America Is Not a Christian Nation and Never Has Been: Why Is the Right Obsessed With Pushing a Revisionist History?

Source: AlterNet

(N.B.: It might be noted that the first four of the ten commandments directly contradict the First Amendment.)

Author:  Amanda Marcotte

“It’s common to hear conservatives say things like Paul Ryan did during the campaign: “Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.” Liberals shrug most of the time when they hear such rhetoric. It sounds like an empty platitude, much like praising the troops or waving the flag, that makes audiences feel good but doesn’t actually have any real-world importance. What liberals don’t understand, however, is that what sounds like an empty platitude actually signifies an elaborate, paranoid theory on the right about sneaky liberals trying to destroy America, a theory that is being used to justify all manner of incursions against religious freedom and separation of church and state.

The Christian right theory goes something like this: Once upon a time, a bunch of deeply religious Christian men revolted against the king of England and started a new nation with a Constitution based on the Bible. Being deeply religious fundamentalist Christians, they intended for their new society to reflect Christian values and the idea that rights come from God. But then a bunch of evil liberals with a secularist agenda decided to deny that our country is a Christian nation. Insisting that rights come from the government/the social contract/rational thinking, these secularists set out to dismantle our Christian nation and replace it with an unholy secularist democracy with atheists running amok and women getting abortions and gays getting married and civilization collapse. For some reason, the theory always ends with civilization collapse. The moral of the story is that we better get right with God and agree that he totally gave us our rights before the world ends. Insert dramatic music here.

None of this actually went down that way, but there are Christian right revisionist historians who are pushing this claim hard. David Barton is a major advisor to all sorts of Christian right figures and he has long promoted the completely false theory that the Founders wanted something very close to a Christian theocracy. Indeed, in their desperation to make people believe what simply isn’t true, activists on the right have even gone so far as to try to push Barton’s lies about the Founders into public school textbooks. The notion that America’s founders believed rights come “from God” goes straight back to Barton’s making-stuff-up style of “history.”

Despite the fact that liberals rarely engage them on this point, Christian right thinkers are forever ranting on about it. Rick Santorum’s speech at the Values Voter Summit this past weekend is an excellent example of the form. He delivered an inane, inaccurate lecture about the French revolution, describing it as doomed from the get-go because the revolutionaries believed in “equality, liberty, and fraternity,” which he contrasted with the Americans who supposedly believed in “paternity,” i.e. the theory that rights come from God. Rick Santorum debated the long-dead French revolutionaries, assuming that the word “fraternity” was an attempt to avoid admitting there was a God and then blaming everything bad that happened to France since then on its secularist government.

Glenn Beck is forever fired up about the debates he has in his head with imaginary liberals about where rights come from. On a recent rant emphasizing the importance of the “rights come from God” narrative, Beck got so wound up he recommended screaming at and even pushing your kids in order to get them to agree that rights come from God.

What’s weird about all this is that, in the real world, liberals don’t really spend much, if any, time thinking about this supposedly world-shatteringly important question of where rights come from. The debates conservatives are having on this point are occurring mainly with imaginary liberals hiding in their heads (or dead French revolutionaries). If pressed, most liberals would probably agree rights stem from a combination of the social contract and a general understanding of what’s fair and not because God wrote down our rights on some stone tablet somewhere. We might even note that as much as right-wingers wish otherwise, our secular vision is what the Founders originally imagined. But for liberals, the very idea that we’re having a “debate” about this is asinine. Most of us are less worried about trying to figure out where rights come from than we are focused on defending human rights, usually from attacks from conservatives.

So why do conservative Christians care so much? Why is it so important to them to establish that rights come from God that they will make up imaginary liberals to argue the point with, rather than just move on?

Two reasons: One, this argument makes it easier for the right to actually restrict the number of rights they will accept that people have, all while pretending to be pro-rights. Two, it gives them an excuse to ignore the First Amendment and the well-established fact that the U.S. is, like France, a secular democracy and not a Christian theocracy.

What’s nice about the “rights come from God” theory is that it makes it easier to deny that new rights can be established. Since the 18th century, a lot of rights have been granted that didn’t exist back then: The right not to be enslaved, the right of all adults to vote, the right to have some time off from your job. Conservatives resisted each of these rights and continue on that path today, resisting more recently established rights, such as the right to be free from discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. By saying that God informed the Founding Fathers what rights there were, conservatives can claim that any rights that have been developed since then are illegitimate. Sure, it’s a lie, but it’s an awfully convenient one.

Second of all, by claiming that rights come from the god of fundamentalist Christians, conservatives can simply dismiss the idea that the rest of us have a right not to have their religion imposed on us. Santorum was very clear on this point, angrily railing that the secular view of rights meant that while Christians are allowed to go to church, they are prevented from imposing their views on others. Since rights come “from God,” in his view, an employer who believes in that God has a right to toy with a woman’s insurance benefits to try to stop her from using contraception. The “rights come from God” argument is used to distort the very idea of religious freedom.

In the right-wing view, “religious freedom” becomes the “right”—given to you by God—to force fundamentalist Christianity on others. That’s how they can claim it’s “religious freedom” to force their religion on others by government-sponsored prayer, teaching creationism in schools, restricting access to abortion and contraception, and banning gay marriage.

What are liberals to do? Well, as tempting as it is to take conservative bait and try to argue a secular version of where rights come from, the smarter move is to refocus the conversation. Where rights come from is less important than emphasizing how important rights are for people’s lives. The right to vote, to get an abortion, to have food on the table and access to a doctor, to marry whom you like: These aren’t rights because your version of God whispered it in your ear. We respect these rights because we know that people’s lives are made worse if they don’t have them. At the end of the day, distracting from real people’s lives is what conservatives are trying to do with all this talk about rights coming from God. Liberals shouldn’t allow that to happen.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/america-not-christian-nation-and-never-has-been-why-right-obsessed-pushing-revisionist?akid=11049.123424.sF_rCS&rd=1&src=newsletter911096&t=9

 

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7 Jaw-Droppingly Dumb Things Republicans Think About Science

Source: AlterNet

Author:Evan McMurray

It was Texas Representative Michael Burgess’ turn on the GOP’s Bullhorn of Crazy this week. “You watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” Burgess said during a congressional debate on the House Republican’s absolutely pointless bill outlawing abortions past 20 weeks. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. I mean, they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to think that they could feel pain?”

Burgess’ prenatal masturbation musing is only the tip of the melting iceberg of Republican science denial. Here are seven battier things they believe, from trees causing global warming to fetuses in your Pepsi.

1. Abortion Leads To Cancer, Birth Defects, And Everything Else

Burgess’ absurdity actually masked a very serious GOP belief. The “fetus pain” theory, which holds that fetuses begin to feel pain around 20 weeks, has been the primary logic behind a slew of recent abortion bills in state legislatures. As no reputable science backs the theory up, the GOP has been forced to find anything wearing a lab coat to make stuff up.

Abortions are rare after 21 weeks, and usually occur when a woman develops serious complications with her pregnancy. But some Republicans go so far as to think the health exemption is a cover for the abortion industry. “There’s no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing,” Joe Walsh said in 2012 on his way to losing his House seat. “With advances in science and technology, health of the mother has become a tool for abortions for any time under any reason.” (Republicans have no problem invoking science when it suits their needs.)

Burgess is hardly alone in digging up scientific-sounding nonsense to back up his abortion views. Rick Santorum was the most recent peddler of the long-discounted theory that abortions lead to breast cancer, while out in Virginia, which has a nasty strain of abortion-based delusion, a state delegate advanced the notion that abortions lead to handicaps. “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps have increased dramatically,” Bob Marshall said. “Why? Because when you abort the firstborn of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.”

2. Everything They Say About Rape

Burgess’ comment was notable for not featuring the word “rape,” the hook on which many right-wing legislators hang their crazy coats, to the point that Stephen Colbert has instituted a “Days Without a Rape Reference” segment.

This started with Todd Akin’s famous “legitimate rape” comment last fall, though the theory is still being repeated. Akin’s comment was so bad that even lawmakers who didn’t entirely agree with it were caught in its net: Richard Mourdock blew a gimme election in Indiana when he tripped himself trying to get away from Akin’s remark.

Like Burgess, Akin’s comment was important not because it was an aberration, but because it reflected a real belief on the right, one that’s beginning to infect policy. Arguing against a rape exemption in his anti-abortion bill last week, Trent Franks stated that the incidences of pregnancy from rape are “very low.” Some see daylight between Franks’ iteration of the rape/pregnancy connection and Akin’s, but it’s minor. And while Akin’s view was rooted in medieval medicine, Franks’ theory traces its lineage right back to Nazi experiments. Whether dealing with centuries-old pseudo-science or its bleak modern mutations, the GOP’s rape/pregnancy link is bad science at its most savage.

3. Climate Change Doesn’t Exist, and If It Does It’s Caused By Trees

Not all Republican science denial involves evil lady parts. Their resistance to the very idea of climate change is so staunch that it bred an entire theory of GOP-specific ignorance.

The least crazy of the party acknowledge climate change is occurring but refuse to link it to human behavior, instead seeing the rise in temperatures as part of a natural cycle. After all, it’s not like Hurricane Sandy was the first extreme weather event in history. “I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy,” Texas congressman Joe Barton said during a House hearing on the Keystone Pipeline. (You will remember Barton from his apology to BP over the company’s oil spill.)

There’s one problem with this: refusing to link global warming to human behavior greatly reduces your options for curtailing it. See Dana Rohrabacher, a far-right California congressman, who found a natural solution to a natural problem. “Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?” Rohrabacher asked during a House hearing on U.N. climate policies.

This is for the Republicans who actually admit climate change exists. Many don’t, and they made sure we knew about it last year when they rejected an amendment that would have simply acknowledged the occurrence of global warming. The amendment didn’t garner a single GOP vote.

It gets worse. In 2012, North Carolina’s legislature went the full-ostrich route. Not only did they refuse to admit that global warming was happening, they actually banned scientists from researching it, passing a bill prohibiting the measurement of sea-levels so nobody could notice they were rising. (The ocean rudely rose anyway.)

4. Breast Implants, On The Other Hand, are a Fine Use Of Science

Okay, most of their science denial involves lady parts, but not all of it’s negative! Tom Coburn proves the GOP would be scientists’ best friend if those nerds would stick to expanding things men want to look at.

“I thought I would just share with you what science says today about silicone breast implants,” Coburn said during a hearing on class action lawsuits, a nagging problem for plastic surgeons. “If you have them, you’re healthier than if you don’t. That is what the ultimate science shows. . . . In fact, there’s no science that shows that silicone breast implants are detrimental and, in fact, they make you healthier.” (They don’t.)

5. No Dead Fetuses In Your Soft Drinks

But the GOP’s science permissiveness begins and ends with breasts; anything that might help with, say, medical research is off the table. Stem cells in particular give Republicans the bends. Where most see the frontier of medical research, Republican candidates for senate see islands of Dr. Moreaus.

“American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains,” Christine O’Donnell told Bill O’Reilly in 2007. Talking Points Memo guessed O’Donnell was referencing an experiment in which doctors grew human brain cells within mice—“not the same as an actual functioning human brain, but a demonstration that human brain cells can be made from stem cells”—but they didn’t sound too confident speculating on her inspiration.

At least O’Donnell wasn’t actually a lawmaker. Last year, Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortley got wound up over a zany Internet theory claiming stem cells were being used in the production of artificial sweeteners, and proposed a bill prohibiting companies in Oklahoma from using aborted fetuses to make food.

6. Evolution Is (Still) Out To Get Jesus

“I’m not a scientist, man,” Marco Rubio recently told GQ. “I can tell you what recorded history says. I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians. Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that.”

But Rubio’s fellow Republicans think they have answered it, as evidenced by the fact that they want schools to teach that humans and dinosaurs used to read GQ together. Republican-controlled state legislatures have been busy trying to pass bills forcing public schools from elementary to college to teach that the world was created 6,000-9,000 years ago.

Their cover for this is the necessity of “teaching both sides” of the debate—though only one has scientific backing—but Georgia Representative Paul Broun recently showed the right’s hand. “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell,” he said during his (unopposed) run for reelection last year. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

7. It’s Only Science If Republicans Agree With It

In perhaps the most unintentionally revealing law ever written by a Republican on science, Texas Representative Lamar Smith recently proposed that all scientific knowledge get his okay first. Called the “High Quality Research Act,” Smith’s bill would require any research receiving federal funds to go through Smith’s Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology, all in the name of “accountability.” Accountability in this case means agreeing with Smith, a climate change denier who has no problem going after projects he, or his donors, disapprove of.

If the GOP had its way, this is how all science would work: no rising sea levels to worry about, and all the breast implants Congress can afford.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-science?akid=10604.123424.58nOvN&rd=1&src=newsletter858343&t=7&paging=off

 

Barely Literate? How Christian Fundamentalist Homeschooling Hurts Kids

From: AlterNet

By: Kristan Rawls

“In recent weeks, homeschooling has received nationwide attention because of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s homeschooling family. Though Santorum paints a rosy picture of homeschooling in the United States, and calls attention to the “responsibility” all parents have to take their children’s education into their own hands, he fails to acknowledge the very real potential for educational neglect among some homeschooling families – neglect that has been taking place for decades, and continues to this day.

While the practice of homeschooling is new to many people, my own interest in it was sparked nearly 20 years ago. I was a socially awkward adolescent with a chaotic family life, and became close to a conservative Christian homeschooling family that seemed perfect in every way. Through my connection to this family, I was introduced to a whole world of conservative Christian homeschoolers, some of whom we would now consider Quiverfull” families: homeschooling conservatives who eschew any form of family planning and choose instead to “trust God” with matters related to procreation.

Though I fell out of touch with my homeschooled friends as we grew older, a few years ago, I reconnected with a few ex-Quiverfull peers on a new support blog called No Longer Quivering. Poring over their stories, I was shocked to find so many tales of gross educational neglect. I don’t merely mean that they had received what I now view as an overly politicized education with huge gaps, for example, in American history, evolution or sexuality. Rather, what disturbed me were the many stories about homeschoolers who were barely literate when they graduated, or whose math and science education had never extended much past middle school.

Take Vyckie Garrison, an ex-Quiverfull mother of seven who, in 2008, enrolled her six school-age children in public school after 18 years of teaching them at home. Garrison, who started the No Longer Quivering blog, says her near-constant pregnancies – which tended to result either in miscarriages or life-threatening deliveries – took a toll on her body and depleted her energy. She wasn’t able to devote enough time and energy to homeschooling to ensure a quality education for each child. And she says the lack of regulation in Nebraska, where the family lived, “allowed us to get away with some really shoddy homeschooling for a lot of years.”

“I’ll admit it,” she confesses. “Because I was so overwhelmed with my life… It was a real struggle to do the basics, so it didn’t take long for my kids to fall far behind. One of my daughters could not read at 11 years old.”

At the time, Garrison was taking parenting advice from Quiverfull leaders who deemphasized academic achievement in favor of family values. She remembers one Quiverfull leader saying, “If they can do mathematics perfectly but they have no morals, you have failed them.”

The implication, she says, was that, “if they’re not doing so well academically, well, then they can catch up on that later. It’s not such a big deal. It was a really convenient way of thinking for me because I wasn’t able to keep up anyway.” This kind of rhetoric, Garrison notes, provided a “high-minded justification for educational neglect. I would not have gotten away with that if I’d had to get my kids tested every year.”

Over time, Garrison lost faith in her fundamentalist ideology and became aware that her children’s education was being neglected. Eventually all but one of her six younger children ended up entering and excelling in the public school system.

Why did she stick with homeschooling for so long, despite her difficulties? “We were convinced that it would be better for our kids not to have an education than to be educated to become humanists or atheists and to reject God,” Garrison says. “We became so isolated because the Quiverfull lifestyle was so overwhelming we didn’t have time or energy for socialization. So the only people we knew were exactly like us. We were told that the whole point of public school was to dumb down the children and turn them into compliant workers – to brainwash them and indoctrinate them into this godless way of thinking.”

Garrison believes that homeschooling has become so popular with fundamentalist Christians because, “there is an atmosphere of real terror among some evangelicals. They are horrified by the fact that Obama is president, and they see the New Atheist movement as a vocal, in-your-face threat. Plus, they are obsessed with the End Times, and believe that the Apocalypse could happen any day now…They see a demon on every corner.

“We homeschooled because we wanted to protect our children from what we viewed as the total secularization of America. We listened to people like Rush Limbaugh, who told us that America was in the clutches of evil liberal feminist atheists.”

*

Just how common are stories like Vyckie Garrison’s? Unfortunately, it’s hard to know. The federal government only maintains very broad demographic statisticsabout homeschoolers in this country; federal data only keeps track of what kinds of people are homeschooling and why. You can find plenty of information about homeschoolers according to race, family income or highest education obtained by the parents. But as regards neglect related to homeschooling? The government cannot tell you — and there is no systematic state-by-state record of the percentage of truancy convictions (possibly the best measure of educational neglect at present) that involve homeschooling families versus those involving enrolled students and/or their parents.

Capturing that kind of data is essential to understanding the scope of this problem, but getting real numbers will always be complicated by the fact that many homeschooling families choose not to comply with the law by submitting to state homeschool regulations, or even report their homeschool activity to the state. While it’s possible that some forget, others intentionally fail to report because they fear too much government intervention in their lives. For many conservative Christians, this is a key aspect of their decision not to report.

Given the scarcity of numbers on this issue, the best one can hope for at this point is anecdotal information about the problem. But because homeschooling is such a highly politicized issue, it is often difficult to get a clear sense of what is happening from homeschooling parents themselves. And because many parents see themselves as advocates of homeschooling, they are not always very eager to discuss potential gaps in homeschooling education.

Luckily, more than a few adult homeschool graduates are eager to talk. And as I talk to more and more people who recount first-person stories of homeschool-related neglect, it becomes hard to write off what homeschool advocates would call “exceptions” simply as fringe outliers.

Erika Diegel Martin’s story is particularly haunting. A homeschooling graduate of the mid-1990s, and an ex-Quiverfull daughter I have known for many years, Diegel Martin was pulled out of public school at 14. Because she was old enough to remember several years of public schooling, she says she never really believed her parents’ dire warnings about it. Her younger brothers were another story. “When the school bus would come by, my youngest brother would go, ‘There goes the prison bus.’ Our parents had them believing that public schools were these horrible places, just dens of iniquity.”

The narrative about public schools, she says, went something like this: “How would you like to get stuck in a building with no light – and secular, godless, atheist teachers for seven hours of the day without even being able to see your parents or go out to play?” As a result, she says, “My brothers were terrified of the public schools.”

Like Garrison, Diegel Martin recounts notable educational gaps in her own family, where there was little academic encouragement. One of her brothers decided to quit school at 16 and faced no parental opposition. The youngest, Diegel Martin says, ceased his formal education at the age of 12, when she left home and was no longer available to teach him herself. And though she was fortunate enough to receive sex education before leaving public school, her siblings were not so lucky. Their parents never taught the three other children about sex, and Diegel Martin remembers giving her 21-year-old sister “the talk” the week before she got married. She also had to intervene to ensure that her younger brothers learned about sex.

As for herself, when she completed her schooling, she says her parents did not allow her to obtain her GED as proof of high school graduation. Their reason? “The girls weren’t allowed to get a GED because we were told we wouldn’t need it. It would open up opportunities that were forbidden to us. We would work in the family business until we got married, and then become homemakers.

“When I talked about wanting to go to college, my parents said, ‘Well, you’re a girl. You don’t go to college.’”

Melinda Palmer, 29, is another homeschool graduate who is forthcoming about the problems she encountered as a homeschooled child. She had no experience of public education, and quickly came to fear it. Her father cast the local school as a corrupt example of the dangerous world outside the home. The family’s isolationism created an environment in which everyone was so terrified of the outside they saw no choice but to submit to her father’s abusive rule for many years. She says they had come to believe that the tyranny of their father was preferable to what might await them on the outside.

The oldest of eight children, Palmer grew up in an extremely conservative family that ultimately went entirely off the grid. They lived in a rural country home in Vermont without running water or electricity. Though she says homeschooling started out with good enough intentions, it ultimately fell by the wayside, in part because of the sheer amount of work it took to subsist in Vermont without basic amenities while also maintaining the large family’s produce and livestock. It took so much time and energy to complete each day’s chores that they rarely had enough time to study.

Though she says all of the children in her family are literate, she tells me that, in math, she never made it past the start of pre-algebra, and that she has not yet obtained her GED. Since leaving the Quiverfull movement, she has found success as an artisanal cheese-maker, but many opportunities remain unavailable to her because of her upbringing. She speaks hopefully of continuing her schooling at some point, but feels self-conscious about working toward the GED at 29, when some of her younger sisters have already earned theirs. “I study and read things all the time,” she says, “but I haven’t done anything official yet.”

Palmer insists that her family was not alone in homeschool neglect. Among the various fundamentalist families that ran in her family’s social circles, she says, “I knew several families whose children were not very literate.” Moreover, she points out, education is “more than just learning math and science and the facts of history – it’s learning how to interact with the kids around you, and figuring out what different kinds of personalities bring to life.

“You can do homeschooling right if you’re very careful,” she acknowledges. “Know all the ways it can go wrong and guard against these; have outside interaction; get help with what you need help with and use a decent curriculum.” But most homeschoolers, Palmer points out, “are woefully lacking in every area” of their education.

Palmer sends me a note after we talk that reads, “I know of a family right now in pretty much the exact same situation we were in back then. They reported [their homeschooling status] to the state once, eight years ago, and never after that, to my knowledge. The state never caught on… They are one of the families I know whose children are functionally illiterate. Their 18-year-old daughter can read, but can barely write a paragraph… and the education goes significantly downhill from there. Her youngest brother, almost 11, has barely learned to read.”

I follow up to find out if anyone has reported the family to social services. She says they have been reported, but very little has changed.

*

Still, this is not to say there aren’t many homeschooling parents who are doing an excellent job of ensuring that their children receive a quality education. Most parents realize they are taking on a tremendous amount of responsibility when they commit to homeschooling a child, so I am not surprised to find many – secular and religious – who are doing well by their children.

Maria Hoffman Goeller is one of those. A lifelong family friend, Goeller is a homeschool graduate raised in a conservative Christian home, where she never lagged behind in academics. Now she has a son with special needs in the California public school system but educates two other school-age children at home. “Part of the reason we homeschool is because I’m choosing what worldview or what subjects I want to introduce my child to,” she says. But she understand the limits of her own skill, which is why she placed her special-needs son in public school. “While I can teach my children reading, writing and arithmetic, I am not trained in special education,” she says. “I want my child to have the best education he can get, which at this time is public school.”

Though she considers herself conservative, Goeller does not demonize public schools as some families do. And contrary to stereotypes about Christian homeschoolers, Goeller is adamant that she will not sacrifice academic rigor, or shield her children from views different from her own. In fact, she says she would welcome more opportunities for them to interact with public school students, for example, in sports and even in certain classes now and then.

Certainly, Goeller is not alone in the care and thoughtfulness she takes with her children’s homeschool education. But in light of what Garrison, Diegel Martin and Palmer tell me, it seems irresponsible to assert, as many homeschooling parents do, that homeschooling neglect is just a fringe element in the homeschooling world. And getting a straight answer about the scope of the problem from people who champion the cause is difficult at best.

Take Kelly Hogaboom, a secular “unschooling” mother who maintains a popular homeschooling blog called Underbellie, and boasts of having “two terminally truant children.” Hogaboom is an advocate for homeschooling and “unschooling,” a type of homeschooling that often foregoes curriculum in favor of more child-directed education. She is dismissive of the cases of neglect that I bring up, saying, by way of shutting down my inquiries: “Like yourself, I too had…a deep fear of religious fundamentalism and an erroneous belief state institutions could and should stamp it out.”

Of course, her response misses the mark; the issue of “stamping out” religious expression isn’t the point here. The issue at stake is educational neglect — which is, as the anecdotal evidence shows, an actual problem. My hope is that by looking to homeschooling parents for insights, they will be able to provide an honest assessment of their own successes and failures — in order to paint a more textured picture of the actual potential for neglect.

But in the end, Hogaboom declines to discuss the topic at all, urging me instead to read alternative theories of education she thinks I may have missed. And just in case I don’t understand that she has dismissed the concerns I raise, she concludes our email discussion by saying: “I get a laugh [at] how many grownups enjoy talking amongst themselves about what’s best for children” – and following it up with a smiley emoticon.

Though I am frustrated by her failure to engage with me, on some level, I understand her irritation. Homeschooling parents are probably called upon to apologize for neglectful homeschoolers quite a bit. But apologies are not what I’m looking for. I want to know about their experiences – positive and negative — as a way of understanding how to better prevent neglect.

Of course there are parents who are qualified to teach their children at home, and who do an excellent job of it. And there are children who excel in homeschooling environments. These families may well constitute a majority of homeschoolers. But this does not mean that all children do so well, and just as public schools are obligated to educate children who fall behind, so are parents who opt out of the system.

*

Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, confirms that there are legitimate reasons for being concerned about a lack of oversight among homeschoolers. She acknowledges the diversity of the homeschooling movement, but notes, for example, that, “among the Quiverfull community, there are families that homeschool in such a way that education begins to diverge between boys’ education and girls education around the time they hit puberty.”

Sometimes, Joyce says, girls, “stop receiving the same education as their brothers and are trained instead to fulfill the role that they’re going to have, which is to be a Quiverfull mother and a submissive wife.”

She recalls an anecdote from Quiverfull leader Geoffrey Botkin, who suggested that girls should be taught to use the tools of the laboratory they will inhabit: the kitchen and the nursery. Girls’ education should prioritize “learning how to be mothers, learning in the kitchen, helping their mothers – not merely as chores that are a part of growing up. Rather, the point was that this should be a key part of their education because this was going to be their chief role.” Though Joyce says many homeschoolers go on to do exceptionally well once they go to college, she has also encountered problems with basics like literacy.

Given these sorts of issues, I am unconvinced when Rachel Goldberg, a secular homeschooling mother from Charlotte, North Carolina, echoes what I hear from homeschooling parents of every stripe on the subject of government oversight. “I don’t think there should be any regulation of homeschooling,” she says. “I’m not a libertarian or a conspiracy theorist, but I am fiercely protective of my kids and my choices about how to raise them. It’s none of the government’s business how I teach them. Just as I wouldn’t want the state to require me to submit menu plans and quarterly nutritional assessments (even though I believe nutrition is vitally important), I don’t want the state to require curricula plans, portfolios, etc.”

According to Joyce, among extremist Quiverfull families (quite unlike Goldberg’s) there is often “a sense of persecution” when it comes to oversight; many families that refuse to report their activities do so because they fear state intrusion. But their fear may have very little basis in fact. “Often, people have to look outside the United States, to countries like Sweden, where homeschooling is much more heavily regulated, to make this argument,” Joyce notes. “There isn’t as much evidence that persecution is happening here, but I think they get a lot of organizing value and activism mobilization out of the argument that they’re persecuted.”

Erika Diegel Martin, whose parents were anti-government extremists, agrees. Her parents did not report their first year of homeschooling to the state out of fear, but because she lived in a small New Hampshire town, the neighbors eventually noticed when the children weren’t in school. Finally, a truancy officer showed up to inquire, and as a result, the family reported their homeschooling status. “Look, any other parents [in] a public school would be charged with truancy if their kids didn’t show up at school,” Diegel Martin points out. “Why should it be any different for a homeschool family that isn’t reporting their children? It’s our government’s responsibility to make sure that our children are getting a proper education.”

My old friend Maria Hoffman Goeller is a bit more cautious about the need for oversight. With one child in the public school system and two learning at home, Goeller insists that she has not experienced over-regulation in California, one of the more tightly regulated states. But she is always on the alert, she says, for any government mandate that might try to determine “what I can and cannot teach.”

Goeller tells me that her apprehension about over-regulation stems from the arrests of homeschooling parents she knew during childhood, before homeschooling was well-understood in the United States. She remembers at least a couple of parents being arrested for truancy, and she remains unconvinced that they deserved this. Some families she knew opted not to report because of these cases. For those children, this meant not answering phones and hiding in the house if a stranger knocked on the front door.

No one I speak to who is homeschooling today mentions that this sort of oppressive regulation is a reality for current homeschooling families. Instead, they say that today’s regulation consists mostly of bureaucratic paper-pushing – hardly the kind of homeschool persecution some fear. It may be annoying, but so far as I can tell, it’s not trampling on anyone’s rights – though that doesn’t keep homeschoolers from worrying.

*

Ultimately, the women who report neglect in homeschooling want their experiences to serve as a warning that either greater restrictions on homeschooling are needed, or states need to do a better job of enforcing existing regulations.

For 18 years, Vyckie Garrison says, she continued homeschooling even though it became increasingly evident that “we should not have been homeschooling. It was a really bad idea for us, but we believed firmly that it was our obligation, that it would be sinful to send our children to public schools, which we called ‘Satan’s indoctrination centers.’” She tells me that yearly testing requirements “would have made a huge difference for our family. It would have either convinced us to quit homeschooling, or to do a much better job of meeting those minimum requirements.”

I don’t believe the answer is to end homeschooling altogether, and neither do any of the women I talk to, no matter what their experience with homeschooling. But neither is it acceptable to allow more homeschooled children to fall through the cracks. And since no one should be deprived of an education, we have a duty to listen to those who were overlooked.

Melinda Palmer has become a vocal critic of homeschool neglect since leaving her home about six years ago at the age of 22. She cites “the grace of God” as the reason for her survival, as well as the support of her mother and siblings. She is still a Christian, but says her family believed in a “warped understand of God.” Today, she is no longer a fundamentalist and no longer afraid of living out in the world. She has also gotten involved in advocacy on behalf of better homeschooling regulation.

Of all my sources, Palmer has the most concrete ideas about what needs to change in order to make homeschooling safer for all kids. “First,” she says, “we should not reduce the oversight. Second, we need to make sure every child who is not in a public school is either on a private school roster or is on the homeschool watch list. I know of many in Vermont right now who are not even registered as homeschoolers, and no one pays attention…When kids are far below grade level, it should raise red flags, and someone should be looking into it.”

Furthermore, as a sister to several children with cognitive disabilities, Palmer highlights the particular attention that homeschooled children with special needs deserve. “If kids have disabilities, the government needs to make sure that the disabilities are being addressed either by the parents or by an intervening agency.…A child with disabilities,” she notes, “has as much right to an appropriate education” as any other child.

Just before we hang up the phone, she makes a final request: “Please spread the word that it is really necessary for the government to make sure children aren’t being robbed of an education… Kids have rights too, and one of them is the right to an education appropriate to their age and ability.

It’s an important point, and I conclude with it because it is one of the more incisive analyses I’ve heard on this topic yet. There is simply no justification for allowing cases of educational neglect – wherever it exists – to go unchecked. We need not imprison more parents to make sure this happens, but improving state and local oversight of those who opt out would be one step in the right direction. As Garrison, Diegel Martin and Palmer acknowledge, better checks on their own home education would have made a vast difference for them. This is why, they say, they will continue to speak out.”

Kristin Rawls is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, GOOD Magazine, Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha, Global Comment and elsewhere online.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154541/barely_literate_how_christian_fundamentalist_homeschooling_hurts_kids?akid=8417.123424._5-AR3&rd=1&t=2

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

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/

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

Gingrich, in S.C. Debate, Shows Religious Right is About Patriarchy, Not Family Values

From: AlterNet

By: Adele Stan

N.B.: If hypocrisy were money, the Republican field could retire the National Debt.

” At the final GOP presidential debate before Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, the crowd response to Newt Gingrich‘s fury when questioned about his ex-wife’sexplosive allegation yanked the veil from the driving force of the religious right: patriarchy, not family values.

Earlier in the day, ABC broke the story that Marianne Gingrich, the former House speaker‘s ex-wife, alleged that, while the two were still bound by the marriage contract, Newt asked her for an “open marriage” — which would allow him to continue his affair with Callista Bistek, the former congressional aide who is his current wife, and, perhaps, other women.

In South Carolina, Gingrich, when taking a break from race-baiting in a state that still flies the Confederate flag on the grounds of its state capitol, is campaigning on a platform of family values, helping to propel him to frontrunner status in the race in the closing days of the Palmetto State campaign.

Evangelical Christians comprise about 60 percent of South Carolina’s pool of likely GOP primary voters. These are not just your generic religious Protestants; these are the people who make up the religious right. You know, the people who are so concerned with the “sanctity of marriage” as a rationale for opposing equal rights for LGBT people. The people who say abstinence is the only acceptable way to avoid pregnancy.

But when CNN Chief National Correspondent John King opened the debate by asking Gingrich to respond to his ex-wife’s allegations, the fury of Gingrich’s response — directed at media in general and King in particular — was met with a standing ovation by the crowd in the auditorium.

Here is Gingrich’s response to King:

I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country harder to attract decent people to run for office. I’m appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.

Gingrich went on to say that his two daughters by his first marriage (Marianne was his second wife; Callista is his third) wrote to “the head of ABC” to demand that the story be pulled. He categorically denied the allegation, and said that ABC refused to talk to long-time friends of the couple who would have backed him up.

Then he made an allegation of his own: that the news media was engaged in a giant conspiracy to support Obama and destroy Republicans.  “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” Gingrich said.

The crowd roared its approval.

Now, let’s break this down a bit, starting with, “To take an ex-wife…”

If anyone took Newt’s ex-wife, it would appear to be Newt, who, according to the ex-wife, asked for an open marriage and/or a divorce just after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. (He dumped his first wife while she was undergoing treatment for cancer.) It was Marianne Gingrich who stepped up to the media today to make the allegation that her ex-husband was not morally fit to be president, so it’s hard to see where anybody “took” her.

Next, let’s examine, “…and make it two days before the primary…”

When, one wonders, would have been a more appropriate time?

Then, “…a significant question in a presidential campaign…”

Apparently when campaigning on a platform of traditional morality, questions of one’s own sexual morality are not permitted. At least, if your name is Newt Gingrich. But if your name is Bill Clinton, your sexual morality is fair game for the morally-exempt Newt Gingrich.

And, finally, “…is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine…”

We all know there are no limits to the vast imagination of the self-described big-ideas candidate that is Newt Gingrich. (Gingrich himself, in Thursday night’s debate, embraced former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum‘s description of the former speaker as “grandiose”.) He’s not only imagined some pretty despicable things, but put them into practice. If Gingrich’s jihad against Bill Clinton for the president’s adultery — while the married speaker himself was bedding a congressional aide who was not his wife — doesn’t qualify as despicable, there may be more where that comes from.

Marianne Gingrich alleges that her former husband committed adultery with that congressional aide in the marriage bed of the couple’s Washington apartment while Marianne traveled, calling her from the bed with Callista lying silently under the covers. If that’s true, it doesn’t take much imagination to come up with the word “despicable.”

But to many good Christians in the debate hall, Gingrich’s behavior toward his wife is beyond question. It’s all rather biblical. The big men of the Bible had their harems, after all.”

Emphasis Mine

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. She also writes for the AFL-CIO Now blog. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/addiestan

see:http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/764697/gingrich%2C_in_s.c._debate%2C_shows_religious_right_is_about_patriarchy%2C_not_family_values/#paragraph3