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Tilting at Windmills

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December 18, 2010

THIS WEEK IN GOD.... First up from the God Machine this week is the ongoing fallout from the Southern Poverty Law Center's decision to label leading, anti-gay religious right organizations as "hate groups."

In November, the SPLC, a respected source for decades on monitoring extremists and hate-based organizations, raised quite a few eyebrows with its updated lists, which included some leading religious right entities -- including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association -- along side mainstays like the KKK.

The religious right movement, not surprisingly, was apoplectic -- they want to spew hate without being labeled a hate group.

This week, however, the groups received some higher-profile backing.

A number of prominent Republicans have signed on to the Family Research Council's "Start Debating, Stop Hating" campaign in response to a Southern Poverty Law Center annual report that labeled the Family Research Council a "hate group." [...]

Unsurprisingly, the FRC was not happy about the designation, and labeled the list "slanderous." And today they launched a "Start Debating, Stop Hating" website, and took out a full page ad in Politco, Dave Weigel reports.

The ad says: "The surest sign one is losing a debate is to resort to character assassination. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal fundraising machine whose tactics have been condemned by observers across the political spectrum, is doing just that."

More interesting than the ad is who undersigned it: incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.), Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), and even Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R).

The Republican Party isn't always reliable when it comes to passing legislation the religious right movement wants, but when it comes to defending the groups' extremist and hate-filled rhetoric, the GOP has its allies' back.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Atheists have purchased some ads on four city buses in Fort Worth, Texas, and the New York Times reports that it's led to a "clash of beliefs" that has "rattled" the city. Among the responses: ministers organizing a bus boycott, a push to ban all religious advertising on public buses, and my personal favorite, a decision from local businesses to hire a "van with the Christian message to follow the atheist-messaged buses around town."

* Following up on earlier reports about Kentucky helping finance the development of a creationist theme park with tax incentives, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) insisted this week that the state will not allow the theme park to discriminate on religious grounds when hiring employees. That's good news, but it doesn't quite reconcile the subsidies problem.

* And the Vatican scandal stemming from the sexual abuse of children took another turn in Ireland this week: "The Vatican tried to stop Irish church leaders from defrocking a paedophile priest whose abusive behaviour was known about from the early 1970s, a previously censored chapter from a report on clerical child abuse in Dublin revealed today. Father Tony Walsh, who was imprisoned for raping boys last week, is named in the report as one of the worst child abusers in the Dublin archdiocese." (thanks to D.J. for the tip)

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Is a normal Fort Worth greeting on meeting a new person, "Where do you worship?"

That sounds aggressive to my Canadian ears, along the lines of How much do you make? What political party do you support? and Are you gay or normal?

Posted by: Bob M on December 18, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Why Ken ; We would all like to wish you a Merry Christmas too. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: John R on December 18, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

What was that old guy Aquinas saying about accepting both reason and faith as legitimate domains of human knowledge?

Oh, I forgot. I just prestiged on my Black Ops for the third time - a whole lot of dead zombie Nazis!

Citizens of Fort Worth, what are your children really doing on Sunday mornings once they've put their pew time in? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 18, 2010 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Re: the Atheists vs Christians. I have never been able to fathom what the God believers are so insecure about, that they feel threatened by words . A little unsure about your invisible man in the sky?

Posted by: John R on December 18, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

One quibble with the Ft. Worth story: The trucks weren't hired by local businesses, they were hired by anonymous people from outside the area.

Posted by: Realist on December 18, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

I'm beginning to think that Marx was wrong, that religion is not the opiate, but the crystal meth of the people.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on December 18, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Funny how, after years of lying and engaging in character assassination of gays as a group (gays are all pedophiles, boys have to be recruited to become gay, gays can be changed) supported by bogus research or deliberate misinterpretation of legitimate research, the FRC and its allies get all apoplectic when they're actually called on it. As they said, "the surest sign of losing a debate is to resort to character assassination". Projection much?

Tell you what guys. I'll start actually debating when you stop lying about me.

Posted by: Don K on December 18, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican Party isn't always reliable when it comes to passing legislation the religious right movement wants, but when it comes to defending the groups' extremist and hate-filled rhetoric, the GOP has its allies' back.

Well, yeah, because if hate suddenly went out of vogue, what tool would the Republicans have left to motivate their mouth-breathing masses? As long as they can keep their idiots afraid of some group of Others, they can continue to produce "majorities" to do their bidding. It's Hate Theater! Everyone can sing along!

Posted by: Gaia on December 18, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

I think there should be both a Creationist theme park and an Atheist theme park. Let consumers decide whether God exists.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on December 18, 2010 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

BOISE, Idaho — As many as 15 people who knew that a Boise police officer had confessed to molesting babies will face no criminal charges.

Ada County sheriff’s deputies investigated whether those people should be charged with failing to report the crimes. But deputies have determined that the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation that Stephen R. Young attended can’t be charged because of Idaho’s clergy privilege law.

Church officials argue it’s because of that clergy privilege that Young is in prison today.

The Idaho code that defines members of the clergy — including LDS lay bishops and stake presidents — allows people to confess crimes without fear of their confessions being reported to police. But LDS officials say church policy and practice is to urge such people to turn themselves in.

Randy Austin, an attorney specializing in child abuse cases for the church in Salt Lake City, said, "church leaders avoided violating the clergy privilege — a breach which could have tainted the evidence against Mr. Young and jeopardized his prosecution.”

Young turned himself in on March 2, about two months after church officials say they first talked to him about his crimes.


Posted by: dj spellchecka on December 18, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

So atheists buy advertising on four city buses in Fort Worth and it has the city rattled? And local businesses have hired a "van with the Christian message to follow the atheist-messaged buses around town"?

Wow. Does anyone else get the feeling that a whole lot of Christians in Fort Worth don't have much faith in their God? Could many secretly suspect their religion is a sham? I mean, probably 90% of the city professes to be Christian, there are churches everywhere, and only about 2% of the people call themselves atheists. It seems odd that the presence of an ad on just four (4!) city buses can have such a huge affect. Unless...

Posted by: Trakker on December 18, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Steve re; the creationist theme park -- my father is a close friend of Beshears and I asked Dad about the state subsidies a while back and he said that Steve told him that he would do pretty much anything within his powers that wasn't illegal or unconstitutional in order to generate jobs in Kentucky.

The state routinely subsidizes big businesses like auto manufacturers with tax breaks as they did with the Toyota truck plant in Georgetown Ky and seeing as this wacky theme park is going to employ about a thousand or more people and generate jobs during its construction it would seem like a good deal for Kentuckians.

Remember Steve, this is NOT a non-profit operation. Its a business that just happens to be based upon the idea that Jesus rode a dinosaur. A business that will employ hundreds of out of work Kentuckians who will pay taxes and buy shit in a state desperately in need of just that.

Posted by: scott on December 18, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Remember Steve, this is NOT a non-profit..." scott @ 1:32 PM.

And one can only hope that it remains so.
At least until all their money's spent...

Posted by: Doug on December 18, 2010 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

The SPLC has taken a step towards irrelevance. How can one have a civil debate over policy with one's ideological opponents when one has labeled them "hate groups," and their arguments as "hate speech?"

This really is no different from those debased right-wing groups that just respond to every argument with cries of "Marxist," "Communist," and "anti-American."

Posted by: A conservative, not a fanatic on December 19, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Start Debating, Stop Hating"

Right...more bull shit from the right wing hack machine, as in the list of degenerate politicians that undersigned the propaganda. The problem with the right wing is that there never is a debate, whether it is this issue or any other...that is until they are called out, as with this issue, and the 'debate' they have is a one sided conversation with themselves and their ignorant base. The right has always generated support for their ideologies expeditiously, and in the case of anti homosexuality, venomous hate filled sermons has been the inspiration for violence committed on gay people for years, that is a fact. Finally the SPLC has had enough, and has years of documentation to prove it...these listed and many other organizations, sects and what ever hodge-podge right-wing groups associated with this issue are now classified where they belong, as 'hate groups'. The idiotic notion in the statement made in the advertisement about the SPLC 'loosing the debate' is just another tactic used by the right...It was just proved again the right-wing is on the minority side of this debate, look at the polls for DADT and the fact that even this chicken-shit Congress finally did away with it...as usual, the right-wing is incorrect on this issue in portraying how the American people think and what they believe. The republican party is nothing more then a group of corrupt disingenuous authoritarians willing to lie, cheat and steal in order to maintain their power, nothing is decent about these people or their intentions, nor will they change or compromise. If everyday Americans continue to allow this bunch access to the amount of power they currently enjoy, we will all be in the streets, as this breed is a destroyer of civil society.

Posted by: H.Finn on December 19, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

The SPLC is absolutely right to categorize the sickening, violent, blatant bigotry of so-called "Christian" fundamentalist groups as "hate".

Simply replace the words "liberal" or "gay" in the propaganda of the FRC and like-minded groups with the word "Jew", and their rhetoric is indistinguishable from that of 1930s German brownshirts.

There is no possibility of "civil debate" with such virulent, malicious bigots. They cannot be reasoned with -- they can and must be opposed, defeated and destroyed.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 19, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK



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