Is Penis Worship at the Root of the Bogus Notion of Fetal Personhood?

Source: AlterNet

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

I’m slow sometimes, but after years of writing about abortion rights it finally occurred to me that “life begins at conception” is one more version of a multimillennial infatuation with the penis as symbol and proof that manliness is next to godliness.

On the surface, conservative Evangelical and Catholic insistence that life begins at conception appears to be aimed at elevating the status of fetus over woman. But just beneath the surface, what it elevates is the status of the penis—and anyone who has one.

What creates the wonder of a new person? Forget about the maturation of germ cells, and the nine-month labor of a woman’s body, and painstaking parental nurture. It’s a sperm, a penile projectile shot forth by the ultimate organ of demi-divinity. Sperm penetrates egg, and voila! A person! A new soul! All the extraordinary and unique value we accord to human life is created instantaneously.

Three Millennia of Penis Worship

Once noticed, the pattern is inescapable. Our ancestors thought that the penis was literally divine. Dharmic cultures worshiped it by whacking stalactites and stalagmites out of caves and air-roots off of trees and carving phallic shapes out of granite by the thousands. Abrahamic cultures took the opposite approach and insisted the penis was so precious and powerful that it couldn’t be seen, even in art, and had to be chiseled off of statues or at least covered with fig leaves.

They also insisted that a man’s magic wand could permanently transform a female from one kind of being to another, from a prized “virgin” into a worthless “whore.” In medieval Catholicism’s recipe for sexual hangups, the prior touch of a penis (or lack thereof) became the most defining aspect of a woman’s identity, economic value and moral virtue. Penis penetrates female, and voila! No longer a whole person! The same magic wand that made her valuable could also do the reverse.

Same Old, Same Old

Fundamentalists who are anchored to the Iron Age by sacred texts and patriarchal traditions still hold to this archaic view, though they may use updated terms like “licked lollypop” or “chewed gum”—and some do offer second chances through “born-again virginity.”

But at least in the West, millennials finally are catching on to how ridiculous the whole virginity thing is. As one Facebook meme put it recently, “I don’t believe in virginity. Why? Because nobody’s penis is important enough to change any part of my identity.”

The idea that a penis can permanently change a woman’s value and the idea that a penis can instantaneously create a new soul both derive from the idea that men uniquely, were made in the image of God and that the penis (circumcised, of course) is the supreme symbol of man’s divinely anointed headship. And once they are packaged together, the idea that life-begins-at-conception starts sounding as transparently male-aggrandizing and silly as the idea of virginity.

No, You Didn’t Build That

Yes, the occasional sperm does end up inside an egg rather than a towel. And yes, sperm-penetrates-egg is a necessary—if insufficientstep in person formation. But the incredible process of making a new person begins long before conception and continues long after. To the trained eye, conception is no more or less magnificent—or critical—than the creation of the egg or the sperm itself, or of the many stages of transformation that come after.

In the subconscious of a patriarchal male or religious institution intent on preserving privilege, the claim that a penis can create a new person—or better yet, a new soul, almost ex nihilo—may flow naturally and logically from man’s god-like qualities and “rightful” dominance. But from an outside vantage the men making such claims seem rather like puffed-up architects who scribble partial plans and then claim they build buildings. Nice fantasy, but in the real world both buildings and people get made one step at a time. Construction is slow and hard and takes teamwork.

Everything’s a Project

In the case of forming a new person, two bodies produce germ cells that independently hold half of a biological blueprint. If each half works well enough and they meet, then a woman’s body starts the structural engineering to determine whether the design actually works. For very good reasons, the answer usually is no; the engineering team rejects the project and dumps it into the porcelain circular file. Most embryonic humans get booted out so fast that nobody even knows they existed. If and when engineering gives the preliminary go-ahead, a woman’s whole body gears up to start building a person. Her circulatory system pumps up blood flow. Her bones and teeth transfer calcium to the construction site. Her digestive system demands enough food for two.

Not only is the process slow and costly—like any construction project, it’s dangerous. Eight hundred American women die every year from pregnancy. Around the world, it’s that many every day. Most of us survive the project, but we do endure nausea and swollen ankles and fatigue, and irreversible wear and tear. When we women choose to incubate a child, which we often do quite gladly, we do so knowing our bodies and lives will never again be the same.

So, patriarchs, love your orgasms all you like, but don’t fall for the weirdly puffed-up idea that they make babies. Penis power is solely limited to fertilizing eggs. And a fertilized egg is a fertilized egg—no less, no more.

Real Fatherhood

Silly-willy worship aside, many men deserve real credit for making children, because they take on the actual parenthood project in a deep and devoted way. Wanting to be good parents of healthy children, they wear condoms till the time is right, put their lives in order, bring home prenatal vitamins and make peanut butter sandwiches in the middle of the night.

When pregnancy ends, they endure labor vicariously (yes, vicarious pain hurts), anxiously awaiting the slimy little creature that will spill out in a puddle of blood. Labor over, they gingerly hold a sweet-smelling, flannel-wrapped burrito and look into eyes that are seeing the world for the first time and fall in love.

Back in the home they have helped to create, they wipe spit-up off shirts and go to work bleary-eyed when illness strikes and a child can’t sleep. In better times, they get down on the rug and play pretend and read stories even though maybe—just once in a while—they’d rather be playing video games or reading the Times. They understand that making something as wonderfully complex as a fully fledged, thriving person takes everything a parent can give for decades, and they give it.

Name It

Conception worship is willy worship. It diminishes fatherhood by trivializing the many other parts of themselves that men can and do bring to the process of creating a new person—heart and mind, labor and love. And it diminishes all of motherhood.

So, if you’re one of the guys who either is or intends to be a real father—please call out posers who think themselves endowed with some divine instrument that can turn an egg into a precious little person. And if you would, while you’re at it, you could do us women a favor by calling out the equally ludicrous conceit that the touch of a penis turns a female from one kind of being into another. Men don’t have magic wands in their pants—just body parts, and exaggerating the power of your dick just makes you one.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington, and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at valerietarico.com.

See:http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/penis-worship-root-bogus-notion-fetal-personhood?akid=14206.123424.iljA1A&rd=1&src=newsletter1055467&t=8

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The strange, short career of Judeo-Christianity

Source: Aeon.com

Author: Gene Zubovich

Emphasis Mine

President Barack Obama insists that the United States defines itself by civic principles rather than by religious affiliation. In an otherwise unremarkable press conference in Turkey in 2009, he said: ‘[A]lthough… we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.’ A torrent of conservative criticism followed, alleging that Obama had abandoned the country’s founding Judeo-Christian values. In recent months, most of the Republican candidates for their party’s nomination have called on the US to return to ‘the Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation’, as Senator Ted Cruz put it. Defenders of Judeo-Christianity believe that they are invoking timeless principles. In fact, Judeo-Christianity is a very recent invention.

The term ‘Judeo-Christian’ supposedly recognises the deep and ancient common heritage of Protestants, Catholics and Jews. The idea would have sent shivers down the spine of Puritans, who saw a diabolical Catholic ‘Papism’ lurking around every corner. Such a shared heritage would have been news to the authors of Pennsylvania’s 1776 Constitution, which required office-holders to ‘acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration’, and which effectively banned Jews from public office.

The phrase ‘Judeo-Christian’ first became popular in the late 1930s, when President Franklin Roosevelt began trying to mobilise Americans against Nazism. So Judeo-Christianity was actually popularised to oppose the anti-Semitism of another predominantly Christian nation. FDR’s repeated recourse to religion in public addresses set him apart from his predecessors, who preferred civic principles. So too did Roosevelt’s willingness to move beyond his own Protestantism and embrace Jews and Catholics. ‘We who have faith cannot afford to fall out among ourselves,’ he told radio listeners in 1936: ‘Religion in wide areas of the earth is being confronted with irreligion…. [Y]ou and I must reach across the lines between our creeds, clasp hands, and make common cause.’

In the 1930s, Roosevelt worked in concert with the National Council of Christians and Jews, for example, an organisation that fought popular anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism. Roosevelt and other liberal Protestants took the lead in promoting Judeo-Christianity. In the works of liberal Protestant theologians, the term Judeo-Christianity began to appear here and there without a thorough defence or justification. During the Second World War, a spirit of national unity finally made the notion of Judeo-Christianity common, as Jews and Catholics were publically welcomed as junior partners in the country’s national life.

Only following the Second World War did someone stop to try to elaborate what ‘Judeo-Christian’ might actually mean. In his book Protestant – Catholic – Jew (1955), the sociologist Will Herberg extolled the virtues of Judeo-Christianity. He argued that Judeo-Christianity stemmed from ‘the collapse of all secular securities in the historical crisis of our time [and] the quest for a recovery of authenticity’. Judeo-Christianity ‘is a religiously oriented civiccooperation of Protestants, Catholics and Jews to bring about better mutual understanding and to promote enterprises and causes of common concern, despite all differences of “faith”. [Judeo-Christianity] is thus the highest expression of religious coexistence and cooperation within the American understanding of religion.’ As Herberg saw it, Judeo-Christianity arose because secularism had failed and three vibrant faiths stepped in to fill that vacuum.

Evangelicals, meanwhile, resisted the encroaching pluralism. In 1947, and again in 1954, working with political allies, the National Association of Evangelicals introduced the Christian amendment into Congress: ‘This nation devoutly recognises the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of all nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.’ Out of step with the burgeoning postwar pluralism, the Christian amendment was not passed.

By the 1960s, when the inclusion of Catholics and Jews seemed to be on safe footing, the liberal Protestant pioneers of the term moved on to consider how a broader range of religious groups could be included in the US nation. The Harvard scholar Wilfred Cantwell Smith urged ‘all Christians to love and respect the faith of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and the others if necessary without waiting for the theologians’. Some theologians in the 1960s began going beyond religious pluralism and encouraged Protestants to embrace secularism. In the process, they left Judeo-Christianity behind.

But others, who emphasised Judeo-Christianity’s anti-secularism, rededicated themselves to the term. Herberg’s insistence in Protestant – Catholic – Jew that secular thought was bankrupt led him to align himself with the burgeoning conservative movement. He joined the conservative journal National Review in 1961 as its religion editor.

At the moment when liberal Protestants and others left Judeo-Christianity behind, fearing the tri-faith model was too narrow to capture the world’s diversity, evangelical Protestants seized on the idea of Judeo-Christianity. As they came to slowly accept the legitimacy of Jewish and Catholic faith, Judeo-Christianity became a way to withhold legitimacy from others. Abandoning their earlier commitment to a ‘Christian Nation’, evangelicals now accepted Catholics and Jews as important allies in the fight against abortion, feminism and gay rights.

In its very brief history, the concept of Judeo-Christianity has taken on several meanings. Originally it denoted a cultural and theological pluralism, meant to unite Americans against Nazism. For this reason, it was widely celebrated by liberal advocates, many of whom ignored Judeo-Christianity’s anti-secular implications, and gave little thought to their relation with Islam and other world religions. Once the implications became clear, many liberals abandoned the term.

Today, the religiously unaffiliated make up about a quarter of the US population and Muslim Americans are becoming an increasingly visible and vocal community. The notion that the US is a nation bound together by civic principles enjoys a more distinguished history than the recently coined idea of the Judeo-Christian nation. It is also obvious that the US is more than a nation of many faiths. No wonder, then, that today Judeo-Christianity has few defenders apart from members of the Christian right, who use it to undermine the legitimacy of Muslims and the rapidly growing body of religiously unaffiliated Americans. The short career of Judeo-Christianity has already lasted too long.

See: https://aeon.co/opinions/the-strange-short-career-of-judeo-christianity?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=fec6fd14ae-Daily_Newsletter_22_March_20163_21_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-fec6fd14ae-68915721

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

Why Romney’s Mormonism Has Caused No Backlash Among GOP Faithful

From: The Beast

By:Michael Medved

“It’s too early to know whether Mitt Romney will realize his dream of becoming the first Mormon president, but he has already made history by achieving a new pluralism in the Republican Party and encouraging a more inclusive focus for the religious right.

I saw that change first hand as a featured speaker at a Battleground States Talkers Tour event in Cleveland last Thursday night. The boisterous, overflow crowd of 1,700 included a prominent portion of evangelical Christians who nonetheless cheered lustily at every mention of a Mormon named Romney, a Catholic named Paul Ryan, and the Jewish nominee for U.S. Senate in Ohio: Josh Mandel, state treasurer, Marine Corps officer, and Iraq War veteran. In conversation and book signing afterward, I met Latino Catholics, black Baptists, Eastern Orthodox believers of Serbian heritage, Irish-American cops, a smattering of Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, and dozens of observant Jews.

Had Democratic partisans or pundits from the mainstream media attended this event, they would have found it jarringly incongruent with their image of the Republican base as bigoted, benighted, and born again. Contrary to common contentions that Christian conservatism promotes intolerance and a narrow-minded insistence on biblical literalism, the Romney campaign has assembled a coalition of truly impressive theological diversity.

In fact, it’s Republicans and not Democrats who this year achieved the distinction of fielding the first-ever ticket in the history of the Republic without a Protestant candidate for either president or vice president. Prior to the nomination of Romney and Ryan, in the previous 166 years of GOP history, only one other non-Protestant represented the Republicans: Congressman William Miller, running mate for the ill-fated Barry Goldwater in 1964, who was Catholic. This year, the GOP not only broke through previously formidable religious barriers, but they did so with shockingly little fuss, bother, or even questioning comment.

As recently as this April, conventional wisdom suggested that Mitt Romney’s faith would damage his candidacy, as polls showed one out of five American voters saying they could never cast ballots for a Mormon. It turns out that many of these wary citizens may have been liberals who disapprove of the conservative social positions of the LDS Church; in rallying the religious right to his cause, Romney has encountered far less difficulty than did the previous nominee, John McCain, who was raised Episcopalian but attended a Southern Baptist church. Even Texas pastor Robert Jeffress, who made headlines a year ago by denouncing Mormonism as a “cult” while pushing Gov. Rick Perry for the GOP nomination, has become an enthusiastic supporter of the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Religious conservatives have mobilized to resist changes to the status quo rather than to impose their own extremist vision of a theocratic state.

Far more significantly, the nation’s most revered and influential evangelical icon also has taken a dramatic, unprecedented role in the campaign. After meeting with Romney, 93-year-old Billy Graham told the press he would be “praying for him” and went on to place striking full-page ads in more than a dozen newspapers across the country. “As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last,” the text proclaimed beside the heroic image of Dr. Graham. “I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.” In later versions of the same ad, Graham also mentions “defending religious liberty,” another prominent theme of the Romney campaign. Though he never cites a candidate by name, Graham leaves little doubt which ticket he associates with “biblical values”—especially after the ardent endorsement of Romney by the evangelist’s son Franklin.

Even before the participation of the Grahams, Romney commanded overwhelming support from self-described white evangelicals—with polls showing he will receive up to 80 percent of their votes, outperforming McCain and approaching the levels of Ronald Reagan in his landslide reelection victory of 1984.

The question puzzling many disappointed Obama supporters would be why the supposed anti-Mormon prejudice regularly imputed to born-again believers has played so little role in this campaign.

The answer involves a basic misunderstanding of Christian conservatism by most of its critics, who fail to recognize that the rise of the religious right has been a powerful force for interdenominational unity, not for fractionalization and polarization.

Catholic clergy and lay leaders, for instance, regularly acknowledge that nothing has done more to erase anti-Catholic prejudice than the emergence of the pro-life movement after Roe v. Wade. The close cooperation of traditional Catholics and evangelical Protestants in building opposition to abortion on demand destroyed the insulting old stereotypes of hard-drinking, garlic-reeking, immigrant papists versus sweaty Bible Belt snake handlers and led both groups to new respect for one another.

By the same token, the fervent support for Israel by Christian conservatives has made them increasingly prominent in Jewish-led groups like AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and produced surging Jewish cooperation with CUFI (Christians United for Israel) and its fiery leader, pastor John Hagee. Even before Mitt Romney secured the presidential nomination, religious conservatives felt comfortable with Republican congressional leadership by the Jewish House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Catholic boss, Speaker John Boehner. Meanwhile, though evangelical Christians continue to constitute the largest single religious group within the GOP, the current five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court of the United States (John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy) all happen to be Catholics.

In a sense, the enhanced ability for faith-based conservatives to put aside their denominational differences for the sake of political goals stems from a series of challenges by the secular left and from the fastest-growing group in American religious landscapes: the “nones,” or those who claim no connection with organized faith of any sort. These unaffiliated Americans now represent between 15 percent and 20 percent of the populace. Though most of them still profess their generalized belief in God, they’ve been strongly associated with powerful movements for legalized abortion, against school prayer, objecting to religious displays at Christmastime, or the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance and, most radically, for the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex relationships.

To a great extent, religious conservatives have mobilized to resist these changes to the status quo that prevailed before the epic disruptions of the 1960s, rather than to impose their own extremist vision of a theocratic state.

For the religiously committed, the rise of secularism powerfully facilitated the cause of cooperation among fervent believers. In the Eisenhower era, nearly all Americans agreed on basic values and the beneficial impact of organized religion, embracing popular slogans like “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together” and giving top ratings to faith-based TV shows like Life Is Worth Living with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Within that consensus, interdenominational squabbling remained an affordable luxury, so that the nomination of the first successful Catholic presidential candidate in 1960 inspired far more controversy than the nomination of a Mormon this year.

In an era when people of faith of every stripe feel the force of rising doubt, disaffiliation, and militant secularism, making common cause across theological lines becomes an indispensable survival strategy.

In that spirit, the Romney campaign cites increased support from evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, while counting on reversing Barack Obama’s 2008 advantage among American Catholics as the final key to victory. Exit polls four years ago showed that 40 percent of all voters attended church or synagogue every week (or more), and another 15 percent went at least monthly. If the Republicans can continue to build their lopsided current edge with this clear majority (55 percent) of the national electorate, the final results on Nov. 6 could be far more decisive than generally anticipated.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/29/why-romney-s-mormonism-has-caused-no-backlash-among-gop-faithful.html

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

Finally, A Poll Gets the Contraception Question Right

From: RD

By: Sarah Posner

“As I’ve been discussing over the past couple of days, polls are all over the place in attempting to assess public opinion on the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act, because the questions are framed in such disparate ways. But today Public Religion Research Institute is out with a new poll that shows widespread support for the policy, based on the most lucid and accurate question on the matter.

  • PRRI asked the question this way:should employers“be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at no cost?”PRRI broke down the question for different types of employers, a methodology that gets to the heart of the various ways the opponents of birth control coverage have framed their objections. Support rises the more attenuated the relationship is with a church or house of worship: churches and other houses of worship (42%) ; religiously affiliated social service agencies (52%); privately owned small businesses (53%); religiously affiliated colleges (54%); religiously affiliated hospitals (57%); and publicly held corporations (62%).

    According to PRRI’s data, “Catholics overall are generally more supportive than the general public of the contraception coverage requirements.” The flock isn’t following the Bishops, whoyesterday pledged to continue their opposition to the policy and to what they claim are other threats to the religious liberty. The Bishops, though, have non-Catholic supporters: “White evangelical Protestants are the only religious group that opposes requiring any type of employer to provide their employees with no cost contraception coverage:”

    Insurance Mandate e1331743980662 Survey | Majority of Americans Do Not Believe Religious Liberty is Under Attack

    At the heart of the evangelical opposition, I think, is their belief that the separation of church and state means the government shouldn’t interfere with the affairs of the church, rather than the government should avoid endorsing or imposing a particular religious view. There’s evidence the Bishops believe this as well, but that hasn’t translated into a a cultural movement among Catholics that promotes this idea. (The survey also asked if separation of church and state is being threatened in America. Forty five percent of respondents said yes, while 48% said no.)

    Also, according to the poll, a majority of Americans do not believe that religious liberty is threatened in America. Still, though, 39% do believe this to be true, although only 6% of those identified the contraception mandate as the way that liberty is being threatened. That obviously doesn’t capture the full measure of opposition to the requirement, but it does shed light on how little the right-wing talking point about it has failed to rise to the hysteria some politicians obviously hoped it would.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/5798/

5 Big Lies About the Phony ‘War on Religion’

From: Alternet

By: Sarah Jaffe

Republican candidates have been traveling the country pledging to end Obama’s war.

Sounds great, except for one tiny problem—the war they’re railing about doesn’t exist. They’re not calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan or the abstract “war on terror.” The candidates claim that Obama and Democrats across the country are waging a “war on religion”– and, of course, they’re the “civilian casualties,” along with the rest of America’s white Christian majority.

Exploiting religious divides has long been one of the ways conservatives seek to win over working-class voters, whom they otherwise don’t seem to care about. Abortion, gay rights and religious education become wedge issues for politicians like Rick Santorum, who blend a kind of faux-populism with frighteningly reactionary sentiments about the rights of women and LGBT people.

That’s just it, too. The claims of “war on religion” seem to always come when a move by the administration, a court, or legislature has granted more rights and protections to those who are not straight, male and usually white. When white evangelicals and Catholics claim that Obama’s declaring a war on religion, they mean on their religion. They’re evoking the same xenophobia as the demands for the birth certificate, as the claims that Obama is a Muslim. The insinuation is that the president isn’t American, isn’t like them, and thus is to be feared, hated, or simply voted out of office.

We’ve collected five examples  of the GOP and religious-right leaders claiming their rights are being infringed when the government tells them they can no longer use their beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against others.

1. Catholic employers complain about having to provide birth control coverage with health insurance.

Republican politicians and religious-right leaders—particularly the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, known previously for its willingness to tank healthcare reform over private abortion coverage that women could purchase with their own money—are claiming, incredibly, that the Obama administration’s ruling that birth control should be covered by health insurance without a co-pay infringes on their freedom of religion.

Santorum, a Catholic, pitched a fit over the contraception rule in Colorado on the campaign trail this week, calling Obama “hostile to people of faith, particularly Christians, and specifically Catholics.”

And Mitt Romney, whose church explicitly permits birth control, nevertheless had to get in on the fun, writing an op-ed for theWashington Examinerclaiming Obama is trying to “impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.”

The Catholic bishops fought Obama’s decision to provide birth control coverage at all, and then demanded an exemption that would have given religious institutions sweeping rights to deny coverage. As Amanda Marcotte noted at RH Reality Check:

“Sensibly, the Obama administration did not grant the exception, following federal tradition of protecting the religious freedom of individual employees over claims from employers that their rights trump those of employees. You can’t cut someone’s salary because they don’t share your religious belief, after all, so why should you be able to cut their benefits?”

Not only that, but NPR reported that many Catholic hospitals and universities already do offer contraceptive coverage as part of their health insurance. And a new poll shows that a majority of Americans — and a majority of Catholics – think Catholic hospitals and universities should indeed have to offer co-pay-free birth control coverage.

So how, exactly, is this a war on religion? If anything, it’s another symptom of the war on workers—employers claiming that they have the right not to provide the same coverage mandated for other employees, because of their personal beliefs. (Note that the Catholic bishops never speak out on behalf of workers’ rights, though the Pope has spoken out for economic justice issues many times. They’re only interested in defending the rights of the boss to impose his religious beliefs on his female employees.) The only way it becomes an attack on religion is when right-wingers lie about it.

So what is a mandate for birth control becomes, in the words of Congressman Jim Jordan, “free contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.”

There’d be nothing wrong with this if it were true—abortion is in fact a legal healthcare procedure in the United States. But the fact is that it’s not even close to true – it’s just another dangerous elision between contraception—which prevents pregnancy—and abortion, which terminates an existing pregnancy.

While most pro-choicers would like to see abortion covered by health insurance, that’s simply not the case and was a big enough point of contention in the fight over healthcare reform that the bill nearly went down. The fact that the right is continuing to lie about it simply shows that they know the American public isn’t actually on their side when they tell the truth.

2. Catholic Charities shut down adoption services rather than allow same-gender couples to adopt.

The bishops aren’t just mad about contraception, though.

In an NPR story about the “war on religion,” Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, CT, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, complained that Illinois-based Catholic Charities was “forced” to shut down its adoption services because it would otherwise have had to start placing orphaned children with same-gender couples.

“…[W]e do have a constitutional right not to be discriminated against because we’re following our own convictions,” he said.

Other people’s convictions—for instance, that no child should go homeless because of antiquated prejudices—don’t seem to hold the same weight for the bishops.

A pesky Illinois state law demands that couples joined under the state’s civil union law be considered just as valid as male-female couples married by a church—and that includes being able to adopt children. Catholic Charities wanted state money to fund its services, but didn’t want to obey the state’s non-discrimination law.

Of course, the same right-wingers who call for personal responsibility for struggling Americans don’t see anything wrong with government funding for religious organizations.

Just for the record—the Obama administration continues to fund faith-based groups, with $140 million from the stimulus bill alone making its way into the coffers of religious organizations.

3. Tony Perkins whines after Air Force apologizes for promoting an explicitly Christian charity.

Oh, Tony, Tony.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, says that Obama has “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity.”

How’s that, exactly? Well, Perkins told James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, that the Air Force Academy‘s apology for promoting Operation Christmas Child, an explicitly Christian ministry, on campus, was creating such an atmosphere.

Operation Christmas Child is not just any Christian ministry, though—it’s a subsidiary of Franklin (son of Billy) Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse. And Graham? His concern for religious liberty is pretty specific, and certainly doesn’t apply to Muslims. As Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches noted, Graham thinks the Muslim Brotherhood has also infiltrated the government. (The complaint that got the Air Force Academy to apologize was filed on behalf of 132 Academy personnel, including two Muslim families.)

Graham is also a notorious birther—and that gets to the heart of these charges that Obama is opposed to religion. As noted above, the claims that Obama doesn’t respect religion are deeply connected with the claims that he is a Muslim, or that he is not an American citizen.

So let’s get this straight. When the Air Force Academy, a government entity, respects the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and refuses to endorse an explicitly evangelical Christian charity, that’s a war on religion. But if the Air Force Academy supports the charity of a man who calls Islam “a very evil and wicked religion,” it’s…protecting religious freedom?

Sorry, Tony, Franklin, James. If you want to stand up for religious freedom, you have to stand up for everyone’s religious freedom. That means even those scary Muslims.

4. Justice Department defends a teacher who claims religious discrimination after being fired from a Lutheran school.

In a case before the Supreme Court, the Obama justice department took the side of a teacher who did double duty at a Lutheran school in Michigan, teaching secular subjects and also leading students in prayer and teaching religious courses. Cheryl Perich took a medical leave for an illness, and when she was better, the school declined to take her back. She sued, claiming discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Chicago Tribune explained what happened next:

“A federal district court rejected the claim. It said that because of her religious duties, she was covered by the long-recognized ‘ministerial exception’ — which says the government may not interfere in the relationship between churches and their clergy. An appeals court agreed on the exception, but said Perich wasn’t covered because she wasn’t a minister.”

The Supreme Court heard the case, with the Justice Department arguing that Perich should be treated like any other employee—but the whole court ruled against them, saying that protecting Perich’s job was tantamount to telling the church who was qualified to be a minister.

Once again, a position that religious folks are calling anti-religious is actually a pro-worker position. Perich wasn’t claiming that she had a right to teach Lutheran children the tenets of Judaism; she claimed that she was fired from a teaching job because she had been ill. Yet (Catholic) Justice Alito compared the school being required to give her job back to forcing Catholics to allow women to become priests, saying, “under the administration’s logic…there would be no obvious reason to prevent women from suing the Catholic church for sex discrimination because it bars them from the priesthood.”

While of course the government shouldn’t tell religious organizations who they can choose as ministers, the Justice Department hardly made that case (and indeed, has been willing, as shown above, to accommodate all sorts of religious organizations). Instead, it argued that a church, no less than Wal-Mart, doesn’t get to discriminate against a worker because of a disability or illness. Wrapping attacks on workers’ rights in religious clothing doesn’t make them OK, and it certainly doesn’t make Obama guilty of disrespecting religion.

5. Obama administration refuses to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

No list of lies about religious faith and the Obama administration would be complete without the histrionics about marriage.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan (see a pattern here?), president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, claimed in September that Obama’s opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, that Clinton-era compromise which, like most Clinton-era compromises, pleased and helped no one, would “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.”

Who’s creating conflict here again?

The Defense of Marriage Act is a federal law that prevents states from having to recognize same-gender marriages granted in other states. It has very little to do with religion in the first place—because no law can force an institution of religion to carry out a marriage ceremony for any reason. Instead, the law applies to the legal institution of marriage, and means that a married couple in one state can lose all the rights and benefits of that marriage by crossing a state line.

Obama’s Justice Department declared last spring that they would no longer defend DOMA in court; over the summer, the department released a brief arguing that the law should be rejected as it is a kind of “sexual-orientation discrimination.”

The religious right doesn’t like that—but it has absolutely nothing to do with them. And just this week, the California Supreme Court agreed, noting in its ruling overturning that state’s Proposition 8 (the law banning same-gender marriage) that the law did not have “any effect on religious freedom or on parents’ rights to control their children’s education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard those liberties.”

Members of the religious right likes to claim that their opposition to gay marriage and adoption, to contraception and abortion, is a matter of deeply held moral conviction simply because it comes from religious teachings. And no one has tried to prevent them from clinging to their outdated beliefs.

However, it is also a moral belief that discrimination is wrong, that women have the right to control their own bodies and choose when they will or will not have children, that gay and lesbian couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples and should be able to be married and adopt children.

As John Fea, chair of the history department at Messiah College in Pennsylania, wrote, “Obama’s vision for America is just as moral as the vision espoused on the campaign trail by Rick Santorum. It may also be more Christian.”

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154059/5_Big_Lies_About_the_Phony_%27War_on_Religion%27/

Bishops Are Behind the ‘Let Women Die’ Act and the Push Against Birth Control–Even As They’re Under Fire for Sex Abuse Scandals

From Alternet, by Sarah Seltzer

Yet Another Example of Why Separation of religion and politics is a must!

“Last week, the House’s passage of the now-notorious H.R. 358 — also known as the “Let Women Die” bill — caused deserved outrage. But the bill’s connection to the high-ranking Catholic group that fought for its passage, even while the American church is fighting a horrific new sex abuse scandal, hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.

The new bill (which the president has vowed to veto) would essentially obliterate abortion coverage by both public and private insurers, and most egregiously get hospitals off the hook for refusing to perform abortions for women whose lives are in immediate danger. It would literally allow hospitals to let women die with impunity.

H.R. 358’s easy passage by a majority in Congress (with some defecting Democrats in the ranks) delivered another shock of sexism in a political landscape that has been assaulted by one anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-women’s health measure after another, all firing in a succession of rapid shots from statehouses across the nation as well as from DC. Helping to man the artillery is a largely disgraced Catholic hierarchy.

This momentum for misogyny has been painted as having mostly arisen from the Tea Party and the extremist evangelical megachurch Pat Robertson types. But these anti-choice forces are not alone, and they are not solely responsible: rather the (all-male, it should go without saying) Council of Catholic Bishops has aggressively, relentlessly, and successfully lobbied for many of the worst of the measures in the “War on Women.”

During the health care debates of 2009, this group was instrumental in pushing for anti-abortion language. At the time, NPR reported that Democrats found them to be “a lobbying force of unexpected influence” that had decided after budget cuts to focus their “strongest efforts” almost entirely on abortion issues rather than waste time on say, helping the poor.

Specifically, their aims have included the one-two punch of pushing for the “let women die” clauses and anti-abortion measures of H.R. 358, as well as the alarming new fight against coverage for contraception, which would deprive the overwhelming majority of the Catholic public that uses birth control with coverage for birth control.

The council has done this without being questioned by the mainstream media even in the long shadow of scandal, even though much of the American Catholic hierarchy’s capacity to treat issues of sex appropriately has been thrown into serious question by the seemingly never-ending child sex-abuse travesty.

Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check (who has been on this story for years) points out the obvious connection that many are missing. The very same week a bishop was indicted for failing to report sexual abuse in his diocese in Kansas City was the week that H.R. 358 came through Congress with heavyhanded lobbying by that very bishop’s colleagues.

Taking lewd photographs of young girls and covering it up. Raping young boys and girls and covering it up. Getting women pregnant and covering it up.There is a sustained pattern of institutionalized corruption and immorality by any measure and these men are allowed to declare themselves the moral arbiters of the most private decisions made by women and their families?

Here is the dramatic opening of the news story about the indictments in the Kansas City Diocese from the New York Times:

A bishop in the Roman Catholic Church has been indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse, the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.The indictment of the bishop, Robert W. Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by a county grand jury was announced on Friday. Each was charged with one misdemeanor count involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls as recently as this year.

Earlier in the autumn, a similar court case occurred in Philadelphia. (A monsignor, not a bishop, was the highest-ranking official there to be charged.) The major revelation during these proceedings was a secret file of sexual abuse the church kept from the public; a quietly institutionalized method of covering up crimes instead of protecting the most vulnerable.

So yes, bit by bit, there are beginning to be legal ramifications beyond shame for these coverups. But why doesn’t the stigma extend to the bishops’ lobbying efforts?

Jodi Jacobson is right. It’s been years since the systematic coverup of these kinds of cases (and far worse ones) in the Church was exposed, and yet this story shows the pattern persists. Nonetheless, instead of focusing on reform from within, Robert Finn‘s fellow bishops seem intent on womb-policing and urging elected officials to carry on a policy of disregarding women’s lives.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, wrote about why American Catholics are for the large part at odds with their clergy:

The Catholic bishops’ actions show an unhealthy obsession with sexual issues. They appear to be hell-bent on wasting real and political capital on dictating to all Americans what their sexual choices should be. In their campaign to impose their will on others, they are willing to stoop to new lows.

The arguments that the USCCB has made are not scientifically, medically or legally sound. The bishops, having failed to convince the majority of Catholics on issues related to reproductive health and sexuality, are attempting to use Congress to impose their personal beliefs on all Americans. The bishops should stop forcing their personal beliefs on others and allow women and their doctors to make healthcare decisions. It’s time for us to respect the consciences of all and support people’s right to make their own decisions about their lives and health.

If you think these kinds of laws being passed are symbolic posturing, think again. They have real-life effects. Consider the case last year of the Arizona nun who was excommunicated from the church after approving one of the life-saving abortions being targeted by H.R. 358.

Last November, a 27-year-old woman was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, and she was gravely ill. According to a hospital document, she had “right heart failure,” and her doctors told her that if she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of mortality was “close to 100 percent.”

The patient, who was too ill to be moved to the operating room much less another hospital, agreed to an abortion. But there was a complication: She was at a Catholic hospital.

The hospital officials knew that church doctrine would have them let both mother and child die. But they searched for an exception and thought they found one: “Sister Margaret McBride, who was an administrator at the hospital as well as its liaison to the diocese, gave her approval” for a lifesaving abortion. The woman survived, but the nun was excommunicated.

A nun who saved a woman’s life was excommunicated. Many of the priests implicated in sex abuse scandals — priests accused of child rape — have not been excommunicated. The church devoted time and money to the nun’s case, while sparing the priests.

And the governing bodies in charge of these decisions are walking the halls of Congress, pushing for policies that “protect life” by ruining the lives of women and children.”

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Jezebel.com and on the websites of the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. Find her atsarahmseltzer.com.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152765/bishops_are_behind_the_%27let_women_die%27_act_and_the_push_against_birth_control–even_as_they%27re_under_fire_for_sex_abuse_scandals?page=entire