Speaking of religion and bullying, House State Affairs showed a modicum of decency last week and killed House Bill 1220, certain conservatives' continued attempt to disguise anti-LGBT legislation in freedom of religion.

Eight committee Republicans joined two Democrats in deferring HB 1220 to the 41st day, leading right-wing blogger Bob Ellis to shout that Republicans hate religion. (At least South Dakota Republicans; Indiana Senate Republicans voted unanimously for a similar pro-discrimination bill last week.)

Ellis notes that Equality South Dakota did not testify against HB 1220. Curtis Price explains EqSD's absence from House State Affairs last week:

Equality South Dakota and many of our allies strongly opposed this bill, and, in coordination with others, encouraged our members to track it through our Facebook group.

Equality South Dakota did not testify on HB 1220 since the way it was written the bill did not directly address LGBT issues. It was felt if EqSD would testify, this would bring attention that this is a LGBT related bill and thereby hinder the possibility of killing it [Curtis Price, "HB 1220 Killed," Equality South Dakota blog, 2015.02.28].

I understand the tactical decision, though I cringe at the fact that LGBT is such a dirty acronym in South Dakota that an equal rights organization's best tactic on vile legislation is silence. Bob Ellis views EqSD's tactics as more of the nefarious gay agenda luring unsuspecting dupes into something like political rape:

The homosexual movement has learned that if it can get “useful idiots” in more mainstream organizations to do its dirty work for it, the odds of success for their agenda are much better than if people actually realize the investment of the homosexual agenda in the issue [Bob Ellis, "Religious Freedom Again Treated with Contempt by South Dakota ‘Republicans’," American Clarion, 2015.03.02].

The "useful idiots" in this case are the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners, the Board of Regents, and the Department of Corrections, all of whom testified that HB 1220 is not just unnecessary but harmful to basic governmental functions, not to mention civil rights.

I suppose I'm just another useful idiot who hasn't noticed the gay-agendeers pulling his strings, but as a member of the atheist minority in South Dakota, permit me to remind Bob that "decent, law-abiding God fearing people" are not under any "withering attack." Christianity is not about to disappear. Neither, alas, is Bob's hateful theology.

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There goes P&R Miscellany again, riding his Tolerance sled down his slippery slope. As he did last year when South Dakotans rejected anti-gay legislation, P&R contends that opposition to legislative efforts to repeal the SDHSAA's transgender athlete policy (HB 1161 and 1195 come before Senate Education this morning) is but the thin edge of the wedge the intolerant gay lobby will use to force things down Christians' throats:

We are fast coming to a time in this country, largely because of the offensive intolerance of the homosexual rights community, when it will be both illegal and a "hate crime" to hold to biblical morality on questions of sexuality and marriage. There is a concerted effort to demand the church cave to the immorality, vulgarity, and yes, hate of our present age. The church's schools, both Protestant and Catholic, will be the first major target.

It will start, as it is in South Dakota, with obscene regulations as a condition for participation in sports leagues. It will seem a small thing to many parents for whom athletics are the dominant purpose of a school. Once the schools give on this, though, they will find it harder to gin up the necessary will to resist further incursions and, as they will have already given some ground, the law will not support them when they try to say some other point is a line they cannot cross. Yes, presently the proposed regulation in South Dakota makes an exemption for religious schools—added only after protests. How long will that last? The "exemption" addition itself almost invites lawsuits against religious schools on this issue and the courts have indicated a rather glaring weakness in this area of religious liberty. Before it even gets to that point, we must ask what these regulations will mean when a Christian school hosts a visiting "girls" volleyball team that includes a young man who cannot deal with biological reality? What good will this "exemption" do them then? What will the Christian school do when a couple guys start making out in the stands?

Teenagers making out at basketball games! Dogs and cats living together—mass hysteria!

Accommodate transgender students in high school sports, and boys will start making out with each other? The logic escapes me, as does the challenge for crowd control. If two young people start necking in the stands, the coach or the principal or the janitor breaks them up and says such intimate physical contact is inappropriate. That simple discipline works regardless of who's kissing whom and whether they are flaunting their hormonality at Central or Roncalli.

P&R's logic remains elusive in the slippery-slope argument. He cites the willingness of the high school activities association to make an exception to its transgender policy for religious institutions as a sign that the unnamed gay lobby will get rid of exceptions for religious institutions. The status quo demonstrates its responsiveness to religious concerns, but P&R dismisses that tolerance by crying, "How long will that last?" I suspect it will last as long as the First Amendment lasts (which may not be long, since P&R's conservative compatriots in Pierre have called for an Article V Convention that increases the opportunity for the "gay lobby" and other special interests to rewrite the Constitution in ways P&R and I both might find objectionable).

Not escaping me is the high insult the often otherwise civil P&R heaps on transgender students. Young people whose brains and bodies disagree on their gender are "obscene" and "cannot deal with biological reality." P&R shouts these insults as he calls his fellow Christians to "resist" rather than "cower," but he sounds like he is rallying his discomfited majority to bully a very small minority of vulnerable youth who would just like to play basketball. Are these kids really such an abomination in the Lord's eyes that they deserve such treatment?

I hope Senate Education will eschew both insult and slippery slope this morning and shut down the bills blocking the SDHSAA's respectful and realistic transgender policy.

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House Bill 1116 goes before Senate Judiciary tomorrow morning alongside House Bill 1096. Both bills revise our concealed weapons permit laws. HB 1096 is the mellower of the two, clarifying how the background check for a concealed weapons permit will be conducted and tightening rules to keep immigrants from getting guns. House Bill 1116 goes much further, essentially declaring the concealed weapons permit superfluous and repealing all laws against walking around with a gun hidden in your britches and bras. HB 1116 includes the further absurdity (Section 7) of removing the restriction on giving concealed weapons permits to people who have violated South Dakota weapons laws.

If a gun bill is nuts, you can bet South Dakota Gun Owners is backing it. I read on Facebook the radical gun advocacy group is cold-calling to rouse support for HB 1116. Another friend forwards this SDGO letter backing HB 1116:

SDGO-HB1106-Feb2015

SDGO letter, Feb 2015, p. 1 (click to embiggen)

SDGO-HB1106-Feb2015-p2

SDGO letter, Feb 2015, p. 2 (click to embiggen)

 

Boy, I hope SDGO's gun aim is better than their rhetorical aim. This February 2015 letter contains three absurdities.

First, SDGO exec Ray Lautenschlager asserts that there is an "anti-gun crowd in Pierre." If there is anyone to whom one might apply this appellation in Pierre, they most certainly do not constitute a "crowd."

Second, Lautenschlager says, "The right to bear arms in self defense is absolutely vital." (Beware absolutes... but then what do we expect from a group whose letterhead boasts, "26 Years Without Compromise"?) "Why should a law-abiding citizen first ask permission from the government in order to defend themselves or their family?"

Two points off for failure of number agreement (a citizen... themselves or their family). Ten points off for misstating a question of law: No law-abiding citizens have to ask permission from the government in order to defend themselves or their families. If someone attacks my family, I can throw a punch, throw rocks, or throw my car into gear and get away very quickly. I can call the cops and my lawyer for proper civil protection. I can keep a gun in my house and even walk around town with my gun on my hip if that's what I think it takes to defend my family, all without government's permission.

What I can't do without a permit is sneak my gun into public spaces. When we turned to concealed weapons, we are no longer talking about an absolute right to self-defense. We are talking about surreptitious behavior with a deadly weapon amidst unsuspecting neighbors. If you crave that hazardous privilege, the state can make a case that it has a public interest in imposing the minimal intrusion, less than what we impose on folks driving cars on public roads, of asking you to pay a fee and get a permit so we have a chance to check your background.

Rephrasing Luke 22:36 for the well-armed generation. Click to debunk!

Rephrasing Luke 22:36 for the well-armed generation. Click to debunk!

Third, SDGO claims that HB 1116 will "restore the God-given rights of law-abiding South Dakotans to bear arms...."

I don't need to consult my Reverend wife to know that Jesus handed out bread and wine, not guns and ammo, at the Last Supper.

Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen), a co-sponsor of HB 1116, committed the same constitutional and theological errors in comments at Saturday's Aberdeen crackerbarrel:

Right now, you can legally open carry anywhere in South Dakota, so all of a sudden it’s illegal if your sport coat is over your pistol. The Second Amendment is clear — you have a right to bear and carry arms. I don’t understand how you can outline rights given to you by God and then you have to ask permission from the state to exercise those rights [Rep. Dan Kaiser, statement at crackerbarrel, reported by Bryan Howarth, "Lawmakers Debate Guns, Common Core," Aberdeen American News, 2015.02.22].

The right to bear arms exists in the national constitutions of three countries. Ours comes from a Bill of Rights written 226 years ago. It is far form a divine commandment.

The Second Amendment, like every other amendment, is not absolute. Nor is it Scripture. South Dakota Gun Owners should knock off their misrepresentations, and the South Dakota Legislature should leave our concealed weapons permitting process in place.

71 comments

The sponsors of South Dakota's latest "No Wedding Cakes for Gays!" will tell you they are trying to defend religion from... well, you know, gay people. Unfortunately, these legislators don't realize the damage the language of their own bill does to religion and humanity.

House Bill 1220 defines "person" as "any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious institution, estate, trust, foundation, or other legal entity." That's the standard legalese we get from the Supreme Court, Mitt Romney, and other corporate fascists who insist that corporations are people.

Treating non-personal entities as persons can serve legal and practical purposes, but not Christian purposes. Saying that a corporation, estate, or foundation can believe in God (can Citibank take communion? can Radio Shack get last rites?) is logically absurd. Pastor Tim Suttle says calling things people is downright heretical:

Personhood is sacred. A corporation isn’t a person, it’s a thing. It shouldn’t be treated like a person. Any society that calls a corporation–an entity that exists with the sole purpose of profit–a person, is devaluing what it means to be human. That’s not just an ethical issue, this is deep down in the faith of the Christian, and our experience of what it means to be a human [Tim Suttle, "Corporations Aren’t People, Money Isn’t Speech: Citizens United & the Heresy of Corporate Personhood," Oatheos: Paperback Theology, 2014.09.20].

We understand, HB 1220 sponsors, that you want to treat certain people as somewhat less than people. But your bill as written, embracing the secular claim that corporations are people, makes all of us less human.

9 comments

Read House Bill 1220, and you might think you're just reading a redundant, mostly harmless restatement of freedom of religion. Representative and Pastor (red flag) Scott Craig (R-33/Rapid City) and a bunch of other conservative Republicans (warning) wrap some definitions and legalese around the basic idea that "No state action may burden a person's right to exercise of religion" unless there is some compelling state interest. That, and you can't punch anyone for Jesus or have two wives. First Amendment already has that covered, right? Rep. Craig and friends are just posing for the cameras, right?

Oh no. Huffington Post says HB 1220 is part of an intensifying conservative campaign against LGBT Americans:

...[R]eligious freedom regulations are not new, and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) already says that the government cannot substantially limit a person's religious freedom unless it can prove a "compelling government interest." But some of the new state language could go beyond that law.

Lawmakers in Indiana, West Virginia, Arkansas, South Dakota and Oklahoma are all pushing bills that could have the same effect as a controversial Arizona bill that was vetoed last year by a Republican governor. These bills allow any individual or corporation to cite religion when defending against a private party. For example, a recent ACLU complaint alleged that a Denny's restaurant in New Mexico refused to serve a pride group, calling the customers homophobic slurs. Under this sort of legislation, it's possible that the restaurant could cite religion as a defense if the case made it to court [Dana Liebelson, "Inside the Last-Ditch Conservative Campaign to Target LGBT Americans," Huffington Post, 2015.02.04].

Yup: Rep. Craig is taking us right back to last year's attempt to protect fervent Christians from "the bullying of anti-straight folks." Senator Phil Jensen's bill on this topic last year was too blatant, mentioning sexual orientation specifically. This year's effort to legalize discrimination under the guise of piety (and yes, Senator Jensen is a co-sponsor) buries its intent in more general language.

HB 1220 offers cross-wearing bigots this litigatory club:

Section 3. A person whose exercise of religion has been burdened, or is likely to be burdened, in violation of this Act may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the State of South Dakota or one of its political subdivisions is a party to the proceeding. The person asserting the claim or defense may obtain appropriate relief, including relief against the state or its political subdivisions. Appropriate relief includes injunctive relief, declaratory relief, compensatory damages, and costs and attorneys fees [House Bill 1220, posted 2015.02.03].

Under HB 1220, if a gay couple goes to the Sioux Falls Original House of Pancakes to celebrate their engagement, and if the devout manager refuses to serve them because God will smite OHP down for facilitating a celebration of sin, and if the gay couple sues for discrimination in a public accommodation, OHP can sue right back for religious oppression.

Permit the atheist in the blogosphere to remind the Christians in the room of some basic theology: if you run a business and refuse to serve sinners, you won't have any business.

HB 1220 could go further: it could peel away anti-bullying rules at school. Thugs could yell homophobic slurs at other children and tell their victims they're going to hell. If the picked-on kids complain and the principal calls Mom and Dad, the bullies' parents can simply say their children were simply expressing their religious belief that homosexuality is a terrible sin. HB 1220 knocks the legal legs out from under the conscientious principal's duty to protect children from such harassment.

Be on alert, friends of equality: HB 1220 is another effort from South Dakota's Religious Right to carve for themselves the right to oppress others with what what they profess to be faith.

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Gary Jerke submits to Gordon Howie's blog a vague homily to putting Bibles in public schools. The former Yankton-area legislator opens by saying "Last evening a group from our church appeared before our local school board concerned about their policy toward distribution of Bibles to the children...." Jerke does not directly tell us what the school board's policy is or what his group's concerns are. He also doesn't tell us what school board in South Dakota meets on Saturday night. (The post is dated January 25; "last evening" was January 24.)

But details and explanation be darned, we're off and running into the fundie shower-singing meant to get its practitioners into heaven faster:

Schools are to be a place of preparation and yet the most important aspect of preparation (meaning to make ready) we overlook. That is the preparation of spiritual things which the Bible first addresses in Joshua 22:26 in the building of an alter as a place to show witness to God. For me that underscores a part of my cultural history where in communities churches were built in the heart of our towns and pastors were regarded as the highest authority or often final word on many if not most matters [Gary Jerke, "Be Prepared," The Right Side, 2015.01.25].

Pastors as the highest authority in the community, giving the final word on most matters—translate that as theocracy.

But wait! What's this introduction of spiritual things into the public school curriculum? What does that "preparation" have to do with getting students ready to become welders? "Spiritual things" sounds an awful lot like "philosophy," and we all know philosophy won't help our students get good jobs! How dare Gary Jerke threaten to distract our schools from their primary mission of solving South Dakota's workforce shortage?

I am sure the Governor will join me in standing against this intrusion of impractical theology into our K-12 workforce preparation system.

80 comments

Equality South Dakota is hosting a Legislative Day in Pierre on January 29 to talk up the equality and civil rights for South Dakota's LGBT citizens. The Family Heritage Alliance will come to Capitol the following week on February 5 to knock those notions right back out of legislators' heads with good God-fearing goobledygook straight from an expert reality-TV star!

Family Heritage Alliance postcard, front, submitted by an anxious reader

Family Heritage Alliance postcard, front, submitted by an anxious reader

Family Heritage Alliance postcard, back, submitted by an anxious reader

Family Heritage Alliance postcard, back, submitted by an anxious reader

Yes, the Family Heritage Alliance, defending South Dakota against the Republic-damning and child-damaging godlessness of constitutional same-sex marriage ("every child deserves a mother and a father," a correspondent tells me was the big line at the FHA luncheon yesterday, showing that FHA believes non-matching gonads are more important than love), will rally the troops in Pierre (with free bus rides from Sioux Falls and Rapid City!) to hear from Josh Duggar, whose only claim to fame and authority is being a child from a large family chosen to be on television.

That, and affirming stodgy white folks' belief that homosexuals are out to get them. And exaggerating... which is all "reality" TV is.

The event could be fun: wear your rainbow lapel pins, go hear what our pious FHA friends have to say... and hold hands with a friend while listening.

298 comments

No matter how oppressed some of us may feel by the sometimes radical statements and legislation of South Dakota's Christian fundamentalists, let us remember that our Christian friends don't kill us.

Gunmen attacked the Paris headquarters of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo this morning, killing twelve people and wounding seven. Witnesses heard the gunmen shouting "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad."

Charlie Hebdo has flipped the bird at Islam in the past and paid a heavy price in violence committed by Muslim extremists:

In November 2011, its offices were fire-bombed after it had published a special edition, supposedly guest-edited by the prophet Muhammad and temporarily renamed “Charia Hebdo”. The cover was a cartoon of Muhammad threatening the readers with “a hundred lashes if you don’t die laughing”.

The petrol bomb attack completely destroyed the Paris offices, the magazine’s website was hacked and staff were subjected to death threats. But six days later, it published a front page depicting a male Charlie Hebdo cartoonist passionately kissing a bearded Muslim man in front of the charred aftermath of the bombing. The headline was: L’Amour plus fort que la haine (Love is stronger than hate) [Julian Borger, "Fight Intimidation with Controversy: Charlie Hebdo’s Response to Critics," UK Guardian, 2015.01.07].

charlie-hebdo-coverNo Christian offended by my blog commentary, criticism, and occasional satire has burned down my house or physically attacked me. When Kurt Evans* and Larry Kurtz badmouth the entire Catholic Church, good Catholics Troy Jones and Patrick Duffy don't get out the shotguns. The most vile Christian fundamentalists in America shout a lot, but they and their opponents trade slogans and signs, not bullets.

And as far as I know, no followers of Jesus are calling themselves the Christian State, waging terrorism, forcing conversions, and killing thousands of people to forge a Caliphate.

I am reminded of my friend Martin back in high school who wrote a letter to the editor when the local movie theater piously announced it would not be showing Martin Scorcese's Last Temptation of Christ. Martin, a devout Christian, and a fresh high school graduate—the same age as many of the Muslim jihadis propagandized and recruited by ISIS—wrote that his faith would not crumble before a strip of celluloid.

Evidently these gunmen and far too many Muslims believe their god and their prophet will fall before a drawing, a piece of paper, or an unkind word. They apparently do not believe that love is stronger than hate. They feel they must defile the City of Love, the City of Light, the City of Enlightenment, with their murderous fear, all because some harmless French dudes said silly things and drew silly pictures of a guy who's been dead for 1400 years.

A faith so fearful, hateful, and thus weak does not earn my tolerance, let alone my respect.

*Update 19:53 CST: We should note that Kurt Evans badmouthed one Catholic, not the entire Catholic Church, and even apologized for it, saying "it's wrong to use pejorative labels that devalue and dehumanize other people." But our Catholic friends perceived him to be badmouthing Catholics in general... and they still haven't shot him.

356 comments

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