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Paul Ryan’s Religion of Convenience

12:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Alesa Mackool for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan strayed from the current Republican mantra when he said he “respectfully disagrees” with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). What Ryan disagrees with is the Bishops’ stance that it’s not very Jesus-like to let poor people starve.

Food stamps were one of the many safety-net programs that got the axe in the Ryan budget, in favor of tax breaks for large corporations. A letter from the USCCB said lawmakers should “protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people over subsidies that assist large and relatively well-off agricultural enterprises.”

It’s surprising it took so long for Republicans like Ryan and Speaker John Boehner, both Catholics, to “respectfully disagree” with the bishops. This kind of ideological clash is inevitable when your main influences as a Party are the irreconcilable Jesus and Ayn Rand.

None of this would be particularly problematic if these same Republicans didn’t lean on their religious beliefs, and specifically the USCCB, as validation for so much ridiculous and oppressive legislation. As Ryan and Boehner should have realized this week, the Catholic bishops might have a few good ideas about morality, but religious doctrine is hardly an acceptable foundation for modern legislation.

Selective observance of a church’s religious teachings is the standard for just about every believer, even the most supposedly devout. Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who characterized himself as pretty-darn-Catholic, disagrees with the USCCB on torture, the death penalty, and immigration. The bishops notably issued a 2011 statement in support of workers’ rights in Wisconsin, in stark contrast to the Paul Ryan-Gov. Scott Walker agenda to destroy collective bargaining. Rarely though, do Republican politicians or others who disagree with the bishops get scolded quite so much as any Catholic who speaks up on behalf of family planning or women’s equality.

The present GOP War on Women is rooted in some of the cruelest interpretations of Catholicism. Like our hometown Republicans, the Vatican has no interest in letting women achieve anything resembling equality. In a Wednesday statement from the menfolk in charge, the Vatican accused U.S. nuns of promoting “radical feminist themes.” The umbrella group for U.S. nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, is accused of not saying enough terrible things about homosexuals and abortion rights for the Catholic leadership’s liking. This is another example of Catholic leadership stifling opposition in its ranks, and ignoring the interest of believers. The fact that the USCCB has become so intertwined with U.S. politics in recent years makes the Church’s silencing of women inexcusable. (There’s a Change.org petition in support of the nuns and their work.)

This restriction of women’s roles certainly isn’t limited to Catholicism, but the USCCB’s influence on U.S. lawmakers should invite plenty of public skepticism onto the Church leadership’s behavior.

Because the bishops say GOP Jesus said life begins when you click on an attractive person’s Match.com profile, Republicans argue that low-income women and women in the military should have fewer reproductive choices than those who can afford birth control on their own. The USCCB launched the firing shots over the rule in the Affordable Care Act that requires most employers to cover contraception in their employees’ health plans (yes, there’s still an exemption for religiously-affiliated employers). And now GOP leadership is opposing an expansion to the Violence Against Women Act. Perhaps the GOP “respectfully disagrees” with Jesus that same-sex couples and battered illegal immigrants deserve our compassion.

If you have to pick and choose which part of a religious doctrine to adhere to, it’s pretty clear that this doctrine shouldn’t be used to justify legislation. Our leaders are elected to adhere to the Constitution, and that’s both a firm platform to stand on, and something we all can agree on.

Can John Boehner Placate Randall Terry?

6:57 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Randall Terry isn’t just your everyday anti-choice nut.  It takes someone with a special level of nuttiness to get shunned by most of the anti-choice community, a community generally known for having a high tolerance for hysterics, attention-seeking, blatant lying, and quiet encouragement of violence against abortion providers.  If you’re such a nasty piece of work that even Jill Stanek and Troy Newman can’t stand you, you must be something else.

So why on earth did soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner actually conduct a meeting with Randall Terry and his cadre of extremists?  It’s understandable, if disappointing, that such a prominent politician would meet with anti-choice activists.  We still don’t live in an era where women’s human rights are above debate, and so it’s to be expected that some politicians will hold meetings based around the concept that women should be forced to bear children against their will.  But there are many dozens of anti-choice leaders Boehner could have held meetings with to establish his misogynist bona fides, and cozy up to the Christian right.  Why choose the worst of the worst, a man whose primary reputation on the right now is that of a self-aggrandizing blowhard who just screws everything up?

A few possibilities come to mind.  First, Boehner might just be ignorant of the battles within the anti-choice movement, and selected Terry for this anti-choice photo op because Terry is just so visible in D.C.  After all, Terry is forever making a spectacle of himself.  He’s hard to ignore.  To someone who only paid minimal attention to the anti-choice movement, it might seem like Terry is more of a leader than he really is.  But while incompetence can never completely be taken off the table as a reason that a politician makes a baffling mistake, it’s hard for me to imagine that Boehner and his people could be so ignorant of Terry’s place in the anti-choice world.  And if they were ignorant before, the fact that Terry did wacky stuff like put fetus dolls on the table during the discussion should have clued Boehner into the facts.

It’s also possible that Boehner is trying to signal that he’s hardcore when it comes to disrespecting women’s rights.  If you want to send that signal, you’re in good shape picking the worst of the worst of the anti-choice community.  But again, there are many people that are just as mean-spirited as Terry without being so hated within the larger anti-choice community.  Troy Newman, for instance, has just as much distaste for women’s rights and health as Terry, but he has a better reputation in the anti-choice world.  So that doesn’t really make sense. 

There is another possibility, and that is … Read more