Thursday, April 12, 2012

ACLU Sues Roswell for Violating Christian Preachers’ Right to Free Speech

JEREMY&JOSHUA 114Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the City of Roswell, NM, alleging that police officers repeatedly violated the First Amendment free speech rights of two local street preachers, Joshua and Jeremy De Los Santos. Joshua and Jeremy are brothers and members of the Old Paths Baptist Church in Roswell, where Joshua is the pastor. Both believe they have a duty to boldly preach the Gospel in public, and both regularly do so in publicly owned spaces. However, the Roswell Police Department (RPD) has arrested both brothers multiple times for expressing their sincerely held religious beliefs in public, as is their right under the First Amendment.

“Our right to express our religious beliefs is among the most precious of American freedoms,” says ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Freedom of speech and religion means that any person can express any religious belief, no matter how unpopular, in public without fear of arrest or government harassment. Today, the ACLU is standing with the De Los Santos brothers to affirm and defend this right in Roswell.”

In the past two years, Roswell police officers have arrested Jeremy De Los Santos five times for preaching in public and arrested Joshua twice for the same activity. In every case, the charges against the plaintiffs were dismissed by a court of law.

JoshuaThe De Los Santos brothers allege that the Roswell police falsely arrested them without probable cause for exercising their First Amendment right to Free Speech on public property. The brothers also claim that RPD confiscated phones, cameras, camcorders and a bullhorn, some of which have not yet been returned.

Jeremy De Los Santos also claims that RPD officers used excessive force on two occasions. On September 24, 2010, RPD arrested Jeremy for preaching outside in the church parking lot. Before placing Jeremy in the squad car for transport to the local detention facility, an officer sprayed pepper spray or a similar chemical agent in the back seat, making it difficult for Jeremy to breathe. On Memorial Day, 2011, RPD officers again arrested Jeremy as he attempted to preach at a public event held in a park. After RPD booked Jeremy into jail, they handcuffed him behind his back and shackled him to the wall in a painful stress position.

“The Roswell Police Department’s mission is to serve and protect everyone in their community, even the people they disagree with,” says ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Ed Macy. “Arresting people for publicly preaching their religious beliefs tramples on the Constitutional guarantees that the Roswell Police Department officers took an oath to uphold.”

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court by ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Edwin Macy and ACLU-NM Managing Attorney Laura Schauer Ives.

A copy of the legal complaint is attached here: Download De Los Santos v Roswell.

April 12, 2012 at 02:49 PM in Civil Liberties, Religion, U.S. Constitution | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

ACLU Protests Plans to Hold Bernalillo County Deputies Graduation in Legacy Church

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico released a statement announcing that it has sent a letter (pdf) today to Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston protesting plans to hold the only graduation ceremony for new County deputies at Legacy Church in Albuquerque. The ceremony will take place at 1:30 PM this Friday, August 26, at the church located on Central Avenue NW (see invitation).  According to biographical information posted on the County’s website, Houston worked as Legacy Church’s director of security “for several years” before becoming County Sheriff. Like Houston, BCSO Captain Scott Baird also is a member of the Legacy Church.

“Government officials should not use their official positions to promote their personal religious beliefs,” said ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson in the written statement. “Sheriff Houston evidently has a close relationship with Legacy Church. If he wants to encourage people to follow his faith, he should do it outside of the work context and should not use the authority of his position to require new deputies to attend the only official graduation ceremony in his place of worship.”

The ACLU’s letter cites multiple legal cases in which courts held that no government entity “can force [or] influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will.”  The letter ends with the request that Sheriff Houston identify a new, non-religious location for the August 26th graduation ceremony.

Simonson said, “It is hard to believe that there were no non-religious sites available to hold this event.  Why put the County in the position of discriminating among different faiths? Inevitably the Sheriff is going to alienate some deputies and their families who do not subscribe to his particular religious beliefs and cause them to fear retaliation if they voice their concerns to their new bosses.” 

August 25, 2011 at 04:00 PM in Bernalillo County, Civil Liberties, Law Enforcement, Religion | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Photo of the Day: Sen. Tom Udall Meets With Dalai Lama

UdallDalaiLama
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U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, met with the Dalai Lama on his recent visit to Washington. While in DC, the Dalai Lama also met with President Obama at the White House and marked his 76th birthday with an 11-day Buddhist ritual, the 2011 Kalachakra for World Peace.

July 29, 2011 at 02:28 PM in Peace, Religion, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ACLU-NM Investigates Constitutionality of Bloomfield Ten Commandments Monument

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) filed an Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) request with the City of Bloomfield, NM, requesting records regarding the city’s planned Ten Commandments monument. The monument, soon to be installed in front of the city hall, may violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from establishing or endorsing religious beliefs. The ACLU-NM says it is seeking through this IPRA request to determine whether the City of Bloomfield chose to erect this monument for a religious purpose.

“Religious freedom thrives when the government stays out of religion and does not endorse one faith over another,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson in a statement released today. “Matters of religious belief should be left to individuals, families and faith communities, not to governments or political majorities.”

Federal courts have repeatedly affirmed that the First Amendment prohibits the government from promoting one religion over another, or even showing preference between religion and non-religion. In many cases, monuments on public property featuring the Ten Commandments have been ruled as unconstitutional, the ACLU-NM explained.

As recently as 2009, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Haskell County, Oklahoma to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the county courthouse grounds, saying that a “reasonable observer” would conclude that the monument was an endorsement of religion. The county’s defense of the monument cost local taxpayers $200,000 in legal fees, according to the ACLU-NM.

“Which version of the Ten Commandments will the City of Bloomfield choose to endorse?” questioned ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Leon Howard. “Catholic? Protestant? Hebraic? The versions are all different. The City can’t erect the monument without snubbing one religious faith or another.”

June 22, 2011 at 05:38 PM in Civil Liberties, Legal Issues, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Art Jaquez Guest Blog: Obama and Faith

ArtJaquez This is a guest blog by Art Jaquez, a lifelong Democrat, proud liberal activist and starving artist, living in Blanco, New Mexico.

I was thinking about Obama’s speech in Tucson and was struck by the many injections of Christian verse into the ceremony. This was troubling to me, as one might argue that the injection of religion into politics, to the point that it is now a dominant force, is one of the reasons we find ourselves so starkly divided and at each other’s throats.

Today, we see otherwise good people behaving badly even though, at some level, they are aware that what they are doing is wrong. A kind of mob mentality has come to characterize many on the radical fringe, that shares many of the same causes as the Southern lynchings of the past; vigilantism, ideology and racism, combined through a religious rallying point.

I believe that the Republicans' embrace of the “Southern Strategy,” in response to civil rights movement of the 60's, and the rise of the "Religious Right" are the causes of this, where barely concealed racism is encouraged and where the magical thinking of religion is used to instill a righteous fervor in its participants, even when railing against a political issue despite a mountain of evidence supporting it.

164496_1756086578460_1127825694_2019460_4104750_aOne cannot reason with someone who does not believe in evidence or who rejects facts as inconsequential within their belief system. For example, it is an exercise in futility, to try and reason with someone who thinks the Arizona assassin should receive an exorcism rather than psychiatric treatment, because their religious beliefs trump the facts. And when our political leaders, of all stripes, reinforce this kind magical thinking and this rejection of facts within politics, while others incite these people with violent rhetoric, then they all work together to stoke the flames of fanaticism.

If that is true, then Obama’s speech, though soaring and healing on many levels, also contributed to the problems we face.

This is a guest blog by Art Jaquez. To submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

January 17, 2011 at 09:49 AM in Guest Blogger, Minority Issues, Obama Administration, Religion, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

ACLU-NM Distributes Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty in Public Schools

Over the next few days, the booklet Protecting Religious Liberty in Public Schools: A School Official's Guide will arrive in the mailbox of every public school principal and superintendent in New Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) developed this booklet as a comprehensive yet easy-to-use resource for schools to protect religious freedom while maintaining clear separation of church and state.

"Every school year, the ACLU responds to complaints from parents about violations of their children’s religious freedom in public schools," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson in a statement released today. "Religion poses tricky questions in the public school/charter school setting. On the one hand, schools must avoid any endorsement of religion and, on the other, they must guarantee students’ private right to practice their faith. Schools must also accommodate students’ free speech rights concerning religion and belief while preventing disputes that substantially disrupt the educational process."

Jonathan Wilks, Dean of School and Student Life at Amy Biehl High School in Albuquerque, received an advance copy of Protecting Religious Liberty and says that he almost immediately found the booklet useful:

"The booklet is remarkable for its clarity and its fairness of perspective. It was fortuitous that "Protecting Religious Liberty" arrived on my desk when it did. I had just been reviewing a request from a group of our students who were seeking permission to form a lunch time Bible Study meeting at our public high school, and the ACLU's booklet was instrumental in helping me understand our school's Constitutional obligation [permitting the group to form] to these students."

Further compounding the complexity of this issue, there is seventy years of case law concerning religion and public schools to navigate, according to the ACLU-NM. These decisions, ranging from school prayer to religious diet accommodations in the cafeteria, address different intricacies in the balancing act between maximizing student religious freedom while preventing state establishment of religion.

Some of the topics covered in the booklet include:

  • Prayer at athletic events and graduation ceremonies;
  • Intelligent design and evolution theory;
  • Christmas and religious holidays;
  • The Pledge of Allegiance; and
  • Student religious clubs.

The booklet is also available online at the ACLU-NM website (pdf).

January 13, 2011 at 12:54 PM in Civil Liberties, Education, Legal Issues, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Video: GOP Land Commissioner Candidate Matt Rush Running to 'Restore Christian Nation'


Matt Rush extols creation of "Christian nation"

We are Matt Rush's enemies.

Rush, a right-wing Republican who is running for New Mexico land commissioner against highly respected and Democrat Ray Powell, appeared in the political video above as part of an apparent online reach out to fellow Christians, or at least his particular brand of Christians. His spiel -- no doubt reminiscent of the "motivational speeches" he gives for a fee -- includes a call to battle against "the enemy." At least according to what's contained in the video, it appears that Rush thinks "the enemy" is any American who isn't dedicated to creating a "Christian nation" out of a nation founded on freedom of religion (and freedom from religion) and the separation of church and state.

Why is Matt Rush running for land commissioner? You really need to watch the entire video to get the full flavor and extent of his remarks (not to mention the treacly background music), but here are a few nuggets:

If we want to be a Christian nation again, Christian people have to start standing up, runnning for office again ... if we ever want to become a Christian nation again. That's the reason I got involved in politics.

... For those of us who are Christians and we are proud to say we are Christians, we need to start standing up being proud of it again and we need to take the fight to the enemy. So I encourage each and every one of you to get involved.

We've got to start standing up because we are one nation under god and we need to make sure we take that back to our legislative process.

Notice that Rush doesn't discuss any issues pertinent to the job of land commissioner. I guess he thinks it's enough that people know he will battle to put his brand of Christianity in the drivers seat, and to hell with all those other Christians who don't agree with his Christian nation schtick, as well as all the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, non-believers and humanists out there. Anybody who doesn't hold the same extreme religious views Matt does are "the enemy" and must be vanquished from government and the civic scene. Right?

Matt Rush, Christian Liar
Besides being absurd, dangerous and perhaps even anti-American, Rush's claim of moral and religious superiority is undermined by his own public dishonesty. He can't even tell the truth about his alleged educational achievement. Rush was caught in the act of lying, telling the Albuquerque Journal he has an associate degree in agriculture from Lubbock Christian University when the paper was getting info from him for a candidate profile. He doesn't have an associate degree (or any other degree). And yet he's reportedly been touting that achievement for years.

Matt Rush is also known for getting most of his campaign cash from moneyed oil and gas interests. The Journal's profile of him includes this info:

Businessmen from eastern New Mexico drafted him, according to Rush, and his campaign is being fueled in part by hefty contributions from oil and gas producers.

So, Mr. Christian Nation is having his political campaign funded by some of the very people who have a strong interest in how the state's vast land holdings will be managed and leased by the land commissioner. Doesn't sound very moral to me, especially for a guy who wants to remake America to match his extremist, right-wing religious ideology.

October 7, 2010 at 12:26 PM in 2010 NM Land Commissioner Race, Political Ads, Religion, Republican Party, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Obama Answers Question 'Why Are You a Christian? (Full Video and Text)

I see that most news outlets are focusing on President Barack Obama's answer to a question he got today in Albuquerque's South Valley that asked, "Why are you a Christian?" You won't see coverage of much else Obama had to say because, you know, this one deals with a meme that members of the "mainstream" media and right-wing operatives have long been pushing -- wowie, zowie, is Obama really a, you know, Muslim? Yikes!

In reality, the woman who posed the question said she was asking it because Mother Theresa had also been asked that question and she had loved her answer, which she had read in an article. Simple. She wasn't questioning whether or not he was a Muslim. And she wasn't "grilling" Obama as some news orgs are saying.

I also wanted to post the President's entire answer, in context, because most news outlets like to provide only a couple lines, leaving out Obama's discussion regarding the fact that its essential for America to embrace people of all faiths, no faith and everything in between.

See Mary Ellen's video above for the entire exchange, which also included a question about abortion. The full transcript of the question and answer is posted below.

Transcript:

Q Hello, Mr. President. Thank you for coming to the South Valley.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it’s great to be here.

Q It’s really a great opportunity, and I thank the Cavalier family for inviting me and my husband. I have three questions and they’re kind of hot topic questions and I’ll just -- THE PRESIDENT: All three of them?

Q All three of them. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: You didn’t slip in like sort of a easy, boring one in there with the --

Q No. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: All right, let’s hear them.

Q One of them is basically -- Mother Teresa answered it in an article and I was going to ask you the same because I loved her answer. The first one is: Why are you a Christian? Second one is, there’s really no laws about the abortion law and when a woman can and can’t have an abortion, whether it’s two months or eight months, and what is your view on that? And the third one -- it’s not as -- it is a hot topic but it’s literally a hot topic, and it’s about my husband’s chili peppers. (Laughter.) And that was my question: Would you please take some chili peppers home with you? One is a habanero.

THE PRESIDENT: I will definitely check out these chili peppers. I like spicy food to go with your spicy questions. (Laughter.)

Q Spicy.

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I’m a Christian by choice. My family didn’t -- frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn’t raise me in the church.

So I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead -- being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me.

And I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God. But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace.

And so that’s what I strive to do. That’s what I pray to do every day. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith. And it’s -- but the one thing I want to emphasize, having spoken about something that obviously relates to me very personally, as President of the United States, I’m also somebody who deeply believes that the -- part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and of no faith -- that this is a country that is still predominantly Christian. But we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and that their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own. And that’s part of what makes this country what it is.

Now, with respect to the abortion issue, I actually think -- I mean, there are laws both federal, state and constitutional that are in place. And I think that this is an area where I think Bill Clinton had the right formulation a couple of decades ago, which is abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I think that it’s something that all of us should recognize is a difficult, sometimes -- oftentimes tragic situation that families are wrestling with.

I think the families and the women involved are the ones who should make the decision, not the government. But I do think actually that there are a whole host of laws on the books that after a certain period, the interests shift such that you can have some restrictions, for example, on late-term abortions, and appropriately so. So there is in fact a set of rules in place.

Now, people still argue about it and still deeply disagree about it. And that’s part of our -- that’s part of our democratic way.

All right, next. I want to make sure I get everybody in.

September 28, 2010 at 07:02 PM in Faith Community, Minority Issues, Obama Administration, Religion | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cartoon of the Day: Mosque No Mas

Story
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More from Tom Tomorrow.

August 24, 2010 at 11:23 AM in Civil Liberties, Humor, Minority Issues, Religion, Republican Party, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stephen Jones: A Band of Cowards

Cartoon330

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, who is a progressive political activist and a resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

It is another week and with it, yet another grating message of intolerance from the Republican Party. Fast on the heels of last week’s assault on the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and birthright citizenship, the party of “no” now aims to overturn the 1st Amendment and trample upon the most deeply held conviction of the framers of the United States Constitution, cast at the very inception of the nation’s founding, the individual right of conscience.

This time Republicans have taken aim against the planned Islamic community center to be opened in a former Burlington Coat Factory storefront and office building two blocks from the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center terror attack. The center (and not a mosque) is intended to serve New York’s large Muslim community, along with members of other faiths, who live and work in the lower Manhattan neighborhoods.

Fear Mongering For Votes
This predictable and unseemly GOP attack on New York City’s Muslim communities would be laughable if it weren’t so brazenly calculated to stir up unfounded fears among the base of Republican voters nationally, and to generate divisions between Americans for the purpose of garnering a few extra votes in the upcoming midterm election.

Over the past weekend, Republican Presidential hopefuls were out in force to bash Muslims. Sarah Palin has been pandering to the hateful for weeks. Muscling his way to the forefront, Newt Gingrich, the one-time Speaker of the House said, “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” Appearing on FOX Gingrich compared Muslims to Nazis. “Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the holocaust museum in Washington,” Gingrich said. Joining the over-the-top chorus, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said the so-called “mosque” would “degrade or disrespect” hallowed ground. Mitt Romney, another Presidential hopeful, suggested the center might become a recruiting ground for terrorists.

Beyond the GOP Presidential rivals, all of the usual right-wing operatives have jumped aboard from FOX and the talk-radio media machine. Rush Limbaugh, the de facto leader of the Republican Party, told his audience that the New York Islamic center was tantamount to the Japanese opening a Hindu temple at Pearl Harbor.

I suppose I might point out here that Japan is almost entirely a Buddhist and Shinto nation, and probably has few Hindus other than those natives of India who are travelling on the east Asian archipelago, but the obvious lack of basic grade-school international knowledge of the Republican leadership is not the point. The issue here is the use of pathetic primal fears and hatreds to generate a few extra votes. Lacking any platform or program to meet the real challenges facing Americans today, the Republican Party has simply fallen back into its customary comfort zone, namely stirring up tribal bigotry.

Radical Islamic Power Center?
The so-called “mosque” is, in reality, to be a community center modeled on the YMCA, with a swimming pool, and sports and exercise facilities. It will include a prayer room. Muslims, who pray five times a day, require quiet contemplative areas to separate themselves from the bustle of urban life. The center plans to provide that space. As any resident of any large city knows, there are many similar Muslim prayer rooms across the United States, including at the Pentagon. The center received the approval of the City of New York’s zoning board by a 29-1 vote. The Mayor, the New York City Council and the citizens of New York all support the opening of the center, overwhelmingly.

Far from some radical Islamic power center, the facility was organized by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a moderate clerical leader. In 1997, he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement to promote the positive integration of Muslims into a pluralistic American society. He has participated regularly in Christian/Muslim/Jewish dialog groups and according to the FBI has worked with its anti-terrorist efforts. In short, he is a mainstream religious leader.

It is not Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and the planned community center that stand outside the mainstream of American society. Rather it is the Republican Party that stands in contempt of our cherished American values. The founders of our nation held that the freedom of conscience was first and foremost among our rights as citizens, rights that could never be abridged by pandering politicians. They cast that right of conscience into the 1st Amendment.

Framers Embraced Religious Diversity
Unlike today’s GOP leadership the framers of the Constitution were not afraid of religious diversity. Islam has always been a part of the American fabric. President Thomas Jefferson was the first American President to officially observe Ramadan at the White House in 1805. As a secular republic, our nation has welcomed all religions since its founding.

The Treaty of Tripoli, sent to the Congress by President Washington in 1796 and signed by President Adams in 1797 declared a state of harmony between this nation and the other nations of the world specifically in the area of religious belief. It reads, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Stand Up for American Ideals
Largely due to the rhetoric of bigots inside the United States, many of nations of the world are still doubtful as to whether we are, truly, a country based on principles or just one made up of petty tribal fears. The Republican Party has shown itself to be a band of narrow and hateful cowards. The rest of us need to stand up for the ideals of our heritage and for our genuine American values, including the founding creed of our nation; the recognition of the right of conscience for all people, both for ourselves, and for those who live beyond our shores.

To read more posts by Stephen Jones, visit our archive.

August 18, 2010 at 12:43 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Civil Liberties, History, Minority Issues, Religion, Republican Party, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guest Blog: Texas Republicans and Oral Sex - What Is The Deal?

This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady, a freelance writer and political activist who was active in Austin, TX for many years before moving to Washington State, where he helped found a DFA Chapter in Snohomish County, north of Seattle. He recently moved to Albuquerque.

Why in the heck is the Texas Republican Party going XTreme by adopting a platform that would outlaw oral sex -- as well as gay marriage, and crack down more severely than Arizona on illegal immigrants?

They want to deport children not born to naturalized citizens, end bilingual education except in a first few years, and they call for an end to Pre-Kindergarten education (Head Start.) It goes on. Here is a link.

Having grown up in Waco, in the Heart of Texas (H.O.T.) I can venture some explanation (beyond standing around in the sun too long without a hat).

This is pretty worrisome, because some aspects of this may drift over this way, through evangelical influence. On the other hand, it is a grand spectacle that may just give way to a future that is likely to be Democratic, ironically.

How Did We Get Here?
First, some political background. Karl Rove, Ralph Reed and others made their mark by forging a marriage of convenience to benefit Republicans. Houston Ship Channel interests, big oil and petrochemical (fertilizers, plastics, etc.) multinationals were annoyed by the rise of environmental protection and the early interest in non-chemically produced farm products that Jim Hightower became prominent promoting. The first time their money was cultivated for political power was actually back when Lyndon Johnson raised money by talking people like Clint Murchison into helping re-elect Franklin Roosevelt.

This history arises out of a deeper psychology. In a lot of towns, there is a ruling elite that from generation to generation are the same few families. They usually own a bank or two, and buy up a lot of property during recessions.

They have traditionally kept unions at bay, and have used the legislature to install the concept of "The Right to Work" as enforceable law. Churches have been at the service of the wealthy pretty much since the beginning. So, Right to Work has also been preached from pulpits in various forms that suggest that Heavenly reward for those who play by the rules is sweet indeed. Unionism is vaguely socialist.

This might sound twisted, but actually it is a brand of Calvinism that came in with pioneers from England and Scotland back in the early 19th Century. A lot of these people were farmers and making a go of ranching or cotton farming really took very hard work. So it was a hard work religion. If everyone works extremely hard and stays on it, they might prosper. There is no slack. When oil entered the picture, you had very poor dry dirt farmers becoming wealthy overnight. What explained this? God conferring power upon the righteous, who needed to do the Lord's work with this money.

Bush era politics arose back when I was in college, back in the early '70s. At that time Karl Rove was the Washington D.C. director of campus Republicans. Back then, Democrats were the only game in town, if you wanted to get elected.

To break in, they worked through campus Crusade for Christ groups and Bible study programs. This worked at the time because the progressive reforms of the sixties made them all afraid the End Times were coming. They felt that they had to do something to prevent America from becoming lost.

At the core of this, as I heard it at the time, was a sort of sophomore level logic. The public, seduced by the siren song of Hollywood and Liberalism, was not going to vote for people like them saying what they really thought. But, for the truly righteous, the ends justify the means. So, righteous people, standing for office, could say what the public wanted to hear and when in power, begin to work changes that would bring American back to the right path.

By the end of the 1970s, the true believers had found a partner in corporate interests, which were largely amoral and didn't have an investment in the religious goals, but which saw that the anti-environmental message could be a common interest. They were certainly in favor of the Right to Work orientation. Money + volunteer labor = win. As in most marriages, it was simple at the outset.

Next Up
Now, with the Gulf Oil spill and all, the thing they have left to rile up the evangelicals is -- you guessed it. Oral Sex. And Creationism.

This whole power thing is driving the controversy over the Texas State Board of Education. The reason that the 15-member board has a majority of members who want to re-write educational curricula for Texas schools and school texts, is that evangelicals are tired of losing arguments over the fundamental facts of history. Therefore, rewrite history to say that the Founding Fathers in fact did not intend for there to be a wall of separation between Church and State. They meant to establish a specifically Christian nation, and ipso facto, only the evangelical interpretation of what Jesus preached is the correct one.

Now, demographically, one of the drivers in Texas politics is the prospect that Hispanic voters will arrive at a majority or near-majority in the next ten to twenty years. At that point, the politics will begin to be more complicated. You will know that this point has been reached when an Hispanic candidate for governor actually wins.

This may not immediately make Texas a progressive, blue state, but it will put the more hardcore evangelicals out of the reach of having real power.

That prospect is why evangelicals are getting more X Treme in demanding control of the Republican Party agenda.

The danger this poses is that, in a time when the problems of our time are harder to resolve, get more complex and when they proliferate (possibly about the time that gas goes back over $4.00 a gallon) suburban voters may decide that the more extreme right wing has a clear handle on the problems.

That likelihood makes it all the more important that those who have a realistic sense of what is going on have their act together. It could get crazier.

This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page. To see previous guest blogs, visit our archive.

June 22, 2010 at 05:26 PM in Corporatism, GLBT Rights, Guest Blogger, Religion, Republican Party, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stephen Jones: A Moral Outrage

This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, who is a progressive political activist and a resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“Couté la liberté li palé coeurs nous tous.”

“Listen to the voice of liberty which speaks in the heart of all of us.”

--Boukman, August 22, 1791

On Wednesday, Pat Robertson, the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and several other commercial corporations, and a national leader of the Republican Party, pronounced on his 700-Club television show that Tuesday’s earthquake that devastated Haiti and has cost an estimated 100,000 lives was a “blessing in disguise.”

Robertson went on to blame the people of Haiti for their own tragedy. “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it,” Robertson said. “They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.”

This is yet another in an endless stream of outrageous statements by the televangelist and Republican leader over the past decade. Shortly after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, his fellow Republican preacher, proclaimed that the “ACLU, abortionists, feminists, gays, and the People For the American Way” were somehow responsible for the attacks.

Chris Roslen, a spokesman for Robertson told Politico that Robertson’s “comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French.”

Bois Caiman (the ceremony at the Alligator Woods) is considered by most Haitians as the beginning of their Revolution. On the night of August 22, 1791, a secret gathering of slaves in the backcountry wetlands of northern Haiti (then the French Colony of Saint-Domingue) swore an oath to one another to overthrow slavery and win for themselves the blessings of liberty.

At Bois Caiman, Boukman’s plead allegiance to “The god, who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge the wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice of liberty which speaks in the heart of all of us.

Within hours of Boukman’s appeal, the sugar plantations of the north were in flames. Boukman was quickly captured and publicly beheaded by the French, but another escaped slave, Toussaint L’Ouverture, a coachman, quickly took his place as the leader of the uprising.

In a succession of genocidal wars between the colonial powers from 1791-1804, the former slaves of Haiti defeated, in succession, the French colonial slave masters, an imperial invasion force from Spain, an invasion and occupation by the British, and finally, the French army under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother-in-law, General Charles LeClerc. LeClerc had been given orders by Bonaparte to put down the rebellion and “exterminate every man, woman and child.” From there, according to Bonaparte’s instructions, LeClerc was to move on to New Orleans, and presumably capture the United States. Instead LeClerc perished in the war. His army devastated in Haiti, Napoleon sold Louisiana, a third of a continent, to Thomas Jefferson.

On January 1, 1804 independence was declared and the old French Colonial name abandoned in favor of the half-forgotten Native American name for the land once inhabited by the Taino people prior to their extermination by the European colonists, Ayiti, or Haiti. It was the first and the only successful slave revolution in human history, and its shockwaves set all of Latin America on the path to independence, and slavery in the Western Hemisphere on the path to abolition.

That Haiti has been cursed can hardly be denied, but it is hardly an act of any god. All of the European powers and the United States, with slaves of their own to worry about, placed an embargo on the new Republic, ending its international trade and driving it into isolation and poverty.

In order to accept the fact of Haitian independence and abandon its colonial claim, in 1848 the French government demanded reparations for its loss in slaves in treasure in the sum of 150 Million Francs, in gold. Eighty percent of Haiti’s treasury. Haiti paid the French in exchange for the promise of peace. To service the debt, Haiti was forced to borrow money from Britain, Germany and, later, the United States. To prevent Haiti from defaulting on its debt, the United States invaded and occupied Haiti from 1915-1934, absconding with the profits from Haiti’s international trade, and leaving the country even more impoverished.

The rest is just “history” as they say. Haiti is still a nation abandoned to grinding poverty with international trade organizations demanding payment. In the face of Tuesday’s earthquake, this debt needs to be canceled. All of it.

Individual Americans can help in the relief by donating to those organizations that are working to help the victims of this natural disaster, but we can do more. We can also demand our representatives work to deliver aid, assistance and relief to Haiti. This is a not only a humanitarian issue, but one of national security for both of our nations. We can also demand that those corporations that profit off of Haitian labor pay a living wage, starting with Major League Baseball, whose official baseballs are manufactured in Haiti.

Republican Pat Robertson’s spokesman claims that the preacher is leading a major effort to provide aid. It is, more than likely, just another one of Pat Robertson’s use of a natural disaster to milk the flock for money to enrich himself and his own corporations. At any rate, Haiti needs aid to rebuild and to care for the injured, not proselytizing by racist demagogues like Pat Robertson.

A pact with liberty is not a pact with the “devil.” Robertson’s statements are an outrage and we ought to call on all of our religious, civic and political leaders, from every creed and political stripe, to denounce them for what they are. And we, and they, need to do so, today.

To read more posts by contributing writer Stephen Jones, visit our archive.

January 14, 2010 at 12:30 AM in By Stephen Jones, Contributing Writer, Corporatism, Haiti Earthquake, History, Religion | Permalink | Comments (5)