effectively turning hundreds of career jobs into politically appointed positions. Hires with traditional civil rights backgrounds--either civil rights litigators or members of civil rights groups--have plunged. Only 19 of the 45 lawyers hired since 2003 in those three sections were experienced in civil rights law, and of those, nine gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies. ... At the same time, the kinds of cases the Civil Rights Division is bringing have undergone a shift. The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.

The suggestion that the Bush administration's DOJ would shift its interests to cases of discrimination against Christians was forecast by Bush's first choice for Attorney General: John Ashcroft, a conservative Pentecostal.  In her article for Salon, "Bush's long history of polarizing justice," Alia Malek provides an insightful description of Ashcroft's behavior during his tenure at DOJ:

Much the way some companies go green, DOJ under Ashcroft went Pentecostal. In correspondence, use of the word "pride" was forbidden because the Bible calls pride a sin; employees were also asked to never use the phrase "no higher calling than public service." Ashcroft instituted prayer meetings, leading a Bible study at 8 a.m. sharp each day, some days even in his office, on others in a conference room at Main Justice. All department employees, regardless of their religious affiliation, were invited to attend, but in reality few did. ... John Ashcroft, devout son of a Pentecostal minister, became infamous for demanding modesty of a statue in the Main Justice building. The attorney general spent $8,000 in taxpayers' money on a dark velvet curtain to completely hide the naked marble breasts of the "Spirit of Justice." (After 9/11, the DOJ staff also received copies of the lyrics to a jingoistic song that Ashcroft had penned himself, "Let the Eagle Soar." He asked staff to sing it at the beginning of the work day at his prayer meetings.)

Under Ashcroft, a new interpretation of religious civil liberties was adopted to better meet the legal needs of the evangelical Religious Right.  According to Malek:

The (Bush) administration was harnessing the power of the division's Appellate Section on behalf of certain religious groups, under a doctrine developed by the Front Office called "Viewpoint Discrimination." One career attorney in the section, speaking anonymously, describes the doctrine as intended to "defend the rights of Christian Evangelicals to proselytize in public forums, like school." ... A former deputy section chief, also speaking on condition of anonymity, says that the administration has a very specific litigation strategy, and that is to "try to lower the wall of separation between church and state." The former deputy section chief says, "These aren't discrimination cases. These are free speech cases, at the end of day. They want to be able to wear T-shirts with religious messages and hand out fliers about church meetings at schools." Under the Bush administration, the DOJ was suddenly suggesting a moral equivalence between protecting minorities from discrimination and enabling nonminorities to proselytize in public forums.

With a new agenda to facilitate proselytization regardless of whatever legal restraints it encounters, the DOJ created within the Civil Rights Division a "Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination", which was established in 2002.  In his March 2005 article "Justice Unit Puts Its Focus on Faith" for The Los Angeles Times, Richard Schmitt provided details of the cases that this "Special Counsel" supported (organized here by topic):

Usage of Public Facilities: In three separate lawsuits, the department has filed briefs supporting the Child Evangelism Fellowship. The Christian group has led a national movement to establish after-school Good News Clubs in public elementary schools around the country in which children learn Bible stories and pray, among other activities. The suits seek to enforce a landmark Supreme Court ruling the group won in 2001 giving it the right to hold Bible club meetings on public school property.

Viewpoint Discrimination: In December (2004), a Justice Department lawyer launched a probe of an elementary school in Plano, Texas, that had stopped a fourth-grader from handing out candy canes with a religious message at school-sponsored holiday parties. ... Based on another complaint, the department investigated a biology professor at Texas Tech University ... who would not write letters of recommendation for students unless they affirmed a belief in the theory of evolution. The professor, Michael Dini, said he was seeking to ensure that his students understood "the central, unifying principle of biology." He agreed to modify his policy under pressure from the Justice Department, requiring that students be able to explain the theory of evolution rather than actually believe in it.

Employment Discrimination:  In 2003, according to a lawsuit filed by more than a dozen workers in its Social Services for Children division, the Salvation Army began requiring employees to divulge information about their faiths, including the churches they attended and their ministers. They were also called on to embrace a new mission statement--included in job postings and job descriptions--that declared the top goal of the social welfare operation is "to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination." The previous mission statement was "to empower each person who enters our doors to live with dignity and hope," and contained no religious references. Protections against discriminatory employment practices were excised from the employee handbook, and an effort was made to compile a list of homosexual employees, according to the suit. ... The Justice Department weighed in last August, calling the employee suit an affront to "the federal statutory and constitutional rights of religious employers to define their character and maintain their religious integrity." The department said the discrimination claims were "irrelevant."

The last case involving the Salvation Army directly ties into Bush's controversial Faith-Based Initiative.  As Schmitt remarked about the Initiative, "Bush has said he believes that, so long as they (religious organizations) do not infuse their social programs with religious messages, religious groups should not have to sacrifice their religious character--by employing nonbelievers or followers of a different faith--in order to qualify for federal funds."  Such duplicity is hard to ignore: if religious organizations are supposed to keep religious messages out of their government-funded social services, then why would they have to worry "sacrificing their religious character" by hiring people from outside of the faith to work in such social services?  Bush's flawed reasoning was not lost on a skeptical Congress, so he had to use an executive order to establish the Initiative.  Having a DOJ that is willing to overhaul its definition of "civil rights" to accommodate proselytizing went a long way towards minimizing legal challenges to Bush's Initiative, along with the Initiative's inability to monitor recipients to determine whether they were mixing social services and religious activities.

In keeping with that agenda, Attorney General Gonzales launched the "Freedom First Project" last February at a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) executive committee meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. Even though the Freedom First Project's Web site prominently features a quote from Gonzales saying, "Preserving religious liberty requires an ongoing commitment to protecting this most basic freedom for people of all faiths," there are many indications that the Bush administration's concept of religious liberty STILL does not include every faith.  For example, Gonzales also released a 43-page document, "Report on Enforcement of Laws Protecting Religious Freedom", that praises the DOJ Civil Rights Division's involvement in the cases listed in Schmitt's Los Angeles Times article, such as Salvation Army employment discrimination case. Of course, conservative religious groups such as the SBC, the Family Research Council, and the Alliance Defense Fund applauded the establishment of the Freedom First Project, while liberal and progressive religious groups remained skeptical.  "Expecting the Bush administration to defend religious liberty is a little like asking Col. Sanders to babysit your pet chicken," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Believing in a Hire Power

To have a Religious Right-friendly DOJ, it would make sense to hire Religious Right-approved job applicants to fill key positions in both the DOJ and elsewhere in the government, regardless of their actual qualifications. This is where Regent University comes into the picture. For example, Kay Coles James, the former dean of Regent's Robertson School of Government, served as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management from 2001 to 2005.  Such a position gave James personnel administration authority over the 1.8 million members of the Federal civil service and influence that would work in favor of Regent (I'll get back to that later).  Then there's Jim David.  He currently serves as the Assistant Dean for Administration in the Robertson School of Government at Regent University.  Yet before 2003, David was the Deputy Director and Counsel of the DOJ's Task Force for the Faith-Based & Community Initiative.  According to his Regent University bio page, "As Deputy Director, Jim provided guidance on constitutional issues to the White House and the other departmental Offices of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives. In addition, he audited the Department of Justice to determine the barriers faith-based and community organizations faced in participating in DOJ-funded programs, and he monitored cases which impacted the Faith-Based & Community Initiative."

Yet for as much as David "provided guidance on constitutional issues" and was entrusted to "determine barriers to faith-based organizations," he has voiced his opinion on which faith-based groups are more deserving than others. In an article he wrote for Regent shortly after the flooding of New Orleans in 2005, he praised the efforts provided by Christian groups to help the survivors of the flooding. "Granted, the love and compassion of Christians is most evident through volunteering time and donating millions of dollars to Christian relief organizations that provided food and shelter to thousands of flood victims," he wrote. "Our hearts and prayers cry out for those churches, individuals and ethical businesses that have suffered extensive damage." He then goes on:

We do not grieve, however, for the flooded and destroyed sex clubs that filled men with lust and degraded women. We do not miss the casinos that preyed upon individuals whose lack of self-control deprived families of needed food and shelter. We do not lament the destruction of voodoo stores prevalent in New Orleans before the flood. ... As America slides into more sex clubs, casinos, and voodoo stores, who will lament for the demise of America?

From what I understand of the significance of the Voodoo religion in America is that it was practiced by pre-Civil War slaves as a secretive way of maintaining a spiritual connection to the religious beliefs and practices of their African ancestors while their religious freedom--not to mention ALL of their other freedoms--were being abused by their Christian slave masters.  So, to summarize Jim David in light of the above quote: he's a conservative Christian who worked for the DOJ and has openly (1) praised the destruction of property owned by a minority religion; (2) groups the practice of Voodoo with sexual promiscuity and gambling (something that avid Christian home-schooling advocate William Bennett loves to do for fun); and (3) views the spread of Voodoo as capable of causing the "demise of America," a country that supposedly promotes religious diversity and freedom.  You'd think that more people would question why an openly prejudiced man such as David would have been placed in charge of ANYTHING regarding civil rights and religion, and yet that's exactly what the Bush Administration hired him to do.

In the case of Monica Goodling, she is one of 150 graduates from Regent University that is currently serving in the Bush administration--job placements that happened under the tenure of Regent veteran Kay Cole James.  Many of the Regent alumni joined the DOJ under Ashcroft (who is--surprise, surprise--currently teaching at Regent as "Distinguished Professor of Law and Government").  Goodling herself had very little prosecutorial experience (she graduated in 1999) and Regent itself was ranked as a "tier four" law school by U.S. News & World Report, the lowest score possible. Nevertheless, that didn't stop Goodling and her fellow Regent graduates from attaining employment at the DOJ; under the Bush-overhauled hiring process, conservative values were of greater importance to the DOJ than experience and academic stature.  As described by Charlie Savage in another article for The Boston Globe, "Scandal puts spotlight on Christian law school":

In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights. ... "When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was `maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate. The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section--the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said. ... The graduate from Regent ... was not the only lawyer with modest credentials to be hired by the Civil Rights Division after the administration imposed greater political control over career hiring. ... Conservative credentials rose, while prior experience in civil rights law and the average ranking of the law school attended by the applicant dropped.

As a side note, the mainstream media's coverage of the latest DOJ scandal has focused on the employment discrimination at DOJ as matters of race and political affiliation--which is true.  But their gentle handling (if not complete avoidance) of employment discrimination on the basis of faith is simply wrong. For example, in an article that appeared both in Slate Magazine and The Washington Post, Dahlia Lithwick writes about Goodling in a way that suggests that she is somehow a confused victim of the Bush administration, that "Goodling no longer seems to know what the truth is." Such a perspective is fully articulated in Lithwick's conclusion:

Is there anything wrong with a Bush administration that disproportionately uses graduates from such Christian law schools to fill its staffing needs? Not that I see. ... No, the real concern here is that Goodling and her ilk somehow began to conflate God's work with the president's. Probably not a lesson she learned in law school. The dream of Regent and its counterparts, like Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, is to redress perceived wrongs to Christians, to reclaim the public square, and reassert Christian political authority. And while that may have been a part of the Bush/Rove plan, it was, in the end, only a small part. Their real zeal was for earthly power. And Goodling was left holding the earthly bag.

In trying to come up with a religiously neutral answer to Regent's unusually large representation at the DOJ--that innocent, well-meaning Christians like Goodling got caught up in the Bush Administration's desire to amass secular political power (or what I like to call the "David Kuo defense")--Lithwick completely overlooks a more serious, larger problem.  Not only did the Bush administration dismiss qualified employees for grossly unqualified ones, but it hired employees on the basis of their religious beliefs--which is tantamount to religious discrimination, the very same discrimination of which the Religious Right claims they are the victims and why they eagerly took control of the DOJ in the first place so they could end this perceived injustice.  Bush put openly biased people in charge of the enforcement of laws that affect all American citizens, and they got the chance to do so because they had the `correct' religious beliefs. How can an experienced legal writer such as Lithwick NOT see this as a serious problem?  How would this be any less serious if, say, Bush employed incompetent staff who had clear ties to white supremacist groups to oversee the enforcement of civil rights laws?  Lithwick's article sharply contrasts from Paul Krugman's New York Times article, "For God's Sake," where he states that, "The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda--which is very different from simply being people of faith--is one of the most important stories of the last six years."  (Then again, Krugman also says that such a story "tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.")

So, at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, how much worse can conservative Christian law schools get?  In the case of Regent, it's getting worse by getting better.  As Savage points out:

The bar exam passage rate of Regent alumni, according to the Princeton Review, rose to 67 percent last year. ... it is now up to 71 percent, and that half of the students admitted in the late 1990s would not be accepted today. The school has also recently won moot-court and negotiation competitions, beating out teams from top-ranked law schools. ... Even a prominent critic of the school's mission of integrating the Bible with public policy vouches for Regent's improvements. Barry Lynn, the head of the liberal Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said Regent is churning out an increasingly well-trained legal army for the conservative Christian movement. "You can't underestimate the quality of a lot of the people that are there," said Lynn, who has guest-lectured at Regent and debated professors on its campus.

This reminds me of one of my previous articles, Evangelizing Evolution, where I examined Ph.D.-level scientists who nevertheless clung to "young earth creationist" beliefs.  We could be seeing the same thing happen in the legal profession: lawyers who provide sound legal knowledge and judgment when being evaluated by their secular peers, but who then resort to self-serving Christian supremacist beliefs when it comes time to actually practice law.

Conservative Cowboys and Impoverished Indians

With a DOJ in place that favors conservative, evangelical Christians, one could see where the Religious Right would heavily benefit.  But how does this affect other religious practices and beliefs?  In the case of Native Americans, it had a damaging impact on the passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA).  The IHCIA was enacted in 1976; however, the IHCIA expired in 2000, and has only received temporary funding from Congress and Bush during the later years.  The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report entitled "A Quiet Crisis" in July 2003 that found that "the federal government's rate of spending on health care for Native Americans is 50 percent less than for prisoners or Medicaid recipients, and 60 percent less than is spent annually on health care for the average American." However, shortly before the 109th Congress met to vote on the IHCIA reauthorization bill in September 2006, a DOJ "white paper" was circulated among several conservative senators Senate Republican Steering Committee.  As part of its charges against the reauthorization of the IHCIA (which included that the bill was based on racial preferences), a sentence in its opening paragraph states, "The Department (DOJ) also notes that providing direct federal funding for traditional health care practices that have a religious component may raise concerns under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment." The DOJ further articulates its position in this paragraph:

Numerous sections in the bill require the United Stares to support "Traditional Health Care Practices." Although the definition of the term `traditional health care practices' in this bill has been amended so that it no longer refers expressly to religion, it may still be viewed as having a religious component and may raise First Amendment Establishment Clause issues. In addition, it would be problematic for the United States to defend malpractice suits arising from care given as "Traditional Health Care Practices." Any suit alleging that "Traditional Health Cue Practices" were improperly followed (malpractice by a religious healthcare provider) would put the United States in the untenable position of litigating the standard of care of such religious practices. Indeed, there is a question whether such claims would be defended when applying state law as a standard of care. Unless state law holds that traditional health care practices are within the standard of care, even if they are not as effective as current medical practice, the United States will have no viable defense.

The IHCIA was put on hold and thus prevented the bill from being considered by Congress before it went into recess because of the DOJ white paper, and the IHCIA remains without reauthorization to this day.  According to the response provided by the National Indian Health Care Board to the white paper:

Because the Tribes received a copy of the DOJ document late Friday afternoon (September 29, 2006), there was no opportunity for Tribes to respond before the Senate recessed. Even if there had been time, to whom would the Tribes have responded to: the document is not printed on DOJ letterhead, is not dated, is not signed, and does not include any information as to what office or person issued it. Tribes were placed in the untenable position of having to respond to the Administration's objections with no notice, no warning and no person to be held accountable.

Last March, constitutional scholar Edward Lazarus testified before the Senate Committee that the reauthorization of the IHCIA would not violate the Constitution.  As part of his testimony, Lazarus concluded that the IHCIA does not endorse religion, because traditional Native American health care practices are not inherently religious. Nevertheless, the Republican Policy Committee still opposes the IHCIA on the grounds that the bill, which is designed to provide medical aid to a specific racial minority, is a "race-based" legislation.

As to the origin of the DOJ white paper, no one is taking credit for it.  According to Indianz.com, the official answer from DOJ was a particularly baffling one. "I was told that no one in the Department of Justice released it," said Frederick Breckner III, a deputy assistant general as part of his testimony during a Senate hearing in March. However, Breckner later added that the DOJ intended for the white paper to be released after the September recess.  How the DOJ could want a paper released that it doesn't want to take credit for on a bill that would have already been considered after the paper's "intended" date is mind-numbingly preposterous.

It should be recognized that this isn't the first time that the DOJ opposed Native American religious activity. For example, in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal, the DOJ asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the government to prosecute a small religious group in New Mexico that combines Christianity and South American indigenous beliefs and uses a hallucinogenic tea as part of its services. (The high court sided with the group's right to free exercise.) Nevertheless, while it's impossible to link the DOJ white paper to any particular individual, the fact that the DOJ argued against traditional Native American religious practices after having re-arranged itself to accommodate a disproportionate hiring of conservative Christians to enforce civil rights law through the lens of "Viewpoint Discrimination" is impossible to ignore.  In fact, I would go so far to say that by making the DOJ memo appear to be a secular document, it spares the Religious Right from acknowledging their involvement in an effort to cripple health care funding to Native American communities for fear that it will somehow benefit traditional, non-Christian tribal religious beliefs. If the Religious Right could be directly connected to the DOJ white paper, it would certainly complicate their efforts to convert indigenous communities throughout the United States.

In summary, here's a step-by-step review of theocracy in action: President Bush issued an executive order to establish the Faith-Based Initiative.  He had to do this to get the Initiative started, because Congress feared that the Initiative would result in employment discrimination based on religious affiliation--discrimination that Bush endorsed.  In order to allow such discrimination to happen, the Bush administration re-shaped the DOJ itself; to do so, the DOJ engaged in employment discrimination of its own to make it more Religious Right-compatible, as the influx of inexperienced, conservative hires from Regent University indicates.  However, in spite of supporting Initiative-related employment discrimination and setting up a conservative Christian-friendly "Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination" and the Freedom First Project, the DOJ anonymously submitted a white paper to Congress that prevented the re-authorization of a Native American health bill under the grounds that the bill would endorse a non-Christian religion.  Even though some people think that a theocratic government that favors one religion at the expense of others cannot happen in America, this is clearly an example of how an American-style theocracy would operate.  We should also not overlook the fact that the DOJ white paper is not the first time that the Native American community was victimized by American theocracy; they were also the victims of the Indian Religious Crimes Code that sought to "Christianize" them.  If we remain unaware of the injustices faced by minority religions in America at the hands of a larger religion, then it will be that much harder to fight faith-based religious intolerance when it affects the rest of us.

Schoolhouse Shock

Regent University is not the only educational institution that seeks to produce the next generations of conservative Christian lawyers, judges and politicos. The law school at Liberty University, which was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, is another example of future-thinking fundamentalism. Liberty University receives heavy support from the Religious Right and thus wields substantial political clout. Like Regent University, many popular Republican politicians have made public speaking appearances at Liberty University, including Bush administration darling Karl Rove and presidential hopeful Senator John McCain.

When Falwell first announced his plan for a Liberty law school in a "Falwell Confidential" e-mail alert sent out on October 11th, 2002, Falwell outlined how the school will operate:

Liberty University's School of Law will employ professors who are: committed to the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible; committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ; committed to a strict constructionist view of the U.S. Constitution; committed to training godly attorneys for the law profession, for service in American government or as judges and justices. Our law school, like Liberty University, will recruit students who have a desire to impact our nation and the world for our Savior. ... In recent years, we have witnessed an acceleration of discrimination and persecution against people of faith in the workplace and in our nation's public schools. The Liberty University School of Law will intently focus on training attorneys who will aggressively defend the religious rights of people of faith in this nation. I envision our graduates going forth to win many important battles against the anti-religious zealots at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Falwell's view of legal education and faith-based justice could be switched with the current DOJ's hiring standards and civil rights agenda without missing a beat.  It should also be pointed out that even though Falwell decries "discrimination and persecution against people of faith in the workplace and in our nation's public schools", students at Liberty University, according to the student handbook, can be fined $500 and be required to perform 30 hours of disciplinary community service for "involvement with witchcraft, séances or other satanic or demonic activity".  Not only do such activities carry a stiffer penalty than racial or sexual harassment, offenses that only cost $250 in fines and 18 hours of disciplinary community service, but the phrase itself speaks volumes about how Falwell sees other religions. It equates witchcraft--which could be interpreted as the practice of Wicca, Voodoo, or some other minority, pagan faith--and séances as the equal of "satanic" and "demonic" activity. (I have no idea why the phrase is worded "satanic or demonic", since there's nothing to indicate a difference between the two.  Then again, the terms "witchcraft", "satanic" and "demonic" are not defined at all in the Liberty student handbook.)  The handbook also classifies witchcraft and séances in the same category of offenses as assault/sexual assault, illegal drugs possession/distribution/usage, life-threatening behavior, stealing, and unauthorized possession/use of weapons.  In short, Liberty University's view of minority, non-Christian religions is in the same league as Jim David's anti-Voodoo rant at Regent University.

A particularly notable example of fundamentalist higher education is Patrick Henry College (PHC).  Like Regent, the Bush administration has used PHC as a source of employees to fill positions all over the government.  For example, Bush appointed Paul Bonicelli, the dean of academic affairs at PHC, to be the deputy director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2005--even though Bonicelli had no experience in promoting democracy and good governance overseas. Prior to that in 2002, Bush appointed Bonicelli to an American delegation (a delegation that included former Vatican adviser John Klink and Janice Crouse of the conservative Concerned Women for America) that sought to promote Christian values in U.S. foreign policy at a United Nations children's conference. (PHC's Board of Trustees includes Janet Ashcroft, wife of former Attorney General/current Regent University professor John Ashcroft.)  PHC students also have disproportionately high levels of placement within the government during the Bush administration.  According to at 2004 Common Dreams article by Andrew Buncombe, "The Bible College That Leads to the White House", the 240 enrolled PHC students (all white) had some pretty impressive internships in our nation's capital:

This spring, of the almost 100 interns working in the White House, seven are from Patrick Henry. Another intern works for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, while another works for President George Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove. Yet another works for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Over the past four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns.

Like other conservative Christian colleges, both students and professors at PHC are required to adhere to strict guidelines of conduct, and they are required to sign a statement of faith that includes confirmation of their literal belief in the Bible.  (As pointed out by Buncombe, "Oddly, only staff teaching biology and theology have to hold a literal view specifically of the six-day creation story.")  PHC's requirements are so strict that more than half of their faculty and staff left in 2006 due to its restrictions on academic freedom.  But what makes PHC particularly unique is its focus on home-schooled students: the overwhelming majority of PHC students were home-schooled before enrolling.  This is no coincidence because PHC was founded by Michael Harris, who also founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in 1983.  Harris, who wants to turn PHC into an "evangelical Ivy League", essentially created the student body for PHC by using HSLDA to seek a wide array of legal advantages for the home-schooling practice.  Amanda Geffer from NewScientist.com provides a comprehensive summary of HSLDA's legal accomplishments:

They (HSLDA) fought to remove requirements that parents be certified to teach their own children. Through an impressive run of legal battles and political lobbying, they managed to make home-schooling legal in all 50 states within 10 years. ... Consequently, there is virtually no government regulation of home-schooling. ... In Virginia, for instance, parents need a degree to teach at home, but there is a religious exemption, so those running a home-school for religious reasons don't need a degree. In contrast, a public high school teacher must have a bachelor's degree, and in some states a master's degree, plus a state-issued teaching certificate. Thirty-one states require teachers to take additional exams to show proficiency in their subject matter.

Furthermore, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2003:

The Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress have repeatedly aligned themselves with the home-school lobby. ... For instance, they exempted home-schooled students from the federal testing requirements imposed on public-school students under the "Leave No Child Behind" elementary- and secondary-education legislation, which President Bush signed into law last year. In that law, they also included a provision prohibiting the federal government from overseeing home schools, including the curriculum of these students.

Home-schooling is a very serious issue for the Religious Right.  Statistical surveys repeatedly indicate that the majority of home-schooling parents do so for religious reasons.  While evangelical Christians have been launching campaign after campaign to get Christian-centered activities such as Bible verse recitation and school prayer back into public schools, many of them believe that home-schooling is the best strategy to "reclaim" America as a Christian nation.  One fundamentalist group, Exodus Mandate, exists for exactly that reason.  On their Web site's main page, Exodus Mandate is described as "a Christian ministry to encourage and assist Christian families to leave government schools for the Promised Land of Christian schools or home schooling. It is our hope that this fresh obedience in educating our children according to Biblical mandates will prove to be the key for revival in our families, churches and nation." Exodus Mandate even succeeded in convincing Frank Page, President of the 16 million-strong Southern Baptist Convention, to urge Baptists to set up their own school system, from kindergarten through high school.

Fundamentalist publishing companies provide an ample supply of resources for home-schooling families. One such company is A Beka Book, a company that provides "Excellence in Education from a Christian Perspective" and gives home-schooled students the option of enrolling in the A Beka Academy.  Conservative Christian home-schooling textbooks present a Bible-centric dominionist view of the world, including historical revisionism and science lessons that fit the literalist interpretation of scripture. Below is a list of several home-schooling textbooks I assembled from the aforementioned Geffer article and Jeff Sharlet's article, "Through A Glass, Darkly," that was featured in the December 2006 issue of Harper's, including quotes from each book:

  • The American Republic for Christian Schools: "Who, knowing the facts of our history, can doubt that the United States of America has been a thought in the mind of God from all eternity?"

  • Science of the Physical Creation: "Evolution is a concept that attempts to free man from God and his responsibility to his Creator." "All of the scientific evidence gathered indicates that there is no danger of a global warming disaster."

  • Science Order and Reality: "Because most environmental scientists see the universe and even life itself as mere products of chance, it is easy for them to visualise potentially catastrophic changes occurring on the Earth. As Christians we must remember that God provided certain 'checks and balances' in creation to prevent many of the global upsets that have been predicted by environmentalists."
  • Amish Understanding of Law

    Throughout the Religious Right world, from its intrusions into the government through the Bush administration to its home-schooling venture, there is this underlying sense of unquestioning entitlement that permeates everything they do--regardless of to whom, when, where, how, or to what extent.  Ideally, the First Amendment would keep such faith-based greed and self-importance in check; however, subsequent court rulings and legislation have provided enough inconsistency to give the Religious Right room to grow. Such is the argument provided by Professor Marci Hamilton in a column she wrote in April 2007 for FindLaw.com, "The Dangers of Accommodation of Religion Based on Religious Status, As Opposed to Religiously Motivated Practice, And the Duty of Religious Individuals to Obey the Law".  Her column focuses mostly on the 1972 Supreme Court case Wisconsin vs. Yoder, which ruled that the Amish--an arch-conservative, agrarian, technophobic Christian sect--are allowed to disregard compulsory education laws and limit the education of their children to the eighth grade level for the sake of preserving the Amish faith. As the court record states, the Amish "sincerely believed that high school attendance was contrary to the Amish religion and way of life and that they would endanger their own salvation and that of their children." The Amish are certainly not at the forefront of the Religious Right; yet following Hamilton's argument, the Amish community is the Germanic goose that laid the figurative golden egg for the Religious Right through Wisconsin vs. Yoder:

    That case is the odd duck in First Amendment law, in that it held that a religious group could overcome the force of law simply by reason of asserting its religious beliefs. Yet some cling to it as if it were typical of the Supreme Court's view of the matter. Yoder, unfortunately, planted the seeds ... that religious individuals and groups are relieved of the legal duties fixed by democratic government, and applicable to all. The result has been wrongheaded laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which have cemented in the minds of some the erroneous belief that religious status is a privilege against the rule of law. ... We are seeing classic examples of such abuses of power when religious entities claim special privileges--even when their religious belief does not command their actions. In other words, such entities are using mere religious status to trump law and custom. That is an attempted extension of Yoder that bodes ill for civil society.

    In light of HSLDA's legal success in making home-schooling legal and subject to special privileges and exemptions after the Wisconsin vs. Yoder ruling, it appears that the Religious Right is one of the primary beneficiaries of the court case that allowed the Amish to disobey the law on the basis of their faith. Hamilton goes on to cite examples that include the Faith-Based Initiative (that providing federal funding to religious groups goes beyond what the Free Exercise Clause guarantees) and RLUIPA (that it gives religious applications the impression that their faith makes them superior landowners that do not have to acquiesce to the need of the larger community).  She particularly criticizes religious organizations' behaviors during recent clergy abuse cases. "No religion to date has argued that child abuse by clergy is mandated by their beliefs, but I have yet to find a religion that is not more than willing to argue that liability for covering up that child abuse should be abated, simply because it is a religious institution," she writes. "Similarly, religious institutions press for exemptions from abuse reporting requirements that are crucial to children's protection, with no greater justification than their own supposedly privileged status."

    Case in point: in an ironic twist, the Amish have been running into conflicts with child labor laws over the last several years in states such as Pennsylvania and New York. The Amish tradition dictates that children should start vocational training with their parents after they complete the eighth grade. In the case of Pennsylvania, the shortage of farmland has led Amish communities to turn to woodworking--which includes sawmills, a working environment so dangerous that Federal law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from working there.  Even though Amish tradition says that children past a certain age must be put to work, there is nothing in the Amish faith that mandates that Amish boys MUST work in sawmills (they could, like Amish girls, learn skills like quilting or work in retail shops instead). Hence, the Amish have turned to Republican allies to get exemptions.  Pennsylvania Republicans sought to introduce a bill that would allow Amish children between the ages of 14 to 17 to work in sawmills and woodworking factories, regardless of the fact that such a bill would give preferential treatment to one religion and not others.  In New York, state labor laws prevents businesses from employing anyone under the age of 17, so conservative Christian groups such as the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom (NYCF) have given their support to the Amish. The Wisconsin vs. Yoder decision is being utilized as grounds to seek legal exemptions for the Amish for violating New York labor laws.

    Hamilton concludes her column on a dire note:

    When religious individuals believe that they need not abide by the law, because their religious identity (as opposed to their religious beliefs) demands it, we become a religiously divided society--at a time when the variety of religious beliefs is expanding geometrically. The logical result is Balkanization of the worst kind. ... At the same time, religious devotion is trivialized, because it is treated as though it needs special treatment in order to survive. Religion has become a hothouse flower, and the law its prop. ... I now believe this concern should be uppermost in each and every American's mind. When protection for religious belief is transformed into protection for mere religious identity, we create a caste society far removed from the dream of disestablishment and liberty envisioned by the Framers.

    Fear of a Publicly-Schooled Planet

    Given the evangelical nature of the Religious Right, the push to promote home schooling over public education is not confined to the United States.  Now that home schooling is legal in all 50 states, HSLDA has gone abroad to provide legal aid in legal cases to promote conservative Christian education in countries around the world. A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor detailed a case in Germany where a family, the Busekros, is fighting against their country's compulsory education law so they can home-school their daughter.  The Busekros family wants the right to home-school for religious reasons, and the outcome will re-create the Wisconsin vs. Yoder decision in another country if it succeeds. Providing legal support to the family is the Georgia-based International Human Rights Group (IHRG), an organization that has been involved in over 40 German home-schooling cases to date.  "I try to teach them the American attitude and understanding that this is a fight you can fight--that standing up for their beliefs in the court system is a God-given right," says IHRG President Joel Thornton.  Pat Robertson's legal organization, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has two overseas satellite offices, the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) in Strasbourg, France and the Slavic Center for Law and Justice (SCLJ) in Moscow, Russia.  The ECLJ hosts an annual five-week summer session for Regent University law students, which concludes in a summit with international leaders. According to ECLJ attorney Roger Kiska, the purpose behind the session is "preparing the next generation of Christian lawyers to work on a global level."

    With such an ambitious effort to promote fundamentalist home-schooling (both domestically and abroad) and a current presidential administration that has proven it can re-write and enforce civil rights laws to suit its own faith-based ends, what can be done?

    If anything, it is important to remember that the desire for religious fundamentalists to assume political power is not without a faith-based motive. It has been said that religion should stay out of politics, because politics will inevitably corrupt religion; likewise, those who have shamelessly mixed religion and politics for self gain have been accused of being no more than con artists devoid of any "genuine" religious faith.  But such arguments do not apply to the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jim David, etc. If you, like many evangelical conservative Christians, truly believe that all other forms of religion are inferior and evil (as the anti-Voodoo and anti-witchcraft examples indicate), then it would be corrupt to NOT use the government to give your own religion authority to evangelize anywhere, anyone and anytime, and attack other religions--either through open criminal persecution or using the law to cripple the other religions' autonomy. In other words, fervent proselytization and the intolerance of other religions IS a moral act in the eyes of Christian fundamentalists and thus should be above legal reproach. Furthermore, in the fundamentalist world view, religious freedom MUST NOT equal religious diversity under any circumstances.  Religions freedom must only mean freedom for the religion of conservative Christianity, and for no other.  While some may feel reluctant to criticize anyone for their religious beliefs, it is pretty clear (and the Religious Right keeps making it so obvious) that the core beliefs of the religious fundamentalism of any kind is completely incompatible with both religious freedom and diversity everywhere.

    Furthermore, while a government that promotes religious freedom should not discriminate against any religious faith, it would be wise for such a government not to pattern its laws that affect religious civil liberties along the beliefs of the most conservative, restrictive sects. That to me is one of the key flaws behind the Wisconsin vs. Yoder: while the survival of conservative, insular religious groups such as the Amish could be compromised by being exposed to ideas from other religions and the secular world, no single religion should be granted such a sizable exemption from the law if all religions are to co-exist equally within a culture.  Otherwise, the current DOJ's prejudiced actions--actions that support of employment discrimination on behalf of a majority religion while denying health care support to a minority group on the grounds that it could somehow benefit their tribal beliefs--will become law.

    Even if the current controversy surrounding Attorney General Gonzales and the DOJ ends up become the biggest disaster for the Bush administration, we cannot forget what has happened to our government over the last several years.  The justice system that was designed to protect the rights of all has been compromised for the benefit of the extreme few, and organizations such as Regent University, Patrick Henry College and HSLDA are preparing future generations to continue what Bush and his cronies have started--both here and in other countries. Vigilance and democratic participation will be needed to repair the damage that has been done.  Unfortunately, I fear that until the progressive community actively embraces inter-religious understanding and appreciation as passionately as the Religious Right believes in its destined role of dominion over others, the possibility of Christian fundamentalists undermining our democracy will remain a major threat.




    Display:
    Mr Mitchel said: If you, like many evangelical conservative Christians, truly believe that all other forms of religion are inferior and evil (as the anti-Voodoo and anti-witchcraft examples indicate), then it would be corrupt to NOT use the government to give your own religion authority to evangelize anywhere, anyone and anytime, and attack other religions-- and I Strefanash answer: NOT TRUE. I seriously hold that other religions are both irrational and dangerous delusions which will lead to damnation in eternity, but to use government to justify relgious force is not a godly means. The fundamentalists and the author here have both forgotten that THE END DOES NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS. The original apostles had neither intent or means to use government to force faith or opportunity for preaching. They did not need this. So neither does the church of christ Moreover if one attacks other religions rather than showing the merit of one's own faith by good living and what the Bible calls the fruit of the Spirit (love joy and peace) then one is simply a bigot. And as such, for all one's sound professed doctrine, such a person is in fact backslidden and in danger of damnation. The bible commands believers to be though as wise as serpents yet as gentle as doves. Forsaking gentleness is to forsake God's commandment and shows that the truth has been abused for notions of personal vendetta. Fundamentalists think truth is a license for all manner of coersion and arrogance. It is not. THe trouble is the world also thinks likewise, as the author here has just endorsed, but only differs with the fundamentalist as to what that truth is. I also reject dominion as a heresy. Love does not dominate, Read I Corinthians 13. The truth of christianity does not justify bullying other religions, on the contrary, as St Peter commands we are to defend the truth with all gentleness and respect. "Blessed are the meek" is how Jesus himself put it. And woe to those of his people who defy this as the Religious Right defy this I hold that, mostly, the fundamentalists preach the truth, but their arrogant hypocrisy is such as to have more thoroughly discreditted it than any other agent on this earth today.

    by strefanash on Mon May 21, 2007 at 10:55:06 PM EST

    Put simply, I hold to freedom of thought for without it there is no honesty of thought. This is something the fundamentalists have completely forgotten, I forgot it myself when one of them. They dare not admit to God that they do not believe him, so they force themselves to pretend, and the immense pressure of this distorts their doctrine and makes them vicious. I am to "attack" other religions only be refuting them. Anything else is ungldly and in fact sin showing mroe bigotry than the love of Christ. Forced faith is feigned faith, whether it is self or others that are so forced. and feigned faith is bad faith. fundamentalism is not good faith in the God of the Bible, it is bad faith in fear of a caricature of the Bible (the verses they ignore are those that refute them) they cling to in fear of admitting their bad faith. and is such a vicious circle

    by strefanash on Mon May 21, 2007 at 11:00:14 PM EST

    strefanash, I think you missed the point of the article. This article isn't about what the original apostles did (or did not do) or what the Bible says (or does not say). Each of the anti-minority religion examples--whether it was against the Native Americans, Voodoo or Wicca--were to point out the kind of injustices that can and will result when the Religious Right receives legal support of their biases from the government. The Religious Right are training their future lawyers, judges and politicians to place conservative Christian evangelism ahead of the First Amendment, and that other religions are inferior and evil. You may agree with them that other religions are, as you put it, "both irrational and dangerous delusions" and "will lead to damnation in eternity", but to make such beliefs law is discrimination and would violate the First Amendment.

    Now, I would be the first to argue that every religion probably has its fair share of figurative skeletons in the closet, but labeling practitioners of Voodoo or Native American tribal faiths as being irrational and dangerous simply because of their personal choice of faith is bigoted, akin to racial profiling and sexism. (In fact, because we as a culture can't seem to address religious intolerance in the same way we address racism and sexism goes to show how far we have to go in maintaining a balanced dialogue on religious civil liberties.) The Religious Right clearly thrive on such intolerance, and those of us who would prefer to keep their personal hatreds out of our lawbooks cannot forget this. Then again, seeing as how most of the mainstream press overlooked the DOJ white paper and its impact on the Native American community, it's obvious that America is all to good at ignoring when the Religious Right screws over a minority.

    While it's good that you think that using the government to enforce Christianity is wrong, apparently the Religious Right feels otherwise. They obviously feel justified in what they are doing in part because they see other religions as stupid, evil or crazy. If people who are against the Religious Right refuse to stand up when they harass a minority religion (yes, even religions that you think you can refute), then we are giving credence to their hatred of others.



    by Mitchell on Tue May 22, 2007 at 08:38:04 AM EST
    Parent
    you said:'strefanash, I think you missed the point of the article. This article isn't about what the original apostles did (or did not do) or what the Bible says (or does not say). . . .. You may agree with them that other religions are, as you put it, "both irrational and dangerous delusions" and "will lead to damnation in eternity", but to make such beliefs law is discrimination and would violate the First Amendment.' . . . . and I Strefanash answered that they are disobeying their own scriptures to do it. Otherwise I thought I was agreeing with you. To make such beliefs law is to remove freedom of thought which is to crush honesty of thought and to remove a proper environment for true evangelism. It is also to usurp the prerogative of God Himself. I am not an american and frankly I am not interested in the American Constitution (said Constitution has not stopped Imperial American expansion over the last century). And the Religious Right will not listen to appeals to the Consitution either. But some of them might listen if they are shown that they defy the Bible in their aims. That is my hope

    by strefanash on Tue May 22, 2007 at 03:45:54 PM EST
    Parent

    you said: While it's good that you think that using the government to enforce Christianity is wrong, apparently the Religious Right feels otherwise. They obviously feel justified in what they are doing in part because they see other religions as stupid, evil or crazy. If people who are against the Religious Right refuse to stand up when they harass a minority religion (yes, even religions that you think you can refute), then we are giving credence to their hatred of others. and I answer: I have just stood up by telling them that they defy the Word of God in abusing their scriptures for such Is the fundamentalist feeling refutable only by reference to the American Constitution? Do you only allow secularists to refute the Religious Right? WIll you permit a Biblical refutation? would it surprise you that there is one? OR will you not allow this? Do you think I would dare oppose the Relogious Right if they were in fact obeying the Bible? BUT THEY ARE NOT, SIR! (Understand, THIS is how many conservative christians will be reached as regarsd their support of the Religious Right. If the Word of God trumps the Constitution any real christian will side with the Word of God) Are religions exempt from rational examination? If the only dismissal of a religion that you allow is bigotry and bigotry is the only motive for such are you a bigot for not being a believer in all of them? If you are not a Moslem is that because you are a bigot? Of course not. Then permit me the same luxury, sir. Is it harassment to rationally refute a religion? then many people here are engaging in it when they they to point out the perceived illogic of christianity I hold that other religions are irrational due to their logic. If this is not bigotted when done by an atheist it need not be bigotted when done by a christian. It is bigotry to legally enforce refutations of a relgion, I have flatly refused to endorse such. But if you would ban rational debate pertaining to the merits or otherwise of any relgion as being bigotry you yourself are the mirror image of a fundamentalist

    by strefanash on Tue May 22, 2007 at 04:05:39 PM EST
    Parent

    What do you mean by intolerance? The term has changed meaning. It used to mean putting up with something you strongly disagreed with. to call disagreeing with a religion akin to profiling is straw man fallacy. and clearly a double standard, you are not 'profiling' the Religious Right? your rejecting them is not bigotry? But now in post modern thinking (which is totally irrational) it means endorsing, thinking that all systems of thought are equal. But if you are post modern you have shot yourself in the foot, you have no reason to oppose anything for you would hold that all things are only relative, and all you would be doing is voicing a preference. I strongly disagree with the Religious Right but my days of wanting to outlaw them are over. I strongly disagree with other religions, and even with other segments of the christian church, like Catholicism. I strongly disagree with atheism, I dislike Communism and Facism. But I put up with them all. I will speak concerning all of them, but as I am not a religious Right bigot i will not seek to force them to believe anything, which means they will likely not change their minds. this goes for atheism, other religions, and what i view as heresies. It is not my place to force anyone to believe anything. Attempts to do so have completely failed, anyway, I gave them up years ago Any who think they can or must force others to believe anything are as intolerant as those they oppose

    by strefanash on Tue May 22, 2007 at 04:19:57 PM EST
    Parent

    OK, Mr. Strefanash, I still think you are missing the point.

    and I answer: I have just stood up by telling them that they defy the Word of God in abusing their scriptures for such

    First off, you in this forum did not tell the Religious Right anything--you only told me and everyone else reading this that they are abusing scriptures. If you did this elsewhere online, please feel free to post the links. I'm sure they are interesting to read.

    Is the fundamentalist feeling refutable only by reference to the American Constitution?

    Since the context of this article was about legal issues, particularly the DOJ and home schooling law, then yes, the American Constitution (or more specifically, the Bill of Rights) is the tool that was designed to protect the rest of us from religious fundamentalism from becoming law. Besides, as you said, "frankly I am not interested in the American Constitution"--why did you even bother responding to this article if you feel this way?

    Do you only allow secularists to refute the Religious Right? WIll you permit a Biblical refutation? would it surprise you that there is one? OR will you not allow this? Do you think I would dare oppose the Relogious Right if they were in fact obeying the Bible? BUT THEY ARE NOT, SIR!

    I didn't say anything about secularists in my posts--where did you get that idea? Sure, you can use the Bible to make refutations against the Religious Right, but the whole point of religious freedom is that they don't have to listen to you, just as you don't have to listen to them. I'm sure that you're convinced that your reading of the Bible is a very authoritative view of the Bible there is, but what are you going to do when the Religious Right ignores you? Fine them? Ban them from your church? Send them nasty letters? At least by using the Constitution, those of us who disaggree with the Religious Right have legal standing when their violations of other people's religious freedoms ends up in court. Otherwise, we're finished.

    (Understand, THIS is how many conservative christians will be reached as regarsd their support of the Religious Right. If the Word of God trumps the Constitution any real christian will side with the Word of God)

    The whole point behind this article (and many other articles on this site) is that the Religious Right ALREADY sees their view of God as above the Constitution. Unless you can prove to me that your scripture-based arguments against the Religious Right will convince them to stop messing with our constitutional freedoms, I'll reserve my right to be skeptical.

    Are religions exempt from rational examination? If the only dismissal of a religion that you allow is bigotry and bigotry is the only motive for such are you a bigot for not being a believer in all of them?

    There's a difference between not being a willing participant in a religion and openly arging that someone else's religion is, in your words, "irrational and dangerous". Just because I don't enjoy stamp collecting doesn't mean I think that people who collect stamps as a hobby are stupid. Likewise, I don't follow the Wiccan religion, but I'm not going to call them irrational and dangerous just because they're Wiccans. Futhermore, I know I'd hate it if someone called me "irrational and dangerous" if I, for example, worshipped Zeus and the Olympian Gods. It's one thing to disagree with another religion, but to think that the people who practice said other religion are somehow lesser people than you are is indeed bigoted. It would be no different if you made the same charges against people because of their gender, skin color or economic class. Tell me: did anyone ever tell you to your face that you were irrational and dangerous for being a Christian? Did they deny you rights and benefits as a citizen of your country because your are a Christian?

    Is it harassment to rationally refute a religion? then many people here are engaging in it when they they to point out the perceived illogic of christianity I hold that other religions are irrational due to their logic.

    OK, now I think you're missing the point of this entire site. From what I understand of the people who developed this site, this site was NOT set up to debate the value or rationality of other religions. It WAS set up to discuss the Religious Right because of their GROWING POLITICAL POWER TO MAKE THEIR PERSONAL BIASES LAW, not because of their own interpretations of scripture, Biblical or otherwise.

    It is bigotry to legally enforce refutations of a relgion, I have flatly refused to endorse such.

    Are you sure you are on the right Web site? I thought this was a pro-First Amendment site, not a site designed to ban all religious discussions. It's just that this site wasn't designed to facilitate the refutations of specific religions--just refutations of political actions made by a group that uses religion to justify its actions. There is a difference, you know.

    But if you would ban rational debate pertaining to the merits or otherwise of any relgion as being bigotry you yourself are the mirror image of a fundamentalist

    Then I guess this entire site and the people who run it are nothing but a bunch of bigots. Sorry for wasting your time.

    But now in post modern thinking (which is totally irrational) it means endorsing, thinking that all systems of thought are equal. But if you are post modern you have shot yourself in the foot, you have no reason to oppose anything for you would hold that all things are only relative, and all you would be doing is voicing a preference.

    The only preference I have is that I would like to live in a country where a Jew, a Christian, a Wicca, a Muslim, a Native Ameircan medicine man, an atheist, etc. can go about their daily lives without the government telling them that their personal beliefs are wrong (or "irrational and dangerous") and penalizing them for it. In the case pointed out in this article, the DOJ supported the faith-based initiative and then crafted a document that shot down health care support for Native American tribes because the support would somehow benefit their traditional tribal beliefs--THAT is an example of what shouldn't be happening in our country, because all citizens should be treated as equals under the law regardless of their religious beliefs. Of course, if you think that our Founding Fathers are postmodernists and that's why they wrote the First Amendment, then so be it.

    Are you sure you read this article in its entirety?



    by Mitchell on Wed May 23, 2007 at 11:13:46 AM EST
    Parent




    I dont know. I see the current fundamentalist movement as so wedded to an unattainable utopianism that they will seek to impose their vision by force when their agenda fails, perhaps by taking over a state or region. (Witness their attempted seeding of the military, not to mention their disproportionate reverence for the 2nd amendment.) Their stealth agenda, which you have very aptly described, cannot succeed in the short to mid term, partly because our institutions and our culture are still rooted in a pluralistic and secularist design, but partly also because the theocratic agenda itself has no end point, but rather demands two more steps for every step it calls "forward." After so many times of moving the bar, the brazen theocratic and, really, outright fascist, authoritarian, unamerican nature of their agenda will bring revulsion from a critical mass of Americans. That has already started: the Terri Schiavo affair was a perfect microcosm of this process.

    If I am right, the real question is whether the theocratic movement can be contained in the short term so that when its leaders realize in a fit of zeal that they are failing, they dont have the power or the means to do what, from their own rhetoric, appears to be their "Plan B" - Christian holy war. Certainly, the seeding of fundies in government needs to be reversed. A glance at Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism" brings a chilling parallel to Hitler's tactics in this regard. Hitler set up parallel institutions and agencies to "take over" once he attained full power. Rove seems to be following a similar script. One has to wonder what Bushco is doing to protect its executive orders against future democratic administrations. I suppose the answer to that might be "what future Democratic administrations" as we watch the whole DOJ thing unravel.   ... thanks for the lengthy and very helpful analysis.

    by Splash on Tue May 22, 2007 at 02:56:20 PM EST



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    Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
    The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
    MTOLincoln (29 comments)
    Fear
    What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
    ArchaeoBob (12 comments)
    "America - love it or LEAVE!"
    I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
    ArchaeoBob (12 comments)
    "Faked!" Meme
    Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
    ArchaeoBob (49 comments)
    More aggressive proselytizing
    My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
    ArchaeoBob (10 comments)
    See if you recognize names on this list
    This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
    ArchaeoBob (8 comments)
    Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
    This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
    Xulon (10 comments)
    Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
    In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
    Diane Vera (6 comments)
    Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
    I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
    Xulon (8 comments)
    History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
    Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
    ArchaeoBob (15 comments)
    Alternate economy medical treatment
    Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
    ArchaeoBob (11 comments)
    Evidence violence is more common than believed
    Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
    ArchaeoBob (10 comments)
    Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
    If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
    ArchaeoBob (8 comments)
    Demon Mammon?
    An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
    daerie (6 comments)
    Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
    The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
    JSanford (12 comments)

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