Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Christian Right vs. The Mormons

It was just a matter of time before the religious supremacism of the Christian Right began to fracture the coalition which made it possible to ever describe the movement as "the religious right."

The Boston Globe's Nina Easton has a must-read article about how key elements of the Christian Right could never bring themselves to support the candidacy of Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts for no other reason than that he is a Mormon. Here is an excerpt:

"The Southern Baptist Convention website categorizes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a 'cult' that is 'radically' different from historic, biblical Christianity."

"A faith guide issued by the influential Christian right group Focus on the Family declares that 'God cannot be identified.... with the Mormon religion's notion of god.' And each year, evangelical organizers behind the National Day of Prayer bar Mormons from speaking at their proceedings."

"As Governor Mitt Romney mulls a race for president in 2008, his strategists expect their 'family values' candidate -- who opposes gay marriage, abortion, and some forms of embryonic stem cell research -- to find a natural base of support among religious conservatives. 'As Mitt's traveled the country and tested the waters, he's gotten very strong responses, including from religious conservatives,' said Michael Murphy, a political consultant who advises Romney."

"But an examination of the views of powerful Christian right groups suggests that, even as some of these voters might appreciate Romney's lifelong commitment to his church, the governor's Mormon faith could become an obstacle for others among this same group, who make up a large and vocal segment of Republican primary voters...."

"Dobson's Focus on the Family website features a guide for teaching Christianity to children that lumps Mormons in with pagan worship. 'God cannot be identified with an object, such as a metal or wooden idol, or with some aspect of nature, such as a star or tree, or with a person, such as Japan's Emperor Hirohito in World War II or the Mormon religion's notion of god,' the guide declares."
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Monday, August 29, 2005

Will Pat Robertson be Extradited to Venezuela?

CBS News is reporting that Venezuela may ask the United States to extradite Pat Robertson.

Robertson publicly called for the "assassination" of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his television program.

Chavez says, "Calling for the assassination of a head of state is a terrorist act."

He's got a point.

How can the U.S. succeed in getting Middle Eastern nations to regulate the terrorist rhetoric of their clerics if we won't do the same with ours?

This entry is cross-posted from the Mainstream Baptist blog.
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Friday, August 26, 2005

Banned Books Week: Coming Right Up!

Censorship is alive and well in America. And the fight against it has many fronts.

Led by the Christian Right, public school boards, teachers, public libraries, and public colleges and universities are all too often pressured to eliminate books from curricula, reading and recommended reading lists, and public library shelves.

Fortunately, The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) the American Library Association and other major organizations sponsor the annual Banned Books Week, "the only national celebration of the freedom to read." Thousands of libraries and bookstores will sponsor events and exhibits during Banned Books Week, September 24 -- October 1, -- speaking-out against attempts to censor books and celebrating the freedom to read.

The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom received 547 reports of challenges -- or attempts to remove books from schools and libraries -- in 2004. Robert Cormier's "The Chocolate War" was the most challenged book of last year. They also maintain a list of the 100 most censored titles.

Other sponsors of Banned Books Week include the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Banned Books Week is also endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress.

This year, the ABSFFE has a Banned Books Week Handbook, and the American Library Association has a Banned Books Week Kit. Both have lots of resources, many of them, free.

There are Banned Books Week posters available to download. And of course, there are Banned Books Week tee-shirts, buttons and bumperstickers.

The American Library Association kit goes for $35 and includes three posters, a list of titles that have been challenged over the last year, 100 bookmarks and a Banned Books Week pin.

One suggested activity is to hand out the Campaign for Reader Privacy bookmarks and petition urging Congress to restore the safeguards for bookstore and library privacy that were eliminated by the PATRIOT Act. The bookmarks can be ordered free from the American Booksellers Association by calling ABA at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6635. The petition can be downloaded.

The American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom has a host of resources for Banned Books Week, including a discussion of book burning in history.

In one episode this year, a Colorado newspaper reported on February 3:

".... a book that was being used as part of an English assignment was confiscated from freshmen at Norwood [Colorado] High School due to references of paganism and an alleged magnitude of profanity.

"Here in Norwood, a small group of parents sent letters to Superintendent Bob Conder, expressing their concern over, "Bless Me, Ultima," a book being used in the classroom as a literature book. Conder said the books, about 2 dozen in total costing $6.99 each, were pulled from the classroom, and designated to be destroyed. The parents approached the superintendent and asked that they be able to burn the books instead of the school janitor destroying them.

"Conder granted them their request.... "

Mark your calendars!

Banned Books Week:
September 24 -- October 1, 2005

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Roberts, Law Enforcement and Reproductive Rights

The controversy over the now withdrawn NARAL ad attacking John Roberts, president Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, obscured an important bit of history, and a fair question about Roberts' role in Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, the Supreme Court case at the heart of the ad controversy.

Gloria Feldt, who served as president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1996-2005, recounts, in a recent article on Alternet, what it was like for clinics during the days of mob attacks by Operation Rescue. Prior to becoming president of PPFA, Feldt had headed the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Phoenix. Keep in mind, that OR was never a non-violent protest organization. They were more like angry mobs intent on interfering with people's constitutional rights to receive and to perform abortions. Criminal violence was often involved.

Feldt writes that Robert's legalistic amicus brief written in support of Operation Rescue's position, had the effect of supporting their activities. To say that Roberts was just doing his job in arguing a point of law before the court would have more merit, if he and his colleagues in the Bush Justice Department had chosen to take action to otherwise protect the rights of clinics and patients against the thuggery of Operation Rescue and similar groups operating at the time.

One does not have to agree with the NARAL ad to see that there is a wider problem of indifference to and arguably tacit support for Operation Rescue's highly public activities and the concurrent acts of violence. If this kind of activity had been directed against say banks, car dealers, newspapers or courthouses, the response of the Justice Department would have been quite different. Why the double standard? It is OK to look the other way when mobs attack legal health care organizations?

Here are some excerpts from Feldt's article:

"From 1977 to 2000, there were 675 blockades, 365 invasions, 322 death threats, 502 bomb threats, 112 assaults and batteries, 40 bombings, 16 attempted murders and 8 murders in the name of 'life.' I personally was stalked, picketed at home and subjected to death threats, in addition to enduring bomb and arson attempts, vandalism, and an invasion at the health centers for which I was responsible."

"The year Bray was decided, 1991, was smack in the middle of this period years. It was a pivotal time, before any murders had occurred. It was a moment of opportunity when the violence and harassment could have de-escalated if law enforcement at all levels had joined together and taken strong stands against it."

"One of the things I learned during this time was that local law enforcement takes many cues from the Justice Department, and further, that the Justice Department has a unique capacity to bring law enforcement at all levels together, to enhance the effectiveness of local law enforcement when it is overwhelmed by massive actions like OR. They can proactively set a pattern of enforcing the law and keeping the peace."

"Instead, the Bush I justice department -- with Ken Starr as its chief litigator and John Roberts as his top deputy, strategist and chief arguer -- did no such thing. Indeed, they chose to do just the opposite..."

"Though Roberts says he was merely arguing on behalf of the administration's position, in the end that is an inexcusable reason. He appeared twice before the Court to argue Bray, and appeared in the media to speak for his case. And though the case was decided 6-3 in favor of the protestors on a technicality concerning the law's applicability to this case, quotes from dissenting justices, including Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat Roberts wants to fill, are telling...."

"Justice Stevens.... castigated the plaintiffs, saying, "[T]he demonstrations in the 1960's were motivated by a desire to extend the equal protection of the laws to all classes -- not to impose burdens on any disadvantaged class. ... The suggestion that there is an analogy between their struggle to achieve equality and these petitioners' concerted efforts to deny women equal access to a constitutionally protected privilege may have rhetorical appeal, but it is insupportable on the record before us."

"Justice O'Connor compared Operation Rescue's behavior to the Ku Klux Klan itself, noting that "[l]ike the Klan conspiracies, Congress tried to reach in enacting §1985(3), '[p]etitioners intended to hinder a particular group in the exercise of their legal rights because of their membership in a specific class."

"Am I saying then that John Roberts supports or condones violence? Of course not.... But I am saying that when he had a chance to weigh in and explicitly oppose the rising tide of violence that continued to escalate over the ensuing years, he did not. That is a serious question of character."
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Discussion of Eternal Hostility

Well, life intervened and the online discussion didn't quite happen. The organizer wasn't able to post the diary on The Daily Kos at the scheduled time, and it looks like most people missed it. Still, I am honored by shock's summary of the text. It was and is deeply gratifying to see how well he read the book and the excellent summary he presented. Thank you shock, for all of your efforts and the many kind words.

Its possible that the discussion will be rescheduled. If I hear about it, I will post something here. But anyone can check here to find out about a new discussion time, or anything else about The Daily Kos Reading Club.

(By the way, there is currently an effort to bring me to Northern Virginia and Washington, DC for a mini-speaking tour in October. Anyone who would like to help, let me know and I will put you in touch with the organizer.)
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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Backgrounder on Justice Sunday II

First a bit of news. The American Jewish Committee has asked House Majority Leader Tom DeLay not to appear on the Justice Sunday II telecast.

"Sponsors of Justice Sunday II are promoting the insidious and baseless notion that the U.S. Supreme Court is hostile towards people of faith,' wrote AJC President E. Robert Goodkind and Executive Director David Harris in a letter to Rep. DeLay. 'We urge you to reconsider lending your name and the stature of your office to the Justice Sunday campaign."

"'America is a nation of diverse faith communities, and the political views of members of those communities run across the spectrum,' wrote AJC. 'The Supreme Court, like the judicial branch as a whole, is a microcosm of this diversity.'"

"'The publicity campaign of Justice Sunday II inaccurately suggests that all good people of faith adhere to the same tenets, beliefs, and understanding of political or legal questions. This characterization erroneously implies that promoting an interpretation of the law at odds with the conference’s sponsors constitutes hostility towards religion,' Goodkind and Harris wrote in their letter to Rep. DeLay."

Yesterday, I updated the state of the struggle, Battle of Justice Sunday Heats Up which generated considerable discussion on The Daily Kos. And I am glad to see that Armando has followed-up with a dicussion this afternoon.

For those interested in more background going into tomorrow's rally for religious supremacism, here is an anthology of my posts on this subject over the past few weeks. The most recent first:

Counter Event to Justice Sunday

Focus on Dobson & Perkins

Taking on the Demagogues Behind Justice Sunday

DeLay to Speak at Rally for Religious Sumpremacism.

A Black Baptist Minister Takes on the Theocrats.

Rally for a Theocratic Judiciary.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

The Counter Event to Justice Sunday


When: Sunday, August 14 at 3 p.m.

Where: Cathedral of Praise (Pentecostal Tabernacle) 4300 Clarksville Pike, Nashville, TN

What: Several Nashville and national organizations will gather to let Americans know that there are many people of faith who understand the importance of the separation of church and state, who believe that all faith traditions should respect one another, and who oppose the use of government to impose the beliefs of one doctrine upon our diverse country. The gathering is intended to give Americans a spirited and inclusive message.

Local Speakers: Bishop Maynard, Cathedral of Praise Tabernacle; Bishop Walker, Mt. Zion Ministry; and numerous others to be confirmed later this week.

National Speakers: Rev. Rita Brock, theologian and founder of Faith Voices; Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for separation of Church and State; Patrick Mroteck, president of Christian Alliance for Progress, and Rev. Emilee Whitehurst, director of Austin area Interreligious Ministries.
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Battle of Justice Sunday Heating Up Fast

The battle of Justice Sunday II promises to be a pivotal moment in the struggle over the federal judiciary that will set the agenda of the nation for generations. The effort is to energize conservative Christians in support of president Bush's judicial nominees. But progressive religious leaders of many faiths are speaking out against the Christian Right's rally for religious supremacy this Sunday, and the battle is likely to escalate before and after the event.

Focus on the Family is countering with pre-rally interviews with the speakers, and the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the largest religious broadcaster in the U.S., announced today that TBN will broadcast a tape delay of the rally at 10pm EST on Sunday.

And in recognition of the importance of bloggers, the Family Research Council is paying to import a number of unnamed bloggers to Nashville to generate post event buzz. Uninvited is progressive blogger and UCC seminarian Chuck Currie who charges that the leaders of Justice Sunday, are attempting to "equate Christianity with support of conservative judicial nominees."

Meanwhile, progressive religious leaders held a national teleconference with reporters today. Their entire statements and the audiofeed are available at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Here are some quotes:

"It is damaging to the legitimacy of the confirmation process to suggest that the necessary and comprehensive examination of a nominee's record, as well as support for or opposition to a nominee is in any way religiously motivated." -- Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA

"The judiciary has long upheld the Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion and separation of church and state that make our nation the most religiously diverse and robust democratic country in the world. It is troubling when people of faith are calling for the courts themselves to break down the wall separating church and state that has protected the right to freely exercise their beliefs." -- Ms. Mirin Kaur Phool, President, Board of Directors, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund

"People are [asking] a diverse array of questions pertaining to Judge Roberts' broader judicial philosophy and constitutional interpretation as well as more detailed queries regarding his interpretation of privacy and the establishment clause. What all of these questions do have in common is that they deserve to be answered." -- Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

"No person or group can honestly claim to represent 'the' single authentic faith perspective on a given issue. Americans of faith and good will differ on the issues facing our country today, but those differences should never be cause for questioning another's faith or patriotism." -- Rev. Bill Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association

Meanwhile, Focus on the Family's political magazine Citizen Link is conducting a series of interviews with rally speakers in advance of the event.

Phyllis Schlafly, head of Eagle Forum, claims in her interview that "the Supreme Court is demonstrating hostility to religion," and she will urge "Congress to act on its Article III power to take away jurisdiction from the court on those areas where we don't trust them -- starting with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, the definition of marriage and the Boy Scouts."

Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Bowie, MD, invokes the bogus ideology of Christian nationalism to explain his involvement in Justice Sunday: "America will either remain a Christian nation protected by laws based on morality or it will become more morally lawless than every before.... The Supreme Court is the front line of the spiritual battle for the culture." Regarding his message to viewers on Sunday, Jackson said: "I will call upon the two sleeping giants of America's culture--the black church and the white church--to move from individual impact to combined significance."

For a discussion of the views of rally organizers James Dobson and Tony Perkins, see my post, Focus on Dobson & Perkins:

"James Dobson the founder and caudillo of Focus on the Family.... who may be the most powerful Christian Right leader in the country, routinely uses his national radio broadcasts to demagogue his concerns about what he calls the "unelected and unaccountable and arrogant and imperious" judiciary. He claims judges are "determined to redesign the culture according to their own biases and values, and they're out of control...."

"Dobson could more accurately say these things about himself: he is unelected and far less accountable for his words and actions than judges at any level."

Read more!

Online Book Discussion: Eternal Hostility

There will be an online discussion of my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy on The Daily Kos, the largest political blog community in the country, on Monday, August 15th beginning at about 1 pm EST. The discussion is sponsored by the dKos Reading Club, the members of which have been reading the book this month.

Stop on by and join in. I'll be there!

To order a copy of Eternal Hostility, or to read some reviews, click here.

This is the kind of event we hope that people will want to organize on Talk to Action when we launch The Daily Kos-style interactive site.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Focus on Dobson & Perkins

The Christian Right's staging of Justice Sunday II provides an opportunity to learn more about the men and women behind this event and the people they are presenting as exemplars of Christian values. Let's focus on the principals, James Dobson and Tony Perkins (and for the others, check out the very useful backgrounder on the speakers at Justice Sunday published by People for the American Way.)

James Dobson the founder and caudillo of Focus on the Family will deliver a prerecorded video message to this second rally for religious supremacism. (He appeared in person at the first Justice Sunday.) Dobson, who may be the most powerful Christian Right leader in the country, routinely uses his national radio broadcasts to demagogue his concerns about what he calls the "unelected and unaccountable and arrogant and imperious" judiciary. He claims judges are "determined to redesign the culture according to their own biases and values, and they're out of control...."

Dobson could more accurately say these things about himself: he is unelected and far less accountable for his words and actions than judges at any level. Federal judges are vetted through a rigorous process, and ultimately our elected Senators get to decide who merits a lifetime appointment to a federal judgeship. Dobson wants to reduce that rigor in order to pack the federal bench with as many Christian Right nominees as he and his fellow theocrats can squeeze out of the Bush administration.

Interestingly, in the run up to the first Justice Sunday, Dobson (who is given to rhetorical excesses) compared the Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan, and when called on the inappropriateness of the analogy, he later backpeddaled. But if Dobson were actually concerned about the Klan, he could probably get some inside information from the man he hired to run the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins. (The FRC was originally the official lobbying arm of Focus on the Family and Dobson remains on the board of directors.)

Perkins came up through the FOF farm team of state level family policy councils -- state think tanks and political and legislative advocacy groups that function much like FRC does in Washington. (For a detailed discussion of these groups, see my 1999 report in The Public Eye magazine, published by Politcal Research Associates, titled Takin' it to the States: The Rise of Conservative State Level Think Tanks.) Perkins founded and headed the Louisiana Family Forum before Dobson tapped him to head the FRC.

"During his unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2002 information surfaced about Perkins’ willingness to associate with racist groups," according to the People for the American Way profile. "During that campaign, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996, Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for Woody Jenkins, a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke."

Dobson hired Perkins to head the FRC in 2003 after Perkins unsucessful 2002 run for the Senate when the Duke connections surfaced.

Max Blumenthal published a detailed account of Perkins secret dealings with Duke in The Nation following the first Justice Sunday. As I commented at the time: "The Christian Right has a long and shifty history with white supremacist groups in the U.S. Certainly many do not and never have embraced racism. Others play ball."

Throughout American history, racial and religious supremacism have often been deeply intertwined. The racism of the Klan and others has often been justified in terms of Christianity. And many contemporary conservative Christians, (including Ralph Reed) have acknowleged that conservative Christians were generally either on the wrong side, or on the sidelines, of the struggle for racial justice in the U.S. And just as that history informs the present, so does the history of the role of the federal courts in ordering the racial desegregation of society, having determined that racial discrimination in all of its forms was and is unconstitutional. Just a generation ago, the leaders of "massive resistance" to the racial integration of the public schools routinely denounced the federal judiciary as unelected tyrants in black robes. This is the same rhetoric we hear today from the leaders of the Christian Right and their allies in Congress.

Consider this history when we hear Tony Perkins making claims like federal judges have not only "become hostile to Christianity" but that "they pose a worse threat to this country than terrorists," and when James Dobson compares the Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What Moral Authority?

Today's New York Times has a story about Christian groups pressing Bush to put pressure on North Korea to end human rights abuses in that country. The Midland, Texas Ministerial Alliance, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention and other groups are taking the lead in this effort.

I'm in complete accord with the efforts to call for an end to the human rights abuses by the government of North Korea. I also believe Christians need to call for an end to human rights abuses by the government of the United States.

What makes conservative Christians think that this administration and this country has any moral authority to put pressure on any country to end human rights abuses? What are the Midland Ministerial Alliance, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Southern Baptist Convention doing to put pressure on Bush to end the torture and abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib?

The eyes of the entire world are focused on conservative, evangelical Christians in America. History will give evangelical Christians full credit for unconscionably supporting this administration's pre-emptive war under false pretenses, it's criminal treatment of prisoners of war, and it's hysterical suspension of civil rights. Nothing has done more to undermine the credibility of the gospel in the eyes of the unbelieving world in my lifetime.

When are evangelicals going to start removing the logs that are in our own eyes?

This entry is cross-posted from the Mainstream Baptist weblog.
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Taking on the Demagogues of Justice Sunday

"A focal point of Justice Sunday II apparently will be to underscore the argument that the court has been anti-faith," writes Melissa Rogers at [Family Research Council head Tony] "Perkins has said that the Nashville event will focus on the Supreme Court’s 'hostility toward religion and Christianity in particular....'"

Rogers is an attorney and visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School.

"It has become fashionable," she continues, "to say that the court is demonstrating hostility toward faith when it prevents the government from promoting faith for us. But those who make this argument are either ignorant of or willfully blind to the rationales expressed in Supreme Court precedent in this area. The court traditionally has refused to promote or to interfere with religion not because it is anti-religious, but because it wants to leave people free to make choices in matters of faith and to ensure that religious people and organizations may worship as they see fit, rather than as the government sees fit. Further, anyone who suggests that the court has scrubbed religion from the public square is inexplicably missing the rich religious landscape all around us--a landscape that has thrived in the midst of the Supreme Court’s so-called 'hostility' toward religion."

"Family Research Council has every right to hold this event. The precise role religion should play in public life, the exact place where the court should draw the church-state line, and the morality of abortion as well as other policy and legal matters are all legitimate topics for public debate. Religious citizens have the same rights as non-religious citizens to argue their side. But disagreement with those positions is not automatically anti-religious bigotry or hostility to faith."

Rogers is right on the money. There is no attack on faith, people of faith or religious institutions going on in America. Not by anyone, and certainly not by the courts. This is the strawman that partisans of the Christian Right has been relentlessly knocking down for a generation -- abetted by some religious progressives who, attempting to occupy an equally false middle ground, denounce the so called "secular left" in the same terms used by the Christian Right.

This bogus crisis of faith under seige is the gasoline thrown on the fires continuously stoked by both the protestant and Catholic wings of the Christian right in the U.S. -- and it will be on spectacular display next Sunday in Nashville.

Crossposted from]
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Monday, August 08, 2005

Ramping-Up Opposition to Justice Sunday II

Next weekend we will be treated to yet another rally for religious supremacism, Justice Sunday II, organized by the Family Research Council. Like the first Justice Sunday, the event will be broadcast to churches and Christian Rightist groups in hopes of whipping up support for some of president Bush's controversial judicial nominations. And as before, the rally claims that anyone who doesn't support these nominees is an opponent of "people of faith."

Meanwhile, a coalition of religious leaders who affirm the importance of separating church and state will be hosting events across the country and speaking out in the media. Among these will be Rev. Bob Edgar, president of the National Council of Churches, Dr. Susan Thistlewaite, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, and Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, President, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

According to a general press release today:

"Different groups' plans include a tele-conference Thursday with religious leaders, "Justice Everyday" events around the country and a counter-rally in Nashville preceding the Justice Sunday service on August 14th. That prayer service is being used as a platform for injecting right-wing religious views
into the upcoming Supreme Court nomination battle. Rep. Tom DeLay headlines a list of speakers intent on breaking down the wall between church and state and undermining the independence of the federal judiciary.

Though all groups are not participating in all events, they are united in their support for the careful balance struck in the First Amendment, supporting the free exercise of religion and preventing its imposition on the American people. In events throughout the week and in media appearances.

Here are the highlights:

Media Tele-Press Conference Thursday, August 11, with with progressive religious leaders including Rev. C. Welton Gaddy (Interfaith Alliance), Rev. William G. Sinkford (Unitarian Universalist Association), Rabbi David Saperstein (Religious Action Center) and others.

Freedom & Faith Counter-Event is planned for 3pm on Sunday, August 14th at the Cathedral of Praise church (8200 Macon Road, Cordova, TN), including national and local religious leaders. Details to come.

Across the country people of diverse faiths will participate in "Justice Every Day" activities to provide an alternative vision of justice and the courts to the one being promoted by organizers of Justice Sunday. Townhall meetings, letters to Senators, rallies and paid media will focus on what's at stake with a new Supreme Court Justice-voting rights, the right to privacy and protections of religious liberty.

Meanwhile, editorial writers are continuing to voice their outrage against the campaign of "intimidation" being waged against the federal judiciary by Tom DeLay and his allies on the Christian right.

"At the end of the day," writes the Austin American-Statesman, "Americans understand that the courts must be as free as possible of electoral politics."

"DeLay and the unbending Christian conservatives might come to realize that the hard way -- by defeat at the polls."

[Crossposted from]
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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Letters from an Abortion Doctor

Every summer Operation Save America takes a massive, weeklong protest to some fortunate city in America where their director, Flip Benham, leads them in “storming the gates of hell.” A couple of weeks ago, OSA swarmed Colorado in Operation Save Denver. But when Benham’s “saints” and “gentle Christian warriors” pack up to go marauding, they carry along so much hellfire and brimstone that they had plenty left over for Boulder, where they focused the wrath of their angry God upon Dr. Warren Hern.

Dr. Hern is a provider of exemplary abortion care. He is also a renowned anthropologist, as well as an internationally recognized authority in his highly specialized field of medicine. Together with Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Dr. Hern has been at the top of the antiabortion mob's hit list for over 20 years.

And this time was no exception.

OSA besieged various Colorado targets for a week--abortion-providing clinics, gay and lesbian groups, mosques, and even a school of theology—but they singled out Dr. Hern for some viciously personal attention by papering his North Boulder neighborhood with what looked very much like “wanted” posters.
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Scary stuff. But if the “Reverend” Flip and his “gentle Christians” thought that Warren Hern would bolt for the basement and lay low until they left town, they mistook their man.

The indomitable Dr. Hern came out swinging, immediately purchasing a
newspaper ad that gave the OSA flyer far greater exposure than Flip Benham could have dreamed of, along with some well chosen words of his own.

Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic
23 July 2005

This flyer was placed in the doors of all my neighbors in North Boulder on Wednesday afternoon (7/20/05) by the antiabortion fanatics who have been screaming at the people of Colorado this week. The purpose of the flyer is to cause hate and fear. Its purpose is to get someone to kill me.

This kind of flyer has preceded the assassination of each abortion doctor in the United States. It is terrorism. Its authors hate freedom. Its authors hate thought. Its authors hate what America means.

On Wednesday afternoon, after demonstrating at my office and another clinic for two days, after harassing abortion doctors in Denver in their private homes, the leaders of “Operation Save America” came to my neighborhood to place these leaflets at every house.

“Operation Save America” wants all my neighbors to hate me. This despicable, threatening, outrageous personal attack is anonymous, although we know who did it, and it is cowardly, because they won’t admit it. It is a dangerous action, and the authors know it. That’s what they intend.

The fundamentalist “Christians” who make up “Operation Save America” are fascists. “Operation Save America” is the face of fascism in America. Americans need to understand fascism. This is how fascists create an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, repression, destruction of individual lives, and the destruction of a free society.

It is right out of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” or “1984.” “Big Brother Is Watching You.” The name of this gang, “Operation Save America,” is a fulfillment of Orwell’s prophecy: a lie in the service of totalitarian repression.

How is “Operation Save America’s hatred and demonization of abortion doctors different from the Nazi’s persecution of Jews in the Germany of the mid-1930’s? How is it different from how white racists and the Ku Klux Klan treated black people in the South before the lynching began? How is it different from the Salem witch-hunts, and how is it different from the hysterical anti-communist McCarthyism of the 1950’s? How is it different from the Taliban’s puritanical repression? It isn’t.

If you think it's different, just give “Operation Save America” more power. Their friends are already running the federal government. American women who want to have reproductive health and freedom and who want to live in the 21st century instead of going back to the 9th century have less to fear from the overturn of Roe vs.Wade by the Supreme Court than from “Operation Save America.”

A little more of this, and doctors just won’t do abortions. Would you?
"A little more of this, and doctors just won’t do abortions. Would you?"

That’s a fair question. If you were an average, everyday OB/GYN with a wife, 2.4 kids, a country club membership and a Golden Retriever, and couldn’t even attend your annual ACOG conference without facing down the menacing presence of dozens of
Army of God goons every year, would you go out on a limb and risk losing all you'd worked for by providing your patients with abortion care?

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Like OSA, the Army of God understands the power of fear: “Abortionists should remember that there could always be another Paul Hill or James Kopp who will do more than just talk. To make that point clear, signs were displayed praising both Paul Hill and James Kopp, both convicted of killing abortion doctors, and other signs calling for the execution of abortionists.”

So if your answer to Dr. Hern's question is no, don’t feel guilty, because this ever-present threat of violence, or even death, is a big part of why most other physicians don’t provide abortion care, either.

But something kind of wonderful happened when Dr. Hern went public with the threat directed at him by OSA. In fact, it was so wonderful that he bought some more newspaper space just to say thank you.


We have received many messages of support by phone, fax, email, and letters since our two full-page ads were published in the Rocky Mountain News (7/23/05) and Sunday Camera (7/24/05) denouncing the hate-message flyer attacking me that was distributed in Boulder on 7/20/05 by the leaders of “Operation Save America.” Most respondents left their names and contact information, which we have omitted to protect their privacy.

This ad is to thank all those many people who have expressed their support. Many have sent unsolicited contributions wishing to help pay for those ads and to help women who need abortions but have limited resources. We do not and will not solicit contributions from the public, but will use these contributions specified for those two purposes.

This statement is paid for by Warren M.Hern, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic,1130 Alpine, Boulder, Colorado 80304
Tel:303 447-1361.
More information on this subject may be found at

If you are interested in knowing how you can work to protect reproductive freedom in Colorado, please call or write to me at the address and telephone number above. I will return all phone calls and respond to all written messages from those seeking to help, and I will help you find the ways of helping that are most appropriate to your beliefs and means.
Warren M. Hern, M.D.

Dr. Hern needed a full page of extremely fine print, but here are just a few messages from the copy of his ad that I received.

”I live in Denver....but would gladly show you to offer support, security, anything. You bear the brunt of this sad, right-wing jihad and I salute your bravery. Thank you for being who you are.”

“Use the enclosed in a way that represents your beliefs. ... I abhor the path our government is taking and the crazies who support the ‘Operation Save America.’ I admire your wording in your ad, admire you as a human being and support what you believe and are doing. Seldom do I reach out like this but Lord knows we must kiss you for your stand.” (Check for $25.00 enclosed).

“Sorry these Nazis are giving you trouble. I was in WWII and know how they operated. Call me if I can assist in some way.”

[Husband] “My wife and I have never had an abortion, nor do we plan to, but we support someone’s right to choose. Operation Save America represents the worst that right wing America has to offer. ... PS: You have some big cojones to run that ad. Thank you for doing it.”
[Wife] “We support what you do and your dedication to keeping women healthy. Thank you for taking such a big risk to provide your services. I know our [$25.00] donation is small, but we both felt very strongly that this is the most important donation we’ve ever made.”

“So many thoughts run through my mind as I sit down to write this. ... The first election I was old enough to vote in, I voted to legalize abortion in Washington state. By then my roommate had had an illegal abortion. I will never forget calling her family after I had taken her to the E.R. Her complications were serious. The work you do is important to women; please know that many of us support you. ... You are a very courageous man. My heart goes out to you and all those who love you. The abuse you are subjected to is really unjust. Be safe. Thank you, K.”

“Thank you for helping women every day, and having the courage to do so in the face of all the threats you receive. I appreciated you publishing the notice in the paper today to shed light on the sleazy work that Operation Save America and others are doing. I’m writing to let you know that I support you as do millions of other women on whose behalf you are working. My thoughts are with you in this dangerous time.”

“Thank you! We love America and as women we need our RIGHT TO CHOOSE! Babies need to be born BECAUSE THEY ARE WANTED! I am a Christian and I am disgusted by the Operation Save America movement. They and the Dobson camp seem to love the word HATE. Jesus would not do what they are doing. Thank you for your courageous article.”

“I was disgusted to read in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain News of the recent picketing of your clinic (although that is not news, I am sure) and of your home and of the flyer that “Operation Save America” has been distributing. I fear that there is a moderate possibility that this country will within a few years regress to the time of coat hangers. I am ashamed of my country. Please find a check for $50.00 to be used toward reimbursing yourself for the cost of the ad you placed in the same issue of the News. If you would rather, this contribution can be used for pro bono work done at the clinic.”

“Many years ago you helped me when I needed it. Right after my abortion procedure I began to cry, you touched my face and comforted me. I have thought of that through the years and felt grateful. ... Whenever there is a discussion about abortion I speak up and state my beliefs but I haven’t had to defend my life because of it. I want you to know I think you are a very courageous man. Thank you. Sincerely, S.”

“First I want to thank you for standing up to a religion that is full of hate, they are hiding under God’s name. If you don’t thump a bible and yell what a good Christian you are, you are their enemy. I’m 70 years old and believe we are supposed to have freedom of choice in America, but our government is making it into an Iron Curtain. ... Our religion has become Bush ‘Taliban.’ I understand because I live in the bible thumper country, also called ‘Christian.’ Also I was lucky not to ever had an abortion, but know some special people who had to. If only people could walk in their shoes during their painful situation. Thanks for being there when they needed you and you didn’t judge them.”

“You probably don’t need my support, but I need to give it. I am a Christian Senior citizen a resident of Lakewood Colorado. I am sick and tired of listening to ‘fascists’ claiming to be ‘Christians.’ Christians do not judge other persons based on their choices, medical or otherwise! Christ gave us the gift of ‘free will’ that includes making choices in all areas of our lives, and the consequences of those choices are ours alone with Christ as our only judge. I do NOT support ‘abortion,’ I DO support our freedom as citizens of this country to make our own choices. I do support your work because you are also free to make your own choices, so women do not need to go to butchers. I was in an illegal clinic in the ‘50’s. I pray we never go back to that! Be careful my Brother!”

“Thank you for having the courage to operate your clinic. ... You were right to compare the OSA people to the Ku Klux Klan. They don’t even try to hide who they are. Please use this [$20.00] to help pay for the newspaper ad or to help an indigent woman.”

“Dear Dr. Hern: I am 79 years old and ... I have some thoughts to share with you regarding your recent publication that I feel are important. After reading your announcement in the Rocky Mountain News, I feel obligated to submit the following: In describing the thugs who would do you harm, you omitted three appropriate adjectives: ‘zealots, gangers and criminals.’ The problem you are dealing with if not fomented by our current administration, is at least being given the nod by default. Abortion and other emotional subjects are being used as wedge issues to advance their own political agenda. Our constitution is not the rule and guide of their thinking. Don’t look for support or even sympathy from the occupants of the white house. And I believe the recent nominee for the Supreme Court is a callous indication of the contempt that our president holds for the people who made him our leader.”

When Dr. Hern read a longer version of this article at Liberal Street Fighter, he forwarded to me, through a mutual friend, a letter of his own.

My thanks to moiv for giving an account of our problem with OSA and responses here in Boulder, Colorado. We appreciate this very much, and we also appreciate the support from moiv and others who have made comments.

This is good, but we need to make the next step. As long as the Republicans under current leadership are running anything, there is no hope. Wherever possible, we must convert this energy into solidifying Democratic control over any political institution (such as a state legislature or governor’s office) and to restore Democratic control where it has been lost (legislatures; both houses of Congress).

There is no other solution, and it can’t happen too fast. Some Democrats, particularly among the national leaders such as Howard Dean, do not understand this and are irrelevant to this process, which must come from below. Anti-choice Democrats must be blocked. The political message must be: vote with us, and you get elected; vote against us, you don’t get to be precinct captain next time. Nothing else will do.

Republicans who are not part of the current fascist leadership of that party must throw those bastards out, and that is the most important and difficult task. Only then can we get back to civil discourse and bipartisan consideration of important public issues, particularly on issues of reproductive freedom. It has happened before. We can make it happen again.

Warren M. Hern, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic

Dr. Hern isn’t a politician. He doesn’t buy and sell abstractions. He lives in an all-too-physical world, one awash with the daily sweat and tears of living, breathing and bleeding women to whom reproductive freedom has suddenly become more than just a poll-tweaking talking point. He and all the other physicians who are still hanging in and providing skillful and compassionate abortion care in this country--come hell, high water or the ground troops, fifth column or otherwise, for the Culture of Life--don’t spend their mornings spinning policy, their lunchtimes eating rubber chicken or their afternoons counting their bargaining chips.

They live in my world, the real world, where this is the way it is.
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Thursday, August 04, 2005

DeLay Joins Rally for Religious Supremacism

Justice Sunday II, the Family Research Council's retread rally for religious supremacism slated for August 14th in Nashville, has shaken up its line up.

Country singer Lee Greenwood originally scheduled to appear is out -- and House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is in. But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN, once considered the favored candidate of the Christian Right for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, seems to have fallen out of favor.

DeLay and Frist have long hitched thier political futures to the leaders of the Christian Right. Speaking at a secret conclave hosted by the Family Research Council early this year, they each pledged their fealty to the lords of the Christian Right. The tape of the proceedings obtained by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and released to the media generated national outrage.  

Sen. Frist who was the marquee pol at the first Justice Sunday, (via video) faced a firestorm of criticism for appearing with gang of theocrats who had equated opposition to president Bush's controversial nominees to the federal bench, with opposition to "people of faith."

Nevertheless, Frist was not invited to speak this time -- even though the rally is being held in his home state of Tennessee. He has apparently fallen out of favor for having flip-flopped on stem cell research.

In any case, over the next ten days, the event promises to draw national attention, considerable opposition, and throw into sharp relief the still-formidable role of the theocratic Christian Right in national politics.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

pastordan issues a correction

Well, I asked somebody to prove me wrong....

Ted Olson of Christianity Today has the goods:
The July 24, 2005, issue of the Sunday News Perspective section contained an article by Dan Schultz titled "Where is the conservative outrage." [Published here as Where's the Outrage?] It included this comment early in the column:

Christianity Today’s Weblog, which carries news of just about everything happening in the Christian world, linked to a Washington Post story on the church’s recovery, without specifying the nature of the attack.

I would have thought that the term "anti-gay attack" would have been specific enough. Perhaps Mr. Schultz is upset that we did not describe the exact words spraypainted on the walls? The precise color of paint?

I should also note that this was not the first time we linked to an article about the crime. On July 14, we linked to a Washington Times article and promoted it like this: "Fire at vandalized church was arson, federal investigators say | Federal investigators concluded that a fire at a church vandalized with anti-homosexual graffiti was set." That particular Weblog posting also included information about the arson of a black church in Sparta, Tennessee.

Schultz accuses us of silence. But (unlike all the Lancaster newspapers) we have not been silent, and we do not appreciate the suggestion that we turn a blind eye to bigotry. Since this is a rather easy fact to check (our site is searchable), I'm a bit disappointed in the Sunday News for not vetting Schultz’s column, especially since his accusations are rather severe. It seems to me that a correction is in order.

So here it is: I regret having missed these items. I once told the folks at Weblog that while I disagreed with them on many issues, I thought of them as principled and cogent.

I stand by those words.

However, I also stand by the main contention of the article. The silence from the Religious Right has been deafening on this subject, particularly because so many on the right are so quick to cry "persecution!" And I notice, despite Olson's correct characterization of the attacks, that Weblog has not seen fit to editorialize on the subject. That's their right, and mine to disagree with it.

However, it is incorrect to say that the folks at Weblog have not noticed the nature of the attack, and for that they have my sincere apology.
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Conference on Dominionism: October in New York

The Graduate Center, City University of New York and The New York Open Center will once again collaborate to present: Dominionism, Political Power, and the Theocratic Right.

Dominionism is an influential form of fundamentalist religion that believes that in order to fulfill biblical prophecy, "godly Christians" must take control of the levers of political and judicial power in America in the near future.

FEATURING: Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates; co-author, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort; Frederick Clarkson, author, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy; Michael Northcott, teaches Christian Ethics, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; author, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire; Esther Kaplan, author, With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House.

Friday October 21 7:30-9:30pm

Saturday October 22 10am-6pm

You can register for the full session or Friday evening or Saturday separately. To register or for more information contact: The Graduate Center, CUNY 212 817-8215. Or The New York Open Center 212 219-2527.

A DVD of highlights from their previous conference in April, Examining the Agenda of the Religious Far Right, is available for $19.95. It features Karen Armstrong, Joan Bokaer, Joseph Hough, Robert Edgar, Hugh Urban, Chip Berlet and Frederick Clarkson.

The edited, DVD version of the program will be broadcast on CUNY TV Channel 75 in New York City. The show will air on: Wednesday August 3 10am, 3pm & 8pm; Saturday, August 6 8pm; and Sunday August 7 10am.
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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Hate and the Silence

A few weeks ago, the United Church of Christ (UCC) endorsed same sex marriage at their national synod in Atlanta. A short time later, someone broke into St. John's United Church of Christ in Virginia, stacked up hymnals and burned them. Graffiti such as "Gays lover," "Lesb hell," "UCC siners" and "sinners," were spraypainted on the walls.

Even as the FBI is now investigating the incident as a hate crime -- three active hate groups have announced that the crime is understandable and that gay-friendly churches need to be targeted.

St. John's is the third UCC church in the Shenandoah Valley that has vandalized in recent months. "Two other attacks came after we launched the 'God is Still Speaking' campaign," blogger Chuck Currie a UCC seminarian told The Washington Blade.

"The 'Still Speaking' campaign included a commercial depicting a church welcoming gay congregants. NBC and CBS rejected the ad last year, Currie said, after the networks decided it had a political, rather than religious, message."

"'I think there is a direct correlation between the rhetoric that has been unleashed by the political and religious right comparing [gay and lesbian] sexuality to murder or other violent crimes,' Currie said. 'This gives people the political and theological cover to attack gay people and the churches that welcome them.'"

Last week, American neo-nazi groups threatened churches that support gay rights. This came in the wake of the vandalism and arson at parish of the United Church of Christ in Virginia where some had stacked up hymnals and burned them. The FBI is treating the case as a hate crime. The silence from the Christian Right, usually quick to decry persecution of Christians, is deafening.

But Chuck Currie posted a detailed report, based in part on news accounts. Nazis quoted in the story then besieged his blog site with anti-Jewish other hateful comments such that he had to turn off the comments on that post.

"The writing on the wall, literally, tells the story," (Michael) Foster said, "This was a politically motivated attack because of the gay issue, and the FBI is going to investigate it."

Meanwhile, a neo-Nazi group is urging their followers to target gay friendly churches."

"After the Middlebrook attack, the News Virginian, a newspaper in Waynesboro, Va., published a story about the responses of three white supremacist groups to the arson."

"In that story, Bill White, a Virginia-based spokesperson for the National Socialist Movement, also known as the American Nazi Party, condemned the arson but said that he understood how the actions of the United Church of Christ could provoke such a reaction."

"White told the Blade that he believes homosexuality is a mental illness, and that the UCC is a 'heretic' church. 'Their encouragement of homosexuality is simply a modern extension of their 200-plus-year history of anti-social, anti-white and anti-Southern activities,' White said...."

"White told the Blade that his group is discussing 'targeting pro-homosexual events being organized by local "gay" churches.' He went on to name the Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge in Roanoke as a specific target of his group's efforts, which he said included distributing messages on leaflets and through direct mail."

Two seeks ago, Pastordan, writing at Talk to Action and elsewhere, wondered "Where's the Outrage?" on the part of the Christian Right and their media outlets.

"I've checked," he wrote. "So far, there's been no report on the assault from the Christian Bible Network, none from the Christian Post, nor from or Voices of the Martyrs. The websites of Albert Mohler, Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson are all silent. Christianity Today's Weblog, which carries news of just about everything happening in the Christian world, has yet to carry the news. Nor has Agape Press, which picks up within days stories of persecution--no matter how minor--against Christians around the world."

The UCC says God is Still Speaking, but even as neo-Nazis threaten Christian churches, the Christian Right apparently is still not listening.
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