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Religion Last Updated: Jan 27th, 2006 - 22:06:42

The scam -- and the reality -- of the �Theo-Culture Wars�
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 27, 2006, 22:03

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The �culture wars.� You hear the phrase a lot, and have for quite some time. This quote is from a 2003 article in The Nation entitled �Republicans Relaunch the Antigay Culture Wars�:

As George Bush�s poll numbers began seriously dwindling, Karl Rove and the White House political strategists decided to reach into their bag of tricks and come up with a good old staple of reactionary politics: homophobia.

You heard the �culture wars� shriek as often as �Jingle Bells� during the past holiday season. �They�re taking Christ out of Christmas� was the plaintive cry from the Christian Right, who constantly cast themselves as victims. How ironic, since Christmas is the only religious holiday recognized as a national holiday by a supposedly secular government forbidden by its Constitution from establishing a state religion or giving preferential treatment to one religion over others.

The radical Christian Right loves to represent themselves as �persecuted.� A recent article that appeared on the website of the �Christian Underground� bore the title �The Passion of the Left: Hating Christians.� The author went through the usual withering litany, this time in reference to a conference entitled �Examining the Real Agenda of the Far Religious Right.� But, as usual, while playing victim and simultaneously condemning all who oppose the Christian Right�s dogmatic, theocratic agenda, the article also admitted the truth:

At one point, a speaker spoke about the need �to save democracy� from the �Christian Right,� to which the audience broke out in applause. An associate professor of comparative studies equated the zeal of the �Christian Right� with that of �suicide bombers.� A former Pentecostal minister gave a presentation, titled �Christian Jihad,� while someone claimed to unveil �The Real Hidden Religious Agenda: The Theocratic States of America.� For those suffering under such delusions, evangelical Christians are indeed the biggest threat to America and the entire world for that matter. [italics added]

The evangelical Christian Right uses strange reasoning and misleading strategies. They claim they are being persecuted for protecting �God.� Why would �God� need protection? They also claim they�re protecting America�s history of Christian-based government. It�s historical fact that the Founding Fathers excised from the Constitution all references to �God,� and used the word only twice in the 85 Federalist Papers. It�s also historical fact that the nation�s first treaties, unanimously approved in 1797 by Congress and endorsed by President John Adams, stated, �The Government of the United States . . . is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.�

The evangelical leaders of the Christian Right always seem to ignore Freemason George Washington�s admonition that �The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy,� as well as the words of Episcopal minister and historian Bird Wilson in an 1831 sermon: �The founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels.� [link added]

And they always overlook the fact that many of America�s Founding Fathers -- George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine, to name but a few -- were Deists who, just as Deists today, reject �the �revelations� of the �revealed� religions� and the conjured dogma they produced. Deists accept the notion of �a Creator,� but do not believe in or accept the secondhand, politically-motivated �revealed word� attributed to Moses and Old Testament prophets or New Testament authorities such as Peter, Paul and John, and are especially dubious of the man-made �religious dogma� upon which all the anti-gay �culture war� arguments of today�s Christian Right are based.

Capitalizing on this widespread misconception about what Deism is, the self-aggrandizing Christian Right always point out that �in God We Trust� is America�s national motto, but it wasn�t always. �E Pluribus Unum� (one from many) was the original national motto:

On 1776-JUL-4, Congress appointed John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson to prepare a design for the Great Seal of the United States. The first design, submitted to Congress on 1776-AUG-10 used the motto �E Pluribus Unum.� It was rejected. Five other designs also failed to meet with Congress� approval during the next five years. In 1782, Congress asked Mr. Thomson, Secretary of Congress, to complete the project. Thomson, along with a friend named Barton, produced a design that was accepted by Congress on 1782-JUN-10. It included an eagle with a heart-shaped shield, holding arrows and an olive branch in its claws. The motto �E Pluribus Unum� appeared on a scroll held in its beak. The seal was first used on 1782-SEP-16. It was first used on some federal coins in 1795.

But guess who wasn�t satisfied with a national motto that applied to and recognized every American, not just Christian ones? In the 1860s, 11 Protestant denominations mounted a campaign to add references to �God� to the U.S. Constitution, federal documents, and coins. According to the U.S. Treasury Department:

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania . . .

It wasn�t until 1956, during the height of the Cold War and McCarthyism, that the 84th Congress passed a joint resolution making �In God We Trust� the national motto. The primary reason: a knee-jerk reaction to �atheistic� Communism.

That history reverberated in the unending choruses of �God Bless America� following the attacks of 9/11 (which self-appointed spokesman for �God� Jerry Falwell blamed on gays) and the increasingly dangerous right-wing religious fervor that�s been growing ever since, including a national campaign to put an �In God We Trust� poster in every public school classroom. Yet the Christian Right, continually in victim mode, constantly yammer about the public schools trying to erase �God,� whether it be by teaching the science of evolution -- as opposed to the religion-based fantasies of �creationism� and �intelligent design� -- or making optional the recitation of The Pledge of Allegiance, the original version of which, like the Constitution and original national motto, did not contain the word �God.� It simply read �I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.�

It should come as no surprise that a religious organization -- the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic men�s fraternal organization) -- was the group that successfully lobbied to have the words �under God� inserted into The Pledge, thereby turning a secular oath to a secular nation into a public prayer. It should also not come as a surprise that some Christian fundamentalists have their own version of The Pledge they�d very much like see made The Pledge: �I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn.� [italics added]

�Judicial activism� is one of the most frequently heard of the Christian Right�s battle cries in the �culture wars.� Separating �God�s will� from judicial decisions and removing the Ten Commandments from courthouses are two favorites. Yet most oaths of office taken by elected officials -- including the president of the United States -- contain the phrase �so help me God.�

The courts and judicial system are loaded with oaths that include �God� and use the Bible. I was recently called for possible jury duty (in a civil case) and was struck by the ubiquitous presence of religion in the court system. When the �Crier� opened the court session, he did so with these words:

Oyeh, oyhe, oyhe -- All manner of persons having business to come before the honorable judges of the court of Montgomery -- here holden this day. Let them come forth and appear and they shall be heard. God save the Commonwealth and this honorable court. The Honorable Judge __________ presiding.

The swearing in �Oath for Jurors� read:

Members of the jury please rise. Place your right hand on the Bible nearest you. You and each of you do swear and those of you who affirm, do declare and affirm that you will well and truly try the issue joined between _____________ and _____________ and a true verdict give according to the evidence unless dismissed by the court or the cause be withdrawn by the parties. If so, please answer �I will.�

Witnesses are more often than not still sworn to tell the truth �so help me God.� Again, the Bible is most frequently the book sworn upon. Why aren�t all sworn oaths and declarations made with right hand on the U.S. Constitution? These are supposedly secular, civil courts, are they not? What if a juror or witness doesn�t believe in �God,� or at least the �God� the use of the Bible confirms is the one being sworn to?

The judge in a recent North Carolina case was faced with such religious swearing imposed by the court:

Raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth . . . on the Koran?
Citing state law, a judge bars use of the Muslim holy book, but some say the move violates the Constitution.

By Patrik Jonsson | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

RALEIGH, N.C. -- As Muslim-Christian relations are under the spotlight around the world, US judges sometimes face a vexing question: Can witnesses raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth . . . on the Koran?

The recent refusal by a Guilford County, N.C., judge to allow a Muslim woman to swear upon Islam�s holy text before testifying is, in part, a new First Amendment challenge. And here in the Tar Heel state, the idea of swearing on books other than the Bible has reinvigorated a debate on the relationship between faith and truth that goes back to the founding documents of both the Carolinas and the country.

Prompted by a question from a reader, at least one group is pursuing the question of swearing to �God� and the use of the Bible in judicial proceedings:

I need your advice. . . . I have to appear for deposition Tuesday on behalf of my company in a case involving a lawsuit between my company and another. After witnessing my boss already undergo the same procedure, I know the court reporter is going to use the �god oath� on me. Being an atheist, I am highly offended.

Despite my attempts to convince my boss and our company�s lawyers (actually contract), they don�t want me to �rock the boat� by asking the court reporter to �leave out the god part out.� They ask that I merely compromise and repeat, �I swear to tell the truth� after the reporter finishes �so help you God.�

I wonder if everyone would ask the same compromise of an evangelical Christian facing an oath to Satan in a majority community of Satanic worshipers.

That last sentence is very interesting. The Constitution calls for a jury of �peers.� What if the person on trial is a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or an atheist? Would evangelical Christians swearing on the Bible be a truly legitimate jury of �peers,� especially in today�s theocratic climate?

At least one judge agrees they would not be and �Asks that Oath Be Changed�:

District Court judge asked local officials this week to remove �so help me God� and other religious references from the courtroom whenever he is presiding. Judge James M. Honeycutt wrote that the court system is seeing an increasing number of people from other cultures that are not necessarily Christian. He asked that the court take extra steps to accommodate such diversity by changing witnesses� oaths, bailiffs� calls and other procedures. �I believe that the burden should not be on those individuals to speak up and request an oath that does not mention God or use the Christian Bible,� Honeycutt wrote.

But another, somewhat notorious �judge� -- the discredited former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore -- disagrees. Justice Moore came to national prominence -- and became a hero to the Christian Right -- when he refused to remove a granite Ten Commandments monument from the state�s Supreme Court building and, as a result, was removed from the bench. Former Justice Moore retaliated in true biblical fashion:

Former Alabama Chief Justice, [Roy] Moore, announced this week that, unless he is reinstated to the bench, God has given him the power to unleash on the Earth the ten biblical plagues that tormented Egypt.

�I don�t want to do it, but this unholy Government has forced my hand,� said the former judge.

Discredited Justice Moore is now running for governor of Alabama. That�s right, a discredited former judge who refused to obey a court�s order, who is a very, very out homophobe: --

In February 2002 when the state Supreme Court ruled against a lesbian mother who was seeking custody of her three daughters Moore used a litany of homophobic adjectives in his written decision. Moore said that homosexuality is �an inherent evil� that should not be tolerated.

His decision went on to say that the mother�s relationship made her an unfit parent and that homosexuality is �abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature.�

-- who uses that hate to raise funds, and who is a raving lunatic that claims �God has given him the power to unleash on the Earth the ten biblical plagues that tormented Egypt� is running for governor of Alabama in order to restore fairness to government and society. Somehow, in a really perverted, twisted way, it all fits. Alabama is, after all, the state that want its public schools to teach a Bible course using a textbook with which even the Christian Right has a problem and that has a �warning label� about evolution in the science textbooks used in the state�s public schools:

Science textbooks in Alabama public schools will continue to warn students that controversy surrounds the theory of evolution. The Alabama Board of Education recently agreed unanimously to retain an evolution disclaimer that has been in state biology textbooks for four years. The insert refers to evolution as a �controversial theory� on the origins of life.

Alabama is also the home of state Rep. Gerald Allen who�s crusaded to censor -- as in remove from schools and public libraries -- �gay literature� and other literature that includes gay or lesbian characters, or any gay content no matter how small. When asked what he�d do with all the works by gay and lesbian authors, and all the other works that refer to homosexuals and homosexuality, Rep. Allen said, �I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them.�

Needless to say, Roy Moore has written a book, So Help Me God: The Ten Commandments, Judicial Tyranny, And The Battle For Religious Freedom. You have to wonder if Rep. Allen would want to bury Moore�s book too, since it obviously contains references to gays and homosexuality.

The Constitution does indeed protect �religious freedom.� But what Moore and the Christian Right seem to conveniently forget is that the Constitution also protects citizens from religion, as well as from discrimination based on religious dogma that theocrats would impose by law on everyone.

The Christian Right, its judicial and political minions are always playing persecuted victims and claiming that the big bad wolf of equality, liberty and justice for all Americans -- whatever their spiritual beliefs or sexual orientation -- is attacking them. It is, and will continue to do so until their house of cards falls. Equality always wins.

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