Wednesday, November 02, 2011

"Don't Be the Weird One"

That's the advice given to the speakers at this year's so-called Value Voters Summit, put on by the über Religious Right wackjob-controlled Family Research Council. When you have an overload of speakers such as Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul haranguing the Pavlovian-dog-whistled crowds to froth their mouths over the horrors of secular society, "humans evolved from monkeys", the need to put god back into the public square, and the requirement that the next president to be a "born again" Christian, I think that the "don't be the weird one" admonition got wadded up and punted out the window on the Wednesday before the meeting.

In the grand scheme of things, those of us out here on the secular frontier tend to look at clowns like these with a measure of humor, as a source of fairly harmless amusement. But it could take just one ginned-up "October Surprise" for one of those wackjobs to spring to the presidency, and if they drag a republican majority in both houses of congress with them, then it suddenly wouldn't be all that amusing.

The Washington-based staff of Americans United for Separation of Church and State regularly attends these things, and I have to give them kudos for sticking their necks and their hands into a den of rabid wolverines for a couple of days each year. They probably feel like a handful of popsickle sticks in a room full of chainsaws. But good on them for doing it, and bringing back the word on what the Religious Right is really up to.

It's not pretty.

Barry W. Lynn, an ordained minister, is the Executive Director of Americans United, and he had this to say about this year's fest:

I used to believe that as I got older and gained more and more life experience, fewer things would bother me. Maybe I’m not aging after all, then, because going to the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit here in Washington was bothersome – as well as bizarre, boggling of the mind and baffling.
...“Government should not get between a patient and his doctor.” Right on! And, in predictable fashion, the speech would move later into an anti-abortion message with speakers vowing to stop every abortion or virtually every one.
But wait – couldn’t this be construed as government, the criminal law even, getting between a patient and her doctor? Perhaps the pronoun really does matter, or the level of hypocrisy is stunning.
Here’s another ironic twist to the essential message of this group: They talked about fealty to the “Constitution” (a version they apparently found in their sock drawer) constantly, but went into the stratosphere with glee when U.S. Rep. Ron Paul announced that all of his positions come from the Bible – military policy, tax policy and (of course) abortion policy. Some weird interpretation of constitutional rights is secondary to the belief that all policy matters need a biblical basis.
Read the whole thing. It's Barry's current monthly commentary for November in the organization's publication, Church & State, which is available on the website in its entirety at

Be sure to read Assistant Editor Rob Boston's Bombast, Bigotry and the Bible and Unholy Harangue: Summit Speakers Hit New Heights of Extremism;
U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) ...also freely rewrote American history. According to the congressman, the Declaration of Independence was written under divine guidance, and God “moved the Founding Fathers around like men on a chessboard. I believe this country was planned and built by his hand.”
Glenn Beck, former Fox News personality. Beck unleashed a bombastic tirade that careened wildly from ominous claims of societal conflict due to the Wall Street protestors and an ongoing “race war” to assertions that politics doesn’t matter as much as service to your fellow Americans.

It is difficult to characterize Beck’s rant or summarize his main themes – there weren’t any. A few sips could be taken from his stream of consciousness, however: Beck dislikes it when young people take out loans to pay for college and then complain because they experience difficulty paying them back. He mentioned this more than once. At one point, he recommended that if young people can’t afford college, they should just go to “the free public library. It worked for me.”
Doomsday prophesies also littered the Beck rant. He conjured up a veritable zombie Apocalypse involving hordes of advancing Wall Street occupiers.
“The violent left is coming to our streets, all of our streets, to smash, to tear down, to kill, to bankrupt, to destroy,” Beck told the crowd. “It will be global in nature and global in its scope. I said these things two years ago, and I was mocked and ridiculed.”
Again, read the whole thing. AU is the one organization whose entire goal is to maintain the wall of separation that exists between churches and government.

I am proud to be a member and I encourage you to become one as well. Study the Americans United website, read some of things we do and the things we stand for, and please consider joining us. Dues can be as little as $18.00 per year, you won't have to go meetings unless you want to, you won't have to take any actions if you don't want to, but no matter what level of participation you want to engage in, you will be helping a terrific organization as it fights back against the dark forces of the religious right.

I have been a member for many years, and this coming weekend I will get to go back to Washington DC for our yearly meeting. It's always a time to get some great new training, meet some great fellow AU members from all over the country, meet some of the outstandingly excellent people on the staff of the national office, and mainly have a lot of fun. After the sessions, there's a lot of "hanging out" time with a bunch of smart intelligent people who are in complete agreement with me on the topic of the separation of church and state.

I had to miss it last year, and the fact that I didn't go felt as though I'd torn an important piece of fabric out of the seat of my pants.