Christian nationalist assault on democracy still trying to be unnoticed

In April 2018, researcher Frederick Clarkson exposed the existence of Project Blitz, a secretive Christian nationalist “bill mill” operating below the radar to shape and enact legislation in dozens of states, using a network of state “prayer caucuses,” many of which had unsuspecting Democratic members. Its plan was to start with innocent-seeming bills, such as requiring public schools to display the national motto, “In God We Trust,” and to culminate with laying the foundations for a “Handmaid’s Tale”-style theocracy, enshrining bigotry in law under the guise of “religious freedom.”

Salon was the first to report and build on Clarkson’s findings, as well as subsequent progressive organizing efforts which eventually drove Project Blitz back underground, following a high-profile USA Today exposé (Salon follow-up here.) Now, three years later, Clarkson, a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, has unearthed the playbooks Project Blitz has used since going dark, and discussed their implications with Salon in an exclusive interview.

Clarkson told Salon, “While most people to the left of the Christian right view the Project Blitz playbook with revulsion, I see it as a gift to democracy. The playbook and their accompanying briefings and events laid bare their intentions and their game plan.” Because of that, he continued, “We were handed a vital tool for the defense of democratic values and, arguably, the wider defense of democracy itself. The things that happened in response, I think, are underappreciated, even by some of those who should be taking great pride in their victories.”

RTFA. Explains more than a few weird happenstances in our own state of New Mexico. Already had one recent effort to have “in god we trust” emblazoned on every public building in the state. Except this ain’t the bible belt. Yet.

Turkey’s Islamist politicians retreat from anti-abortion legislation — Their counterparts in Mississippi don’t miss a beat!

“The government has backed away from initial plans to curb abortion rights,” an unnamed parliamentary source told the AFP news agency on Friday…

The legislation, initially proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), would have required all abortions to take place within the first six weeks of pregnancy, down from the 10 weeks currently allowed…Experts said the limit would have effectively outlawed abortions, since most women do not realise they are pregnant until around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Thousands of women and activists have staged demonstrations throughout the country in protest of the planned measures, while Turkish media published surveys that indicated curbing abortion rights would cause the AKP to lose votes, even among its female supporters…

Nurettin Canikli, an influential AKP lawmaker, also said the ruling party would not introduce a bill to curb abortion rights…”The abortion issue is off the agenda. No legislation will be introduced to the parliament on this issue,” he told the Turkish daily Hurriyet…

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had sparked outrage last month when he likened abortion to murder…Erdogan has frequently called for women to have at least three children, and his party intended to criminalise adultery in 2004 but backed off under pressure from the European Union.

Erdogan has tried to convince the European Union he’s only pandering to radical Islam to keep sufficient votes to stay in office. A concept the average Western politician is well familiar with. I think that’s just more of his lies – and he’s thoroughly committed to moving his nation further and further away from secular democracy into the bowels of theocracy.

At least as long as he can remain in charge.


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Teen pregnancy drops sharply — getting children pregnant still most popular in the Bible Belt

Richard Florida on this fascinating map, produced by the Centers for Disease Control:

There is good news: teen births are at their lowest level in more than 60 years (10 percent lower than 2009, 43 percent below their peak in 1970). But the geographic variation is substantial. Teen birthrates are highest in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, and New Mexico,. There are slightly lower concentrations in the neighboring states of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arizona. New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have the lowest rates of teen births.

The full CDC report details drops in most states (excepting North Dakota, West Virginia and Montana), with the sharpest drops in Nevada, Arizona, California, Florida and Rhode Island. Elsewhere the impregnations continue apace, with Kansas, Michigan and Arkansas posting less dramatic declines.

The teen pregnancy rate is highest in Mississipi and lowest in New Hampshire, the CDC said.

Don’tcha love Family Values? Hypocrites who specialize in lying the most apparently have a thing for perpetuating babies having babies.

That’s the way it is here in New Mexico. We ain’t too far behind Mississippi’s record teen pregnancies and we don’t just have Kool Aid Party crap running through the airwaves. We have the one and only Roman Catholic Church explaining true morality to us all. As long as we skip science and good sense.

Why do Bible Belt Christians divorce more than anyone else?

While the Bible Belt is known for its devotion to traditional values, Southerners don’t do so well on one key family value: They are more likely to get divorced than people living in the Northeast.

Southern men and women had higher rates of divorce in 2009 than their counterparts in other parts of the country: 10.2 per 1,000 for men and 11.1 per 1,000 for women, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday.

By comparison, men and women in the Northeast had the lowest rates of divorce, 7.2 and 7.5 per 1,000, which is also lower than the national divorce rate of 9.2 for men and 9.7 for women…

Youth and lack of education can lead to higher divorce rates, said D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer with the Pew Research Center..”There tend to be higher divorce rates in states where women marry young,” Cohn said. “Education also may play a role. In general, less educated women marry at younger ages than college-educated women, and less educated couples have higher divorce rates.”

Values about premarital sex associated with the Bible Belt and rural America may be encouraging people to marry early, at ages when they are likely to have less education and less income to support a long-lasting marriage, according to Naomi Cahn, law professor at The George Washington University Law School…”There’s a moral crisis in red states that’s produced by higher divorce rates and the disparity between parental values and behavior of young adults,” said Cahn. “There is enormous tension between moral values and actual practices…”

“The very fact that people feel less pressure to get married (in the Northeast) means they can be more selective about who they marry and take their time, ” Coontz said. “They don’t have to rush into it to please parents or avoid stigma of premarital sex…”

Meanwhile, divorce still pushes more women into poverty than men and affects their children, since children are still more likely to live with their mothers than their fathers, according to the same U.S. Census report.

Bible Belt and fundamentalist Christians have a built-in acceptance for hypocrisy. Lying about ethical standards – building rationales acceptable to your peers to justify just about anything is part of the whole equation of being “forgiven”. You can build your life on superstition and guesswork – and watch it fall apart – because you have someone waiting for you, next Sunday, who will tell you, “It’s OK. You gave it a try. God loves you anyway.”

Even if you don’t make your child support payments.

Sermon in the Dutch bible belt: “Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get”

The Rev Klaas Hendrikse can offer his congregation little hope of life after death, and he’s not the sort of man to sugar the pill.

An imposing figure in black robes and white clerical collar, Mr Hendrikse presides over the Sunday service at the Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland.

It is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN), and the service is conventional enough, with hymns, readings from the Bible, and the Lord’s Prayer. But the message from Mr Hendrikse’s sermon seems bleak – “Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get”.

“Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death,” Mr Hendrikse says. “No, for me our life, our task, is before death.”

Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing

Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.

His book Believing in a Non-Existent God led to calls from more traditionalist Christians for him to be removed. However, a special church meeting decided his views were too widely shared among church thinkers for him to be singled out.

A study by the Free University of Amsterdam found that one-in-six clergy in the PKN and six other smaller denominations was either agnostic or atheist.

The Rev Kirsten Slattenaar, Exodus Church’s regular priest, also rejects the idea – widely considered central to Christianity – that Jesus was divine as well as human.

“I think ‘Son of God’ is a kind of title,” she says. “I don’t think he was a god or a half god. I think he was a man, but he was a special man because he was very good in living from out of love, from out of the spirit of God he found inside himself…”

Professor Hijme Stoeffels of the Free University in Amsterdam says it is in such concepts as love that people base their diffuse ideas of religion.

RTFA. Long, detailed, interesting to anyone who cares about an ethical, growing society.

Of course, being about open-minded Christians, I imagine the response in our own bible belt will be the calling down of fire and brimstone upon the heads of these Christians who dare to differ with the past.

Bible Belt copper puts woman on trial for truck testicles

The police chief of a small South Carolina town will ask a jury to decide if a woman broke the state’s obscenity laws by driving a pickup truck with plastic testicles hanging from the back.

Bonneau Police Chief Franco Fuda ticketed Virginia Tice, 65, in early July at a local convenience store after spying the adornment dangling from her truck.

South Carolina law considers a bumper sticker, decal or device indecent when it describes, in an offensive way as determined by contemporary community standards, “sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body…”

The Charleston law firm Savage & Savage will represent Tice for free, attorney Scott Bischoff said. The trial had been scheduled for next week but was delayed because the defendant will be out of town.

“She’s such a sweet lady and she just says ‘I don’t want to pay the fine.’ We’ll let a jury decide whether this is really criminal behavior. I don’t want to take away from the importance of free speech, but it’s really comical,” he said…

Fuda said if the fake testicles were a free speech issue, “I don’t know what they would be trying to express.”

I think what they’re trying to say is that a certain segment of the American population has the sense of humor of a horse’s ass.

The fact remains it isn’t up to the local commissar in blue to decide what your free speech is saying or laughing about. You have the right to decide, think and speak – or laugh!

Senate passes gay marriage bill – No, not our Senate!

Viva Argentina!
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Argentina has become the first Latin American country to let gay couples marry and adopt children, defying Catholic opposition to join the ranks of a few mostly European nations with similar laws.

Argentina’s Senate passed a gay marriage law early on Thursday following more than 14 hours of charged debate, as hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the Congress in near-freezing temperatures. Senators voted 33-27 for the proposal, with three abstentions.

“We’re now a fairer, more democratic society. This is something we should all celebrate,” Maria Rachid, a leading gay rights activist, said as supporters of the law hugged each other and jumped up and down after the vote.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez supports gay marriage on human rights grounds and is expected to sign the law after her return from a state visit to China. The proposal cleared Argentina’s lower house in May…

A nominally Roman Catholic country, Argentina is now at the vanguard of gay rights in the region

“Just like with divorce, women’s right to vote and civil marriage, with the passage of time we’ll be able to appreciate the benefits of this law,” Senator Eugenio Artaza told local television.

The nation where I live still bans my gay friends from sharing the simplest of civil rights – marriage. As does the state – New Mexico.

Politicians of every cowardly cast lump themselves together in fear of religious backlash [and, perhaps, campaign funds] – abdicating responsibility and leadership on an issue that should only exist between those who love each other and wish to codify that state.

One more instance of religion interfering with government in defiance of our constitution.

Nutball Robertson says Haiti earthquake is divine retribution

The Rev. Pat Robertson is offering his own absurd explanation for why a quake hit Haiti: Many years ago, the island’s people “swore a pact to the devil.”

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it,” the controversial televangelist said during an interview Wednesday on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“They were under the heel of the French…and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.'”

Robertson continued: “True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other…”

“[Haitians] need to have a great turning to God, and out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come,” Robertson said.

One more turn of the screw – hopefully prompting religious folk who might still keep a portion of their brain in touch with reality to turn further away from this hustler.

Who speaks for America’s Jews?

Members of Congress signed up by the score when they were invited to this weekend’s “pro-Israel” conference. But then the faxes and emails started to roll in, denouncing the organisers as “Jewish Stalinists”, the “surrender lobby” and terrorist sympathisers.

Some members of Congress scuttled for cover, admitting they had little idea what the organisation behind the conference – an upstart Washington lobby group called J Street, which wants to turn US policy on Israel on its head – stands for…

They predicted that J Street and those who launched it – Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Daniel Levy, a former adviser to Israeli cabinet ministers and one of the authors of the Geneva peace initiative – would be swiftly marginalised as a niche group backed by obscure peaceniks with little influence.

But the organisation opens its first national conference in Washington…with a stamp of legitimacy from a White House that is clearly sympathetic to its view. General James Jones, Barack Obama’s national security adviser and one of his point men on Israel, is to make a keynote speech. About 140 members of Congress have pledged their support, even after others backed away, and former Israeli cabinet ministers and generals will be in attendance…

The Israeli ambassador has refused to attend the conference, while the traditional pro-Israel lobby has accused J Street of being “obsequious to terrorists and hostile to Israel” and a “disreputable pseudo-pro-Israel organisation”…

But in recent years, Aipac, the ZOA and other groups have drawn closer to the hard right in America, particularly the neocons and Christian evangelical organisations, as the conflict in Israel is framed largely in the context of terrorism while hardline governments pay little more than lip service to peace and a Palestinian state.

Levy says J Street was born out of a belief that many American Jews are now alienated from those who claim to speak in their name.

RTFA. Long article with much detail. Nothing I haven’t known or witnessed for years as a civil rights activist, as an activist for peace.

But, the average American voter is as ignorant of the divisions within the Jewish community as is Congress. And whoever lobbies the latter with enough bucks and promises of votes – is good enough as far as Congress is concerned.