Monday, July 30, 2012

Can you buy Kraft products at Chick-Fil-A

Two companies have come under fire and threatened boycotts in the last few weeks.  Oreo, and by extension all Kraft foods, was targeted on Facebook when the above as was released in support of Gay Pride.  However small and relatively irrelevant the boycott attempt from a one man show called the Florida Family Association was, it did get fire in some organizations.  One Million Moms asked Oreo to stay neutral on the so-called culture wars in a press release, asking its followers to write the company and stop purchasing the products.  This is not the first time that a company has come under fire from the right on the issue of gay rights.  The aforementioned One Million Moms have a slew of boycotts going, JC Penny, Disney, Glee etc etc etc.  Often this was because those companies promote themselves as being comfortable with having gay customers.  These Moms feel having an opinion is only okay for individuals and not companies.  What is funny is that they didn't weigh in on Chick-Fil-A, for years known as a company that promoted their version of family values stepped into the cultural wars publicly as the CEO and son of the founder when asked by a Baptist Press reporter about being anti-gay marriage he responded "guilty as charged".  That is not nearly neutral, in fact the company has worked with some of the most loud critics of gay rights in this country and the Moms seem fine with that as they promote some of those same organizations.  We could call the One Million Moms hypercritical but that would be too easy.

You see the issue of gay rights is one that is polarizing for a segment of the population.  Some see it as the downfall of western society and others see it as a sign of progress.  While more and more people are comfortable with gay marriage, every percent point rise in acceptance that the rights connected with gay people being able to actually have government sanctioned marriage (and obtain the thousands of immediate rights associated with it) is met with and even louder opposition with well-funded campaigns that are willing to lie about gay men and lesbians to change people's minds.  Often under the flag of Christianity.  When a boycott was called on for Chick-fil-A the two main responses were people were practicing religious intolerance and they were violating the CEO's free speech rights.  Let me be clear, if your religion deems, lies about and calls for harm against human beings for who they and you call me intolerant my answer is "guilty as charged".    I do not tolerate the systematic attack on human beings who are not harming anyone because someone doesn't like the idea of who they are sexually attracted to and love.  I am intolerant of people like the American Family Association who say that people are not born gay and that the choice to be gay is harmful to society.  (An organization supported by Chick-Fil-A).  And I have a right to this intolerance as those supporters of these organizations and Chick-Fil-A have a right to the opposite view that I find repugnant.  However there is the rub.  People feel if you speak out against Chick-Fil-A you are being exactly the same as One Million Moms and the American Family Association and that is where I disagree.  You see they clearly want to erase people from the American tapestry, be it by asking companies not to advertise to gay people or more disgustingly by lying about them and calling for all gays to be sent to concentration camps to "die out".

If you disagree with a company's stance on something then by all means don't give them your money.  That is a freedom we have and has been highly successful from the earliest days of our country.  But when a company you agree with is targeted for statements that offend (and yes attacking gays with lies and supporting organizations who want to erase them from our country is offensive) you don't have a right to call us bigots.

Two things should also be said about this situation.  One is that certain community leaders have spoken out strongly urging the government involvement to stop Chick-Fil-A in their communities.  That dances on a narrow bridge between Constitutional violation and community service.  I think they should just shut up, if the community doesn't want Chick-Fil-A they will decide with their dollars.  But Chick-Fil-A is not clean in this debate either, lying about the Muppet toys at their stores after the company pulled out of the deal and creating a fake Facebook profile to combat the negative statements online.  This stuff is unnecessary and frankly ridiculous.

The bottom line is that I hope that you support those who share your values but know what those values are.  Bumper stickers phrases like "biblical definition of marriage" and "Christian family values" don't cut it when you are supporting people who would seem comfortable with the end of all gay people.  And frankly stop telling me I shouldn't make this information known.  If you are going to stand up for something, stand for all of it.   But if you do please don't ask others to be neutral, rights are for everyone, not just those who agree with you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another Mass Shooting and the Death of Class

When a gunman walked to the front of a theatre in Aurora, CO released gas and fired into the crowd watching a movie another bomb went off in the consciousness of our country.  The shock wave slammed into the families of the dead and wounded the hardest but the ripple will be felt by all of us in varying degrees.  Anger is often the first response and mostly aimed at the gunman.  But in the age of the internet some have chosen to go a different route.  When I woke on Friday morning I listened as the news media tried to make sense of the killing, repeating the few cellphone videos of people helping people out of the theatre, police response and the eerie shot of neon colors over the dark parking lot.  My first thought was "how long before someone starts talking about Muslims".  It only took a few moments as I logged into NBCNews and a there was a comment right there.  But it was a nut with a computer, no one who had any power or followers of his voice.  But within a few hours someone who does have both power and followers weighed in.  Representative Louis Gohmert of the Texas 1st.  In an interview he blamed attacks on Christianity for these events occurring.  A member of Congress basically said that the fact that he sees non-Christians asserting their existence in this country caused a climate that allows people to kill. By the way he is on the civil rights committee in Congress.  Ironically in the same interview he lamented that no one else in the theatre was armed.  Later that day, President Obama's favorite evangelical made even a worse statement.  He tweated, “When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it.”  The suggestion of course is that if we believe the facts of evolution we some how discount life to the point of just killing people.  Mr. Warren should look at history where innocent people all over Europe fell to the sword held by a knight wearing a cross.  Yet another so-called minister Jerry Newcombe said "If a Christian dies early, if a Christian dies young, it seems tragic, but really it is not tragic because they are going to a wonderful place.. on the other hand, if a person doesn’t know Jesus Christ.. if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place."  So basically, what this so-called man of God is saying to the family of victims, if you child, husband, wife, parent were not good Christians they are going to hell.  Really?  While I understand that he believes this, saying it out loud really was not only unnecessary but down right hateful. Imagine if an atheist started handing out studies that show prayer fails most of the time when praying for the ill at a hospital chapel.   But please don't think the crazy right are the only ones.  Several out spoken atheists have also used this as a way to try to ask people to reject God.  I can almost hear the smug "Where was God?" voices.  However, in our country their voices as much more muted.

When did it become a value in this country to just, as I said earlier, vomit your thoughts on us all.  When did it become important to slap people in the face with your particular world vision in the aftermath of a tragic event?  When is it okay to treat the death of a child as soapbox for your religious views?  I don't know, but I don't like it, and frankly I am ready to truly take this disgusting ideology on in a more aggressive way.  Will you join me?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Republic needs an Educated Population. Where are the Educators?

In the small town of Dugger, IN a coalition of churches came together and raised a large cross on the edge of town on municipal land.  The cross that says "Jesus Saves" and stands as a welcome to the community of less than 1000 people.  The problem is this is just the kind of display on public land that the Supreme Court has time and again violates the establishment cause.  While courts have created compromises to allow for religious expression in public, it is clear that certain actions violate the Constitution.  This is good for all.  No one faith tradition should have government support over another, or even the appearance of such.  But that is exactly what is happening here.  I trust a compromised will be reached as a group supporting the separation of church and state have gotten involved.  (I will say that an outside group took up the cause to save any locals opposed to the church from threats of violence, I will let you comment on the irony of that.)  While the story is interesting what is scary is the comments the public made on this story.  Read here:|mostcom

This is an on-going problem in our country.  We have no educators helping us through news stories like this.  What we have are news readers who are sounding more and more like talking point generators for one or the other political parties.  So often falsehoods replace reality and it is done on television programs that laughingly call themselves news.  Be it the clowns of Fox or someone like Ed Shultz they paint all with the same brush.  Even if someone steps out of line and does journalism they are labeled with the most horrible phrases including being elitists.  Imagine, telling the truth to power makes you a smug elitist.  Wow.  In the last few days I have seen 100s misquote the President in a recent speech including the Republican candidate for President.  I have seen surrogates for the GOP use it to call the President unAmerican and lastly I have seen members of the campaign lie, openly on a great show Meet the Press, only to go unchallenged.  I think those kind of lies should be front page news and everyone should be appalled, but they continue to be repeated by so-called journalists.  But while the right is the '92 dream team of political deception the Democrats are the team of distraction.  I understand the issues of Bain Capital are part of the picture of Gov. Romney but it is not an issue that should dominate the discussion for a week.  (the tax returns I am not sure of).  The President and his surrogates must show why he will be a better leader of country even if not perfect.  He can use the GOP's own words if he would like but the idea of talking about Bain is a losing issue and does nothing but polarize the population as much as the GOP and their right wing noise machine.

We need a real voice to cut through the garbage.  I would love it to be the President.  I would love it to be a real news person.  But in the world of bumper stickers and Facebook we don't get conversations.  We get people arguing that the Constitution says "It is separation OF Church and State not separation of Church from State,"  neither is true.  We argue over birth certificates and SEC documents.  When a news show does have a smart reporter (print journalism is not dead) on a show they are played off with pop music and followed by a story about Lyndsey Lohan's father and a Mashed Potato vending machine.  Pledge with me, fight ignorance, eshew talking points, and challenge news stories and the comments that are simply stupid.  It is your duty as an American.  You can still be a partisan but lets make sure if we lose an election or an issue that it was about facts and not the droning of a loud mouth with a microphone or a fake journalist who is paid to lie to the world.  We are smarter than that.

Oh and Dugger, I don't like the cross, I think it is a wrong image to put up.  I think this kind of religious chauvinism is not an American value, but find a compromise, you can do it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It Ain't Religious Freedom if You leave Someone Out...

This week religious freedom and politics had a wild ride together and I know it is not over.  We can start with the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the sub-atomic particle that has been nicknamed The God Particle for the last decade or so.  This discovery and the heavenly appellation could be the most misunderstood piece of physics since everyone bought  A Brief History of Time  for their coffee tables and decided they understood black holes.  I have actually seen religious people and atheists arguing against the use of God in the nickname of this important sub-atomic particle for a variety of reasons, leading to claims of stupidity of one group or another like somehow discovering the existence of the particle that gives matter mass would either bring down or secure a theology.  Oh well, it makes for sweet copy during a holiday week but all in all while this could be one of the greatest discoveries of the young century it changes not one thing about faith or no-faith in God.  If it did for you, please rethink your entire world view, you may have made an error somewhere in the calculations.

But if that were all the news about God this week I may have written about fireworks bans, downtown curfews and gun play in our streets, but people who swore to defend the Constitution of the United States of America and uphold its principles seem to have versions that edit out the 1st Amendment.  Let us start our meal of misery with a trip to the Bayou.

So Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana and someone destined to be in the Cabinet of the next Republican administration followed a common GOP approach to education pushing for school vouchers for parents who want to send their kids to private school.  This will provide scholarships from money collected through taxes for schools to those parents who opt out of public school.  One of the points made in the LA law was that sectarian religious schools can get participate in the voucher program.  One law maker Rep Valerie Hodges voted for the law to be passed but now has regrets.  Her regrets?  She didn't realize that when the bill said Religious Schools it didn't just mean Christian schools.  Children attending Muslim schools can also apply and should be given the same vouchers and children attending schools like Westlake's Eternity Christian Academy that uses the Loch Ness Monster as evidence that evolution is a hoax.  Apparently Rep. Hodges skipped some of the words of the Constitution she is so well known for defending and upholding as a member of the state legislature. Her words make me wonder if she is violating that oath, "I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges told the Livingston Parish News. The paper said Hodges “mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’”

“Unfortunately [the voucher program] will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges said. “…There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”  Someone should remain Ms. Hodges that many founders were good northern Unitarians.  

But Hodges is only the appetizer, the main course is ColoradoRepublicn state Senator Kevin Grantham, from CaƱon City, this week  showed support for the controversial Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, a speaker at the Western Conservative Summit held recently in Denver, that lawmakers should prohibit the construction of mosques in the state.

“Mosques are not churches like we would think of churches,” Grantham told the Colorado Statesman. “They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches– we don’t feel that way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.”  While trying to look passed the mind-numbing ignorant bigotry of this statement I would like to remind Grantham that churches, in fact, often speak of providing a foothold in the community and in many cases immediately try to convert others to their faith.  No Muslim has ever knocked on my door to try to get me to read the Qu'ran but I have had it happen several times from evangelical Christians and Mormons.  I have, on occasion, invited them in and, well, let's just say, I think after talking to me about Bible have scratched me off the list.  I so do love when someone not of my faith tries to explain to me what is in my Holy Book.  But to Grantham, seriously, what do you think of synagogues?  Are we good?  I mean we call our places a Bet Knesset, like the Knesset in Israel, you know the Congress of Israel.  Maybe you can draw a connection and perhaps say something stupid about that too?  Anyway, another member of the Grand Old Party who can't seem to understand his Constitution.

And for dessert we have Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles of Rock Hill, SC who has included in his sentencing of Cassandra Tolley the assignment of reading through the Book of Job and then writing a summary on the Old Testament Scripture.   Tolley was convicted of drunk driving after she drove down the wrong side of the road and plowed into an oncoming car, seriously injuring two men.  Now I spend a lot of time with the Bible and writing a drash on the Book of Job would likely make me think twice about drinking and driving but in what universe does this judge feel it is okay to sentence someone to Religious study.  What if Ms. Tolley concludes in her summary that God is a big jerk who plays with people and her drinking and driving was less an act of will but that God was using her to teach the injured a lesson?  I think I could reach that conclusion.  Oh and what if my friend, a Muslim judge and Qu'ranic scholar were to assign a particular on point message from a Sura?  I imagine old Judge Nettles might be a bit upset.  

Religious freedom is something that I believe made this country great.  While the implementation of it over the  years has been met with some interesting twists and turns, we, as a country, have learned to find value in the diversity of belief and frankly disbelief.  It is a struggle, I know there are some churches that preach that my faith is of the devil and that all Jews are liars and Christ killers and  I know there are members of my faith that say horrible things about Muslims and at least some Christians.  I, and most people I know, want to change that, we want to live in a culture that doesn't make celebrities out of outrageous preaching.  But not through law.  The cost of being able to walk safely in and out of a synagogue and read the Bible the way I do is that we must also allow for the those that walk a different path.  These leaders of their communities should be shunned and made to understand that while they are allowed to have those beliefs, when you want to force them on others through law you are becoming the thing the founders were working so hard to get rid of when they founded this great nation.  I hope this is only ignorance.  That can be cured.  I am not as hopeful if it is stupidity combined with bigotry.    

Monday, July 2, 2012

Impeach Roberts?

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts voted in the majority with 4 other members of the court to uphold the Affordable Care Act, now Public Law, as Constitutional.  Roberts, who was seen as the anchor to a future conservative court, sided with the so-called liberal justices in the majority though not following their entire ruling.  Writing for the majority he weaved a brilliant and scary argument that the commerce clause does not apply but the individual mandate, the cornerstone of the law, is constitutional as the fine for not having insurance is within the power of Congress to tax.  This has made him the enemy of the right wing noise machine, up to and including someone questioning if he is addle-minded by his medication for epilepsy. Seriously, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America is being questioned as crazy because of epilepsy, why?  Because he voted in favor of something the President of the United States Barack Obama wanted.  This is where we are America.  Make a reasoned legal argument that the right wing nuts don't like and you are going to be called crazy or worse.

In fact, there is a loud sound of the zombies that cling to radio hosts and Fox News to move for impeachment of him, saying that he made up the taxing power.  First, wow, the world is full of Constitutional scholars, second, well hmmmm what can I say?  He saw the law differently, I honestly don't like his reasoning but like the outcome, but he simply saw the law differently from the anonymous punks who hide behind keyboards and cheer on wingnuts who call Roberts a traitor.  It is unworthy of this country and unworthy of any debate.

But you see the GOP leadership is out there encouraging this kind of hyperbole.  Rep. Mike Pence and GOP nominee for Governor of the State of Indiana liken this ruling to 9-11.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Others have lied about it being the largest tax hike in history.  (Secret, you can avoid the fee/tax by simply getting insurance so that you are covered when something goes wrong, also it isn't even the largest tax hike in Noah's lifetime).  Others talk about a new Medicare tax provision that with tax at 3.8% anyone whose income is over $250,000 and sells a house with a net profit over $250,000 and any profit over that mark.  Which means, if you earn over $250,000 on your tax return and sell a house and a huge profit you will pay $.038 on every dollar of profit over a quarter of a million dollars. Of course there will be ads suggesting this applies to every home sale.  But what are facts in an election?

You see there is a real effort to attack Roberts because he didn't follow a party line.  Even other justices on the more conservative wing of the court have apparently leaked information from inside the court isolating Roberts.  How worthy of the court.

This makes me sick.  Any elected official who continues to use hyperbole and stupidity to gin up the masses should be attacked without mercy.  This is bad for the country and bad for any hope at all.  Pence is not alone he is just closest to home.  As we get closer to the elections I will certainly keep reminding people.  I hope that the electorate will take this silliness into account.

Why Hate Crimes Laws Are the Right Thing To Do

Indiana is one of a handful of states without a hate crimes (or bias crimes) law.  For many legislative cycles a bill was killed by the Re...