Female Michigan legislators to perform Vagina Monologues at their capitol building

This is such a fantastic response to a mind-numbingly stupid controversy. For those of you who aren’t up to date, Michigan legislators barred Rep. Lisa Brown (D) from speaking in the House after she used the word “vagina” during a debate on an anti-abortion bill. Yes, people are losing their shit over the word “vagina”:

“That comment would be very inappropriate,” [Rep. Rick Johnson (R)] said. “You have young children? Is that something you want them to hear from your state rep?”

Actually, yeah, I wish young children had comprehensive sex education and didn’t respond to the medical terminology for a body part the way you do. Heaven forbid they know about vaginas in addition to arms, stomachs, brains, eyeballs, and what have you. Heaven forbid little girls know about their bodies! Why, we can’t have that – they may start touching their vaginas then! APOCALYPSE!

And this:

“What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

Uh…does this guy realize that (most) women have vaginas? I think this says it all:

But female Michigan legislators have come up with a wonderful idea to protest this puritanical nonsense. On Monday they’ll be performing the Vagina Monologues on the steps of the Michigan capitol building, led by Eve Ensler herself (who wrote the play). The legislators include Senators Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), and Representatives Barb Byrum (D- Onondaga), Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-Saginaw), Dian Slavens (D- Canton Township), Rashida Tlaib (D- Detroit), Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield), Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills), Joan Bauer (D-Lansing).

This is such a fabulous idea. If you’re in Michigan, check it out and email your legislators messages of support (or messages of anger, depending on their stance).

This is post 11 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Church economic development controversy strikes West Lafayette, IN

Jen says: The following is a guest post by my friends Anna, Mike, and Mario. Anna is the president of the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue and “isn’t cool enough for a blog.” Mike blogs at Politics and Pucks. Mario blogs at An Episcopalian in Planet Earth. West Lafayette, IN is home to Purdue University, my old stomping ground, so I’m still interested in separation of church and state issues there.

Hello everyone! As you may have heard, members of our community have been addressing an issue with regards to Church and State. Local residents have contacted the FFRF and have garnered local media attention. Both Jen McCreight and JT Eberhard have graciously allowed us to guest post on their respective blogs concerning this issue. This Wednesday, we will be hosting an online town hall meeting to address questions the non-theist and LGBTQ community may have about this issue.

First of all, we’d like to warn you that this is a complicated issue. Politics, law, complicated economics, and ethical concerns are all working together to make this as complicated as possible. We’ll try to walk you through it as best we can, but feel free to contact us with any questions.

There’s an empty lot close to campus that has begun to affect property values. Multiple other projects have been proposed for the site, but failed for various reasons, leaving nearby residents dissatisfied. This is where Faith Church (a local, very active, and very conservative Baptist congregation) intends to build a facility known as Faith West for ministry housing, biblical counseling, and as a home for the Purdue Bible Fellowship.

Generally this wouldn’t be an issue, but there are a few reasons why it is. Faith Church has applied for Economic Development Revenue Bonds (EDRB) that are meant to promote economic development and the welfare of the community through non-profit organizations. The non-profit organization finds a bank they want to borrow from, for their project, and can ascertain loans at a lower interest rate. The issue however, is that the city rubber-stamps this loan. It does not cost the city a dime, but it is a clear endorsement of the project. The city’s bond policy requires that a project “be of benefit to the health or general welfare of the City of West Lafayette.” This is a point that has been made by the only dissenting vote thus far, Councilman Rev. Peter Bunder. Faith Church is asking for up to $7 million, and the city only has to approve it and put their endorsement on it, after getting a loan from JP Morgan Chase.

According to the Faith Church website:

Each space within Faith West is designed to serve the West Lafayette Community and further the mission of Faith Church and be a blessing to Faith Church’s neighbors.

This is on their website, differing in language from the proposal to the city, which attempts to carve out the differences between religious and secular components of the project. In the proposal they have claimed that only certain parts of the facility (supposedly those that are not religious) will be covered by the bonds, while the rest is coming from their own funds. It has been mentioned that this “carve out” and division of funds is ultimately impractical and misleading.

On a side note, we know what Faith West would be if it really did serve a secular purpose.

During the May 24th meeting, Anna spoke of the contradictions which are emerging between the story Faith is telling the City and the narrative they are sharing with their own people. She also pointed out direct contradictions between the bond application, the ordinance that would provide the EDRBs, and what was actually being said.

The city attorney responded by saying that the ordinance was the binding document, not the application. Yet the ordinance is even more vague regarding the specifics of the carve out, and neither of them match what was actually being discussed.

Mario then spoke about his concerns regarding this project. He said that he supports campus ministry (he works for one and has good relations with the LGTBQ community and the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue) and understands the right of Faith Church to support their own campus ministry. However, he spoke about his concerns from the economic side since that was the focus of the public hearing:

  1. Faith Church speaks of the benefits that the 18 created jobs will bring to the community. Mario asked what will be the nature of these jobs, what are the qualifications of these jobs, and who can apply to these jobs.
  2. The ERDB will fund student housing on the site. According to their plans, the housing ministry at Faith West is intended to help Faith Church accomplish its mission in West Lafayette by providing ministry housing to students that seek a unique type of housing that is geared toward a high moral code. Each student seeking to live at Faith West’s Student Ministry Housing will sign a membership covenant that will indicate the student’s willingness to live in accordance with a high standard of moral conduct. The staff at Faith West will hold students accountable for living up to the terms of the covenants. Mario asked: who will have access to this housing? Can it be any student at Purdue? Also, what is the nature of this “covenant”? Details about this covenant have not been provided at these public forums. Instead they have been paraphrased, but not presented.

With regards to the LGBTQ community, Faith Church offers biblical counseling. Pastor Viars claims to support diversity, but there has been public testimony of abuse toward a LGBTQ member through their “homosexual repairitive counseling.” We are unable to verify everything we’ve heard, but we’ve heard other allegations of neglect and abuse from counselors when patients need treatment, but didn’t want religion forced on them. Also, their fitness facilities in Lafayette are open to everyone, unless you want a family membership, then you best have a perfect nuclear family.

Mike spoke on the issue concerning the local LGBTQ community (in fact he had to define that term to the board). He mentioned that negative attitudes toward Faith Church’s ideology by members of the LGBTQ community could lead to negative economic consequences. Further citing that the members of the LGBTQ community could dissuade their peers to live or work in the community. Also, he mentioned that each job is going to cost roughly $300-350k, which is well above the wages that these employees of the facility will likely make in one year. More importantly, he emphasized that he is not convinced that these future employees will be hired from within the community.

To answer Mike’s concerns at the May 24 hearing, Steve Viars said the following:

“…We of course welcome LGBTQ members. We are in the business of being welcoming. This can be said by our treatment of the skateboarders. We don’t ask them their sexual identity, because we’re more interested in their tattoos and piercings…”

If this wasn’t enough, the lawyer said at the public hearing:

“There is a term I picked up in Law School: ‘no brainer.’ This is a ‘no brainer’. The only reason why anyone would oppose this project, because they object to Faith Church.”

Despite these concerns, Faith Church claims in a public letter that opposition to this project is “misinformed.” Here’s something that was written in the letter:

With apologies for being blunt, there is no valid basis for voting “No” with regard to a Project like this one, which provides a clear economic development boost in a struggling neighborhood, at no cost to the City and no risk to the City – aside from simply discriminatory animus toward a particular borrower.

It seems here that Faith Church feels that the only way that people will oppose this issue is on religious grounds. Admiral Ackbar has something to say about this.

We need to argue this in a way that avoids anti-Christian rhetoric, because that’s what they want and they’re already baiting this. We know some of you are concerned, and we share this concern. So if you choose to write a letter to the city council, please avoid anti-Christian rhetoric (ask a Christian friend…if you have one). For example, bring up concerns about LGBTQ abuse, but do not single out Christians. The worst thing we can do right now is to fall in this trap.

We want what’s best for the West Lafayette, IN community. Mario, Mike, and Anna are residents, live, work, and care deeply about this community. In fact, we do want to see the lot being used, but we oppose this proposal. By not being forward about all the details of the project, our doubts have been largely confirmed through information on the Faith Church’s website. We think this behavior has been very misleading, and saddening that people who claim a moral standard are violating their own morals, while berating those who object this project.

The three of us (Mario is Christian, Anna and Mike are non-theists) are opposing this project for very similar reasons that are founded on evidence that goes beyond personal opinion regarding religion. And this is a case where actions speak much louder than words.

The final City Council meeting will be on June 4th at 6:30 at the West Lafayette City Hall. Last time, there were over 200 people, most of which were bussed in by Faith. Written statements can be sent to the City Council, but please make sure the Council Clerk gets a copy too.

Priorities

Here’s a depressing comparison for you:

2012 US Science Budget*: $85.2 billion

Yearly losses due to religious tax exemptions: Over $71 billion

We could basically double the US Science Budget, but instead we continue to bow to religious privilege. Priorities, indeed.

*Funding the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, NASA, Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Defense Department, US Department of Agriculture, US Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obama publicly declares support for same-sex marriage

Finally.

This was probably my favorite part of the interview:

“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president continued. “You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know,  believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”

I think the first thing you learn once you become an adult is that adults don’t always get it right. What a perfect example.

I’m still cranky that he framed it as a “leave it up to the states issue”… I mean, if you truly believed this about equal rights, why should it be left up to popular vote? That didn’t exactly go well in North Carolina last night. But his support is still progress.

What do you think about this announcement?

Obama is really itching for those pre-Civil War days

Says Sarah Palin in a language vaguely resembling English (emphasis mine):

Right, well, what we can glean from this is an understanding of why we are on the road that we are on. Again, it’s based on what went into his thinking, being surrounded by radicals. He is bringing us back, Sean, to days—you can hearken back to the days before the Civil War when, unfortunately, too many Americans mistakenly believed that not all men were created equal. And it was the Civil War that began the codification of the truth that here in America, yes we are equal and we all have equal opportunities not based on the color of your skin. You have equal opportunity to work hard and to succeed and to embrace the opportunities, God given opportunities, to develop resources and work extremely hard and, as I say, to succeed.

Now it has taken all these years for many Americans to understand that gravity, that mistake that took place before the Civil War and why the Civil War had to really start changing America. What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days when we were in different classes based on income based on color of skin. What are we allowing our country to move backwards instead of moving forward with that understanding that, as our charters of liberty spell out for us, we are all created equally.

Yeah, I’m sure Obama just can’t wait to return to the days where blacks were enslaved and treated like animals. The nostalgia is really strong, you know? But poor Sarah Palin, if her family with royal ancestry had to return to a pre-Civil War society, why, they’d have to spend so much time…um… counting those slaves? I mean, that sort of management is really stressful, right?

It still blows my mind how clueless some people are.

(Via Slog)

Women should just keep their legs shut, amirite?

Republicans have gone a long time attempting to hide their motivations for being against contraceptives and abortion. But as the debates ramp up, their true colors are becoming more and more obvious. For example, take the discussion surrounding Virginia’s disgusting ultrasound bill (emphasis mine):

This week, the Virginia state Legislature passed a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound before they may have an abortion. Because the great majority of abortions occur during the first 12 weeks, that means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure, in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Since a proposed amendment to the bill—a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound—failed on 64-34 vote, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.

[...]During the floor debate on Tuesday, Del. C. Todd Gilbert announced that “in the vast majority of these cases, these [abortions] are matters of lifestyle convenience.” (He has since apologized.) Virginia Democrat Rep. David Englin, who opposes the bill, has said Gilbert’s statement “is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue,” recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be “vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant.” (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)

That’s the same logic that animates the bill’s sponsor in the House of Delegates, Del. Kathy J. Byron, who insisted this week that, “if we want to talk about invasiveness, there’s nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have.” Decoded, that means that if you are willing to submit to sex and/or an abortion, the state should be allowed to penetrate your body as well.

Santorum’s main donor puts it a little more crassly:

Appearing of MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell today, Foster Friess, the main donor to the Super PAC backing Rick Santorum’s presidential bid, dismissed the controversy surrounding President Obama’s new birth control rule by suggesting that women should just keep their legs shut. Asked if he worried that Santorum’s Puritanical views on sex and social issues could hurt the candidate in the general election, Friess offered a more home-spun family planning scheme:

FRIESS: On this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Baer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.

That’s the real reason Republicans care about restricting access to birth control and abortions. It has nothing to do with religious beliefs or concerns about the lives of cute little babies. It’s about punishing sluts.

How else can you reconcile the platforms of anti-choicers? If you truly were against abortion, you would be fighting desperately for comprehensive sex education and easy access to contraceptives – things that actually reduce abortions. If you truly thought abortion was murder, you would never make exceptions for cases of rape or incest. If you truly were concerned with women’s health, you wouldn’t use HPV statistics to scaremonger young girls about sex while simultaneously fighting against a vaccine. If you truly were pro-life, you’d want improved child care, education, and family leave instead of losing interest in someone once they pop out of the womb.

It’s simple. These people want you to catch STDs and have unwanted children, because you’re a dirty slut who deserves punishment. And they love babies so much that the punishment is babies.

The Catholic contraception kerfuffle

The Obama administration mandated that health insurers cover birth control, and the ongoing drama is being framed in respect of the repression of poor, poor Catholics. How dare the government infringe on their freedom to police women’s bodies through their religion, blah blah blah. The next time someone brings up the Catholic aspect, obliterate it with the following three points:

1. There’s no legal basis:

“At a more fundamental level, though, the HHS rule simply doesn’t violate a cognizable free exercise right. In 1990, the Supreme Court decided a case called Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990). Two men, members of the Native American Church, used peyote in their rituals. They were employed in Oregon as counselors at a private rehab clinic. Oregon outlawed peyote, with no exception for religious use. The men were subsequently fired once their drug use was discovered, and applied for unemployment benefits. The state of Oregon denied them benefits because – guess what? – they were fired for committing a crime under state law, and had committed work-related misconduct.

The case found its way to the Supreme Court, where the court set down a new rule. The standard for determining if a regulation burdened the free exercise of a religious adherent or organization was whether the law was neutral toward religion and generally applicable, lacking any pretext designed to obscure a hostility toward religious practice. The court even stated that to permit otherwise under the First Amendment “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

The author of this religion-destroying opinion? Noted Catholic Antonin Scalia.”

2. It’s not even about religion, it’s about gender:

The polling data backs this up; Catholics and non-Catholics support requiring all employers to cover insurance in roughly equal numbers. In fact, Catholics are slightly more likely to do so than the general public, mainly because evangelical Christians are suppressing the overall support numbers; only 38% of them want the mandate. What we’re seeing here is fundamentalist evangelicals and fundamentalist Catholics using ordinary Catholics as cover to push a misogynist agenda. I know, shocking, right?

But there’s another aspect to this story I want to talk about. The polling data makes this clear that there’s no conflict between Catholics and everyone else. But there are two groups that show huge divergences in the polling data on this: men and women.

“However, women were significantly more likely to favor free contraception through employee healthcare plans at 62 percent versus 47 percent of men, while 54 percent of women agreed religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should provide this coverage versus 43 percent of men.”

The religious arguments have no real effect on men’s support or non-support of it; they either think it’s a benefit or they don’t. And the majority don’t. The spread between men and women on whether or not contraception should be a covered benefit is 15 points. The non-existent spread between Catholics and non is drawing a bunch of attention, but here is the real story. The only reason this is controversial is that a majority of men oppose it.

3. Catholics freak out about birth control because it prevents pregnancy, but most women use it for other reasons:

I’m sure every religious person will change their mind about the situation after being confronted with evidence. Right?

Santorum: Obama and secularism are the path to beheading religious people

“They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no unalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do, and when you’ll do it. What’s left, in France, became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that. But if we do, and follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.”

I don’t think Santorum‘s speech really requires any commentary (Via Slog).

Romney too

It’s unfair of me to point out Santorum’s idiotic views on religious freedom when Romney said the same exact thing earlier today.

“They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.”

You keep on using that phrase “religious freedom.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

This new “religious freedom” schtick is because the Obama administration has dared to say that all hospitals – even Catholic ones – need to provide health insurance that covers contraception. And despite the Catholic outrage being utter bullshit, it looks like the Obama administration will cave. Oh joy.