Friday, September 18, 2015

Kim Davis: What's Wrong with the Intersection of God and Government - part 2

This is a long post, but if you don't have the time or interest to read all of it, I encourage you to at least skim the shocking examples from current events news of religion enforced by government officials intruding into the lives of people who should be protected from that by our constitution. I believe the examples below are significant to the arguments of freedom of religion being practiced on the job by people who are also exercising the authority of government at the same time.

Kim Davis, Rowan County Clerk, Kentucky doesn't want to do her job serving the public -- the WHOLE public, and now is not serving the public much at all.  She wants her bigotry to supersede the rights of others on the faulty premise of the exercise of religious freedom.

Kim Davis got out of jail and went back to her office this week, beginning the week with a big bang, and ending it with a whimper and another loss in court.

To the religious right, this does not seem like such a big deal; people can get served elsewhere, so what if religion by a government employee is disrupting the function of government, so what if people are suffering very real discrimination in having to go outside their home area to get married.  The inconvenience, cost, and difficulty are exactly what they WANT, the chance to stick their finger in the eye of people with whom they disagree. 

That is the most they can hope for as public consensus continues to grow AGAINST their bias and hatred, including conservative opinion locally  but also nationally,

So why should we NOT allow anyone in the capacity of a government official or exercising the authority and legal force of government to also exercise their religious preferences (or preferences they try to justify on the pretext of religion)?

Let's look at a few of the more egregious examples from the news.
From the Free Thinker, reporting on a part of America outside the 50 states.  This applies as an example because Puerto Rico is a part of the US, subject to the same freedom of religion provision of our own Constitution AND the Constitution of Puerto Rico, which mandates even more specifically the separation of church and state.  And this STILL happened.  It is significant because of two points - that a roadblock for reasons other than police purposes is a really serious intrusion on individual freedom to go about one's life and business, an intrusion that most people would resent; and secondly because it demonstrates that intruding one's religion into how government is conducted amounts not only to giving preferential treatment of one religion over others, but to an unfair subsidizing of the practice and promotion of that religion with tax payer funds and government authority.

You should not have to make the choice to refuse to be proselytized to someone wearing a uniform and badge, and carrying a gun and handcuffs.  That is intimidating.

It is also the same argument against Kim Davis (minus guns and handcuffs).

‘In the name of Jesus, step out of your car’

An atheist group in Puerto Rico has lodged a formal complaint against police who subjected motorists to a ‘faith’ blitz on July 1.

‘In the name of Jesus, step out of your car’

In a statement issued yesterday, Elisaul Rodriguez, Vice-President of AteĆ­stas de Puerto Rico (Atheists of Puerto Rico) alleged that a “faith road block” had been set up by Barceloneta City police.
Officers stopped people on the road for the purpose of preaching, distributing written religious propaganda and praying for drivers.
Rodriguez added:
It was a religious activity in which the Christian faith was professed, particularly of an Evangelical variant.
We understand that the Police Department of Barceloneta City has incurred violations to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico …

Article II, Section III says: ‘No law related to the establishment of any religion will be approved and the free exercise of religion will not be prohibited. There will be complete separation of church and state’.
We must also point out that Puerto Rico, as a territory, is under the protection of the Federal Constitution of the United States of America, which also provides a clause for the separation of church and state.
Acts carried out during the “faith road-block” reflected the officers’ personal religious interests and were outside the police departments scope of duty, Rodriguez pointed out. The officers wore their uniforms and badges and:
Used resources provided by the Government of Puerto Rico that should only be used for the purpose of fighting crime, not for personal religious benefits.
This sends the message that the State is Christianizing its citizens, which corresponds to a canonical government and impairs the integrity and impartiality of the State.

 Then in ultra-conservative crazy failure Kansas, we have this law suit over a woman being fired for not attending an evangelical church on her own time on weekends, or religious services held in government buildings on government time using government provided resources.

It's not like this is the only example either of the illegal intersection of cops and religion in Puerto Rico; there was this law suit just two years ago in the case of another cop protesting religious conformity in the police force, from nbc latino.

Do you want the government to have the power to enforce religious conformity with the religion of elected officials?  Keep in mind this is exactly the thing that the crazy radical right fears unreasonably happening with Sharia law - government enforcement of extremist religious people, forcing you to do and to profess belief in things with which you disagree.

From PoliticusUSA (disclaimer - both I and my colleague Penigma have written for Politicus); as you read, consider the possibility that an extreme religious minority or even a cult could take over government through election to office if they did not disclose their desire to use government to exercise their religion ON YOU, or the possibility of conversion post-election:

 Kansas Secretary of State Fires State Employee For Not Attending Church

...A former Kansas state employee has filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit targeting Kansas’ Secretary of State and assistant secretary of state, Eric Rucker. The lawsuit alleges that the employee’s dismissal was founded on her refusal to attend bible and prayer services in Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office. It is important to note that the evangelical church services in Secretary of State Kobach’s office were officiated by, a voluntary minister with Capitol Commission, David DePue, whose ministry focuses solely on evangelizing Kansas’ government leaders. (DG - my emphasis added)

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court, Kobach’s lieutenant Rucker “repeatedly and emphatically indicated a basis for her, Courtney Canfield’s, termination as the fact that, ‘She just doesn’t go to church.'” Canfield’s experience working for a Kansas theocrat began shortly after being hired when Kobach’s assistants “invited” Ms. Canfield to attend Christian religious services being regularly conducted in the taxpayer-funded secretary of state’s office. Canfield declined to worship, study, or pray with her new evangelical colleagues in Kobach’s Topeka government office and was duly fired for expressing her Constitutional religious freedom to not worship or regularly attend church. Apparently, not attending church regularly and declining to worship according to an employer’s religion is something Americans are learning more every day is un-American and an attack on evangelicals’ religious liberty.
Obviously, as the lawsuit contends, Rucker’s evangelical decision to terminate Canfield’s employment violated her constitutional right of religious expression; a right evangelicals believe applies to them exclusively. The lawsuit also indicates that Rucker had full knowledge of Canfield’s view’s on religious expression including that she is a Methodist, not a raving evangelical, and that she did not regularly attend church services.
Ms. Canfield said that “Participation in these religious services was by invitation only. These invitations were distributed during normal government business work hours and included a ‘prayer guide’ to be utilized at that week’s service” in the Secretary of State’s office. Conducting church services in taxpayer-funded government offices is bad enough, but it gets worse.
Court documents say that assistant secretary of state Rucker appealed to the plaintiff’s grandmother to terminate the employee on religious grounds. Rucker left a telephone message for Margie Canfield, the “wayward” employee’s grandmother, who is a longtime administrator and former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party to set up a meeting. After leaving a message on Margie Canfield’s telephone, Rucker arrived at her Topeka home and “proceeded to tell Margie that she needed to terminate her granddaughter’s employment with the state despite the fact that she had no direct authority over her employment.” Rucker apparently grew tired of waiting three days for the grandmother to fire her granddaughter from Kobach’s staff and finally notified Courtney Canfield himself that her employment in the secretary of state’s office had ended and to seek unemployment benefits.
Kobach's administration is embarrassed by this suit, and Rucker is claiming that Canfield was terminated for poor job performance.  There appears to be no substantiation of poor job performance, and there is substantial evidence of both these prayer meetings and attempts to convert members of government to this extreme evangelical faith, and that advancement was at least in part contingent on that conversion.  It is also substantiated that the interaction with Margie Canfield took place, which supports the claims of Courtney Canfield, and her grandmother supports her claims.

Further, it is worth noting that Margie Canfield was fired from her leadership position within the Republican party by Rucker's boss, Kansas Sec State Kobach, because she was too moderate for what Kobach wanted to accomplish.

From the Topeka Capitol-Journal about grandma Canfield and the extremist religious right:
Three days before she was let go, Rucker met with Canfield’s grandmother, Margie, to discuss Courtney Canfield’s employment at the secretary of state’s office. The lawsuit alleges Rucker asked Margie Canfield, who has worked about 30 years for the Kansas Republican Party, to help with the dismissal of Courtney Canfield. Rucker ended up handling Courtney Canfield’s firing.
Margie Canfield and Kobach crossed paths in 2007 when Kobach, serving as chairman of the state Republican Party, fired Margie Canfield. She was rehired several years later after Kobach departed from the chairman’s position.
“Kobach said she was too moderate for what he wanted to do,” said Clay Barker, who is the Kansas GOP’s executive director.
Rucker served as chief deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2007 while Kline was in office. He then worked in the Johnson County District Attorney’s office when Kline was appointed DA. In 2011, Kobach made Rucker an assistant secretary of state.

From the same article, a little insight into the actions of Rucker in a different intersection of religion and government when it came to the subject of opposing legal abortion, where Kline and Maxwell were horrific extremists and got busted for their actions, so there is precedence for Rucker condoning illegal action by government in support of religious views:
Rucker, a lawyer who previously worked for Attorney General Phill Kline, has been involved in court cases by virtue of his career as an attorney and through his position in the offices of attorney general and secretary of state. He served as a prosecutor when Kline was district attorney in Johnson County.
In 2010, the state disciplinary board for attorneys recommended censure of Rucker for his role in misleading the Kansas Supreme Court in an inquiry of a Wichita abortion doctor. Rucker didn’t personally distort information, but did nothing when Kline and Assistant Attorney General Steve Maxwell filed incorrect information about abortion investigations to the high court.
The justices were left by Rucker to “operate under a mistaken belief regarding a significant matter in an ongoing criminal investigation,” a disciplinary panel concluded.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an order by the state Supreme Court in 2013 to revoke Kline’s law license for abuse of power in pursuing abortion providers. The state Supreme Court had concluded “clear and convincing evidence” existed Kline engaged in professional wrongdoing by violating nearly a dozen rules governing conduct of lawyers.
And then there was this example, of the judicial branch of government engaging in an apparently improper involvement of religion.  I would note that there are many religious therapists who engage in treatment which is not helpful and can even be harmful and which violates professional standards, like the "praying away the gay" performed at the clinic owned by Michele and Marcus Bachmann.

Ask yourself if you are comfortable with conformity to a religious belief of someone in government determining your custody of your children.  Never mind that much of what the religious practitioner did was illegal.  In the story below, clearly this woman should have had affirmative permission to make the change she did with seeing this religious therapist, but far more important is that the judge should never have required this in the first place.  It was clear that Salzman rejected the religious proselytizing, and that government forced a private citizen to pay for religion, and that it was forced on her.  The therapist gets HALF OF HER BUSINESS from court ordered clients!  Clearly both Salzman and the local television news informed the courts with proof of the religious intrusion, and the courts declined to respond.

For some reason the video is not posting here, possibly due to some problem with the embed code, but it is well worth watching if you follow the link.

From Boingboing:

Non-religious woman who refused judge's order to meet with Christian counselor loses her sons

 Holly Salzman of Albuquerque, New Mexico went to court to resolve coparenting issues with her ex-husband. The judge ordered Salzman to attend 10 sessions with a counselor named Mary Pepper (Photo). When Salzman went to the first session, Pepper began praying out loud, Salzman objected but Pepper told her, "well this is what I do." When Salzman attended the next session, Pepper prayed out loud again and spoke at length about God. Salzman asked the court to let her see another counselor, but the court never responded. Salzman stopped seeing Pepper and the court took her sons away.

In order to regain custody of the boys, Salzman would have to complete the sessions. KRQE News Channel 13 and Salzman worked together to covertly record three of the final sessions with Pepper.

“The meaning in my life is to know love and serve God,” Pepper told Salzman in one of the recorded meetings. “If you want to explore how God was in your past, how God was in your life and not in your life… I know you don’t believe in God which is fine but I [k]now at some points he was in your life in some way.”
Pepper frequently handed Salzman religious tracts and gave Salzman a “homework” assignment, to write an essay titled “Who is God to me?”
Pepper sounds like a real piece of work. KRQE News found out she uses public libraries to conduct her counseling sessions:
“That way I can keep my costs down,” Pepper said.
But she’s not allowed to work in public libraries. City policy forbids the sale of products or services on library property.
Salzman says Pepper is aware of that– claiming she has her clients book the rooms in their names and pay her in cash.
“She had actually explained to me that you need to be discrete about it because I’m not allowed to exchange money in the public library. So I had to kind of hide the money and then literally pass the money under the table,” Salzman said.
Pepper wouldn’t tell KRQE News 13 about the cash payments.
“I think that this interview needs to be ended,” she said.

We need to keep the personal exercise of religion out of the sphere of government.  We need to keep the exercise of religion out of the realm of the conduct of business as well, whenever it diminishes the choice of others who deserve protection from religion being forced or foisted on them.

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