Donald Trump, World’s Best Christian

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If you seriously believe that Donald Trump understands the Christian faith, has read the Bible or would choose the defence of religious values and freedom over some other passing whim while serving as president, then I have a bridge across the River Thames to sell you

Eric Zorn has a great column in the Chicago Tribune in which he systematically takes apart Donald Trump’s pretence that he is a Serious Christian and the default choice for those voting with their Christian faith foremost in their minds.

Zorn writes:

Nothing illustrates what a flim-flam man Donald Trump is better than his frequent and oily allusions to the Bible.

It is his favorite book, he tells the credulous masses at his rallies. Nobody reads it more than he does.

But a review of the record suggests he may not have read it at all.

During a televised interview with John Heilemann and Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics in August 2015, Halperin noted Trump’s frequent professions of fondness for Judeo-Christian scripture and said, “I’m wondering what one or two of your most favorite Bible verses are and why.”

“I wouldn’t want to get into it,” Trump said, “because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal so I don’t want to get into verses. The Bible means a lot to me but I don’t want to get into specifics.”

“Are you an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy?” Heilemann asked.

“Probably equal,” Trump said. “I think it’s just incredible, the whole Bible is incredible.”

How utterly convincing. Zorn continues:

That unfamiliarity showed up again in April when host Bob Lonsberry of WHAM-AM in Rochester, N.Y., broached the subject in a phone interview: “Is there a favorite Bible verse or Bible story that has informed your thinking or your character through life, sir?”

“Well, I think many,” answered the would-be exegete-in-chief. “I mean, you know, when we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. And I tell people, look, ‘An eye for an eye,’ you can almost say that.”

You can, sure.

But not only is “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” an Old Testament verse that condones barbaric vengeance (“… hand for hand, foot for foot,” it goes on, “burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise”) it was also expressly repudiated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39).

I get it. Actually making time to sit down and read the Bible every day while trying to internalise parts of it is tough. Particularly, I imagine, when you are rich and famous and your free time is largely given over to grabbing women “by the pussy”. Personally, I have only read the entire Bible cover-to-cover once, when I was eighteen and preparing for my adult confirmation into the Roman Catholic church after converting from Anglicanism. More than a decade later I am now finally trying to do so again, with the help of a great online Bible app which comes with a manageable “Bible in a year” reading plan.

The point of which being that it is fairly easy to spot someone who has actually attempted the feat and possesses a genuine (if still somewhat patchy, like mine) familiarity with the Bible, and somebody who is just putting on an act, attempting to fake religious observance as a kind of cultural marker. And Trump clearly falls into the latter category.

Eric Zorn concludes:

Is Trump the first politician to exaggerate his piety in order to win favor with the American public, 70 percent of which identifies as Christian and 6 percent of which identifies as belonging to another faith tradition?

No, but he’s the worst at it — the most transparent — that we’ve ever seen on the national stage.

It’s not just that he’s a brazen Bible huckster, it’s that he’s really bad at it.

Those who put their faith in him should prepare to have it shattered.

This is depressing for all those Christians who have been taken in by Donald Trump’s false displays of piety, as well as those resigned Christians who recognise that Trump is a charlatan but feel that Trump represents a better bulwark against attacks on their values and way of life than Hillary Clinton.

But it is also darkly amusing. Because for eight years it has been the habit of more than a few Republican Party politicians to insinuate that President Barack Obama is somehow not a Christian, or even that he is a closet Muslim, despite endless evidence of the Obama family attending church and Obama himself being capable of speaking about his faith without getting completely tongue-tied or reporting to bland banalities. Some Republicans stood up to the “Obama is a Muslim” hysteria – notably John McCain at a town hall meeting during the 2008 presidential campaign. But many others remained cynically silent, allowing prejudice and misinformation to take hold, thinking that it would advantage them politically.

And now it is the GOP’s turn to field a presidential candidate who doesn’t merely “exaggerate his piety” but effectively invents it from thin air to get himself out of a tight spot in a TV interview. Of course, the Democrats are in absolutely no position to take advantage of this fact – Hillary Clinton is a Christian, like Obama, but has chosen to downplay her faith in this election because many of her supporters place more faith in the god of Social Justice and Identity Politics than the God of the Old and New Testaments.

As Ben Wolfgang notes in the Washington Times:

Hillary Clinton’s Christianity, which she wielded as a political weapon in her 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign, largely has been missing in this year’s election.

She hasn’t hidden her Methodist upbringing, but scholars say it’s not front and center. And where in the past she used it as a window into her character, this year she’s deployed it as a debate tactic to push criminal justice reform and other policy goals.

Church attendance also has been all but absent from Mrs. Clinton’s schedule, except when she’s turned up behind a pulpit to stump for votes, particularly in predominantly black churches, where her appearances focus largely on how she intends to work with religious leaders to accomplish shared political objectives.

Since 2008 she’s also abandoned traditional Christian positions on issues such as same-sex marriage, coming in favor of the practice in 2013 after years of opposing it.

The reason for the shift, analysts say, is twofold. Mrs. Clinton is taking on an opponent, Republican Donald Trump, who is seen as one of the most nonreligious presidential candidates in modern history. Pew polling from earlier this year found that just 30 percent of American voters say they consider Mr. Trump religious, while 48 percent said the same about Mrs. Clinton.

Perhaps more importantly, she now leads a party that, among its white base, if not its core black and Hispanic members, has become an increasingly secular institution. Recent polling shows the Democratic Party includes in its ranks nearly four times as many atheists and agnostics as the GOP.

Ultimately, the “Donald Trump is a better Christian than Hillary Clinton” argument comes to the two candidates’ respective positions on abortion. And if abortion is a deal-breaker for you then yes, Trump’s currently stated position on abortion (which has certainly changed since his liberal days of a few years back, as well as during this campaign, both without satisfactory explanation) is more in line with Church teaching about the sanctity of life.

But as with all of Donald Trump’s other stated policy positions, there is absolutely nothing to give confidence that his current position either represents his true beliefs on the subject, or that he would not flip-flop on the issue without a second thought if he saw political value in doing so.

Christians – particularly Evangelicals – should really be used by now to cynical Republican politicians who have trained themselves to speak the language, say the right things and push all the right buttons on social issues in pursuit of the evangelical vote, only to sell out the movement once safely ensconced in power. George W. Bush won a tough 2004 re-election campaign against John Kerry in spite of his disastrous mismanagement of the Iraq invasion and its aftermath largely by switching the focus to social issues, namely gay marriage, in order to motivate his base. And in nearly every election before and since, evangelicals have been flattered, threatened and otherwise called upon to support the Republican candidate only to have their causes betrayed or ignored after election day once their usefulness was over.

Donald Trump is doing exactly the same thing all over again. But he is so inept and transparent in his attempt to feign Christian piety that a fool should be able to see through his cynical machinations. And yet many bright and decent people are taken in by Trump’s amateur act.

Don’t get me wrong – Hillary Clinton, largely beholden to the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, will be no great defender of religious freedom or interests. But Donald Trump will be little better, as Christians should realise from bitter past experience and Trump’s unique untrustworthiness when it comes to holding true to his stated beliefs on fundamental issues.

Neither candidate, in office, would be a great friend of religion, though Donald Trump would likely continue to pay more lip service to Christian priorities thanks to the composition of the Republican Party. But both options are pretty bleak, and Christians seeking to vote based on their faith would actually be well advised to admit defeat and make their choice based on some other criteria.

Whoever wins this election, it looks quite safe to say that Christianity will lose.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 43 – DePaul University Censors Pro-Life Conservatives To Placate Black Lives Matter

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Appeasing the gods of social justice and identity politics now overrides a Catholic university’s commitment to Catholicism itself

It is now indisputable: Black Lives Matter are rapidly becoming the one absolutely holy and inviolable interest group on American college campuses, a favoured priesthood of living saints who must be protected from blasphemy and offence at all costs.

There really is no other way to describe the privilege enjoyed by this organisation following the news that DePaul University in Chicago – a Catholic institution – recently banned a poster produced by the DePaul College Republicans because their catchphrase “Unborn Lives Matter” is supposedly deliberately provocative and hurtful to the delicate Black Lives Matter snowflakes.

I repeat: the president of a Catholic university actively suppressed the free speech of his own students because they dared to publicly support traditional Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life and the rights of unborn children – which might have offended a group of people who are supposedly concerned about racial justice, not abortion rights.

Campus Reform reports:

The DePaul College Republicans chapter has been censored yet again, this time over promotional flyers proclaiming that “Unborn Lives Matter.”

According to University President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, the club was forbidden from using the flyers because they were “bigotry…under the cover of free speech,” meant to “provoke” members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

DePaul College Republicans Vice President John Minster told Campus Reform that his group wanted to use the “Unborn Lives Matter” flyers to draw members to their club meetings, but had to submit the design to the Office of Student Involvement for approval.

OSI Director Amy Mynaugh was out of town during the approval process, however, and the design proposal made it all the way to President Holtschneider.

Holtschneider not only declined to approve the flyers, but sent a letter to the entire university body explaining that the pro-life posters constituted “bigotry” and were not considered free speech.

The letter from President Holtschneider reads in part:

DePaul is a private Catholic institution, and we also are part of the academy.  By our nature, we are committed to developing arguments and exploring important issues that can be steeped in controversy and, oftentimes, emotion.  Yet there will be times when some forms of speech challenge our grounding in Catholic and Vincentian values.  When that happens, you will see us refuse to allow members of our community to be subjected to bigotry that occurs under the cover of free speech.  In fact, you have seen this in past months, as we have declined to host a proposed speaker and asked students to redesign a banner that provokes the Black Lives Matter movement.

Some people will say that DePaul’s stance unfairly silences speech to appease a crowd.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  As we experienced last spring, it’s not difficult to agree that there is a difference between a thoughtful discussion about immigration and a profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the Quad; or between a panel on racial climate and a noose — a powerful symbol of violence and hatred — outside a residence hall.  In both recent cases, the first, we encourage; the second, we abhor.

Because co-opting a topical phrase to express support for the Church’s pro-life stance is apparently “provocative” – the “provocation” outweighing the moral question at stake in the eyes of DePaul University.

And putting up a poster declaring that “Unborn Lives Matter” – the clearly stated and strongly affirmed position of the Catholic Church, the institution with which DePaul is inseparably affiliated – is not a statement of moral purpose, but is instead deemed the equivalent of a “profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the Quad”.

The letter continues:

If you read DePaul’s Guiding Principles on Speech and Expression, you will see that our Vincentian values were in the forefront six years ago when these guidelines were developed.  Though a group of your own DePaul colleagues are giving them a fresh look for updates, the current guiding principles still apply.  I encourage you to read the entire document to gain a better understanding of the balance between our values and speech.  In particular, I ask you to reflect on these sentences: “We accept that there is a distinction between being provocative and being hurtful.  Speech whose primary purpose is to wound is inconsistent with our Vincentian and Catholic values.”

More:

Disagreements will happen on important issues—many that are personal to members of our community for whom race, immigration, gender disparities, religious beliefs and economic privilege are more than conversation topics; they are part of an inescapable lived experience.  Students and others will almost certainly continue to explore and seek the exact limits of our tolerance for free expression when that expression is meant to cause distress.  Certainly, everyone is allowed to have their opinions on these topics.  I simply ask when you are expressing your opinion that you respect the difference between a reasoned discussion and words whose primary purpose is to wound.  I also ask that the university community refuse to “rise to the bait” in those moments when speech may become uncomfortable or even exasperating, but falls within the bounds of the academy’s commitment to full and robust debate.

Because hurt feelings are far more important than abortion. And the omniscient president and administrators of DePaul university can look clearly inside the human heart and discern whether a given student intends to provoke, offend or hurt when determining their right to speak.

This is ludicrous. Holtschneider made no attempt to speak with the DePaul College Republicans before censoring their poster and banning it from campus – he high handedly presumed to know what motivated them to speak out in favour of the rights of the unborn, and then publicly find them to be morally deficient and their motives cynical. That is effectively the judgment on their character that Holtschneider passed by revoking their right to express themselves – that they are Evil Racists more interested in “provoking” certain members of the black community than witnessing to their faith and speaking their consciences.

The National Review rages:

As a private, Catholic university, DePaul is not explicitly obliged to respect students’ free-speech rights like a public university would be. But it is disturbing that the university would choose not to do so, and even more disturbing that DePaul’s administration justified their decision by invoking the university’s “Catholic values.” It is hard to believe that the phrase “Unborn Lives Matter” is in violation of a Catholic university’s values when, in fact, this phrase ought to embody them.

This is not the first time that DePaul’s administration has been confused about the proper application of its Catholic guidelines. For instance, one of the university’s 2016 commencement speakers was Martin Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who in his professional capacity has advocated same-sex marriage and radical gender theory, and opposed religious-freedom legislation that would have enabled Catholic institutions to uphold their values. DePaul was also found to have referred students to jobs and internships at Planned Parenthood, and to have promoted social-media posts celebrating the Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

While it is the university administration’s prerogative to take these actions — even though they openly conflict with established Church doctrine — it is appalling that the same administration would invoke its Catholic principles to ban pro-life flyers from campus. It is evident that Holtschneider and his staff are intent upon silencing conservative student voices, even if they must wield their Catholic identity as a cudgel to do so.

It is particularly depressing that the SJW snowflakes of DePaul have their grubby hands on the university’s Guiding Principles on Speech and Expression – we can safely assume that the next version of this document will be even more restrictive, and prioritise the feelings and “identities” of coddled students even more strongly over the imperative for debate and the quest for truth. Which will be some achievement, considering the current version already draws a specious “distinction between being provocative and being hurtful.

But one can only be so angry at the students themselves. As this blog has explored repeatedly, these thin-skinned students are very much a product of their environment and their upbringing. They are the result of Everyone Wins A Prize schooling, parental paranoia about a child abductor lurking on every corner and the endless, nauseating praise for the most pedestrian of accomplishments and the corrosive idea, inculcated at every stage of their academic lives, that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will kill me stone dead”.

Far more to blame are the adults – the liberal college professors now struggling to stay ahead of their students in the race to be ever more strident, intolerant and authoritarian in response to ideas they dislike, and the spineless university administrators who would sooner collaborate with the new regime and stab academic freedom in the back than push back against their millennial masters.

But special criticism has to be levied at the leader of a Catholic educational institution – somebody with Reverend in their title – who prioritises the prickly feelings of Black Lives Matter (and their proprietary sense of ownership over the phrase “[insert interest group] lives matter”) over and above the Church’s teaching on a core social issue.

I happen to be Catholic myself. Personally, I do believe that All Lives Matter. I believe that life begins at conception, and that therefore abortion inherently means the taking of a life. But I also believe that this is also sometimes the lesser of two evils, or an understandable choice in an impossibly difficult situation. As well as the commonly given exceptions – rape, incest, the life of the mother – I believe that abortion should be a legal, safe and much, much rarer. And part of making abortion much rarer must surely involve easier access to (and education about) contraception. One of the best ways to stop new lives being discarded before they begin is to prevent the hideous situation from arising in the first place.

I recognise that all of the above places me in conflict with the church’s teaching, and that is something which I have to wrestle with. I’m reasonably sure that I am right, and that my viewpoint will be vindicated and adopted by the Church in the fullness of time, but that doesn’t lessen the sense of unease at being out of communion with my religion on such an emotive issue.

But here’s the difference: I don’t expect external authority figures to step in, suppressing the free speech of others to prevent my guilty conscience from being pricked. Nor do I expect them to do so because the language they choose to use in affirming traditional Church teaching “appropriates” the name of another cause I happen to care about, or which impacts me. I can think and write what I want – I have no business limiting the freedom of others to do the same.

And students at a Catholic university, of all places, should be free to affirm Catholic teaching through articles, peaceful protest and harmless posters without fear of censorship by craven university authorities – spineless, degenerate cowards who would sooner suppress freedom of speech and publicly reject their own religion’s teaching than risk the slightest offence to their new deity: the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

Bigotry “under the cover of free speech”? That is to be DePaul University’s sneering, dismissive and hostile attitude toward young conservative Catholics who dare to affirm the teachings of their faith?

People of faith should pray for the censored College Republicans (whether or not you agree with their cause), and for DePaul University. Because religion counts for nothing if it has to disregard doctrine and bend the knee to social fads and new secular shibboleths.

And I don’t know how much longer the academy can plausibly survive the continued ruthless letting of its most vital lifeblood – the right to free speech.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 9 – Safe Space Culture Stunts Young Minds

Safe space culture stunts young minds and prevents activist students from learning how to debate. Whatever happened to “use your words”?

If one video could perfectly encapsulate the deleterious effect of having students marinate 24/7 in Identity Politics culture, protected by safe spaces, trigger warnings and campus speech codes, it would be this brief video of a scene from a pro-life protest and pro-choice counter-protest at the University of California, Davis.

Some context, from Campus Reform:

During the “three days of demonstrations,” Students for Life at UC Davis set up shop in a common area on campus where members distributed pro-life materials and polled students on whether or not later terms abortions should remain legal in California.

But counter-protesters were quick to disrupt the demonstration, throwing pro-life materials to the ground and even harassing some participants for taking pictures of the protest.

In a video obtained by Campus Reform, members of UC Davis Students for Life appear to be talking to a counter-protester who in turn pushes a stack of pro-life flyers to the ground and proceeds to walk away.

“I’m not sorry, I’m not sorry!” she said to cheers from her fellow protesters.

Although a campus police officer was monitoring the protests, no action was taken against the student.

Now, this has nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of the protest and counter-protest. Whether you personally believe in completely unrestricted abortion or are vehemently pro-life is irrelevant here. What matters is the behaviour of the protester who chose to vandalise the pro-life students’ materials, throwing their literature to the floor and walking away without even seeking to engage them in discussion.

Note the exchange which takes place when the student speaks with the campus security officer who witnessed the event:

Officer: Did you touch their stuff? Yes?

Student: Yes.

Officer: Why?

Student: Well, cause, like… [gestures limply at the pro-life stand, smirks and rolls eyes]

This student, accosted by a campus security officer for vandalising the pro-life students’ display, is utterly unable to account for her actions. She clearly believes she is completely in the right – as evidenced by her supporters’ chants of “she did nothing wrong!”. But when pressed as to the reason for her behaviour, the student is utterly incapable of accounting for herself with even the simplest of intellectual arguments.

But while the student was capable of nothing more than dumb aggression, we can easily paraphrase the argument which went through her mind as she picked up a bunch of leaflets with contrarian views and threw them to the floor. She thought: “I don’t like this. I disagree with this, and therefore I should not have to put up with its presence. Because I am offended and am unambiguously in the right, I have the right to lash out in any way I please at those who contradict me”.

This is what the Politics of Identity does to young minds. Not all protesters are so sulkily monosyllabic, of course. Many are able to speak quite eloquently, and in so doing give the outward  appearance of being reasonable, happy and willing to debate their beliefs and hear from those who disagree. But even those students who are able to do more than shrug and smirk betray themselves with their calls for safe spaces, campus speech codes and mandatory re-education or social probation for those whose hold opinions which are deemed “offensive”.

Because these students have been raised to treat encountering a contrary opinion from someone the same way as being physically or mentally “assaulted”, they can never be content, never rest, until they impose their ideological homogeneity on their entire campus environment, using either the carrot or the stick as suits their purposes.

And yet in many ways, these student crybullies are more sinned against than sinning. They did not make themselves this way. They are the product of a society which has increasingly promoted authoritarian restrictions on freedom of speech on the spurious grounds of public “safety”, as well as a therapeutic culture which constantly told them as they were growing up that “sticks and stones may break their bones, but words can kill them stone dead”. They did not grow up in a vacuum, and those responsible for educating them and governing during their formative years have much to answer for.

But the fact that the snowflake student generation are not entirely to blame for the way that they turned out does not absolve us of our responsibility to criticise what we see, and call it what it is – a real and present danger to academic freedom on university campuses, and freedom of speech and thought in our wider societies.

A more intellectually and emotionally developed student would have been able to walk past the pro-life student display and either ignore it or engage in a robust exchange of views with the organisers. But modern campus Identity Politics does not teach or encourage this skill. Rather, it affirms the existing world view of the student and tells them that they have the right not to ever have to see or hear a dissenting opinion. And so rather than debate, we have toddler-style lashing out and defacing of opposing literature.

Identity Politics and safe space culture do not merely coddle the American mind. They actively stunt and inhibit young minds on college campuses everywhere they are present. And the damage they inflict on certain individuals may not be reversible.

 

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Texas Spares No Expense To Kill

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In Texas today,  there is apparently no expense too great when it comes to efficiently killing people, and no expense too small to be called unaffordable and cancelled if it preserves or improves quality of existence for the living.

This has nothing to do with the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, or the ongoing and contentious argument over abortion; those battles are raging on their own elsewhere.

Rather, this is about the eagerness of the state of Texas to go to any expense and any length to continue dispatching prisoners on death row with clockwork efficiency and regularity, under a veil of secrecy and unknown cost, while any other state expenditures are castigated as a sign of ‘big government’ and pared back – even as those who have (rightly or wrongly) come to depend on that government support suffer grievously as a consequence.

The Guardian reports on the extraordinary lengths to which the Texas state government – which takes every opportunity to position itself as staunchly pro-life and legislate based on the ‘sanctity of human life’ – is willing to go in order to continue performing lethal injections once its current supply of lethal injection drugs runs out at the end of March:

Texas has obtained a new batch of the drugs it uses to execute death row inmates, allowing the state to continue carrying out death sentences once its existing supply expires at the end of the month.

But correction officials will not say where they bought the drugs, arguing that information must be kept secret to protect the safety of its new supplier. In interviews with the Associated Press, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also refused to say whether providing anonymity to its new supplier of the sedative pentobarbital was a condition of its purchase.

It should be noted that Texas is not the only state to go above and beyond in its zeal to continue killing inmates – Ohio also recently switched to a new cocktail of lethal injection drugs after it found itself unable to obtain new supplies of the original formula.

The fact that no international pharmaceutical company is willing any longer to supply drugs to be used for barbaric executions was a mere obstacle to be overcome for Ohio, who found a new drug and a new supplier, and subsequently botched their first execution using the new method. One eyewitness, a priest, reported:

I was aghast. Over those 11 minutes or more he was fighting for breath, and I could see both of his fists were clenched the entire time. His gasps could be heard through the glass wall that separated us. Towards the end, the gasping faded into small puffs of his mouth. It was much like a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air that would allow it to breathe. Time dragged on and I was helpless to do anything, sitting helplessly by as he struggled for breath. I desperately wanted out of that room.

For the next four minutes or so a medical tech listened for a heart beat on both sides of his chest. That seemed to drag on too, like some final cruel ritual, preventing us from leaving. Then, at 10.53am, the warden called the time of death, they closed the curtains, and that was it.

I came out of that room feeling that I had witnessed something ghastly. I was relieved to be out in the fresh air. There is no question in my mind that Dennis McGuire suffered greatly over many minutes. I’d been told that a “normal” execution lasted five minutes – this experimental two-drug concoction had taken 26 minutes. I consider that inhumane.

But let us return to Texas, so often the protagonist in these stories. The reason given by Texas state officials for not releasing details of where their shiny new supply of lethal injection drugs came from – in response to an entirely justified request by the AP – sets a new standard for cognitive dissonance and Orwellian doublethink:

The decision to keep details about the drugs and their source secret puts the agency at odds with past rulings of the state attorney general’s office, which has said the state’s open records law requires the agency to disclose specifics about the drugs it uses to carry out lethal injections.

“We are not disclosing the identity of the pharmacy because of previous, specific threats of serious physical harm made against businesses and their employees that have provided drugs used in the lethal injection process,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.

It is already well known that Texas’ supposed devotion to the sanctity of life does not apply to those on death row, just as the state that held a prayer event to ask God to intercede and end a long-running drought is also quite happy to ignore Jesus’ teachings about mercy and forgiveness.

But now it also appears that the state of Texas is acting in this opaque and clearly antidemocratic manner because of fears for the safety of those people who are involved in producing the deadly drugs.

Imagine, for a moment, that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had instead released their statement with the following revision (amendments in brackets):

“We are not disclosing the identity of the [people and organisations involved] because of previous, specific threats of serious physical harm made against businesses and their employees that have provided [services] used in the [abortion] process.”

Pigs would fly and snow fall in hell before the state of Texas would ever consider withholding the names and details of people involved in providing abortion services out of a desire to protect their safety, even though there are many real, tangible examples of such people being subjected to harassment, intimidation, physical harm and assassination. By contrast, anti-death penalty campaigners have shown no signs of wanting to intimidate or harm those with whom they disagree.

The key difference (and reason for the massive divergence in treatment of the two groups) is that as far as those in power in Texas are concerned, anyone ever involved in facilitating an abortion is inherently evil and deserves whatever comes their way, but anyone who facilitates an execution is doing their God-fearing, patriotic duty.

And this dichotomy exists because the governing majority in Texas, from Rick “Oops” Perry on downwards, do not see the execution of an incarcerated inmate by the all-powerful government as a violation of the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill.

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One of the indispensable functions of government?

 

At this point, two disclaimers:

1. The purpose of this article is not to elicit sympathy for murderers, or even to debate the merits of the death penalty – though this blog will go on record as being resolutely against the death penalty, viewing it as a barbaric practice from a bygone age best relegated to the past.

2. Nor is the purpose of this article to debate the issue of abortion – though this blog will go on record as believing that life begins at conception, but that there are various times and circumstances (rape, incest, catastrophic developmental anomalies, risk to the life of the mother) when two equally terrible choices must be weighed and the resultant answer may come down on the side of terminating the pregnancy at the earliest opportunity; and that in these terrible, heart-wrenching circumstances, no one is better placed to make the awful decision than the mother, least of all government.

The purpose of this blog is to ask a very simple question of the Texas government: where the hell are your priorities?

Why, when Texas struggles with shameful rates of illiteracy, teen pregnancy, teen births, adults in correctional facilities, adults under probation, citizens without health insurance and food insecure children, is the state government rummaging for spare change and wasting precious time and resources in order to continue funding executions, of all things?

Why, when life is so difficult and wretched for so many Texans, is their state government more interested in preserving its ability to smite the guilty (or not guilty) than help the needy?

When conservative Texans are not threatening to secede from the United States in protest of the Tyrannical Kenyan Socialist Marxist Fascist Community-Organising Gun-Confiscating Traitor unlawfully occupying the White House, they often like to pledge their love and respect for the Constitution. Section 13 of Article 1 (Bill of Rights) of their own Texas State Constitution has this to say on the matter of punishing the guilty:

Sec.13. EXCESSIVE BAIL OR FINES; CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT; REMEDY BY DUE COURSE OF LAW. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishment inflicted. All courts shall be open, and every person for an injury done him, in his lands, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law.

“Nor cruel or unusual punishment inflicted.”

In Texas, it appears that selective reading is not limited to the Bible.

The Real Reason Behind Abstinence-Only Sex Education

abstinence only

 

Robert Reich has an interesting article from Slate.com, pondering the real motivation behind abstinence-only sex education in Texas, given the fact that it consistently and demonstrably leads to worse health outcomes (higher numbers of teen pregnancies and STDs, which one might think policymakers would wish to avoid).

Reich posits that it has a lot more to do with punishment – removing any protection from the potential consequences of their actions so that teen girls feel the pain and shame of their “immoral” ways – than it does with any sincere belief that abstinence-only is in any way an effective method of sex education:

It’s not that the Christian fundamentalists who dominate state politics in Texas wouldn’t prefer young people, at least the girls, to remain abstinent and then get married off at 19, passing them seamlessly from parental to spousal control. They’re always happy in those rare cases when that successfully happens. The question is what happens to the 95 per cent of us who are dissenters and go ahead and have sex without being married first. The main concern driving these policies is that sexually active, unmarried women will get away with their behavior without being punished. That’s why there’s obstacles such as parental notification between girls and access to contraception. The idea is that if a girl tries to escape her due punishment of unintended pregnancy, she should at least have to endure being grounded for her slatternly ways.

In examining the logic behind the policies, you have to conclude that proponents of abstinence-only sex education are either stupid (because they want teen pregnancy and STD rates go down, but are unable to see that the implementation of their policies are having the opposite effect), or mean (because they know full well that their policies are causing higher rates of pregnancies and STDs and are glad of it, because these young people need to be punished for their slutty ways):

If you start with the assumption that social conservatives agree that the problem is STDs and teen pregnancy and not sex itself, you’re inevitably going to conclude that their insistence on programs that seem to keep the STD and teen pregnancy rate high must mean they’re stupid. Incredibly stupid, on the can’t-tie-their-own-shoes level. And that seems a bit unfair. Fundamentalists can be annoying and pig-headed, but they’re not measurably stupider than the rest of us. Because of this, the only fair conclusion is poor sexual health outcomes is the point, because they believe that if kids won’t stop having sex, they should at least be doing the time for their “crimes.” If you start with the assumption that sex is sinful and it should have negative consequences for those who disobey your sky god’s orders, then really, the Texas anti-sex policies can be considered a smashing success.

It’s kind of like a parent letting their young child pick up a few bumps and scrapes while playing so that they learn to play carefully. Except that the “parent” in this case is the benificent state of Texas, the “child” is the millions of kids in the Texas school system, and the “bumps and scrapes” are highly infectious sexually transmitted diseases (caught because the adolescents were not taught about the dangers of unprotected sex), babies being born into unprepared, unwilling families (and in some cases suffering harsh childhoods as a result), or babies being aborted for the same reasons.

Great parenting job.