Monday, July 31, 2017

Trump's Terrifying Nomination to the Office of International Religious Freedom.

No one talks more about religious freedom more while striving to take it away from others than the Christofascists and evangelical Christians.  Any restriction on their right to mistreat or discriminate against others is shrilly called a threat to their "religious freedom," yet, if allowed to have their way, contraception would be illegal, homosexuality would lead to imprisonment or worse, non-Christians would be greatly restricted in their ability to worship and the separation of church and state envisioned by the Founding Fathers would be eliminated.  Disturbingly, the Christofascists have found a strong ally in the White House.  Der Trumpenf├╝hrer has delivered on few if any of his campaign promises to rank and file Americans.  But he has delivered on a number made to Christian extremists in New York in June, 2016, which collectively point towards Christofascist supremacy. For example, he's appointed Neil Gorsuch, a man who would reverse that Supreme Court's same sex marriage ruling, to that Court; his appointees, Betsy De Vos and Jeff Sessions are busy reversing Obama era protections for LGBT students; last week Sessions argued in a brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that  the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers no protections to LGBT Americans; last week Trump said he was banning transgender troops from the U.S. Military.  Continuing this frightening trend, he has now anti-LGBT Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to lead the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.  Religion Dispatches looks at this very disturbing nomination.  Here are excerpts:
After the president’s hastily tweeted ban on transgender Americans serving openly in the military, the Justice Department’s unusual interjection in a federal employment lawsuit to proclaim, contrary to growing precedent, that existing civil rights laws do not protect LGBT people, Trump announced his intent to nominate notorious anti-LGBT Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to lead the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.
As NPR rightly noted (in its opening line, no less), Brownback is “one of the least popular governors in the country,” but he’s been working to elevate his profile as a conservative Catholic culture warrior for more than a decade. The Ambassador-at-Large position is considered a senior advisor to the administration, while the Office of International Religious Freedom states that its mission is to “monitor religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, . . . 
But given Brownback’s history of using “religious freedom” as a sword to discriminate against LGBT people, his nomination offers the strongest evidence yet that, when the Trump administration talks about “religious freedom,” it actually means “Christian supremacy.” Though Brownback an equal-opportunity excluder: the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which Newsweek identified as the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, said Brownback should be “disqualified” from the position due to his history of “rushing to sign anti-Islam legislation designed to vilify Muslims.”
Brownback’s nomination is also the latest sign that Trump is willing to hire even economic “losers” if it appeals to his base, which has been grumbling lately about the president’s attacks on his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
If confirmed, Brownback would be the first religious freedom Ambassador-at-Large who did not attend seminary or a pursue a similar denominational education. . . . . it’s much more likely to mean he will continue the Christian supremacist agenda he’s been pushing since he entered public office. New York‘s Ed Kilgore explains:
[Brownback] was a member of the shadowy conservative Christian power-elite group the Fellowship; a disciple of meta-culture-warrior Chuck Colson; and a former evangelical turned Catholic by way of the controversial conservative group Opus Dei. Unsurprisingly, Brownback was dubbed “God’s Senator” in a rather frightening profile by Jeff Sharlet that appeared in 2006. In one prototypical action, in 2004, Brownback traveled to Alabama to be present for the unveiling of a blatantly theocratic Constitution Restoration Act, designed to remove church-state conflicts from the jurisdiction of the federal courts.
Those who haven’t been subjected to Brownback’s regressive tax policies (which have nearly bankrupted his home state) or his right-wing political agenda might be wondering what all the fuss is about. . . . . he is staunchly opposed to abortion, and has signed a host of laws restricting access to any form of pregnancy termination. When it comes to LGBT rights, Brownback distinguished himself early as a fierce opponent to any measure that conferred on LGBT people equal dignity under the law. He pointedly refused to allow Kansas to embrace marriage equality, resisting orders from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals when it found, in 2014, that same-sex couples in that circuit had a Constitutional right to marry.
After losing that battle, Brownback focused his efforts on excluding LGBT people from as many parts of public life as possible, leaning heavily on a lopsided definition of “religious freedom.” In 2016, he signed a law that allowed student groups at public colleges and universities to engage in discrimination without penalty — as long as the discrimination was rooted in “sincerely held religious beliefs.” When signing the bill, he was surrounded by members of the Kansas Catholic Conference and the anti-LGBT Family Policy Alliance of Kansas. Video of the signing ceremony, tellingly, includes zero non-Christians.
Of course, none of that was unexpected, given Brownback’s voting record during his 14-year tenure in the U.S. Senate. Brownback opposed hate crimes legislation, claiming in 2007 that efforts to prosecute violent bias-based crimes against LGBT people were actually aimed at “not allowing people to speak their beliefs about homosexuality.” He co-sponsored a failed attempted to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban marriage equality . . .
None of that history provides any indication that Brownback has an interest in protecting religious liberty as the bedrock principle it was intended to be, either at home or abroad. Instead, it’s an unavoidable signal to Trump’s right-wing, white evangelical Christian base that he will continue to privilege their delusional claims of “persecution” in dealing with far-flung countries that don’t kowtow to conservative Christian doctrine.

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