WEEK IN REVIEW: How is Ted Haggard back in the news?!
Maddow on Christian Nationalism, a Republican’s anti-gay hypocrisy, how anti-abortion laws are “theocratic,” and more!
Thank you for checking out this newsletter! Thank you even more if you become a full subscriber! Consider giving someone a gift subscription! Think of your friends! (Or your enemies.)
In 2015, Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania said the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling forced Americans to “redefine biblical marriage.”
Just last week, Thompson voted against a bill that would’ve codified protections for same-sex couples nationwide. No surprise there. Most Republicans did the same thing.
But then, just days after that vote, Thompson attended the wedding of his gay son. His spokesperson said he was “thrilled” for the occasion.
The Christian hypocrisy is just staggering.
Meanwhile, Christian Right leaders are actively pushing for Republicans to overturn marriage equality the next time they have the opportunity:
Last week, a Kentucky judge ruled that abortion procedures could continue in the state, issuing an injunction requested by two women’s health clinics in Louisville. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we don’t know how long this will last.
But what’s notable is why Jefferson Circuit Judge Mitch Perry blocked the abortion ban. He said that the six-week abortion ban, which established “fetal personhood” (an idea claiming “life begins at the very moment of fertilization”), was a religious view, not a scientific one.
”This is a distinctly Christian and Catholic belief. Other faiths hold a wide variety of views on when life begins,” Perry wrote, adding, “There is nothing in our laws or history that allows for such theocratic based policymaking.”
He nailed it. The abortion bans we’re currently seeing are nothing more than a conservative Christian belief doubling as secular law. There are many reasons to oppose the bans, but the theocratic elements shouldn’t be ignored.
Send your love to the Oglala Sioux Nation for how it’s preventing religious missionaries from spreading hate among tribe members.
That tweet isn’t *entirely* true, though. After an evangelist recently distributed a pamphlet suggesting in no uncertain terms that Lakota spirituality was “devil worship and paganism,” the tribe decided Christian missionaries will have to register to have access to members.
That means providing background checks, financial reports, and agreeing that any photos of Lakota children will never be used for fundraising. Those who violate this protocol will be removed from tribal lands by law enforcement.
Back in 2019, a Tennessee woman, Shandle Marie Riley, claimed a cop baptized her against her will. She felt compelled to participate because she worried what officer Daniel Wilkey would do if she didn’t comply. Her eventual lawsuit had received a green light from a judge when she suddenly died.
WTVC has now obtained police camera footage of that baptism taking place. She wasn’t lying.
If you were to just take a course with the Church of Scientology, they may demand that you sign a contract that includes a religious arbitration clause. If there were some issue in the future, then, you couldn’t sue the Church. Making matters worse, the mediators who would handle disagreements are members and allies of the Church.
But what happens if you leave the faith?
There’s a group of women who have filed sexual assault charges against That ’70s Show actor and prominent Scientologist Danny Masterson of sexual assault. (He denies those charges and will face trial this fall.) As a result, they say, the Church has harassed and tried to intimidate them—by surveilling the, killing their pets, tapping their phones, poisoning their trees, etc. They’re suing the Church for that reason.
The Church, however, says the women can’t do that. In a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, Scientology’s lawyers argue that the women are bound by the religious arbitration clause they signed as members. If SCOTUS agrees (which is a long shot, but who knows anymore), it could create a chilling effect that silences members of any religion even after they walk away from it.
In 2014, the Ocala Police Department in Florida promoted a Christian prayer vigil, saying that a recent string of crimes could only be resolved with “fervent prayer.” They went ahead with the vigil despite warnings from church/state separation groups, and a subsequent lawsuit against the city was successful. At the time, the judge said “the government cannot initiate, organize, sponsor, or conduct a community prayer vigil.”
He justified that decision using what’s known as the Lemon Test, a three-prong standard to assess whether government action goes too far when it comes to religion. It says a statute must have a secular purpose, neither advance or prohibit religion, and avoid “excessive government entanglement” with religion. Failure of any one of the prongs would have been enough for a judge to declare the event illegal.
It failed all of them.
That was five years ago. Since then, a right-wing group appealed the decision, and this week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the earlier ruling. They said the Supreme Court has now done away with the Lemon Test, therefore the judge needs to reconsider the decision.
In short, because the ultra-conservative Supreme Court decided the Lemon Test is dead, it’s now much harder to prove when government actions violate the Establishment Clause. This is just one example.
After the Supreme Court’s Bremerton decision, allowing a football coach to perform showboat prayers at midfield after games, the big question was what that meant in practice for everyone else. Now we’re seeing what church/state separation advocates feared: Christians—and only Christians—are going to try and shove their faith on kids.
The Washington Post’s Hannah Natanson spoke with a number of people eager to make proselytizing a normal part of the public school experience:
If done well, [superintendent of Eaton Rapids Public Schools in Michigan Bill DeFrance] added, coach-led prayer could yield advantages for his district’s 2,000 students, serving as a way to learn about other cultures.
“I could see some real interesting things like, ‘Okay, Bill, you’re Hindu, you lead the prayer this week,’ and give some background about why Hindus pray,” he said. Plus, “I do think sometimes having a little bit of a spirit helps you to play.”
I don’t know if I’m angrier because I’m an atheist, or because DeFrance thinks Indian kids typically play football, or because the entire hypothetical would never happen in practice since Christians would be leading the prayers every damn week.
A judge says Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert, the Christian Nationalist and failed Lt. Gov. candidate, will have to hand over a *bunch* of documents detailing his efforts to block atheists who criticized him online. It’s the latest twist in a case that’s been in the system for several years.
Anyway, that sound you hear is all the popcorn. Because we’re about to learn a lot about how Rapert conducts his online business…
On Thursday, Rapert responded to all of this by… pretending to be a victim.
Speaking of Christian Nationalism, does this shirt come with a matching hood?
There was a time when Ted Haggard was the poster child for evangelical Christian hypocrisy. After the prominent evangelical leader was exposed for seeing a male escort and allegedly using drugs in 2006, he mostly stayed out of the spotlight (outside of a few magazine profiles). But this week, he’s back in the news for—wait for it—alleged sexually inappropriate behavior... and using meth.
But at least he’s completely heterosexual, amirite?
Dan Cox is the Republican nominee for governor in Maryland… and a Christian extremist. After his primary win, he posted video of his speech with a caption referencing a Bible verse: 1 Sam. 17:47:
I’m more worried about the lines right before that since 1 Sam. 17:46 reads "This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head."
(Life hack for readers: If a Christian politician ever quotes the Bible, always look a few lines before or after, and you’re more likely than not going to find something horrifying.)
You’re never gonna believe this: States that support abortion rights also do a better job of taking care of mothers and their children. The states that want abortion bans? They don’t care about the baby or mother either.
Readers of this newsletter are well aware of the dangers of Christian Nationalism, but it’s nice to see Rachel Maddow explaining the concern to a much larger audience. It’s not about Jesus; it’s about spreading white supremacy and conservative bigotry in the name of Jesus.
The talking point that Democrats “hate god” makes no sense at all.
Most Democrats (84%) believe in God.
Virtually every Democrat in Congress believes in God.
Even most atheists would say they don’t “hate” God because they don’t believe God exists.
Christian pseudo-historian David Barton says the Constitution took passages from the Bible “verbatim”… because he’s either lying or has no clue what “verbatim” means.
Not only have two Texas billionaires helped moved the state further to the right, they’re doing it because “their ultimate goal is to replace public education with private, Christian schooling,” according to their associates. One of the men, Tim Dunn, allegedly said only Christians should hold leadership positions in the Texas House.
That is the sort of bigotry that mainstream Christians, especially white evangelicals and conservative Catholics, are perpetuating through their support for the GOP. They’re all complicit in spreading this hate.
As usual, Newt Gingrich is lying because he knows conservative Christians will believe anything.
As I explained weeks ago, this grant is one of many meant to spread religious freedom, in specific ways, across the globe.
A new analysis of data by sociologist Ryan P. Burge finds that, among people born after the year 2000, known as Gen Z, more women than men identify with no organized religion.
The Zoomer “Nones” are predominantly female, something we never saw in earlier generations. I have my own thought as to why this is happening, but the real question is what churches plan to do to reverse a trend they arguably created.
The premise is flawed…
This one’s for the paying subscribers: Ark Encounter saw a dip in attendance in June, according to public records. That’s always bad news for them, but it’s especially bad considering the summer months are when tourist attractions generate the bulk of their money.
We can only hope more people come to their senses:
Fundamentalist Christian grandmother Lori Alexander, a.k.a. The Transformed Wife, wants you to know she’s a better woman than all other women.
And now for your weekly dose of fundie insanity:
This week in Atheist Bible Study? Numbers 12! Now that everyone's swimming in quail flesh and gorging on bird meat, the road trip can continue. But some passengers really want to start a fight... and they turn out to be very racist.
I spoke with my co-host Jessica Greiff about many of the stories in this newsletter during this week’s podcast:
Finally, don’t let Greg make your medical decisions:
That’s it for this week! Stay safe. Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Please become a full subscriber or share this with someone who may enjoy it. It would mean a lot to me :)