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Tue

15

May

2007

Polluting Politics, Perverting Religion, Degutting Education: The Dark Agenda of the Christian Right
Tuesday, 15 May 2007 11:07
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

A failure for most of his adult life, George W. Bush was the Christian Right’s anointed one, their messianic president who, aided by like-minded minions, was supposed to make America a theofascist state crusading against infidels abroad:

“I don’t believe there is a separation of church and state. I think the Constitution is very clear. We have the right and the freedom to exercise our religion no matter what it is anywhere we choose to do it. We have an opportunity to once again get back into the public arena.”
Tom DeLay

“Unique among the nations, America recognized the source of our character as being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal. We have no king but Jesus.”

“George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters. He was appointed by God.”

The Bush administration and its policies are dismal failures at home and abroad. The American public and Bush’s own party know that. What’s also increasingly clear is that the Christian Right is anything but “Christian” or “right” as they continue to use a twisted, perverted form of religion to promote bigotry, discrimination and ignorance at home and encourage bloody wars abroad.

Lou Dobbs was a classic conservative economist. Now he’s an outspoken populist critic. In a May 9, 2007 CNN commentary Mr. Dobbs made some pertinent observations:

“The separation of church and state in this country is narrowing. And it is the church, not the state that is encroaching. Our Constitution protects religion from the intrusion or coercion of the state. But we have precious little protection against the political adventurism of all manner of churches and religious organizations. …

“Conservative evangelical leader James Dobson recently said actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson wasn’t Christian enough to be president. He instead chose to commend Newt Gingrich, who has been married three times and recently admitted to an extramarital affair. Five evangelical Christian leaders signed the ‘Land Letter’ to President Bush in 2002 affirming a Christian theological basis to invade Iraq.” [links added]


Dobbs had previously drawn attention for a 60 Minutes interview that aired on May 6, 2007. The next day an article by Cliff Kincaid, editor of Accuracy in Media, appeared in The National Ledger. In a rather confusing, convoluted piece titled “Lou Dobbs: The Next Don Imus?” Mr. Kincaid suggested there was a “liberal” conspiracy out to get Lou Dobbs. To support that contention, he pointed to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center who also appeared on the 60 Minutes broadcast and had criticized Dobbs’ views on immigration.

Mr. Kincaid’s assessment of the Southern Poverty Law Center and another comment made by the editor of Accuracy in the Media suggest ulterior motives and add urgency to Lou Dobbs’ warning about the Christian Right, their political puppets, and their media apologists:

“The Southern Poverty Law Center, which supported the ‘hate crimes’ bill, is so extreme that it lists the conservative Christian Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), a coalition of churches, on a map of ‘hate groups’ because of its opposition to special rights for homosexuals. The TVC is listed on the same page with the Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Islam.”

Louis P. Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition is a pro-hate group. Even a cursory visit to TVC’s web site confirms that Sheldon has a pathological obsession with homosexuals. He and his TVC take every opportunity to demean, denigrate and hurt gay and lesbian Americans and their children in any way possible. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sheldon argued against giving aid to the surviving members of gay and lesbian partnerships and their children. Is that what a moral Christian – or American – would do following such a horrific tragedy? Or is that what a hate-filled bigot would do?

As editor of Accuracy in the Media, one would expect Mr. Kincaid to have verified TVC’s claim to represent 43,000 churches. Is there a list of those churches? Are they on record affirming that Sheldon and the TVC speak for them and their members?

Although the Traditional Values Coalition claims to represent 43,000 churches nationwide, in reality the TVC “appears to consist mostly of the Rev. Lou Sheldon and his daughter Andrea Sheldon Lafferty. Both are mainstays on the conservative circuit, though their reputation has been damaged by revelations that Lou Sheldon took money from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to help kill an anti-gambling bill that would have hurt one of Abramoff’s clients [eLottery].” Lucky Louie Sheldon and the TVC were stridently campaigning against Internet gambling at the time.

Mr. Kincaid sought to deepen his conspiracy theory by noting that “the ‘60 Minutes’ piece, interestingly enough, aired just days after the so-called ‘hate crimes’ bill passed the House of Representatives on May 3 by a vote of 237-180. This legislation attempts to criminalize what people think and say, rather than what they do. What’s more, it helps lay the groundwork for a federal Fairness Doctrine to authorize bureaucrats to dictate what can and cannot be said on the air.”

In his first accusation – “this legislation attempts to criminalize what people think and say” – Mr. Kincaid parroted the bogus argument made by the leaders of the Christian Right in their hysterical campaign against the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (also known as the Matthew Shepard Act). These self-appointed representatives for God resorted to such tactics as distributing doctored Congressional testimony, a Jesus Christ “wanted poster,” and promoting a video produced by a known white-supremacist – “John Smith” – whose other titles include Keep America White and Black Intelligence.

Dominionists such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Louis Sheldon of Traditional Values Coalition, Don Wildmon of American Family Association, and Tony Perkins of Family Research Council screeched in unison that the bill would put pastors at risk if they preached against homosexuality. On April 26, 2007, Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition – the organization that distributed doctored Congressional transcripts, the Jesus “wanted poster,” and a comic titled “Congress Declares April Drag Queen Month” – sent out an action alert. The subject line read “Pastors Protect Yourself from Jail – Distribute this Alert.” Their campaign was – and is – based solely on lies and deceitful scare tactics.

The title of the bill exposes that: “Hate Crimes.” The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, like the existing hate-crime law, would apply only to acts of violence after they’d been committed. Pulpit pastors and the self-righteous would still be able to exercise their freedom of speech and say things such as “Homosexuality is sinful,” “Homosexuality is an abomination to God” and yes, even invoke Westboro Baptist Church’s mantras “God hates fags” and “Fags die, God laughs.” That’s their Constitutional right, just as others have the right to say the leaders of the Christian Right are malignant bigots who hide behind a twisted version of religion in order to promote discrimination and enhance their own political power.

Hypocrisy reigned supreme in their attack on the hate-crime legislation. The Christian Right claims homosexuality is nothing more than a choice – unlike race, color, and national origin – and those practicing the “lifestyle” should not, therefore, be protected. Their claim is based on no legitimate scientific or medical facts. Indeed, virtually all credible research points to homosexuality being outside the realm of choice. But what is an indisputable fact is that one’s religion is absolutely 100 percent a choice. Would Dobson, Sheldon, Wildmon, and Perkins support removing “religion” from the wording of the current federal hate-crime law?

Using the same bogus “pulpit argument,” organizations of the Christian Right have already begun lobbying senators to kill the pending hate-crime legislation. “Government could ‘muzzle the church’ if Americans don’t speak out” hysterically proclaimed a recent Focus on the Family call to action. The malicious deception continued when FOF chairman James Dobson reacted to the Bush administration’s announced intention to veto the legislation should it clear the Senate: “That took a lot of courage. I really appreciate the president having the courage to do that.”

Nonsense. Bush was just being a good little sycophant hoping to please his and the GOP’s masters, just as his administration has been doing with taxpayer dollars:

“A New York Times analysis shows that the number of earmarks for religious organizations, while small compared with the overall number, have increased sharply in recent years. From 1989 to January 2007, Congress approved almost 900 earmarks for religious groups, totaling more than $318 million, with more than half of them granted in the Congressional session that included the 2004 presidential election. By contrast, the same analysis showed fewer than 60 earmarks for faith-based groups in the Congressional session that covered 1997 and 1998.

“Earmarks are individual federal grants that bypass the normal appropriations and competitive-bidding procedures. They have been blamed for feeding the budget deficit and have figured in several Capitol Hill bribery scandals, prompting recent calls for reform from White House and Congressional leaders.

“They are distinct from the competitive, peer-reviewed grants that have traditionally been used by religious institutions and charities to obtain money for social service. …”

James Dobson, like Lou Sheldon and the rest of the leaders of the Christian Right, uses scare tactics to keep gay and lesbian Americans disenfranchised. One of Dobson’s “best” came in his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire in which he claimed that if gays and lesbians were allowed to enter into the civil union called “marriage,” the world would end.

Although he didn’t invoke Armageddon, in his second accusation Mr. Kincaid offered his own scare tactic when he asserted the pending hate-crime legislation “helps lay the groundwork for a federal Fairness Doctrine to authorize bureaucrats to dictate what can and cannot be said on the air.”

The Bush administration currently lords over the FCC, and into their friendly ears flow the likes of Don Wildmon and the American Family Association. Wildmon and his AFA are currently trying to hurt as much as possible Ford Motor Company and all those who work for them, directly or indirectly. Why? Because the carmaker has the audacity to treat its gay and lesbian employees equally and advertise in gay publications. Wildmon and the AFA take perverted pleasure in hurting others. They define “Schadenfreude.”

Disgustingly, Rev. Wildmon and his son Tim, AFA’s president, are well compensated for advocating civil discrimination and trying to put others out of work. From Media Transparency: “According to AFA's 2005 IRS 990 (its tax return), founder Donald E. Wildmon received about $110,000 with benefits, plus over $30,000 in expense account and other allowances -- including a housing allowance of over $31,000. AFA president Tim Wildmon got about $100,000, and the organization’s secretary, Forrest Daniels, received slightly more than $80,000.”

As for the media, AFA once filed an “indecency complaint” against the American Broadcasting Network for airing – “when children are likely be watching” – a complete, uncensored version of the film Saving Private Ryan on Veterans Day, 2004. Apparently Wildmon and his sanctimonious followers are fine with having their children watch the bloody horrors of war, but the reality of the words “fuck” and “shit” being uttered in combat are just too much for their tender ears to hear or their holy fingers to type. This notation prefaced the form letter AFA encouraged the sheeple to send to the FCC: “WARNING: Because your complaint MUST CONTAIN the actual language used during the broadcast of Saving Private Ryan, it is included in the email text box below.”

Lou Dobbs’ warning about the narrowing of the gap between church and state and the “political adventurism” of the Christian Right is compounded and made more urgent by the assault on education, science and knowledge.

On May 3, 2007, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research – which claims to be a “private, nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics, and social welfare” – hosted a debate on “Darwinism and Conservatism.”

For a “nonpartisan” institute, the PR for the debate had a distinctly partisan flavor:

“There is a growing debate among conservative thinkers and pundits about whether Darwinian theory helps or harms conservatism and its public policy agenda. Some have argued forcefully that Darwin’s theory provides support for conservative positions on family life, economics, bioethics, and other issues, while others have countered that the effort to justify conservative policy positions on Darwinian grounds is fundamentally flawed. Does Darwin's theory help defend or undermine traditional morality and family life? Does it encourage or discredit economic freedom? Is it a spur or a brake to utopian schemes to re-engineer human nature?”

The Right Wing Watch article about the event made the partisan agenda clear. The “debate” featured:

“Discovery Institute fellows John West and George Gilder [who] sought to persuade conservatives that the scientific theory of evolution is incompatible with their political ideology

“That same night, the idea was tested in a more practical theater: the Republican presidential debate. John McCain was asked whether he believes in evolution – his answer, after a pause, was yes. Then the co-moderator asked for a show of hands: Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback, and Mike Huckabee all indicated they did not believe in evolution. (According to Janet Folger, Duncan Hunter later said the same.) But more important than whether a candidate believes in or even understands evolution is whether he would make efforts to counter evolution a part of public education policy. Indeed, John McCain – who reached out to the creationist Discovery Institute recently – has apparently said he supported teaching “Intelligent Design” creationism in science class alongside evolution…”

From the new $30 million, 60,000 square-foot “Creation Museum” in Kentucky that features exhibits showing human children playing with dinosaurs in Eden and argues that Tyrannosaurus rex was a strict vegetarian, every kind of dinosaur was among the passengers on Noah’s ark, dinosaurs went extinct only a few hundred years ago, and the waters from Noah’s flood quickly carved the Grand Canyon just a few thousand years ago, to the “intelligent design” fiasco played out in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2005-06, the assault on science and education is another hallmark of the Christian Right’s dark agenda and that of the politicians they command. Former Arkansas governor, now GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee exemplifies that.

As governor of Arkansas he was criticized that students weren’t learning about evolution and, therefore, were at a disadvantage when pursuing higher education. Huckabee responded by advocating the teaching of creationism:

“I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism …”

It’s called “teaching the controversy.” Only problem is that in the scientific community there is no controversy. Evolution is an established fact. But Huckabee’s answer encapsulates the nonsensical theo-politicizing of science and knowledge.

“I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view.”

Would Huckabee, Brownback, and the other political puppets of the Christian Right approve teaching the Hindu creation myths in public school science classes? The former governor did say “all points of view.” Would he and his ilk support teaching the Buddhist creation myths in public schools science classes? Or are they really arguing only for teaching a fundamentalist reading of Genesis as science?

The answer is in Huckabee’s last statement: “the basis of those who believe in creationism.” The only basis for biblical creationism is the Bible, hardly a scientific treatise despite Jerry Falwell’s pronouncement that “the Bible is the inerrant...word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc…” [italics added].

In response to a reader’s question about the “the inerrancy of the Bible,” Rev. John Shelby Spong answered with facts, not Falwellian fictions:

“The various texts that together we Christians now call the Bible were written over more than a thousand years between about 1000 BCE and 135 CE. It was not a single book by a single author but rather 66 separate books (and even more if we count the Apocrypha), written by a variety of authors. None of these authors believed that someday their words would be invested with either holiness or inerrancy. When the authors of the books that we now call the New Testament referred to scripture (Matt 12:10, 15:2,3, Luke 4:21, 22:27 and John 2:22, 7:38, 3:42, 10:35, 12:18, 17:12, 19:24, 19:28, 19:36-37, 20:9, and even the author of II Timothy to which I referred to earlier), they are referring only to the Hebrew Scriptures, since at that time there was no New Testament. …

“So the claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God is itself a non-scriptural term and indeed was imposed on the texts of the Bible at a much later time to meet the need of church leaders to have an ally in their struggles to clarify their authority. … There arose from that corruption of both truth and rationality the incredible number of abuses about which I have spoken so often in this column from biblically-endorsed racism, sexism and homophobia to biblically-endorsed war, persecution, and torture.” [italics added]

Rev. Spong’s final comments perfectly summarize the Christian Right’s ongoing socio-political crimes against humanity and their assault on science, education and knowledge.

A May 12, 2007 editorial that appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer under the title “Playing politics with fact” helped make the case for the absurdity of the “biblical worldview” and the danger of infusing it into politics and public school education. The editorial acknowledged that:

“These men raised their hands because they knew it would get them votes from religious conservatives.

“Tancredo, Huckabee and Brownback know they need the Christian conservative vote to win the Republican nomination. Christian conservatives don’t like Rudy Giuliani. They’re lukewarm on John McCain, perplexed by Mitt Romney.

“But any candidate who would ignore science to attract conservative votes has made a lousy calculation.”

...and then, perhaps inadvertently, went on to expose the lethal nature of contemporary theo-politics:

“So, while pundits are calling the evolution flap an embarrassment to the GOP, what it really is is a call to the Republican faithful: ‘We’re in trouble. If we don’t rally on the wedge issues now, by 2008, a Republican majority may seem as far away as the Planet of the Apes.’”

“Rally on the wedge issues”: a Rove-Bush theo-political strategy conjoining fundamentalist religion, a cherry-picked ad hoc version of the Bible, and ultra-conservative politics in order to divide the American public, argue for the second-class status of gay and lesbian Americans, degut science and knowledge, and promote war-mongering abroad.

History has repeatedly demonstrated that mixing religion and politics is a recipe for disaster. Why do we refuse to learn that lesson?
 
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