Prominent Michigan attorney Michael Bogren on Tuesday withdrew his nomination to become a District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan after being attacked by several Republican Senators who accused him of anti-religious bigotry and not giving Catholics extra rights to discriminate against gay people.
Those U.S. Senators were pushed in to action after an anti-gay hate group, the Family Research Council, along with two far right organizations, the Catholic League and the Judicial Crisis Network, urged President Donald Trump to pull Bogren’s nomination.
It is a rare blow for President Trump, who has – thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – been able to pack the federal bench with more judges, and especially more far right wing extremists, than any president in modern history.
So what happened?
You might remember this story.
In 2017 the City of East Lansing, Michigan, banned a farmer from selling his goods at a local farmers’ market after he announced he would not allow same-sex couples to marry on his farm, which also serves as a wedding venue. The farmer cited his Catholic faith as his reason.
Michael Bogren was the attorney for the City of East Lansing, and in that capacity wrote in a legal brief that “there can be no constitutionally sound argument that sincerely held religious beliefs would permit a secular business to avoid the prohibitions against racial discrimination or gender discrimination found in federal, state and local laws.”
He is correct, legally and morally.
Which is why the religious right waged war against his nomination.
Bogren, as The Detroit News explains, “offered an example of how a Ku Klux Klan member opposed [to] interracial marriage ‘who ran a business similar to the plaintiffs’ business would not be able to invoke’ the First Amendment to avoid anti-discrimination statutes that apply to public accommodations if interracial couples were refused service.”
U.S. Senator Josh Hawley – a grenade-throwing Republican who coincidentally supports special rights for Christians to not have to serve or otherwise do business with same-sex couples – led the charge. He was joined by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz – who once accused gay people of waging “jihad” against Christians, and has very publicly supported special rights to discriminate for Christians.
During the confirmation hearing, Hawley berated Bogren, accused him of not supporting the First Amendment, and wrongly used the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cake Shop case as a cudgel against the nominee.
Here’s the video:
Now, it’s also important to note that we actually have no idea what Bogren’s personal beliefs are, because, as he explained, his job was to represent his client.
And for all we know he might even share Sen. Hawley’s own beliefs. We don’t know.
But to make the story even more absurd, Bogren’s cousin is an opinion writer at the far right wing website The Federalist. She has been advocating for him, even penning a column titled, “No, Judicial Nominee Mike Bogren Is Not An Anti-Religious Bigot.”
In it, she admits if she did not personally know her cousin she too “would likewise have shared concerns that [his] zealous representation of the City of East Lansing, as his briefing demonstrated, might mean the attorney making those arguments held a disregard for people of faith.”
All of this is to point out that the religious right, enabled and empowered by President Trump, is turning America into a nation that places it unique, extreme religious beliefs over the law, and is carving out special rights for far right Christian extremists.
In fact, “Far Right Christian Extremists Only” is the sign they would like to see at the borders of the United States.
If you have any doubt that the Christian right is trying to use its powers to turn America in to Gilead from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” take a look at these stories just from the past few days:
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Listen Live: SCOTUS Hears Christian Right Religion vs. LGBTQ Civil Rights Challenge
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in yet another Colorado case of a right wing Christian business owner who claims their work is artistic expression which entitles them to discriminate against LGBTQ people who want to use their product for a same-sex marriage. And once again conservatives on the nation’s highest court are being asked to, and could move towards striking down another decades-old ruling in favor of the far Christian right.
This time the case involves not a Colorado baker refusing to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, but a Colorado web designer refusing to make web sites for same-sex weddings. Both have cited their deeply held religious beliefs against marriage equality, only this time the web designer is suing not because she refused a same-sex couple – indeed, no same-sex couple has ever asked her to create a website for their wedding – but because she’s afraid someday one will.
Lorie Smith, who owns 303 Creative, objects to Colorado law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, and objects to the law banning notices or statements that a business intends to do so.
And just like the Colorado baker or the Washington florist, Smith insists she’s not anti-gay, just anti-same-sex marriage.
“If a client who identifies as gay asked her to design graphics for his animal rescue shelter or to promote an organization serving children with disabilities, Smith would happily do so,” Ms. Smith’s lawyers told the justices in a brief, The New York Times reports. “But Smith will decline any request — no matter who makes it — to create content that contradicts the truths of the Bible, demeans or disparages someone, promotes atheism or gambling, endorses the taking of unborn life, incites violence, or promotes a concept of marriage that is not solely the union of one man and one woman.”
Despite all the other issues listed, however, marriage equality is the apparent basis for the case being brought to the Court.
Indeed, a unique aspect of the case is that unlike the Colorado baker or the Washington florist, no one has ever asked Smith to make a product that violates her beliefs, so it’s unclear why the Court even accepted the case. (The Court refused to rule on the Washington florist case, and issued only a very narrow ruling in the Colorado baker case, one that the Trump White House incorrectly used to enact discriminatory policy in agencies including HHS.)
Philip J. Weiser, Colorado’s attorney general, is defending his state’s law.
“A business could, based on its claimed beliefs, refuse to bake for Catholic baptisms because it is pro-choice, photograph reunions of Black families because it opposes racial equality or create floral arrangements for events celebrating women’s business achievements because it believes only men should work outside the home,” Weiser wrote in a Court brief.
Supporters of civil rights and LGBTQ equality are concerned the activist wing of the Court, especially Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, could use this case to overturn a 1990 ruling, Employment Division v. Smith.
Indeed, Smith’s attorneys have specifically asked to Court to do so, although the Court is not expected to.
“In that case,” The Times explains, “the Supreme Court ruled that laws that are neutral and apply generally could not be challenged on the ground that they violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.”
But the current Trump-infused Roberts Court has made clear it sees conservative Christian faith at the center of American jurisprudence, and want that 33-year old ruling overturned.
Indeed, as Vox reported last week, the Supreme Court “appears eager to give religious conservatives sweeping exemptions from the law.”
“Although 303 Creative no longer presents the question of when the Constitution permits people with religious objections to an anti-discrimination law to defy that law, the Court has been signaling for quite some time that it is very sympathetic to such objectors — and that it is likely to abandon a more than 30-year-old precedent establishing that the law generally applies equally to everyone.”
Vox accurately describes this as a case involving “religious conservatives,” and not just people of faith. There are many Christians who support the LGBTQ community, same-sex marriage, and equal civil rights.
The decision in Employment Division v. Smith, “arising from a case involving the use of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies, is unpopular among conservative Christians, who say it does not offer adequate protection to religion, and with some of the justices. Last year, the court’s three most conservative members — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — said it was time to overrule the 1990 decision.”
Already the LGBTQ community, its supporters, and advocates for equal civil rights are on edge after the Court struck down its 49-year old Roe v. Wade ruling, with Justice Thomas actively and openly calling for cases that would overturn decisions that made access to contraception, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage the laws of the land.
Oral arguments in the case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, start at 10 AM ET.
Marco Rubio Lashes Out Against Passage of Same-Sex Marriage Bill After His Attempt to Create Special Religious Rights Fails
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) lashed out with a Bible verse Wednesday morning, after the Senate passed legislation protecting same-sex and interracial marriage, while rejecting his attempt to infuse special religious rights through an amendment that even some Republicans refused to support.
The Respect for Marriage Act, which passed in a 61-36 vote Tuesday evening, will return to the House for a final vote before heading to President Joe Biden, who promised to sign it into law. Not included in the bill the Senate passed is Senator Rubio’s amendment, which he claimed was necessary despite the clear religious protections included in the legislation.
The bill goes to great lengths to state it will have no impact on current religious liberty protections. Section 6 is actually titled, “No Impact on Religious Liberty and Conscience.”
It states: “Nothing in this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, shall be construed to diminish or abrogate a religious liberty or conscience protection otherwise available to an individual or organization under the Constitution of the United States or Federal law.”
It goes even further.
“Consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution, nonprofit religious organizations, including churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, nondenominational ministries, interdenominational and ecumenical organizations, mission organizations, faith-based social agencies, religious educational institutions, and nonprofit entities whose principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion, and any employee of such an organization, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage,” it reads. “Any refusal under this subsection to provide such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.”
Senator Rubio has been actively opposed to the bill from the start. In July he called it a “stupid waste of time,” suggesting he does not think the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the 2015 Obergefell ruling that made same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional – despite actively calling for the court to do so.
Reminder: Marco Rubio has opposed same-sex marriage for years and even called for overturning the Supreme Court decision legalizing it. pic.twitter.com/oSkpNxi3V6
— Florida Democrats (@FlaDems) July 20, 2022
In addition to the video above, Florida Democrats this summer tweeted a video of a local news report showing Rubio preaching to campaign supporters that same-sex marriage is “sinful.”
After saying protecting marriage equality was “a stupid waste of time,” Marco Rubio held an event yesterday to double down on his attacks on Floridians’ rights: pic.twitter.com/XC5ZIAlj5r
— Florida Democrats (@FlaDems) September 2, 2022
Last week in a press release Sen. Rubio called the bill “the insanity,” and falsely claimed the Respect for Marriage Act does not have religious protections.
“This bill does not protect religious liberty,” Rubio said in a statement last week. “Nuns running orphanages will find themselves in court if it becomes law. That’s outrageous. No faith-based organization will be immune from the insanity. Christian. Jewish. Muslim. Everyone. Removing this private right of action is the only way to truly protect people and organizations of faith.”
His amendment to create additional, special religious protections failed Tuesday evening, as did amendments from Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), and Senator James Lankford (R-OK).
During his failed 2016 White House run Sen. Rubio repeatedly promised he would not run for re-election. He used the Pulse Massacre, one of the worst and deadliest anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, to declare that the LGBTQ community needed him and launched a re-election campaign on the back of those massacred LGBTQ people.
Rubio, who is known for posting passages from the Bible on many mornings, on Wednesday used Christian verse to lash out at the Respect for Marriage Act.
“The law of the LORD is perfect,refreshing the soul. The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,giving wisdom to the simple,” he tweeted.
The law of the LORD is perfect,refreshing the soul. The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,giving wisdom to the simple.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 30, 2022
His tweet did not go over well. While some responded with a simple, “Amen,” others explained to the Senator who took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” that the Christian Bible is not the law of the land.
“The ‘law of the lord’ was deliberately excluded from the US Constitution,” wrote one social media user. “There is only one law in the US and it’s not the law of the lord, it’s the law of the people.”
History professor and author ￼Douglas M. Charles noted Rubio’s tweet had a small typo, and accused him of having a staffer do his work.
“More empty-suitness from the epitome of empty suit senators,” Charles wrote. “These copy-paste BS tweets of his always have a spacing typo, which is how you know a staffer copy-pasted it rather than his being serious about it.”
Mike Pence: Americans Have No Right to ‘Freedom From Religion’
Former Vice President Mike Pence claimed during a Wednesday appearance on Fox Business that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution does not protect Americans from having other people’s faiths forced upon them.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” it states.
In fact, there are no references to a supreme being anywhere in the Constitution, because the Founding Fathers were adamantly opposed to centralized religious power as well as requiring individuals to subscribe to any particular denomination.
The concept of separation of church and state was sacrosanct to men like President Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in his 1776 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that “setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time” and that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
Jefferson’s condemnation of forced faith in the document was unambiguous, further affirming that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”
President James Madison, in whose hand the Constitution was penned, concurred with Jefferson.
“The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Government, and exempt from its cognizance; that a connexion between them is injurious to both; that there are causes in the human breast, which ensure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of the law,” Madison explained in an 1819 letter, noting that “a legal establishment of religion without a toleration could not be thought of, and with toleration, is no security for public quiet and harmony, but rather a source itself of discord and animosity.”
Benjamin Franklin took it one step further, arguing in 1780 that any religion that seeks to impose itself is simply “bad.”
Yet Pence and host Larry Kudlow share an interpretation that strays wildly from what Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison clearly spelled out more than two centuries ago.
“These lefties want to scrap religion, Mike Pence, and I think it’s a terrible mistake,” Kudlow griped.
“Well, the radical left believes that the freedom of religion is the freedom from religion. But it’s nothing the American founders ever thought of or generations of Americans fought to defend,” Pence said.
As mentioned, that statement is completely false. Jefferson even concluded in his treatise that “such act will be an infringement of natural right.”
But Pence was not finished. He also suggested that the Supreme Court’s right-wing supermajority has a duty to side with one faith over another. Today, that means the GOP’s embrace of Christian nationalism.
“You know, I said today here in Houston that the source of our nation’s greatness has always been our faith in God, our freedom, and our vast natural resources. And the good news is, that after four years of the Trump-Pence administration, I’m confident that we have a pro-religious freedom majority on the Supreme Court of the United States. And I’m confident that come Election Day, November the 8th, you’re gonna see that freedom majority around the country turn out and vote pro-freedom majorities in the House, and in the Senate, and in statehouses around the country,” Pence said. “So stay tuned, Larry. Help is on the way.”
Watch below or at this link.
Fox Business' Larry Kudlow: "These lefties want to scrap religion."
Former Vice President Mike Pence: "The good news is, that after four years of the Trump-Pence administration, I'm confident that we have a pro-religious freedom majority on the Supreme Court." pic.twitter.com/GO1uW6FdPP
— The Recount (@therecount) October 26, 2022
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