Archive for April, 2005
The influence of the blogosphere, as it is fondly known, is growing exponentially in society, commerce, politics and journalism. (Just ask Jeff Gannon). Now, blogger and journalist Max Blumenthal has made a significant advance in the area of psychiatry.
It is likely, of course, that the psychiatric profession will pay about as much attention to Blumenthal’s startling discovery, as most of the mainstream media has paid to the revelation that one of their number — a member of the White House press corps — turned out to be a pseudonymous pseudo-journalist, who worked for a pseudo-news agency (now defunct), and was an authentic Republican propagandist and a male prostitute, among other things.
Nevertheless, let me be the first to hail Max’s breakthrough, which like so many great discoveries, is really very simple: “If you do not read Fred’s blog you are insane.”
I will be offline this weekend, but if insanity breaks out, check out this post — still pretty fresh after two weeks:
And if the hunger is still there, try out this one — which thumbnail’s Max Blumenthal’s Nation online expose of Family Research Council honcho Tony Perkins’ connection to white supremacist David Duke.
When you think of the “Christian men’s movement,” you probably think of the Promise Keepers — those huggy guys who meet in football stadiums because, as some of their leaders like to say, the church has been “feminized”. (I devote a chapter to PK in Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy). The matter of gender and gender politics has been all the rage in conservative Christian communities for some time, and for those focusing on these things, writer Jeff Sharlet has a report on recent trends in the Christian men’s movement, on Nerve, an internet magazine about sexuality. Here is a excerpt about James Dobson, who was recently in the news as a featured speaker at the Christian Right rally, “Justice Sunday.”
“… Dr. James Dobson, one of a handful of the evangelical kingmakers to whom George W. Bush paid court before announcing his bid for the presidency in 2000. Dobson is most-recently known in the secular world for his charge that Spongebob Squarepants had been recruited as an agent of the ‘homosexual agenda,’ but for the millions who tune into his radio shows or read his books or subscribe to one of the publications produced by his organization, Focus on the Family, Dobson has long served as a source for wisdom that embodies the feminist adage that the personal is political.”
“Not that Dobson acknowledges a debt to feminism; indeed, he sees it as a threat to Christianity. The problem, as he outlines it in Straight Talk to Men, a Dobson ‘classic’ originally published as Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives, is that men, in a righteous attempt to resolve the problems of sexism, have ceded too much power to women. As a result, he insists, women are engaging in a parody of male headship and most men lack the guts — and the sensitivity — to stand up to them. ‘Everything we do is influenced by our gender assignment,’ he writes. ‘Any confusion… in the relationship between the sexes… must be seen as threatening to the stability of society itself.’ Dobson, unlike other Christian manliness gurus, gets specific about the consequences, illustrated in this new edition of Straight Talk through an imaginary dialogue between a group of ‘yesterday’s husbands and fathers’ (from 1870) who’ve been transported into the present to talk to a representative of ‘the culture.’
“The culture’s spokesman paints a lurid portrait of today’s world, in which boys typically look at pornography depicting women ‘hanging from trees, and being murdered with knives, guns, ropes, etc.’; in which ‘it its legal for a father… to have a homosexual experience with his son’; in which women are called to combat in a time of war, because men are not up to the job. ‘I miss John Wayne,’ laments Dobson.”
The Christian Right has a long and shifty history with white supremacist groups in the U.S. Certainly many do not and never have embraced racism. Others play ball.
It turns out that Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council and the orgnizer of “Justice Sunday,” the Christian Right rally in Louisville last weekend, has a seamy history — that includes a secret deal with white supremacist leader, David Duke.
“Four years ago,” Max Blumenthal writes in the current issue of The Nation magazine, “Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America’s premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.”
In addition to the outrageous religious supremacism of Perkins, and the others who claimed that Democrats and liberals are opposed to “people of faith” and even anti-Christian for opposing some of president Bush’s more extreme judicial nominations, their hypocrisy runs deep.
Blumenthal continues, “As the emcee of Justice Sunday, Tony Perkins positioned himself beside a black preacher and a Catholic ‘civil rights’ activist as he rattled off the phone numbers of senators wavering on President Bush’s judicial nominees. The evening’s speakers studiously couched their appeals on behalf of Bush’s stalled judges in the vocabulary of victimhood, accusing Democratic senators of ‘filibustering people of faith.'”
“James Dobson, who founded the Family Research Council as the Washington lobbying arm of his Focus on the Family, invoked the Christian right’s persecution complex. On an evening when Jews were celebrating the second night of Passover, Dobson claimed, “The biggest Holocaust in world history came out of the Supreme Court” with the Roe v. Wade decision.”
Progressive religious leaders are increasingly speaking out against the theocratic agenda of the Christian Right. The Interfaith Alliance organized one such speak-out on Monday, in the form of a telephone press conference with five major religious leaders in response to the “Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith,” telecast on Sunday night.
I was invited, but was not able to participate. But TIA has issued a press release with some of the highlights.
The event was moderated by the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance. Particpants included the Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, President of the Chicago Theological Seminary; the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister, The Riverside Church in New York City; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism; and the Rev. Carlton Veazey, President of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Gaddy said that the religious right believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and they equate that with a belief in the inerrancy of the Constitution. Unfortunately, he said, they believe that only they know how to interpret the Bible and the Constitution.
Here is some of what the guest speakers had to say:
Thistlewaite: “I was shocked at how sacrilegious the event was… The radical religious right turned a sanctuary into a political platform. We are the religious mainstream. We support the Constitution and we will not turn a church into a political action committee.”
Veazey: “I don’t doubt the sincerity of Albert Mohler and other fundamentalist ministers who say that the Bible is the inerrant source and that they and they alone know what the Bible says and means… But most of us don’t go along with this. Christians have strong differences of opinion on the meaning of scriptures and we don’t want to see a particular brand of Christianity held up as the only real Christianity. We certainly don’t want a particular brand of Christianity enacted as the law of the land.”
“Justice Sunday was not about religion; it was part of an ongoing power grab to take over the courts and reverse decades of progress for minorities, women, the environment, workers’ rights, and other issues and groups that have been relatively powerless. We must not compromise on our rights and freedoms.”
Saperstein: “It is not our responsibility to try and match them. I am troubled by what happened at Highview Baptist Church. [where the telecast was staged] I don’t think we want to intensify the corrosiveness of the public discourse we heard last night. Their arguments were intellectually vacuous and politically damaging. Making a religious claim doesn’t protect you; it doesn’t make your position right”
Forbes: “The religious right has been working a long time to build up to the strength they now have and to the audacious means they are able to use… What we as progressives are already doing takes time to mobilize and to come to full visibility. But I think that it will be clearer, as the days go by, that there is a progressive movement aborning, that is asking about what are the most effective means for us to promote the values we hold, and what means have been used by others but actually subvert the values we hold. We must be as efficient and effective in the use of media and modes of communication, but hopefully in ways that will not be the death knell of what we stand for and what our nation has been standing for through these years.”
You can listen to Monday’s press conference over streaming audio.
TIA says a transcript will be available soon.
For me the most striking comment was by James Forbes: “…there is a progressive movement aborning, that is asking about what are the most effective means for us to promote the values we hold, and what means have been used by others but actually subvert the values we hold…”
Secret Service records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Members of Congress show that the fake reporter who operated under the false name, Jeff Gannon, appeared at the White House about 200 times in his 2 year tenure at the fake news service, Talon News, which often published plagiarized material. Sigificantly, about 40 of those visits were times when there was no press briefing scheduled. And on at least two occasions — he checked-in but never checked-out with the Secret Service.
The exclusive is at The Raw Story, which observes that Gannon “had little to no previous journalism experience, previously worked as a male escort, and was refused a congressional press pass.”
Oh yes. And ePluribus Media, the organizational outgrowth of the group of citizen journalists who helped break the Gannongate story… is coming soon.
If one is a theocrat, one believes that the law is what one’s religious authorities say that it is, and one acts accordingly.
One of the leading monarchichal theocracies in the world, is not in the Arab world. A number of Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, are monarchies governed under Islamic law. The Vatican is different of course. The monarchy is not inherited, but it is self-perpetuating, and it in no way may be construed as a democracy. In the course of the papacy of John Paul II, it exerted increasing levels of administrative and doctrinal control over the vast global church, and it’s branches every nation.
As we all know, the leader of the doctrinal police was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whose Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the agency that led the Inquisition, made it it’s business to silence dissidents, and command conformity among Catholic academics, politicians, and clergy.
One of the problems with this level of control is that the church, also functioning as a state, sometimes contradicts civil law in the nations in which it operates. Sometimes the conflict is with criminal law.
The Guardian newspaper reported this weekend that the new pope may have obstructed the efforts of law enforcement to investigate the growing sex abuse scandal in the United States — by ordering bishops to keep secret allegations that came to their attention.
“Pope Benedict XVI faced claims last night,” according to the Guardian, “he had ‘obstructed justice’ after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church’s investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret. The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.”
“It asserted the church’s right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger… Lawyers acting for abuse victims claim it was designed to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the police. They accuse Ratzinger of committing a ‘clear obstruction of justice’.”
The letter, the newspaper continues, “orders that ‘preliminary investigations’ into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger’s office” and that all proceedings must be internal and conducted “only by priests.”
“‘Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,’ Ratzinger’s letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.”
“The Ratzinger letter was co-signed by Archbishop [now Cardinal] Tarcisio Bertone [of Genova, Italy] who gave an interview two years ago in which he hinted at the church’s opposition to allowing outside agencies to investigate abuse claims.”
“‘In my opinion, the demand that a bishop be obligated to contact the police in order to denounce a priest who has admitted the offence of paedophilia is unfounded,’ Bertone said.”
This is an extraordinary claim — that church leaders are exempt from American criminal law. Additionally, it is worth underscoring that the offense is not “paedophilia,” as Bertone euphemistically claims. That is an academic term. The criminal laws in the U.S. call it rape, or sexual assualt.
Bertone was at the time of the letter, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (He may be best known in the U.S. for his broadcast on Vatican radio calling on people not to read the best-selling novel The DaVinci Code.)
For foreign clerical leaders to order their U.S. followers to ignore and defy U.S. criminal laws, in the face of evidence of specific crimes, may very well constitute criminal offenses in thier own right, beginning with, as lawyers for some of the abuse victims told The Guardian, “obstruction of justice.”
It was just a matter of time before we witnessed again the clash of religious supremacies. The coalition of religious conservatives that comprise the Religious Right has been an uneasy mix: notably Conservative Catholics, Protestant fundamentalists, Mormons and the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon. It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows. It is also said that all coalitions are by thier very nature, temporary arrangements.
The elevation of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to pope, reminds that it was under his direction that in 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued Dominus Jesus, which stated that non-Catholic Christian churches “are not churches in the proper sense” — among other statements that many mainline and evangelical Christians found insulting at best. There is only one true church, and now Ratzinger heads it.
But Dr. Albert Mohler president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary disagrees with Ratzinger. In 2000 he declared Catholicism to be a “false church” — and now his words are now a big public issue.
The Baptist Press reports that freshman Democratic Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) is challenging his top home state Christian rightist, James Dobson to distance himself from Mohler “for calling the Roman Catholic Church a ‘false church.'” Mohler is on the board of Dobson’s Focus on the Family and the two are appearing together this weekend in the controversial telecast “Justice Sunday.” Publicity materials for the event suggest Democrats and liberals are opponents of “people of faith,” even “anti-Christian” because they oppose some of President Bush’s nominations for the federal bench.
According to The Baptist Press: “I have not encountered any feelings of anti-Catholicism from any of my fellow Senators on either side of the aisle,” Salazar, a Catholic, wrote. “… In contrast, I understand you are helping lead the effort on a national telecast against Democrats in the United States Senate with Dr. Al Mohler, among others. In March of 2000, Dr. Mohler said, ‘I believe that the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel. And indeed, I believe that the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office.'”
“Salazar called on Dobson to ‘repudiate’ Mohler’s comments and to distance himself from those who ‘serve to divide the world’s Christian churches against one another.’ At a news conference Salazar also called Focus on the Family’s tactics ‘un-Christian.’ Focus has run advertisements pressuring senators — including Salazar — to stop filibustering nominees.”
“In response to Salazar’s letter, Dobson released a statement calling Mohler a ‘valued member’ of Focus on the Family’s board of directors.”
Meanwhile, the slugfest has broken out in the Colorado media, where Salazar and Dobson are going toe-to-toe.
Rocky Mountain News columnist Mike Littwin writes: “Look, it’s not just faith you need to determine that people do occasionally recognize a demagogue when they see one. Or that many Americans know the difference between democracy and theocracy, even if we’re shaky on the original Greek.”
“And you don’t need faith – just a close look – to see the battle over judicial nominations and filibusters in the U.S. Senate is not a war against ‘people of faith.'”
“How presumptuous is the ‘people of faith’ label anyway? Whose faith exactly? Your faith? My faith? The guy who wears his faith on the sleeve of his America-Is-The-Great-Satan T-shirt?”
“Salazar has seen the presumption up close. He’s seen it in full-page ads. He is a devout Catholic, who will tell you he reads the Bible daily and that Focus on the Family has no monopoly on belief.”
“He says it slowly, measuring each word. It’s the punch that surprises you.”
“‘I was attacked,’ Salazar said after landing at DIA [Denver International Airport]Friday afternoon. ‘They took out full-page ads against me. They were on the radio. I don’t think it’s right when they question my faith or the faith of my colleagues because they don’t get their way 100 percent of the time – just 96 percent.'”
The tension between American protestant fundamentalists and Roman Catholicism has a long history, of course. And those seeking to craft a Christian Right political movement have had considerable success in obscuring or minimizing those differences. But the rise of Ratzinger and the impolitic fundamentalism of Mohler shows that the alliance may be more fragile than sometimes meets the eye. The rise of differing, ultimately competing versions of religious supremacism as a driving element in the several main faction of the Christian Right was bound to expose fissures in the coalition at some point.
More importantly, the Justice Sunday controversy, and the attacks on the religious faith of most other Americans may have provided the catalyst for the long overdue fightback from the likes of Democrats like Senator Salazar and the leaders of mainstream protestantism, among others.
Indeed, the controversy has catalyzed outrage in religious communities unaffiliated with the Family Research Council’s narrow brand of Christian Right Republicanism. One expression of that outrage is the rapid organization of Social Justice Sunday April 24th which is billed as a counter to the Christian Right rally. Mainstream protestant leaders who are committed to religious equality and separation of church and state intend to forcefully speak out against the insulting and bigoted statements of the Family Research Council.
This is long over due. But its my sense that this is also just the beginning.
The third branch of the federal government is now under assault by leaders of the other two. The assault is assisted, arguably led by, big corporations who want to end the right of citizens to their day in court, by putting up as many obstacles as possible,or by eliminating whole categories of opportunities for redress. The theocratic Christian Right also wants to eliminate whole areas of civil and constitutional law from the jurisdiction of the courts so that they can advance their religious and political agendas, and be able to trample on the rights of others, unhindered by the courts.
Americans are mobilizing on many fronts to defend their rights against encroachments by the powerful corporate and theocratic interests. One major effort is being organized by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice which has just announced their Access to Justice Campaign.
They note that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) is a leader in the effort to shut the court house doors to the vast majority of Americans. And one of his big bug-a-boos, is the entire area of separation of church and state . The former professional exterminator brings the same seriousness of purpose to his far right ideological agenda to eliminate those parts of the constitution and American history that don’t square with his extreme world view as he did in his earlier professional life.
“What I find the most important is to redesign the government,” DeLay told The Washington Times, (a pet project of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church), “now that we have the opportunity to do that… [I]t’s been my own personal project to redesign government.” He said, “[W]e all know that this judiciary has been extremely active… The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that’s nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn’t stop them.”
The Constitution states that”judges shall hold their offices during good behavior.” Says DeLay: “We want to define what good behavior means.” Unfortunately, what good behavior means to Tom DeLay, means doing whatever it is Tom DeLay wants you to do.
Arthur Bryant, executive director of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, has a different view.
“This is a unique time in our nation’s history,” Bryant wrote recently in the National Law Journal. “America was founded by people who understood that power unchecked is power abused. That’s why we have, among other things, separation of powers, the Bill of Rights and the right to a day in court.”
“Take a look around,” he continued. “Throughout America, corporate wrongdoers are being held liable for injuring, discriminating against and cheating their customers, employees and investors. What’s their solution to this problem? Eliminate access to the courts. They’re amending their consumer, employment and investors’ contracts explicitly to ban individual and class action litigation. They’re expanding federal pre-emption, the use of binding mandatory arbitration and court secrecy to preclude many suits and bury the rest.”
Similarly, Jeffrey M. Goldberg, president of the TLJP Foundation said in a press release announcing a new initiative, “Americans have separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, and the right to a day in court because our nation’s Founders valued freedom and liberty — and knew that power unchecked was power abused… In America, the courts are the one place where the poorest, most powerless person can hold the richest, most powerful people and corporations accountable. That’s why corporate wrongdoers and those in power are trying to eliminate the right to a day in court in so many ways and areas — and why we must keep the courthouse doors open for all.”
“Preserving access to justice at its core,” TLPJ states in its campaign announcement, “means upholding the Constitution, separation of powers, and the courts’ role in our nation. It shouldn’t be necessary, but it is… Some with power… don’t accept the courts’ role.”
TLPJ is going to do something about it. They have launched the Access to Justice Campaign to counter the attacks on the Constitutional role of the courts, to literally defend access to justice. “This is not a battle between plaintiffs and defendants, Democrats and Republicans, or red states and blue states” they say. “This is a battle between those who believe in the Constitution, separation of powers, and the courts’ role in our system and those who don’t.”
Here are some more details: “The Access to Justice Campaign will battle the wide-ranging efforts to bar people from using the courts — including the Bush Administration’s attempts to use the war on terror to preclude court access and review; unconstitutional legislation eliminating victims’ rights; denials of the right to counsel and jury trial; excessive secrecy designed to prevent individuals from enforcing their rights and others from learning their rights were violated; federal preemption improperly eliminating victims’ rights; corporate attempts to use form contracts to require consumers, employees, and investors to waive their rights, bar them from suing, and force them into mandatory arbitration; and class action bans and abuses that would preclude victims from using the courts to prevent or remedy wrongdoing. It will include extensive litigation, networking, and legal and public education.”
Part of the right-wing strategy for a generation has been to demonize lawyers. Now the far-right is demonizing the courts. TLPJ are the good guys. They are on the front line of defending not only our rights as citizens, as workers, and as consumers — but our very right to our day in court. What will they do? They are not a lobbying outfit. But they will “educate the public and the legal community about these dangers and develop the legal tools to defeat them nationwide.” Check out their web site. See the kinds of cases they take on in the public interest.
Big corporations violating your rights? Who ya gonna call?
The selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope is being met with concern by many interested in issues of social justice and social progress in the Catholic Church, and in the world. As head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the same office that led the Inquisition, Ratzinger has been known as the man who have made issues of abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality the top priorities of the church — far and away over such historic concerns as war and peace, and social and economic justice.
These priorities have also risen to the top of the list of concerns of the U.S. Catholic Bishops. This manifests itself most obviously when American Bishops denounce and refuse communion to prominent candidates for office. This happened most egregiously last year when president George Bush visited the Vatican and told Pope John Paul II that he needed a little help with some of the Bishops.
Writing on Salon.com, Sidney Blumenthal reports on Ratzinger’s attack on candidate John Kerry. “About a week later, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent a letter to the U.S. bishops, pronouncing that those Catholics who were pro-choice on abortion were committing a ‘grave sin’ and must be denied Communion. He pointedly mentioned ‘the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws’ — an obvious reference to John Kerry, the Democratic candidate and a Roman Catholic. If such a Catholic politician sought Communion, Ratzinger wrote, priests must be ordered to ‘refuse to distribute it.’ Any Catholic who voted for this ‘Catholic politician,’ he continued, ‘would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion.’ During the closing weeks of the campaign, a pastoral letter was read from pulpits in Catholic churches repeating the ominous suggestion of excommunication. Voting for the Democrat was nothing less than consorting with the forces of Satan, collaboration with ‘evil.'”
Blumenthal notes that Bush got 6 points more of the Catholic vote than he had in the 2000 election. “Without this shift,” Blumenthal concludes, “Kerry would have had a popular majority of a million votes. Three states — Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico — moved into Bush’s column on the votes of the Catholic ‘faithful.’ Even with his atmospherics of terrorism and Sept. 11, Bush required the benediction of the Holy See as his saving grace. The key to his kingdom was turned by Cardinal Ratzinger.”
This blatant intervention in the American presidential election is only the latest and most dramatic example of a long term trend.
In the wake of the 2000 election, I analyzed the State of the Christian Right for The Public Eye magazine. Part of that discussion was about the rise of the Catholic Right in the U.S. and Vatican aggression against the separation of church and state and the culture of religious pluralism. Among other things. I wrote: “In 2000, the Vatican… issued a proclamation called Dominus Jesus that seemingly overturned four decades of ecumenical dialog and Catholic acknowledgement of the possible validity of other spiritual paths. It declared that Jesus and the Catholic Church were the only possible means of spiritual salvation, and that other Christian churches ‘are not “churches” in the proper sense.’ The decree [issued by Cardinal Ratzinger] denounces the ‘philosophy of religious pluralism,’ and emphasizes conversion over ecumenical dialog. The Vatican declared it a ‘definitive and irrevocable’ doctrine of the church. The reaction ranged from disappointment to outrage among Protestants-including evangelicals. The Vatican soon thereafter invoked Dominus Jesus to denounce a book supportive of religious pluralism authored by a Jesuit theologian. Such official religious supremacism is also reflected in Fr. Frank Pavone’s teaching that ‘it is not just the church that must obey God. So does the state. So does the government. Separation of church and state doesn’t mean separation of God and state…. God and his law are the very foundation… of the state.’ Pavone’s attack on church-state separation is consistent with the Christian nationalism that is integral to the theology of most if not all of the leaders of the Christian Right, from Bill Bright and Pat Robertson, to the Promise Keepers and the theologians of Christian Reconstructionism. All see religious pluralism and constitutional guarantees of separation of church and state, as a bulwark that must be breached if any of the sectors of the Christian Right are to accomplish their aims.”
“PFL and its leader Fr. Frank Pavone waged a media campaign during the summer of 2000 calling on Catholics to mobilize politically… Pavone met with candidate George W. Bush and declared him to be p’pro-life,'” while attacking candidate Al Gore as ‘an apostle for abortion.'”
Pavone has recently founded a new order, under the auspices of the Bishop John W. Yanta of Amarillo, Texas, whose purpose is to train priests, seminarians and others in militant antiabortion activism and electoral politics. According to the initial press release the, group will be known as Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. Meanwhile, Priests for Life will move its headquarters to Amarillo, while maintaining “its current offices and staff in New York, Washington D.C., Virginia, California, and Rome, Italy.”
Last weekend I posted a piece here, titled, The Lights are Coming on in America. Since then, I have detailed more enouraging signs that the long needed mobilization for democracy is now under way. We live in momentous times, and the things we do and don’t do, will have everything to do with the way the future turns out. Few of us, maybe none of us, ever imagined we would be where we are today. But here we are, friends: you and I, and the lights coming on around us.
One of the catalysts for lights snapping on lately has been the outrage caused by the Family Research Council’s claim that Democrats and liberals are opponents of “people of faith.” This, and a series of related insults came as part of the publicity for thier Justice Sunday telecast planned for April 24th, and especially the participation of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN).
In case anyone was wondering, where are all the moderate and progressive people of faith? Where are their voices in public life? Well, witness people of faith rising in defense of their faith, and in defense of constitutional democracy.
Dr. Bruce Prescott has detailed the outraged responses of several religious leaders. Here is sample:
“Rev. Martin Marty, America’s premier church historian,” Prescott reports, ‘has written a scathing essay in Sightings entitled ‘Furious with Frist’ that denounced Senate majority leader Bill Frist’s participation in the Family Research Council’s forthcoming Sunday telecast against filibusters. He said: ‘Most of the international religion stories these days have to do with theocratic suppressors of freedom, would-be monopolizers of religious expressions. We’ve been spared such holy wars here. But Frist and company, in the name of their interpretation of American freedom, sound more like jihadists than winsome believers. It would be healing to see them on their knees apologizing to the larger public of believers.'”
Meanwhile, the Clergy and Laity Network and Driving Democracy, the organizers of the alternative Social Justice Sunday event, have announced that it will be staged at Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville — not far from where the Family Research Council’s rally will take place.
Everyone is invited. Details and updates can be found on the web site of Building the Beloved Community, (a phrase borrowed from Martin Luther King.)
SOCIAL JUSTICE SUNDAY
You are invited to a Public Gathering of Progressive Religious Communities and Progressive Community Groups:
2:30 PM Sunday Afternoon, April 24
Central Presbyterian Church
318 W. Kentucky St. (the corner of Kentucky St. and 4th St.)
Phone: (502) 587-6935
Progressive Religious Communities, our leaders and our community friends are gathering to witness:
OUR OUTRAGE over the attempt by the Family Research Council and its radical Christian Right colleagues to highjack the judicial selection process for their political/theocratic agenda
OUR DISMAY Senate Majority Leader, Senator Bill Frist, is lending his name and influence to the Family Research Council’s claim of universal support from “people of faith” for its strategy, thereby giving false religious credentials to a thinly veiled political agenda
OUR POSITIVE COMMITMENT to defend and strengthen our social context in its commitment to fairness for all people, free of biased religious doctrines and prejudiced attitudes which are inimical to a mature religious understanding of the standards of inclusiveness and justice in American life
AMONG THE SPEAKERS:
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Kemper, Executive Director, Kentucky Council of Churches
Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin, Professor, Emory University, Atlanta, former President, Interdenominational Theological Center, ordained minister, Church of God in Christ
Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell. Director, Department of Religion, Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York (and former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, NCC)
Emily Whitehurst, Director of the 100 year old ecumenical council in Austin, Texas
Rev. Dr. Albert M. Pennybacker, Chair and Executive Officer, Clergy and Laity Network, former NCC Associate General Secretary for Public Policy, former Professor, Lexington (KY) Theological Seminary
This event was pulled together in a less than a week. Not bad. It will undoubtedly, and deservedly get a great deal of attention and an overflowing crowd.
We have much to do. But let’s be very clear that there are many moderate and progressive people of faith speaking out and taking action. This is one part of a much wider mobilization that needs to take place to take on Frist and his gang of theocrats.