That big white church on the Hill

❝ The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center. Indeed, among members of the new, 115th Congress, 91% describe themselves as Christians. This is nearly the same percentage as in the 87th Congress (1961 to 1962, the earliest years for which comparable data are available), when 95% of members were Christian.

❝ Among the 293 Republicans elected to serve in the new, 115th Congress, all but two identify as Christians; there are two Jewish Republicans – Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee – who both serve in the House. Democrats in Congress also are overwhelmingly Christian (80%), but there is more religious diversity on this side of the aisle. The 242 Democrats in Congress include 28 Jews, three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist – as well as the only member of Congress to describe herself as religiously unaffiliated, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. In addition, all 10 members of Congress who decline to state their religious affiliation are Democrats…

❝ The group that is most notably underrepresented is the religiously unaffiliated. This group – also known as religious “nones” – now accounts for 23% of the general public but just 0.2% of Congress…

❝ As with Republicans in the general public, Republican members of Congress are overwhelmingly Christian (99%). Among U.S. adults who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, 82% are Christian…

There are fewer Christian Democrats than Republicans, both among U.S. adults overall (63% of those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party are Christian) and in Congress, where eight-in-ten Democrats identify as Christians…

❝ Within Christianity, however, Congress has seen a major shift as the share of Protestants has declined, a trend mirrored in the overall decline of the U.S. Protestant population. Protestants made up fully three-quarters of the 87th Congress, compared with 56% of the current Congress. Meanwhile, Catholics, who made up 19% of the 87th Congress, now make up 31% of the body.

Like the people who voted for them, I imagine most members of Congress are probably driving today’s version of their father’s Oldsmobile, as well. Cultural lag really is a significant feature of American electoral politics.

Even more unfortunate, I can’t help but feel that our Congress-critters think of Americans as all belonging to “their” church.

Christian-owned businesses love [Christian] sharia as law

A few months before he took a toxic mix of drugs and died on a stranger’s couch, Nicklaus Ellison wrote a letter to his little sister.

He asked for Jolly Ranchers, Starburst and Silly Bandz bracelets, some of the treats permitted at the substance abuse program he attended in Florida. Then, almost as an aside, Mr. Ellison wrote about how the Christian-run program that was supposed to cure his drug and alcohol problem had instead “de-gayed” him…

But when his family sued Teen Challenge in 2012 hoping to uncover what had happened, they quickly hit a wall. When he was admitted to the program, at age 20, Mr. Ellison signed a contract that prevented him and his family from taking the Christian group to court.

Instead, his claim had to be resolved through a mediation or arbitration process that would be bound not by state or federal law, but by the Bible. “The Holy Scripture shall be the supreme authority,” the rules of the proceedings state.

For generations, religious tribunals have been used in the United States to settle family disputes and spiritual debates. But through arbitration, religion is being used to sort out secular problems like claims of financial fraud and wrongful death…

In legal circles, those cases, along with the Ellison suit, are considered seminal examples of how judges have consistently upheld religious arbitrations over secular objections…More than anything, the cases show the power of arbitration clauses. An investigation by The New York Times found that companies have used the clauses to create an alternate system of justice. Americans are being forced out of court and into arbitration for everything from botched home renovations to medical malpractice.

RTFA. It is long, detailed – and scary. For most Americans, this is a nation where secular law determined by legislation and judicial examination is the rule. For a small fundamentalist minority, religious arbitration not only provides a crutch centuries out of date – often it is an opportunity to screw the public at large who think they live in a modern nation.

Christian lawyer wants proposal on California ballot to ‘shoot the gays’

target of bigots

A California lawyer says he wants to legalize the execution of gay people, and there may be nothing the state’s attorney general can do to stop the proposal from moving forward.

Matt McLaughlin, an attorney in Huntington Beach, California, filed paperwork to bring his proposal, which would sanction the killing of gay and lesbian residents on the basis of their sexuality, before voters in November 2016.

The initiative, named the “Sodomite Suppression Act”, is awaiting further review by the office of the state attorney general, Kamala Harris, who does not appear to have the authority to block it. However, the measure is unlikely to reach voters, as the California supreme court can intervene to prevent measures that violate the state constitution from reaching the ballot.

The so-called “shoot the gays” proposal would mandate “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head, or by any other convenient method”. McLaughlin, a lawyer since 1998, declared in his proposal that it is “better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath”.

The initiative would also make it a crime to support gay rights, punishable by a $1m fine, up to 10 years in prison and expulsion from the state. It would be illegal to distribute “sodomistic propaganda” to “any person under the age of majority”. Being a “sodomite” or distributing “sodomistic propaganda” would disqualify a resident from serving in public office or public employment and from enjoying any public benefit…

This isn’t McLaughlin’s first controversial measure. In 2004, he tried to qualify an initiative…that would have added the King James Bible as a textbook in California public schools…

Aside from the fact he’s a scumbag of the first order, it could be interesting to see how large the idjit vote might be for a bigot-centered proposal like this. He might outpoll the Tea Party.

The question was “Who votes for an idjit?” The answer in Colorado was – “idjits”

One of the GOP candidates swept into office Tuesday in Colorado was a former Navy chaplain who believes gays are “unhuman” and once performed an on-air exorcism of President Barack Obama.

Gordon Klingenschmitt won just under 70 percent of the vote in the state’s 15th House district, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. Republicans outnumber Democrats in that district by more than 2 to 1.

Klingenschmitt heads up the Pray in Jesus Name Project, which is designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The former chaplain hosts a daily “Pray in Jesus Name” program, where homosexuality is by far his favorite topic of discussion.

Right Wing Watch has a great round-up of Klingenschmitt’s most extreme statements. Here’s a sampling:

On gays: “They’re cooperating with the Devil and there is something unhuman inside of them.”

On “curing” a transgender teen: “The parents are encouraging that and really what the parents ought to do is take that boy to an exorcist, take that boy to a minister or at least discipline the boy, maybe give him a spanking…”

On exorcising Obama: “Father in Heaven, we pray against the domestic enemies of the Constitution, against the demon of tyranny who is using the White House occupant and that demonic spirit is oppressing us.”

Apparently, Klingenschmitt himself has realized that those extreme statements could prove problematic during his time as a legislator…”I would say it is time for people of good will on both sides of the political debate to come together to have reasonable discussions about these issues,”

Like most Republicans whose self-image is bound up in the constipated world view of the 14th Century – Klingenschmitt is a liar. Like most of his peers who ran for state and federal office in Colorado – he is a liar. Like most of his peers who ran for national office throughout the United States – he is a liar.

But, that’s OK with the folks who voted for him. They know he is a liar. They accept he is lying to the public in general to get elected and they are smug about being in on the lie. It’s all for a good cause in their tiny little brains – thoroughly absent the part that requires ethics and understands that a changing society offers a chance to learn more about the world and life.

Lying is good. Especially if it leads to Christian Sharia rule.

Thanks, Mike

Louisiana republican sets new speed record for getting caught in sleazy behavior


McAllister and some of the folks who worked to get him elected

The married U.S. congressman embroiled in controversy over kissing a woman on his Louisiana office staff may request a federal investigation into the leak of the security camera video showing the incident, his spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Republican Representative Vance McAllister, who took office last November in a special election that he won partly by promoting his Christian values, apologized on Monday after a Louisiana newspaper posted a surveillance video showing him in a passionate embrace with office scheduler Melissa Peacock, who is also married. The scandal erupted when the security video from his Monroe, Louisiana, district office was posted on the website of a local weekly newspaper, the Ouachita Citizen.

Peacock resigned from McAllister’s office on Monday, the congressman’s communications director, Jennifer Dunagin, said.

If you believe.

But McAllister considers the leak to be a serious breach in office security and may send a letter to House Speaker requesting an official investigation into the matter by the FBI, Dunagin said…

The Ouachita Citizen, which boasts a paid weekly circulation of just 5,200 copies, said it had obtained the video from an “anonymous source.” The grainy low-light footage was captured by a handheld camera pointed at a computer monitor showing multiple security camera images throughout the small office building…

The Monroe, Louisiana News-Star…quoted McAllister’s chief of staff, Adam Terry, as saying that a staffer had denied providing the video to the newspaper…

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he was glad McAllister had apologized for the incident, but declined to say whether McAllister should resign when asked by reporters…

Peacock and her husband, Heath Peacock, have longstanding ties to McAllister, each contributing $5,200 to his election campaign, according to Federal Elections Commission disclosure forms. Heath Peacock and McAllister had previously worked together at Mustang Engineering, an oil and gas pipeline and services company.

CNN quoted Heath Peacock on Tuesday as saying that he was “devastated” by the incident and blamed McAllister for ruining his marriage.

“He has wrecked my life,” Peacock told CNN. “We’re headed for divorce.”

Eric Cantor burbled a few remarks about the high standards in our Congress. I’m not certain if he’s talking about public record-keeping or what. He certainly can’t be talking about ethics or dedication to service for Americans.

Regular readers recall my dicho about “Republicans would have invented hypocrisy if Christians hadn’t beaten them to it”. Congressman McAllister gets an extra pat on the behind for catching both sides of the ethic.

Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy

A Pakistani Christian man has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, in a case which sparked fierce rioting in the eastern city of Lahore last March.

Sawan Masih was convicted of using derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in a row with a Muslim friend.

Hundreds of Muslims attacked the city’s Christian Joseph colony, torching homes, when the allegations surfaced.

Allegations of blasphemy against Islam are taken very seriously in Pakistan, where 97% of the population are Muslim.

Several recent cases have prompted international concern about the application of blasphemy laws.

Sawan Masih’s lawyer said a judge announced the verdict during a hearing at the jail where the trial has been held, amid fears for his client’s safety if he attended court.

The 26-year-old Masih, who is a father of three, has consistently maintained his innocence during the year-long trial…

Critics argue that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores and that members of minority groups are also unfairly targeted.

Muslims constitute a majority of those prosecuted, followed by the minority Ahmadi community.

Any expectation of fairness in the use of a patently absurd law is misplaced. Not that I expect anything more from sectarian zealots. No matter which continent.

Flat-earthers who consider science untouchable and secular law untenable are stuck into definitions of culture that hasn’t changed since the Stone Age.

Pennsylvania man gets jail time – beat wife for disobedience

castoutdemons
Probably not so smiley on the way to jail

A Pennsylvania judge has sentenced a man to prison for beating his wife to discipline her for “disobedience”…Dan Kirby Kopp, 45, of Ephrata, Pa., was convicted Tuesday. Lancaster County Court Judge Dennis Reinaker sentenced Kopp to 1-to-23 months in prison, and to pay a $500 fine for beating his wife…

Investigators said Kopp beat his now-estranged wife in front of their children for failing to call him “sir” in the presence of their children.

Citing court documents, the report said Kopp routinely used a paddle or his hand, took his wife over his knee, and once told his wife he would “cast demons out of her.”

The victim, whose name was not reported, reported the abuse in October 2012, telling police her husband beat her as a “means of disciplining her for disobedience to him for undermining his parenting.”

She showed investigators a cellphone video recording of a September 2012 incident in which he beat her with a paddle for not saying, “Yes, sir.”

Any Good Christian preachers speaking out against this demeaning, woman-hating behavior? Or does forgiveness prevail over helping this poor woman?

Republicans should stop whining about Roe v. Wade

gopwomen

It’s hard to get 70 percent of Americans to agree on much of anything these days. But, for the first time, one of those things is Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

According to a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, released on the law’s 40th anniversary Tuesday, fully seven in 10 Americans say they would oppose the overturning of the Supreme Court decision. And perhaps more remarkably, 57 percent say they “feel strongly” that it should not be overturned…

The poll also shows for the first time that a majority of Americans (54 percent) support abortion rights. And a new Pew Research Center poll largely confirms those findings, showing 63 percent of Americans oppose overturning Roe, while 29 percent would like to see it scrapped. Even Republicans are split down the middle, with 48 percent opposed to overturning Roe and 46 percent who support overturning it…

The trend line is clear: Americans are becoming more accepting of abortion rights

As they are with issues like gay marriage and illegal immigration, though, Republicans are now caught between their base and the general public.

While much of the GOP base remains firmly anti-abortion rights and those most passionate conservatives would like to see Roe overturned, Republicans need to recognize more broadly that overturning Roe is no longer sound politics.

What’s more, the party has already begun to lose ground on issues concerning women’s rights. Over the last two years, Republicans have struggled with issues like contraception, rape and “transvaginal ultrasounds” — so much so that a pollster at last weekend’s Republican retreat went so far as to urge lawmakers to stop talking about rape altogether.

Abortion isn’t as fraught an issue as the ones listed above, but it’s still a wedge issue that is increasingly working against the GOP and risks turning off female voters, who stuck by President Obama more than a lot of other demographics in 2012.

Republicans have two years – or less – to turn away from becoming America’s Christian Confederate Party. They can continue on the course of strict reliance on Christian fundamentalist conservatives with all the baggage that brings: homophobia, racism, subjugating women, opposing public secular education, fear and hatred of science, the endless mobius loopiness of 14th Century ideology and superstition. If they fail – and I think they will – they are likely to take their place as a permanent minority party.

If and when that happens, the clot of leftover Birchers, Cold Warriors, Confederacy fans, chickenhawks and 19th Century capitalists like the Koch Brothers will shout “huzzah” – and keep it going as a mouthpiece for their dedication to the worst of dead and dying politics.

An American history freak show.

German government gets knickers bunched over deity gender

A minister in Angela Merkel’s government has sparked a pre-Christmas row among Germany’s ruling parties by suggesting God be referred to with the neutral article “das” instead of the masculine “der”.

Family Minister Kristina Schroeder made the comments when asked in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit how she explained to her young daughter the use of the masculine form for God.

“The article is not important,” she responded, adding that it was fine to use “das” instead of the traditional “der” when referring to God.

The remarks were immediately denounced by members of Schroeder’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU)…

Stefan Mueller, a CSU lawmaker, said he was “bewildered” by Schroeder’s “inappropriate” comments.

When pressed on the matter at a government news conference on Friday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert backed Schroeder.

“If you believe in God, the article is not important,” he said. “If you speak to God in a different way, the prayers are still heard.”

Cripes. Another herd of elected officials with nothing better to do, eh?

Dutch scrap archaic blasphemy law

Dutch authorities have decided to approve a motion abandoning a law under which it is a crime to insult God.

A majority of parties in parliament said the blasphemy law was no longer relevant in the 21st Century…

The legislation, introduced in the 1930s, has not been invoked in the last half century. However, it still remains illegal under Dutch law to be disrespectful to police officers or to insult Queen Beatrix, the country’s monarch…

The BBC’s Anna Holligan, in The Hague, says that there was much debate about the issue after a Dutch court ruled that the far-right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders should be allowed to criticise Islam, even if his outspoken opinions offended many Muslims.

In 2008, a coalition government decided against repealing the blasphemy law in order to maintain support from a conservative Christian political party.

But, sooner or later, even the opportunism of professional politicians will be overcome by freedom-loving voters. Eventually, people realize that most “coalitions” are arranged to share power – not principles.