Save the Wall! Not Trump's wall on the southern border. That wall separating Religion and Government has seen a creeping theocracy blurring it. Religious freedom has only recently been translated as freedom to discriminate – against Moslems, LGBTQ folks, women, anyone who does not accept some particular belief. Pencean patriarchy prevails in the revised mission of the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been formed and a rule proposed that those in the health care field may refuse services on the basis of personal religious beliefs. A “gag rule” now prohibits any Title X provider from offering or discussing abortion, leaving millions of women who use Planned Parenthood without needed health services from cancer screening to contraception.
The Justice Department announced a religious liberty update to the U.S. Attorneys' Manual, raising the profile of “religious liberty” cases. A White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative is “to reduce the burdens on the exercise of free religion”. No information has been given on members or agenda of that Initiative. Discussion of women’s reproductive rights and discrimination has been cut from the annual State Department report on global human rights after an unnamed senior official demanded the changes, stripping passages that describe societal views on family planning. The State Department announced that it will no longer issue visas to the same-sex partners of United Nations employees and other foreign diplomats unless they’re married – despite the fact that many of their home countries do not allow same-sex marriage and some even criminalize same-sex relationships.
Project Blitz is a national effort that provides state legislators with model bills and strategies on passing state laws such as displaying “In God We Trust” in schools (as passed in 2018 Florida Legislature) and establishing Bible classes in public schools (as proposed in the current Florida Legislature) and moving toward requiring religious exemptions from every or any civil or reproductive right. Some states are ready with their own forms of politicizing religious belief. South Carolina tax-funded foster care agencies, for example, are allowed to reject prospective parents or volunteers because of the “wrong” religion. Bills on criminalizing abortion and personhood for fetuses (as among current Florida bills), abortion bans at six weeks (when a women may not even know if she's pregnant) are proliferating – many with the intention of challenging Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court.
The Interfaith Alliance recently referred to the “narrative being pushed by many religious conservatives that their rights are under threat, especially when the government places limits on their ability to impose their beliefs on others.” The Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights are among the groups that stand against “politics as religion”, against religion as policy.
It is ironic that this President - whose only God is Mammon, whose ethics and morals are far from admirable – uses and is used by others to breach that uniquely American wall of separation.
The U.S. House passed two gun safety bills expanding background checks and extending the check to 10 days. Call Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio to support these in the Senate. For info on the much discussed Green New Deal: https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/politics/green-new-deal-proposal-breakdown/index.html. Call Rep. Vern Buchanan to support and not weaken H.R.1 For the People Act; it addresses important election reforms regarding voter registration, ethics standards, money in elections, gerrymandering, etc.
The Florida Legislature opens its 60-day session on March 5. Bills are still being combined, negotiated or left for dead, with guns a contentious issue and public education in the crosshairs. More soon on specifics.