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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Bills Requiring Public Schools to Teach the Bible Are Flooding State Legislatures – Some Are Becoming Law

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In 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that teaching the Bible in public schools was unconstitutional.

56 years later right wing religious extremists are still trying to find ways to get the Bible taught in public schools.

And now they’re succeeding.

According to the civil rights organization Americans United, there is a “coordinated attempt by the Religious Right to enshrine Christian nationalism in our schools, in our communities and in our government,” and teaching the Bible is a part of that attempt.

Also part of that attempt: President Donald Trump.

Conservative lawmakers across the country are embracing this attempt, sponsoring bills that mandate the creation of required or elective courses in public schools to teach the Bible, or finding other means to inject religion – especially the Christian religion – into taxpayer-funded curriculums.

Since January of this year alone there have been bills mandating the creation of Bible study or instruction bills in at least 14 states, including Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Florida, West Virginia, Mississippi, New York, North Dakota, West Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Washington, and Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s bill is listed as “emergency” legislation.

Some of the bills, like Georgia’s, have passed and been signed in to law as recently as Monday. Some have failed or died in committee. There are still many Bible instruction bills active and awaiting hearings, votes, and governors’ signatures.

Some states have filed multiple bills with the same or similar intent: get the Bible – and religion – into as many classrooms as possible.

While some of the bills direct the creation of “elective” Bible study classes, other states, like Texas, make clear Bible instruction would be required. Some legislation is careful to mask the Bible classes as instruction in history, others are more overt in their direction and intention.

Alabama’s SB 14 allows “elective courses” of Bible study, but overtly opens the door to displaying the Bible and other “artifacts, monuments, symbols, and texts related to the study of the Bible and religious history if displaying these items is appropriate to the overall educational purpose of the course.”

That bill will be reviewed by the Alabama House Education Policy Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Also up for review on Wednesday is the Missouri Senate’s Concurrent Resolution 13, which, among other objectives, would, “Require that all world literature courses include a three-week session on wisdom literature from the Bible, as has been done for three thousand years.”

The resolution cleverly claims that “forty studies have documented a correlation between improved school grades for children and the teaching of the biblical character of love, integrity, compassion, and self-discipline.”

Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist documents how Republican state Senator Ed Emery, sponsor of Missouri’s resolution, is “full of it,” and the Senator’s similar claims about another Bible bill he sponsored were disproven. He also reports that Sen. Emery is the “head of the Missouri Prayer Caucus Network, which is affiliated with the group known for promoting the Christian Right’s Project Blitz. Their goal is to shove Christianity into our public institutions (including public schools).”

West Virginia’s SB 234 would “require all schools provide an elective course on Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible or New Testament of the Bible,” while HB 2742 would “make available elective courses of instruction in all schools located within this state on the history of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.”

New York Assembly Bill 6315 would “teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy.”

The text is almost exactly the same Virginia’s SB 1502, which died in committee, and almost the same as Georgia’s SB 83, which GOP Gov. Brian Kemp signed in to law Monday.

Texas’ SB 2090 makes “Bible instruction” part of “the required English language arts curriculum for public school students.”

Mississippi’s HB 1403 died in committee but had it passed would “require school districts to offer a secular program of education to high school students which includes elective courses relating to religion, Hebrew scriptures and the Bible.”

North Dakota’s SB 2136 failed to pass, but would have offered elective Bible instruction and allowed portions of those classes to replace social studies requirements for graduation.

Image by Paul Keller via Flickr and a CC license

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Anti-LGBTQ Right-Wing Activist Tells Christians to Build an Underground Railroad and Prepare to Wage Violent Revolution

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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.”

Watch:

Scott Lively Says Christians Must Prepare to Wage Violent Revolution from Right Wing Watch on Vimeo.

 

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Christian Right Activist Heading Civil Rights Office at HHS Moves Closer to Killing Protections for LGBTQ Patients

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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.”

 

 

 

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Religious Right Lawyer Compares Christians Facing Social Distancing Restrictions to Jews Persecuted in Nazi Germany

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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.”

Related: Attorney For Kim Davis Compares Her To Abraham Lincoln (Video)

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.

Staver may have said he’s never seen anything like this, but he has frequently compared Christiansin the United States today to Jews in Nazi Germany.

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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