Cites SCOTUS Decision About Paving Playground of Religious School to Declare Portions of Federal Law ‘Unconstitutional’
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has announced she will no longer enforce the provision of federal law that bans religious organizations from being funded with taxpayer dollars for secular projects.
DeVos is citing a 2017 Supreme Court decision that ruled a Missouri Lutheran church-run school could not be barred from having taxpayers pay for repaving its playground under a local ordinance that made it ineligible solely due to separation of church and state policies.
The Education Secretary, in an official notice to Congress, now appears to be turning that ruling on its head.
“The law calls for students in public and private schools to receive ‘equitable services,’ such as special education, tutoring or mentoring, and allows districts to hire contractors to deliver those services,” The New York Times explains.
The Washington Post adds, “school districts are now open to contract with religious organizations,” although “the services they provide must be ‘secular, neutral and non-ideological.'”
The education reporter for US News, a right-leaning news site, says, “DeVos blurs church-state boundaries” with her new rule.
Indeed, DeVos is claiming that the provisions of the federal laws she is now refusing to enforce are “discrimination against religious organizations.”
“The Trinity Lutheran decision reaffirmed the long-understood intent of the First Amendment to not restrict the free exercise of religion,” DeVos said. “Those seeking to provide high-quality educational services to students and teachers should not be discriminated against simply based on the religious character of their organization.”
Some are sounding the alarm.
“Just look at what happens when Christian ministries are brought in to teach public school sex education classes or host assemblies encouraging kids not to do drugs,” Friendly Atheist warns. “On paper, there’s nothing inappropriate happening, but there are countless stories about how misinformation is spread by Christian abstinence-only advocates and how secular daytime assemblies are used to advertise very religious nighttime assemblies.”
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Anti-LGBTQ Right-Wing Activist Tells Christians to Build an Underground Railroad and Prepare to Wage Violent Revolution
Scott Lively, a Trump-loving former GOP gubernatorial candidate, is telling Christians it is their “duty” to build an underground railroad and prepare to wage a violent revolution in response to what he foresees as the impending persecution of Christ-followers.
As Right Wing Watch’s Kyle Mantyla reports, Lively used his online “Breaking News Bible Study” (video below) on Sunday to warn his supporters “they need to establish a modern-day Underground Railroad for Christians to escape coming persecution and prepare to wage a violent revolution against those who seek to use the current COVID-19 pandemic to impose a socialist End Times ‘emerging Beast government’ on the United States.”
Lively heads a Massachusetts-based anti-LGBTQ hate group, has been directly linked to Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, and says “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism” in his book The Pink Swastika. He faced a crimes against humanity lawsuit that was dismissed in 2017 over jurisdictional issues.
“We need to be establishing a network of believers everywhere that can operate in an underground fashion,” Lively told his followers in his truly disturbing screed. “Because if this thing continues in the trend that it seems to be, we may be evolving here at a revolutionary speed [and] entering into an emerging Beast government.”
“We’re going to need to have something like an Underground Railroad in which believers who are fleeing persecution are going to be able to have some way of escape,” he continued. “If these people truly are intending to destroy America so they can bring in their global socialist system, or even a nationalist socialist system, then violence is appropriate in response in the most measured possible way. That’s the idea. If at all possible, you disarm the zombies trying to kill you without hurting them. But if it’s not possible, you do whatever is necessary to stop them from killing you and your family or putting you into slavery. That I believe is the duty of an American.”
Christian Right Activist Heading Civil Rights Office at HHS Moves Closer to Killing Protections for LGBTQ Patients
Move Comes During Height of First Wave of Pandemic
Roger Severino, a Christian right activist who heads the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’s Office for Civil Rights is one step closer to his own personal goal of removing protections for LGBTQ patients, a move that would allow discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.
Under Severino’s leadership the Trump administration has been moving quickly toward the final stages of dismantling critical protections for LGBTQ patients, Politico reports. The Dept. of Health and Human Services has sent a draft of its rewrite of an Obama-era policy to the Dept. of Justice for review, a sign it could soon announce the rollback of hard-fought regulations protecting some of the nation’s most vulnerable people.
HHS has been working on re-interpreting and re-writing the nondiscrimination provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The agency’s website currently says Section 1557 of the ACA “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities.”
“Advocates fear that it would allow hospitals and health workers to more easily discriminate against patients based on their gender or sexual orientation,” Politico reports, noting the provision “also offered specific protections for transgender patients for the first time and extended protections for women who had abortions.”
Severino has been called a “radical” anti-LGBTQ religious right activist. He previously served as CEO and counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a religious right non-profit that opposes separation of church and state. He also once served as the Director of the DeVos family’s Center for Religion and Civil Society in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity.
Late last year a federal judge voided a rule Severino had implemented allowing medical providers to cite their personal religious or moral beliefs as a reason to refuse to provide care to certain individuals or to perform certain procedures. It would have allowed doctors and other health care professionals to refuse to perform or participate in abortions, prescribe or deliver contraception, or provide care to and LGBTQ person.
Severino is also tied to the Trump administration’s efforts to ban same-sex couples and LGBTQ people from adoption services.
Severino has long sought to gut ObamaCare’s LGBTQ protections. Before coming to the Trump administration Severino co-authored a Heritage Foundation report claiming new proposed ObamaCare nondiscrimination provisions “threaten the religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and independent medical judgment of health care professionals.”
Religious Right Lawyer Compares Christians Facing Social Distancing Restrictions to Jews Persecuted in Nazi Germany
On Todd Starnes’ radio show Wednesday, Mat Staver, founder and chairman of religious-right legal group Liberty Counsel, compared the plight of Christians in America facing enforcement of social distancing restrictions to the kinds of treatment faced by Jews in Nazi Germany.
Liberty Counsel is making the most of the COVID-19 pandemic to portray itself as a defender of embattled religious liberty and push the group’s narrative that Christians in America are facing unprecedented persecution—a narrative that also happens to be one of President Donald Trump’s main tactics for motivating and turning out conservative evangelical voters for his reelection campaign.
Starnes is himself one of the primary promoters of Christian persecution stories, and he and Staver talked about cases in which local officials have taken action against pastors and churchgoers for violating public health restrictions on group gatherings. Liberty Counsel is representing Tampa, Florida-based evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, who was arrested for defying a local stay-at-home order, and others who have run into that kind of trouble.
Staver told Starnes about people who lost their jobs or were told they were unwelcome in a drug store when people realized they attended churches that had drawn media attention for continuing to gather. “It is unbelievable the harassment, the targeting of these churches all over the country,” Staver said. And he said a Virginia pastor Liberty Counsel is representing faces a year in prison for having “six people over the governor’s magic number of 10 in a 293-seat sanctuary.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this ever before, anything come close to this,” Staver said. “This is the most outrageous and, frankly, unbelievable situation I’ve ever seen with regards to the absolute disregard of the Constitution.”
And Staver made what certainly seems to be a comparison to Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews, though he did not use those exact words:
So, it is absolutely—I mean, it’s a targeting. It is, you know, I don’t want to be too melodramatic, but I’m telling you what. You know, this happened before in history. We’ve seen people being targeted, that you are being targeted with a particular symbol that you have to wear. And then so you get targeted with your business, you get terminated from your job, and eventually you get ghettoized. And what we’re seeing here is the absolute targeting of Christians in churches to a level I’ve never even imagined would happen in America.
On Monday, Liberty Counsel launched its “ReOpen Church” campaign, “calling on the churches to open and believers to start meeting again on Sunday, May 3.” It is clear that in some parts of the country, restrictions on public gatherings will still be in place on May 3, suggesting that Liberty Counsel may be hoping to provoke additional incidents that they can portray as anti-Christian persecution.
Staver told Starnes:
Look, they said that we had to close for two weeks. Most people were fine with that. The two weeks went to four weeks, then the four weeks went to six weeks, and it continues to go on. So, then they said [gatherings should be limited to] 250, then 100, 50, 10—in New Mexico, it’s five people. And it goes on and on and on. When are we going to say enough is enough? Look, nobody wants to put their people in jeopardy. I don’t know of any pastor that wants to harm anyone. But we can take reasonable efforts. If the liquor stores can be open and all the other things that are open out there, the commercial operations that are open. Churches have a constitutional right to exist; those others do not. They don’t have the right to exist. But the First Amendment guarantee the church’s right to exist. The Greek word for church is ekklesia; where we get the word synagogue is from a Greek word synagoge. They both mean ‘assembly,’ places of assembly. So, let’s begin that process. Because the churches are more essential now than ever.
The website promoting Liberty Counsel’s “ReOpen Church Sunday” encourages churches to “include appropriate measures of sanitization and appropriate social distancing between families” and consider a range of options, including seating outside the building and online access for higher risk individuals.
This article was originally published at Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
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