Yom Kippur is the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar. It is a day when you can find even the most secular of Jews in synagogues. But I stayed home this year. If Jews believed in doing penance, my self-inflicted torture would have counted; it was as excruciating as a hair-shirt; almost as painful as the guilt inflicted by a Jewish mother. But, alas, we Jews donâ€™t believe in penance as a vehicle for repentance.
Yom Kippur is the holiest of holy days. One is supposed to spend the day at prayer and contemplation. It is a day devoted to atonement; no work is performed and we refrain from eating and drinking (even water.) The Talmud specifies additional restrictions that are less well-known – washing and bathing, anointing one’s body (with perfume, cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes and engaging in sexual relations are among the behaviors prohibited on Yom Kippur.
But we Jews are a practical people; there are exceptions to the rules even on this holiest of holy days. These restrictions can be lifted when a threat to life or health is involved. Even if they want to, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labor begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast. And of course there is an exception in wartime, for example the Yom Kippur WarÂ fought from October 6th to 25th, 1973 â€¦ which was the basis for the rationalization I used to get myself off my spiritual hook.
For make no mistake, America is at war. Oh, I donâ€™t mean those engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan that have killed thousands of people, bankrupted our country and compromised the effectiveness of our military. The conflict that must also concern us is being fought right here at home. And Friday and Saturday I was directly in the line-of-fire.
Thanks to live streaming, I spent Yom Kippur with the folks at the Values Voter Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization which because of the homophobia and lies it propagates is designated a hate group byÂ the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)Â While many of my family and friends, supported by each other in community and prayer, contemplated their transgressions, I listened to speaker after speaker preach how my extended family and friends were much of what is wrong in America and how my life (which was consistently called a lifestyle) is itself a transgression. While my familyâ€™s and friendsâ€™ souls were stirred as they listened to the haunting melody of Kol Nidre, my stomach churned as I listened to Michele Bachmann and Star Parker.
It was a weekend filled with irony, much of which was apparently lost on its sponsors as well as the attendees; a weekend when vitriol was cheered and pleas for civility and respect were met with derision.
Copeland was never troubled by his sexual orientation and although he never made the political statement of coming out publically, he was quite open about it â€“ his being gay was not a secret. As part of a group of Manhattan-based gay composers, Copeland, along with Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Paul Bowles, David Diamond, Ned Rorem and Virgil Thomson, changed the complexion of American Music.
After a welcome speech in which Tony Perkins, the President of the FRC, declared war on marriage equality, family planning, health care and regulations governing the environment, banks and other financial institutions, House Speaker John Boehner reaffirmed his determination to repeal health care reforms and to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
But it was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who got the first standing ovation when he said, “We have, and we always should, stand by Israel.â€ Observant Jews however were out of luck if they wanted to attend the whole conference. As the National Jewish Democratic Council pointed out, this is the third Values Voter Summit in a row to be scheduled during the Jewish High Holy Days. The workshop “Why Christians should support Israel”Â was held on Yom Kippur.
Cantor complained about the Occupy Wall Street movement, stating, â€œI for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities across our country,â€ claiming that Occupy Wall StreetÂ is â€œpitting of Americans against Americans.â€ Of course, when members of the Tea Party took to the streets, we were told that it was a sign of grassroots democracy in action.
Evolution was a central theme in the speech given by Bryan Fischer: â€œI submit to you that not a single one of our unalienable rights will be safe in the hands of a president who believes that we evolved from slime and that we are the descendants of apes and baboons.â€ He claimed the separation of church and state is “mythical.” Fischerâ€™s convoluted logic posited that since the Founders believed that our unalienable rights came from the Creator, Creationism not Evolution is the correct explanation of the origin of our species and no person who does not believe in Creationism should be elected President.
The presidential candidates Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich, as well as past candidates Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee, have all appeared on Fischerâ€™s show. Fischer is the spokesperson for the organization, The American Family Association, another SPLC designated hate group, which co-hosted “The Response” prayer rally with Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Fischerâ€™s call for the return of Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell and a declaration by the next president that gays are a threat to national security and public healthÂ were reported byÂ The New Civil Rights MovementÂ October 9.
Robert Jeffress, a Texas Southern Baptist megachurchÂ senior pastor introduced Rick Perry to the appreciative audience. People for The American Way’s Right Wing WatchÂ points out, “Jeffress’ anti-Mormon views should have been no surprise to the Perry camp, and in this interviewÂ last year with the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Jeffress argued that the Mormon religion, along with Islam, is ‘from the pit of Hell.’ He went on to say that along with Mormons and Muslims, Jews and gays are also destined for Hell.”
All of the Republican hopefuls — except Jon Huntsman, Fred Karger, Thad McCotter,Â and Â Buddy Roemer — spoke at the conference. Among the promises they gave if elected President was repeal of or a moratorium on all pending federal government regulations for six months, repeal of the recently passed healthcare plan, cutting taxes, defunding Planned Parenthood, appointing Supreme Court Justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, sponsoring a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, reinstating Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell, and eliminating the Department of Education. Family was always defined as a man, a woman and their children.
The most moderate of them, Mitt Romney, called for civility and respect, saying, “Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate.” Romney added, “The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us â€“ let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart.” Although these remarks were not well received in the hall, as David Badash reported on October 8th they were acknowledged positively outside the conference.
Almost every speaker assured the audience that God was on their side and that they would win this war they were waging, because God wanted them to put Him back where He belonged, in the home, in the schools, in public places, in the courts in the House of Representatives and the Senate and in the White House.
If I had any doubts that this is a genuine war, they were erased when they brought in the Marine and rolled out the General. Tony Perkins, a former Marine whose rank was never revealed, assured us, â€œI never back down from a campaign!â€ and Lt. General Benjamin Mixon (Ret.), Former Commander, Multi-National Division, Iraq,Â agreed that the Military is its own “kind of subculture” and â€œopen homosexualityâ€™ would be detrimental to the troops and their families.
I confess I skipped some of Michele Bachmannâ€™s 46 minute speech; Iâ€™d heard it all before. The evening finally closed with this admonishment by Star Parker:
“And now we’re yearning, waiting, to protect the interest of marriage, such a most humble position God would put us in, the marital sacrament, to recognize how personal and private that is. It’s absolutely under attack to the degree that in California they now have to stop a law, they have to form an initiative to stop a law, from teaching their children gay history. We are sick as a country, and we are going to have to recognize how deep this sickness is. So that when we get to November 3rd, regardless of the outcome, the same way big moral questions were on the table before, God would answer what we are praying for.”
War had been declared: And according to them, itâ€™s God vs. us!
The next day Lieutenant General William G. Boykin (retired) Former Commander; Delta Force, marched onto theÂ stage and laid out the rules of engagement:
“You don’t go into battle afraid of your enemy, you just simply don’t, you have to go in knowing that you will be victorious. You know it is important that we develop the attitude that we’re going to win because we have the ultimate force-multiplier with us, and that is God Himself, the Holy Spirit. You know, nobody in this country fought a greater fight to stop the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell than Tony Perkins; he used every resource he had to try and stop the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. And you know who led the charge in our government to try and stop this repeal? That was John McCain. John McCain led the charge and John McCain kept turning to Tony Perkins, saying, ‘Where’s the church? Where are the spiritual leaders that are going to come along beside me, that are going to stand up with me?’ The answer was they were silent, the church was silent, and it is time for the Church to rise up like a mighty army.”
But it wasnâ€™t all speeches and workshops. Those who were actually at the conference had an opportunity to visit the booths in the exhibition hall. There were books and badges for sale and buttons and brochures for the asking. In an article titled, “Antigay Message Is Everywhere at GOP Candidates Event,”Â The Advocate wrote they had found disturbing imagery everywhere, with one table giving away buttons that proclaim, “Ex-Gay Is OK!â€ The list of more than 50 exhibitors includes the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX).
Saturday night, while some of the conference-goers attended The Faith, Family, And Freedom Gala Dinner in the Regency Ballroom (a black-tie optional, ticketed event,) which featured Phyllis Schlafly, whom Michele Bachmann has called the “most important woman in the United States in the last 100 years,” because of her fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, my partner and I celebrated the end of Yom Kippur with friends and family at a traditional Break-Fast at my nephewâ€™s home. There we were greeted with hugs. He and members of his family call both of us Uncle and my cousins and their families and friends honor our relationship of almostÂ 34 years. Here our life together is not called a “lifestyle” nor is our love considered an abomination. Over bagels and lox and kugel and herring we discussed my Yom Kippur War.
Make no mistake, America is at war. Our New Civil Rights Movement is under attack. Our families are under attack. This was the year of my Yom Kippur War; this is the year of your Yom Kippur War.
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‘Chutzpah’: Biden Blasts Johnson ‘Taking Credit’ for $30 Million Project He Voted Against
Speaking in Pueblo, Colorado to promote his highly-successful “Bidenomics” fiscal program, President Joe Biden on Wednesday blasted Speaker of the House Mike Johnson for “taking credit” for a major federally-funded infrastructure project despite having voted against the legislation that made it happen.
“All across America,” the editorial board of the Las Vegas Sun wrote in August, “the success of Bidenomics is well beyond debate.” They also quoted former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who “wrote in an essay last month, Bidenomics ‘is turning out to be the most successful set of economic policies the United States has witnessed in a half-century.'”
President Biden traveled to Colorado and spoke to voters in the district represented by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO).
“The company that Biden visited, CS Wind, is on the home turf of Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who has described the president’s climate policies as ‘a massive failure,'” The Associated Press reported.
“’Did you all know that you’re part of a massive failure?’ Biden said to the workers and local officials gathered for his speech as he touted hundreds of new jobs fueled by tax incentives for clean energy initiatives. ‘None of that sounds like a massive failure to me. How about you?'”
At one point, President Biden targeted Speaker Johnson and Florida Republican Vern Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of Congress.
“The new Republican Speaker of the House, along with Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan just visited Sarasota, Florida yesterday to tour the construction of a new terminal at that airport. It’s going to create thousands of jobs over time. The project is funded with nearly $30 million from the bipartisan recession law. It’s going to generate more than $30 million for Florida, multiple times times over and guess what? Both the Speaker and the Congressman voted against the law. And spoke against the law. But now they’re down there taking credit for it being built.”
“As my mother would say, ‘God love ’em,'” the President continued. “As one of my friends back home would say, ‘that’s real chutzpah.'”
Watch the President below or at this link.
Biden: The new Republican Speaker with Vern Buchanan just visited Sarasota to tour the construction of a new terminal. Both of them voted against the law but now they’re down there taking credit for it.. pic.twitter.com/KS5fyVg5Xj
— Acyn (@Acyn) November 29, 2023
How Mike Johnson Spent the Day Protecting Mike Johnson
Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson made two major statements Wednesday at a press conference on his Biden impeachment inquiry, both of which serve to protect not the rule of law, the public’s faith in the credibility of Congress, or American democracy, but Mike Johnson.
Johnson, elected Speaker by every House Republican just five weeks ago, was widely described as a “back-bencher,” (a British term Americans have co-opted to refer to a low-profile or lower-level member of Congress,) yet he was anything but. While not well-known by the American people, Johnson had made his mark during the 2020 election, leading The New York Times recently to call him “a key architect of his party’s objections to certifying President Biden’s victory.”
“Mr. Johnson played a leading role in recruiting House Republicans to sign a legal brief supporting a lawsuit seeking to overturn the results” of the 2020 presidential election, The Times reported. “In December 2020, Mr. Johnson collected signatures for a legal brief in support of a Texas lawsuit, rooted in baseless claims of widespread election irregularities, that tried to throw out the results in four battleground states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.”
In an opinion piece last month, The New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie declared, “Mike Johnson Is a Right-Wing Fever Dream Come to Life.”
In addition to Johnson’s far-right wing views on religion and social issues, Bouie pointed to the Speaker’s “tireless advocacy on behalf of Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
He noted: “Johnson wrote one of the briefs purporting to give a legal justification for throwing out the voting results in several swing states. He advanced the conspiracy theory that Venezuela was somehow involved with the nation’s voting machines. On Jan. 6, 2021, he urged his Republican colleagues to block certification of the election on the grounds that state changes to voting in the face of the pandemic were illegitimate and unconstitutional. When questioned, during his first news conference as speaker, whether he stood by his effort to overturn the 2020 election, he ignored the question, and his fellow Republicans shouted down the reporter who asked it.”
Johnson “is, in short, an election-denying extremist who believes that his allies have the right to nullify election results so that they can impose their vision of government and society on an unwilling public.”
On Wednesday, Speaker Johnson falsely described both impeachments of Donald Trump as “meritless.”
It was an important statement for him to make, for Mike Johnson.
“I’m a lawyer. I’m a constitutional law attorney,” Speaker Johnson told reporters Wednesday, a statement he frequently uses to remind people of his status. “I served on President Trump’s impeachment defense team twice. And we lamented openly, we decried how the Democrats politicized that process, they were brazenly political, and how they brought those meritless impeachment charges against the president.”
Donald Trump was impeached the first time for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after “Trump froze military assistance for Ukraine,” NPR reported in early 2020, “at the same time he sought investigations that he thought might help him in the 2020 campaign.”
The second time Trump was impeached, in January 0f 2021, was for “incitement of insurrection.” Speaker Johnson calling that meritless is in direct contradiction of a Colorado judge’s recent ruling that Trump did, in fact, “engage in insurrection.”
“This, what you’re seeing here, is exactly the opposite,” Johnson continued on Wednesday, referring to his committee chairmen’s impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. It is an inquiry that Republicans have been forced to admit, even while on Fox News, they have no actual proof of any impeachable offense.
“We are the rule of law team,” Johnson continued. “The Republican Party stands for the rule of law. And the people in charge of this are doing this thoroughly, carefully. methodically. They’re investigating and gathering all the facts and to do this appropriately and to do it in a manner that upholds our constitutional responsibility. requires time, it requires a sound process. You don’t rush something like this. You can’t.”
Speaker Mike Johnson during a news conference dismisses both of Trump’s impeachments as “meritless” pic.twitter.com/twXn3ztSh2
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 29, 2023
It was critical for Johnson to mischaracterize and demean Democrats’ impeachments of Donald Trump, especially Trump’s second impeachment over his “incitement of insurrection.”
Remember, as The Times noted, Johnson was a “key architect” of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. The insurrection was part of that effort.
Two weeks ago NCRM noted the stakes for Johnson “are simple: his three-vote majority is already razor-thin. Speaker Kevin McCarthy made clear Santos would be allowed to stay as long as possible. Will Johnson direct his leadership team to actively whip to expel Santos, knowing his majority will slip even further?”
Johnson answered that question on Wednesday. Despite having just called his House Republican caucus “the rule of law team,” Johnson effectively declared he opposes Republican efforts to expel U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who is facing 23 federal felony charges, and a damning Ethics Committee report.
Johnson’s tiny majority would become even smaller, should the House expel the embattled New York GOP lawmaker. And early next year it could shrink even more, given the announced upcoming resignation and exit of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), not to mention the other “House Republicans who may head for the exits.”
Dana Houle, a former chief of staff for a Democratic Congressman noted, “Ohio law is murky, but it’s possible [Bill Johnson’s] (overwhelmingly Republican) seat will remain open until November. It’s a reason why Santos won’t be expelled; if Santos’ & Johnson’s seats are vacant the GOP will have only a two seat majority.”
And that’s likely another reason why Speaker Johnson on Wednesday declared, “we’re going to allow people to vote their conscience” on the Santos expulsion vote, expected Thursday. “We’ve not whipped the vote and you wouldn’t I trust that people will make their decisions thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this. I’m, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Speaker Johnson says he has “real reservations” about expelling George Santos pic.twitter.com/JyaluKfVET
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 29, 2023
Watch the videos above or at this link.
Speaker Mike Johnson to Be Keynote Speaker at Hardline Christian Nationalist Lawmakers’ Gala
Last week, Christian nationalist religious-right activist and former Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert announced that House Speaker Mike Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming National Association of Christian Lawmakers gala that is being held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC on Dec. 5.
The National Association of Christian Lawmakers, as its name suggests, is a far-right Christian nationalist organization founded by Rapert in 2019 that seeks to spread its far-right “biblical worldview” across the nation and “take authority” over every level of government.
Rapert, who last week was appointed to the state library board by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is a hardline anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ activist who has declared that no Christian can ever vote for a Democrat because Democrats have “been enlisted to further the antichrist cult in our country.”
Christian nationalist Jason Rapert attempts to topple the “LGBTQ cult” that has allegedly taken over the country: “Let go of our reins of government in this nation! You will not drag us into your pit!” pic.twitter.com/2F2UXrKzYC
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) September 25, 2023
Christian nationalist Jason Rapert is sick of all “the idiots in the country that want to make you think that a man’s gotta be able to go up and slobber all over another man and hug and kiss him and pretend like they’re married.” pic.twitter.com/pYRmZvy7eo
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) February 7, 2023
Former Arkansas state senator and founder of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers Jason Rapert declares that Christians “must take authority” over government: “Do you think that America is gonna be free with a bunch of drag queens running this place?” pic.twitter.com/cUp6pyr4XF
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) February 2, 2023
“This is what the NACL does every day all across this country,” Rapert bragged. “We are fighting against the people that are putting the queer books into your school libraries and trying to groom these children into homosexuality.” https://t.co/frIHtEAF05 pic.twitter.com/USWXPyFxiq
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) March 22, 2023
Christian nationalist Jason Rapert has high hopes for the 2024 presidential election: “My hope is that the people of this nation will reelect Jesus to be on the throne here again in our country.” pic.twitter.com/lCrNGFt8A0
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) May 5, 2023
When the National Association of Christian Lawmakers held a meeting earlier this year, participants used it as an opportunity to discuss plans to strip public libraries of their funding, convince states to designate June as “Christian History Month,” and defend the practice of imposing “the death penalty for sodomy.”
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is reprinted here by permission.
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