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The Religious Right’s Campaign to Strip All Citizens of Religious Freedom

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Turn on any cable news show and you’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 it’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. It’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 individual—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?

Hobby Lobby

In the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby 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 Lobby’s owners, the Green family (who happen to be evangelical Christians) say that they consider such birth control methods to be abortifacients—despite the medical and scientific community pointing out that they are not—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.

Mississippi’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.

Whose Rights?

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 to—and designed for—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 businesses’ newly-bestowed conscience.

What does this mean for us? It won’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 family’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, it’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. We’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 citizen—no matter what their beliefs.

Eric Ethington 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. Eric’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. He’s worked as a radio host, pundit, blogger, activist and electoral campaign strategist. He also writes at NuanceStillMatters.com 

Follow Author Eric Ethington on Twitter @EricEthington

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‘Jan. 6 Wasn’t a Fantasy’: Top Missouri Paper Says It’s ‘Long Past Time’ for Senate to Investigate Josh Hawley

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On Sunday, the editorial board of the St Louis Post-Dispatch called on the U.S. Senate Ethics Panel to investigate Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) over any possible involvement he may have had in the Jan 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Hawley, whose political future will be haunted by a photo of him giving a raised fist to insurrectionists as they stormed the halls of Congress has been excoriated by the paper’s editors multiple times, but Sunday’s call for an investigation ramps up their attacks on the home state senator.

According to the board, “Ten months after a group of Senate Democrats lodged ethics complaints into the conduct of Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas regarding their roles in sparking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Senate Ethics Committee has shown no sign of movement.,” with the editors saying it is “long past time” to take a hard look at both Republican senators.

“Jan. 6 wasn’t a fantasy; it was real, and the culpability of these two senators must be determined,” they wrote. “Hawley and Cruz were the only two senators to object to certification of Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election results, citing (with zero evidence) supposed concerns about the election’s integrity. That was the same baseless, toxic nonsense then-President Donald Trump had been spewing since before the election. Such talk whipped up the mob of Trump loyalists to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.”

Related: Lauren Boebert needs to be subpoenaed to explain her ‘violent revolution’ Jan 6th tweets: MSNBC contributor

Adding, “Even after the violence, he persisted in voting with just five other senators to continue promoting Trump’s big lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate,” the editors wrote, “If he had an ounce of honor, he’d have heeded our Jan. 7 call for his resignation (we certainly weren’t alone on that). But at this point, why even talk about honor?”

Writing that, “Just because there’s a mechanism in place allowing senators to object to election results doesn’t mean it’s OK for Hawley to abuse that process for crass political gain,” the editorial concluded, “Hawley and Cruz have the right to defend themselves from the allegations — but so far, they haven’t even had to. The Ethics Committee should stop sitting on this.”

You can read the whole piece here.

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‘Hang on a Minute’: Chuck Todd Confronts GOP Governor Who Wants ‘Liberty’ for Vaccines but Not for Abortion

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NBC host Chuck Todd on Sunday challenged Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS) over his push to deny abortion rights for women while insisting that people should have control over their own bodies when it comes to vaccines.

During an interview on Meet the Press, Todd noted that Reeves had recently championed “freedom and individual liberty” when it comes to vaccine mandates.

“Why should the state of Mississippi tell a woman what they should do with their body?” Todd asked. “Why shouldn’t they have that individual freedom on their body particularly in the first 20 weeks [of pregnancy].”

“The far left loves to scream ‘my body, my choice,'” Reeves replied. “And what I would submit to you, Chuck, is you absolutely ignore the fact that in getting an abortion, there is an actual killing of an innocent unborn child that is in that womb.”

Reeves went on to insist that fetuses should be considered “babies” at 15 weeks of age.

“Those babies at 15 weeks can feel pain,” he argued. “The difference between vaccine mandates and abortions is vaccines allow you to protect yourself. Abortions actually go in and kill other American babies.”

“But vaccines are not about yourself,” Todd interrupted. “Hang on a minute. A vaccine is about protecting a larger community. A vaccine is about preventing spread. You could argue a vaccine mandate is a pro-life position.”

“You could certainly argue that, Chuck,” Reeves agreed. “The vaccine may not keep you from getting the virus. It may not keep you from spreading the virus but it can keep you from ending up in the hospital. That’s what’s been proven during this delta surge that we’ve seen in America.”

He added: “Conversely, when you’re talking about the pro-life position of protecting unborn babies, let’s put it also in perspective, the fact is that during this very horrible and challenging time since I was sworn into office in January of 2020, Chuck, we’ve had 800,000 American lives lost because of Covid. And my heart aches for every single one of those individuals that has died because of Covid … But since Roe was enacted, 62 million American babies have been aborted and have therefore been killed.”

Watch the video below from NBC.

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Marjorie Taylor Greene Is Demonstrating ‘The Depth of Power She Has Over Kevin McCarthy’: Politico Reporter

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Appearing on CNN on Saturday morning, Politico’s Rachael Bade explained that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s overwhelming desire to become the leader of a Republican Party-dominated House has put him at the mercy of the demands and whims of extremist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

As the plans for the 2022 midterm elections ramp up, and political prognosticators are saying a GOP House takeover is highly likely, McCarthy’s path to staying leader is not certain with the far-right wing of the party balking at just handing the California Republican the gavel.

As Bade explained to CNN’s Christi Paul, Taylor Green is just now starting to feel her power over McCarthy grow.

“What is the takeaway for Kevin McCarthy?” Paul asked. “Particularly, I have to point out that after last night, Marjorie Taylor Greene said she tweeted that she got off a good call with him. spent time talking about problems not only for the country. ‘I like what he has planned ahead.’ Two different — two different points of view from her and in a 24 to 48-hour period. What do you make of that?”

“Look, I think Kevin McCarthy has a really long year ahead of him,” Bade suggested. “You’re right, the midterms are far away. That vote for him to become speaker is a long way off, but Marjorie Taylor Greene is just starting to realize the depth of power she actually has over Kevin McCarthy.”

“This is a man who has wanted to be Speaker for a decade,” she continued. “He needs her vote, he needs her support in order to get the gavel. I think what you’ll be seeing for the next few months, for a year, anytime Kevin McCarthy does anything to infuriate Marjorie Taylor Greene or infuriates [Donald] Trump — they’re going to be lording it over his head.”

“He’s got this real bind right now, he’s going to be in this pickle for a very long time,” she later added.

Watch below:

 

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