Two months before Obama was elected I founded the Bohemian Bank that was based upon the innate and almost religious cooperation one finds amongst CREATIVE and NON-DESTRUCTIVE people. I saw this Unity of Porpous as a Secular Church formed to counter the political madness of the Christian-right who employs our Secular Democratic Laws in a deceptive manner claiming Satan is doing the same, thus, God-Jesus bid evangelicals to be vicious political animals employing every dirty trick in the book in order to make sure God comes out the winner. Disguising themselves as Tea Party Patriots, the evangelicals have taken up arms, and resemble Taliban Terrorists.
With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, that sells art supplies, I am now going to form a Church of Art that will draw a Ring of Protection around a variety of Creative People who do not have to own a religious bone in their body to be a member of this church. Indeed, the less religiosity, the better. As long as one is creative, and opposed to using a gun and violence to render and promote your vision, you are in the door. I include groups who operate community gardens, an activity that resembles a form of natural worship practiced by monks in a monastery.
I thought I was an atheist until I had a near-death experience in 1967 where my spiritual being came to the forefront. Two years later I declare myself a New Pre-Raphaelite, a group of artists that were bringing back religious subject matter. To behold Mary Ann’s religious theme in her hidden work, speaks volumes, because my ex was a pioneer in the Modern Women’s Rights and Freedom Movement. What is Art? What is Religion? What is a Creative Person?
“The title of Yale art historian Sally Promey’s article says it all: “The ‘Return’ of Religion in the Scholarship of American Art.” Likewise, it’s no mere coincidence that the Art Seminar series, a major forum in the fields of art and art history, concluded with a volume on religion, entitled “Re-Enchantment,” questioning why religious concerns have been unjustly excluded from the world of art. Most recently, a symposium designed to continue this line of investigation, entitled “Why Have There Been No Great Modern Religious Artists?” is scheduled alongside the meeting of the College Art Association in Manhattan next month. The Symposium aims to challenge the “narratives of modernist and post-modernist art history that have tended to omit serious consideration of Christian strains in 20th century and current artistic practice.” Art’s chilly attitude toward religion is thawing, expressed perhaps most directly by Harvard’s Camille Paglia:
I would argue that the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion. Let me make my premises clear: I am a professed atheist and a pro-choice libertarian Democrat. … For the fine arts to revive, they must recover their spiritual center. Profaning the iconography of other people’s faiths is boring and adolescent. The New Age movement, to which I belong, was a distillation of the 1960s’ multicultural attraction to world religions, but it has failed thus far to produce important work in the visual arts.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-MS) defended the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization whose events he has attended, as singly focused on historical appreciation and not “racist.”
“We’re talking about an organization that our governor is a member of, that in the past that our senators have been members of, that many members of our House and Senate are members of,” McDaniel said in an interview with The Weekly Standard published on Friday. “It’s not a racist organization. It’s a historical organization filled with reenactors and collectors. That’s all it is.”
Tehrik-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, is a closely held, profit-making enterprise organized on religious principles. One of its principles, announced as public policy in July, 2012, is that children should not be inoculated against polio, because the vaccines violate God’s law. So sincere are the Taliban’s religious beliefs that its followers have assassinated scores of public-health workers who have attempted to administer polio vaccines in areas under Taliban control or influence.
This year, three out of five of the world’s new polio cases have been found in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, particularly in North Waziristan, where the Pakistani Taliban and groups like it have run a de-facto state since about 2008. The great majority of the polio victims are children under two years old.
If the Pakistani Taliban, aided by clever lawyers, organized a closely held American corporation, and professed to run it on religious principles, might its employees be deprived of insurance coverage to inoculate their children against polio? And would the Supreme Court, by the five-to-four decision issued on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, endorse such a move?
In setting up stateside to enjoy the freedom proclaimed by the Court, the Taliban would have to overcome its awkward position as a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization under American law. Shooting health workers with whom the Taliban disagrees would also be out of the question, since such acts would bring into play other strands of American law, such as the prohibition on homicide. (Residents of the F.A.T.A., governed by tribal codes that legitimize revenge killing, do not enjoy the same protection.) But these are obstacles that the Taliban’s lawyers, if they were good ones, might well overcome. The Taliban could inspire American followers to put together a corporate charter separately and independently, without any financial or military links to the banned mother organization. And the American offshoot could learn to hire lobbyists rather than gunmen.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court’s conservative majority, sought to evade such thought exercises by predicting, without evidence, that there will not be “a flood of religious objections regarding a wide variety of medical procedures and drugs, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions.”
Why not? Is it because the justices do not intend to extend their reasoning to companies that hold religious views less proximate to their own Christian beliefs? Or because the judges believe that they can enforce what they imagine to be a rational or permissible resistance to reproductive rights for women, while blocking what they might see as irrational resistance to transfusions and vaccines? As it happens, it is not just the Taliban who are paranoid about vaccines; many American groups, secular and religious, evince such skepticism. Some groups believe, for example, that certain childhood vaccines may cause autism, even though there is no scientific basis for such beliefs.
Perhaps the Supreme Court’s majority cannot fully imagine that religiously motivated litigants—Muslim, Christian Scientist, Hindu, or other—as qualified and as American as the Hobby Lobby owners might ultimately use Monday’s ruling to enforce beliefs far outside of the decades-long campaign of Christian evangelicals and Catholics to limit the reproductive rights of women. If so, that is another failure of their reasoning, one that exposes what really seems to have gone on in this decision: four longtime adherents to the deeply rooted conservative movement to limit or ban abortion in the United States, joined by a fifth willing to defer to them, saw in the Hobby case an opportunity to advance their cause incrementally, and they reasoned to achieve that end—not, as their opinion claims, to construct a sustainable framework of religious resistance to public-health laws.
Because campaigners against reproductive rights have successfully mainstreamed their views within institutions like the Supreme Court, those views no longer seem radical even to many of their opponents. The Taliban have not similarly legitimized their philosophy because they are so indiscriminately violent and repressive, among other reasons. (Some religiously motivated radicals have assassinated abortion providers in the United States, but the gunmen are not commonly referred to here as terrorists.)
And yet, the impact on children, living and unborn, of the Taliban public policy on vaccines is not, arguably, different in category from the impact that the Hobby Lobby decision will likely have on the families of those who work at companies whose owners claim to run them on Christian principles, in one respect: the extrapolation of religious beliefs into public policy will damage the over-all health of affected families. The health consequences of failing to vaccinate children may be more predictable than the health consequences of blocking access to effective contraception. But, in both cases, there is no doubt that the consequences will be harmful. The difference lies partly in our cultural setting—and, in the case of the ongoing campaign to restrict the reproductive rights of American women, in our capacity for outrage.
The Rev. Eric Dean, an American Southerner living in Europe, had been hearing the rumors for months. Finally, he decided to pay a visit to a former high-ranking leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), the Southern heritage group of which Dean had long been a proud member. Was it true, Dean asked last November, that the SCV was being taken over by racial extremists? Were the decent colleagues Dean remembered really being swamped by white supremacists?
Within days of his visit to Tennessee to see Anthony Hodges, the former No. 2 leader in the SCV who had earlier been purged by his enemies, Dean had reached a conclusion. Hodges, he E-mailed comrades in the SCV, had told him the group was moving “towards a more politically active, secessionist and racist agenda.” “Racial groups,” Hodges added, controlled “key leadership positions.” As a result, there was an ongoing “exodus” of lifelong SCV members, including U.S. senators.
And so Eric Dean quit the SCV. Members of the unit he served as chaplain did, too. And with that, the SCV’s entire European division ceased to exist.
For Rev. Dean, the clincher was a sermon from the SCV’s chaplain in chief that attacked “racial interbreeding” as ungodly and described slavery as biblically sanctioned. But that was only the latest development in a long and ugly story. For almost four years now, the SCV has been embroiled in an increasingly nasty civil war, as racial extremists battle moderates for control of what is certainly the largest Southern heritage organization in America. In the last year and a half, under the leadership of a new national chief whose politics have become clearer as his term of office unfolded, the ascendancy of the radicals has become undeniable.
Since Denne Sweeney took over as SCV commander in chief in August 2004, the group’s executive council has been stripped of moderate former commanders. A purge of some 300 members, accused of disloyalty for criticizing racism in the SCV, was completed. An ancient alliance with the Military Order of Stars & Bars, a sister organization for descendants of Confederate officers, was scuttled, and a bitter war with another old ally, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, erupted. Sweeney suspended an entire state division of the SCV and replaced its leaders. He diverted money originally intended for the upkeep of a cemetery and building a museum to a brand-new political arm. He promoted followers with documented racist histories to key national leadership positions. Through it all, Sweeney presided over an exodus of fully 25% of the SCV’s membership, which fell from 36,000 to 27,000.
“The slackers and the grannies have been purged from our ranks,” Kirk Lyons, a radical who first floated the idea of taking over the SCV in a 2000 meeting of neo-Nazis and former Klansmen, exulted in December. Now, Lyons added, the SCV needs to become “a modern, 21st century Christian war machine capable of uniting the Confederate community and leading it to ultimate victory.”
The Die is Cast
The first evidence of an attempt to take over the SCV came in early 2002, when it emerged that Lyons — a white supremacist attorney married on the grounds of the Aryan Nations by its neo-Nazi leader, Richard Butler — was running for a regional leadership position within the SCV. Though Lyons was narrowly defeated after the Southern Poverty Law Center drew attention to his candidacy, an unknown man named Ron Wilson managed to win election as the SCV’s commander in chief. It wasn’t long before it became obvious that Wilson was a close Lyons ally.
In the next two years, Wilson, who once endorsed and sold a virulently anti-Semitic book from his home business, joined the battle in earnest. He initiated a purge of those who had criticized racism within the SCV or were in any way tied to a rump group called Save the SCV that sought to eject racists. He strengthened ties to Lyons — whose stated goal is to turn the South into “a majority European-derived country” — and to Lyons’ Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC), a nonprofit that battles so-called “heritage violations” against white Southerners. And he allowed racists and anti-Semites to land key positions of power within the SCV.
But it wasn’t immediately clear where Denne Sweeney would come down in 2004, after two years of bitter internal strife inside the SCV. Many hoped that his election would bring calm and an end to the angry politics of Lyons and his friends.
By last April, it was obvious those hopes were without foundation. At a special convention held in Concord, N.C., Sweeney led a move that stripped former commanders in chief of the organization — many of whom had spoken out against racism — of their ex officio voting power on the General Executive Council. At the same time, Sweeney expanded his own powers to help him control the SCV.
Sweeney’s second in command, Lt. Comdr. Hodges, had joined a lawsuit to prevent the changes to the executive council. Though the suit remained unresolved, Sweeney also used the convention, which was packed with his own supporters, to eject Hodges and replace him with a Sweeney ally. He then initiated a formal break with the Military Order of Stars & Bars (MOSB), whose former leader, Oklahoma City attorney Jeff Massey, had participated in the lawsuit that Hodges was also a part of. And he presided over the SCV’s donation of $10,000 to Lyons’ SLRC.
In her blistering dissent in Monday’s Supreme Court Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that the court’s majority may have “ventured into a minefield” by extending the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act – a 1993 law that seeks to protect religious liberty from being infringed upon by other federal laws – to “closely held” companies. Monday’s Supreme Court decision allows Hobby Lobby and other privately-controlled companies to exclude birth control coverage in insurance plans provided to employees as required by the Affordable Care Act.
The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/2/14, 10:50 PM ET
‘Hobby Lobby’ case already opening floodgates to discrimination
Rachel Maddow reports on how the so-called “narrow” Hobby Lobby ruling by the Supreme Court is already broadening to include all types of contraception and is being used to argue that anti-gay discrimination is justified by “religious freedom.”
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According to Ginsburg, this “minefield” could allow companies to “opt out of any law … they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The very next day, a group of more than a dozen high-profile religious leaders sent a letter to the White House asking for “a religious exemption” – not to a law, but to President Obama’s forthcoming executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The letter is addressed directly to the president and was signed by 14 different religious leaders, including Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in California, Gabe Lyons of Q Ideas, and Michael Wear, who was the National Faith Vote Director for Obama’s 2012 campaign. Also signing the letter were the heads of organizations like Catholic Charities USA, the Center for Public Justice, Gordon College, and Christianity Today.
Leading women’s organizations addressed the implications that the Supreme Court’s ruling on the controversial Hobby Lobby case could have on women of color.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that employers can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.
During a press call held on Tuesday, leaders from three women’s groups expressed their disappointment in the court’s decision and said the decision could be a barrier to women accessing healthcare.
“Again we see another attack on women’s health and women’s rights, especially of those who are underserved, made by men who presume to know better about women’s reproductive choices, than the women themselves,” said Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative.
“Eighty-three percent of Black women in the U.S. currently use some form of contraception and for many of these women it’s vital to maintaining their health and well-being. A woman’s ability to plan her family is critical. Studies show that when women have access to the contraception care they need, they’re more likely to be economically stable, attain higher educational levels and plan and space pregnancies in a way that produces healthy babies and keeps their families intact.”
Blount said the court set a dangerous precedent that could embolden employers to decide against coverage for a range of other healthcare benefits based on religious beliefs, which is in direct conflict with the Affordable Care Act that has already been shown to improve access to care for many women.
“The Imperative stands firm in the belief that we must put women before ideology while the court has opened the door for employer’s beliefs to become yet another barrier to access care,” Blount added.
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), said the court’s decision deals a serious blow to Latina health and religious liberty.
“What the Supreme Court failed to observe is that true religious liberty is based on our ability to make our own decisions, based on our own faith, on our own conscience and individual circumstances. Religious liberty is not a weapon to be used to deny healthcare,” said Gonzalez-Rojas.
Mariam Yeung executive director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum referred to the decision as an affront to all women and yet another barrier to Asian Pacific women who already face health disparities.
“This is a dangerous setback for women’s health and economic security,” Yeung said of the decision.
“After decades of discriminatory coverage by insurance companies, the Affordable Care Act made great gains by requiring insurance companies [to] cover birth control with no out-of-pocket cost to women.”
She said the recent decision can reverse some of that hard won progress.
“Due in part to the high costs of contraception, we know Asian and Pacific Islanders already have low rates of contraception use. We don’t need another barrier to health care. Insurance coverage is critical for low income women including Asian and Pacific Islander women who are facing growing economic challenges,” Yeung said, noting that the share of Asian American women at or below the poverty line has doubled between 2007 and 2012 and there are now more than one million Asian-American women living in poverty.
The Supreme Court’s decision was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
During the press call, Elizabeth Taylor, executive director of the National Health Law Program said there are a few takeaways from the court’s decision.
“Congress can fix this because it is a statutory decision so RFRA could be amended to be clear that for-profit organizations don’t exercise religion, or Congress could pass a statute that specifically prevents an employer of depriving its employee’s health benefits on religious grounds,” said Taylor.
In the meantime, Taylor said the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) should act so that women affected by the decision will have full access to contraception.
She said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is right in that the ramifications of this decision are broad, although the court emphasized these are closely-held corporations and this is about certain contraception. The analysis would apply to publicly traded corporations and to any other health benefit.
“The fact that the court doesn’t see the same analysis could be applied to immunizations, anti-depressants and blood transfusions is actually one of the most troubling aspects of this, because the court seems to be 20 years behind science and evidence and thinks that contraception is not basic healthcare,” Taylor said.
Hobby Lobby is a large craft store chain owned by David Green and his family who are professing Christians. Hobby Lobby provides 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate to employees under their self-insured health plan. However the company took issue with the methods that were considered abortion-inducing drugs.
Contact Staff Writer Ayana Jones at (215) 893-5747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once Again, Racism Rears Up in the Sons of Confederate Veterans
By Mark Potok on February 11, 2011 – 10:07 am, Posted in Neo-Confederate
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For much of the last decade, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) has been roiled by an internal civil war between racial extremists and those who want to keep the Southern heritage group a kind of history and genealogy club.
It’s beginning to look like the racists won.
First came the news, originally reported on this blog last August, that the SCV was planning a Feb. 19 march down Dexter Avenue here in Montgomery, Ala., to “CELEBRATE THE BEGINNING OF THE CONFEDERACY” and ensure that it “is remembered and portrayed in the right way.” What the SCV meant by “the right way” was made obvious by its website promoting the event, which insists that “the South was right!” and claims that “there is no difference between the invasion of France by Hitler and the invasion of the Southern states by Lincoln.”
And now, from the Mississippi Division of the SCV, comes this new gem: The group wants the state to issue a special license plate, keyed like the Montgomery march to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, to honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest — a millionaire Memphis slave trader before the war, an apparent war criminal who presided over the massacre of surrendering black prisoners at Fort Pillow, Tenn., during it, and the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan afterward, when the Klan’s terrorist violence paved the way to a Jim Crow South.
Neo-Confederate apologists in the SCV and elsewhere claim that Forrest has been mischaracterized, that he was a good man who disbanded the Klan when it became violent. Mississippi SCV member Greg Stewart told The Associated Press that Forrest had sought “Christian redemption” and ultimately rejected the Klan. “He redeemed himself in his own time,” he said. “We should respect that.”
That is false. Forrest, for all the fawning attention he’s received from the historical revisionists of the neo-Confederate movement, was certainly a brilliant and highly successful cavalry general — but he was also a homicidal bully.
Before the war, according to a newspaper account at the time, he was known for personally bullwhipping slaves who were held stretched out in the air by four other slaves. Women slaves were reportedly stripped naked and whipped with a leather thong dipped in salt. Former slaves later backed up these accounts.
In 1864, Forrest demanded the surrender of 580 mostly black troops at Fort Pillow, warning them that otherwise, “I cannot be responsible for your fate,” even as he stealthily and illegally improved his position during negotiations under the white flag. Then, when the Union commander refused, Forrest unleashed his men. “The slaughter was awful,” an appalled Confederate sergeant later wrote his family. “I with several others tried to stop the butchery and at one time partially succeeded, but Gen. Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs, and the carnage continued.” Numerous surviving Union soldiers reported hearing Confederate officers saying that Forrest had ordered them to “kill the last God damn one of them.”
Forrest was known for personally executing deserters or Confederates who fled the field. As the war came to a close, he came upon a father and son near Selma, Ala., and decided they were deserters. He ordered them shot and their bodies left out for two days before burial with a sign, “Shot for desertion,” hung above them. Several days later, it emerged that the pair had, in fact, been entirely innocent.
After the war, even as former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was urging fellow Southerners to “promote harmony and good will” in the reborn Union, Forrest initiated hard-line resistance to Reconstruction and secretly became the Klan’s first national leader. It is false that he disbanded the Klan because it became violent. In fact, Forrest disbanded the Klan — after lying to Congress about his membership — only after its work was done and it had come under severe criticism. Klan terrorism had by then already made it impossible for blacks and Republicans to vote.
Both the Montgomery march and the Mississippi license plate request are part of a whole series of events planned by the SCV to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War. None of them give so much as a nod to the horrors of slavery or to the civil rights movement that finally liberated the South a century later — and, in fact, the Montgomery neo-Confederate parade, in a particularly ugly and unmentioned irony, follows the same route as the end of the famous 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march led by Martin Luther King Jr.
None of this is much of a surprise if you take a look at the national SCV website promoting the series of events, including the Montgomery march, that are meant to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. There, a series of writers attempt to make the case that slavery had nothing to do with the war, another utter falsehood. In fact, as virtually all serious historians agree, the South seceded because it became obvious that Congress would not allow the extension of slavery to the new Western territories, threatening the slave lobby’s dominance. The Texas Declaration of the Causes of Secession, for example, said plainly that the free states were “proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality for all men, irrespective of race or color,” and added that blacks were “rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.” Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, said as much in his infamous 1861 “Cornerstone” speech: “Our new Government is founded on exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and moral condition.”
But these historical facts are of no interest to the SCV. Instead, while most Americans remember the bloodiest war in American history as the nation’s most trying moment, the SCV is busy promoting a Southern past that never was.