"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Battleground 2014”: Better Not Gloat Too Much Over Hobby Lobby, Republicans

At TNR John Judis reminds us that the last time Republicans embraced a Supreme Court decision restricting reproductive rights, it bit ’em in the butt:

In July 1989, the court handed down Webster v. Reproductive Health Services upholding Missouri’s right to restrict the use of state funds and employees in performing, funding, or even counseling on abortions. It was the first court decision restricting the rights bestowed under Roe v. Wade.

The nation, of course, was divided on the issue of abortion. How the issue played politically depended on which side of the debate saw itself under attack, and in this case the Webster decision mobilized pro-choice supporters. The right to abortion became a hot issue in the 1990 elections, and in the final results, abortion-rights supporters came out ahead. There were several telltale races. In Florida, Democrat Lawton Chiles defeated incumbent Republican Governor Bob Martinez, who, in the wake of Webster, had championed restrictive laws for Florida.

In the Texas governor’s race, Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican incumbent Clayton Williams. According to polls, Richards, who made opposition to Webster a centerpiece of her campaign, garnered over 60 percent of the women’s vote, including 25 percent of Republican women. In the final tally, abortion-rights supporters, running against or replacing anti-abortion candidates, secured a net gain of eight seats in the House of Representatives, two Senate seats, and four statehouses.

What was also striking was the overall size of the gender gap. According to the National Election Studies survey, there was no gender gap between male and female supporters of Democratic congressional candidates in 1988. In 1990, gender gap was ten percentage points—the highest ever. All in all, 69 percent of women voters backed Democratic congressional candidates that year. Of course, there were other issues than Webster that were moving votes, but there is no doubt that the court ruling played an important role that year.

Now it’s true Webster turned on state abortion retrictions and thus was directly relevant to state election battles. But on the other hand, Hobby Lobby involves the elevation of corporate rights over reproductive rights, which is not exactly alien to the political battleground of 2014.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, Jul7 2, 2014

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Contraception, GOP, Hobby Lobby | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hobby Lobby, Megachurches, And The Trouble With Corporate Christianity”: Hobby Lobby Is A For-Profit Craft Chain, Not A Church

It was the most difficult job I’ve ever had. I’ve been a history professor for years, toiled as a graduate assistant before that, and even did a stint as an IT technician. But the three months I worked at Hobby Lobby stocking googly eyes and framing baseball cards takes the cake. I wanted a break from academia but it ended up not being a break at all. I found myself deconstructing and analyzing all aspects of my job — from the Bible in the break room to the prayers before employee meetings and the strange refusal of the company to use bar codes in its stores. (The rumor amongst employees was that bar codes were the Mark of the Beast, but that rumor remains unsubstantiated.) Three months was enough to convince me that there is something larger at work and the SCOTUS decision only confirms my belief that corporate Christianity (and Christianity that is corporate) has made it difficult for Americans to discern religion from consumption.

As a scholar of religious history, I observe the way that faith intersects with culture. I study and publish on megachurches and my interpretation of this week’s events is informed not only by my experiences as an employee at Hobby Lobby but also my knowledge of recent religious trends. My biggest question after hearing the decision was not about the particular opinions or practical repercussions (which are significant and have far-reaching and dangerous consequences). Instead, my first thought was: “What is it about our cultural fabric that enables us to attribute religious rights to a corporate entity?” In the United States we have increasingly associated Christianity with capitalism and the consequences affect both corporations and churches. It’s a comfortable relationship and seemingly natural since so much of our history is built on those two forces. But it’s also scary.

Hobby Lobby is a for-profit craft chain, not a church. I’m stating the obvious just in case there was any confusion because — let’s face it — it’s confusing. It’s as confusing as those googly eyes (do you really need three different sizes, Hobby Lobby, really?). Today, we see giant churches that operate like corporations and now corporations have some of the same rights as churches. Many megachurches adopt “seeker-sensitive” approaches to attract members, relying on entertainment and conspicuous consumption to promote their services. After a while, the spiritual and secular lines start to blur and the Christian and corporate blend. Ed Young, Jr.’s Fellowship Church, for instance, started a “90-Day Challenge” for members. The church asks congregants to pledge 10 percent of their income and promises “that if you tithe for 90 days and God doesn’t hold true to his promise of blessings, we will refund 100 percent of your tithe.”

Megachurches advertise on television, billboards, the Internet. They have coffee shops and gift stores. Some feature go-cart tracks, game centers, even oil changes. Many are run by pastors that also serve as CEOs. So when Hobby Lobby seeks similar religious rights as these very corporate churches, we have to reconsider our definition of religious organizations and maybe even say “why not?” We have normalized corporate Christianity to the point that the Supreme Court deems it natural for businesses to hold “sincere” religious beliefs. The religious landscape in the United States, including our familiarity with megachurches and celebrity pastors, certainly contributes to the acceptance of the church/company conundrum.

The “why not” can be answered, however, with the real costs of the decision. Women’s reproductive rights are compromised. The religious freedom of employees for these corporations is compromised. The sanctity of our religious institutions is also compromised. To protect religious pluralism and freedom of the individual we need clear demarcations between what is spiritual and what is economical. Otherwise, we sacrifice the soul of American religion and all that makes it good and why I study it on the altar of industry. I can’t get those three months at Hobby Lobby back (or the praise muzak out of my head) but I can see more clearly the dangers of allowing corporate Christianity to become the norm. Without clear boundaries, we risk distorting the very idea of religious freedom and the rich, diverse religious culture that makes us who we are. And that’s tragic — maybe not as tragic as praise muzak, but tragic nonetheless.


By: Charity R. Carney, Ph.D.; The Huffington Post Blog, July 2, 2014

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Hobby Lobby, Religion, Womens Rights | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rand Paul’s Opportunism Knows No Bounds”: It’s Not A Real Good Time For Irresponsible Statements By U.S. Politicians

As you probably know, a whole new round of dangerous tension is gripping the Middle East after the savage killing of three Israeli teenagers, reportedly by agents of Hamas, followed by an apparent “revenge killing” of a Palestinian teen. It’s not a real good time for irresponsible statements by U.S. politicians.

But in an act of increasingly typical opportunism, the junior senator from Kentucky took the occasion to cut loose with a blast at the President of the United States, per this report from Politico‘s Katie Glueck:

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul blasted the White House’s response to a kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in a strongly worded column designed to highlight his pro-Israel credentials.

Paul, a potential GOP presidential contender who is often leery of interventionist foreign policy, has been highly critical of the more hawkish wing of the GOP, most recently in the debate over what to do in Iraq. But Paul also has been trying to show the Republican establishment that his overall approach to foreign affairs is not out of the mainstream, and his tough rhetoric in the National Review op-ed could be seen as another overture.

In the column, Paul reiterated his call to end U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, which reached a unity agreement with Hamas. Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by America and Israel, controls the Gaza Strip.

The White House has expressed outrage over the Israeli teens’ deaths, but it also has called for judiciousness in response, and Paul skewered the administration for urging a show of “restraint.”

“Children are murdered — please show restraint. Cafes and buses are bombed — please show restraint. Towns are victimized by hundreds of rockets — please show restraint while you bury your dead once again,” Paul wrote. “I think it is clear by now: Israel has shown remarkable restraint. It possesses a military with clear superiority over that of its Palestinian neighbors, yet it does not respond to threat after threat, provocation after provocation, with the type of force that would decisively end their conflict.

Paul, of course, has been engaged in a intensive process of overcoming his and his father’s reputation as “anti-Israeli” for favoring a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel. So there is probably no act Israel could commit that won’t be aggressively praised by the peace-loving senator (in an impressive display of hypocrisy, he’s calling his bill for a termination of U.S. aid to the PA the “Stand With Israel Act.”) But blasting the administration for exercising actual diplomatic care over an explosive situation crosses the line from opportunism to cynical demagoguery. Progressives who have grudging respect for Paul as a paragon of principle should adjust accordingly. He’d likely be happy if the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict blew up into horrific war, subsuming his past hostility to U.S. aid to Israel in fire and blood.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, July 2, 2014

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East, Rand Paul | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Struggle For Voting Rights Continues”: Honoring The Civil Rights Act, 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago today, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. On that great day in 1964, surrounded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other national leaders, President Johnson outlawed discrimination based on race. While the Civil Rights Act did not eliminate literacy tests, those evil tools used in the South to prevent blacks from voting, it did require that voting rules be applied equally to all races. And it paved the way for the landmark passage of the Voting Rights Act one year later.

It’s hard to believe that in 1964, less than 7 percent of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote. I was reminded of the hardships of that era the other day while watching Freedom Summer, the incredible PBS documentary on the young black and white volunteers who flooded Mississippi in 1964 to increase voter registration, educate African-American children and draw attention to the countless injustices taking place every day in the Magnolia State.

“What we were trying to do was to organize these communities to take possession of their own lives. For the last hundred years the ability of black people to control their own destiny had been taken away from them,” Freedom Summer organizer Charlie Cobb recalls in the film.

Freedom Summer volunteers walked through neighborhoods, struck up conversations in cotton fields, and sat on porches. They reminded local African-Americans that they could vote for sheriff and stop intimidation by the local police. But it was not an easy pitch.

“Immediately, what you found out you were dealing with was fear,” remembers Cobb, who at the time was a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi. “They would say, ‘You’re right, boy. We should be registered to vote, but I ain’t going down there to mess with them white people.’ ”

Cobb, who would become a distinguished journalist and author and visiting professor at Brown University, told PBS that the fear was overwhelming. “Within that small group of people who did try and register to vote, very few of them actually got registered to vote.” Voting forms were designed to be absurdly complex, and local registrars controlled who was accepted to vote. “In some counties, when people went in to register, their names would appear in the newspaper the next day. That could have recriminations for all members of their family,” said historian John Dittmer. “It could mean they would lose their job. There were real consequences to taking this risk.”

That was 50 years ago, but the struggle for voting rights continues. Today, strict photo ID requirements and cutbacks to early voting are creating obstacles at the ballot box that disproportionately affect seniors, students, low-income individuals and people of color. Twenty-two states have passed new voting-restriction laws, and advocates are fighting back in court. We must continue to support free and fair voting for all Americans, and to honor the civil rights pioneers who came before us.


By: Page Gardner, The Huffington Post Blog, July 2, 2014

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Day For Packing Heat”: A Cold War Style Balance Of Terror

I noted yesterday that July 1, the first day of the fiscal year in 46 states, is often a day when new laws take effect. So it’s not surprising that Georgia’s new expanded open carry law came in with what was nearly a bang, per this report from Dean Poling of the Valdosta Daily Times:

On the first day of the new Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act, a misunderstanding between two armed men in a convenience store Tuesday led to a drawn firearm and a man’s arrest.

“Essentially, it involved one customer with a gun on his hip when a second customer entered with a gun on his hip,” said Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress.

At approximately 3 p.m. Tuesday, police responded to a call regarding a customer dispute at the Enmark on the corner of Park Avenue and North Lee Street.

A man carrying a holstered firearm entered the store to make a purchase. Another customer, also with a holstered firearm, approached him and demanded to see his identification and firearms license, according to the Valdosta Police Department report.

The customer making demands for ID pulled his firearm from its holster but never pointed it at the other customer, who said he was not obligated to show any permits or identification.

He demanded the man’s ID again. Undeterred by the drawn gun, the man paid for his items, left the store and called for police.

Authorities arrested Ronald Williams, 62, on a charge of disorderly conduct, related to the pulling of a weapon inside of the store, according to the VPD. Police confiscated Williams’ weapon and took him to the Lowndes County Jail.

It’s a hell of a note when someone exercising his Second Amendment rights has to show a permit for that hand cannon on his hip. The whole idea of open carry law is to encourage a Cold War style balance of terror where everybody’s packing heat.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, July 2, 2014

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , | Leave a comment

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