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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Southern Baptist Convention and Mayor Fletcher of Vero Beach

Well folks, here I go again, making noise about the separation of church and state. It seems that some people just can't get enough of that tasty mélange that is religious political power. It is an irresistible temptation to get out there and schmooze your way into having a little stroke down at city hall and then using it to try to force everyone else to bow to your belief system, no matter how unlikely or fantastic it may be. Take, for example, the latest news on the Southern Baptist Convention. It appears to have come as some sort of epiphany to them that they don't have the political clout that they had ten years ago under President Bush.

"[The Southern Baptist Convention] has less influence in government and a growing diversity that may be diminishing its role as a partisan political player. And some Southern Baptists are beginning to cry foul at what they see as discrimination by gays and liberals that violates their religious liberty."

Now, that's rich, “discrimination by gays and liberals”. Please tell me I'm not the only one to see the irony in this statement. How some people can be so myopic baffles the hell out of me. Here's a group of people whose history is rife with injustice to groups who don't meet their lofty standards crying because they feel set upon, not because they have lost any of their liberties but because they have lost the ability to legislate, by proxy, their doctrine.

Religious intolerance

"For 100 years the Southern Baptists have been the dominating religious entity of the South," said David W. Key Sr., director of Baptist Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology and a Southern Baptist. "Now they are starting to feel religious victimhood. ... In many ways, Baptists introduced pluralism to America. Now they are feeling like victims of that pluralism."

The above excerpts are from an AP news story found here.

In a spasm of progressive thinking, the SBC have even elected a person of color as their president and found themselves in the uncomfortable position of not knowing how he voted in the last United States presidential election. Apparently, he didn't subscribe to the time-honored tradition of religious leaders by telling them how he was going to vote and, by rote, how they should vote as well. Now there are gays in the military, gays in the Boy Scouts, states are legalizing gay marriage, where will it end? The following is from the same article.

[Russell Moore, the incoming president of the Nashville-based SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said,] "The government is overstepping its bounds in breathtaking ways," Moore said in an interview. "The audacity of state challenges to religious freedom would have been unbelievable just a few years ago. A warning about some of these threats would have been dismissed as slippery-slope scare tactics."

Yes, indeed, and who would be better qualified to recognize “slippery-slope scare tactics than those who threaten everlasting torment in hell to those who don't believe as they do? They are getting their knickers in a twist because the loss of this power feels, to them, like persecution. What? We're not allowed to tell other people what to do anymore? Why, that's outright religious persecution!

More religious intolerance
Meanwhile, in Vero Beach, FL last week, the mayor tried to squash a request by The Humanists of the Treasure Coast who were asking them to proclaim June 16-23, 2013 as “Humanist Recognition Week.” They were calling for “compassion guided by reason” and other inflammatory and dangerous activities like the Hug An Atheist movement. From his statements you'd have thought they were asking for permission to sacrifice goats on the village green. Mayor Craig Fletcher said that he wanted to remove the item about the proclamation entirely. When asked why, Fletcher said, “I refuse to support an organization that does not believe in Jesus Christ. I’ll have nothing to do with it. If you want to outvote me, that’s fine.” He was outvoted but the situation turned nasty anyway. Vice Mayor Tracy Carroll had to look up Humanist on Wikipedia to find out that one of the definitions had something to do with atheism. Once she found this out, she backed Mayor Fletcher. Council members Jay Kramer, Pilar Turner and Dick Winger all voted to approve the proclamation passing it by the narrow margin of 3-2. Jay Kramer read the proclamation because Fletcher decided not to.

Fun with religious intolerance
Now, a week later after conferring with his wife and pastor (and a PR shit-storm), Mayor Fletcher has issued an apology. In the apology he says that his previous statements were “way out of line”. Now, before any of you faithful out there start climbing up on soapboxes remember that it's not just atheists who were shut down here, it was anyone not affiliated with Christian beliefs. Temple Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Michael Birnholz said he and much of his congregation are upset and hurt by the mayor’s statement. Yeah, Jewish folks were included in that off-the-cuff statement and anyone else who doesn't believe what Fletcher believes. So, yeah, if you're going to run for political office and represent the people in your community, county, state, country, whatever, you need to be able to leave your religion out of it. Everyone does not follow the same religion and some don't follow any religion at all and the numbers are growing and they are beginning to be heard.

So, yes, the religious lobbyists are witnessing the loss of their power in political circles for the same reason the Republican Party found itself on the outside looking in. They have failed to grow with the more youthful and enlightened culture that is the prevalent moving power at the moment. This is the kind of thing that set the late Barry Goldwater off. In a speech to the Senate on September 16, 1981 he said, “I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?” I guess Mr. Goldwater was just ahead of his time. People who have grown into voting age in the past decade are more sympathetic to human rights than the old guard, religion-based, ultraconservatives and the newbies are making themselves the polls. The only thing they need to watch out for is the conservative backlash from the highly unpopular programs that President Obama has hatched and the coming-to-light of the IRS misdeeds and the fact that the NSA is data-mining our phones and internet activity in the interest of National Security. That could be a mighty big pendulum swing if it gains the momentum and weight that some media outlets want to give it. That's not saying that it doesn't deserve a fair amount of weight. What the IRS and NSA are up to is wrong. Non-partisan, across party lines, I don't give a damn who did it, wrong...but that is for another blog post.

For more of my opinion about the separation of church and state go here.

For the articles about Vero Beach go here.

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