I normally pay very little attention to the news these days. My usual routine is to pick up the headlines from Google’s news feeds and pop over to the BBC website on a Saturday or Sunday for an hour or two. That usually is enough to sate my weak appetite for all things Trump, as well as catch up on whatever big might have happened outside of his orbit, elsewhere in the world. Back in the 1990s and into the early 2000s, I was a veritable news junkie. I had the local 24×7 news channel dialed in on my car radio. I listened to and from work, at work, and even at home. I rarely ever agreed with what Mark Davis, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity were saying, but it was “interesting” to hear their perspectives. And then one day, my desire to listen to this type of stuff just seemingly turned off. Just like a water spigot.
Much of my distaste for what was happening in the news was the saturation of the 2000 election cycle between Bush and Gore. Adding further was the non-stop kvetching that took place after the election – by both Republicans and Democrats. Since that moment, the constant barrage has been non-stop. Our news cycle has morphed into a 365x24x7 concept, and the news is constantly about what one political side of the fence thinks about this issue or that. So, to keep my own personal brand of sanity, I took to limiting the amount of news that I take in. So far, its worked to one degree or another. I might be a touch behind one some pieces of the news cycle, but at least I am no longer stressing day and night over things.
This weekend is the last stretch of 4×10 work days – what is known as the “Summer Schedule” at work. During this period of work time, I have three days off in a row – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So, my usual methodology has been to continue picking up the news on Saturday or Sunday. Until this week. Since I had a handful of chores and spiritual obligations to handle on Saturday and Sunday, I decided to grab some of the news on Friday morning. I ran into two headlines that immediately grabbed my attention.
A “Religious Liberties Task Force” eh? That terminology has a draconian feel for me. Furthermore, taking into consideration that DJT had been consuming most of the headlines with his inane tweets and off-the-wall commentary on other aspects of the news, I quickly realized that the lead for this had been quite effectively buried. So off into reading and information gathering mode, I started to head.
All of this stems from a 2017 memo from Attorney general Jeff Sessions to the members of the Department of Justice, where he provided the broadest interpretation of “religious liberties” be applied in the application to federal laws. For instance, a pastor could not preach politics from the pulpit or canvas a congregation to provide funds to a political campaign. However, in applying the concept of legal protections under the guise of “religious liberties”, issues where this may have occurred, are given a wide berth by the DoJ, according to this particular memo. This new task force takes things a slight step further. I say “slight step” but its a rather large one.
The task force itself only has a written mandate to uphold the 2017 memo from AG Sessions. However, in a speech, AG Sessions took things a touch further, invoking an unspoken war between Christianity and “Secularism” that has overtones quite similar to the days of the Catholic church’s misguided time of the Inquisition.
“We have gotten to the point,” he said, “where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law, where ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit, and where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a ‘hate group’ on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
As is pointed out in the Vox article, AG Sessions is apparently targeting groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, perhaps even the American Civil Liberties Union, where far-right Christian groups have been branded with the descriptive of being a hate group. And I will add my own personal note here, rightfully so. Furthermore, I question the constitutionality of such a group, particularly when the individual in charge of it – AG Sessions – seemingly has such a narrow perspective of what the group is to enforce, namely the “correctness” of far-right Christianity. According to our founding fathers for this country, we are to establish no laws favoring one belief system over another. I would posit that this “task force” is just that, as well as a necessary step towards fascism within this country.
A step too far, perhaps? I would invite you to take a long hard look at the John Birch Society in American history, as well as our current modern dominionists that have managed to wiggle their way into positions of power and influence here in our government. The John Birch Society and the positions espoused by it are pillars of the modern-day dominionists. Their goal? Well, they do not hide it and are quite open about it. A Christian America, following their principles of Christianity. Their desire is to legislate their beliefs into law, subjecting all to their beliefs. After all, biblical principles state that the “good” Christian preaches the good word to all and converts the flock to what is right. They believe the world is dominated by a single concept of “war” that continues to this day: their Christianity versus the rest of the world. The rest of the world is effectively blinded by Satan, and in most cases is unknowingly participants in this battle.
I have seen this before in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Historically, we ‘affectionately’ call this the “Satanic Panic.” This movement spawned a ton of Christian books, many of which I have read (during this particular time frame as well). Christian comedian Mike Warnke made claims of being a High Priest of Satan before (and during the first years) of his service in the US Navy. In 1991, Christian magazine Cornerstone debunked his story. His original claim was that he had 15,000 members of his coven. in the years following the Cornerstone investigation and story, he claimed there were only thirteen members of his coven, and laid the majority of the blame of inaccuracies in the story at the feet of his ex-wife. Warnke continues regaling his tale of being a High Priest of Satan, but that’s a full conversation for another time.
We have been through these times before. Lies upon lies upon lies are constantly heaped upon the Pagan community – Nine Hells, ANY community that does not line up with these dominionists. Their followers eat all of this up because they are programmed to believe the worst in everyone else. Their perspective is to see all of us as wanting to destroy everything that they have. When in reality, we are really just trying to make it through each day with our humanity still intact.
A lot of those folks will toss out the notation that Pagans HATE who they are. That Pagans want to destroy them and wipe them from the face of the earth. From my own perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. I am quite sure that in the small town where I live, that there are more than a few of those dominionists. I am more than sure that there are quite a few within my work environment. I have no desire to destroy them or even discredit who they are. If that happens, they will have done it themselves. All I really want is to live my life in the way I wish to and be free to worship the Gods that I follow, and have the freedom to love the people that I love – and for others to have the same choice. That’s not secularism folks, that’s called choice. People like AG Sessions are out to fight a war with Gestapo-style tactics like this, not because others want to destroy what is their (AG Sessions and his ilk) choice. They are utilizing these tactics to scare people into making their (AG Sessions and his ilk) choice because folks are choosing something else instead. “Task Force”, indeed.