Intruding Upon the Constitution by the Religious Right

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 

Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky, of Peoria, Ill., ordered all parish priests in his diocese to read a letter to their congregations condemning Barack Obama. The letter, to be read the weekend before the election, declared that Obama and the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate had launched an “assault upon our religious freedom.”

He wasn’t the only priest who used the pulpit to attack the President. Bishop David Lauren of Green Bay, Wisc., told his congregations that voting for Obama and other candidates who were pro-choice or who believed in embryonic stem cell research or gay marriage could put their “soul in jeopardy.” Others, primarily from evangelical Protestant faiths, were even more adamant in their religious intolerance, declaring that voting for Obama would definitely condemn their souls to Hell.

Southern Baptist evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, said President Obama was “waving his fist before God” by supporting same-sex marriage and women’s abortion rights. In full-page newspaper ads, shortly before the election, the 94-year-old Billy Graham, whose words may have been written by his son, declared that Americans should vote for “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles.” Those principles, according to the ad, include opposition to same-sex marriage. A spokesman for the Grahams said that neither person endorses candidates. However, Billy Graham reportedly told Romney he would do “all I can to help you,” and removed Mormonism from a list of cults on one of their web pages. In February, Franklin Graham, who earns about $600,000 a year as head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, declared that Obama had plans to create “a new nation without God or perhaps under many gods.”

The re-election of President Obama didn’t stop the attacks. The Rev. Jerry Priscano, a Catholic priest from Erie, Pa., said Obama was the anti-Christ. On his Facebook page, he declared, “It will only be a matter of time before our nation is completely destroyed,” and that Hurricane Sandy, apparently a sign from God to the liberal northeast, “was only the beginning.”

A Pew Forum study of the 2012 vote showed that white Catholics favored Romney (59%–40%), Hispanic Catholics overwhelming supported Obama (75–21). Romney also had the evangelical Christians (79–20), and other Protestants (57–42). Although Romney pandered to Jewish voters, claiming he would be Israel’s best friend, and that Obama couldn’t be trusted, Jews went for Obama (69–30). The Pew exit poll measured only persons who identified themselves as Jews or Christians.

Factoring into the vote against Barack Obama is religious bigotry that drips with the hatred of anything not Christian. About one-fourth of all White evangelical Protestants believe he is a Muslim, although the President goes to a Protestant church and has never held Muslim values or beliefs. In one of the great leaps of faith, evangelicals also believe Obama is a “godless socialist Muslim,” something much rarer than a Klan leader voting for a Black Jew for president. Overall, about one-sixth of Americans believe he is Muslim, according to a poll by Public Religion Research Institute. Ironically, most evangelical Protestants also believe Mormonism is a non-Christian cult and refused to support Mitt Romney in the primaries. Faced by a “Muslim” and a Mormon in the general election, the evangelicals supported the Mormon, who had flip-flopped from moderate to conservative to get the nomination and then tried tacking slightly to the center for the general election.

The right-wing believe that America is a Christian nation and should elect only like-minded Christians to office. Even many Christian religions, such as Unitarianism, are suspect in the eyes of those who absolutely believe they absolutely know God’s intent, and everyone else is wrong. They support Israel, far closer to being a socialist nation than the U.S. ever will be, as a Biblical necessity, but would be conflicted if a Jew should ever become a major party candidate for president.

The religious bigots claim the U.S. was founded by Christians and is a Christian nation—or, reluctantly, say it is a Judeo-Christian nation. But, no matter how much they screech, the facts don’t support their beliefs. George Washington declared, “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” John Adams and the Senate later ratified a treaty with those exact words.

Most of the Founding Fathers were primarily deists, not Christians, and specifically rejected many Christian beliefs, including the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus, and that the Bible was written by God. They also believed that God, having given mankind the power of reason, then stayed out of the lives of His people. Among the deists were Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Monroe. But they and the other Founding Fathers were explicit in their declaration, embedded into the First Amendment that established the principle that all people had a right to their own religious beliefs.

Several distinguished historians (including Drs. James McGregor Burns and Richard Hofstadter, each of whom won the Pulitzer Prize for history) have pointed out that in 1776 and much of the 19th century, as much as 90 percent of the population did not identify with the Christian church.

There is another aspect to the First Amendment, often overlooked by those who don’t know history or Constitutional law, yet believe they do. Jefferson, in his first year as president, in a letter to a Baptist congregation, referred to the intent of one of the five parts of the First Amendment as “building a wall of separation between church and state.” Numerous times, the Founding Fathers had reaffirmed this separation, creating what became known as the “establishment clause” in 1787. Several rulings by the Supreme Court reaffirmed this doctrine.

However, 28 percent of Americans, according to a Nate Silver poll in February, don’t believe there is a Constitutional separation of church and state. The Constitutionally-ignorant have established religious tests for persons seeking political office. It should make no difference if Mitt Romney is a Mormon. It should also make no difference if Barack Obama is or is not a Muslim, Protestant, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Pagan, Vodun, Vodouist, or even an atheist.

But it may be a Hindu, Gandhi, who has last the last word. Discussing his experience with missionaries in South Africa, he said, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” He was specific in his dislike for some, but not all, Christians. He had never met the extreme right-wing.

 [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist. His latest book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, which looks at religion, history, and social issues.]

           

 

 

 

My 1st Amendment Rights

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? - Mohandas Gandhi

One of the more frightening aspects of what happened at the Rand Paul debate and the other events where the teabaggers have allowed their true colors to show through physical assaults and verbal harassment is their sincere belief that they are defending the Constitution and the First Amendment specifically. Unfortunately, the First Amendment rights they are defending are only their rights and those who agree with them. Where are these defenders of freedom on the issue of the Islamic Center in New York or on the separation of Church and State?

It appears that the only rights they are willing to defend are the rights of the rich and the corporate elite to circumvent democracy through unlimited money, pollute, and ship jobs overseas. What these incidents clearly display to anyone willing to acknowledge it is that the outrage is not about the deficits, the overreach of government, or the immigration issue. It is clearly about “us” versus “them” and just like during the Vietnam War and the turmoil of the 60’s these folks have no qualms about using intimidation and physical coercion to try and stop the movement of time. If these folks are willing to stomp on a white female imagine what they are willing to do to minorities, Muslims, and the rest of “them”.

My question is how can a group of middle-aged and older white people be new? According to the false meme there were millions of middle-aged white Americans who were not voting or participating in the political process until now. This silent majority was only roused by the budget deficits and the socialist agenda of the Obama administration. So are we to believe that these are not the same cultural warriors from the past? These are the same folks who have always believed that they are the only interpreters and the arbitrator of what is right for America. Much the same as all fanatical groups throughout history they falsely believe that they have received some divine or supernatural insight and only those like them are able to receive it or be part of the group. This is not so bad if you are one of the enlightened ones, but it can be dangerous for those who don’t quite measure up because of race, gender, or religion.

What should be frightening to all Americans is not that there were two thugs who were willing to assault this woman. What is more troubling is that the crowd surrounding them was willing to allow it to happen. While they may not have actually had their foot on her head they did not find a problem with it happening. The crowd included women who were willing to stand by and watch this being done to another woman without questioning it or trying to intervene. How does the saying go the only thing evil requires is for good people to do nothing.

I am not one given to hyperbole or yelling fire in a crowded theater but as one who has lived through the turbulence and violence of a nation struggling with change it seems as though we are entering a similar period of polarization. It is strange how the same themes continue to appear in America. Back then it was also about patriotism and tribalism. You were either with us or you were with them. The wing-nuts have for decades disguised their intolerance and bigotry behind the flag and the Constitution. They have continually recreated themselves under different names and behind different issues, but their core mission has not changed. Their mission back then and today continues to be trying to roll back the clocks and to try to halt the inevitably of change.

The hope for the future of this democracy does not lie with the older generations. Every generation has to decide what values they stand for and are willing to fight for. For many of those of recent generations there has not been much they have considered worth fighting for. My hope is that with this rise in corporations undermining democracy through propagandists and unlimited campaign spending, with the rise of intolerance and bigotry towards Latinos and Muslims, and with the selling of the American middle-class to nations overseas that this generation will rise up and once again reclaim democracy for all Americans. Hopefully their love affair with “Wall Street” and the Gordon Gekko wannabes will realize that greed and short-term gratification is hollow.

Maybe this economic situation will wake up the true patriots just as the war and racism did during the 60’s. You see during the 60’s the true patriots were not the ones that supported the war or supported racism and bigotry. The true patriots were the ones who stood up and said we will not accept the status quo and that we reject your vision of America. Many of us are too old for this fight and the truth is it is not our fight. The future belongs to the young, not the old. The time has come for our youth to put down the game controllers, smart phones, and other distractions that are reducing personage to an image or a message on a screen and become engaged. It is your future that is being stolen.

"Man is more disposed to domination than freedom; and a structure of dominion not only gladdens the eye of the master who rears and protects it, but even its servants are uplifted by the thought that they are members of a whole, which rises high above the life and strength of single generations." - Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt

The Disputed Truth

Varun Gandhi, a case study !!

I would like to highlight the curious case of Mr Varun Gandhi because it offers an interesting insight into some of the most fascinating episodes of history.

First, a background.

Varun Gandhi is a politician belonging to the right wing BJP party in India.  He is the son of Maneka Gandhi, who is a Sikh and Sanjay Gandhi.  Sanjay Gandhi was the son of Indira Gandhi (former prime minister of India) and  Feroze Gandhi, who was a "Parsee" (a Zoroastrian).  Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and Vijaylaxmi Pandit, who were "Kashmiri Brahmins" (Hindus).

That would make Varun Gandhi 25% Hindu, 50% Sikh and 25% Parsee... at least by birth.  If I am going on and on about Varun Gandhi's religious genealogy, then there is a point to it.  Varun Gandhi can, of course, reject his religious genealogy and practice any religion he chooses.  That is a fundamental right we all possess, but rarely excerise.

There's more...

"You have thrown us to the wolves"

This diary is about the NorthWest Frontier Province ~ the region between Afghanistan and Pakistan that Sen. Obama identifies as the crucible of terrorism.  He would refocus American energies there.  My diaries are an attempt to shed some light on it's history, with an goal of outlining the difficulty of the current situations.

There was a time when the NWFP had hope.  There was a time when the NWFP was led by a great man.  

His name was Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan.  

He was known as Badshah Khan (or King Khan).

He was also known as Sarhaddi Gandhi (or Frontier Gandhi ~ Gandhi of the Frontiers).

And the best way to understand the tragic story of the NWFP is to follow the story of this great man... from hope to betrayal and to disappointment!

There's more...

Assassination

Some words of wisdom from 6.00 on...

When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won.  There have been times when murderers and scoundrels have won.  And for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.

Think of it.

Always !!

There's more...

Diaries

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