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“As Dangerous As Thomas And Scalia”: Meet The Right-Wing Religious Zealot Who’d Rather Follow The Bible Than The Law

Happiness is boring a hole in your Hebrew slave’s ear with an awl, or so might well say Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice and Baptist zealot Roy Moore.

Before I get to Moore and his grotesque, faith-lathered absurdities, though, a quick digression. Not a week goes by without our egregiously pious politicians outraging rationalist champions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential candidate and onetime Southern Baptist preacher, indicated he would, as head of state, obey the Supreme Being, not the Supreme Court, at least as regards same-sex marriage.

His rival and fellow evolution-naysayer Ben Carson urged his Christian co-religionists to stand up to “progressive bullying,” even though Christians account for seven out of ten Americans, and hardly amount to some beleaguered minority nonbelievers could push around, even if they wanted to.

And the Republican National Committee continues its affiliation with the Christian fundamentalist activist group, American Renewal Project, whose director, David Lane, is now calling for the establishment of Christianity as “the official religion of America.” Lane may have taken cues from that morose stalwart of antipathetic reaction, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Don’t forget, a year ago Thomas, a Roman Catholic, aired the malodorous opinion that the First Amendment (which starts with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) “probably” – italics mine, yes, sic, only “probably” – “prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion,” but should not hinder individual states from doing so.

With justices like Thomas, and if a Republican wins in 2016, the Supreme Court may well end up serving as the Doric-columned ossuary of the remains of our once gloriously godless Republic.

Now we come to Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Speaking last week at the Family Research Council, a hyper-conservative Christian lobbying group in Washington, D.C., Moore defined the pursuit of happiness as a by-product of observing the often malicious edicts and baleful pronouncements pervading cock-and-bull fables originating with pastoral, semi-nomadic primitive tribes two or three millennia ago in a land far, far away; that is, the Bible. Moore declared, in obtusely baroque verbiage, that “It’s laws of God, for He is so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual that the latter cannot be obtained but by observing the former, and if the formerly be punctually abated it cannot help but induce the latter. You can’t help but be happy if you follow God’s law and if you follow God’s law, you can’t help but be happy. We need to learn our law.”

Translation: doing what the Bible says makes you happy.

Some readers might recall Moore from 2003, when he fought a federal injunction ordering him to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments he had arranged to be erected within the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery.  Denouncing federal judges who held that the “obedience of a court order [is] superior to all other concerns, even the suppression of belief in the sovereignty of God,” Moore refused to comply, and was sacked from the court. Thousands of his supporters descended on the site. More than a year passed before the authorities managed to truck away the offending chunk of granite, a monstrosity so heavy it threatened to crash through the building’s floor.

A decade later, already a folk hero to the brute masses of his state afflicted with the malady of faith, Moore, as unrepentant as ever, found himself reelected to Alabama’s highest tribunal. Once again, he could not sit still. When the Supreme Court in Washington legalized same-sex marriage in Alabama last January, Roy forbade state employees and probate judges from carrying out such unions. In a contentious interview with CNN, Moore then proclaimed that “Our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God.” He denied he was defying the Supreme Court; rather, he was protecting marriage, “an institution ordained of God.” His allegiance, as should now be clear, is not to the Constitution he has sworn to uphold, but to gobbledygook myths and a bogus Tyrant in the Sky. In other words, to the Bible and God.

One might be tempted to dismiss Moore as yet another faith-mongering, red-state ignoramus, but his status as chief justice should give us pause. Moreover, for decades now, those of the religious right have been laboring to force their superstitions, by hook or by crook, on the rest of us. In far too many states, for example, they’ve succeeded in legislatively thwarting Roe v. Wade to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Just last year, they won a Supreme Court case legalizing prayer in town meetings. And if non-belief is steadily gaining ground, those who remain Christian are increasingly evangelical — which is to say, politically active and well-funded. We thus find our cherished secularism under credible, and growing, threat.

In view of this, it behooves us to take Moore’s advice and look at what the Bible actually says. But which part are we to review, the ferociously censorious Testament 1.0, or its supposedly more clement 2.0 update?

Both. The Bible, often obscure and contradictory, could not be clearer about this. In Matthew 5:18-19 Christ decrees: “till heaven and earth pass away . . . whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments [in the Bible] and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” In Luke 16:17, He reminds us that, “It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the [Bible’s] law to become invalid.” His cohort Peter informs us (in Peter 2: 20-21) that “there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation.” Disregard, then, those who would have you think that the Old Testament has, in effect, expired, as well as mealy-mouthed apologists who say it’s all a matter of how you read the text.  And remember, 28 percent of Americans take the Good Book as literal truth, talking snakes and jabbering donkeys and all. It’s not much of a jump to go from literal truth to literal application.

The Bible deluges us with a hailstorm of injunctions, far in excess of the Ten Commandments (first presented in Exodus 20:22-28, but also, with inexplicable alterations and sundry additions, in Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 5). Aside from don’t kill, murder, or covet wives and asses, and so on, just what does the Bible ordain?

For starters, slavery. Much of Exodus 21 is basically a slaveholder’s manual and contains my opening line about boring through your Hebrew slave’s ear with an awl, which is what it says he deserves if he should fail to decamp on schedule. (Servitude is to last six years.) After departure, the slave’s wife and children belong, of course, to you, his master. If you need cash, feel free to sell your daughter as a sex slave. Beat and have sex with your slaves, but whatever you do, don’t “smite” their eyes or their teeth, or you’re obliged to free them. Remember, though, that Christ orders your slaves to obey you with “fear, trembling, and sincerity, as when [they] obey the Messiah” (Ephesians 6:5), so don’t spare the rod unnecessarily. Exodus (21:29) also warns you to keep your livestock in check. Don’t let your ox gore anyone, or you and the beast must be stoned to death. Do redeem the firstling of an ass with a lamb (whatever that means), but if you don’t, break the former’s neck. Otherwise, don’t “oppress” any “sojourners,” “vex” any strangers, or “afflict” any widows or “fatherless children.” Etcetera.

If believers require orders from some “holy” book to keep from doing these things, as those who claim our morality comes from God suppose, they should be kept off the streets, and certainly away from children.

When it comes to His earthly visiting quarters, the Lord legislates with lavish abandon, proffering binding instructions for ark-building, tabernacle-adornment, and altar-construction, on which His subjects are to scant nothing — not gold, not silver, not bronze. U.S. lawmakers chose to lighten the expense burden by providing churches with tax exemptions. Ancient Israelites found recompense in celestially sanctioned regional hegemony over the “Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite” (Exodus 34). Israelites were divinely enjoined to “destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their idol poles . . . .  For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders.” This criminal pronouncement from long ago inspires radical Jewish settlers today and helps maintain the insolubility of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

God then hits red-staters where it hurts, ordaining that “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks” — tattoos — “upon you: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:27). Brothers, no mullets: “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27). Nevertheless, dress nattily: “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together” (Deuteronomy 22:11). Sisters, betake yourselves to a nunnery — for clothes, if nothing else. “Women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire” (l Timothy 2:9).

Before setting out to follow Jesus, remember to violate Commandment 5 and abhor your parents. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Do, however, abhor discreetly, for if you curse Mom and Dad aloud, they have the right to cut you down on the spot (Leviticus 20:9). Don’t talk with any wizards (ibid, 20:6) or get it on with your sister-in-law, or eat fat (ibid 3:17), or attend church for thirty-three days after birthing a boy (you’ll be unclean), or sixty-six days if it’s a girl, you’ll be doubly unclean (Ibid 12:4-5).

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Thomas Jefferson described “the Christian god [as] a being of terrific character — cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust.” In modern parlance, the Lord is psychotic, and stands in need of urgent psychiatric treatment for an out-of-control Type A personality, pathological solipsism and wanton sadism. It should surprise no one that damnable nonsense is His rule book’s warp and woof, with even the supposedly more humane New Testament deserving disdain as a farrago of “forgeries and lies” (to quote Thomas Paine). The Bible, in the end, merits mercilessly swift dispatch into the dustbin of history, or preservation as an anthropological curiosity, nothing more. Anyone considering it our wellspring of joy is not to be trusted.

So how is it that Chief Justice Moore suffers no opprobrium for saying that you “can’t help but be happy if you follow God’s law?”

Because we commit a sort of secular sin of omission and let him, either out of mistaken notions of politesse or the erroneous belief that criticizing religion as ideology equates with insulting someone personally. This has to stop. Every time we encounter faith-deranged individuals spouting supernatural nonsensicalities, we should request explanations and evidence. We might also cite the above-noted biblical passages and ask how they possibly square with modern life in a developed country. If they say those parts don’t apply nowadays, ask them which verses in the Bible permit them to so pick and choose. By steady, patient questioning, you will expose faith for what it is: finely crafted garbage.

We should not suffer evangelical fools gladly or allow them to determine the boundaries of discourse. We should take to heart the key maxim of British philosopher and mathematician William K. Clifford: “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” We should point out that we have no problem with privately held religious beliefs, but we will protest and object to any attempt to impose such beliefs or restrictions deriving thereof on us or others.

Resist. You have a world of hard-won rights and secular sanity to preserve, and everything to lose.

 

By: Jeffrey Tayler, Contributing Editor at the Atlantic; Salon, May 31, 2015

June 2, 2015 Posted by | Religious Beliefs, Roy Moore, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Cruz Balks At Questions On Flooding, Climate”: References To Science Are Inappropriate When Ted Cruz Doesn’t Like The Data

Storms in Texas last week caused deadly flooding, and conditions in some areas grew even worse over the weekend. NBC News has confirmed that at least 24 people have died in Texas in the floods, and the death toll climbs when victims in Oklahoma and Mexico are added to the tally.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), like many officials in the Lone Star State, has worked on securing federal disaster relief for the affected areas. What the far-right senator has not been willing to do, however, is answer questions about the environmental conditions that may be contributing to the floods themselves.

CNN reported the other day that Cruz finds himself “in a bind on climate change.”

The Republican presidential contender has held two press conferences over the past two days to address the flooding and the government’s response. At each one, he was asked about the impact of climate change on natural disasters like the Texas flooding, and at each one, he dodged the question.

“In a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster – and so there’s plenty of time to talk about other issues,” he said in response to a question on his views on climate change during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s a curious response. For one thing, it’s not entirely clear how Cruz defines “politicize” – to talk about environmental conditions contributing to an environmental disaster is “political”? Are we to believe references to science are inappropriate when Ted Cruz doesn’t like the data?

For another, Cruz’s rhetoric makes it sound as if he’d welcome a discussion about the climate crisis and its devastating, real-world effects – just not now. There’s “plenty of time” for this conversation, he said.

But the point is, Cruz has it backwards. As the crisis intensifies, and the disasters become more frequent and severe, there isn’t “plenty of time” for conversations that climate deniers always want to push away.

Over at ThinkProgress, Emily Atkin argued yesterday that “let’s not politicize this” carries with it a distinct “I’m not a scientist” vibe.

[It’s] a way to avoid talking about the science that says human-made carbon emissions are warming the earth and screwing with natural weather patterns. Cruz, for his part, says he does not accept that science.

In the meantime, climate scientists across the country have been speaking out about the climate implications of the Texas floods. And on Friday, ThinkProgress asked several of those scientists to weigh in on Cruz’s comments.

The overwhelming response: Talking about climate change after a weather tragedy is not political. In fact, it’s necessary.

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, for example, said, “The science isn’t political. It’s the solutions that are political.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 1, 2015

June 2, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change Deniers, Climate Science, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“From Unlikely To Long-Shot”: Rand Paul Just Sacrificed His Presidential Campaign For His Libertarian Principles

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had what will probably be the defining moment of his presidential campaign on Sunday night. It could conceivably help him, but at a high political cost. It could also end his presidential hopes.

The junior senator from Kentucky infuriated his Republican colleagues by blocking a vote on the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would curtail a controversial National Security Agency bulk phone-data collection program and reauthorize three other surveillance programs that expired at midnight. The NSA had stopped collecting telephone metadata Sunday afternoon, when it became clear no deal would be finalized in time. It won’t be able to resume until the Senate acts, the House approves any changes, and President Obama signs the bill.

In Rand Paul’s telling, and that of the red-shirted “Stand With Rand” supporters who filled the Senate gallery on Sunday evening, Paul stuck a shiv in the government surveillance state, at least for a few days. “The Patriot Act will expire — it will expire tonight,” Paul said on his way out of the Senate chamber Sunday night. “The point I wanted to make is that we can still catch terrorists using the Constitution.”

Paul had some other help, if inadvertent. Senate Republicans, notably Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), had wanted to extend the USA Patriot Act as is. They fell short. Then, after a week’s recess, when it became clear the votes just weren’t there for the Patriot Act renewal, McConnell reluctantly agreed to put the “flawed” USA Freedom Act up for a last-minute vote on Sunday, and the Senate agreed, 77 to 17. The bill had passed the House on May 13, 338-88, and Obama supports it.

Senate GOP hawks say the Freedom Act puts too many constraints on the NSA; Paul and some other civil libertarians say it still goes too far. But his usual civil-liberty allies in the Senate signaled their comfort with the House bill, leaving Rand Paul the lone holdout. In the Senate, that’s often enough to delay a bill, and Paul did so on Sunday.

Whether or not it was his prime motivation, as Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggest, Paul will earn a lot of money for his presidential campaign. But his chances of becoming the 2016 Republican nominee just went from unlikely to long-shot.

Shutting down American espionage and surveillance capabilities, even for a few days, is too off-brand for the GOP — especially at the moment.

Paul is “a niche candidate of a shrinking niche, because events are not playing out the way he anticipated two years ago when he began running for president,” George Will said on Fox News Sunday. “The world looks much more dangerous than it did,” and “literally cashing in” on his “conscientiousness as a libertarian” really “muddies the waters” of his intentions.

In a crowded Republican presidential field, Rand Paul is betting he can monopolize the libertarian caucus. It’s a gamble. Forcing expiration of the NSA provisions for a couple of days was a small victory on its own. But “his larger political victory was that he took ownership of Patriot Act opposition,” said David Weigel at Bloomberg Politics, “angering Republican colleagues whom he is happy to anger.”

Weigel names McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), but Paul also angered McConnell, who has endorsed him for president, and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who vowed on Sunday that “there won’t be any negotiations with Rand Paul from this point forward.” Paul didn’t attend the GOP caucus meeting before Sunday’s session, and Republicans walked out on him en masse when he started speaking.

The big question for Paul is whether there are enough civil libertarians in the Republican Party, and if so, whether they will vote in the primary. Plenty voted for his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), but it wasn’t enough.

“People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake,” Rand Paul said Sunday evening. “Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”

In other words, Rand Paul sounds like a lot of Democrats after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That wasn’t a good place to be, politically.

Brit Hume at Fox News hammered the same point on Sunday. Paul “seems confused about which party he’s running in,” he said. “There’s a segment of the Republican electorate which shares his somewhat paranoid views of things, and he’ll have their support, but that’s not a nominating set.”

Rand Paul seems to know the risks, and he seems content to go down swinging. And if he does stake his political future on curtailing government spying and lose, unlike other GOP presidential contenders, he probably shouldn’t expect a soft landing at Fox News.

 

By: Peter Weber, The Week, June 1, 2015

June 2, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Patriot Act, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Medically Unnecessary”: Scott Walker Doesn’t Get Why His ‘Cool’ Ultrasound Remark Was So Offensive — And That’s The Problem

Gov. Scott Walker was chatting recently with right-wing radio host Dana Loesch about his efforts to set up regulatory hurdles to abortion access in Wisconsin, when he offered this defense of a law he signed that would require a woman to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before exercising her constitutionally protected right to an abortion:

I’m pro-life. I’ve passed pro-life legislation. We defunded Planned Parenthood, we signed a law that requires an ultrasound. Which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. You know, most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time that pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.

Right Wing Watch, a project of People For the American Way, was listening to the show and brought attention to Walker’s comments, and they understandably hit a nerve.

Sure, an ultrasound could be “cool” if you are a woman carrying a healthy child, surrounded by family, love and support and making your own medical choices along with your doctor. Or you are excited grandparents looking forward to years of joy with a child. What’s not “cool” is if the state mandates that you undergo a medically unnecessary procedure in an effort to prevent you from making a choice that you, an adult woman whose circumstances your politicians have no right to know or judge, have already made and are unlikely to change.

Even less “cool” is the fact that the ultrasound bill was passed as part of an explicit effort to undermine women’s access to health care. Its companion bill was an “admitting privileges” requirement, a common anti-choice tactic, that threatened to close two abortion clinics in the state. Since then, Walker has boasted to anti-choice leaders of using deceptive rhetoric about the ultrasound bill in order to downplay its true intentions.

Unlike the ultrasounds of the Walkers’ children, forced ultrasounds like these aren’t the kind that anyone wants to show off. What’s astonishing is that Walker doesn’t seem to get this. Instead, he’s accusing the “gotcha” media of being “biased” and “lazy” and twisting the meaning of his comments. Unfortunately, some of the media are taking him at his word.

Walker’s remarks weren’t twisted. You can listen to his whole answer to the question here. The problem is that Walker just doesn’t seem to get why what he said was so offensive. For someone who wants to be president, that’s deeply troubling.

 

By: Michael B, Keegan, President, People For the American Way; The Blog, The Huffington Post, June 1, 2015

June 2, 2015 Posted by | Scott Walker, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Pretend 9/11 Never Happened”: Dick Cheney Boasts Of 7 1/2-Year Record Of Preventing Terrorism

Dick Cheney, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick O’Connor, has a new book coming out in September, as well as “a Darth Vader trailer-hitch cover, a nod to his alter-ego from the Bush days,” and also a slightly new way of defending his administration’s record of protecting Americans from terrorist attacks. Cheney now tells O’Connor his policies “kept us safe for 7½ years.”

The usual Republican line is that Bush and Cheney “kept us safe,” full stop. The “he kept us safe” line has always been slightly tricky owing to the fact that foreign terrorist attacks killed more Americans during the Bush administration than every other presidency in history combined. The easiest way to handle this tiny fly in the ointment (and the related problems of Bush ignoring serious warnings of imminent attacks) is to pretend it never happened. To wit, Jeb Bush yesterday defended his brother’s administration like so: “Well, the successes clearly are protecting the homeland. We were under attack, and he brought — he unified the country and he showed dogged determination. And he kept us safe.”

But a small part of Cheney has always felt the lawyerly compunction to phrase his defense in a technically accurate fashion. In an August 2009 Fox News interview, Cheney worked the phrase “eight years” into his defense of the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism record:

I’m very proud of what we did in terms of defending the nation for the last eight years successfully. …

I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States. …

we had a track record now of eight years of defending the nation against any further mass casualty attacks from Al Qaida.

Cheney could say “eight years” because the interview took place eight years after the enormous mass-casualty attack that occurred on his watch. “Eight years” is a nice-sounding phrase, because it matches the length of his term in office. His eight-year figure took the last seven and a half years of Bush plus the first six months of Obama to arrive at a nice, round sum.

In 2013, Cheney altered the boast somewhat, to castigate the Obama administration for having been caught by surprise by the attacks at Benghazi. “When we were there, on our watch, we were always ready on 9/11, on the anniversary,” he scolded. Cheney was about to insist that the Bush administration had been prepared to stop a terrorist attack on every 9/11, then realized that there was that one huge exception, so he changed it slightly. Under their watch, Americans enjoyed seven terrorism-free September 11s out of eight.

And now he’s been reduced to “kept us safe for 7½ years.” It doesn’t have quite the same ring, given that most people are aware that presidential administrations govern in numbers divisible by four. It is somewhat reminiscent of a circa-2000 Onion article imagining George W. Bush suspiciously refusing to deny a 1984 mass murder for which he appeared guilty. (“On Jan. 20, during a radio interview on Pittsburgh’s KDKA, he said he has ‘not committed a single mass murder in the past 16 years’ — just one day after making a similar comment mentioning 15 years.”) That odd fastidiousness in the service of massive dishonesty has become the most charming element of the Cheney post-presidency.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, The Dail Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 1, 2015

June 2, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Dick Cheney, National Security | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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