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Bachmann, Santorum Pledge Allegiance to Theocracy in America

3:30 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Seeking the endorsement of THE FAMiLY LEADER, GOP presidential candidates Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum signed the Marriage Vow pledge that was unveiled by the group on Thursday. (No, that’s not a typo. The organization keeps the “i” lowercase and all the other letters in CAPS to show how the individual should kneel before God and the family is the vessel for Christ or something like that—I think.)

The Marriage Vow is a “declaration of dependence upon marriage and family.” It ordains that “faithful monogamy is at the very heart of a designed and purposeful order — as conveyed by Jewish and Christian Scripture, by Classical Philosophers, by Natural Law, and by the American Founders — upon which our concepts of Creator-endowed human rights, racial justice and gender equality all depend.”

The Iowa Family PAC, which endorses and promotes Christian statesmen candidates for office, Marriage Matters, and the Iowa Family Center, are all a part of the activities of THE FAMiLY LEADER.

The contents of the vow and the organization behind the pledge are an example of why the separation between church and state is sometimes very difficult to recognize. Leader of THE FAMiLY LEADER, Bob Vander Plaats, a perennial gubernatorial candidate in Iowa (kind of like a Christian reconstructionist Harold Stassen), played a key role in organizing the campaign to get three state Supreme Court justices in Iowa off the bench in 2010, after they ruled in favor of a decision to overturn Iowa’s gay marriage ban.

The vow uses statistics from the Institute for American Values, a think tank run by David Blankenhorn, who believes children deserve a mother and a father and same-sex marriages cannot provide it.

The statistics use race and poverty to argue against gay marriage. For example, the one getting the most attention, “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”

Cheryl Contee of Jack and Jill Politics reacts, “Given that families were broken up regularly for sales during slavery and that rape by masters was pretty common, this could not be more offensive. I mean, putting aside the statistics on this, which are likely off-base, I could not be more angry. When will Republicans inquire with actual Black people whether or not we’re ok with invoking slavery to score cheap political points? It has to stop.”

Points outlined in the law include: opposition to “redefinition of the Institution of Marriage; supporting prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marrige aspects of welfare policy, tax policy and marriage/divorce law; embracing a federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution; protecting the “innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy,” children, from porn, supporting safeguards for married and unmarried military personnel from same-gender, rejection of Sharia Islam (can’t let there be any competition), support for robust childbearing as a benefit to the US (more families like the freak show circus that is the Duggars) and defense of “Religious Liberty” and “Freedom of Speech” against “the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy” (essentially, we’re for freedom of speech and liberty except when you speak out against our exclusionary views on marriage).

Essentially, candidates who sign this pledge are pledging to enforce God’s law in America and upon all Americans if elected president.

The end notes are incredibly revealing. This is some of the pseudo-science and religious dogma in the vow, which claims to advance the cause of marriage:

No peer-reviewed empirical science or rational demonstration has ever definitively proven, nor has even shown an overwhelming probability that homosexual preference or behavior is irresistible as a function of genetic determination or other forms of fatalism…That society’s interest in the physical, psychological and sociological health of infants, children, young people and other minors is not best upheld through the enduring institution of legal marriage…That the longstanding religious liberties of American parents, children, religious and civic leaders who adhere to Jewish and Christian tradition, teaching and sacred texts regarding faithful heterosexual monogamy are not jeopardized by recent and pending redefinitions of legal marriage to include same-sex unions, polygamy and other kinds of intimate relations. That practices such as adultery, bisexuality, homosexuality, anal intercourse, group sex, promiscuity, serial marriage, polygamy, polyandry and extramarital sex, individually or collectively, lead to general improvements in human mortality, public health, public health costs, general health care price inflation, incidence of single parent households and related social costs, incidence of epidemics and pandemics, incidence of HIV/AIDs, hepatitis, gonorrhea, syphilis, etc.

Let’s be clear: People like Bachmann and Santorum who sign on to pledges like this are signing on to a framework that likely encourages the promotion of Christian Reconstructionist beliefs like decentralized government within a Christian framework, death penalty for capital crimes that appear in the Old Testament (like adultery and abortion), restitution as part of the criminal justice system, strong national defense until the whole world is Christianized, laissez faire capitalism and movement back to a gold-based monetary system with little or no doubt. (Make gold part of your portfolio. Call Goldline today.)

Liberty is belief in God and anyone who doesn’t believe in God is less than human. Pluralism in society is unnecessary as there are only unbelievers and believers. Unbelievers aren’t and can never be “Real Americans.” Equality is assumed, since all are supposedly equal before God’s eyes. So, in court there is no need to address issues of race, class or just plain social injustice.

They desire for the president to have unlimited power, to not be checked by Congress or the Supreme Court, especially if the president is believed to have been selected by God to run the country. Consent of the governed is nonessential. What God says is right and wrong. Debating issues or engaging in democracy would be doubting God. And, of course, there’s no separation of church and state because they believe the Founding Fathers were Christian and also are people who act on their faith, which is a faith in God’s Law.

Those running for president who sign patriarchical pledges, which call for candidates to support denying reproductive freedom rights to women, prohibiting homosexuals from marriage (while at the same time saying they should be protected from creeping Sharia), promoting racist laws against Muslims and encourage the exploitation of black history or the history of the oppressed to advance so-called family values in America, are on a mission to force Americans to accept religious doctrine as law.

They don’t just dream of an America where people are free to practice their faith but also dream of a world where people do not desire to go through life free from faith and they will obstruct the rule of law or American governance and interfere in any agenda or process that they deem to be an affront to moving America closer to theocracy.

Pastor Jones Calls Off International Burn-a-Koran Day, Now What?

5:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A religious soap opera is unfolding before the world’s eyes. Dr. Terry Jones, the noxious pastor from Gainesville, Florida who had planned the festive International Burn-A-Koran Day for September 11th, has called off the book burning event, according to news sources like USA Today. Imam Muhammed Musri apparently offered Dr. Jones a deal if he would back down.

It’s being reported that Dr. Jones has canceled "the planned burning of the Qurans" and is "instead flying to New York on Saturday to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the planned New York mosque" because Imam Rauf may decide to build the Park51 Project somewhere else. But, the problem is the deal being reported has not been made. Imam Rauf is denying a deal has been made and he put out the following statement:

"I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other, nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands and build peace and harmony."

Imam Rauf says he has not talked to Dr. Jones or Imam Musri.

Two theories: (1) Imam Musri said something that convinced Dr. Jones to go on a trip to meet with Imam Rauf, never said Imam Rauf would move the mosque, and Pastor Jones being thick-headed misunderstood Imam Musri so he said at the press conference the mosque was going to be moved. Or, (2) Imam Musri and Imam Rauf duped Dr. Jones into backing down.

Whatever the case may be, the freakout over at JihadWatch.org reveals how much members of the anti-Islam movement were looking forward to the burning even though they claim it was an unwise or tactically bad move. Some examples:

We are being had. Jones was threatened. Rauf has no intention of moving that mosque. What the hell is going on? -lilredbird, September 9, 2010 2:35 PM

From the story:

"Jones said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida told him that officials would guarantee that the mosque would be moved."

WHO is Imam Muhammad Musri, of Central Florida, and what does he have to do with Rauf or Cordoba? Can he speak on behalf of, or make decisions for, Rauf?? - Eleano, September 9, 2010 2:39 PM

NO WAY!

Color me jaded, but there is no way this story could be true. Ain’t gonna happen. Time after time, for 1400 years, the hudna trick has been played, a la Lucy holding the football, and the only winner is repeatedly Muslims.

I’ll keep watching the headlines, Robert, but this one is a bridge too far. -Fscarn, September 9, 2010 2:45 PM

I get the idea that this pastor is a half-bubble off plumb.

He doesn’t know what’s really in the Qur’an.

He’s like the Chauncy Gardner of the anti-jihad.

And he just got called out.

He got a phone call from someone with a foreign accent who called himself Imama;seldkfaaldkjfhdh dfhjsdfh and he started to make deals.

However, I have to say he’s give us a good idea…use the Qur’an and Mohammed drawing as weapons. It’s too easy given how fragile their little egos are. -winoceros, September 9, 2010 2:59 PM

Now that the threat of burning the quran has been opened as a tactic, it is bound to happen.
This whole situation is on a hair trigger, one spark and it will kick off, you can be sure the muslims are up for it .
It is going to happen and sooner would be better than later.
Premption or reaction? -defender, September 9, 2010 3:05 PM

He caved, is all that happened.

The FBI, Gates, colossal public obloquy.

Probably threats of legal harassment and prosecution.

I pity him. -gaius, September 9, 2010 3:08 PM

Is Jones crazy or crazy like a fox? In all his ramblings He did say that tolerance was a two-way street. Is he calling Rauf’s bluff on this?

Hmmm. - awake, September 9, 2010 3:43 PM

I officially declare that I will stop pointing out that Islam was founded by a mass-murdering pedophile if Islam agrees to move to Mars. -out of context, September 9, 2010 3:49 PM

Prior to this announcement, Dr. Jones had gained the attention of the class. The State Department had issued a "travel warning" for Americans. President Barack Obama said "This is a recruiting bonanza for Al Qaeda." And, Attorney General Eric Holder had spoken out against the planned burning of Korans and General David Petraeus as said it could endanger American troops.

News of Muslims shouting "Death to Christians" and burning American flags and plans by groups for activities to counter the burning of Korans were all being reported on.

The media and world had everyone tuned into this pastor’s plan to burn books (and still do). Even if the books do not burn on September 11th, Dr. Jones got what he wanted: a backlash of right wing Islamic extremism that he could say confirms his thesis that Islam is "of the Devil."

So, Shelley Phelps Roper, a leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, was right. The authorities "browbeat him" and he backed down "at the last minute." And, now if you’re an unapologetic Christian Dominionist or fundamentalist you can agree with Roper who said he would back down because he’s "an apologist" and "doesn’t serve God."

Many agreed the burning of Korans was an act of hate intended to inflame a group the Muslim population of the world. He clearly had a right to burn the books but many tried to dissuade him because of what could happen as a result. If only the world was as insistent against torture, rendition, and indefinite detention of detainees and war and occupation in Muslim-dominated countries in the same way they were insistent against the Koran burning because it would create a "recruiting bonanza for al-Qaeda" or lead to attacks on Americans.

The media gave Dr. Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center a gift. Not only did Dr. Jones likely experience an increase in sales of his End Times Bestseller "Islam is of the Devil," but the media also made it possible for his Burn-the-Koran Day to truly be an international day.

I’ll entertain the possibility that this could be some kind of a move to create this perception that Imam Rauf can prevent the Quran burning if he just moves the Park51 Project and Dr. Jones will do the Quran burning later and blame Imam Rauf for it if he doesn’t move the project to another location.

Now, one could argue Dr. Jones succeeded and never had to burn the Korans. That he called for an International Burn-a-Koran Day and seemed serious was enough to inflame certain parts of the Muslim World.

Part of his success was due to the fact that the media does not label individuals like Dr. Jones or others like Rev. Pat Robertson or Pastor John Hagee as Christian supremacists. In comparison to the history of white nationalism in America, dogmatic Christians are not labeled like white supremacists when they carried out racist actions or made racist speeches. Not being regarded as a Christian nationalist or a Christian power advocate, allows Dr. Jones to continue to mount the argument that Islam is a devil religion without having to answer to the Dominionist vision of America he promotes, without having to answer to the fact that he and his church followers believe we are living in End Times.

Mosque-haters had spoken out against the Koran burning. The leaders may have spoken out, but if you read their words, it was all pragmatic and tactical criticism. None disputed the hate speech behind Dr. Jones’ theory that "Islam is of the Devil."

What the world saw was a split between those who wished to be part of the mainstream anti-Islam movement in America and those who were willing to be part of the vanguard of the anti-Islam movement in America. In the past, Dr. Jones has stood in solidarity with other members of the vanguard like Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. Mosque-haters who decried the Koran-burning like Erick Erickson, Bryan Fischer, Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, and Bill Keller all would like to continue to gain notoriety, fame and fortune off their hatred for and "warnings" about Islam.

And, isn’t that really what it’s about in the end? Money. That’s why this guy never went anti-Semitic. That’s why he didn’t go after Judaism instead of attacking a religion that supports a lot of the cultural values he thinks Christians should stand for. That’s why he chose to be a crackpot against Muslims and not a nutcase against Jews.

Dr. Jones figured out long, long ago there is no money in hating Jews. Hating Muslims and condemning Islam, on the other hand, he realized can help cover the costs of keeping a worship center like the Dove World Outreach Center open.

Who knows how meeting with Imam Rauf will feed into his Dominionist agenda (or if he will even get a meeting)? I don’t. The world doesn’t. And, unfortunately, the show’s not over yet. Another episode in this religious opera has just begun.

The Difference Between Opposing Mosques and Burning Korans

3:12 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Dove Outreach World Center Pastor Terry Jones’ and his followers’ decision to burn Korans on September 11th has proven there are those in this country who will stoop to such a level and burn sacred texts to express their beliefs. It also indicates there is a line, for now, that those who subscribe to anti-Islam industry propaganda will not cross. Few who oppose the construction of the Park51 project (the "Ground Zero Mosque," as they affectionately term the proposed center) are flocking to support this crackpot pastor’s eagerness to burn Korans.

The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero [and Stop the 9/11 Mosque] put out a statement that the coalition finds the idea to be "irresponsible and wrong." The coalition upholds the "Minister’s freedom of speech and assembly" but contend, "with rights come responsibilities" and urge him not to go ahead with the burning. This is the same coalition that endorses and supports a major rally against the Park51 Project that will be held on 9/11.

What is the difference between obstructing and seeking to prevent the construction of a place of worship and the burning of a sacred text that those who are found to be dangerous derive much of their religious beliefs from?

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, who opposes the construction of the Park51 Project, said, "We don’t burn books. The Left does that." Continuing on without citing examples or even bothering to explain how burning Harry Potter books was the work of leftists in America, he said, "And, we certainly don’t do it if it’s going to put our armed forces in danger."

Levin asserted, "It is clear that there are individuals all over the world who will use this as an additional excuse to harm people. There is a fundamentalism-Islamic fundamentalism-that is out to destroy parts of the world and which has frankly murdered more of their fellow Muslims than the Western world or other religions could ever even try to destroy. So, why give a propaganda opportunity to people who are looking for all the propaganda opportunities they can get?"

To those who have been following the hullabaloo around the Park51 Project, this argument is one that supporters have used to undercut opposition to the "Ground Zero mosque." Supporters have argued opposition to the project could help write the recruiting script for Islamic extremists and even justify future acts of terror.

Yet, it does not appear that the opposition to the Park51 Project has had that effect. Director of Arab language television station Al-Arabiya Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashid, wrote recently that he does not think opposition has "provoked" Muslims in the way that a "2006 publication of a cartoon ‘mocking the Islamic prophet in a Danish newspaper,’" which set off violent protests in the Muslim world, did. He added there have been no "demonstrations related to the mosque in Arab countries, that imams have not addressed the controversy during their sermons and that the issue has not been taken up by Islamic religious and intellectual institutions."

The director argued this is because the center could be turned into a "symbol of hatred for Muslims." Such a notion speaks to the power opposition has had in influencing conversation on the project in the media. Certainly, it makes sense that Muslims would not want to erect "an arena for the promoters of hatred, and a monument to those who committed the crime," as Al-Rashid contended.

Muqteder Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, in a column published by the Washington Post, offers a bit more insight on why desecrating the Koran may provoke more demonstrations and violence in the Muslim World than opposition to the Park51 Project has:

…On September 11, 2010, some misguided Americans plan to burn the Holy Quran, the only book in the entire heritage of humanity that claims to be solely the word of God. This dastardly act is the brainchild of Terry Jones, a Christian Pastor from Florida. This act is not just some symbolic gesture of defiance. It is an act of egregious violence against the beliefs and the sacred symbols of one fourth of humanity. The act will scorch Muslim hearts everywhere. The searing pain will never be forgotten.

Along with the idea of God and prophets, the Quran is the thing that Muslims hold the dearest. My children have been listening to it since even before they were born. I use to recite it to them while they were still in the womb. Their children will be reciting it to them when they will be lowered in to their tomb. Believe me, there is nothing more precious to Muslims than the Quran, and watching people toss it into fire, will be horrifying. I would rather burn in fire myself, than watch a Quran burn…

Let’s be clear about Levin’s remarks–he did not condemn the content of Jones’ opposition to Islam but rather opposed the tactic Jones would be using to voice his discontent. For the purposes of further understanding how conservatives might be grappling with the planned burning of Korans:

"When our government funds so-called art–art that uses urine and feces and this so-called artist stuck a cross into the urine and feces, we were told that this is free speech and any effort to cut the funding for that department or to control what kind of grants are issued is an abomination, would be anti-American.

So, if we the taxpayers against our will fund the desecration of a cross with Jesus on it, there’s something wrong with us. If we object to a provocateur, a radical Imam, trying to locate a mosque at Ground Zero, there’s something wrong with us. But, if this Pastor Jones burns some Korans–which again I object and think is dangerous particularly to our soldiers–then what? Do you hear the liberals saying he has a constitutional right to do this? No."

Actually, a man who Levin and his listeners consider to be a "bleeding-heart liberal" has stated Jones has a constitutional right to burn the Korans. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a stalwart defender of the Park51 Project developers right to build, said yesterday:

"In a strange way, I’m here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful"The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can’t say that we’re going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement"If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them."

Jones appears to have underestimated how anti-Islam proponents’ dedication to supporting the troops would deter them from supporting his action. General David Petraeus’, the State Department’s and others’ contention that this would put America’s troops in harm’s way has resonated with Americans who likely agree with part if not all of Jones’ arguments on how Islam is "of the Devil."

What those who have spent time organizing against the so-called march of Islam toward instituting Sharia in the United States should understand is that it is they who lay the foundation for whackjobs like Jones to carry out such book burnings. Arguments based solely on a fear of a Third World religion dominating this country’s society at some point in the future give Jones the climate he needs to make his book-burning seem like something indicative of attitudes toward Islam in America. Without their activism, this could be disregarded in the same manner cross burnings by white supremacists are now routinely disregarded.

Anti-Islam activism, which has been warning of "Islamo-fascism" through work by David Horowitz and others since 9/11, has created a climate for hate crimes and vandalism of mosques. The number of protests against mosques has escalated, rallies have harassed people who support their cause but look like Muslims, and have promoted the idea that mosques are "clubhouses for terrorists." In Temecula, California, dogs were deployed to intimidate those attending prayer services and, in Florida, a man attempted to firebomb an Islamic center.

What difference is there between people like Mike Gallagher, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, or North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Pantano and Pastor Terry Jones other than the fact that they disagree on the tactics that should be used to oppose Islam? How many think it likely that individuals like Franklin Graham, John Hagee, or Pat Robertson sympathize with the action Terry Jones intends to take? And, how sure can one be that Jones’ ideology isn’t part of what fueled foreign policy thinkers like the now deceased Samuel Huntington, who proposed the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, or isn’t what fuel people like Frank Gaffney or Charles Krauthammer?

The city of Gainesville, Florida denied the Dove World Outreach Center a burn permit. (Do cities ever give out burn permits for the burning of books?) RBC Bank has called in the mortgage on Pastor Jones’ center and Cottons All-Lines has apparently canceled the center’s insurance. This and the calls from U.S. military men will not dissuade Jones and his few followers who are dedicated to making a statement.

Gen. Petraeus has said these words about troops being put in harm’s way before. This was the justification for not being transparent and preventing the release of photos that likely showed Americans torturing and abusing Muslim detainees. The ACLU almost succeeded in getting the photos released but President Obama and Congress took measures to prevent the photos from being released.

Will the world see the Obama Administration and Congress take this kind of action to protect America’s troops? Will there be state intervention? More importantly, can this be considered an act in furtherance of terrorism? Could the FBI and local police show up and handcuff Jones and others for proceeding with this act even if there is an argument to be made the act is protected by the Constitution? Will homeland security trump the First Amendment Rights of these loons who are people who not only find Islam to be "of the Devil" but also people who likely consider Obama to be the Antichrist?

Perhaps, it doesn’t matter. Jones can burn the Korans or the government can arrest him and his followers. Either way, the anti-Islamic fervor will continue because Americans harbor strong beliefs about Islam and, for many, the last thing they want is some Third World religion becoming dominant in America and transforming America’s national identity to one that, in their mind, runs counter to Judeo-Christian or Protestant values.

You Won’t Find Nonbelievers Claiming Obama’s Muslim

9:19 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The above is an image that has been circulated by Americans as "proof" Obama may be Muslim. Those circulating the image fear what Obama is doing to this nation’s identity and would like to also remind the world he is Black. by SS&SS

 

Religion & America

The uproar by Americans as a result of the proposed construction of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero along with Glenn Beck’s "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, D.C. have pulled into focus the intense zeal that Americans have for religion. Undoubtedly, the characteristic of Americans that has been affirmed is the characteristic that Americans are dedicated to getting religion right.

A number of people consistently have been giving explanations of religion and defending misunderstandings of religion. Possibily thousands have written about the reality that religion can be practiced in "moderation" and not all religious people are extremists.

Recent discussions indicate individuals find an utmost value in defending one’s religion, promoting religion, and ensuring all Americans can practice religion so long as that religion does not cut into their religion’s ability to live free and prosper. Yet, what do they say to the idea that’s why the world sees people like Terry Jones who are driven to organize days of actions where Korans are burned, like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who suggest "all nasty people who hate Israel" should be struck down "with the plague," or like members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who will always assert (although they might have justification) peace talks will not favor Palestinians and should be resisted.

Religious people like Jones, Rabbi Yosef, and those in the Muslim Brotherhood fear another religion could eat into the world their religion occupies. They’re why the idea of coexistence of religions is naïve. Believing in another religion essentially means you do not believe in another religion. And, implicit in belief, whether you interpret the language of your religion’s text literally, is the idea that other religions–nonbelievers–are to be destroyed. To a certain extent, Glenn Beck, James Dobson, Newt Gingrich, Franklin Graham, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Tony Perkins, and many employed by Fox News entertain this implicit belief.

Also, if one wishes to be objective, those who point out passages in the Koran and argue Muslims are committed to Sharia are right. It’s true that, theoretically, in order to be a true Muslim or true believer you have to follow all aspects of the Koran or the religion. But, couldn’t we say that for any religion? 

To me, the majority asking people to fear the march of Islam have a conflict of interest because many of them are God-fearing Christians who worry they will lose the race against Islam to control the world and don’t want to give an inch to that which they believe to be from the pit of Hell.

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Photo by Bonnie Woodson

 

I was briefly religious. I did not belong to a religion, but I believed in Jesus Christ. I believed in God. I prayed. I would get down on my hands and knees on the bedside and I would ask God to do me favors because that was the understanding I had of God. I thought he could give you the strength to complete your homework and, perhaps, even confront your friends in high school who maybe needed help from you. That was, quite frankly, bullshit. Unequivocal bullshit.

A friend invited me to what, for all intents and purposes, was a Jesus Camp. While the average age was much higher than the camp in the documentary film Jesus Camp, the camp required all gizmos and gadgets to be surrendered upon entry into the camp, there was very little they wanted you to begin, and, while I had gone there to have fun at camp with some friends, I was confronted with a situation where I had no choice but to get closer to Christ.

From the camp, I recall an obstacle course that you could argue attendees were completing to prove they could be soldiers for Christ. The camp also appropriated secular rock songs like Tom Petty’s "Free Fallin’" and Oasis’ "Wonderwall" making it seem like they had been written for God. The camp Christianized these songs, which was okay because Christian music is the most artistically bankrupt music on the market.

The final day of camp was intense. That was the day the counselors had all attendees revved up and ready to get closer to God. The attendees split off into areas of the camp to sit by themselves and get in touch with God. So, I went off and wrote something. Given the climate the evangelical counselors had created, I was pretty sure I was connected to God and I think everyone else was too. I think, in retrospect, God probably was only with one or two people and he put on a smokescreen so we could believe he was with us all.

As it became time to leave, a friend pulled me and another friend aside and he asked us if we could pray. I think it was then I was sure I was entering some kind of a cult if I didn’t watch it because we had never prayed. We had never wrapped our arms around each other and discussed how we could share a common bond of religion. That was uncomfortable for me. Call me irrational, but I didn’t want to embrace other boys to get closer to Christ. No, sir. If you want to get closer to Christ that way, you go right ahead.

Following that experience, my understanding of religion became intertwined with my opinion of President George W. Bush and the work of his administration. I started blogging in 2004 (my first political activity online was on MoveOn.org’s message board discussing the 2004 Election).

I wrote posts on faith and separation of church and state. Nobody told me to think like this, I just developed the following understanding (and I read a book on Bush called The Faith of George W. Bush):

"[Bush's] principles, prayer, and personal life are intertwined and are basically in my opinion inseparable. He said God wants everyone to be free and stated that he imposed this idea on Afghanistan. I think this endangers America. I believe Bush and Osama are leaders of a Holy War. What [it] comes down to is this is a stand off of religious principles. Muslim principles have conflicted with Bush’s faith. I adamantly feel that Bush has not separated church from state and this has led us down the wrong path. It doesn’t matter if separation of church and state is right or wrong. What matters is whether or not our president will follow accepted rules while in power. Separating church and state in my opinion is an accepted rule."

I possessed a clear understanding of separation of church and state, whether it was accurate or not. And, I took issue with Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives finding them, after conducting my own research, to be constitutional. I specifically singled out an organization known as Teen Challenge in one of my blog postings and suggested the organization’s leader, Reverend John D. Castellani, admitted to a House subcommittee the program made people involved become "complete Jews" or "Jews for Jesus." The nature of the program–replacing drug addiction with an addiction to Jesus–made the program unconstitutional no matter how benign Rev. Castellani’s program might be.

Five years later, I now monitor America with alarm at the interconnectedness of religion and nationalism that has only increased since my days in high school. The way Christianity in this country is often believed by many to be synonymous with patriotism or love of country confounds me. When I listen to people like Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin discuss religion and politics, I worry about the future of this country and how religion could have the effect of making society more close-minded instead of enriching and enlightening society.

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Photo by Graham Buffton

President Obama’s agenda has been impeded greatly by religious forces in America. He currently has to affirm his faith in Jesus Christ to appease those who believe he is Muslim and might be inviting Islamists into the country to impose Sharia Law on us all. Personally, I would tell them to go join a survivalist commune, arm themselves, and spread a communicable disease that would kill them all off and bring them in contact with the Kingdom of Heaven sooner than later

Such forces have used religion to mask their deep-seated hatred for how Obama indicates this country is further embracing multiculturalism. I witnessed these people firsthand when filming a documentary at the University of Notre Dame when Obama was invited to deliver the commencement speech. They are militant in their organization for the preservation of America’s national identity and they will not back down unless confronted head on.

In the 21st Century, religion is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. Countless people of the world assert it gives humans purpose, it’s a force for good, it allows us to confront mortality and believe in the afterlife, it makes us moral and forces us to confront sin, it teaches us the beauty of creation and life, etc. But, anymore (and especially in America), it seems like a cheap way to unite a nation of disgruntled and angry people and distract those experiencing economic despair from channeling their anger and organizing against government for economic emancipation from joblessness and poverty.

Many religious people arrogantly, offensively, and thoughtlessly eat mankind’s future and advance the belief that their religious text does not show global warming bringing the end of the world. So, like those who believed the Earth is flat (which some still believe) and the sun revolved around the Earth (which some still believe too), they expect humanity to let them forsake reality so they can maintain their collective delusions.

Non-belief carries this stigma that it leaves people deprived, deficient or excluded. That’s correct–nonbelievers have excluded themselves from believing certain lessons, parables, proverbs or fairy tales in religious texts are truth and have embraced ideas that can be unmistakably proven to be truth in the physical world that humans occupy (like, for example, the theory of evolution).

They’ve adopted an understanding that religion is politically irrelevant and cannot solve the problems of war and peace, poverty and sickness, corporate power and corporate control, privatization and loss of public space, and/or environmental destruction and global warming.

I suppose many believe just because traditionally their family, their ancestors and much of humanity have believed. They may not believe a word or think God exists at all, but they continue certain rituals because these traditions have a monopoly over how we conduct life especially how we respond to key points like birth, childhood, the transition from youth to manhood, marriage, death, etc).

Believers suggest those who do not believe simply need to take a leap of faith. I think the proper response to that is to suggest believers take a leap of fact. Courageously test the scientific hypothesis that there is some supernatural or mystical being who has designed the world, a being that can connect to you and hopefully guide you and answer your prayers. Consider what type of band-aid religion is in your life.

Whatever the problems are that manifest themselves as you invite skepticism into your thought processes, I posit you have two choices: you can return to your church on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday or whatever day you attend church) and pray your problems away and you can use an archaic text for guidance or you can trust in your emotions, instincts, and develop a motivation to be the actor in your world that organizes your life to be the life you want it to be.

Because in addition to the fact that religious people will always struggle amongst other religious people over mankind’s past, present and future and go to war over what other people think mankind’s past was and what other people think mankind’s future will be, there’s the reality that the time spent pondering an afterlife–and thinking life is bad now but God will let me into some Kingdom or Paradise and "make things new" for me one day–is time that you could have spent enjoying the little time you have on this Earth.

Glenn Beck’s Reclaiming Honor Rally: “He’s Alive!”

11:57 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Pundit and radio show host Glenn Beck, a man who possesses an evangelical flare for expressing his opinions to viewers, held his “Restoring Honor” Rally at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday morning, which was the anniversary date of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” The rally was a conscious attempt to not only re-appropriate the history of Martin Luther King Jr. but also to push the country closer toward adhering to more principles and tenets of Biblical Law.

Participants in the rally included Sarah Palin, Marcus Luttrell, the Liberty University Choir, Tony La Russa, Albert Pujols, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Alveda King.

You’d be forgiven if you thought Alveda King is someone who was like a Jackson in the Michael Jackson family—someone who is out to exploit the family name for profit and honor. King has said of homosexuality, “It is statistically proven that the strongest institution that guarantees procreation and continuity of the generations is marriage between one man and one woman.” During the rally, she called for more prayer in public schools and referred to abortion as “a womb war, which threatens the fabric of our society.”

Beck and organizers chose, prior to the rally, to put on an event that could be called “non-political,” to emphasize the religious devotion and the revival of spirit that could come out of this event instead. Those in attendance were not allowed to bring in signs that Americans could potentially see on the news, which would clearly indicate what percentage of the crowd was literate and sociopathic and what percentage was not.

While Beck did say that he wanted this rally to help “reclaim the civil rights movement,” the rally indicated Beck was uninterested in the black revolutionary spirit of King that pushed him to fight for de-segregation and equality and far more interested in using King as a prop who understood how faith and belief in God could unleash goodness and greatness in America.

In his speech, Beck offered up a story on the Washington monument that one could say proved Beck is committed to an onslaught on intellectual thinking. He used a story of the Washington monument—how it was being built until the Civil War and then was finished afterward—and argued that was a true example of American triumphalism. Only Beck would suggest that something that makes logical sense indicates America has a true spirit of resilience. And, really, the only reason monuments figure into Beck’s revivals and the only reason he holds them in the presence of memorials is because they provide a nice theater for his American revisionist history to be advanced.

Really, Beck’s rally was a right wing nationalist event featuring leaders collectively trying to control the past so they could control the future. In the exact way that George Orwell would have said totalitarians can gain power, this was really an attempt to control the history of MLK Jr., to manufacture it in a way that will feed into an agenda for moving America in whatever direction they want to go in. By doing this, what Glenn was saying was that he wanted people to focus on MLK as a black preacher. He didn’t want them to consider MLK Jr., the black revolutionary. He wished to remind the audience again and again about the ways that MLK Jr believed in God, the faith he had and the leadership he had from being a believer or follower of God but ignore the liberation aspects of King’s "Dream."

Shared during the rally were Beck’s definitions of faith, hope and charity. Beck inadvertently seemed to be suggesting insanity was a synonym of faith as he said faith is “knowing and believing in something when all the circumstances surrounding you would indicate otherwise.” What he said on hope indicated he opposes President Obama’s view that hope is collective and that “we are all in this together”; his definition of hope, that it is “the parent of faith and charity,” the “light of the world,” and something that “must be rooted in truth and honor,” suggested hope was much closer to hope in the individual and not believing that the collective society could prevail. And, on charity, which he said was “opening your heart to another human being in his time of need,” Beck was giving himself cover for the fact that he does not support the economic redistribution of wealth and power that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Dream” speech was about in addition to ending segregation and granting equality and civil rights to all.

With the Special Operations Warrior Foundation sponsoring the rally, there was a confluence of faith in God with testimony on how honorable it is to serve in the military. Beck sought to compel Americans to join the military so that they could participate in a project to remake the globe that would involve confronting the forces of Satan and Christianizing the world so that it could be made new. The problem with this, as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) would attest to, is that asserting the military is some project for God means members of the military have to give up religious freedom. The very nature of the military requires uniformity so either you have a right to believe in whatever supreme beings you want or everyone is made to believe in a certain supreme being.

An army that promotes the idea of serving Christ not only puts people in the position of having to endure the most horrendous music known to the human ear, Christian rock, but it also creates a clash of civilizations. It invites right wing fundamentalist Muslims who see a “Christian” military fighting in countries that are predominantly Muslim and choose to attack so they can defend their homeland from “Christianization.”

Also, an overtly religious military, means wars are based predominantly in emotion and do not need evidence to support their prosecution. The cost of war, casualties, and the impact on the theater of war no longer matters because your cause is just in the eyes of God. What is being done is good and you must keep fighting until the job is done; the enemy is Satan and you must press on until victory.

Beck explained one of his favorite lines in the Declaration of Independence is, “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” This was encouragement to Americans, especially those in the audience, to return America to God, to push America further toward being a country governed by Biblical law.

The media went along with Beck’s claim that the rally was "non-political" because it was religious and Beck hid the partisanship that was part of the motivation behind the rally. To anyone who believed anchors or pundits making this suggestion, the Tea Party provided staff and promotion to the rally, the National Rifle Association sponsored and promoted the event, FreedomWorks pledged to cater to attendees "political interests," Americans for Prosperity, a major organization backed by right-wing billionaire David A. Koch of the oil giant Koch Industries, provided buses to the rally, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots hosted their own corresponding events, Sarah Palin, a figure inextricably linked to the GOP, spoke at the rally, GOP members of Congress like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) raised money for the rally, Beck used political terms like "fix the capital," "reclaim the civil rights movement," Beck planned an "education convention" as precursor to the event that would teach followers "how to be a politician."

More importantly, Americans do not like to separate religion from politics. A recent Pew Research Center poll on religion and public life indicated "they feel strongly that politicians should be religious." Sixty-one percent agreed "it was important that members of Congress have strong religious beliefs." Forty-three percent suggested churches should express their views on day-to-day social and political issues. Somewhere between seventy and ninety percent of Americans believe in God or practice a religion. An ABC News poll "found sixty-one percent believe the account of creation in the Bible’s book of Genesis" to be "literally true" and not just a "story meant as a lesson." And, "about one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word."

So, can a media pundit or news anchor really look in to the camera and say Beck’s rally was "non-political" without acknowledging how intertwined religion and politics is in America?

Many who are liberal, progressive or Democrat would say Beck’s rally was a distraction, that we should stay focused on the economy and not discuss this topic because it’s what Republicans want to talk about so they can win votes in the election. They would assert that Beck is trying to take a movement because Obama is in the White House. That’s not to say that is untrue, but there’s also truth in the fact that the economy can play a huge role in pushing fearful followers of Christ into people who tap into hate, prejudice and bigotry in the worst of times and attack minorities because a leader tells them those are the evildoers who are making the country impure.

There’s an analogy to be drawn to an episode of the Twilight Zone called, “He’s Alive!” It was Twilight Zone’s creator Rod Serling’s warning to Americans that as long as ignorance and hate persists so too will characters who are perpetually hungry for greatness, who are looking to exploit ignorance and hate for honor and power.

On first look, Beck’s rally seemed like an event organized so that tens of thousands of fearful easy-to-manipulate would give him a strokejob. When one goes deeper, it’s much darker than that—Beck wanted a strokejob, but he wanted that to also be part of pushing the country closer to one that abandons religious pluralism, forsakes the idea of separation of church and state, and marches onward toward the kind of closed-minded society most Americans would condemn Muslims for instituting.

Responding to the Toxic Anti-Islamic Fervor Growing in This Nation

6:03 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The above is a video message I put together for YouTube. With the growing anti-Islam fervor that has been ratcheting up as a result of people trying to stop a "Ground Zero Mosque" from being built, I wanted to address the people who are trying to confront those who are making this country more dangerous and who are endangering this country’s national security by writing a recruiting script for right wing Muslims or Islamists.

The video is around five minutes long and below is an addendum and something to read if you do not have time for a video.

—————————————————————————


Protest of Cordoba House in NYC. Protesters carry signs reading things like "No Clubhouse for Jihadists."

So, you’ve found yourself wondering lately why people are so upset about what is the equivalent of a YMCA center being built near Ground Zero. You wonder how shuffleboard, tennis, swimming, weightlifting, and workouts in a fitness center in some interfaith community center administered by some guy named Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf could lead to stealth jihad and the imposition of Sharia Law on all Americans.

 

If you’re a person who–I don’t know–thinks, in the past week you may have chosen to jump start conversation, perhaps through a blog post or weigh into a conversation in the comments thread of an article that already had a vibrant or polarizing conversation going on. You’ve genuinely tried to get to find some truth about this "controversy" and perhaps reconcile with people’s views on the impending "Islamization of America."

 

By now, you’ve likely found it’s hard to talk to those who are opposed to the "Ground Zero Mosque," as they affectionately term it (and they probably have become fed up with you as well). The problem with reasoning with the opposition is that they are not thinking about this in terms of reality. You can explain to them that the Constitution gives Americans who have Islamic beliefs the right to build all you want, but as a Newsweek slideshow recently posted affirms, they will not think of your argument as something that applies to Muslims in America.

 

The slideshow, "Dumb Things Americans Believe," explains,
"one in three Americans," according to a 2008 First Amendment Center poll believe "the constitutional right to freedom of religion was never meant to apply to groups most folks think are extreme or fringe–a 10 percent increase from 2000."

 

Since those leading the charge against the construction of the "mosque" consider Islam to be a political system and not a true religion, since they treat it more like a cult than a religion, the legal argument–the free market property rights argument that they should be receptive to (because let’s be honest these people opposed are the same people who clamor into city plazas for Tea Party rallies to protest the socialist takeover of America)–rolls right off them like confetti at a Sarah Palin/Mama Grizzlies celebration.

 

Newsweek’s slideshow comes on the heels of a poll where around one fifth polled suggested it was possible President Obama was a Muslim. Or, as Glenn Beck hints at, he hasn’t professed his Christian faith in a manner that would lead one to channel Sinclair Lewis and say, "It can happen here," so he likely is a Muslim a Muslim who has brought change Americans will be forced to submit to and who will make it possible for Islamists to hijack local and state governments with their agenda for Sharia Law and work their way up until they eventually have Cabinet seats and have turned America into a nation for Caliphate advancement.

 

Other things people believe, which Newsweek details includes: sixty-one percent doubt the theory of evolution, twenty-one percent in witches, forty percent believe in death panels, forty-one percent believed Saddam was linked to 9/11, forty-one percent not sure Judaism older than Christianity, and twenty percent not sure Earth revolves around the Sun.

 

Recently, those who populate the wiki, Conservapedia, were found to be arguing that the theory of relativity could be proven wrong. The site provided counterexamples, one of the best being: "In Genesis 1:6-8, we are told that one of God’s first creations was a firmament in the heavens. This likely refers to the creation of the luminiferous aether." (Rachel Maddow covered this in a segment called the "War on Brains.")

 

These phantasmagoric beliefs are being spouted by people who believe in God. Does that mean religion needs to be abolished? I don’t know, but we have people like this guy who are railing on about a "climate change scam," who likely believe that climate change isn’t true because it isn’t detailed in the Bible.

 

Americans, we have an incredible dilemma. Part of our heritage has always involved confronting delusions, and now we have a pressing obligation to find a way to confront this.

 

A drunk man walked into a mosque in Queens on Wednesday evening and urinated on the prayer rugs. With a beer bottle in his hand, he proceeded to shout anti-Muslim epithets and called worshippers "terrorists."

 

That’s not some creative variation of some "A Guy Walks Into a Bar" joke. Even worse, a Muslim cab driver was stabbed Tuesday and a California mosque was recently desecrated.

 

 

 

And, Terry Jones, a pastor for the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, plans to send "a warning" to Muslims by holding a Koran-Burning Day. Just what kind of warning does Jones expect to send? Won’t this just incite violence? Why not just take moveable letters on a church sign and make it read, "Homegrown Terrorists Welcome Here"?

 

If you’re Muslim, it isn’t news that there are a number of people in this country that fear Muslims like Nazis fear Jew bankers; they’ve been confronting this behavior and violence since 9/11 (And you thought you’d get through this without a Nazi reference?). They are the most vocal and their fundamentalist leaders’ goals are driving them to campaign to rid this country of any Muslims looking to practice their freedom of religion.

 

Americans who contend this is a distraction from the pressing economic problems–and a result of the upcoming 2010 midterm elections—minimize the way that leaders behind the creation of this anti-Islamic fury will twist and manipulate the frenzied atmosphere to continue to advance their theocratic agenda.

 

I don’t fully know what we should do now, but I do have a beginning suggestion: Our side needs its own cheesy 80s rock anthem to cheer on reason, tolerance and acceptance of all people just like the nuts who are spreading hate and fear of Muslims now have their own anthem to cheer on religious persecution of Americans.

 

Faced With Mosque Madness, Democrats Invert Frederick Douglass’ Key Rule for Change

9:09 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

 

The response to developers and supporters with connections to the Muslim community in New York City, who wish to construct an Islamic cultural center that many now refer to as the "Ground Zero Mosque," has a toxicity that is repulsive and entirely objectionable. Unfortunately, Democrats have shown an utter lack of leadership and continue to fail to confront the right wing’s whipping up of hysterical patriotism that has translated into fear and hatred toward Muslims.

 

This isn’t the first time they have been spineless or weak on an issue (which is why they should consider changing their mascot from a donkey to an invertebrate). And, normally, one may want to suggest that they are actually in agreement with Republicans so their words in opposition to the GOP are to appease Democratic voters because in the end they know they won’t be able to build political support in Congress to stop Republicans from getting their way. However, with leaders like Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Howard Dean out in front on this, it’s quite clear that many Democrats empathize with the Muslim community but subscribe to an inversion of a key belief that American abolitionist, orator, writer, statesman Frederick Douglass had about change.

 

Douglass is remembered for saying, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning."

 

Howard Dean, who clearly subscribes to inverting this Douglass’ quote, suggested that the "mosque" be moved:

 

"This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are "justified" or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong"

 

Dean’s position subverts the tradition of progress in America. Glenn Greenwald suggested to Dean that is position was similar to if African-Americans, who wanted to sit at the front of the bus, had been told to be sensitive because some people weren’t ready for equality so why not compromise and sit in the middle of the bus. Certainly, if people like Dean had handled the situation during the civil rights era, they would have sought to minimize the struggle being waged against white supremacists by those who were for equality. And how much change would have taken place? What important conversations would have been avoided? What injustices would not have been corrected?

 

But, this is typical Democratic Party gutlessness and not surprising; it’s how Democrats approached the debate on health care. They maintained Democratic politicians needed to compromise with politicians promoting fear of a government takeover of health care and the notion of "death panels." They allowed Republicans to obstruct their health care agenda and, ultimately, Republicans won because no public option or Medicare buy-in made it into the final legislation.

 

This is also the same frail and hapless ideology Democrats have adopted in the face of the conservative media echo chamber who have won victories and hung the scalps of Van Jones, Dawn Johnsen, and Shirley Sherrod on their "hunter’s wall" as a testament of their power over Democrats. They’ve also successfully imposed career barriers for Yosi Sergeant, Shepard Fairey, Patrick Gaspard, Cass Sunstein, John Holdren, and Mark Lloyd all people who were going to be part of the Obama Administration until the right wing began to make insane claims about what the aforementioned people stood for.

 

The Democrats have treated this as a problem. Rather than work to shift the anti-Islam consensus growing in this country, party leaders have negligently hoped the resistance to the "mosque" would go away (liberal op-ed writers have even promoted this hope).

 

Sen. Reid (D-NV) has stated, "The First Amendment protects freedom of religion" but "the mosque should be built some place else."

 

Jeff Greene, a Democrat running for the Senate in Florida, has claimed, "President Obama has this all wrong and I strongly oppose his support for building a mosque near Ground Zero especially since Islamic terrorists have bragged [about] and celebrated destroying the Twin Towers." He makes a distinction between the right to build the mosque and the need for common sense and respect for those who lost loved ones in 9/11.

 

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) has said, "There should be some discussion about what is right morally, as well as just what you’re allowed to do"I think that the people who are supportive of putting the mosque there are missing the point of the impact and the devastation that [Sept. 11] had to us as a country."

 

A number of New York Democrats have chosen to not stand up to those opposed to the project, who advance the belief that Islam is an entirely objectionable religion (as some in the movement against the "mosque" would contend, a "cult" religion from "the pit of Hell").

 

Rep. Mike McMahon has said, "Muslim Americans deserve the right to practice their faith — as we all do. I believe a new location is the right compromise so that Muslim Americans can worship without eliciting feelings that push us away from our country’s basic tenet of religious acceptance while the families of 9/11 victims obtain the peace of mind they deserve."

 

Rep. Steve Israel has explained, "While they have a constitutional right to build the mosque, it would be better if they had demonstrated more sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims. I urge them to do so before proceeding further."

 

Rep. Tim Bishop, has asserted, "As a New Yorker, I believe ground zero is sacred ground and should unite us. If the group seeking to build the mosque is sincere in its efforts to bring people together, I would urge them to seek an alternative location which is less divisive. I dispute the wisdom of building at that location, not the constitutional right."

 

And, Democratic Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY) actually forced Republican challenger Richard Hanna to flip-flop. Hanna had said, "It’s extremely easy to understand why people are upset by this, but this country was founded by people who were running away from religious persecution." But, Arcuri asserted, "The pain felt by many Americans from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is still very real, and I can understand how the thought of building a mosque near Ground Zero could reopen those wounds. For the sake of the victims and their families, I think another location should be chosen."

 

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) lack of leadership has muddied the situation by writing a letter with an incoherent position saying he supported the "constitutional protection of religion from the overreach of government" but that he wanted sensitivity and concern for 9/11 families to be displayed.

 

One Democrat from New York, Jerrold Nadler, has been sharp in his statements in favor of the Islamic cultural center. Nadler said on CNN’s "State of the Union":

 

NADLER: [W]hat they are saying essentially is how can you put a mosque there when, after all, Muslims attacked us on 9/11, and this is ripping open a wound? Well, the fallacy is that Al Qaida attacked us. Islam did not attack us. Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, like other religions, has many different people, some of whom regard other adherents of the religion as heretics of one sort or another. It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to Al Qaida as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. And there were Muslims who were killed there, there were Muslims who were killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help. And we cannot take any position like that. [emphasis added]

 

Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) has been out in front on this. So has House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, but she didn’t help. Her statement, which was a call to investigate the "mosque opposition," was red meat for the wolves, who likely heard Pelosi and immediately thought Pelosi should be investigated to see if she is funded by radical Islamic charities.

 

The two Muslim-Americans in Congress have voiced support. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has urged Americans to not let those opposed to the Islamic cultural center "write the recruiting script" for al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups. And, Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) supports the "mosque" and asked, "Are we a country of laws and principles? Or are we a question who will be moved by the winds of emotion each and every time there are issues that come up to divert us from the true meaning and intent of the Founding Fathers?"

 

Americans have heard Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rep. Peter King, Rudy Giuliani, Rick Lazio, Carl Paladino, Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, William Kristol, and a plethora of members from the anti-Islam industry who have appeared on FOX News and CNN (all supporters of the group, Stop911Mosque.com, which has made this a controversy. Unfortunately, when Democrats fail to provide a distinct position and alternative to the agenda of hate being put forth by right wing leaders and scholars, they become complicit and partly responsible.

 

The seething and venomous mob that has taken over the discussion on what Muslims will do if a cultural center is built near Ground Zero will not accept compromise. They don’t deserve any sympathy or understanding. They will never sit down and listen to the reasons why Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and others want to build the center. They will only make more citizens in the world think America supports a war on Islam.

 

Democrats, and, more importantly, Americans must use this struggle as opportunity to make progress. It is a chance for truth and reconciliation with the Muslim community in America, something Americans desperately need so they can abandon the post-9/11 mentality that has shackled this nation in chains of fear and anxiety and produced phobic movements like the one we are witnessing in New York against a so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" and other Islamic places of worship in the country.

 


The following is from the "Stop the Islamization of America" Rally held against the "Ground Zero Mosque" on Sunday, August 22nd. It shows protesters mistaking an African-American man for a Muslim, a prime example of the hatred fueling this movement against Islam.

Why Opponents of Mosque Are So Fierce in Their Opposition

8:57 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Video on Franklin Graham shows just why there is so much vitriol and hatred toward the Park51 project or the "Ground Zero Mosque"

Opponents follow leaders like Franklin Graham, who allegedly asked Obama about Obama’s Christian beliefs and the senator’s family connections to Islam at a meeting of Christian leaders in June 2008.

Much of the anger is a direct result of Pat Robertson’s and other religious right leaders to make one feel like there is a level of religious intolerance here because Franklin Graham was disinvited from Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer but "taxpayer money" is going to fund a "Ground Zero Mosque."

Hamas Supports the “Ground Zero Mosque” & Other Messages Damning Religious Freedom to Hell

10:28 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Flickr Photo by

The hysteria surrounding the "Ground Zero Mosque" that really cannot be seen from Ground Zero has nothing to do with some impending Islamic fundamentalist quest to impose Sharia Law in America. It has everything to do with a toxic patriotism fueled by evangelical political activism in this country.

Few know how this "controversy" was manufactured, how the Islamic cultural center became a political football or tool for exploiting fear of Muslims among Americans. And, at this point, one might think it doesn’t really matter: the right wing assault on Muslims’ private property rights continues unabashedly even though there should be no discussion at all and those behind the project should just take their project somewhere else.

The latest developments in sheer paranoia and outright xenophobia include anti-Obama author and Jerusalem bureau chief of the right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com Aaron Klein’s interview with Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar on his WABC radio show on Sunday. Klein was able to get Al-Zahar to say Muslims "have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places"we have to build everywhere." And, this touched off an eruption of echoes among conservative media as the leader’s position was immediately connected to Obama through headlines suggesting Hamas backs Obama–the impetus being if Hamas supports Obama we should all fear his support for the mosque in the same way we feared Obama’s association to Bill Ayers during the election.

Newt Gingrich appeared on "Fox & Friends" to say, "The folks who want to build this mosque — who are really radical Islamists who want to triumphally prove that they can build a mosque right next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by radical Islamists — those folks don’t have any interest in reaching out to the community. They’re trying to make a case about supremacy. That’s why they won’t go anywhere else, that’s why they won’t accept any other offer."

Gingrich went a step further comparing Muslims to Nazis:

"And I think we ought to be honest about the fact that we have a right — and this happens all the time in America. You know, Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly stated "build the mosque somewhere else" seemingly adopting his Republican opponent Sharron Angle’s position that one must "say no to the mosque at Ground Zero" or "side with President Obama" and be "against the families of 9/11 victims."

Finally, there was Don Lemon on CNN expressing, as Glenn Greenwald writes, "the crux of the "mosque’ opposition":

Lemon: Don’t you think it’s a bit different considering what happened on 9/11? And the people have said there’s a need for it in Lower Manhattan, so that’s why it’s being built there. What about 10, 20 blocks . . . Midtown Manhattan, considering the circumstances behind this? That’s not understandable?

Patel: In America, we don’t tell people based on their race or religion or ethnicity that they are free in this place, but not in that place –

Lemon: [interrupting] I understand that, but there’s always context, Mr. Patel . . . this is an extraordinary circumstance. You understand that this is very heated. Many people lost their loved ones on 9/11 –

Patel: Including Muslim Americans who lost their loved ones. . . .

Lemon: Consider the context here. That’s what I’m talking about.

Patel:I have to tell you that this seems a little like telling black people 50 years ago:you can sit anywhere on the bus you like – just not in the front.

Lemon:I think that’s apples and oranges -I don’t think that black people were behind a Terrorist plot to kill people and drive planes into a building.That’s a completely different circumstance.

Patel: And American Muslims were not behind the terrorist plot either. [emphasis not added]

More patently absurd was Tim Brown, a retired NYC firefighter who survived 9/11 who recounted a story at the tail end of the segment featuring Lemon and Patel involving a woman who "spoke at the Landmark Preservation Commission here and very passionately against the mosque and when she walked out and went to her car she had a heart attack." Brown added, "This is what is being done to the families of 9/11."

The bizarre notion that not only all of the Muslim world should pay for the few extremists that targeted the World Trade Center but they should also pay for people who are suffering physical hardships because they have to defend against the so-called insensitivity of Islam toward 9/11 victims provides one of the best examples of how this controversy is born out of Islamophobia. Brown’s comment suggests there is no thing those against the "mosque" that opponents will not blame Muslims for.

So, how did we get to here? How did Americans get dragged into some argument against Islam that solely consists of sentences comprised of a noun, a verb and 9/11? Didn’t Rudolph Giuliani lose big in the 2008 Election?

Justin Elliott over at Salon.com constructed a timeline that demonstrates the story first was discussed when Laura Ingraham interviewed Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, while guest-hosting "The O’Reilly Factor." Ingraham surprisingly said, "I can’t find many people who really have a problem" with the "mosque." She said she liked what the people behind the project were trying to do. Then, five and a half months later, on May 6, 2010, a New York community board approved the "WTC Mosque." The AP quoted 9/11 families. The New York Post, which a lot of right wing opinion makers read.

From this point on groups like Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) began to hold protests and campaign against the "mosque." It is then that "professionals of the anti-Islam industry" began to propagandize the project eventually earning a victory when New York Post columnist first used the phrase "ground zero mosque" (and also falsely reported the Cordoba House [Park51] would open on September 11, 2011.

The manufacturing of this controversy proves this is about much more than religious freedom and 9/11 families. What those against the "mosque" really want is for Americans to constantly relive the horror of 9/11 on a daily basis, live in a state of post-trauma for eternity, and never forget how extremists with a religion that has often been at odds with prominent Western religions attacked America.

The most outspoken opponents of this mosque seek to maintain a shared purpose, a national identity that became the context for domestic and foreign politics after 9/11. They seek to further entrench America in a war against Islam.

Opponents tremble in fear because their triumphalism–largely derived from their evangelical Christianity and other Christian denominations–is threatened by the interfaith goals of dialogue that this Islamic cultural center has adopted. They do not want dialogue. They want only to maintain their religion and further institute Biblical law in American society.

Zealous businessmen and snake politicians have charted a course for power, opted to exploit not only the families who lost loved ones in 9/11 but also exploit the energy produced by evangelical religion’s activism in politics and channel it into this manufactured controversy they hope will help them win elections in November.

These religious archaists market beliefs and aim to attract customers they can convert into consumers that will follow their precepts. They hope their consumers will join them in the further construction of American mythology to serve their agenda for reorienting this nation and realigning this country with their beliefs.

The vanguard of opposition to the mosque follows the ideology of Samuel Huntington, a foreign policy thinker who had great influence over the past twenty years of American foreign policy. They like Huntington believe "America is different and that difference is defined in large part by its religious commitment and Anglo-Protestant culture." They like Huntington think "at the heart of that culture has been Protestantism and the political and social restitutions and practices inherited from England, including most notably the English language." And, they believe "Americans are also overwhelmingly Christian, which distinguishes them from many non-Western peoples" and "their religiosity leads Americans to see the world in terms of good and evil to a much greater extent than most other peoples."

The propagandistic idea that the mosque should not be built because all Muslims should continue to pay for 9/11 stems from the toxic patriotism or right-wing nationalism of a section of society who has put its political energy behind American military might, preemptive war, promotion of ignorance toward the way America radicalizes societies who adopt Islamic fundamentalism as a tool of resistance, and xenophobia.

Demagoguery and ideology neurotically controls a sect of American society and culture. Our opposition to the construction of the mosque, whether we adopt the position to win elections in November or because we have been grieving for 9/11 families and constantly terrified by our leaders exploitation of the attacks so they can achieve power, gives the upperhand to religious demagogues and ideologues. It violates core principles of our nation’s Constitution, principles President Obama and Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg have called upon citizens to support and uphold.

Religious freedom did not become part of our nation’s core principles because people thought Americans would be comfortable with all religions. It became part of our principles because people understood all Americans should have the right to practice religion openly and freely.

Since 9/11, Muslims have been attacked and demonized in many sections of the country. This should not be allowed, we as a nation should not be complicit and silent, and we who care deeply about this nation should speak out in support of the mosque not because we are religious or support Islamic beliefs but because attacks and demonization should cease in this country now.

 

Now from last night’s Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann, a "Special Comment" — "There is No Ground Zero Mosque."

World Oceans Day: Soon to Be World Dead Zones Day?

9:41 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by NOAA’s National Ocean Service

The Ocean Project, which consists of over one thousand aquariums, zoos, museums and conservation organizations, has designated June 8th “World Oceans Day.” This day, which earned official recognition from the United Nations General Assembly as the result of a resolution passed in December 2008, is a new celebrated day, and, as oil continues to gush at perhaps 100,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico (which connects to the Atlantic Ocean), this day carries even more significance.

 

Ocean conservation is essential to the future of our planet. In fact, the UN recently reported on estimates from a report indicating the world could face fishless oceans in 40 years, a notion that should frighten all the people of the world into becoming stewards of the Earth.

 

The Ocean Project says people should celebrate World Oceans Day because the world’s oceans “generate most of the oxygen we breathe, help feed us, regulate our climate, clean the water we drink, offer us a pharmacopoeia of medicines, and provide limitless inspiration.

 

Those behind the day have the best of intentions when it comes to World Oceans Day. They would like people all over the world to change the perspective of others who do not understand what oceans have to offer, to discover how daily actions affect oceans and how we are all interconnected, to change our ways and act as caretakers for the ocean, and/or to participate in activities and celebrate the oceans of the world.

 

One would like to think the most obvious threat to oceans would be on the table for discussion: the continued practice of offshore oil drilling in deep and shallow areas of the ocean. The Gulf oil disaster caused by BP, Transocean and Halliburton should compel us to justify the risks being created, which contribute to further pollution of the world’s oceans.

 

Unfortunately, World’s Oceans Day is likely to be marked insincerely. The news is President Obama is going to re-open waters to shallow oil production. Before any investigative commission provides a report on moving forward after this disaster, the Obama Administration is bowing to the oil lobby and doing it on the World Oceans Day; one could liken this move to cutting aid to African countries stricken with AIDS on World AIDS Day.

 

President Obama appears to think repeating angry toothless rhetoric about BP’s CEO Tony Hayward over and over again–rhetoric which creates the perception that he does not like that Hayward continues to control BP and how cleanup efforts continue in the Gulf–will get America through this crisis that may last until Christmas and be enough to convince Americans major changes to the regulation of oil companies are going to be made. It seems President Obama is doing this for show and not because this is all the federal government can do.

 

The Pew Oceans Commission understands that the oceans are in crisis. They find the BP oil disaster intersects with campaigns to secure protections for bluefin tuna, end overfishing in the Southeast, protect life in the Arctic, conserve sharks, address global warming and develop a clean energy policy. It also brings to the forefront the need for a national ocean policy.

 

The Commission describes why a national ocean policy is necessary:

 

 

The increasing industrialization of our oceans threatens the fragile health of marine ecosystems.  If poorly planned or managed, drilling for oil and natural gas in federal waters, developing aquaculture and building wind, wave and tidal energy facilities all have the potential to damage America’s marine environment. Currently, several federal agencies manage industrial activities in our oceans under a number of statutes, and there is little coordination or consideration of the cumulative impacts their decisions have on the health and productivity of marine ecosystems and coastal communities.

 

Among its cardinal recommendations, the Pew Oceans Commission called for establishing an enforceable national policy to protect, maintain and restore the health of marine ecosystems.  This will not only support economically and culturally valuable fisheries, but also provide countless recreational opportunities for the public and protect critically important ecological services, such as air and water purification.  The commission also recommended changing the organizational structure and laws governing our oceans to make their protection and productivity a priority, and it urged better coordination and management of the full spectrum of activities affecting marine resources.  Finally, it proposed establishing a permanent source of funding for ocean and coastal conservation and management. [emphasis added]

 

Not only do Americans need to recognize the folly of expanding oil drilling in American oceans without a clear policy to protect the oceans and properly regulate oil rigs, but Americans need to recognize the threat global warming poses to the oceans (and face up to the reality that increased oil production contributes to global warming).

 

Sadly, there has been a decrease in the number of Americans who find global warming to be a concern. Media coverage and political discussion of “climate change” (the political re-branding of global warming) has led people to doubt the science behind global warming despite the fact that there is very, very little debate (if any) among scientists on whether global warming is taking place or not.

 

Sixty-seven percent responded in a Gallup poll in March of this year that they do not think global warming will pose a serious threat to them or their way of life in their lifetime while thirty-two percent said yes it would pose a threat and affect them at some point in their lifetime. The poll also found that more and more Americans think natural causes are responsible for the change in the Earth’s temperature, not human activity.

 

Oil and energy lobbyists whose utmost concerns are profit and short-term gains have conspired against science and worked tirelessly to sow doubt in the minds of Americans through public relations campaigns, “astroturf” citizens’ groups, and fake research studies that skew data to favor their free market agenda. The American Enterprise Institute, which receives a substantial amount of money from ExxonMobil, planned “Energy Citizen Rallies” in 2009 to attack “climate change” legislation in Congress.

 

People like Art Robinson, who is running for Congress on the GOP ticket, also increase the likelihood that the planet’s oceans will become total dead zones. Robinson claimed in an issue of a newsletter he edited in 2004 called Access to Energy:

 

“Wastes dumped into the deep ocean will soon reach the bottom, where they are less hazardous than nearly any other place on Earth. Most materials will remain there: marine organisms are rare in the deep ocean, food chains are long, and few materials will be carried back to mankind. And that is what waste disposal is all about…”

 

“…The oil companies’ reckless greed, we are told, has devastated the oceans with their oil spills. Baloney…”

 

“…As for oil spills in the open and deep ocean, they amount to far less than natural seeps and river runoff, and any unbiased oceanographer will confirm that they are a boon to marine life, inflicting damage mainly on the oil and shipping companies. For crude oil is a natural, organic, biodegradable product of the earth’s ancient plant and animal life, and it is this type of hydrocarbon that marine life in the open and deep ocean is starved for…”

 

“…The environment, then, has no better protector than its owner, and no worse enemy than a system where everything belongs to “the people.” Species are endangered when they belong to everybody and nobody; and nothing short of the profit motive will protect them.”

 

If the future of the world’s oceans are not endangered by arrogant numbskulls preaching the Gospel of the Free Markets like Robinson, then they are significantly at risk by people like Dick Armey who preach the Gospel of Christian Fanaticism (and manufacture Tea Party rallies through ventures like FreedomWorks).

 

Appearing as a witness at a Republican bicameral hearing on climate change legislation on Capitol Hill in July of 2009, Armey testified:

 

DICK ARMEY: What I’m suggesting is we have a sort of an eco-evangelical hysteria going on and it leads me to almost wonder if we are becoming a nation of environmental hypochondriacs that are willing to use the power of the state to impose enormous restrictions on the rights and the comforts of, and incomes of individuals who serve essentially a paranoia, a phobia, that has very little fact evidence in fact. Now these are observations that are popular to make because right now its almost taken as an article of faith that this crisis is real. Let me say I take it as an article of faith if the lord God almighty made the heavens and the Earth, and he made them to his satisfaction and it is quite pretentious of we little weaklings here on earth to think that, that we are going to destroy God’s creation. [...]

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Mr. Armey it’s great to have you here. Great to see you again and we appreciate all you’ve done throughout the years and your work on Capitol Hill. Great job. [emphasis added by Think Progress]

 

What’s worse? Armey’s comments or the fact that this country has senators like Orrin Hatch who praise people for making pathologically insane comments like these in hearings that should be based in science?

 

The goals of World Oceans Day are paramount. However, this country doesn’t understand the value of the environment. Many may suggest that humans have a duty to protect and preserve the environment but far too many think God or the Almighty Dollar will save the environment and are blind to the reality that Mother Nature is under siege from fanaticism and free market desires.

 

One can hope more Americans will find the moral fortitude and courage to take on those that spread disinformation to pollute science, which demonstrates global warming is a threat to our oceans. One can hope more Americans will directly call out this country’s inability to have a future focus, which forgets short-term profit and favors the long-term protection of the environment for future generations of Americans.

 

Unfortunately, anger and frustration seem to be better responses than hope. Hope often makes people passive. As it becomes obvious the world’s oceans need the help of thousands if not millions of citizens now more than ever, the oceans need physical and meaningful action, not hope.