The Watering Hole, Monday, November 9, 2015: This Week In Crazy – Christian Persecution, God’s Punishment, and Transgenders and Bathrooms, Again

When you want to hear truly crazy, off-the-hook nonsense, it’s hard to beat the right wing. Those lovable misanthropes never fail to deliver when it comes to conspiracy theories so crazy even Alex Jones says, “Whoa, are you nuts?” Courtesy of the good people at Right Wing Watch (A project of People For the American Way dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities of the right-wing movement), here are some of the things that have gotten the right wing in a lather. We’ll begin and end with Pat Robertson.

Poor Pat Robertson. No matter how much he condemns them, he just can’t stop thinking about gay men and the things they do when they’re alone together. And now he’s so worried about it that he thinks God is going to collapse our financial markets.

Actually, Pat, I’d be more concerned about what Republicans are going to do to our financial markets. They’re the ones borrowing money at an unsustainable rate while refusing to raise taxes to pay for it. They talk about cutting spending, but not in the areas where they are borrowing the most money – the wars and the prescription drug plan, put together by a corrupt Louisiana Congressman (redundant, I know) who then resigned from Congress to head up Big Pharma. If Republicans were really worried about spending, why not make cuts in those areas? Why not raise taxes back to the pre-Reagan days, when all this income inequality started taking off and getting worse? It’s a popular Conservative myth that tax cuts pay for themselves. They do nothing of the sort. All they do is starve the government of the funds needed to help people who are down on their luck. But they don’t care as long as they keep getting re-elected to their phony-baloney jobs with the help of the very people helping to ruin the lives of millions. But this is nothing new to you, Dear Readers.

Over at Fox News’ “Outnumbered” they’re worried about illegal immigrants bringing disease to America. Specifically, they targeted tuberculosis (TB) as the problem, mainly because they misread and misinterpreted recent reports from the World Health Organization that say TB rivals HIV/AIDS as the leading infectious disease killer. Of course, as is typical with low-effort thinking conservatives, they didn’t explain why that is so. One reason is that spending on HIV has increased so much that fewer people are dying of it. Another is that just like reports of rape increased when women were encouraged to report it (not that the rate actually increased, just our awareness of its pervasiveness), health organizations are better able to track and report TB which leads to an increase in the numbers of people reported it have it. Relax. The death rate from TB is about half of what it was 25 years ago, with much of that improvement taking place in this millennium.

Congressman Randy Forbes (who apparently is also a preacher in his spare time, and who is also part of a constitutionally suspect group called the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation) thinks that there is a vast conspiracy of many organizations trying to destroy faith in America.

Speaking for myself only, I would be happy if this were true. I do not oppose all religion, just the ones that claim to worship a deity or deities. Those are the most dangerous because there is always somebody running them who claims to speak for God(s), and who always says you will be punished if you don’t do what God wants you to do. They often take it upon themselves to punish you in God’s name because apparently God is unable to punish you personally by Himself. There’s a very valid explanation for why that is. God doesn’t exist. That’s why He hasn’t punished us yet (or destroyed our financial markets yet.) And, of course, they’ll claim that you aren’t righteous enough to have heard this from God yourself, which to them is all the proof they need to punish you. It’s a game you can never win when believers in God take control of your government. The only thing you can do is attack these people all at once. As Ben Carson observed, they can’t get you all.

Bryan Fischer, who never met a Christian persecution myth he didn’t like, thinks that President Obama is going to imprison all conservative Christians, “if he had his way.”

Naturally, in true conspiracy nut fashion, Fischer is taking one story about prisons being cleared of some 6,000 non-violent drug offenders, chosen by the US Sentencing Commission for release because future sentencing guidelines are being made less harsh and applied retroactively, and assuming it’s for a purpose they fear – being locked up for disagreeing with the president. Here’s the problem with that theory, besides that it’s completely false – if President Obama were really the tyrant these RWNJs have been saying he is for the past seven years, he would have locked them all up a long time ago. He hasn’t because he isn’t.

Finally, back to good ol’ Pat. After previously expressing support for transgender folk, Pat took a turn in the opposite direction and claimed to not understand it at all. After reporting on a story of an Illinois school district cited for violating the civil rights of a transgender student, Pat then explained his problem, proving he doesn’t get it.

“This transgender stuff, I mean, this was a boy and this boy, we don’t know what surgery was performed on him, if any, we don’t know what his parts are, and yet he wants to go into the girls’ locker room and see all these disrobed little girls running around.”

Pat, I don’t claim to be an expert on transgender issues, and I’m not going to pretend I am. But I’m pretty sure that a boy who identifies as a female is not going to want to go into female locker rooms so he can look at the naked girls. May you do, but not him.

That’s it for this week’s look into the crazy minds of the right wing. I hope I didn’t frighten you too much.

This is our daily open thread. Enjoy.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 6,2015: Conservatives Think About Gay Sex A Lot

Pat Robertson is a frightened man. That’s not any new insight, we’ve all known that for years. But with the outcry over Indiana’s RFRA law (which was neither the first, nor was it identical to the early versions), and their subsequent “acquiescence” to those protests, Old Man Pat has come to believe his worst nightmares are coming true: Gay people will be accepted into Society as equals. And when that happens, somehow they’ll take over the world.

“They’re going to force you into their mold, they’re going to make you conform to political correctness, they’re going to make you do what the Left thinks is right, they’re going to make you acknowledge homosexual marriage, they’re going to make you embrace lifestyles that you think are anti-biblical despite your religious belief.”

There’s a lot wrong with those few sentences, including both projection and cognitive dissonance. Whether or not they realize it, Conservative Christians want everybody to be compelled by law to follow their religious beliefs. When you talk about making our laws conform to the Bible, you are imposing your religion on everyone else. If you can’t understand that, then perhaps you should sit back and let the rest of us talk. It is a fact. It is what they want. As for “political correctness,” I ignore that term. It was created by a right wing misanthrope named David Horowitz, and it only makes sense within the framework of an extremely conservative mind. Essentially, it’s a complaint conservatives have when they get called out for saying the kind of hateful, ignorant, bigoted things they’re known for saying. As for making people do things that anybody says is right, that’s what laws are for. Our entire system of laws is based on somebody’s (often a lot of somebodies) idea of what the right way to behave in our society is. So, yes, we on the Left think there’s a certain way you should behave toward your fellow citizens. If people on the right have a problem with it, it’s because they want the legal right to mistreat, abuse, demean, or otherwise put down people different from themselves. Are we going to make you acknowledge homosexual marriage? Only in the sense that we want you to see it as “marriage,” and not anything different than what you’re used to. If you define a marriage by the style of sex you have, then your definition of marriage is the problem. As for the last part, “they’re going to make you embrace lifestyles that you think are anti-biblical despite your religious belief,” exactly what does that mean? Homosexuality is not a “lifestyle choice,” no matter how much the frightened straight people claim it is. And nobody is asking anybody to “embrace” homosexuality, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. As for it being “anti-Biblical,” that’s just too fucking bad. Lots of things are “anti-Biblical.” Lots of those same things are perfectly fine according to other people’s religious beliefs. Why should things that are “anti-Biblical” be singled out for being banned by law? Why should some particular interpretation of “The Bible” become the basis for the way the rest of us live? Why does it matter so much what kind of sex people have? As long as it’s consenting adults participating (of any gender and number), why should it be any of our business? If you want to claim people should live by the Bible, then prove it. Pick up a stone and start stoning all those people who work on the Sabbath. Stone the farmer who plants two different crops in his field. Stone that woman wearing a dress made from two different cloths. They’re just as deserving as the two men who love each other and want to live as a loving married couple just like anybody else. (I almost never hear anti-marriage equality people complain about lesbians getting married, except for Ellen, it’s always the guys getting married that bothers them. “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” You never hear, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Alice and Eve.” I tell you, they think about gay male sex a lot more than they want to admit.

And Old Man Pat Robertson is definitely one of them. After going on that rant he came back the next day to continue thinking out loud.

“It doesn’t matter what custom you’ve got, it doesn’t matter what holy thing that you worship and adore, the gays are going to get it,” Robertson said. “They’re going to make you conform to them. You are going to say you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality, you like anything you can think of, whatever it is. And sooner or later you are going to have to conform your religious beliefs to the group of some aberrant thing. It won’t stop at homosexuality.”

One more time, Conservatives. Bestiality has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality. And homosexuals aren’t the only ones engaging in anal sex or oral sex. Many, many straight couples enjoy them, too, and nobody says we should deny service to straight married couples who engage in, what are legally called, acts of sodomy. And “liking” homosexuality does not equate to liking “anything you can think of.” That is just ignorant bigotry talking there, and why anybody would value the opinion of a man who believes such things is beyond me. Old Man Pat began this rant talking about the owners of Memories Pizza in Indiana, saying they should have kept their mouths shut. But if they did, there wouldn’t have been $842,387 raised on their behalf. The pizza owners claim their viewpoints (which they did not have to give) were misrepresented in the media. They claim they would be happy to serve gay people, but they just wouldn’t cater to a gay wedding. I hate to admit I agree with Pat, so I’ll just say that coincidentally enough, Pat agrees with me on this. This was an issue that would rarely, if ever, come up, because hardly anybody serves pizza at a wedding. But here’s the thing – by specifically saying they wouldn’t serve their pizzas to a couple holding a gay wedding, without specifying any other Biblical violations for whom they would deny service, they are admitting that the Bible has nothing to do with their viewpoint. The fact that they would be willing to serve gay people, just not their weddings, shows they are not adhering to Biblical principles. If the Bible is the reason they would deny wedding services to gay people, then they should be denying all services to gay people. After all, I’m sure they don’t question every woman who comes in to see if she is on her period. So the Bible can’t be the reason for their policy. But the Indiana law, as originally passed, would have given them the right to deny service to anybody they chose by citing their religious beliefs. It doesn’t have to actually be their religious beliefs, they just have to say it is. THAT’S what’s wrong with religious freedom laws like that – you are allowed to openly lie in court and claim something completely false led you to do what you did (or not do what you didn’t do.)

But Old Man Pat is not the only one confused about gay people. Mike Huckabee apparently has gay people confused with atheists. After insisting in an interview with Tony Perkins that the whole discussion about how far people can go to oppress the rights of gay people is a “manufactured crisis” (Huckabee insists the “war on woman” is a manufactured crisis, and that there is no war on women. Of course, what we call a “war on women” is just, to the Conservatives, Christians exercising their freedoms), Mikey went into full Conservative Defensive Projection mode. “The left has gotten very good on creating a crisis, something to divide the country, something to create this sense in which ‘we’ve got to go after these conservatives because they are trying to trample over our rights.'” Really, Mike? Can you say, “Benghazi”? He then went on to make the remarkable comparison:

“It is a classic example of — really a page out of ‘1984,’ when what things mean are the opposite of what they really are. And that’s what I’m seeing here is that in the name of tolerance, there’s intolerance. In the name of diversity, there’s uniformity. In the name of acceptance, there’s true discrimination.”

Let me stop you right there, Mikey. Never mind the fact that “1984” was about a lot more than just words meaning the opposite of what they really mean, about this whole “tolerance” thing. Conservative Christians simply do not understand the concept of tolerance. They seem to think that tolerant people are supposed to tolerate intolerant behavior, such as that exhibited by people who say the kinds of anti-LGBT things Conservative Christians are always being quoted saying. And we aren’t asking for uniformity in the name of diversity. Where the hell did you get that stupid idea? Frank Luntz? And, again, how is not accepting your discriminating behavior an example of discrimination on our part? You are the ones twisting words around, and projecting your own feelings onto us. Perky suggested that gay people who are denied service by one business should just go find another? But what if there are no others because your state law says places open to the public do not have to accommodate the public? He asks Mikey, “Where will it stop?”

“It won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel, and I’m talking now about the unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God’s truth.”

What Mikey ignores is that there is quite a lot of disagreement over what constitutes the “unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God’s truth.” Does it happen, in his mind, to coincide with the version of Christianity that he thinks is “correct”? I would argue that precisely because there are so many different flavors of Christianity that there is, in fact no such thing as an “unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God’s truth.” As for where it stops? It stops, Perky, when guys like you stop using your Bible to insist that the rest of the country behave according to your religion’s rules. Your religion is just as false as all the other versions of your religion, and just as wrong as all the other deity-based, Creationist religions. Your belief system makes zero sense to a mind capable of critical thought. To insist that it’s correct if you have “faith” is the same as saying, “It makes sense if you don’t try to make sense out of it.” If that’s what your belief system comes down to, then it cannot and should not be the basis of anybody’s laws. And it cannot and should not be accepted as a valid argument against any law. Later, Mikey insisted that “unlike the gay community, conservative Christians would never boycott a business like Walmart.” Not only did Perky immediately say he was boycotting Walmart over their objections to Arkansas’ RFRA, but Mikey forgot about the conservative boycotts encouraged by Townhall.com a couple of years ago. Out of five companies being suggested for boycotts, only one was for anything to do with LGBT rights. The other reasons were unions, MoveOn.org, Alec Baldwin, and Obamacare. And I’ll say this again and for the record: Yes, I am an atheist, but I am not totally unfamiliar with the teachings of the Biblical character known as Jesus. And I do not believe that those teachings could at all be characterized as “Conservative.” Caring for the health and well being of strangers is antithetical to the philosophy of Conservatism, but central to the teachings of Jesus. So the term “Conservative Christian” must be an oxymoron. It is impossible to follow the teachings of Jesus and still be Conservative. And if you’re following the philosophy of Conservatism, then you cannot be following the teachings of Jesus. The two are incompatible. Besides, I’m pretty sure Jesus had nothing to say about whether or not gay people should be ostracized from society. I do remember hearing that, like many of us Atheists, Jesus encouraged you to treat other people the way you yourself would want to be treated.

This post is from a much longer one on my own blog. You are encouraged to read the original here.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss LGBT rights, Old Man Pat, Mikey, Perky, or any other closeted gay men you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 2, 2015: How The Right Gets Net Neutrality Wrong

This past Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to change the way the nation’s internet service providers are regulated. After their proposed regulation, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, is published on the federal register in a few weeks, it will take effect sixty days later. This has some prominent right wing luminaries upset, even though it’s apparent they have absolutely no understanding of what net neutrality is. All it means is that all internet content must be treated equally by the internet service providers (ISPs). Comcast can’t slow down your Netflix streaming video just because they would prefer you use their subsidiary company’s product, Hulu. The ISPs aren’t happy, but you should be overjoyed. Don’t listen to these people.

People like Pat Robertson. Like many Conservatives, Robertson calls the new FCC regulations a “takeover” of the internet, and he adds that this is all part of a socialist agenda to take control of everything. As with most things Pat Robertson says, nothing could be further from the truth. The government is not taking over the internet which it created (and which Al Gore helped bring into the civilian world.) The government is simply making sure no private corporation can take over the internet and deprive you of content that might come from a competitor, or charge you extra to get higher speed internet for some content, and slower speeds for content like the blog you’re reading right now.

Robertson says the government wants to regulate the internet using a law written in 1934. That is false. They are using a law written in 1996 which updated the law written in 1934. He’s also wrong about the PP/ACA being a takeover of the healthcare industry. Conservatives frequently mischaracterize things in order to scare you into thinking something is happening which isn’t. And the goal of the fear mongering is the fear itself. People who are afraid often make bad decisions, and one of those bad decisions is voting for Conservatives.

Don’t listen to people like Rush Limbaugh, either. Limbaugh also thinks the government is trying to take over the internet it once created, but for a completely different reason. He thinks the government wants to ban bullets. I know it just flows so logically. You see, Rush is afraid of ISIS, and he’s afraid because they’re recruiting from all over the United States and Rush says “the government must have control of the Internet if we are to be safe.” (Projection.) Rush thinks the government is going to resort to extraordinary measures to fight ISIS, and that will include the banning of bullets. Except the government is not trying to ban bullets, they are trying to regulate armor-piercing bullets. And they won’t ban the ones that are “primarily” used for sporting purposes, so if a bunch of sovereign citizens decide today is the day the government is coming for their guns, they’ll still be able to shoot them with armor-piercing bullets.

And don’t listen to people like Ted Cruz, either. (It could result in brain damage. For you, not Ted. He’s already gone.) Somehow, Ted has it in his tiny little mind that regulating the internet will deprive you of your freedom.

“We do that fundamentally by standing with the people and not with Washington.”

For all their talk about Freedom, Conservatives still do not understand the concept that our federal government IS “We the People.” Then again, they never liked that from the beginning. It was Conservatives, those heavy on the “States’ Rights” idea (even though the Articles of Confederation proved the concept unworkable), who objected to the first three words of the Constitution. They felt it should have read “We the States.” And they haven’t given up that fight since.

“Washington wants Obamacare. The people want liberty.”

Here, and in the subsequent sentences, Cruz is using the term “The people” to refer only to Conservative Americans, and “Washington” to refer to everyone else. Conservatives do not view non-Conservatives as being “true Americans.” In fact, they see us as the Enemy, much as they did in 1776 when Liberals decided they wanted to explore the freedom of not being British citizens. Conservatives wrongly believe the individual mandate is both unprecedented and unconstitutional. (This despite the fact that President John Adams wrote a law requiring all mariners to buy health insurance, and despite the fact that SCOTUS ruled the law constitutional.) They don’t like it precisely because it does bring us incrementally closer to having Single Payer which, in their minds, equates to a total loss of freedom for everyone. Completely untrue, of course. It would only deny corporations the right to cheat you out of your life savings. But since corporations are not really poeple, that shouldn’t matter.

“Washington wants amnesty. The people want rule of law.”

This is a reference to the president’s immigration policy, announced in the wake of House Republicans refusing to do anything (like pass the bill the Senate did.) It’s not an amnesty program, like the one announced under President Reagan, no matter how many times they say it is. And even if it was, it wouldn’t be unconstitutional because the president has the constitutional authority to grant amnesty. And it’s not illegal, which they’ll learn when the SCOTUS upholds it. They just hate seeing anyone get help from the government. They don’t believe government exists to serve the people of which it’s comprised.

“Washington wants power over the internet. The people want freedom online.”

Conservatives have a hard time believing that anyone in government would want to do something that protects people from unscrupulous corporations. That’s because they believe the purpose of government is to protect unscrupulous corporations from the people. They want ISPs to be able to set up a multi-tier system of various speed options. They want it to be possible for ISPs to block content that competes with their own. The only possible way one could interpret net neutrality as taking away your freedoms is if you think corporations are people with the same rights as people. But to believe that, you would have to believe that corporations should have the right to terminate the existence of a subsidiary corporation still in the process of being created without government interference. IOW, to have an abortion.

This our daily open thread. Thanks to Obama’s FCC, you’ll still have access to this blog at the same speed as the big name corporations get. Use it wisely, and talk about anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 3, 2015: The End Is Not Near

Conservatives who claim to be Christians spent last year proclaiming the end times were nigh upon us though the evidence clearly suggests otherwise. (We’re still here.) It’s both funny and sad. Funny because these folks seriously believe this nonsense, and sad because these folks seriously believe this nonsense. And it IS nonsense because it makes no sense whatsoever. There are at least three different things that prove to these folks that we are approaching the end times, and none of them have anything to do with each other, nor can they be linked in any coherent way. And what are the five things that give true believers an indication the world is coming to an end?

Start with the Obama Presidency. According to US Representative Emeritus Michele Bachmann, both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are calling for both actual war and economic war with Israel. Of course, no such thing is actually happening, but when have facts ever gotten in the way of a Conservative Christian? (Speaking of which, can anyone out there list for me all of the teachings of Jesus that can even remotely be called Conservative? I strongly believe you can’t be both a Conservative and a Christian at the same time. That’s why Conservative Christians always come off as crazy. They’re walking around trying to believe two diametrically opposed philosophies.) Why she’s complaining baffles me because a war in Israel would bring about exactly what she desires – the end times, which means the Rapture, which means (she thinks) that she’s going to Heaven, despite all the many, many times she’s been known to bear false witness, such as in her claims that Obama dn Kerry want to bring about war in Israel. Or maybe, as televangelist Marion Gordon Robertson (better known as “Pot“, I mean, “Pat”) believes, the end times are upon us because Obama’s a “crypto-Muslim.” (Don’t worry, Pot’s praying for us. Did I say Pot again? I meant Pit, of course.) Or maybe it’s because Matthew Hagee is right and the end times are here as evidenced by Obamacare. Or maybe Franklin Graham is right and the end times are near because Obama isn’t cracking down on gay people enough like Vladimir Putin. (I meant not cracking down enough like Putin, not gay people like Putin. As far as I know, there is no evidence that proves that Putin is not gay.) Although Mark Creech thinks the end times are near because Obama is the Antichrist. Oh, and something about America being akin to the story of the Tower of Babel, which he believes “is a historical narrative of the first recorded form of government gone awry.” Right, because the Bible is such a reliable source of actual human history. (You can’t see them right now, but my eyes are rolling up in my head. Either because I can’t believe people believe the Bible contains reliable historical facts, or I’m having a stroke.) Or maybe Jonathan Wright is correct and Obama is the Antichrist because of the Bible Code. But whatever the reason, you can rest assured that the end of the world is coming because Barack Obama is president. (Isn’t it funny how the last three Republican presidents all gave huge tax breaks to the wealthy, which goes against everything Jesus taught his followers, but Obama is the Antichrist? Lies are a huge problem for real Christians, but not for Conservatives, which is why no Conservative can truly claim to be a Christian.)

Perhaps the end of the world is coming because of Ebola. Hagee thinks it might, and so does his father, John Hagee. But don’t worry, because Jim Bakker wants to sell you ice cream sandwiches to enjoy while everyone else is dead. Glenn Beck thinks Nigerian prison guards working in Texas will bring an airborne version of the deadly virus to the US and that we’ll be humbled (while we eat those sandwiches) and that Ebola was spiraling out of control. Not that facts have ever been known to influence your “thinking”, Glenn, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe the exact opposite.

But don’t think for a moment Teh Gays are getting away without blame for all of this because, you know, they have too many rights. Whether it’s Matt Barber and Deryl Edwards’ theory that acceptance of gay Christians is to blame, or Linda Harvey’s theory that marriage equality is bringing it about, or Michael Bresciani’s theory that gay rights are responsible for increased terrorism in the world, or Flip Benham’s theory that homosexuality destroys nations, or Rick Wiles’ theory that our lack of support for Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay policies will result in nuclear war, or Dwight McKissic’s theory that Michael Sam’s coming out will do it, or Scott Lively’s theory that a Satanic conspiracy is “homosexualizing the world,” or Mike Huckabee’s theory that gay marriage victories will lead to God’s judgment, or even Sam Rohrer’s theory that same-sex marriage will lead to “tyranny” and the “destruction of our nation”, somehow, some way, Teh Gays will bring about the end of the world.

Seriously, do these guys have anything else to think about? I know it comforts them to believe they will be Raptured, but I think they ought to learn a little bit more about the message of Jesus before they start thinking themselves saved. To be perfectly honest and 100% accurate, I have just as much chance of getting into Heaven as any of them do.

A longer version of this post will appear on Pick Wayne’s Brain later today. I’ll put a link on the blog name when it’s ready. Got some grocery shopping to do for Mom before the snow hits, and the playoffs begin.

UPDATE: The longer version is posted. And I neglected to add something to this post, which I did to the one on my Brain: My most humble thanks to the wonderful folks at Right Wing Watch for their painstaking research and cataloging of what the Right Wing is up to in public. Without them, my ability to report it back to you, Kind Readers, would be much, much harder.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the end of the world, or anything else that pleases you.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 18, 2014: Is Stupidity Worth the Price of Religious Freedom?

In an impassioned (if somewhat inaccurate) defense of “speaking the truth,” Senator Ted Cruz (Regressive, NeverNeverLand) completely mischaracterized and fabricated a rationale for a subpoena brought about in a legal dispute over the validity of petition signatures to overturn a Houston, TX, ordinance that hasn’t yet gone into effect, and which could not have been used in the manner he feared even if it did. He’s not the only one doing it. TV personality on his own network and malignant boil on the skin of religious liberty, Pat Robertson, is also making up his own reasons for the subpoenas. The subpoenas in question were intended to find out what instructions were given to signature gatherers organized by five local pastors. Mayoral Spokesperson Janice Evans said, “Neither the mayor nor City Attorney David Feldman were aware the subpoenas had been issued until Tuesday. Both agree the original documents were overly broad. The city will move to narrow the scope during an upcoming court hearing. Attorney Feldman says the focus should be only on communications related to the HERO petition process.” They sought

“all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

Yes. If all they were after were the instructions given to people gathering signatures, then this subpoena was unquestionably too broad. And so the city has refiled the subpoenas with the focus solely on the petition process instructions. And that’s as it should be.

But what about all the diaper-filling crying by the religious right about what these subpoenas were really about? These are allegedly educated men. Did they not understand the issues involved? Does Cruz really believe this issue had anything to do with pastors being “hauled off to jail for a hate crime because they are speaking for traditional marriage”? Does Robertson really believe that Mayor Parker’s “predilections” were exposed by this incident (the filing of the subpoenas), and that it’s the worst demand by a mayor in modern times? (Robertson must have slept through the Civil Rights struggles of the 50’s and 60’s.) According to the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) (emphasis mine)

…bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

So even if the law were in effect and the sermons sought by the original subpoenas were legally obtained, they still could not be used to prosecute the pastors under the HERO because they’re exempt. It’s hard to believe Cruz and Robertson don’t understand this. But sadly, it’s easy to believe their target audience doesn’t. They’re counting on their target audience not bothering to take the time to learn the facts about the subpoenas, and so they’re describing them in ways that have nothing to do with reality. (But then, when have Marion “Ted” Cruz or Rafael “Pat” Robertson ever been known to have anything to do with reality? No, seriously. When?) And what are they saying? Some of the stupidest stuff being said today as part of the anti-LGBT movement. They’re claiming that suppression of this nonsensical hate mongering (if that were, in fact, the intent of the subpoenas) is a violation of their religious freedom! And therein lies the problem.

No one will dispute there are limits to the rights expressed in the Bill of Rights, including the freedoms of speech and religion. There are certain things you are not allowed to say (whether you mean them or not), and there are certain religious practices in which you cannot always engage any time you wish. Because of the danger to lives that panic can cause, you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater, nor can you do it in a church for the same reason. Which leads to the logical conclusion that there are things you can’t say even in a church. Which leads to the question of the dividing line between speech and religion. When does religious freedom cross into the areas of speech where you are not free to roam? And even if it doesn’t cross the line of constitutional protection, how much stupidity are we expected to withstand in the name of religious freedom? And what about the people too stupid to understand the issue? What if the religious message being given is not an accurate reflection of the official religious doctrine? Is it still protected? What religious conservatives think is “pro-traditional marriage” language is often “anti-homosexuality” language, so is it still protected? More distinctly, is it protected speech or protected religious practice? If your religious beliefs lead you to believe stupid and wildly inaccurate things about your fellow human beings, which in turn cause you to say stupid, harmful things to another person, are you still freely exercising your religion? What if the foundation of one your religious beliefs is provably wrong? Are you still free to claim it’s true and that you are justified in your hatred? Are we so caught up in the idea of religious freedom that we’ll allow stupidity to become the prevailing wisdom?

This is our daily open thread. Talk about whatever you wish. Within reason, of course.

Stewart to Robertson: ‘Shut your pie hole, old man’

Vodpod videos no longer available.
From Raw Story:

Some conservatives have been politicizing the earthquake in Haiti and Thursday Jon Stewart took notice. “At times like these I guess the only thing you can say that whenever something this horrific happens everyone comes together. Almost everyone,” said Stewart.

Rush Limbaugh was one of the first conservatives to politicize the disaster. “This plays right into Obama’s hands,” Limbaugh said on his radio program Wednesday. “Humanitarian, compassate. They’ll use to this burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community, both light skinned and dark skinned black community in this country. it’s made to order for them.”

Stewart frowned at Limbaugh’s remarks. I think I know the cause of your heart trouble: you don’t have one,” said Stewart.

Jon Stewart goes on to take issue with the insanely insensitive remarks by nutjob Pat Robertson:

But Limbaugh wasn’t the only conservative voice spouting unfortunate comments. “I guess Rush Limbaugh is not the one you turn to in times of crisis. In times like these, you turn to men of god,” Stewart said, introducing a clip of Pat Robertson.

Robertson attempted to explain the cause of Haiti’s troubles on his show, “The 700 Club,” Wednesday. “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might want to talk about it. They got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said we’ll serve you if you get us free to the prince. True story but ever since they’ve been cursed by one thing after the other,” concluded Robertson.

“Shut your pie hole, old man,” exclaimed Stewart. “Out of all the things that you could draw on from your religion to bring comfort to a devastated people and region — look how big your book is,” Stewart said as he displayed a Bible to his audience.

“The lord is close to the broken hearted. He rescues those who are crushed in spirit. Fear thou not for I am with thee. Be not dismayed for I am thy god,” Stewart read from the Holy Book.

“But you decided to go with tough titties, devil folk,” joked Stewart.

“Have you read this book?” The Comedy Central host continued to read passages from the Bible. “From the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed from the lord who has compassion on you.”

“I mean, that almost sounds like it’s about a fucking earthquake,” exclaimed Stewart.

“You got all this and you went with an urban legend about a deal with the devil. None of this would have happened if those people hadn’t drank all those pop rocks and coke,” the comedian concluded.

I just have to throw this in there.. I find it odd that Pat Robertson thinks he can speak on behalf of the devil.. Does that mean he has a personal relationship with the devil? That he has personal conversations with him that makes it possible for him to speak on his behalf..? (Robertson: “And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal’…)

Rachel Maddow touched on Pat Robertson’s non-apologetic response to the firestorm caused by his words:

Following the reading of yesterday’s statement put out by CBN, Rachel says this:

“So in other words, the defense of Pat Robertson’s claim that Haiti suffered this earthquake because it’s cursed is a Christian Broadcasting (CBN) statement that Haiti really IS cursed. Also, he’s clarified that the earthquake wasn’t God’s wrath, it was the wrath of the devil which the Haitian people brought upon themselves, which means that everything you thought about Pat Robertson when you first heard these comments from him, feel free to keep thinking them. He meant it..”

Yeah, that made the previous remarks by Robertson sound better..

Don’t even get me started on Rush Limbaugh and his really stupid words