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Texas GOP Governor Abbott Hypocritically Tramples On Religious Freedom

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Greg Abbott Orders Faith-Based Nonprofits To Stop Resettling Syrians

Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is all about protecting religious liberty — except when he’s not. 

If the issue is same-sex marriage, for example, Abbott supports allowing government employees like Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to opt out of doing their jobs if they have religious objections. 

“Texans of all faiths must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious freedom is beyond the reach of government,” Abbott said in a statement responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. “The government must never pressure a person to abandon or violate his or her sincerely held religious beliefs regarding a topic such as marriage.”

Likewise, if the issue is reproductive rights, Abbott believes employers should be allowed to opt out providing health coverage to women. In 2012, then-Attorney General Abbott joined five other states in filing a lawsuit against the federal government over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. 

“Obamacare’s latest mandate tramples the First Amendment’s freedom of religion and compels people of faith to act contrary to their convictions,” Abbott said at the time. “The very first amendment to our Constitution was intended to protect against this sort of government intrusion into our religious convictions.”

But now that the issue is Syrian refugees, Abbott appears perfectly willing to trample on the First Amendment rights of faith-based nonprofits. Under Abbott’s direction, the executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission penned a letter to nonprofit agencies last week demanding that they comply with the governor’s efforts to block Syrian refugees. 

“If you have any active plans to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas, please discontinue those plans immediately,” Commissioner Chris Traylor wrote.  

Some agencies, including Catholic Charities of Dallas, have indicated they won’t go along with the directive from the governor (who happens to be Catholic). 

“Catholic Charities believes in a compassionate response to those who are fleeing violence and persecution around the world. We are called by the Gospel to reach out to all those in need,” Catholic Charities said in a statement.

Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, a faith organization that works closely with refugee aid agencies, expressed shock and dismay at Abbott’s letter.

“We are deeply concerned that the Governor’s letter directs those agencies to interfere with the religious freedom of faith-based humanitarian agencies working in Texas,” Moorhead wrote. “As we read the Governor’s letter, he appears to be directing state agencies to pressure faith-based organizations to violate the sincerely held beliefs of their religious traditions.

“The vicious and inhuman acts perpetrated in Paris, Beirut, and around the world on unsuspecting civilians by terrorists appall people of all faiths,” she added. “However, Governor Abbott’s fearful response now threatens to provide precisely the reaction terrorists hope to achieve-scapegoating of entire national and religious groups, and division among religious communities. Additionally, it runs roughshod over the freedom of religious humanitarian organizations in Texas to practice their faith.” 

Abbott, of course, is one of more than two dozen governors who’ve said they’ll stop accepting Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, even though they apparently lack the legal authority to turn them away. But Abbott has gone a step beyond most others. In addition to impinging on the religious liberties of nonprofit agencies, Abbott has violated Syrian refugees’ civil rights by ordering the Department of Public Safety to track those already in Texas. 

In an effort to justify his ridiculous actions, Abbott recently claimed eight Syrian refugees had been “caught” crossing the Texas border in Laredo. As it turned out, two Syrian families had actually turned themselves in, prompting Politifact to rate Abbott’s claim as “mostly false.” 

By Monday, Abbott had begun raising money based on his opposition to resettling Syrian refugees: 

Worst of all, Abbott’s rhetoric may be fanning the already fervent flames of anti-Islamic hatred among right-wingers in Texas. Over the weekend, protesters staged an armed rally outside a mosque in Irving, wearing bandanas over their faces and carrying long guns. 

“They’re mostly for self-defense or protection,” one protester with a 12-gauge rifle told The Dallas Morning News. “But I’m not going to lie. We do want to show force. … It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.”

Fortunately, not all elected officials in Texas are as crazy as Abbott. Among those who showed up at the protest was Irving City Councilman Chris Palmer. 

“My initial impression was they were using them for intimidation,” Palmer told The Dallas Morning News, referring to protesters’ guns. “I doubt that they’d be happy if some of the Muslim churchgoers here showed up at their Christian church, their Baptist church, their Methodist church tomorrow morning with rifles slung over their shoulders.”

Meanwhile, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings have publicly rejected misleading, reactionary, xenophobic rhetoric from the likes of Abbott. Rawlings told MSNBC on Saturday that such rhetoric only plays into the hands of ISIS.

“ISIS wants us to be divided on this issue. ISIS wants us to demonize these Syrian refugees, wants us to alienate these children,” Rawlings said. “ISIS is no more Islamic than the Nazi senior staff was Christian, so we’ve got to differentiate between those. … I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up, but we don’t isolate young white men on this issue.”

 

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Jesus Was Not a Socialist!’ Fox News Panel Explodes Over Jesus Christ’s Political Views

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Conservative religious pundits on Fox News recoiled in outrage on Sunday after a left-leaning guest suggested that Jesus Christ was “more of a socialist” than a capitalist.

During a Fox & Friends segment designed to cast doubt on the faith or Democratic presidential candidates, evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress argued that socialism is “antithetical to Christianity.”

But St. Paul Reverend Dee Dawkins-Haigler reminded the other panelists that scriptures seemed to point to what people now call socialism.

“We believe in things like, what did you do to the least of them?” Dawkins-Haigler explained. “You fed the hungry, you clothed the naked, you went to see those who are in prison.”

“You do not have to be a socialist to be a Christian!” Jeffress shot back. “Socialism is antithetical to Christianity and if they nominate Bernie Sanders, they are not going to be able to attract any faith voters.”

“I totally disagree,” Dawkins-Haigler retorted. “People would have said that Jesus was more of a socialist than anybody we’re talking about today.”

The remarks stopped Fox News host Pete Hegseth cold.

“Why was Jesus a socialist?” he exclaimed.

“Because Jesus did not sit with the establishment, he overturned tables of the tax collectors, he sat with people who were lepers,” Dawkins-Haigler explained. “He made sure he healed people who people thought should not have been healed.”

“So we have to be very careful how we use this language and try to take ownership of who God is,” she added.

“That’s a big claim,” Hegseth interrupted again, giving the floor to Jeffress.

“No! Jesus was not a socialist!” Jeffress opined. “He said render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s. He was compassionate. Church is to be compassionate, but you don’t have to believe in socialism, which is nothing but communism light and is absolutely is opposed to everything that is Christian.”

Watch the video below from Fox News.

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THIS IS WHAT FASCISM SOUNDS LIKE

Trump National Security Advisor Blasted for ‘Weaponizing’ Classified Intel Against Bernie Sanders as Nevada Caucuses

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President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor was blasted online on Saturday for a smear against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while Nevada Democrats were caucusing to choose the DNC’s 2020 presidential nominee.

Josh Dawsey, White House reporter for The Washington Post, broke news on Saturday about what Robert O’Brien said in an interview to air on Sunday.

O’Brien was quickly criticized for his comments. Here is some of what people were saying:

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'WHAT REAL JOURNALISM LOOKS LIKE'

Internet Heaps Praise on CNN’s Anderson Cooper for His ‘Must Watch’ Destruction of Rod Blagojevich

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CNN’s Anderson Cooper received near-universal praise across the board for what one commenter called his “fiery rebuke” of recently paroled former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Friday night that culminated in the CNN host telling him excuses for why he should not have been in prison were “bullsh*t.”

During the highly-contentious interview, Cooper came armed with facts and did not let Blagojevich get away with comparing himself to political prisoner Nelson Madel a which drew a smirk and rebuke from the CNN host.

Many on Twitter were quick to point to the interview as one all cable hosts should look at as a way to stop guests who go on shows to lie with no pushback.

As former President Bill Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich put it: “At a time when so many lies go unchecked and unaddressed by the media, @andersoncooper ‘s fiery rebuke of Blagojevich’s narrative could not have been more necessary. This is what real journalism looks like.”

You can see similar comments — as well as video — below:

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