Turn on any cable news show and youâ€™ll hear conservatives, particularly from the Religious Right, giving long tirades about religious freedom and how the Left is seeking to strip it away from good God-fearing Americans. But if you watch how the Religious Right works in court, you know that itâ€™s actually the other way around.
Religious freedom has been a strongly-held belief in America since the very beginning. All three branches of government have worked hard to preserve the rights of Americans to choose for themselves whether they wished to be Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, or an atheist. Itâ€™s a fundamental part of the system that our country built itself on: the right to believe as you will, and to change your mind about it.
Legislative bodies and the courts have centered those rights around the individualâ€”allowing the individual to choose for themselves how they would or would not believe in a god, rather than imbuing an institution with the right to choose for them.
If you were to believe the talking points of conservative punditryland, you might think that the right to believe (or not) as you will is under attack from the Left, and that no-good liberals (particular the gays) are trying to force Americans to accept their wicked ways and deny those good God-fearing citizens their right to worship in peace.
But how is this actually playing out in the courts and in the legislatures?
In theÂ Sebelius v. Hobby LobbyÂ case before the U.S. Supreme Court right now, the owners of the private for-profit corporation Hobby Lobby chain are seeking an exemption from a provision within the Affordable Care Act that requires that the health insurance their employees receive include coverage for birth control methods such as morning after pills and IUDs. Hobby Lobbyâ€™s owners, the Green family (who happen to be evangelical Christians)Â say that they consider such birth control methods to be abortifacientsâ€”despite the medical and scientific community pointing out that they are notâ€”and as such their company should be exempted from the Affordable Care Act because providing their employees with insurance coverage for such methods is a violation of their religious freedom.
Mississippiâ€™s Religious Freedom Restoration Act
On April 1 this year (appropriately), the conservative-controlled Mississippi state legislature passed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was quickly signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant (R). The bill allows businesses to turn away customers and/or employees (such as LGBTQ people) because the owner of the business happens to disagree with them on a religious level.
A similar law was passed just a few months prior by the Arizona legislature, but Governor Jan Brewer had vetoed it after coming under enormous national pressure and media scrutiny.
What both of these situations highlight is the concerted effort by the leaders of the Religious Right to fundamentally alter the way religious freedom works. Where in the past it has always been applied toâ€”and designed forâ€”the individual, Christian Right legal organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund of Prop 8 notoriety) are seeking to strip those rights away from you and me, and bestow them upon businesses themselves. Those corporate religious beliefs can then be used to circumvent civil rights laws, if they happen to conflict with the businessesâ€™ newly-bestowed conscience.
What does this mean for us? It wonâ€™t just affect LGBTQ people. If the only religious beliefs that matter are what your boss happens to believe, employees across the country will be forced into complying with those beliefs or risk their (and their familyâ€™s) livelihood and well being. If a business owner happens to belong to a faith that believes women should always be subservient to men, they could legally be allowed to deny women managerial positions (or not hire them at all). Muslims could refuse to hire Jewish workers, or keep them at lower pay rates than their co-workers. White business owners in the South could use religion as an excuse to deny service to Black customers.
Now, neither the Hobby Lobby case or the Mississippi law go so far as to completely open the floodgates for all of these civil rights abuses on their own, but each are significant cracks in the wall. And once precedent is set, the next exemption is that much easier to create.
If we are going to shore up the foundations of religious freedom, itâ€™s going to take more than just quippy catchphrases. The Religious Right has been enormously successful capturing the dialogue, and painting all outsiders, particularly the LGBTQ community, as the enemies of our rights. Weâ€™ve got to help the nation understand that the leaders of the Right are seeking to not only strip the religious freedom of LGBTQ people, but of every citizenâ€”no matter what their beliefs.
Eric EthingtonÂ has been specializing in political messaging, communications strategy, and public relations for more than a decade. Originally hailing from Salt Lake City, he now works in Boston for a social justice think tank. Ericâ€™s writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the New York Times, The Telegraph, and The Public Eye magazine. Heâ€™s worked as a radio host, pundit, blogger, activist and electoral campaign strategist. He also writes atÂ NuanceStillMatters.comÂ
Follow Author Eric Ethington on TwitterÂ @EricEthington
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Watch: Fourth Grade Student Says Uvalde Police Told Children to Yell ‘Help’ – Shooter Shot One Child Who Did
What appears to be an increasingly clear understanding of how police in Uvalde, Texas handled the Robb Elementary School mass shooting – by not going inside for at least one hour – is being made even more horrific by reported actions of police once they finally entered the school.
One fourth grade child spoke with local CBS affiliate KENS 5, describing what happened inside the school at one point.
The shooter “shot the next person’s door. We have a door in the middle. He opened it. He came in and he crouched a little bit and he said, he said, ‘It’s time to die,'” the boy told KENS 5.
“When I heard the shooting through the door, I told my friend to hide under something so he won’t find us,” the child, whose name is not being released, told KENS 5. “I was hiding hard. And I was telling my friend to not talk because he is going to hear us.”
“When the cops came, the cop said: ‘Yell if you need help!’ And one of the persons in my class said ‘help.’ The guy overheard and he came in and shot her,” the boy said. “The cop barged into that classroom. The guy shot at the cop. And the cops started shooting.”
(Transcript via KENS 5, video below appears slightly edited.)
Some have noted that since the 1999 Columbine, Colorado school shooting when 12 students and a teacher were slaughtered, police practice has been to storm the school to not give the shooter time to kill more children, and to allow those wounded to get medical attention to hopefully save more lives. That does not appear to have happened.
Presuming the child’s recollection is accurate, it appears one or more officers telling children to yell “help” may have led to at least one child being wounded or killed.
A fourth grader who survived the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde described how it ended.
“The cop said: ‘Yell if you need help!’ And one of the persons in my class said ‘help.’ The guy overheard and he came and shot her. Then the cops barged in.”https://t.co/COaVdedhnv pic.twitter.com/A0VOrNKvye
— KENS 5 (@KENS5) May 26, 2022
CNN Reporter Refuses to Accept Texas Official’s Claims About Uvalde Shooting: ‘Why Don’t You Clear All of This Up Now?’
There is an increasing concern among legal experts, security experts, and law enforcement experts about the way police in Uvalde, Texas handled the Robb Elementary School massacre where 21 people were shot and killed, and another 17 reportedly were wounded.
Two days after the mass shooting witness accounts, photos, and videos are circulating that appear to show police waited between 40 minutes and one hour before either entering the school or confronting the shooter, who was killed not by police but by federal agents on the scene. Some are suggesting that valuable time may have led to more death.
NBC’s Kerry Sanders is reporting that one of the children lived through the shooting but died in the hospital, underscoring why it matters that police took an hour to breach that classroom.
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) May 26, 2022
Law enforcement also appear to not have a grasp on exactly what happened, with numerous reports revealing some officers were focused on subduing not the gunman but parents desperate for police to take action.
A mom of two children at #Uvalde was put in handcuffs after urging police and law enforcement to enter the school.
Once freed from her cuffs, she jumped the school fence, ran inside and sprinted out with her kids.
— Peter Schorsch 🇺🇦 (@PeterSchorschFL) May 26, 2022
There are also concerns that not only police inaction may have led to more death, but police action may have as well:
A fourth grader who survived the shooting said officers assaulting the barricaded room told kids to call for help before they had incapacitated the gunman, which led to him shooting a kid who called for help https://t.co/rJP1B2hPC7 pic.twitter.com/6bHgb2risi
— Evan Hill (@evanhill) May 26, 2022
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, a well-known MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst rightly says “we’re clearly going to have to wait” for accurate information, but notes what the public is being told “Doesn’t make sense.”
While reporting about Uvalde still feels confused & we’re clearly going to have to wait on accurate ones, this detail stands out. If there were deputy US Marshals present, why were they arresting parents? Why weren’t they launching an assault on the shooter? Doesn’t make sense. pic.twitter.com/0XPF86N9hf
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) May 26, 2022
One reporter apparently agreed that information being given to the public did not make sense.
CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, who attended Thursday afternoon’s Uvalde press conference and was not ready to accept what he apparently felt was police stonewalling.
“You guys have said that he was barricaded,” Prokupecz said, referring to the shooter. “Can you explain to us how he was barricaded and why you guys cannot breach that door?”
“So, I have taken all your questions into consideration. We will be doing updates,” replied Victor Escalon, from the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, according to a Mediaite transcript. “We will be doing updates to answer those questions.”
“You should be able to answer that question now, sir,” Prokupecz, clearly not satisfied, responded.
“What is your name?” Escalon asked.
“Shimon Prokupecz from CNN. We’ve been given a lot of bad information, so why don’t you clear all of this up now and explain to us how it is that your officers who were in there for an hour, yes, rescuing people, but yet no one was able to get inside that room,” Prokupecz continued.
“Shimon, we will circle back with you. We want to give you the why. That’s our job. Give us time. I’m taking your questions back to talk to the team,” Escalon replied.
“We’ve been given a lot of bad information so why don’t you clear all of this up now and explain to us how your officers were in there for an hour but yet no one was able to get inside that room?” pic.twitter.com/VIgTazT3I9
— Acyn (@Acyn) May 26, 2022
‘Demon Seed’ Doctor and Far Right Radio Host Call to ‘Lock Up’ Men Who Have Gay Sex to Prevent Monkeypox
As a small handful of monkeypox cases have been documented in the United States the far right is using that disease to target LGBTQ people. In a segment on Stew Peters’ radio show, he and “Demon Seed” Dr. Stella Immanuel called for the imprisonment of men who have sex with men, presumably to slow the spread of monkeypox.
As with HIV/AIDS, monkeypox is not a “gay disease” but some recorded cases are believed to have been transmitted by men who have sex with men. The far right has been attacking the LGBTQ community all year, with the rise of the false “groomer” label made popular among extremists by Christina Pushaw, the press secretary for Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis.
“So one of the answers would be, don’t have gay sex, repent for your homosexual lifestyle, and go find Jesus,” Peters says as Immanuel, the hydroxychloroquine-pushing physician and pastor who believes demons having sex with women causes tumors and other illnesses, agrees.
“The real pandemic here is promiscuous sex among gay men – sex, orgies, and participating in satanic depravity,” Peters continued, as Immanuel again agreed. The chyron reads: “Gay Sex Detonates Monkeypox Bomb.”
“So, stop that, as a matter of fact we should make a law against homosexual sex. We should just say that that’s not allowed, it’s a criminal offense, and we should lock these people up.”
Again, Immanuel agreed.
While discussing monkeypox, Stew Peters and Stella Immanuel agree that “we should make a law against homosexual sex. We should just say that that’s not allowed, it’s a criminal offense, and we should lock these people up.” pic.twitter.com/gCla3wOi33
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) May 26, 2022
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