Making America Safe Again

This election has gone off the rails. Today on Raw Story, I saw the following news items:

  1. http://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/see-the-face-of-american-fascism-decoding-sheriff-joe-arpaios-anti-bestiality-video/ Sheriff Joe Arpaio actually makes a video imploring people not to have sex with their animals. Who knew this was a problem in Arizona? I think the man is getting senile.
  2. http://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/oklahoma-lawmakers-call-state-of-emergency-to-stop-trans-kids-from-using-the-restroom/ A State of Emergency? Really? Over a couple of kids?
  3. http://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/not-crazy-kansas-anti-abortion-group-demands-lawmakers-oppose-mythical-human-animal-hybrids/ Words fail me on this one. Some morons are in desperate need of a science class.
  4. http://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/federally-funded-transphobic-christian-school-demands-to-see-birth-certificates-to-weed-out-kids/ Wow, and I thought Jesus’s message was one of loving everyone and not judging people. I guess not according to these people.

Here are some quotes from the above stories to illustrate how delusional these people are:

Here he denounces America’s latest nightmare – not migrants, not even Muslims, but zoophiles. Arpaio is leading a campaign against bestiality, dedicating resources to rounding up people who abuse animals. In this video he presents it with the grimmest severity as a national crisis that he alone has the courage to face. He seems gripped by Jesuitical fury. This is a campaign for the national soul. Arpaio wrings his white hands repeatedly, kneads and unkneads his fingers, as he denounces dog abusers with all the dramatic intensity of senator Joe McCarthy going after communists.

and

“It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby
declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval,” Senate Bill 1619 stated in part.

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Brian Bingman and state House Speaker Jeff Hickman, restricts students around the state from using restrooms according to their gender identity, in direct opposition to the White House’s stance, announced earlier this month in response to similar legislation in North Carolina.

“This directive to schools is not only unlawful, but the breadth of overreach in this instance by the Obama Administration is shocking,” said state Rep. John Bennett (R). Bennett co-sponsored a concurrent resolution calling for the federal House of Representatives to impeach President Barack Obama regarding the issue.

and

“If we cannot legally refuse students who are struggling with homosexuality or gender identification, we must maintain our right to hold to the truths of God’s Word,” Breitkreutz wrote in the letter obtained by the New Republic. “In other words, although we do not have the right to refuse admittance to people choosing an outwardly sinful lifestyle, we do maintain the right to discipline and dismiss students for these choices.”

and

Kansans for Life has given candidates questionnaires asking where they stand on human cloning and on the creation of human-animal hybrids.

“Am I aware of it happening [in Kansas]? At this moment, no,” Kathy Ostrowski, the group’s legislative director told the Star. “But does that mean it’s not happening somewhere? I can’t tell you that.”

The group also asked candidates whether they would support legislation requiring invasive information from women seeking abortions, including “economic, educational and health history profiles and other relevant information, such as the stated reason for the abortion, from women obtaining abortions,” and also the collection of information about “fertility procedures, including the number of embryos created, implanted, destroyed, selectively reduced and retained.”

The conservative Christians have completely given in to their inner delusional fears on their quest to make America into some sort of gigantic safe space for their fantasies of racial, sexual, and political purity. I dread what this country would turn into if their desires were made into law. They make the Handmaid’s Tale and the medieval witchhunts look like a day at the spa. As a political progressive, I really hope that these idiots permanently tarnish the image of conservatism for many years in the future.

Ted and The Dildo

teddie

In 2008, Ted Cruz tried to ban the sale of sex toys in Texas. This was his rationale:

“There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” – Ted Cruz

How the hell could you enforce this kind of law? Force everyone to be chemically castrated and have to apply for permission from the government to in order to have sexual feelings? What a nutcase.

For God and Country

James Parco LtCol, USAF Ret, has written a position paper, God and Country: Religious Fundamentalism in the U.S. Military, for the Center for Inquiry. This paper is an excellent summary of problems caused by overzealous Christian fundamentalist adherents in the US military. Here is the rather depressing summary at the end of the paper:

 The inappropriate behavior of fundamentalist Christian military leaders will not likely change on its own. Ample rules and regulations remain in place to appropriately separate the religious beliefs of military leaders from their official duties and responsibilities. Most lacking, however, is the social and political will to enforce the existing rules and hold military commanders accountable for breaches of conduct.

The cases outlined in this paper raise the fundamental question captured by the classic Latin dictum, quis custodiet ipsos custodes – who will guard the guards themselves? Based on the evidence presented herein, the status quo remains resilient. Military institutions have shown significant reticence to discipline any of their own who use the power of their official positions to run rampant through the senior ranks of the military simply because it is allowed to do so. After all, every system is perfectly designed to yield the behaviors observed.

The answer to this dictum is that the American people, both elected officials and ordinary citizens, are tasked with guarding the guards. As the previous pages make clear, there is a serious problem with religious endorsement in the U.S. Armed Forces which needs to be immediately addressed and changed. It is up to those with social and political power to demand this action. If this problem persists, members of the military will continue to face hostility and indoctrination, and the U.S. government will continue to experience public relations problems in future military missions. If it is addressed, the U.S. military could become a neutral and safe space for members of all religious backgrounds, and none at all, and the image of the America, as seen through its military forces abroad, could change from one of Christianity to one of a diverse people united for liberty and justice for all.

 Until some group with the political power to challenge the entrenched Christian fundamentalists in the military takes action, there will be not change. This problem will persist until either mainline Christians in the US Military get tired of being treated like non-Christians or the non-Christians become more numerous in the military. And this report also does not cover other troubling developments like the links between the more extreme Christian fundamentalists and religious and racial supremacists in and outside of the military.

Chaplains Gone Wild

The last two days has seen a couple of interesting emails arrive in my email account for this blog. They concern a couple of military chaplains who have completely sold out to either rampant commercialism or a possible attempt to run for office. One of these chaplains, however has had problems with this for a long time. The other has succumbed to greed. I will cover the greedy chaplain now. The other chaplain will be in a separate post.

According to Justin Griffith at Rock Beyond Belief, Chaplain MAJ Doug Hedrick runs an organisation called Centurion’s Watch. This organisation runs some sort of Christian marriage seminars for the military. He of course charges for this. Here is an excerpt from the linked support page (quite a bit pushy with the requests for donations), while it lasts:

Please Help By Giving What You Can We are asking you to please sponsor or help sponsor one or more couples by making a tax deductible donation. The cost is $200 per couple and includes room, meals, materials for the seminar and breakout sessions, and entertainment such as ballroom dancing. Many couples cannot afford the full rate, but have expressed that they are able to pay $59-$69. We would love to have you become a monthly partner. There are several monthly support levels to choose from:

  • $16.36 (Founders Club- sponsors 1 couple per year)
  • $50 (Regiment Club- sponsors 3 couples per year)
  • $100 (Century Club- sponsors 6 couples per year)
  • $200 (Legion Club- sponsors 12 couples per year)

Or, please select one of our three other monthly levels ($300, $400, or $500 to allow military couples the opportunity to attend this life changing seminar, and also help Centurion’s Watch grow and offer more services to military couples and families.

What make this into a serious affair rather than a small case of probable conflict of interest for Chaplain Hedrick, is the involvement of Maj. Gen. Umbarger. Maj Gen Umbarger pushes Centurion’s Watch while in uniform. Dustin’s post lists all of the DoD regulations he is violating by doing this.

Maj. Gen. Umbarger is the Adjutant General of Indiana. He leads all of the state’s Army and Air National Guard and Guard Reserve units. Commanders have to be careful not to give the appearance of selective treatment. I’m surprised that this wasn’t vetted and then squashed.

With all of the pressure to participate in Centurion’s Watch seminars being pushed by Maj. Gen. Umbarger, what are lower ranking officers and enlisted members of the Guard supposed to do? This sure gives the impression that promotions are being tied to participation. What of the money that Chaplain Maj. Hedrick is making on these seminars? Is the general getting a cut as well?

Here is the promotional video Maj Gen Umbarger makes for Centurion’s Watch.

Why is pressuring your subordinates with buying Tupperware and other products not allowed, but pressuring them to buy Christian marriage seminars is? Sure the web page says that this is a “donation”, but who really believes that?

My next story has evolved over the past year. It involves an Army chaplain who was “retired” a couple of years ago. He has been involved in anti-Semitism, white supremacy, Christian supremacy, conspiracy theories, being removed from the chaplain endorsing agency he co-founded, getting involved with politics, and dragging his family’s personal problems through an email list. Quite a busy life since he was officially “retired” from active duty. Stay tuned.

Lancaster’s Prayer Problem


Click on the above images to get a readable page.

I saw the above article a couple of days ago in our local paper, The Antelope Valley Press. I was going to make a few comments about how Mayor Parris is so concerned about his own religious views not being allowed as official policy, but sure seems to be eager enough to trample all over Lancaster citizens religious rights. I was going to comment about the list of “approved” churches in the Antelope Valley being the only ones to participate. But reporter, Bob Wilson beat me to it.

Dave Dionne, president of the Antelope Valley Freethinkers posted this article from yesterday on the AVF meetup site. Thanks Dave.

City Officials Admit Violating Prayer Policy

By: Bob Wilson

LOS ANGELES – Lancaster officials on Tuesday acknowledged in federal court that the city twice violated its policy governing the selection of persons scheduled to offer invocations at City Council meetings.

I just knew this was going to happen.

They also acknowledged the city’s prayer policy was authored by Vice Mayor Ron Smith, not City Attorney David McEwen.

The acknowledgments were part of testimony elicited by Roger Jon Diamond, an attorney representing two women who have sued Lancaster over its policy on invocational prayers.

It appears the city is not too interested in what it’s lawyers think. Actually, Mayor Paris has stated publicly that he knows all about church-state separation issues and he is sure he will prevail in court. Never mind that even though he is a lawyer, he is an ambulance chaser and not a constitutional lawyer. I guess the Dunning-Kruger effect happens in the law profession as well.

The city’s policy, adopted in August 2009, asserts intent to provide equal opportunity for representatives of all faiths to say prayers calling for divine guidance for the council at the beginning of its public meetings.

Really, all faiths are treated equally? The evidence and testimony shows that this is not true.

A decision on whether U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer will issue an injunction barring the city from allowing such prayers or, in the alternative, will issue a declaration stating at least one of those prayers was unconstitutional is pending.

The policy was the City Council’s response to an April 2009 demand by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California that Lancaster officials put a stop to prayers being routinely offered in the name of Jesus Christ.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs, Shelley Rubin of Los Angeles and Maureen Feller of Lancaster, are seeking an injunction requiring the city to end its practice of allowing ministers and other church representatives from naming specific deities such as Jesus Christ when offering prayers at the beginning of government meetings.

If they fail to obtain an injunction, the plaintiffs are asking Judge Fischer to at least issue a declaratory judgment stating that an April 2010 invocation given by Bishop Henry Hearns was in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the California constitution.

In his prayer, Hearns closed with, “In the precious, holy and righteous and matchless name of Jesus, I pray this prayer. Amen and amen.”

Why does the city council need to have public prayers before their meeting? Don’t theyget enough in their places of worship? I have always thought that public piety is a show of insecurity. If you need to be reminded constantly of what you believe in, then your beliefs must be very fragile to begin with.

The bishop’s recitation of the prayer was displayed on a screen in Fischer’s courtroom along with other invocations offered at Lancaster meetings.

Diamond told Fischer the city’s prayer policy is a smokescreen meant to obscure its efforts to promulgate Christianity.

“Basically, the city is pushing an agenda of aligning itself with Christianity,” Diamond said, pointing to a January 2010 address where Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told a group of Christian ministers, “We’re growing a Christian community, and don’t let anybody shy away from that.”

In a previous post, I covered the Mayor’s mingling of his religion with city business. He was caught using public money to pay for the meeting with local church leaders. He was caught lying about it, and had to reimburse the city out of his own pocket.

Even if the city is not taking a pro-Christian stance intentionally, it is failing to adhere to its own policy concerning how and when people are permitted to offer such prayers, he said.

Under questioning by Diamond, City Clerk Geri Bryan acknowledged that her written declaration that the city’s policy had been unerringly followed was incorrect.

Instead of selecting a person at random to give the first invocation after city voters approved a referendum in support of the council’s policy, Bryan said she invited Hearns to lead the prayer at the suggestion of Paul Chappell, pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church.

Chappell was supposed to give the April 27 invocation but ultimately could not, so Chappell asked that she invite Hearns to give a prayer in his stead, Bryan testified.

Another case of Lancaster Baptist Church running the city council. They get first dibs on the city’s invocation, in direct contrast to the city’s official policy of a random choice of religious leader.

When asked how a Los Angeles-based member of the Sikh religion council came to offer the first invocation after the filing of the lawsuit against the city, Bryan said she was asked by City Manager Mark Bozigian to find a Jew, Muslim or Sikh to offer the prayer.

When asked if that move was contradictory to the city’s prayer policy, Bryan said, “It is.”

She found the Sikh minister through a contact provided by a member of the city’s Planning Commission, she said.

Yeah, when pressed, the city needed to look for “some Jew, Muslim, or Sikh”as a token minority when it became obvious that the invocations were given only by Christians..

When called as a witness, Parris said his use of the word “We” in the phrase “We’re growing a Christian community” was intended to refer to efforts by himself and the ministers present at the January 2010 address and not to efforts by himself and others at City Hall.

Parris also said the comment was made “at a private meeting with the ministerial association that I paid for.”

Supporting the growth of a Christian community “is not an official city position,” Parris said.

I guess it’s not now since the Mayor was caught red handed paying for the meeting with city money and had to pay it back once the truth came out.

The comment was made at a time “when Muslims were threatening one of our councilwomen,” the mayor said.

Muslims threatening the council woman? As I recall, she was posting highly inflammatory comments on Facebook and was slammed back by the Muslim community. I guess she could dish it out but couldn’t take it.

Arguing for the city, attorney Alison Burns said previous federal cases have determined that prayers at the beginning of government meetings are constitutional.

Burns also said that as long as persons giving the prayers neither exploit the opportunity in an attempt to convert others nor disparage the faith or beliefs of others, the city cannot impose prior restraints on the language of those praying.

“The city has and is complying with the policy,” Burns said. “The policy is now being followed to the letter.”

Past errors should not be used as a basis for issuing an injunction against the rule, she said.

Instead, the city should be, at most, directed by the court to follow the rule, Burns said.

“If any (past) invocation did not follow (the city’s) policy, it should not form a future restriction on the city of Lancaster,” she said.

So the city council should not be accountable for not following city policy?

The city can ask those who offer invocations to adhere to its policy, but it cannot retract the words of those who fail to do so, Burns said.

Then perhaps they should have followed official city policy to stay out of trouble. This is what happens when they ignore the city’s attorney.

Diamond said the city’s policy of allowing numerous prayer-givers the chance to possibly offend listeners of different religions was not a defense.

“This is not an isolated slip-up. They have a history of this sort of conduct over a long period of time,” Diamond said. “The practice and custom in Lancaster is to violate the establishment (of religion) clause.”

Diamond asked Fischer to provide the same ruling that was issued in a state-court case he won against the city of Burbank when it was allowing sectarian prayers in the name of Jesus Christ.

Fischer told Diamond she was not bound to follow decisions reached in state courts, including the one against Burbank.

“There is no (previous federal) case exactly on point” that serves as a precedent for the Lancaster lawsuit, “so we are swimming in new waters here,” Diamond told Fischer. “It will be up to the court” to set the precedent, he said.

The judge agreed, noting that a precedent “would make my job easier.”

“I will do the best I can,” she said, noting that she had a prior matter on which to rule before turning her attention to Rubin v. Lancaster.

Hopefully, the judge will throw out Lancaster City council prayers. The city council behaved exactly like I predicted they would act. The whole selecting random religious leaders was a smokescreen and was deliberately ignored, so that the city council’s favorite church, the huge mega church compound Lancaster Baptist, could continue to give the invocation. Lancaster Baptist Church is very active in Lancaster politics and giving the invocation week after week is a reminder to the city council of their political clout in Lancaster.

What the Hell is Wrong With Kern County?

It’s been really hectic around here since we got back from our vacation driving up the California coast. A friend of ours died while we were gone, we’ve been busy helping the family out, and shopping for the start of school. I get back and what type of news do I get about Kern County? It’s bad enough that county officials seem obsessed about gay people, but there is news about Chad Vegas, a member on the school board that wants to institute his right-wing, born-again agenda. Check this out, here is an example of his latest ignorance. Apparently, Chad thinks that atheists should be barred from public office. He also thinks that only Christians should hold office. Here is a transcript of what he said on the radio:

Host: So you believe that in saying no to this support ruling by the judge, you’re defending the Constitution?

Chad: Absolutely and I’m upholding God and God’s law because the Constitution is consistent with God’s law. But I would challenge people who say “How could a representative uphold the constitution of California if they’re an atheist? How is it possible? I don’t think, I think it’s impossible for an atheist to support and defend the constitution of the state of California and so maybe we should have a religious test. Now there is no religious test for federal office, that’s for sure. But maybe there should be one for state office because the preamble of the state constitution says “We the people of the State of California grateful for almighty God for our freedom in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings do establish this constitution. An atheist can’t event believe the preamble to our constitution in the state of California. And yet they are going to swear to support and uphold it or to defend it. I don’t know how they can do that without mental reservations.

Host: So they’re the ones who are crossing their fingers behind their backs?

Chad: They’re the ones crossing their fingers behind their backs and not upholding the constitution without mental reservation, absolutely.

Host: So when the Californian goes to someone and say “How can you make this vow?” They really should be going to someone, in your opinion …

Chad: Yeah. In my opinion they should be going to the atheists and saying “How can you uphold this vow?” in fact, you can’t because you’re express statement is against our constitution. And people go nuts over this whole religion issue …

Host: And by the way, you wouldn’t really, you wouldn’t really expect or demand a litmus test of …

Chad: I’m not necessarily against it, at the state level. I’m against it at the federal level because our federal constitution expressly says there is no religious test for office. Doesn’t mean I can’t vote based on it, but there’s no religious test legally to hold it. At the state level, I’m not opposed to a state saying that we’re not going to allow anybody but Christians to hold office in our state.

Host: I love you. [said adoringly – gag]

Chad: I don’t have a problem with that, if that’s what the state wants, if that’s what that sovereign state wants to do, that fine. If they say we’re like Utah and we want Mormons, I guess Utah has the right to do that, I have the right to move to a different state.

A hat tip to ReasonRulesUs for the mention on a Pharyngula thread and the audio on his/her blog.

After the fight about the “In God We Trust”banners in the high schools, I thought this guy was an ignoramus, but this really confirms it. There is one big problem with his argument however, and that is Article 6 and the 14th amendment to the Constitution. Article 6 states that there will be no religious test for office and the14th amendment states that all citizens have equal rights regardless of which state they reside in.

These provisions in the Constitution totally invalidate his reasoning. You can’t discriminate against someone in one state and expect them to move. And what happens if laws are legislated in all states to discriminate against someone? That is why states cannot invalidate someone’s constitutional rights. I suppose he is all in favor if atheists gain power and decide to enact laws to bar Christians from office? Did he ever think about what he was saying before it flew out of his mouth? Either he is ignorant of the Constitution he swore to uphold, or his oath is worth nothing as he is only too eager to break it.

I’m appalled at the ignorance displayed by Mr. Vegas’s interview. That someone who is in office to help ensure that our local educational system is the best that it can be has so little education himself, so little knowledge of the document that he swears to uphold. It’s a sad day for Kern County and its educational system. And what really gets me is the fact that people actually voted for this willfully ignorant clown and support him. Since he has decided to run again for office, anyone who is in favor of improving Kern County education should vote for his opponent. I know I will.

Possummomma who lives in our local area also has a few words on the subject. She lives in Bakersfield and has to deal with this much more than I do.

Right… dry that out and you can fertilize the lawn. There is no doubt in my mind that this guy would love nothing more than to see Bakersfield purged of any non-Christian influence. Actions speak louder than words. Of course, he claims he’s been taken out of context. Because, as he explains, he was “trying to get the school board to pass an ordinance against gay marriage.” What the hell that has to do with educating our kids is beyond me.

If anyone wants to contact the Kern County School Board, here are the numbers:

KCSBA Members, located in Bakersfield area code 661
Richard Traynor, President 397-0297
Kal Vaughn, Vice President 763-5135
Craig Fulwyler, Secretary/Treasurer 758-4409
Linda Pavletich, Past President 835-8500
Rene Adamo 769-8107
Karen Dewalt 631-9148
Barbara Mettler 589-9386
Chad Vegas 827-3154

Update:

More “Pastor” Chad shenanigans:

Letter sent to Kern County supervisors.

Editorial in the Bakersfield Californian about the mess.