Blog Against Theocracy 2013

Its been a long time dear readers. One of my earliest posts took part in the 2007 blog against theocracy. When I saw there was no organized blog against theocracy this year, I felt called to write. There is a great need to address this topic.

This past week has seen a historic awakening – a cultural awareness of the validity and importance of recognizing gay rights. It is a big moment, but underneath it an even bigger moment waits to be discovered: Religious belief alone is not a valid source of law. If your belief in the unity of all beings or the importance of love for they neighbor drives you to do good work – that is a beautiful blessing. But when your beliefs force those who do not share them to act as if they do: you cross a line. We see this play out in the absurd arguments against gay marriage. We see it in the obsessive drive to control and repress female sexuality. Increasingly though, we see it burrowing into harder to reach places. As America becomes less religious, as America pushes back on church incursions into state, we are going to see religious influence look for other ways to retain (and expand) power.

That is at play in this effort to push Bibles into public schools.

The foundations of knowledge of the ancient world—which informs the understanding of the modern world—are biblical in origin.

A statement like that ignores the prolific writings of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian sources. It ignores the musings and discoveries of the Islamic Golden Age. The thoughts of Chinese writers are also missing. It also ignores the more interesting contributions of Christian thinkers like St Augustine and St Anselm. I speak from experience when I say you can understand their wonderful and engaging philosophical musings without having read the bible.

If you really want to expose the underbelly of the effort to bring bibles into the classroom, ask if they think students should study the koran. After all, the koran is foundational to much of modern society (just not in the US). Better yet, see if Roma Downy and Mark Burnett would support including critical views of the bible. Is it to be read as is, without the criticism found in English or History classes? Or do they imagine students free to dissect the many logical errors and contradictions found within? More than likely not, since that would defeat the purpose of their effort, similar in spirit and aim to efforts to install the ten commandments at courthouses.

The highest promise of religious thought is to inspire acts of great compassion and vision. When it is instead used as an aggressive evangelical power grab, its value is demeaned and lessened. The strongest and most vocal ally in the fight against theocracy should always be the religious believer. For religion is worth far more than its current use – as a tool for social control.

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Tea Party vs Abortion – The New Fight

The exceptions for the health of the mother, rape, and incest are under attack.  As the anti-abortion movement exposes its true face – a theocratic desire to control women’s reproductive options in all circumstances – they are also removing all pretense at compromise.  The newly invigorated anti-abortion movement is going to oppose contraceptions.  They are going to force children to give birth.  They will fight tooth and claw to not only destroy Roe v Wade, but to go further and actively pass legislation making childbirth mandatory for any woman fertilized during sex.

This is the battle we are facing and to win it we need to pull its arguments entirely out of the shadows.  (We also need a new consistent and memorable name for the anti-abortion crowd.  Potentially “forced-birthers?”).  When Republicans argue against contraception they are really saying “Women do not have the right to prevent themselves from being impregnated”.  When they remove or reduce the rape exception they are saying “Women do not have the right to withhold consent from being impregnated”.  A woman who is raped can go to the doctor and get medication to handle any std’s picked up – but will not be able to prevent pregnancy – even if that was the rapists aim.  When conservatives oppose exceptions for the health of the mother they are saying “Women do not have the right to life saving medicine if they are pregnant”.

The right wing’s vicious new hard line on abortion is an assault on more than a woman’s right to choose to give birth or not.  It is an assault on a woman’s right to live and aiding an abetting rapists at inflicting trauma.  If we are going to win we need to tackle this extremism head on and aggressively.

Electing the Judiciary: McCain on Reproductive and Gay Rights

With all the talk about Obama’s position on reproductive rights, its easy to look past McCain’s.  That would be a lasting mistake.  Straight from his campaign website under the heading “Overturning Roe v. Wade:

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

We aren’t just electing our next President, we are electing our entire court system.  This is a man who considers base discrimination a value:

As president, John McCain would nominate judges who understand that the role of the Court is not to subvert the rights of the people by legislating from the bench. Critical to Constitutional balance is ensuring that, where state and local governments do act to preserve the traditional family, the Courts must not overstep their authority and thwart the Constitutional right of the people to decide this question.

John McCain is essentially saying the courts must abdicate their responsibility to protect the rights of the people in the face of popular opposition!  Such a position would have decimated the civil rights movement.  As an experiment, let’s reword McCain’s position to just that effect:

As president, John McCain would nominate judges who understand that the role of the Court is not to subvert the rights of the people by legislating from the bench. Critical to Constitutional balance is ensuring that, where state and local governments do act to preserve the traditional southern lifestyle, the Courts must not overstep their authority and thwart the Constitutional right of the people to decide this question.

Did you catch the change?  One word became two.  Its a carbon copy of the argument used to protect the so called “southern way of life” by such famed racists as Jesse Helms.  (For a bit of fascinating reading, check out this dissertation on the strategy employed by racists in delaying civil rights legislation).

This is the man who wants to build our judicial system for years to come.  He’ll do more than complete Bush’s efforts, he’ll take them even further right of radical.

Oklahoma Anti Choicers OK Unlawful Sexual Assault

Via Jill, Feministe:

Anti-choicers in Oklahoma again demonstrate how much they care about women: So much that if women want to terminate a pregnancy, they’ll be forced to undergo an ultrasound, whether they consent or not. Making women undergo an unnecessary medical procedure against their will is bad enough — especially when medical professionals do not recommend unnecessary ultrasounds, and when ultrasounds are expensive and add significant and totally unnecessary costs to the abortion. But the Oklahoma law is even worse:

Under the guise of obtaining informed patient consent, this new law requires doctors to withhold pregnancy termination until an ultrasound is performed. The law states that either an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound, whichever gives the best image of the fetus, must be done. Neither the patient nor the doctor can decide which type of ultrasound to use, and the patient cannot opt out of the ultrasound and still have the procedure. In effect, then, the legislature has mandated that a woman have an instrument placed in her vagina for no medical benefit. The law makes no exception for victims of rape and incest.

Emphasis mine.

Nobody should be forced to undergo a medical procedure against their will. Nobody should have to undergo an invasive, expensive, non-consensual and wholly unnecessary procedure as a prerequisite for another procedure. No right-thinking person should promote a law that requires doctors to penetrate a woman’s vagina with a medical instrument against her will.

……

It’s disgusting. And I’m trying not to sound hyperbolic here, but it’s awfully close to sexual assault.

Its not close to sexual assault. It is sexual assault. FindLaw:

Specific laws vary by state, but sexual assault generally refers to any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive. These crimes can range from sexual groping or assault/battery, to attempted rape.

Oklahoma’s new law violates that. It may also violate sections of their own state law:

21 O. S. Section 1111.1
Rape by instrumentation is an act within or without the bonds of matrimony in which
any inanimate object or any part of the human body not amounting to sexual intercourse
is used in the carnal knowledge of another person without his or her consent and
penetration of the anus or vagina occurs to that person. Provided, further, that at least
one of the circumstances specified in Section 1111 of this title has been met.

Forcing someone to undergo non medically necessary penetration is unlawful sexual assault.

Why Choice Informs My Vote

Blog for Choice Day

Today is the anniversary of Roe v Wade. To celebrate, some outstanding people are blogging for choice. Specifically, why reproductive choice is an important freedom to consider when casting votes.

Have a look at Jessica’s excellent list of posts. Jill has some good resources here. Be sure to check out Ann’s, Amanda’s (Salon Advertisement Blockage), and of course bluegal’s and Our Descent’s Brilliance on display:

It is blatant, absurd hypocrisy to exercise one’s freedom in order to restrict someone else’s. It’s ridiculous and contradictory and wrong to use one’s suffrage as a weapon of disenfranchisement. It’s hypocritical to use democracy as a tool of fascism.

Those of us who can vote can vote because we live in a free society. The hypocrisy of using that freedom to destroy another deserved, necessary freedom is mind-boggling.

Getting a lot from Feministing, but this piece on Reproductive Justice ought to start something burning in you. More info:

If you want to know more about reproductive justice, check out Understanding Reproductive Justice, by SisterSong and A New Vision for advancing our movement for reproductive health, reproductive rights and reproductive justice, by Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice.

The conversation is much wider and wilder than this, but the above is a good start for some reading. (Don’t forget to throw a little White Noise Insanity on the fire, Mainers.)

So why do I support choice? For many reasons. Sex outside of marriage shouldn’t be outlawed, de jure or de facto. A child should never be a punishment, but always a joyful choice and a serious journey. But the big reason is I oppose utterly the efforts of organized religion to impose their Bibles on the bodies and futures of women. Just as creationists try and hide their arguments behind the word “theory”, and oil lobbyists prop up bought scientists to deny our impact on the environment, anti-choicers twist and turn to try and hide the patriarchal religious underpinnings of their movement. This is part of a larger struggle against religious extremists who want to impose their moral code on everyone in this country. This is a fight against people who hold a woman’s life below their belief that a fetus, even a fertilized egg, has a greater legal right to exist and be free.

The same people who far too recently for comfort, helped Virginia vote in a law that aids domestic abuse so that “the Gays” don’t enjoy even a subset of the benefits and respect afforded straight couples. That same singleminded purpose is best illustrated by the head vampire in the remake of “I am Legend” as he bashes his head against the glass, trying to get his revenge on Will Smith’s character. The falsely named pro-life lobby would rather have parental consent laws than ensure protection against cases of incest and abuse. They would rather women die then let doctors decide what is medically necessary. There is a reason the word fanatical crops up when one searches for some description of this purpose.

When I vote, in local, state, and federal elections, I look at choice. I look at choice as a primary reason and as either an affirmation or a condemnation of a candidate’s rhetorical support for equality and justice.

Reproductive Inevitability at the Movies

Grab some a copy of “your womb, his property” and some popcorn.  Two recent movies riff about pregnancy and the themes of adulthood and coming of age.  Both tackle pregnancy much like Agent Smith tackling Neo in the subway.

First we have Knocked Up, in which an unlikely one night stand leads to pregnancy.  The bomb is dropped 8 weeks later.  “Because people who love each other get married and have babies.”  It’s a movie about how “grown-ups” are born.

Next up we have Waitress.  An unhappily married woman who dreams of escape finds inspiration in an unwanted pregnancy.  Wow.
“I seem to be pregnant.”

“Congratulations!”

“Thanks but I’m not so happy about it like everybody else might be.”

Yet Keri’s character still appears quite determined to go through with it.

In both movies, the pregnancy is presented as a fact of life.  It is an unchangeable course on which the women have embarked, and nothing is going to alter that (even though in both cases the ships seem to still be in the harbor.).

Thinking back on Digby’s comments on narratives and how we talk about reproductive choice, the impact of these movies seem to press a little closer to the front of my mind.  Right now the stories we are telling on the silver screen support only one side of a very heated debate.