Why the Christian Right Is Obsessed With the Collapse of Civilization

article-2386882-1B330734000005DC-507_634x720-630x715Source: Alter Net

(In a few words: ” The culture of white conservative Christians is Not the culture of America”.)

Author: Amanda Marcotte

“Most of us are so familiar with the cluster of issues that compel the religious right—opposition to gay marriage and abortion, hostility to the separation of church and state, hostility to modernity—that we don’t often think about the underlying theme holding these disparate obsessions together. It might even be tempting to believe there isn’t a unifying theme, except for the fact that conservatives themselves often allude to it: “civilization collapse.”

Over and over again, right-wingers warn that all the things they hate, from pro-gay Broadway shows to immigration to multiculturalism, are not just signs of an evolving American society, but portend the actual end of it. The Roman Empire is often darkly alluded to, and you get the impression many on the right think Rome burned up and descended into anarchy and darkness. (Not quite.) But really, what all these fantasies of cities burning down and impending war and destruction are expressing is a belief that the culture of white conservative Christians is the culture of America. So it follows that if they aren’t the dominant class in the United States, then America isn’t, in their opinion, really America anymore.

Once you key into this, understanding why certain social changes alarm the religious right becomes simple to see. Hostility to abortion, contraception and gay rights stems directly from a belief that everyone should hold their rigid views on gender roles—women are supposed to be housewives and mothers from a young age and men are supposed to be the heads of their families. School prayer, creationism and claims of a “war on Christmas” stem from a belief that government and society at large should issue constant reminders that their version of Christianity is the “official” culture and religion of America.

It’s hard to underestimate how much of a crisis moment the election of Barack Obama for president was for the religious right because of this. And his re-election, of course, which showed that his presidency was not a fluke. Even before Obama was elected, the possibility that a black man with a “multicultural” background was such a massive confirmation of their worst fear—that they are not, actually, the dominant class in America–that the campaign against Obama became overwhelmed completely by this fear. The media frenzy over the minister in Obama’s church was about racial anxieties, but it was telling that it was his church that was the focal point of the attack. The stories were practically tailor-made to signal to conservative Christians that Obama was not one of them.

Sarah Palin’s campaign as the running mate to John McCain made right-wing fears even more explicit. On the trail, she notoriously described conservative, white, Christian-heavy America with these words: “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.” McCain’s campaign tried lamely to spin it, but the subtext was text now. The Christian right believes their culture is the only legitimate American culture, and the election of Barack Obama was a major threat to it.

Birtherism, a conspiracy theory movement that posits Obama faked his American citizenship, is easy enough to understand in this light. It’s an expression of the belief that Obama cannot be a legitimate president, because, in white Christian right eyes, they are the only legitimate Americans. So how can someone who isn’t one of them be president?

That’s why the election of Obama has triggered an all-out response from the Christian right. If they seem more enraged and active in recent years, especially with regards to attacks on abortion rights, it’s because they really are afraid they’re losing their grip on American culture and are casting around wildly for a way to regain what they perceive as lost dominance.

Of course, the belief that they ever were the dominant group in America was always an illusion. It was an illusion when Jerry Falwell started the Moral Majority in 1979. The name obviously indicates a belief that white Christian conservatives are the “majority,” but even then, it had a protest-too-much feel to it. While most Americans, then and now, are nominally Christian, most of them do not belong to one of the fundamentalist groups—including the subset of Catholics who are in bed, politically, with fundamentalist Protestants—that make up the religious right. But it was easier for the Christian right to delude themselves into thinking they spoke for the nation in an era when white men who identify as Christian were nearly all the power players in politics and when the percentage of Americans who identified as non-religious was relatively low.

Nowadays, nearly one in four Americans is not even labeled a Christian, and non-religious people are a rapidly growing minority. More importantly, it’s much harder for members of the religious right to ignore evidence that they simply aren’t the representatives of “real” America and that real America is actually quite a diverse and socially liberal place. Contraception use and premarital sex are nearly universal, the pop charts that used to be mostly white and male are sexually and racially diverse, gay people are rapidly approaching equality, and no matter how hard they try, most Americans just don’t think there’s anything offensive about greeting someone with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Oh yeah, and we have a black president who doesn’t seem to be bothered that his wife used to be his mentor.

If you ever want an explanation for why some Republicans have grown downright giddy at the prospect of shutting down the federal government, this helps explain why. It’s not a coincidence that some of the biggest Bible-thumpers in Congress are those who are most supportive of finding some way to shut down the government. If you believe America isn’t really America unless the Christian right runs it, it’s not a short leap to look to destroying the system altogether. “If we can’t have it, no one can,” seems to be the guiding principle behind the push to shut down the federal government. They like to frame their claims that America will collapse if they aren’t in charge as warnings. But really, a better word for what they’re doing is “threats.””

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-christian-right-obsessed-collapse-civilization?akid=11274.123424.uMsmoE&rd=1&src=newsletter936195&t=3

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Evangelical Groups Claim IRS Practicing ‘Viewpoint Discrimination’

Source: National Memo

Author: Sarah Posner

“Even before the ink was dry on the Treasury Department Inspector General’s report on the IRS, Franklin Graham, son of evangelical icon Billy Graham, wrote a letter to President Obama, demanding that the president “take some immediate action to reassure Americans we are not in a new chapter of America’s history—repressive government rule.”

Graham contended he was in possession of proof of this dire scenario: Last year, he says, the IRS conducted an audit of two tax-exempt organizations he runs, Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. To Graham, this is no coincidence. “[P]rofiling by the IRS,” he lectured the president, “was not limited to conservative organizations; indeed, it extended to religious charities—Jewish and Christian—as well.”

Since Graham’s letter hit the pages of Politico on Tuesday, a number of religious right organizations and individuals have claimed that the IRS targeted them for audits, held up their tax-exempt applications, or subjected them to intrusive questioning, all of which they claim amounts to orchestrated anti-Christian bias.

In Graham’s case, though, the IRS was doing exactly what it is supposed to do. His ministries, both 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, are barred from attempting to influence the outcome of elections, the precise activity for which Graham admits the agency audited them.

Graham’s situation is “quite a different kettle of fish” than the IRS review of the Tea Party 501(c)(4) applications, said Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Unlike 501(c)(4) organizations, which are allowed to devote less than 50% of their activities to influencing political campaigns, there is an absolute ban on electoral campaign activity by 501(c)(3) organizations.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, for example, has advised its followers to support only “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.” That, along with the elder Graham’s promise to Mitt Romney to “do all I can to help you,” were attempts to influence the outcome of the election, said Boston.

Boston said he was actually “surprised” to read Graham’s claim that the IRS had audited his ministries “because we have reported a number of houses of worship for clearer cases of politicking,” with no apparent action by the IRS.

If a 501(c)(3) organization engages in politicking, said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President for Policy and Program at People for the American Way, “it is incumbent upon the IRS to do these investigations.” It has to “ask these questions,” but it “can’t single out a particular group because of their political views, ideology, or religious beliefs.” Any audit of the Graham group alone “doesn’t prove anything” about IRS bias against conservative groups, said Baker.

Observers on both sides of church-state separation issues say such investigations stalled after a 2009 federal court ruling ordering the agency to promulgate regulations under a statute that requires audits of churches be authorized by an “appropriate high-level Treasury official.” The IRS reportedly suspended all church audits until the adoption of rules to comply with the court ruling.

Opponents of the rule against church electioneering hope to provoke the IRS into conducting audits in order to generate a case to mount a Constitutional challenge to the rule.

Greg Scott, Senior Director of Media Relations at the Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious-right group that organizes Pulpit Freedom Sunday, during which pastors flaunt the rule in their pulpits, said that one church, Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minnesota, “was investigated briefly, but [the] file was closed due to what the IRS called a ‘procedural issue.’”

“Otherwise,” Scott said, “crickets.”

That would suggest that, contrary to claims that the IRS is “targeting” Christian groups, it has been hamstrung from investigating cases due to a bureaucratic failure to promulgate a rule required by the court ruling.

Graham, said Boston, seems to be “deliberately trying to confuse the issue to get play in the media.”

A number of religious-right organizations have jumped on the Graham bandwagon, claiming anti-Christian repression. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family who, after his retirement, launched a new radio program, maintains that the IRS asked inappropriate questions of his Family Talk Action as it applied for 501(c)(4) status. In a statement, Dobson claimed that an IRS employee told his lawyer she didn’t think the exemption would be granted because the group is “not educational”; it presented only one view, sounded like a “partisan right-wing group,” and was “political” because it “criticized President Obama, who was a candidate.” Dobson claims this is “viewpoint discrimination.”

Dobson, whose organization was eventually granted (c)(4) status, complained, “The American people deserve better treatment from its government than this. Christian ministries and others supporting the family must not be silenced or intimidated by the IRS or other branches of the government.”

Richard Schmalbeck, professor of law at Duke University and an expert on tax-exempt organizations, said that while “it is always dangerous to reach firm conclusions as to ultimate outcomes based on only partial statements of fact received from only one party to a dispute,” the Dobson situation appeared to be a result of bureaucratic confusion. The questions Dobson’s organization received might have been “irrelevant” to a 501(c)(4) determination, but relevant to a 501(c)(3) inquiry. Perhaps, Schmalbeck said, “the agent mistakenly thought that was the case, or mistakenly applied (c)(3) tests to a (c)(4) application.”

Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law and chairman of the religious-right legal firm Liberty Counsel, also claimed the IRS “targeted” his group, the Freedom Federation. He said that in the (c)(4) application process, the IRS asked the Freedom Federation to provide copies of original content it publishes on its website; to describe its meetings and provide copies of materials distributed at them; and to provide copies of all materials distributed at an event, “including but not limited to event agendas and itineraries, promotional materials, newsletters, educational materials, flyers, and other materials.”

“What business does the IRS have asking these questions?” Staver demanded, adding, “An investigation of the IRS is necessary to stop this agency from pushing a political agenda.”

But Schmalbeck said these questions appeared designed to determine whether the organization’s activities were “primarily aimed at influencing the outcome of elections,” and therefore appeared to be appropriate.

Other religious-right organizations and individuals are offering stories that are mysteriously undetailed. Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze reported that Anne Hendershott, a conservative Catholic professor, was audited by the IRS, and asserted it was because she had been critical of left-leaning Catholic groups and of President Obama. The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage claims the fact that the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign obtained a copy of its confidential tax returns “suggests that problems at the IRS are potentially far more serious than even these latest revelations reveal,” and hinted the Obama re-election campaign had played a role. Pharmacists for Life Internationalsays two of its officers and board members were “harassed” by the IRS—but would not identify the employees or the specific nature of the alleged harassment.

Anti-choice groups are also making claims of harassment—some of which were echoed by Republican lawmakers in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing Friday.

Christian Voices for Life, an anti-choice group whose application for 501(c)(3) status was eventually approvedclaimsthe “IRS has sought to know whether the group does ‘education on both sides of the issues,’” and “whether members of the group “try to block people to [sic] enter a … medical clinic.”

Rep. Aaron Schock, an Illinois Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, entered a 150-page exhibit from Christian Voices for Life’s legal counsel, the Thomas More Society, about its and two other Thomas More clients’ treatment by the IRS. Schock maintained the documents showed “horrible instances of IRS abuse of power, political and religious bias, and repression of their Constitutional rights.”

After the hearing, the Thomas More Society issued a statement, “Congress Receives Irrefutable Evidence of IRS Harassment of Pro-Life Organizations.”

With regard to Christian Voices for Life, Schmalbeck said that if the group had applied for tax-exempt status as an educational organization, the agent’s queries about balanced views would have been appropriate, but not if it had applied as a religious organization. One of the letters sent by its lawyers to the IRS maintained the group’s focus “is on educational activities designed to promote respect for life.”

The questions about the activity outside clinics, however, appear to be aimed at a legitimate concern. “[O]rganizations that practice civil disobedience are denied exempt status,” said Schmalbeck. IRS questions about blocking access to clinics, then, were probably “aimed at making that determination, and that would be appropriate,” he said.

The current uproar over the Tea Party 501(c)(4) applications appears to feed a previously existing grievance among conservatives that the IRS is biased against them. When Christian Voices for Life obtained its tax-exempt status in 2011, the Thomas More Society’s executive director, Peter Breen, claimed, “This is not the first time that Internal Revenue Service personnel have attempted to place unconstitutional restrictions on pro-life organizations.”

This area of the law, said Schmalbeck, “is quite complicated, and even IRS agents can make mistakes that do not necessarily reflect political animus.  Still, it would be nice if they were well enough trained that they got these questions right in almost all cases.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.nationalmemo.com/evangelical-groups-claim-irs-practicing-viewpoint-discrimination/

The Higgs Boson Hangover

From: Slate

By: Lawrence Krauss

“On July 4, the physics community responded with jubilation to an announcement that had been anticipated for 50 years: the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Just as half of the country was ecstatic in 2008 when Barack Obama was first elected—supposedly heralding the end of “business as usual” in Washington—the Higgs breakthrough appeared to herald a new era in particle physics, one that could bring us closer to a possible unified theory describing all of the fundamental forces of nature.

Unfortunately, in both cases, reality has intervened. Obama discovered that being elected and governing a divided and partisan country are two different things. In physics, too, we are uncomfortably close to what many of us would consider the nightmare scenario. The initial buzz of the Higgs discovery has faded, and now we face a monstrous hangover: What happens next?

Briefly, the Higgs is an elementary particle predicted 50 years ago during the development of the standard model of particle physics. The standard model beautifully describes three of the four fundamental forces in nature and is one of the most remarkable theoretical constructions in the history of science. Specifically, the Higgs was predicted in order to provide a natural mechanism to explain what now appears to be an amazing cosmic accident: the fact that some particles have mass and others don’t. (For a thorough explanation, listen to my conversation with Blogging Heads’ Robert Wright.)

Before the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland was turned on, there were five possibilities for what might be revealed: 1) No Higgs and nothing else, 2) a Higgs with unexpected properties and nothing else, 3) lots of other stuff but no Higgs, 4) a Higgs and lots of other stuff, and 5) a single Higgs with the properties predicted in the standard model.

Many might imagine that physicists were rooting for door No. 5 because we like to be vindicated. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The discovery of the Higgs validates the prediction of the standard model, and with that much of the theoretical underpinning of modern fundamental physics and cosmology. But now we are completely baffled about the origins of the standard model itself. I, for one, was rooting for no Higgs at all, because that would have meant our fundamental ideas were on the wrong track. Nothing can be more exciting than finding that we have to start from scratch and discover a whole new reality hidden.

While the Higgs discovery was announced in July, the announcement was based on preliminary data. In Kyoto in November, the LHC teams reported on six more months’ worth of data, giving us more clues as to what we really have on our hands. If the LHC reveals the a standard model Higgs and nothing else—that is what we have seen in the data reported in Kyoto—we will confront some major problems. That would mean we have no empirical clues as to what theoretical ideas we should next explore in hopes of answering long-standing questions, including perhaps what caused the Big Bang itself. We won’t know where to focus next. Will the next great discovery be just around the corner, to be made at a successor machine in Geneva or elsewhere? Or do we have to build an implausibly large accelerator perhaps the size of the solar system?

It was hard enough to convince the governments of the world to spend money pushing the edges of knowledge even when we had a pretty good idea what we were looking for, as was the case with the Higgs. In the current world, with shrinking budgets for everything (except maybe weapons and debt repayments), it is hard to imagine any government willing to fund the next generation of research when the outcome may be only that we need to work harder still and pay yet more money to uncover the secrets of the universe.

Indeed, because of the unfortunate way in which we fund big science projects in this country, it is almost impossible to preserve funding for long-term, large-scale projects that are relatively esoteric. For example, the Superconducting Supercollider, which was being built in Texas in the 1980s and early ’90s and which would have been a much grander and more powerful machine than the LHC, was killed, even though it had been approved by three consecutive presidents in their budgets.

One is virtually guaranteed to have some kind of economic recession every decade or two, and if a grand science endeavor takes that long to complete, it is easy pickings for a Congress intent on cutting budgets without offending constituencies with influential lobbyists. Scientists, you may be surprised to learn, are not power players in Washington. We don’t vote as a block, and in economic hard times, it is pretty challenging to convince people to fund projects that don’t promise direct technological spinoffs but rather might answer fundamental questions about the universe. Over much of the last decade in this country, the funding of particle physics, for example, has not even kept up with inflation. This, in spite of the fact that perhaps one-half of the current U.S. GDP might be due to investments in curiosity-driven fundamental research a generation or two ago.

It is too early to settle on a tale of doom and gloom, just as it is not yet time to give up on the hope of Obama changing the status quo in Washington. The LHC will run for several more years, and there is still a good chance that it will uncover new clues that can guide us. But fortune favors the prepared mind, and that sometimes means preparing for the worst.

This article arises from Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, visit the Future Tense blog and the Future Tense home page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

emphasis mine

see: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/01/the_higgs_boson_was_found_now_what.html

Election Blurring of Church, State Separation Draws Complaints

From:Reuters/RSN

By:Mary Wisniewski, Reuters

Emphasis Mine:

“Political watchdog and secularist groups are asking the U.S. government to investigate whether Catholic bishops and a Christian evangelical group headed by preacher Billy Graham should lose tax breaks for telling followers how to vote in this year’s election.

Under constitutional protections of free speech and separation of church and state, churches are free to speak on any issue. But they risk losing tax breaks worth $145 billion in the past decade if they violate Internal Revenue Service rules by promoting or opposing any particular candidate. Other non-profits also have special tax status.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a political watchdog group, in its complaint to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, cited reports of individual bishops “abusing their positions to advocate against the election of President Barack Obama.”

The group’s executive director, Melanie Sloan, said some bishops went too far by saying a vote for Democrats would mean going to hell. “I don’t think the Catholic bishops should be intimidating parishioners to advocate for any particular candidate,” said Sloan.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation complained to the IRS about possible illegal political campaign intervention by Wisconsin Catholic bishops and the Charlotte, North Carolina-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

IRS spokesman Dean Patterson declined to comment on the complaints or on whether there was any investigation. “Federal law prohibits the IRS from discussing specific taxpayers or situations,” Patterson said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, through its spokeswoman Sister Mary Ann Walsh, said it would not comment on what a bishop says in his diocese.

The Billy Graham group said that its newspaper ads in publications like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today advocated votes for candidates who support “biblical values” but mentioned no candidate or party.

The ads, signed by Graham, asked voters to back candidates who support “the biblical definition of marriage between a man and woman” and who protect “the sanctity of life,” an apparent reference to the group’s opposition to abortion.

The conference of bishops waged a campaign this year against the Obama administration’s health care requirement birth control be covered by health insurance.

Church doctrine is opposed to contraception as a means of birth control. Church leaders also spoke out against same-sex marriage but were on the losing side in four states where the issue was on the ballot.

The Power Of The Pulpit

Nicholas Cafardi, a law professor at Duquesne University who worked for the Catholic diocese of Pittsburgh, said some bishops seemed particularly politically active in this election.

In Cafardi’s opinion, the bishops’ conference did not cross any tax-law lines but some individual bishops may have done so.

“The larger issue is that, irrespective of what the tax code says, churches should be sacred spaces, free of partisan politics,” said Cafardi.

Among those whose political positions created controversy in this campaign season was Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki who warned his flock in a letter of “intrinsic evils” in the Democratic platform’s support of abortion and same-sex marriage. A vote for someone who promotes such actions “places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy,” he said.

Peter Breen, executive director of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a law firm focused on Catholic issues, said the complaint against Catholic bishops was meant to frighten people of faith from challenging their political leaders, which religious people have always been called to do.

“That’s not electioneering – it’s merely making statements about public concern,” said Breen of Paprocki’s statement. “He’s not saying vote for Candidate A as opposed to Candidate B.”

Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bishop David Ricken made a statement similar to Paprocki’s in an October 24 letter to parishioners, but later said his comments “should not be misunderstood as an endorsement of any political candidates or parties.”

In an April sermon, Peoria, Illinois, Bishop Daniel Jenky said Obama, with his “radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path” to that of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and German dictator Adolf Hitler. The homily is posted on the diocese newspaper’s web site.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged the IRS in October to investigate a Texas church that advised on its marquee to “Vote for the Mormon, not the Muslim!” – a reference to Mormon Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Obama, who is not a Muslim.

Conservatives were not the only ones getting support from the pulpit. According to an October Pew Research Center report, 40 percent of Black Protestants reported hearing about presidential candidates from clergy at church, and the messages overwhelmingly favored Obama.

Americans United also complained in the 2008 election about a North Carolina Baptist group that invited Michelle Obama to speak at an event that they said appeared to be a campaign rally.

The Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said the IRS needs to start vigorously enforcing restrictions against political speech by churches.

This is extraordinarily important – one of the few remaining restrictions on campaign spending,” said Lynn. He warned that if churches are allowed to say anything they want politically and keep their tax benefits, “this would be a gigantic new loophole and would not serve the church’s interest, or the public’s.”

see:http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/14519-election-blurring-of-church-state-separation-draws-complaints

Right-Wing Religion’s War on America

From: Church and State Magazine

By: Rob Boston

“From a posh residence in the heart of New York City that has been described as a “mini-mansion,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan is perhaps the most visible representative of an American church empire of 60 million adherents and vast financial holdings.

Dolan and his fellow clergy move easily through the corridors of political power, courted by big-city mayors, governors and even presidents. In the halls of Congress, they are treated with a deference no secular lobbyist can match.

From humble origins in America, the church has risen to lofty heights marked by affluence, political influence and social respect. Yet, according to church officials, they are being increasingly persecuted, and their rights are under sustained attack.

The refrain has become commonplace: There is a “war on religion.” Faith is under assault. The administration of President Barack Obama has unleashed a bombardment on religion unlike anything ever seen.

The average American would be hard-pressed to see evidence of this “war.” Millions of people meet regularly in houses of worship. What’s more, those institutions are tax exempt. Many denominations participate in taxpayer-funded social service programs. Their clergy regularly speak out on the issues of the day. In the political arena, religious leaders are treated with great respect.

Furthermore, religious organizations often get special breaks that aren’t accorded to their secular counterparts. Houses of worship aren’t required to report their income to the Internal Revenue Service. They don’t have to apply for tax-exempt status; they receive it automatically as soon as they form. Religious entities are routinely exempted from employment laws, anti-discrimination measures and even routine health and safety inspections.

Unlike secular lobbies, religious groups that work with legislators on Capitol Hill don’t have to register with the federal government and are free from the stringent reporting requirements imposed on any group that seeks to influence legislation.

Religion in America would seem to be thriving in this “hands-off” atmosphere, as evidenced by church attendance rates, which in the United States tend to be higher than any other Western nation. So where springs this “war on religion” talk?

Twin dynamics, mutually related and interdependent, are likely at work. On one hand, some religious groups are upping their demands for even more exemptions from general laws. When these are not always extended, leaders of these groups scream about hostility toward religion and say they are being discriminated against. This catches the attention of right-wing political leaders, who toss gasoline on the rhetorical fires.

A textbook example of this occurred during the recent flap over coverage of contraceptives under the new health care reform. The law seeks to ensure a baseline of coverage for all Americans, and birth control is included. Insurance firms that contract with companies must make it available with no co-pays.

Houses of worship are exempt from this requirement. But religiously affiliated organizations, such as church-run hospitals, colleges and social service agencies, are dealt with differently. The insurance companies that serve them must make contraceptives available to the employees of these entities, but the religious agencies don’t have to pay for them directly.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) attacked this policy and insisted that it violates the church’s right of conscience. Furthermore, the hierarchy insisted that all private employers should also have the right to deny any medical coverage that conflicts with their beliefs – no matter what the religious views of their employees.

The issue quickly became mired in partisan politics. Claims of a “war on religion” expand on long-held Religious Right seasonal claims of an alleged “war on Christmas.” The assertions of yuletide hostility paid great dividends to the Religious Right. They boosted groups’ fund-raising efforts and motivated some activists to get involved in politics.

Religious Right leaders and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy are hoping for a similar payoff through their claims of a war on religion.

With the economy improving, Republicans may be on the verge of losing a powerful piece of ammunition to use against Obama. The party’s Religious Right faction is eager to push social issues to the front and center as a way of mobilizing the base.

Many political leaders are happy to parrot this line. For the time being, they’ve latched on to the birth control issue as their leading example of this alleged war.

To hear these right-wing politicians tell it, asking a religiously affiliated institution that is heavily subsidized with taxpayer funds to allow an insurance company to provide birth control to those who want it is a great violation of “religious liberty.”

In mid February, House members went so far as to hold a hearing on the matter before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, stacking it with a bevy of religious leaders who oppose the rule on contraceptives. Among them was Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who heads up a new Catholic lobbying effort on this and other social issues.

Americans United submitted testimony to the committee, but Republicans on the panel denied the Democrats’ request to hear testimony from Sandra Fluke, a student at Georgetown Law School who supports the contraceptive mandate, thus leaving the panel stacked with religious figures – mostly men – who are hostile to contraceptives. (See “No Fluke,” April 2012 Church & State.)

The idea was to create the impression that the religious community – and by extension the American public – is up in arms over the regulation. In fact, the religious figures who spoke at the event were from ultra-conservative traditions that represent just one segment of religion in America. Many religious leaders and denominations support access to contraceptives, and several polls have shown support for the Obama administration’s position hovering at around 65 percent. (Polls also show that many American Catholics disagree with the church hierarchy on this issue.)

This isn’t surprising in a country where use of contraceptives is widespread. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 98 percent of women who engage in sexual activity will use at least one artificial form of birth control at some point in their lives.

Contraceptives are also often prescribed for medical reasons, such as shrinking ovarian cysts or relieving menstrual pain. Americans respect religious liberty, but most believe it can be maintained while safeguarding access to needed medications.

Most Americans, in fact, understand the need to balance rights. Religious organizations have the right to believe and preach what they want, but their ability to rely on government to help them spread these views is necessarily limited.

In addition, valid social goals can override an overly broad definition of religious liberty. In some states, fundamentalist Christian parents have been ordered by courts to take their children to doctors. The theory is that a child’s right to live free of sickness and disease outweighs the parents’ religious liberty concerns.

In addition, religious liberty has not traditionally been construed as license to trample on the rights of others.

“People who cry moral indignation about government-mandated contraception coverage appear unwilling to concede that the exercise of their deeply held convictions might infringe on the rights of millions of people who are burdened by unplanned pregnancy or want to reduce abortion or would like to see their tax dollars committed to a different purpose,” wrote Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and administrator at Harvard College, on a Time magazine blog recently.

The courts have long recognized this need to balance rights. In the late 19th century, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down plural marriage, which was then practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon practice, the court held, was disruptive to society and had no roots in Western tradition; thus it could be banned.

In the modern era, the court devised a test whereby government could restrict religious liberty if it could demonstrate a “compelling state interest” and that it had employed the “least restrictive means” to meets its goals.

That standard was tightened even further in 1990, when the Supreme Court handed down a decision in a case known as Employment Division v. Smith. The decision, written by arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, held that government has no obligation to exempt religious entities from “neutral” laws that are “generally applicable.”

Since then, many religious groups have turned to the political process to win exemptions from the law. Generally speaking, they’ve been very successful. In a ground-breaking 2006 New York Times series, the newspaper chronicled the various exemptions from the law granted to religious organizations covering areas like immigration, land use, employment regulations, safety inspections and others.

The Times reported that since 1989, “more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions for religious groups or their adherents were tucked into Congressional legislation….” The paper noted that other breaks “have also been provided by a host of pivotal court decisions at the state and federal level, and by numerous rule changes in almost every department and agency of the executive branch.”

But religious groups, like any other special interest, don’t get everything they want. On occasions when they’ve failed, some religious organizations have been quick to complain that discrimination or a hostility toward religion did them in. In fact, political leaders might have simply concluded that certain demands of religious groups are not in the best interests of larger society.

Is there any evidence that Obama is stingier with exemptions than past administrations or that the president has it in for religious groups? Not really.

Under Obama, the “faith-based” initiative, an idea that goes back to the days of George W. Bush, has continued to flourish. Obama even stepped back from a vow he made while campaigning in 2008 to require religious groups that receive support from the taxpayer to drop discriminatory hiring policies.

Mother Jones magazine reported in February that if Obama is hostile to religion, he has an odd way of showing it.

“But all the outrage about religious freedom has overshadowed a basic truth about the Obama administration: When it comes to religious organizations and their treatment by the federal government, the Obama administration has been extremely generous,” reported Stephanie Mencimer for the magazine. “Religious groups have benefited handsomely from Obama’s stimulus package, budgets, and other policies. Under Obama, Catholic religious charities alone have received more than $650 million, according to a spokeswoman from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where much of the funding comes from.”

Obama’s Justice Department hasn’t always pleased religious conservatives, but it has hardly been hostile to faith. The department sided with the state of Arizona in defending at the Supreme Court a private school tax-credit scheme that overwhelmingly benefits religious schools, going so far as to assist with oral arguments before the justices. When a federal court struck down the National Day of Prayer as a church-state violation in 2010, the administration criticized the ruling and quickly filed an appeal.

“If Obama is ‘warring’ against religion, he’s doing it with a popgun and a rubber knife,” Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, told The Washington Times recently. “On core religious freedom issues, they have been moderate, to a fault…. It’s not much of a war.”

Other observers note that in a nation where the government’s regulatory touch over religiously affiliated institutions is exceedingly light, it’s hard to take claims of a war on religion seriously.

People who claim the government is hostile to religion are either insincere or uninformed,” said Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University. “Religious entities enjoy a host of benefits and advantages that their non-religous counterparts lack.

Green, who was legal director at Americans United during the 1990’s, added, “At the same time, many religious entities that enjoy exemptions from neutral regulations receive subsidies from the government for their operations. Rather than there being a ‘war on religion,’ the government surrendered its regulatory forces a long time ago.”

Rob Boston is senior policy analyst at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Rob, who has worked at Americans United since 1987, also serves as assistant editor of AU’s “Church & State” magazine. Rob is the author of three books: “Close Encounters with the Religious Right: Journeys into the Twilight Zone of Religion and Politics” (Prometheus Books, 2000); “The Most Dangerous Man in America? Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition” (Prometheus Books, 1996) and “Why the Religious Right Is Wrong About Separation of Church and State” (Prometheus Books, 1993; second edition, 2003).

Emphasis mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154929/right-wing_religion%27s_war_on_america?akid=8589.123424.Ne4e-e&rd=1&t=5

Why the War on Birth Control is a Political Disaster for the GOP

from: HuffPost

By: Robert Creamer

From the point of view of a partisan Democrat, I can only think of one thing to say about the Republican Party’s escalating opposition to birth control: go ahead, make our day.

You have to wonder if the political consultants advising the Republican presidential candidates have lost their minds. In the competition for ultra-right wing voters in the Republican primaries, the Romney and Santorum campaigns have completely lost sight of how their positions on birth control appear to the vast majority of Americans – and especially to women – and affect their chances in a general election.

Outside of a very narrow strata of political extremists, birth control is not a controversial subject. At some point in their lives roughly 98% of women – including 98% of Catholic women — have used birth control – either to prevent pregnancy, regulate menstrual cycles and cramps or to address other medical issues.

Last week a PPP poll reported that:

This issue could be potent in this fall’s election. Fully 58 percent of voters say they oppose Republicans in Congress trying to take away the birth control benefit that saves women hundreds of dollars a year, including 56 percent of independents.

And recent Pew Poll says only 8% of Americans believe that the use of contraceptives is “immoral.”

Democracy Corps published a polling memo last Thursday that said in part:

…one of the most important factors powering Obama’s gains against likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney has been the President’s improving numbers among unmarried women, a key pillar of the present and future Democratic coalition.

Among this group, Obama now leads Romney by 65-30 — and there’s been a net 18-point swing towards the President among them…

The issue of access to birth control is very important among this group.

In addition, the memo went on to say that the battle over contraception could be another “Terri Schiavo moment” where the knee jerk reaction of right wing culture warriors runs afoul of Americans’ desire not to have government interfering with their most private personal decisions.

And the numbers understate another important factor – intensity. Many women voters in particular feel very intensely about the birth control issue. It’s not just another issue – it’s about their own control of the most personal aspects of their lives.

Notwithstanding these facts, Mitt Romney has come out squarely in favor of the “personhood” amendment that was soundly defeated in Mississippi – probably the most conservative state in the nation. That amendment would essentially ban most forms of hormonal birth control, like the Pill and IUD, that millions of women – and their spouses – rely upon to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Santorum, in addition to his support of the “personhood” amendment, actually argues that contraception of any sort is immoral.

Both Romney and Santorum have attacked the Obama Administration’s rule that requires insurance companies to make birth control available to all women with no co-payment no matter where they work.

Their positions are so far outside the political mainstream that they might as well be on the former planet Pluto.

And these are not positions that are peripherally related to voters’ opinions of candidates for office. For many swing voters, the GOP’s extremist positions on birth control could very well be dispositive determinants of their votes next November.

First, for a large number of women voters, their positions communicate two very important things:

    • They aren’t on my side;
  • They don’t understand my life.

And the spectacle of Congressman’s Dayrl Issa’s hearing on contraception that featured six male witnesses – and not one woman – generated an iconic moment that Democrats will recycle over and over between now and the fall elections.

Most American women hear these positions and respond that the guys who control the Republican Party simply don’t get it. And many add that if men could get pregnant, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

The sense that the Republican candidates are out of touch and unable to empathize with the lives of ordinary people is especially damaging to Romney, since his lack of empathy has become something of a trademark. Just ask his late dog Seamus who was famously forced to ride on top of his car for twelve hours on a family trip.

Second, Romney’s current position on birth control reinforces the correct perception that he has no core values whatsoever – and is willing to say anything to get elected. Fact is that when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, the state had a provision virtually identical to the Federal Rule on the availability of contraceptives that he now opposes.

Santorum, on the other hand is no flip-flopper on the issue. He has been opposed to birth control his entire career – and that provides a powerful symbol of the fact that he is a right wing extremist that is completely out of step with the views of most ordinary Americans.

Third, many Americans are wondering what in the world the Republicans are doing talking about social issues like birth control, when they ought to be talking about how they intend to create jobs.

The longer they focus on birth control, the more they will highlight the fact that the while their victories in the 2010 midterms were all about popular unhappiness with the economy – the Republican majority in the House has instead focused its energy on social issues like cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood or restricting access to birth control. Normal people look at that kind of agenda and ask: “What are they thinking?”

Finally, the birth control discussion is not just damaging the two front-running presidential contenders. It is tarnishing the entire GOP brand. That will damage the chances of Republican candidates for Congress, state and local office as well.

Initially, the GOP began its jihad against birth control reasoning that the Administration’s contraception rule could prove their outrageous claim that Obama and the Democrats are conducting a “war against religion.”

Of course, someone might remind the right that it is the Democrats that are defending the core ethical principal of Christianity, Judaism, Islam – and most other major religions – to love your neighbor. In fact, President Obama intends to frame the entire Presidential campaign as a choice between a society where we look out for each other – and have each other’s back – or a society of dog eat dog selfishness where only the strongest can be successful, where the big corporations can exploit everyday Americans, and most people are left on their own to fend for themselves.

In Obama’s State of the Union, he challenged the Republicans to remember that when people go into battle – attempt to accomplish any mission – they are successful if they have each other’s backs – if they are all in this together.

Loving your neighbor is the core ethical principal of Christianity, and of other major religions. It is those who oppose that principle that are conducting the real “war against religion.”

The revised birth control rule that the President promulgated ten days ago, putting the burden to provide contraceptives on insurance companies, not employers, allowed the focus to shift away from the rights of religious institutions and back to the extreme GOP position on birth control where it belongs.

But despite the fact that even the Catholic Hospital Association supports the new compromise regulation, extremist Republicans like Issa just can’t help themselves. They can’t stop themselves from fanning the anti-birth control flames any more than a pyromaniac just can restrain his urge to start fires. And of course the reason is simple. Many members of the current GOP Congressional caucus are in fact ideological extremists. This debate calls up something primal in their inner political consciousness.

This, of course, is not true of Romney, whose political commitments are limited to his own personal success. He has no qualms whatsoever about leveraging companies with debt, bleeding them dry and laying off workers to make himself richer. And he doesn’t think twice about saying whatever he believes will help him win an election.

Problem is, that while his opposition to birth control may help him win Republican primaries, it may make him unelectable in a General Election.

Oh well, maybe after the election is done, he can replenish his coffers by suing some of his consultants for political malpractice.”

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partnersand a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.


Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-creamer/why-the-war-on-birth-cont_b_1288802.html?utm_source=Alert-blogger&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email%2BNotifications

Morning Mix: Santorum’s Crusade Heats Up

From: Care 2

By: 

“Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has apparently abandoned his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and is instead campaigning for theocrat-in-chief. Santorum continues to attack the Obama administration for its oppression of religious liberty rights by enforcing civil rights laws and on Saturday suggested the President’s faith is not “based in the Bible.”

Well, it had been a while since someone suggested that President Obama was a secret Muslim, so I guess we were due, huh?

Oh, and apparently he believes Protestants have some explaining to do also.

Arizona continues to be a hot mess. Paul Babeu, a rising Republican star and anti-immigrant Sheriff faces allegations that he threatened his undocumented immigrant boyfriend with deportation when they broke up.

And because it is impossible for Mitt Romney to get good news these days, Babeu just so happened to be leading his Arizona campaign.

Another Arizona Republican made news by telling reporters she wanted to kick Santorum “in the jimmy” after his remarks that women shouldn’t be in combat. Martha McSally is a retired Air Force colonel and combat veteran running for the seat recently vacated by Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

After a long week of attacks on women’s reproductive health who do you think gets booked for the Sunday talk shows? Men. Of course.

We can expect more of the same in the short term. There’s too much improving economic news and spring is around the corner. All Republicans have left is the culture war.

Read more: 

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-santorums-crusade-heats-up.html#ixzz1mqc8H9BY

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-santorums-crusade-heats-up.html

Bishops Condemn Birth Control Compromise

From: The Daily Beast

“Though they initially didn’t respond very loudly to President Obama’s new birth-control plan, the leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference have released a second statement declaring that the mandate for contraceptive coverage in health-care programs “unacceptable” and insisting it “must be corrected.” While Obama’s new plan doesn’t force religious-affiliated employers to pay for contraceptive coverage—insurers would still be obligated to provide the coverage for free—the bishops said the change isn’t enough. “At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.” The church leaders raised specific concerns about the enforcement for coverage of “sterilization and contraception,” which raised a “grave moral concern.””

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2012/02/11/bishops-condemn-birth-control.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Morning Mix: GOP Won’t Quit Attacking The Pill

From: Care2

By: 

President Obama’s announced “accommodation” of the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act was like chumming the waters for CPAC attendees. Mike Huckabee rallied for solidarity proclaiming “we are all Catholics now!” and Rick Santorum swung hard against science and common sense. Meanwhile Mitt Romney had white supremacists warming up the crowd before his address where he highlighted his “severe” conservatism while Governor of Massachusetts. CPAC is getting so strange I’m feeling wistful for a primary or caucus. Good thing there’s Maine!

Conservatives really believe campaigning against contraception is a winning issue, so much so they’ve already started producing ads targeting pro-choice women on the issue.

Maybe conservatives should check out the latest poll numbers if they’re so sure this is a good move. (N.B.: or Not!  I want this to be our year!)

CPAC may be the last gasp of the Gingrich campaign. The former Speaker of the House painted himself as the “anti-establishment” candidate who is “terrible” at gold.

This is what I’m talking about–CPAC exists in some kind of alternate universe where Gingrich can insist he’s a man of the people and birth control is the issue of the season.  And the sad thing is, I think it’s only going to get crazier the closer we get to the convention”

Read more: 

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-gop-wont-quit-attacking-the-pill.html#ixzz1m5hvV7H7

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-gop-wont-quit-attacking-the-pill.html

10 Ways Right-Wing Christian Groups Will Likely Shove Religion Down Your Throat This Year

From:The following piece comes from Church and State Magazine, published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

By:Simon Brown

“You don’t have to look far or wide to see signs that the Religious Right was resurgent in 2011.

From the halls of Congress, where the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly urged public schools to post “In God We Trust” displays in classrooms, to the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., that was attended by 3,000 fundamentalist Christian activists, the Religious Right’s influence loomed large.

Since 2012 is an election year, we expect the Religious Right to use this growing influence to wage an all-out war to shape the U.S. government into a body that will do its bidding.

With that in mind, here are 10 of the biggest challenges, issues and concerns that Americans United expects to confront in the coming twelve months.

Improper Involvement of Religion in the 2012 Elections

Religion has infiltrated the run-up to the 2012 elections on an unprecedented level. Virtually all of the Republican presidential candidates have spent considerable time courting votes from the Religious Right. Nearly all of the major contenders spoke at the Values Voter Summit, and most of those candidates also appeared at a forum in November focusing on “questions of the soul” that was held at a fundamentalist church in Iowa.

The Religious Right is also making a serious push to pick the Republican candidate for president. The Alliance Defense Fund held its annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” in October, an event designed to encourage churches to engage in illegal campaign intervention. Last year’s version featured a record number of participants, and activists assume that even more will join in fray in 2012. The Religious Right is also planning to hold voter turnout drives and distribute “voter guides” that pretend to be unbiased but are not.

Religious Right strategists dream of forging fundamentalist and evangelical churches into a disciplined voting bloc to effectively dominate the democratic process.

Sadly, the presidential campaign has already included expressions of religious bigotry. Influential Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress said in October that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, is a member of a cult and cited his affiliation as a reason not to support his candidacy.

Critics have also questioned President Barack Obama’s status as a Christian, charging falsely that he is a Muslim or at best an opponent of the Christian faith.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution forbids religious tests for public office, and church-state separationists regard attacks such as these as a violation of the spirit of that provision.

School Voucher Onslaught in the States and Congress

The Associated Press reported that 30 states explored voucher subsidies for religious and other private schools in 2011, and that number is expected to grow this year. These efforts have been driven by wealthy right-wing organizations, such as the Alliance for School Choice, which advocates for vouchers nationwide and is run by right-wing activist Betsy DeVos. Her organization and its allies provide vast resources and public relations expertise to push for school vouchers in many states.

DeVos has lots of help from the Religious Right and the Roman Catholic hierarchy because parochial schools and fundamentalist academies would be the primary beneficiary of “school choice” programs.

There is an especially sneaky attempt at voucher legislation underway in Florida, where a ballot initiative set to be considered in 2012 would allow the state to give taxpayer money to religious organizations.

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, president of the Americans United Board of Trustees, is a plaintiff in a case filed by AU and its allies to get the initiative off the ballot. He and others involved in the litigation say the proposed constitutional amendment misleads voters about its true effects.

Voucher bills may come up on the federal level as well. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) railroaded a voucher program for the District of Columbia through Congress in March, so it’s clear Americans United will have to carefully monitor federal legislation as well in 2012.

The Catholic Bishops’ Crusade for ‘Religious Liberty’

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a formidable new lobbying unit known as the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The committee claims to be defending religious liberty, but critics say it actually seeks to preserve taxpayer funding for church-affiliated agencies while maintaining overly broad exemptions from various laws.

A representative of this committee testified in October before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding the issue of religious liberty in America and made the case that Catholic-run organizations should be exempt from providing birth control or recognizing same-sex marriages but should still receive government contracts and funds. Republicans on the committee seemed willing to consider this position, but Democrats were very resistant to offering such broad religious exemptions and government money.

The Pew Research Center found that Catholic lobbying organizations are the most powerful among Washington religious lobbies as they comprise 19 percent of all faith lobbying. As a result, the Ad Hoc Committee will certainly be one to watch in 2012.

Improper Religious Proselytizing in Public Schools

Some elements of the Religious Right hate the public school system because it doesn’t allow them to indoctrinate students with their version of Christianity. As a result, they look to add prayer or other religious activities to the school schedule whenever they can.

In Missouri, for example, voters will face a religion amendment on the 2012 ballot that, if passed, would open the door for religious activities on any and all public property, including schools. The proposal is so open-ended that school children might have the right to refuse to do homework on religious grounds.

In Florida, a bill is advancing through the state legislature that would let local school boards allow students to offer prayers at school events. Originally the measure stated that the prayers must be non-sectarian but that language was removed. The legislation has been offered several times before and could pass, although AU’s Florida chapters, the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League all oppose the measure.

Moreover, the Religious Right is always trying to stack public school curriculum and textbooks with religious material and going on creationism crusades, which observers expect will continue in 2012.

‘Faith-Based’ Funding and Hiring Bias

Despite pleas from Americans United and allies, President Obama has yet to act on his campaign promise to make major civil rights and civil liberties improvements to the Bush “faith-based” initiative. Speaking in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2008, he said, “If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion.”

Americans United has written to Obama asking him to keep his promise, but he has yet to do so. This issue is likely to remain an ongoing concern in 2012.

Related faith-based funding controversies are also likely. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is considering a new rule allowing the use of taxpayer funds for the construction and repair of religious buildings overseas.

AU has submitted comments to USAID urging the agency to withdraw the proposed rule.

Government Promotion of Religious Symbols

In an election year, politicians often look for easy ways to show their religiosity and that has already begun at both the state and federal levels.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution in November that reaffirmed “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States and encouraged its display in public schools and other public buildings. The action came even though, as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) pointed out, no one had suggested that this is not the motto of the United States.

That same month, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), introduced a bill that would order the Secretary of the Interior to add a Franklin Delano Roosevelt prayer to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Roosevelt offered that prayer on D-Day as the United States began the military operation that liberated Europe.

Another religious display issue has arisen in Montana, where a large statue of Jesus erected by the Knights of Columbus sits on national forest land. The U.S. Forest Service had planned to remove the statue, but is facing resistance not only from the Knights but also from U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who wants to save it.

In Georgia, the state legislature will consider a bill that would require all vehicle license plates to be emblazoned with “In God We Trust” unless drivers pay extra to cover up the message.

As election season heats up this year, it is likely these types of efforts will only increase.

Attacks on Religious Minorities

The Religious Right says frequently that America is a Christian nation (despite ample evidence to the contrary), so anyone who doesn’t share that movement’s belief in its special brand of Christianity is often marginalized.

The best example of attempts by the Religious Right to marginalize minorities is anti-sharia legislation. In 2010, Oklahoma passed the so-called “Save Our State Amendment,” which bars enforcement of Islamic law. It received 70 percent of the vote.

Church-state experts note that the U.S. Constitution already bars government support for religion in most cases, so such legislation is unnecessary.

The law has been challenged in court on the grounds that it singles out Muslims for discrimination. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case in May, and it is now before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

While Oklahoma has taken one of the rashest stances in discriminating against Muslims, it is clear that many other elements of the Religious Right would like to see similar laws enforced nationwide and could make a push for that in 2012.

The Marriage War

The Religious Right, along with the Catholic hierarchy and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), are out to fashion state marriage policy so it reflects their doctrinal teachings. They are firmly committed to the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman only, and they are fighting in the courts, in the statehouses and in Congress to make sure the law continues to define marriage according to their theology.

The highest profile case is the challenge to California’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage that is working its way through the federal court system. More than 40 states have already banned same-sex marriage, but the outcome of this case could set a precedent for reversing that trend. The Supreme Court may take up the issue in 2012.

There is also a referendum in the works in North Carolina that could be on the ballot in May and would, if passed, put a ban on gay marriage into the state constitution.

A referendum banning same-sex marriage is also on the November ballot in Minnesota.

‘Personhood’ Amendments Here, There and Everywhere

Multiple states have faced attacks from groups seeking to pass “personhood” amendments, and that trend looks to continue in 2012.

The latest state to consider one of these amendments is Mississippi, which voted it down in November. Had the measure passed, it would have declared fertilized eggs to be people, made abortion illegal in virtually all instances, including cases of rape and incest, and it would have banned some forms of birth control. So broad was the language of the amendment that women who miscarried could have been subjected to criminal investigations.

Keith Mason, co-founder of Personhood USA, which is a sponsor of these amendments, has said that his organization may attempt another shot at a Mississippi ballot initiative and that his organization is pushing for “personhood” amendments on the 2012 ballots in Ohio, Florida, Montana, Oregon, California and Nevada.

Religiously Based Censorship

The Religious Right is always on the lookout for books, movies, artwork and other aspects of culture to ban based on their religious convictions.

In late 2010, Speaker John Boehner and his allies called for the removal of an exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery after they learned that it contains a short video of a crucifix with ants crawling on it, as well as works of art with sexual themes. The museum bent to Boehner’s pressure and removed the video.

In Missouri last summer, a school district banned Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Fiveand Sarah Oeckler’s Twenty Boy Summer because a local professor complained that the books advocate principles that are contrary to the Bible.

Similar Religious Right ventures are likely in 2012.

* * *

This is only a short summary of some of the issues Americans United faces in the upcoming year.

In summing up the challenges, AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said, “This could be a uniquely challenging year for Americans United, with political candidates claiming God’s endorsement and lawmakers poised to vote on all manner of unconstitutional affronts to the First Amendment.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/153657/10_ways_right-wing_christian_groups_will_likely_shove_religion_down_your_throat_this_year_?page=entire