Mayberry Machiavellis

While I’m currently snowed under (literally and figuratively), here’s some interesting reading, from Religion Dispatches, on George W. Bush’s first “faith czar,” and his praise for Obama’s faith-based initiatives.

John J. DiIulio, the first director of George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, has taken to the Washington Post to laud President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In it, he cutely claims to like Obama’s director of the faith-based office, Joshua DuBois, better than “Bush’s first ‘faith czar.'”

Less than a year into his own tenure, DiIulio resigned in disgust, and complained about Bush staffers who sought to dole out favors to religious conservatives rather than serve “compassionate conservativism.” He notoriously coined the term “Mayberry Machiavellis” to describe Bush insiders, who, in relation to faith-based legislation, “winked at the most far-right House Republicans” in attempting to pass legislation for the faith-based office. That bill, which went nowhere, was drafted because Bush staffers thought it “satisfied certain fundamentalist leaders and Beltway libertarians.”

It’s an interesting read, especially in light of frequent accusations that Obama is somehow anti-religion (whilst simultaneously being Muslim, Nazi, Socialist, and Communist, hmmm).

A surprising enemy

Over at latimes.com, they’re reporting that the dishonestly-named “Defense of Marriage” Act has an enemy that may surprise you.

One of the nation’s leading gay-rights advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign, has formed a coalition of major companies calling for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

It’s no surprise, of course, that the HRC in Washington would use its considerable clout to organize big businesses to fight DOMA, the law that excludes recognition of same-sex marriages.

What will be a surprise to many is that one of the first companies to join the effort was Marriott International Inc., which was founded by a devout Mormon, John Willard Marriott.

Granted, they may be more motivated by the potential for an increased consumer base—more marriages mean more honeymoons, and those honeymooners need a place to stay—but still, this is a great sign.

[Read more...]

More thoughts on gun control

I confess I have mixed feelings about gun control. On the one hand you have situations like the recent shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where something clearly needs to be done to protect children against mass murder. That one seems like a no-brainer.

On the other hand, I don’t trust the 1% and I’m increasingly unhappy with the increasing subversion of democracy that is being used to turn our free country into a vast machine piping wealth out of the lower and middle classes and into the bank accounts of the very wealthiest, at the risk of financial disaster for the other 99%. Nor am I pleased with ever-encroaching “State secrets” covering up detention, torture, and assassination of “enemies,” including US citizens.

Is it possible that the Founding Fathers, in protecting the people’s right to keep and bear arms “necessary to the security of a free state,” were showing more foresight than expected? Fortunately, a comment on last Friday’s post gives me an opportunity to dig into this a little more.

[Read more...]

Religion and gun control

So I was browsing around the Internet (again), and I found this story:

Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, a coalition of over 45 religious leaders and clergy have signed a letter addressed to the members of Congress, urging them to take immediate action to prevent more gun violence.

The group is calling for three things: criminal background checks for gun buyers, a ban on high-capacity weapons and ammo magazines, and a federal law against gun trafficking. Sounds like a good idea, right? I thought so too. Then I read the headline on the article: Religious Leaders’ Godless Letter to Congress on Gun Violence. Here’s the author’s analysis.

When I read through their website and the letter they sent to Congress, I saw nothing that addressed the real reason for the increase in gun violence, which is the removal of God and the Bible from all aspects of life, public and private.  Once they were gone, so were the standards used for all morals and values…

The response of the religious leaders that signed the letter to Congress have all fallen victim to the secularization that has corrupted the rest of American society.  They aren’t turning to God and Bible for their answers, but to manmade devices that are totally devoid of anything to do with God.

Which sounds all pious and shit, but here’s my question: If you’re a Christian, and you believe that society has become all evil and immoral and wicked and stuff, why are you trying to make sure that you’re outnumbered, not just by evildoers, but by evildoers with high-powered, high-capacity weaponry?

[Read more...]

Doggy disciples

The name “Islam” means “submission” or “obedience,” but move over, Mohammed, the Christians are about to take obedience to a whole new level with their program to raise up ministers of the Gospel—on four legs.

A program offered at one Wyoming church gives dogs with their owners the opportunity to spread comfort and the message of Christ.

The eight-week Canines for Christ session will be at Ascension and Holy Trinity Church, at 334 Burns Ave., beginning Jan. 19, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Canines for Christ is a Christian-based, animal-assisted therapy ministry. Dogs and their owners work together to train the pets to visit places that include hospitals, nursing homes, hospice facilities, special-needs facilities and cancer centers.

Yeah, friendly, well-trained dogs are a great way to overcome people’s natural wariness around strangers, and make them more vulnerable to your attempts to exploit them in their weakness. Still, believers are always preying on the young and/or the helpless, so this program doesn’t change much. I can’t help wondering, though, what will happen when the revival comes to town, and the minister lays his hands on the sick and shouts, “Heal!”

Bible distribution program in FL

The Christian Post reports that a conservative Christian group has begun a probably-illegal Bible distribution program in local high schools in the area.

Volunteers from a Florida-based group have distributed Bibles to the lunchrooms of several high schools in the Sunshine State.

World Changers of Florida, a conservative organization, distributed the Bibles on Wednesday, with a focus on high schools in Orange County.

There are apparently some restrictions on the program, but definitely not enough to comply with the First Amendment.

“Passive distribution means the Bibles may be placed on one unmanned table for distribution in a location where students normally congregate during non-instructional time,” reads the memo. “The representatives may only be allowed to replenish Bibles if they run out and must remove any undistributed literature at the end of the distribution day.”

Has the ACLU heard about this? Anybody got any copies of The God Delusion they’d like to make available for distribution in the same cafeterias?

[Read more...]

Christians go 1 for 4 in ECHR

To follow up on the earlier story of 4 Christians who claimed human rights violations, the Richmond and Twickenham Times reports that only one succeeded.

The four Christians claimed their employers’ actions went against articles nine and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protected their rights to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and prohibited religious discrimination. All but Miss Eweida’s case were unsuccessful.

So, not being allowed to wear a cross on a necklace at work, that’s a human rights violation (if you’re a Christian), but not being allowed to marry isn’t a violation (if you’re gay)? I can’t argue the merits of Ms. Eweida’s case because I don’t know all the details, but at least two of the other three plaintiffs were specifically seeking a court judgment in favor of their desire to discriminate against gays and to refuse to allow them to receive equal treatment. If denying someone the right to wear a necklace is officially a human rights violation, those two should not merely have lost their lawsuit, they should have been found guilty.

“Don’t treat us like we treat gays!”

Usually I leave the World Net Daily beat to Ed, but this came up in my Google alerts, and I couldn’t resist.

The European Court of Human Rights is set to deliver a key verdict early next week in a major case against the United Kingdom surrounding anti-Christian discrimination.

I’m not sure exactly how the UK managed to “surround” this alleged anti-Christian discrimination, but the four cases concern two women who were wearing crosses in violation of company policies prohibiting jewelry, plus a counselor who refused to provide sex therapy to gays, plus a borough clerk who refused to officiate at gay marriages. I’m not sure what the specific legal merits are in each case, though the reason this lawsuit is coming up in the ECHR is because the Christians have failed to win their lawsuits anywhere else. Then again, look who’s representing them.

“These cases are of a primary importance because they raise the matter of the toleration of Christians by the Western postmodern society,” explained director Grégor Puppinck with the European Center for Law and Justice, which filed a brief in the case supporting the plaintiffs.

The European Center for Law Injustice (excuse me, “and Justice”)? That would be the expatriate branch of the American Center for Law Injustice (darn, did it again), would it not?

[Read more...]

“Forcing” Christians to violate their religious beliefs?

Holy Antichrist, Batman! Hold onto your utility belts, because, as CNS News breathlessly reports, the Obama administration has found a way to legally force Christians to violate their religious beliefs, despite the First Amendment.

In a legal argument formally presented in federal court in the case of Hobby Lobby v. Kathleen Sebelius, the Obama administration is claiming that the First Amendment—which expressly denies the government the authority to prohibit the “free exercise” of religion—nonetheless allows it to force Christians to directly violate their religious beliefs even on a matter that involves the life and death of innocent human beings.

It’s a long screed that’s only missing one thing: any mention of any Christian being forced to violate their religious beliefs. What they’re complaining about is the fact that health plans have to cover contraception, which includes medications that rabble-rousers like to call “abortion-inducing drugs.” But this ignores the plain and simple fact that nothing in the Obama health-care program ever requires Christians to have an abortion. Christians like the evangelical founders of Hobby Lobby might not like abortion, and they might like to use their financial position to try and impose their religious views on their employees, but in fact it’s none of their business what kind of health care their employees choose to pursue.
[Read more...]

New year, same old hate

The Catholic Church in England has issued a broad denunciation of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, and called for a full investigation of any individual or organization involved in systematically molesting children or aiding and abetting in such molestations. Or wait, I read that wrong. The real evil they want to combat, according to the NY Daily News, is two adults being able to experience the same kind of loving, committed marital relationship as any other couple.

Roman Catholic leaders in England and Wales took to the pulpit on Sunday to rail against proposed legislation that would allow same sex couples to legally marry.

“Government policy cannot foresee the full consequences, for the children involved or for wider society, of being brought up by two mothers without a father’s influence or by two fathers without a mother’s influence.” Most Reverend Bernard Longley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, told parishioners in a letter that was read aloud during Sunday services.

Ah, see, I knew there was something about children in there.

[Read more...]