Tag Archives: religious right

Prop. 8: Breaking It Down

The other day I wondered if the No on 8 side was being too cautious in their advertising, instead of putting an actual face on the discrimination and harm that would be suffered if marriage rights were eliminated for a particular class of people.  Well, this video isn’t exactly that, but it certainly makes the point about discrimination.  Via Amanda at Pandagon, this is my favorite video of the cycle.  A group redubbed the voices on a video of young people ranting about all the supposed consequences about gay marriage, and changed it so they say “interracial marriage.”  It’s kind of perfect:

See, this comes down to discrimination, pure and simple.  The other side wants to talk about ancillary outcomes, but really they want to hurt LGBT people.  I mean, we have to be willing to say that.  The other side has no problem outlining what they consider to be the stakes, as crazy as they think they are:

“This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon,” said Charles W. Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries and an eminent evangelical voice, speaking to pastors in a video promoting Proposition 8. “We lose this, we are going to lose in a lot of other ways, including freedom of religion.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby based in Washington, said in an interview, “It’s more important than the presidential election.”

“We’ve picked bad presidents before, and we’ve survived as a nation,” said Mr. Perkins, who has made two trips to California in the last six weeks. “But we will not survive if we lose the institution of marriage.”

I’m glad that No on 8 is raising a lot of money, and that high-profile Californians like Maria Shriver are on board.  But at some point in this final week, someone has to break this down.  This is about harming same-sex couples.

back alley abortions in CA

It’s 2008, and even in California the religious right is attempting to punish young women for having sex by bringing back illegal abortion. Progressives are starting to fight back, but the bad new is Yes on Prop 4 is still leading.

The last two times they put this anti-choice crap on the ballot, California voters wisely rejected it. This time, people aren’t paying enough attention with so many other races and issues grabbing the headlines.

Please help with your time or money

CA’s Most Dangerous Initiative

While Prop 8 is getting all the headlines, another initiative, Prop 4, is threatening even greater harm. One reason the threat is so great is that it is getting too little attention.

Prop 4 is another clone of the anti-abortion initiative California rejected in 2005 and again in 2006. The religious right keeps rolling the dice on this because they have nothing to lose and they only need to win one time to start chipping away at Roe v. Wade. For them to win in this huge, pro-choice state would empower the religious right like never before and build momentum to dismantle abortion rights from coast to coast.

2008 may be their year. Polls currently show Yes on 4 leading — but it’s close enough that progressives can defeat it again if we are willing to work.

Prop 4 proposes an abortion restriction most voters find appealing until they think about it. In the past, we’ve been able to get voters to look close and see the dangers. This year, with Prop 8 grabbing the headlines and a Presidential race eclipsing all else, it is harder to get voters’ attention, and it is harder to get campaign volunteers and donations to help us win.

Prop 4: a dangerous initiative

Prop 4 would preclude a safe, legal abortion for anyone under 18 without parental notification. To make this appear more palatable, the authors have written in some bypass options that sound comforting but don’t work in real life. (The main bypass requires a teenager in crisis to single-handedly navigate our court system and track down a sympathetic judge while the clock is ticking. In other states, right-wing judges have abused their power in these cases, humiliating the teenagers and denying every request. But even in the best cases, this judge-hunt causes dangerous delays, making the abortion more complicated.)

Voters feel pulled to support this at first because so many voters are parents who naturally want to be involved in their daughters’ lives. What voters don’t see are statistics showing that, without this law, the overwhelming majority of pregnant teenagers in California choose to involve their parents anyway. A scared, pregnant teenager wants help, and if she can safely turn to her parents, she will. No law is needed for that. The few who do not, however, may have good reason not to; and these are the teenagers Prop 4 would tragically affect.

Phonebanking for No on Prop 4, I recently spoke to a voter who told me why she’s voting no. When she was a teenager, her best friend got pregnant. Adults advised this pregnant youth to talk to her parents about it. Reluctantly, she did so. Soon she was admitted to a hospital, not for an abortion, but for broken bones. If Prop 4 passes, that story will become more common.

Teenagers who cannot tell their parents will be placed in worse danger. Prop 4 will put a medically safe abortion off limits, and it will leave only dangerous alternatives.

These dangers don’t seem to bother the religious right. A few weeks ago, I had a voter calmly tell me that when pregnant teenagers die from back-alley abortions or suicide, they get what they deserve.

Most California voters who see the dangers, however, disagree with that hateful view, and they will vote no on Prop 4. The last two times this was on the ballot, they did. But with so many races and issues competing for attention this year, and with the media reluctant to cover an issue they already covered in 2005 and in 2006, we must work harder to ensure voters remember the dangers.

Donate money or volunteer your time here. Lives are in the balance.

Prop Watch

Welcome to a probably not-so-regular feature, offering the latest news on the ballot propositions.  The Calitics Editorial Board will be out with their endorsements on these initiatives sometime next week.

• Prop. 1A: A lot of good stuff on this race at Robert Cruickshank’s California High Speed Rail blog.  For instance, Arnold has come forward with his support:

There is far more economic opportunity in fighting global warming than economic risk….We shouldn’t let the budget crisis hold back good things for the future. 20 years from now you can’t look back and say “well they had a budget crisis so we didn’t do it.” Just because we had a problem with the budget does not mean that people should vote “no” on high speed rail. Our rail system in America is so old, we’re driving the same speed as 100 years ago, the same system as 100 years ago. We should modernize, we should do what other countries do…We should start in this state, we should show leadership.

Absolutely, especially when you consider that initiatives which reduce emissions routinely save money and improve quality of life.  A recent study showed that HSR would be a tremendous economic benefit to the Central Valley, with $3 billion in direct benefits and the creation of over 40,000 new construction jobs.  You can add that to the reduction of billions of pounds of CO2 annually, which would be significant in that region at a time where interest groups are successfully suing the city of Fresno for its failure to curb pollution and protect the environment.

In other news, The LA Times has come out in favor, and check out this neat little graphic anticipating the train route.

• Prop. 2: You can see it by clicking on the ad on the side, but, you know, Piggy Wonder deserves some main-page love.  Joe Trippi is apparently involved in the Prop. 2 campaign, which would help stop animal cruelty; I got an email from him promoting this video.

• Prop. 5: The LA Times has a series of profiles on all the propositions, and here’s their edition on Prop. 5, which would finally increase treatment for nonviolent offenders like drug users instead of warehousing them at our overstuffed prisons.  Opponents are smearing this by saying its true intent is to legalize drugs, but the failed Drug War is the great unmentionable sinkhole in state and national budgets, and a smart policy emphasizing rehabilitation is desperately needed, especially in California.  The No on 5 people must have better spinmeisters, however, as most of the newspapers in the state have come out against the measure.  Right, because the policymakers have done such a stellar job in sentencing law, we should just leave it to them.

• Prop. 8: An update on those million yard signs that were “in route” from China to the Yes on 8 campaign: they’re still not here.

It seems that the signs, some of them outsourced overseas, didn’t all arrive in time for the September event. And many still haven’t reached supporters of the measure that would amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriage.

“It takes longer to get a million than we thought,” said Sonja Eddings Brown, deputy communications director for the Protect Marriage coalition […]

Brown tried to spin the production glitch as a positive thing for the campaign — a sign, so to speak, of the overwhelming demand for lawn signs by voters who wanted to participate in “the most unprecedented and largest grass-roots effort ever attempted in California.”

Oh that’s just a FAIL.

Meanwhile, when the most reactionary editorial board in the state, the Orange County Register, comes out against your proposition, you know you’re having a tough time selling it.  As for the right-wing boycott of Google for opposing Prop. 8, the website orchestrating it advises its supporters to follow the fate of the proposition – on Google News.

I think I’m going to miss this initiative, it’s been hilarious so far.

Fast4Equality – Fight Prop. 8 With a Brief Fast!

Last week I wrote about the religious right’s takeover of the Yes on 8 campaign, and their efforts to rile up their base to eliminate marriage for same-sex couples.  In particular, I highlighted this statement:

Hundreds of pastors have called on their congregations to fast and pray for passage of a ballot measure in November that would put an end to gay marriage in California.

The collective act of piety, starting Wednesday and culminating three days before the election in a revival for as many as 100,000 people at the San Diego Chargers’ stadium, comes as church leaders across California put people, money and powerful words behind Proposition 8 […]

the gathering, called the call, will conclude a 40-day fasting period for california that begins sept. 24. christians are being asked to fast in some way, either the entire 40 days or perhaps by using team relays to cover the entire 40 days.

This “fast relay” thing just sounded more like eliminating between-meal snacking.  And just the notion of fasting to pass a ballot initiative is kee-razy to the extreme.  Well, if they can do it, so can we.

Calitics has decided to set up a Counter-Fast For Equality.  Participants can fast for 1 minute, 10 minutes, half an hour, whatever you can spare.  At the Counter-Fast For Equality website, you can sign up for the amount of time you’ll be fasting (hey Jews, don’t pick Yom Kippur, you’re fasting anyway!).  And much like a charity race, you can get sponsored for your time and trouble for fasting at the rate of a dollar a minute.  At the Fast4Equality ActBlue page, you can donate as little as $1 (or one minute’s worth of fasting) to the No on 8 campaign.

Just to get you in the swing of things, we put together this video detailing the ins and outs of a short-term fast.  Actually, our volunteer faster had a little trouble with it:

So get to it, America!  Join us at The Counter-Fast For Equality and sign up today!

Prop. 8: The Relay Fast

It’s hard to get a handle on the efforts of the Yes on 8 people because they’re so haphazard.  They vow to produce a million yard signs but then get delayed because the signs are “in route” from China.  They try to make their campaign seem to be about ordinary couples who want their traditional aw-shucks marriage, and then the virulence of their intolerance is revealed, over

I am a Mormon High Priest.  My bishop is a long-time family friend, and he has come to see me a couple of times recently, but each time he has come by assignment of his church supervisor.  On the first visit, my bishop offered me a chance to resign my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  When I declined, he told me a church disciplinary council would be held.  On the second visit, just a couple of days ago, he brought me a letter informing me that I am charged with conduct unbecoming a member of the Mormon Church, and being “in apostasy.”

…and over again

Turns out the aptly-named “Church of the Divide” in faraway Placerville had sent a group of hate-mongering protesters to the church where (Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson) and his family worships, complete with signs blaring “SODOMY” (and worse), to protest Kevin’s decision to oppose Prop 8. They also flew in Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson from Los Angeles as their Rent-A-Hack.

What has become cleear is this: the Yes on 8 movement is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fundamentalist right, an alliance of various religious sects who are coming together to try and impose their will on the people of California.  They’ve certainly been successful financially, outraising the no side to this point.  To be sure, there are liberal religious leaders coming out against this measure, like the California Faith for Equality coalition.  But the level of participation by many groups, particularly the Church of Latter-Day Saints, is profoundly unsettling:

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have contributed more than a third of the approximately $15.4 million raised since June 1 to support Proposition 8. The ballot initiative, if passed, would reverse the current right of same-sex couples to marry […]

The top leadership of the Mormon Church, known as the First Presidency, issued a letter in June calling on Mormons to “do all you can” to support Proposition 8.

Mormon donors said they weren’t coerced. “Nobody twisted my arm,” said Richard Piquet, a Southern California accountant who gave $25,000 in support of Proposition 8. He said Mormon Church leaders called donating “a matter of personal conscience.” Some Mormons who declined to donate said their local church leaders had made highly charged appeals, such as saying that their souls would be in jeopardy if they didn’t give. Church spokesmen said any such incident wouldn’t reflect Mormon Church policy […]

The prominence of Mormon donors in the Proposition 8 fight has also led to alliances with evangelical Protestant groups and other Christian religions, some of which have deep theological differences with Mormons.

Jim Garlow, pastor of the evangelical Protestant Skyline Church near San Diego and a leading supporter of Proposition 8, said, “I would not, in all candor, have been meeting them or talking with them had it not been for” the marriage campaign. Rev. Garlow said he had developed a “friendship” with the Mormons he met, although he feels the theological differences remain “unbridgeable.”

Certainly there is a broader movement among the religious spectrum beyond just the Mormons; the Family Research Council is heavily invested in the measure, and is spreading lies about the consequences of same-sex marriage to their members (Christians will be jailed!!!).  But what is going to be the focus of their efforts to get out the vote and pass the proposition?  Apparently, fasting and praying (I don’t buy the 100,000 figure below, by the way, it sounds like more bluster):

Hundreds of pastors have called on their congregations to fast and pray for passage of a ballot measure in November that would put an end to gay marriage in California.

The collective act of piety, starting Wednesday and culminating three days before the election in a revival for as many as 100,000 people at the San Diego Chargers’ stadium, comes as church leaders across California put people, money and powerful words behind Proposition 8.

Some pastors around the state and nation are encouraging their flocks to forgo solid food for up to 40 days in the biblical tradition.

Well, not quite.  In a remarkable catch by skippy, this 40-day fasting period, scheduled to begin today, would be somewhat unusual.

the gathering, called the call, will conclude a 40-day fasting period for california that begins sept. 24. christians are being asked to fast in some way, either the entire 40 days or perhaps by using team relays to cover the entire 40 days. running parallel to the 40-day fast is a 100-day prayer effort, which was scheduled to start july 28.

Um… team relays?

Let me get this straight.  If I last from lunch to dinner without a morsel, then tag off to my partner in prayer, I can go ahead and eat dinner then?  Is that really a fast, or is it, I don’t know… just not snacking?

Well, the religious right can’t be the only ones to get in on this fun.  That’s why, starting today, I am calling on every liberal and progressive to take part in a counter-fast for equality.  The goal is to get enough people involved that we only have to chip in about 15 minutes or so of fasting apiece.  I’m blocking out September 29, 4:30-4:45.  I’m not eating a thing.  We’re talking commitment!!!

More on this tomorrow. For now, sign up in the comments with your fasting interval.  Together, we can show these guys what a fasting relay team is all about!

Theocrats Mobilize for “Armageddon”

This report of a national conference call to fight Prop. 8 and marriage equality sounds more like a battle plan than a political strategy session.  All the leading figures of the religious right were there, and the language is undeniably militaristic.  I believe that the best way to counteract the theocratic right is to display them in all their radicalism, so the whole country understands the goals of their movement.  So here ya go:

The primary focus of the call was Proposition 8 in California, described by (Chuck) Colson as “the Armageddon of the culture war.” Many speakers invoked the language of warfare, raising up an army of believers, putting soldiers in the streets, being on the front lines of a battle. Lou Engle actually described a massive rally planned in Qualcomm stadium on November 1 as a “blitzkrieg moment.”

While speaker after speaker spoke of the dire threats same-sex married couples pose to “traditional” marriage, religious freedom, and civilization itself, the overall tone of the call was confidence that victory would be won with God’s help, 40 days of prayer and fasting before the election, teams of intercessors and prayer warriors around the country, and a massive highly organized deployment of volunteers in a systematic voter identification and turnout campaign.

This is not exactly the stuff of democracy, nor is it in any way reflective of a country with a separation of church and state.  What is at work here is a putsch, a desire to seize the instruments of power and subjugate everyone to one belief system.  They mobilize through fear, claiming that the next steps in the fiendish plan are to ban the Bible, legalize polygamy, and “destroy marriage”.  They’re also using supposedly apolitical churches as an illegal communications apparatus:

Ron Luce from Teen Mania ministries and other organizers talked about plans to organize 300,000 youth and their families for an October 1 simulcast, and using them to reach 2.4 million. A representative of the Church Communication Network, a satellite network that has downlink equipment in 500 churches in California, 95 in Arizona, and 321 in Florida, said it would simulcast the youth event free of charge, and would make a satellite dish available “at cost” to churches who don’t yet have one. Said one speaker of the youth organizing, “if we don’t use them, Satan will.”

That is manifestly against the spirit of tax-exempt laws regarding churches – laws which I imagine you’ll see broken many times between now and November.  The free simulcasting and satellite services amount to in-kind donations.

People for the American Way is on this and keeping tabs on the theocratic right.  As I said, forewarned is forearmed – there’s a growing segment of the state and the country who are repulsed by this fundamentalism, this anti-Democratic dominionism.  We have an opportunity this fall to lay bare the innate bigotry of their movement for all to see.

UPDATE:  Another aspect to this is the exhuming once again of far-right theocratic icon Alan Keyes, who’s running for President again – but only in California, as part of the American Independent Party (formed in 1968 by segergationist George Wallace, which is somewhat ironic).  His running mate is Rev. Wiley Drake, the minister who prayed for the death of members of Americans United for Separation of Church and State last year.  The fundies are lining up, packed in two at a time, and all headed to California in lockstep.  It’s going to be crazy out here for the next 95 days.

Standing Up For The Constitution

On May 5th 2008 the Los Alamitos City Council put on their agenda an item that seemed innocent enough. It was a decision to add a plaque with In God We Trust to the walls of the City Council. This is part of an effort led by Christian fundamentalist Bakersfield Councilwoman Sullivan from her non-profit, In God We Trust – America. A number of cities in the State of California have fallen to this attempt to de-secularize city government, a few have stood up for secular government and said “No.”

I decided to stop it in Los Alamitos.


Something silly to do with the state being secular. You know, that kind of silly stuff pushed by those old fogies Madison and Jefferson way back in the 1770’s.

Below the fold are the speeches I have given in the Council Chamber (and the reactions from the Los Alamitos City Council if there was any).

First Speech – May 5, 2008

In god we trust. Singular and plural. We, all the people of Los Alamitos, trust a monotheistic god? Not in lower case “g” In gods we trust? As a city we are diverse. In our personal lives we have our own faith. We all are different. Taxpayers and residents of Los Alamitos fall into all sorts of faiths. From those that believe in no gods, to those that question, to those that believe in the earth mother, to those that believe in a single god to those that believe in the holy trinity of the father, the son and the holy spirit, to those that believe in the many gods of Hindu, the many gods of druidic life, and even the many Gods of what many consider mythology.

The founding fathers of this country were a diverse group. There were Christians, Deitists and non-believers. They understood that faith was a personal thing. That it was personal faith, and for that reason when they created the founding document on which this country was based, the Constitution, their only reference to religion was that there be no religious test for office. Some like to point to God in the Declaration of Independence, but it is not God who gets mentioned there, but Nature’s God. Ask a Wica’n or a druid about Nature’s God and you will hear not of one God, but many. Talk to a Hindu or a Sikh of their God and they will ask which one you speak of. Ask and American Indian of their God and they will ask you to clarify on which of Nature’s God you ask.

1.1 Billion of the worlds people are secular/non-religious/agnostic or atheist. 900 million are Hindu, 394 million are Chinese Traditionalist, 376 Million are Buddhist, 300 million are indigenous tribal beliefs, 100 million are African Traditional, 23 Million are Sikh’s. Not one of these groups believes in a monotheistic entity known as God. Of the top 10 religions based on the number of adherents in the world, only two have a monotheistic God.

If you were to plaster the monotheistic belief on this city, would not Hindus who live within our fair city have the right for equal representation? Would this city be forced to add placards to our city walls that contain a passage from the Bhagavad-Gita? Would the atheists of our city not have an equal right to demand “In nothing we trust” be added? Will all those that have a belief differing from that of a Monotheistic God be permitted equal access to these walls? Or has the tyranny of the majority in religious faith now raised it’s ugly face here in our fine city? Do we no longer protect the minorities around us? Does our city council now show such disrespect to the personal faith of the minority of it citizens that it will shove the faith of the majority down the throats of the minority? How totally un-Christian.

Yet tonight, before this city made up of so many with differing faiths and beliefs, there is the call to place the monotheistic God above all other beliefs and adopt it for a city where some of the people within do not share such beliefs. The founding fathers of this country were wise men. They left their faith out of their government when they created it. There is no place for God in the Constitution. There is no place to raise a monotheistic God within these council chambers or within this city above all others.

I pray, that the Christians among you on this Dias remember Mathew 6:6 where Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” And for those of you who are patriotic, remember the words of Thomas Jefferson who in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 wrote “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” The letter was the subject of intense scrutiny by Jefferson, and he consulted a couple of New England politicians to assure that his words would not offend while still conveying his message: it was not the place of the Congress or the Executive to do anything that might be misconstrued as the establishment of religion. And so it is not the place of the Los Alamitos City Council to put any one religion, such as that of a monotheistic God, above any other religion, those with many Gods, or no religion or Gods at all.

We the people of Los Alamitos are blessed with diversity. Will this city council seek to offend some with this declaration that the city officially accepts and believes only in a monotheistic God? How can this city claim to represent and protect the minorities within it, from Buddhist, to Hindu, to agnostic and atheist and all those that don’t subscribe to the belief of a monotheistic God by adopting a formal policy that there is one and only one God and we trust in that monotheistic belief? I ask, no pray, that you don’t adopt a city policy that claims that our city is only trusting in a monotheistic God. Protect the minority, be as wise as Thomas Jefferson, keep religious belief systems out of our government and protect all people by staying secular.

The result of this was a vote by the City Council to have an unofficial survey done to give them an indication as to how people felt about having In God We Trust added to the council chambers. After 4-6 weeks the mater would be brought up for a vote again with the community feedback considered although no one stated how many votes or what percentage would have to object before the council would decide to not add this to the walls. During the debate in council there were any number of things stated that indicated that the members of the city council had no idea as to the history of how God has been added to our secular society. Thus necessitating the second speech.

Second Speech – May 19, 2008

It’s time to correct a few statements that were made from this dais the last time we were here. Mayor Parker, you stated that the motto for this country for 200 years was “in god we trust”. That is in fact false.

The motto E Pluribus Unum, (“from many, one”) was approved for use on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. The motto In God We Trust was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the American Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout Christians throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize God on United States coins. President Lincoln had in 1861 fortuitously appointed the religious zealot and National Reform Association member James Pollock as Director of the Mint, The NRA back then was an organization with the stated and well-known goal of the creation of a Christian theocracy in the United States (they even made two attempts at changing the preamble to the Constitution to “We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the ruler among nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government, and in order to form a more perfect union”). It should not be considered surprising that Pollock in 1863 submitted several designs to Chase that incorporated variations of the mottoes “Our Trust is in God” and “God and Our Country.” In God We Trust first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin. American presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt strongly disapproved of the idea of evoking God within the context of a “cheap” political motto. In a letter to William Boldly on November 11, 1907, President Roosevelt wrote: “My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm.” In God We Trust was first used on paper money in 1957 when it appeared on the one-dollar Silver Certificate. E Pluribus Unum still appears on coins and currency, and was widely considered the national motto de facto. However, by 1956 it had not been established so by legislation as the official “national motto”, and therefore In God We Trust became the official U.S. national motto after the passage of an Act of Congress in 1956, two years after the Knights of Columbus got Congress to amend the Pledge of Allegiance to include the words “one nation under God.” The same Congress had required, in the previous year, that the words appear on all currency, as a Cold War measure. In 1955 during the debates over adding God to our national identity a representative from Florida told Congress the following: “In these days when imperialistic and materialistic Communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, it is proper” to “remind all of us of this self-evident truth” that “as long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail.”

In the 1950’s it was “Yes God, No Communism.” Today as we saw from Mr. Grose, it’s “Yes God, No terrorism”. In response to Mr Grose, you brought up the specter of 9/11, terrorists, and our troops. As Zacarias Moussaoui was being transferred to Supermax by U.S. Marshals to serve 6 life terms for being one of the 9/11 terrorists he called out “allah akbar,” which translates to “God is great.” Last time I checked, his Monotheistic God is also your Monotheistic God. I’m sure that Zacarias Moussaoui would have no problem having this city council proclaim his god as the god of our fair city.

Much has been made of this not being religious. That it is all from a non-profit. But let’s consider the words of the founder of that non-profit. Bakersfield Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan, 68, said she first got the idea in 2001 after hearing on a Christian radio station about attempts to remove the term from U.S. currency and buildings. She then started a nonprofit, In God We Trust – America, with the goal of having every municipal building in America display the phrase. Christian radio station, hmmm. Why am I not surprised.

And yes, we have Mayor Rice in Westminster, who was responsible for bringing this to our neighbor city who doesn’t seem to understand basic civics when she stated, “Our country was founded on religion.” And to think that most of the people who came here were running away from counties where the governments embraced a state religion. Just proof positive that we need to start teaching civics again in our public schools.

Since I stood before you two weeks ago I have been chastised by people in town who have told me that I’m going to burn in hell. Who have said that I am evil. Who have questioned how I could have my daughter go through her Bat-Mitzvah and speak against putting up this phrase. As if somehow by standing up for people that don’t share my faith and trying to ensure that one that is not theirs is not enshrined as part of our city was somehow wrong. It is not.

I believe that one of government’s roles is simple; To protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. You were elected to represent the will of all the people. The Buddhists. The Hindus. The agnostics. The atheists. All those that are a minority. This is their city government too. They do not share a belief in a single monotheistic god. Rather than trusting in something that they do not believe in, they are trusting in you to do the right thing and protect them.

As to why I do this, I quote Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up

I will not be silent while my fellow Los Alamitos citizens who do not believe in a monotheistic god have their city make a belief in such a city policy. I will raise my voice. I may be turning 50 tomorrow, but I will not let the half-century mark slow me down or silence my voice to speak for those that can not speak or are afraid to speak for themselves. There is no Los Alamitos agnostic Church I can go before to bring those that do not believe in a monotheistic God before you to speak, so I will continue to give voice to them.

This is not about my beliefs or my faith. This is about protecting the meek. This is about protecting those who are afraid to speak up or speak out. This is about embracing the beliefs of our founding fathers, who were wise in their creation of this country, to ensure that there was no mention of God in the Constitution. I will speak up because I believe in that Constitution. I will speak up because I believe in the first Amendment. I will speak up because the belief in a single God is religion. I will speak up, for whether it be “In God we trust” or “God is great” it is wrong for the State to embrace a monotheistic God in a pluralistic society.

Small problem here. I had five minutes to get this education into the history of Christian influence into the record (that is all the time they allow) and speaking even at breakneck speed (sounding like an auctioneer) I was unable to get the last paragraph into the record.

Skipped Meeting – June 2, 2008: The following speech was NOT given instead the local weekly The News Enterprise ran the piece that follows it as their lone Letter to the Editor.

This is my third time before you on this mater. No mater how many times you on the dais claim that it is not about religion, there are many who feel that it is, and they have let me know in no uncertain terms. When a good friend who I respect tells me I’m going to lose this battle because our City Council is made up of five good Christians, it’s religious. When a letter-to-the-editor writer has to stoop to using the American Heritage dictionaries fourth definition for god, and it should be noted the god in that definition is with a lower case “g”, do you on the dais really think that is the same definition for the God in the “In God We Trust”? Does anyone?

A non-profit organization headed by a Baptist fundamentalist who got this idea after listening to a Christian radio station rail about people like me wanting the secular society created by our founding fathers and it’s not religious? Councilwoman Sullivan doesn’t have any doubt where she stands. “‘In God We Trust’ is the perfect expression of what it takes to be a good American because from my perspective as a believer, patriotism means love of God and love of country.” Although I can’t prove it, my guess is she is not talking about Jefferson’s ‘Nature’s God”, but about her Christian one. Maybe this helps explain why on 2/21/08 American Family News Network – A Christian Broadcasting network states. “Sullivan says concerned Christians need to get involved so the motto can be displayed in the nation’s city council chambers.” It is clear to the founder of the non profit that it is religious, as it also was to the Mayor of Westminster.

In your unofficial results from last Wednesday over 10% of the self-selected participants said don’t do this. Ken, that’s more people than fought for the New Dutchaven trees; Cat, that’s more people than fought for the Katella wall. And this was a self-selected survey from people where that 10% weren’t meeting after church service talking about this in the parking lot.

I have heard from the dais that this is about the national motto and that it’s the law. It was religious fundamentalists that gave us their version of laws before. Heck, fundamentalists even got one into the Constitution until wiser heads prevailed and took prohibition out of it. Fundamentalists have given blue laws to any number of cities, counties and states. They even made it illegal to listen to rock and roll in some places because we all know that the devil is in the music.

The last time I was here I showed how religious fundamentalists created the law. How the national motto became law due to religious fundamentalists. And just so we can be clear, it wasn’t Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Seik or other religions, but Christian religious fundamentalists that have tried time and time again to make their God the countries God. And in God We Trust is all about their God. It’s about the NRA of the 1700’s. It’s about the Knights of Columbus and it’s about Christian zealots trying to make a secular society religious. In many ways it’s not much different than Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries where the religious zealots have created state sponsored religion.

Today I am making a final plea to this city council to not embrace religious zealotry. To not disenfranchise those who do not share a faith in a monotheistic god. To do as the founding fathers did and keep the government secular. Ask yourself if you would post “In gods We Trust” up on these walls. Yes, plural, as in the many different higher beings that the diverse community of Los Alamitos residents may believe in. Would you be so self inclusive to use a lower case “g” and add an “s”?

Prohibition was bad law. The laws banning rock and roll were bad laws. Blue laws are bad laws. Separate but equal was bad law. The decision to make a monotheistic God the centerpiece of our national motto during the fear induced McCarthyism of the 1950’s was bad law. Just because there has been bad law made is no reason for this city council to embrace it and make it the law of this city, when it cuts out a portion of the cities population, while it is exclusive rather than inclusive. Leave the monotheism in the churches, temples and masques where it belongs. Not here among the walls of a city hall that is supposed to be the sanctuary of all the people. Follow the lead of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers of this nation, remain clearly secular. Respect the faith of others. Respect the 10+%. Keep this chamber the chamber of all the people of Los Alamitos. Do not make the people of differing faiths in Los Alamitos separate and unequal. Uphold the Constitution and the principles of equality for all. For in Jefferson I trust. So help us Thomas Jefferson.

News Enterprise Letter To The Editor: June 4, 2008

This Memorial Day Weekend I had the opportunity to do a little thinking about those that have fought for us and what they were fighting for. Not just now when my nephew is fighting as a Ranger in the army, but going back to when my father fought for this country in Europe in World War II and all the wars between them, and the wars before then.

I thought about why they fought, what they were fighting for. Which made me think about what we stand for. Not the symbols of this country, the words we mouth when we show our patriotism, but more the things that we stand for. The things that are worth fighting for.

I looked back at what we bind our leadership to, the principles that matter most to us. And there it was, staring me right in the face. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The first oath taken by the first US Congress ever seated, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” A simple 14 words.

It can not be more simple than that. We can use words like “freedom” but what binds us together, fighting for our nation in battle or standing with her in our hearts, is our deep and profound respect for that document. Not the Declaration of Independence. Not laws established by Congress and signed by the President. Not decisions made by the Supreme Court. But the Constitution. That is the centerpiece of our nation. That is the core of who we are and of what we are. It is what we fight for, is what we stand for, it is America.

This train of thought got me back to why was I fighting this silly battle against City Hall on a simple sign to be placed on the council walls. And my answer was, because of the Constitution. The same thing we fight for all the time. The same thing we swear our allegiance to. That document we swear to uphold. The document written without any mention of God. The document that only states that there be no religious test for office. The document only once modified successfully by religious Puritanism, and that amendment being the only one ever to require an amendment to reverse bad law (prohibition).

I looked at the history of this country and saw that God’s introduction came at times of great stress when personal faith was highest and the need for belief was greatest. After the civil war the Knights of Columbus got “under God” added to the pledge and the National Reform Association members added “In God We Trust” to our money. How after World War II and in the midst of McCarthyism it raised its head again with Vermont Senator Ralph Flanders proposing the following Amendment to the Constitution in 1954.

Section 1: This nation devoutly recognizes the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.

Section 2: This amendment shall not be interpreted so as to result in the establishment of any particular ecclesiastical organization, or in the abridgment of the rights of religious freedom, or freedom of speech and press, or of peaceful assemblage.

Section 3: Congress shall have power, in such cases as it may deem proper, to provide a suitable oath or affirmation for citizens whose religious scruples prevent them from giving unqualified allegiance to the Constitution as herein amended

True, it didn’t get very far, but less than two years later “In God We Trust” was made our national motto by the same people that fought for the Flander’s amendment getting it passed as a way to show those godless communists that we had faith.

So, when I’m asked how I don’t stand up for our national motto, and why I fight against this small sign in city hall, it is because of what my father fought for in World War II, and what my nephew is fighting for today. I do it because love of country and patriotism starts and ends with the Constitution of the United States of America. Congress can, and has, made bad law. From prohibition to separate but equal, bad law has been made and has been overturned. A national motto that claims there is a God, and that there is one God and only one God is also bad law. On Memorial Day I remember what they fought for and why I fight.

Faith in country, in the Constitution, is not the same as faith in God. But in today’s environment when people think patriotism is shown by waving a flag, putting a “I support the troops” sticker on your car, and mixing religion in with politics, it shouldn’t be considered surprising that the City Council members of Los Alamitos will put the expediency of “how it looks” over taking a stand for the Constitution. It’s hard to say no to a bad law when a Christian run non-profit is pushing it. But like “separate but equal” it is bad law because it makes us unequal. The city would never put “In Satan We Trust”, “In Zeus We Trust”, “In Vishnu We Trust”, “In Yoponcha We Trust” or “In gods We Trust” on the council walls, and the same hold true in the current case. Now, if it was, “In the Constitution We Trust” I would be fighting to hang that at once. So help me Thomas Jefferson.

End of published works

So where does this stand today? Tomorrow (6/11/08) the City of Los Alamitos will release the final unofficial tally of results on the poll. If everything continues as it has been going I suspect that the poll will continue to show a 10%+ trend against posting the plaque. The next meeting of the City Council should have the item back on the agenda for a vote. That should happen at the 6/16/08 City Council Meeting. After that meeting I will amend this post with what should be my final pitch for a secular approach and the results.

Bible as Literature? In Public Schools? I Like It!

“The course is designed not as a religious class or as a Bible study… It is helping students understand a classical illusion [sic] of references to the Bible.”

So what’s this about? What are Westminster residents Mary Ann Shields and Walter Shulte talking about? Well, the Huntington Beach Union High School District is considering their proposal to allow for a “Bible As Literature” elective course to be offered at the high schools. So what’s worng with this? Let me tell you about it after the flip…

So what’s wrong with it? Well, why didn’t they do this earlier?! No really, this is actually a good proposal. Here’s some more from today’s OC Register story:

The proposed curriculum, which includes mock trials and presentations, meets California requirements for school materials and was written by Nader Twal at Millikan High School in Long Beach, Shields and Schulte said. Teachers would be chosen according to their academic qualifications and not religious affiliations and would be teaching from the King James version of the Bible, they said.

The course will focus on the literary style and nature of the Bible as well as biblical references in popular literature.

References to the Bible can be found in Shakespearean works, “Moby Dick,” “Jane Eyre” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” as well the Declaration of Independence and other political documents and court cases, Shields said.

This doesn’t violate Separation of Church and State. This doesn’t promote the teaching of the Bible as real science. Nope, this is actually how the Bible should be taught in public schools.

There are scores of Biblical allusions found throughout literature. In fact, in order to fully understand many works of literature, one must also understand the Biblical stories that they refer to. So now that I think about it, a “Bible as Literature” class can be quite helpful for students preparing for AP English and/or Collegiate Literature classes.

And now that I think of this also, the Bible itself is a great work of art. Its imaginative stories have captivated people for millennia. Its verbal portraits have inspired artists to create wonderful works of visual art. Basically if one takes the religion out of the Bible, one has an artistic masterpiece. And that’s how the Bible should be taught.

So should the Huntington Beach Union High School District allow for this course? Absolutely, so long as it truly does teach the Bible as a work of literary art, AND NOT as absolute truth. After all, when one tries to take everything in the Scriptures literally, one misses the true artistic beauty of the Scriptures.