Thursday, March 1, 2012

The WAR On Religion!

What you see above is the most objectively disliked video in the history of human creation: Rick Perry's Strong. It's short and sweet, wearing Heath Ledger's "gay cowboy" jacket, Perry says:
“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian,” the Texas governor says. “But you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.
“As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.” (emphasis added)
Obama's war on religion? What the heck is he talking about?

THE WAR ON RELIGION!!1! (Of course)
Does It Take an Act of Congress to Declare War on Religion?
Or  Can The President Use An Executive Order?
If you haven't been paying attention to Fox News (or maybe your pastor isn't promoting it) you might not be aware that President Obama (Barack Hussein Obama) has declared WAR on religion (specifically Christianity--but also: Christmas!). What are the charges? What is the evidence?

Exhibit A: The Contraception War
The most recent and most promoted battle in the WAR on Religion is the most recent ObamaCare skirmish over forcing insurance providers to provide coverage for contraception even if it goes against their religious practices. This has led to a conflict between the Roman Catholic church and the administration that has dominated at least a few news cycles. However, this happened after Rick Perry's video--so he wasn't talking about that. What else is he referring to?

Exhibit B: The, Uhm, Administration's WAR on Religion!
If you followed the link above you already know. I'm not sure what the original source of the material was but Fox News comes up on Google search at the top for almost all of this and I'm going to use this article as the basis for the discussion. The charge is that the Obama administration has declared war on the Christian religion and these are the specifics:
  1. The president said "Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation." In an email--to CBS. This is the Declaration of WAR.
  2. The administration invited Lady Gaga into the White House for an anti-bullying conference but banned Franklin Graham from the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer observances! The battle lines are drawn!
  3. The Obama administration ordered children praying outside the Supreme Court to stop praying and made them pray in the gutter! The first strike!
  4. President Barack Hussein Obama himself, dropped the words "By their Creator" when reciting a key excerpt from the Declaration of Independence when speaking to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 
  5. The Obama administration opposed the commemoration of a prayer by Franklin Roosevelt at the site of the WW II memorial saying it would "dilute" the message! He strikes a blow for atheism ... or Islam--or something!
  6. The Obama White House asked Georgetown University to cover up all religious signs and symbols prior to a presidential address! WHAT'S HE HIDING!?
  7. He used our military as a "social engineering petri dish" pulling gay and lesbian soldiers "out of the closet" while pushing Christians back inside (are Christians now "in the closet!?")
  8. The Navy adopted a policy that would have banned parents from giving their wounded soldier-children bibles at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. 
  9. A Christian cross was removed from outside an Army chapel and the Air Force had to apologize for promoting Operation Christmas Child because it has ties to a Christian organization. He's also declared WAR on Children. And Christmas.
Does it look pretty convincing? I can't tell for sure. I know it looks like a mess of stuff to me. But we'll take a closer look.

A Closer Look at The War On Religion
Whenever I see one of these "connect the dots" arguments I'm always dubious. The writer pulls out a list of charges that are at best tenuously related and suggests that if we connect the dots a picture will emerge--a clear underlying cause that explains everything. This is a big part of 9/11 Truther-ism and seems to me to be at work here with the War On Religion. In this case the picture that's supposed to emerge from this 9-point list of offenses is that the president has some kind of coordinated agenda that is making war on Religion across the US (and, well, not "religion" but Christianity specifically).

So I took a look.

1. We're No Longer A Christian Nation
There was an email. This is what it said:
Given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

Emphasis added. In this case religious tolerance is cast as a declaration of war. Note that you can read the link which goes into more detail (his spoken words re-arranged this but kept the "just" in there but the actual Fox News charge only references the prepared remarks, not the spoken words).

Conclusion: Weak, maybe even misleading

2. He invited Lady Gaga and banned Frank Graham!
He did too--or, well, actually the Army did. The link is to Stars and Stripes and what happened was Frank spoke out against Islam and that was enough to get him, well, banned. Because the military isn't just Christian. Here's what he said:
“I speak out for people that live under Islam, that are enslaved by Islam and I want them to know they can be free through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.”
Apparently calling Islam evil in an era when we have a lot of military personnel serving in Islamic nations--and plenty of our own Islamic soldiers--was enough to get him "dis-invited." No word on whether Obama was behind this.What about Lady Gaga? I'm not sure--other than that she's an Illuminati Puppet. I'd be a bit concerned about linking anti-bullying to religious war though--especially if the kerfuffle seemed to be centered around religious intolerance (which, you know, could lead to bullying? I'm not sure).

Conclusion: Weak--it's the tolerance one again.

3. Praying In the Gutter Outside the Supreme Court
It's true! A group of 15 kids and 7 adults were told to move by an officer of the court while holding a prayer for the justices. It's pretty clear that Obama himself dispatched that officer directly from the Oval Office ... or--hey? Look, are we supposed to actually believe that? That when Obama took office he issued a secret memo that told officers around SCOTUS to be 'on the look-out' for prayer? I'm not sure what the bright line is--in any event, from the news article (Fox) itself, we're told that the court does not have a policy of prohibiting prayer and they'll look into it.

Conclusion: What exactly do you take us for, Fox News?

4. BHO Dropped The Words "By Their Creator" Thus CHANGING THE MEANING! From His Recitation of the Declaration of Independence!
The way we're apparently meant to read this we're to believe that Obama went to the Congressional Hispanic Congress and stood before them and read the Declaration of Independence to them--word for word--like a school boy. Why? I'm not sure--maybe we're to assume he thought they needed to be educated in American History if they were going to be part of Congress. Seems logical, no?

So let me close by saying this. Long before America was even an idea, this land of plenty was home to many peoples. To British and French, to Dutch and Spanish, to Mexican -- (applause) -- to countless Indian tribes. We all shared the same land. We didn’t always get along. But over the centuries, what eventually bound us together -- what made us all Americans -- was not a matter of blood, it wasn’t a matter of birth. It was faith and fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights: life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
So, no, he wasn't "reciting" it. How bad was this anyway? I guess it depends on who you are--but the first link--which is someone condemning him for this--says this:
Ask yourself: Without the “endowed by their Creator” phrase, does Obama’s paraphrase adequately convey the true meaning of the Declaration? It certainly could be argued that Obama’s reference to “all men are created equal” suggests a Creator, and that his reference to “inalienable rights” (“unalienable rights” in the actual Declaration) suggests that these rights transcend government. But there is also no doubt that his paraphrase is far weaker than the original — so much so that many who hear only the paraphrase without recalling the missing words will not understand that the uniqueness and greatness of America stems from the recognition that rights come from God.
You can make your own decisions--but whatever the case: watered down--or just paraphrased--or a secret agenda--it's certainly not what's implied in the charge (that he was reciting): that borders on deceptive.

Conclusion: Weak. If you are going to charge someone with a secret agenda that is seen through specifics in their speech it is not a best practice to mislead about the content of that speech.

5. The Obama Administration Opposed Adding a Prayer To the WWII Memorial
There was a proposed bill (HR2070) to add the prayer to the memorial. Obama opposed it. The Obama administration prefers not to change the memorial. The bill  was passed in the house and referred to the Senate. Apparently it's still there. No action has been taken yet. The objection did not come from Obama but rather Robert Abby, Director of the Bureau of  Land Management, who said:
“It is not a judgment as to the merit of this new commemoration, simply that altering the Memorial in this way, as proposed in HR 2070, will necessarily dilute this elegant memorial’s central message and its ability to clearly convey that message to move, educate, and inspire its many visitors,” Abbey said in written testimony.
Conclusion: Fairly weak. There's no bright line to Obama and so far nothing has actually stopped the bill.

6. The White House Covered Up All Religious Symbols At George Town!
Obama was giving a speech. He wanted a neutral background like the one used for other presidential addresses (flags). They gave him one. There in fact were religious icons visible above him during the telecast. The religious symbol in question (the letters IHS) were visible 26 times around the room in which he gave the speech.
Georgetown University spokeswoman Julie Green Bataille: In coordinating the logistical arrangements for yesterday’s event, Georgetown honored the White House staff’s request to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind Gaston Hall stage.
The White House wanted a simple backdrop of flags and pipe and drape for the speech, consistent with what they’ve done for other policy speeches. Frankly, the pipe and drape wasn’t high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context.
Conclusion: Weak bordering on a lie (that he wanted all the iconography covered or that it was his specific intent to do so)

7. The Don't Ask Don't Tell Thing
Obama, for removing Don't Ask Don't Tell (vote Santorum if you want it put back--Romney hasn't weighed in yet), did it in a pretty restrained fashion. He opposed a court's ruling against it and had a survey done first by the armed forces which showed ambivalence about the whole thing. If the armed forces had come back with the survey saying "DON'T DO IT!" he'd have had a very hard time moving ahead. Instead, this seems to be something the military mostly doesn't care about. If they don't, why should we?

Conclusion: Do some research guys.

8. Bibles Banned At Walter Reed!
They were too. Here's the memo: LINK! At the bottom you'll see the restriction. This happened--it was ascribed to a badly worded attempt at religious tolerance (such as people giving bibles to Islamic soldiers) and was rescinded when complained about. Unfortunately neither Obama's name nor fingerprints were on the memo and Walter Reed backed down so quickly it'd almost make you believe their story that it was a mistake in the first place.

Conclusion: Never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity

9. A Christian Cross Was Removed from an Army Chapel and the Air Force had to back off On Operation Christmas Child
Indeed this is true. Unfortunately crosses are prohibited from Army chapels since way back when because they are multi-denominational and the Christmas Child thing was because it was, in fact, religious and has to be started by the Chaplain corps by regulation (so they could do it) and not the people who actually started it.

Conclusion: It's the tolerance one again and the military code of conduct--not Obama.

Obama is certainly not the best standard bearer for religious faith the presidency has ever seen. It's also true that there are things going on around America that do infringe on religious freedom (links are to a bible study group in Orange County California being charged with having a regular meeting of more than 3 people--something you apparently need a permit for). These are, in my opinion, at odds with American freedom of religion and make it clear that there are people who will use the courts (and whatever weird state laws are on the books) in their own personal attempt to secularize things.

However: We've always known this. There are assholes everywhere.What there isn't--or, at least, if there is I don't see it--is a bright-line connection between the Federal government, much less, specifically, the Obama administration which, I would think, has so much on its hands right now that it doesn't have the time or energy to coordinate a shadow war that is fought through the military chain of command and individual police officers outside the Supreme Court.

Making weak allegations like the above--either targeting tolerance as evidence of a war on religion or simply being misleading about circumstances and assuming people won't do the research--doesn't improve my opinion of Perry's (or, now, Santorum's) stance that this is something that needs to be fought. On the contrary: it's not clear what "fighting" the above would imply. Would formerly denomination-less Army Chapels become specifically religious? And which one ... what if it was ... Unitarian (:: shudder ::). Would there be a specific executive order to allow children to pray in front of the Supreme Court? When apparently it's not only not prohibited but was actually investigated? Are we really going to waste time on that? Is that the most important thing right now?

I guess we'll get to decide. Just not with Rick Perry.

Coda: Here is an article by Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York "The ‘war on religion’ is a fake"

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