Politics

Duke Energy Threatens Higher Rates over Proposed Coal Ash Regulation

duke energy coal ash
Consider this scenario:

I have a business located near the river where your city draws the water you drink. This business of mine makes a dangerous, toxic product, which is stored outside, that would ruin your city’s water source. The safest course of action would be to require me, the business owner, the one who makes this dangerous, toxic product, to move the production/storage of it to a different place. I refuse, saying that moving it would be cost prohibitive and it would likely result in you paying me money for moving it.  Instead of moving the production of this dangerous, toxic product that is stored outside near the river where your city draws the water you drink, I want to put a plastic tarp over it.

Would you be OK with me just putting a plastic tarp over a dangerous, toxic product that could pollute and ruin your water supply? I suspect you would say NO and you would expect me to move this dangerous, toxic product away from the river so there is no possibility of it getting into the water. Since I put the product near the river, I suspect you would expect me to pay the cost for moving it. After all, it is my business and my product.

In February 2014, CBS reported:

North Carolina officials said Tuesday that groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic apparently leaching from a Duke Energy coal ash dump is still pouring into the Dan River, which is already contaminated from a massive Feb. 2 spill.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke to stop the flow of contaminated water coming out a pipe that runs under a huge coal ash dump at its Eden power plant. A nearby pipe at the same dump collapsed without warning two weeks ago, coating the bottom of the Dan River with toxic ash as far as 70 miles downstream.

State regulators expressed concern five days ago that the second pipe could fail, triggering a new spill. The water coming out of that pipe contains poisonous arsenic at 14 times the level considered safe for human contact, according to test results released by the state on Tuesday.

“We are ordering Duke Energy to eliminate this unauthorized discharge immediately,” said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources.

Video taken last week by a robot sent inside the 36-inch-wide concrete pipe showed wide gaps between seams through which groundwater is gushing in, likely from the toxic dump above.

Tests on water from the pipe before it goes under the dump showed none of the dangerous contamination detected at the other end. The concrete inside the pipe is heavily stained around the numerous leaks, suggesting the contamination is likely not new.

A state inspector received the video recorded by Duke during a Feb. 11 visit to the site, but did not review it until Thursday.  On Friday night, the state agency went public with concerns about the pipe’s structural integrity.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan quickly issued a statement, downplaying the risk.

“After reviewing the videotape, we determined that no immediate action was necessary,” it said…

…Meanwhile, Duke Energy announced Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profits jumped 58 percent after officials in North Carolina and other states approved hikes in the rates customers pay for electricity. The company had revenues of $24.6 billion for 2013.

George Everett, Duke’s director of environmental and legislative affairs, told state legislators this week that the company is sorry for the spill and will be accountable.

Any costs incurred because of the cleanup will likely be passed on to ratepayers, not shareholders, he said…

The North Carolina legislature is considering requiring Duke Energy to remove all of its coal ash away from state rivers and lakes. To me, this is the prudent, responsible thing to do, but as we all know, prudent and responsible is not what Duke Energy is known for. Instead of acting in an environmentally and socially responsible way, Duke Energy is only concerned with maximizing shareholder profits.

According to state officials:

…all of Duke’s 33 unlined dumps at 14 coal-fired power plants scattered across the state are oozing out contaminants into groundwater. All told, Duke has more than 100 million tons of the ash, which contains potentially harmful chemicals including arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium…

CBS reported today:

Duke Energy told North Carolina lawmakers Tuesday that removing all of the company’s coal ash away from the state’s rivers and lakes would take decades and cost up to $10 billion, with its electricity customers likely footing nearly all the bill.

In a presentation to a state legislative committee, Duke’s North Carolina president Paul Newton suggested the company needs flexibility to consider more cost-efficient options. The company’s proposal is to remove the coal ash from unlined dumps at four of its power plants, but then leave much of what is stored at 10 other sites in place after covering it with plastic and soil…

…Earlier this year, Brian Williams, a conservationist with the Dan River Basin Association, took a CBS News crew 20 miles downstream of the coal ash spill at a retired plant in Eden, N.C.

“It was just giant, gray sludge pouring into the river,” Williams said. “It’s down here on the bottom and it’s mixing with the sediment and it’s constantly leeching out the toxins that are in the coal ash.”..

The company has said it will pay for the spill cleanup, but may ask state regulators to raise the rates it charges customers for any additional costs incurred as a result of new regulations or requirements at its other sites…

Molly Diggins, speaking on behalf of the North Carolina Sierra Club, had this to say:

“Despite being a Fortune 500 company, with profits of $2.7 billion last year, Duke Energy has successfully been allowed to manage its wet coal ash waste as if the clock had stopped half a century ago. Coal ash is a can that has been kicked down the road for far too long. The Dan River spill was a terrible disaster, but it’s opened all our eyes to the reality that we need to deal with our state’s coal ash problem now. “

Duke Energy should be required to move the coal ash and pay for it from their company profits. It is Duke Energy, not the people of North Carolina, that are culpable for the pollution and environmental damage done to the state’s rivers, lakes, and ground water. What remains to be seen is whether North Carolina officials have the backbone to stand up to Duke Energy.

The governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for 28 years, and from 2000-2012, received $98,000 in direct contributions from Duke. The Institute for Southern Studies reports:

…Other analyses have turned up even larger figures for Duke Energy’s giving to McCrory, in part because they included donations from North Carolina-based Progress Energy, which is now a Duke subsidiary. For example, a 2013 report by the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy North Carolina found McCrory received over $300,000 in direct contributions for his 2008 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns from Duke/Progress-related donors. In addition, Duke/Progress gave an additional $761,800 to the Republican Governors Association, a major GOP committee that helped McCrory’s campaign.

And earlier this year, Democracy North Carolina released a follow-up report that detailed an additional $437,000 in contributions from Duke/Progress donors to Republican causes in 2013. Meanwhile, how much the company may have contributed to Renew North Carolina, a pro-McCrory shadow campaign committee, is not known because the 501(c)(4) nonprofit is not legally required to disclose its donors and to date has not done so voluntarily.

Duke Energy, which became the nation’s largest utility following its merger with Progress Energy, has also contributed over $1 million to the campaigns of North Carolina lawmakers. In addition, a recent analysis by Facing South revealed the company contributed $175,000 to a Washington, D.C.-based Republican super PAC that played a major role in a 2012 North Carolina Supreme Court race. Duke Energy is current embroiled in two legal controversies — one over cleaning up its coal ash and the other over its merger with Progress Energy — that could eventually end up before the state’s high court…

It remains to be seen if Governor McCrory and the North Carolina state legislature will put the safety and welfare of North Carolinian’s ahead of the campaign donations they receive from Duke Energy.

Published: April 23, 2014 | Comments: 0

The Global Cost of Violence Containment

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) released a report detailing the worldwide cost of containing violence. According to the report, “the global economic cost of violence in 2012 was US$9.46 trillion, which represents 11% of Gross World Product.”

The IEP defines violence containment spending as:

economic activity that is related to the consequences or prevention of violence where the
violence is directed against people or property.

The percentage of GDP cost for violence containment:

violence containment gdp

biggest contributors to violence containment

per capita expenditure violence containment

According to the IEP report (page 18), in 2012 the United States spent:

  • 1.2 trillion dollars on national defense, including homeland security
  • 131 billion dollars on police, justice, legal, and corrections
  • 227 billion dollars on other public sector security
  • 602 billion dollars for private violence containment

Military and security costs in the United States have increased dramatically since 9-11. War has proved to be good for business, and I see nothing on the horizon that leads me to believe that this will change any time soon. The U.S. government operates under the illusion that military might and war bring peace, when in fact, highly militarized states are the greatest threat to peace and prosperity. Every tax dollar (and borrowed dollar) that is spent on violence containment is a dollar that is not being spent on infrastructure, education, health care, combating global warming, and improving the general welfare of the American people.

Listen to the war hawks in Congress, as they demand that the United States send military aid to Ukraine while ignoring the genocidal bloodshed in South Sudan. We should want nothing to do with a military provocation of Russia, which easily could result in WW III. On the other hand, we should be at the front of the line of nations helping to put an end to the slaughter of innocents in South Sudan.

I am a proponent of drastic cuts to the US military and homeland security budget. These cuts will make it hard for Congress and the President to hastily wage war. If they have to go to the American people to justify imperialistic incursions in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq and  the CIA’s involvement in a majority of the countries of the world, I suspect they would be less likely to meddle in the affairs of sovereign states.  Do we really need military bases and installations in:

  • Germany
  • Japan
  • Bulgaria
  • Isreal
  • Italy
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • South Korea
  • Afghanistan
  • Australia
  • Bahrain
  • Brazil
  • Cuba
  • Djibouti
  • Greece
  • Guam
  • Spain
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Greenland
  • Oman
  • Netherlands
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Pakistan
  • Portugal
  • Quatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom

Even more astounding is the fact that in some of these countries we have dozens of military bases and installations. The United States is the world’s policeman and other countries are quite willing to let the US be the world’s only superpower. Meanwhile, at home our streets are crumbling, our utility grid needs upgraded, our sanitary sewers are failing, and we live in denial of what we need to do to combat global climate change. We are too busy doing nation building and regime change to figure out a way to protect east coast cities and New Orleans from the next hurricane and flood that is sure to bring Sandy and Katrina-like destruction. Millions of people are out of work and declining unemployment statistics hide the fact that the reason they are declining is because unemployed workers are dropping off the unemployment insurance rolls and are no longer counted. Insanely, politicians demand cuts in social spending while demanding that the military and homeland security budget be increased.

It is time for the American people to demand that Congress reign in military and security spending, including the outrageous contracts granted to military-industrial complex corporations that fill their reelection campaign coffers with donations. It is time to demand that the Great Eagle retract her claws and reduce her imprint on  the world. While I support the right for every state to defend itself, the United States has not engaged in a military act of self-defense in over 60 years. (including Afghanistan, where we could have used specialized military teams to go after Al Qaeda rather than invading Afghanistan)

The path to world peace requires that the major powers of the world reduce the amount of money they spend for violence containment. Until we are willing to make world peace our number one priority we should not expect global violence to decrease.

Published: April 22, 2014 | Comments: 1

Christian Republicans: Isn’t God Greater than Satan and the World?

stays in vegas

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. I John 4:3.4

Every Evangelical Christian believes that God the Holy Spirit lives inside of them and that he is their teacher and guide. Through the indwelling Spirit they can conqueror Satan and have victory over sin. Christians are overcomers and sin has no power over them. Yet, it seems that once an Evangelical Christian enters the city limits of Las Vegas, Nevada, they lose all power.

The Republican National Committee (RNC), also known as the GOP, God’s Only Party, is working on where to hold the 2016 Republican national convention. Las Vegas is one of the cities they are considering and this is causing Christian Republican cultural warriors to warn the RNC about holding the convention there. According to the Dallas Morning News, Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association; Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum; Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition; Paul Caprio, director of Family-PAC; and James Dobson, president of Family Talk ministry sent a letter to the RNC objecting to the national convention being held in Las Vegas. Here is some of what they had to say:

“In spite of ‘family-friendly’ outreach in the past decade, Las Vegas remains a metaphor for all things decadent. And looking at the yellow pages, one can see that it still delivers. With 64 pages of escort services and countless gambling casinos, it remains a trap waiting to ensnare.”

“At a time when the base needs to be motivated, this is no time to mute or offend them in any way. It may seem strange, silly even to some that conservatives would object to something that COULD be so innocuous. Surely there are shows and great restaurants and beautiful hotels. … What could possible go wrong? The answer is obvious, and wisdom dictates the chance not be taken.”

“There are several wonderful venues being considered. We are not advocating for any of them. But we urge you to reject Las Vegas and celebrate the vibrancy and strength of the Republican Party in a place not at odds with its values.”

Of course this put the Republicans in an immediate bind with billionaire major contributor Sheldon Adelson. After all, Adelson made a lot of the money he donates to Republicans from his gambling interests in Las Vegas. Adelson, with an estimated wealth of $40.8 billion dollars, is the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation which operates the Sands Expo and Convention Center and The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. (You may remember a recent story about 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush coming to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of Adelson in hopes of gaining his financial support. All of these men profess to be Christian.)

Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition, ever the hypocrite, quickly stated:

Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition emphasized that her opposition to Las Vegas is no reflection on Adelson. “Mr. Adelson is a great man,” she said, noting his commitment to Israel and other causes close to the hearts of many Republicans. She’s bothered by the ready availability of escorts and prostitutes, even if prostitution is illegal in the city. “It’s all over,” Lafferty said. “I can see all the setups that are going to take place. … There are other places that would be great to hold the convention.”

You see the REAL issue is that Christian Republican MEN can’t keep their fly zipped up. As soon as they come anywhere near prostitutes they are powerless to keep from getting their wallet out and charging an hour or two of sexual services to their credit card. (and I am not leaving out Christian Republican women but I do think the biggest worry is over horny Christian Republican men )

Erick Dickerson, the editor of RedState writes:

That is not the only reason the Republicans would be pretty stupid to go to Vegas for their 2016 convention. At every opportunity the left has decided to fight the GOP by using amateur and professional acquired video of embarrassing moments. Along with moments that could be viewed as hypocrisy, the left and its friends in the media will run story after story about wild and crazy nights in Vegas at the RNC. Good Christian delegates getting drunk, gambling, stuffing dollar bills in strippers’ g-strings, etc. will be the toast of not just MSNBC, but the front page of the New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC, the Huffington Post, and more.

On top of that, the stories about the GOP bowing before Sheldon Adelson, kissing his ring, and Wall Street fat cats flying into high dollar games with politicos will spoil the story the GOP wants.

In other words, Dickerson doesn’t want the world to see how Christian Republicans really act when they are away from home, away from the watchful eye of their fellow church members and their spouse.

None of this surprises me but it does call into question what Christians say about the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Evidently, two drinks, a little T and A time, and the Holy Spirit can’t even get a word in. As an old crusty preacher told a class of young preachers years ago, a stiff prick has no conscience. Evidently, the Republican morality police fear that entering the city limits of Las Vegas will cause many fine, upstanding Christian Republicans to run towards debauchery. It seems that for all their talk of morality and family values, they are no better than us unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines.

Here’s to hoping the RNC chooses Las Vegas. The fallout should be quite entertaining.

Published: April 10, 2014 | Comments: 5

Letter to the Editor April 9, 2014

letter to the editor

I sent the following letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. I will update this post when it is published.

Dear Editor,

This is an election year, and in less than a month, Ohio will have a primary election. As a voting, taxpaying citizen of Defiance County, I want to pass on some advice to the candidates running for office and those who write letters to the editor showing their support for a particular candidate.

Not every voter in Defiance County is a Christian. Not every voter attends church on a regular basis. A sizable number of voters do not claim the Christian moniker, and outside of weddings and funerals, they never darken the doors of any local church. We are the “nones”, made up of atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, secularists, and those who are indifferent towards religion. In Defiance County, there are also Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists. I know this is hard for the Christian majority to believe, but living near them are people who do not think like they do about God and religion.

So, trumpeting the fact that you are a Christian, teach Sunday School, are pro-life, or are a member of the NRA  might play well with Evangelicals, but for those of us who are not religious or not an Evangelical Christian, we are wary of people who play the faith card.

Being a Christian or being pro-life has nothing to do with how a candidate will perform as a local/county/state officeholder. In fact, when a candidate for office plays the faith card I am inclined to not vote for them. Why should I vote for a candidate that considers one voter demographic more important than another? This is especially true at the local/county level. I want officeholders that will represent everyone, not just those who are a part of their particular religious sect.

Those running for office would do well to mimic John F. Kennedy’s approach to religion. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, made it clear that his personal religious beliefs would not come into play when he made decisions. Kennedy understood that he represented every citizen not just those who happened to be Christian.

The United States is a secular state, not just at the federal level, but at the state, county, and local level too. I realize the candidates need votes to win. I realize that Defiance County is ruled by Evangelical, conservative, Republican ideology. Maybe it is a fantasy on my part to think that what every citizen of Defiance County needs to hear is how a candidate for office will spend our tax money, repair our roads, care for our poor and sick, and care for what we have entrusted to our governmental leaders.

It is these issues that will determine how I vote. Sadly, far too many of my fellow Defiance County citizens will vote, not on the issues, but on the number of buzz words they hear a candidate use. To them, where a candidate goes to church or what his view is on abortion is far more important than how he effectively governs.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Published: April 9, 2014 | Comments: 8

Most Teen Girls have No Sex Education Before Having Sex the First Time

sex education

Here we are, in 2014, and we still a huge problem with American children receiving comprehensive sex education. While teen births are down, less than 20% of teens have any form of sex education before having sex for the first time.

Talking Points Memo reports:

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that surveyed teen girls between the ages of 15 and 17, most young women don’t receive formal sexual health instruction until after they’ve already become sexually active. Federal health researchers warn that “this represents a missed opportunity” to ensure teens are receiving the medically accurate information they need to prevent pregnancy and STDs.

Even though the teen birth rate has been declining for the past several decades, and continues to hit record lows, the United States still has one of the highest rates in the developed world. The CDC is particularly worried about unintended pregnancies among younger teens between the ages of 15 and 17, since they’re at greater risk for “poor medical, social, and economic outcomes” after giving birth.

Nonetheless, federal researchers found that this population isn’t necessarily hearing the right information about sexual health. About a quarter of them said they had never discussed the issue with their parents. And although about 91 percent of teen girls said they received some kind of sex ed instruction in school before they turned 18, just six in ten said that included information on both birth control and how to say no to sex. And a staggering 83 percent said they had already started having sex before they heard anything about the topic in class:

Considering the fact that there aren’t currently any national standards for comprehensive sex education classes in public schools, the results are perhaps unsurprising. Just 18 states and the District of Columbia mandate that sex ed courses need to cover information about birth control. Instead of providing teens with medically accurate information, many school districts rely on an “abstinence-only” model that imparts shame-based messages about sexuality to youth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the National Education Association all endorse comprehensive sex ed programs. But, thanks to social conservatives who falsely claim that teaching kids about sex will spur more of them to become sexually active, there’s still considerable resistance to adopting these policies…

You can read the entire article here.

Note

I suspect these numbers are even worse because an increasing number of teens engage in oral sex and many of them do not consider fellatio or cunnilingus as having sex. The report defined sex as vaginal penetration.

 

Published: April 9, 2014 | Comments: 1

How Much is Medicare Paying Doctors?

bag of money

The New York Times released today a searchable database of every doctor that receives payments from Medicare. Needless to say, what I found out about the income of some local doctors is nothing short of astounding. Especially the one doctor who received $177,000 from Medicare and had the balls to subject me to a 2 minute whine about Medicare bankrupting doctors. Granted these are raw income numbers and do not include any costs. But, these numbers also do not include any of income doctors receive from treating non-Medicare patients.

Here’s the link to the database.

If you live in a rural, small town area like me, just leave the doctor/specialty fields blank and input your zip code.

This is a huge step forward in understanding where/how money is spent on medical care. It should come as no shock that the American Medical Association bitterly fought the release of this information. Now it is time to have a similar database for hospitals. And while we are at it, how about a database that reveals how much insurance companies pay for a particular procedure and how much these poor, poor non-profits are making.

Published: April 9, 2014 | Comments: 9

Dear Evangelical, Please Tell Me Again Why you are not Homophobic

world vision children

By now, everyone knows about the World Vision debacle over hiring Christian same-sex married couples. One day, they said they would support and hire people who were in a same-sex marriage and two days later, after an Evangelical shit storm of epic proportion, they rescinded their new, progressive policy and returned to a heterosexual only lunch counter policy.  Evidently, World Vision didn’t consider how their homophobic, bigoted donors would react to their gay, same-sex marriage affirming policy.  Surely, no God worshiping, Jesus loving, Bible believing Evangelical would deliberately withhold food and care to undernourished children in poverty-stricken countries? Surely, thou shalt love the Lord the God and Love thy Neighbor as thyself, trumps any political or social view, right? Not in the Evangelical world, where the good news of the gospel has been replaced by a political gospel of bigotry and hate.

Matthew Paul Turner writes:

Ten Thousand Kids.

Those are the words that kept ringing inside my brain as I tried to listen to Rich Stearns talk about what happened last week at World Vision.

Ten thousand kids.

Ten thousand brown, black, tan, or white faces…

Ten thousand souls…

And in only 2 days.

As Stearns chatted with a handful of bloggers about why the board made the decision it made and then reversed that decision two days later, those words—TEN THOUSAND KIDS! TEN THOUSAND KIDS!—blinked like a neon sign in my head.

And that was the two-day cost of their decision, a decision to hire married gay folk, a decision that was decided on last fall and leaked to Christianity Today last week. That was the cost.

Last Monday, the day of the announcement, World Vision’s call center received 7000 calls and a loss of 2000 child sponsorships. That’s just in 12 hours on Monday! The following day those numbers swelled. And then on Wednesday, within minutes of World Vision announcing that it was reversing its decision, the calls stopped and, according to Stearns, “the bleeding stopped.”

Rumor is it stopped almost like magic. Almost as soon as the press release hit, the cancellations stopped, the angry phone calls stopped.

It took several days to count the total loss of sponsorships, a number that eventually rose to “just about 10,000 children,” according to Stearns. A handful of people did call back, hoping to start up their sponsorships again. But the majority did not.

And that breaks my heart.

It should break all of our hearts, regardless of whether you praised World Vision’s initial decision or panned it as “godless.”

Even still, those three words should break us friends. Because it’s a number that represents 10,000 needy children, flesh and blood of various races and nationalities, little ones who are precious in God’s sight…

I am not a Christian but I do recognize that groups like World Vision do important, life saving work all over the world.  That some Evangelical Christians would willingly snatch the food off a child’s plate because they are “offended”  reveals that they have completely lost sight of the Jesus they say they follow. Far more important to them is their right-wing political beliefs. They have power and they know it, and they are quite willing to gut anyone who goes against them. Sadly, World Vision found this out the hard way.

Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe it is time for progressives who still think of themselves as an Evangelical to leave the church and join up with sects and churches that wouldn’t think of withholding food from a hungry child.

Published: April 4, 2014 | Comments: 7

The God of Mississippi

new mississippi seal

Yesterday, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed into law Senate Bill 2681, the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Evidently, religious freedom must be under attack in a state dominated and controlled by Southern Baptists, right? Of course not. Mississippi is poor, racist, and Christian just like it always has been. There have been no reports of lost religious freedom, yet Mississippi legislators felt the pressing need to “protect” religious freedom. Why?

To answer the why question all you need to do is look at who participated in the bill signing:

Tony Perkins stated after the signing:

What the Founding Fathers hailed as a virtue to be pursued and protected is today being pursued and pummeled by those who want to see religious freedom quarantined to the four walls of our churches. Fortunately, there are still some elected leaders who understand that all our freedoms hinge upon our First Freedom, the freedom of religion. Today, I had the honor of joining Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) at the signing of SB2681 — the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and had the opportunity to thank him first-hand — and others who were instrumental in passing the bill — for their tremendous leadership in defending religious liberty.

Unfortunately, political courage is in short supply these days. That’s never been more obvious than these last few weeks, when the opposition launches massive misinformation campaigns. Too many “leaders” tuck tail and run, instead of standing their ground and learning the facts. Some things are worth fighting for — and religious freedom, the ability to live out our faith in every aspect of our lives, is at the top of that list. As the Apostle Paul instructed the believers at Corinth, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

There is absolutely no aspect of our lives that should be beyond the guiding light of Scripture — a truth the Founding Fathers not only understood, but also felt obligated to defend.

The Southern Baptist Convention, an increasingly fundamentalist denomination, and Tony Perkins, drunk with political power, continue to push their theocratic agenda at the state level. Knowing that they can not win at the federal level until the Republicans regain control of the White House and Congress, they busy themselves getting laws passed that “protect” religious freedom and ban abortion. As they continue to lose at the state level on the same-sex marriage issue, they have found another way to “protect” heterosexual marriage by using laws like the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Some gay activists believe that this bill will allow Mississippians to discriminate against gays in the name of  religious freedom.

The Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act also changes the state seal requiring the addition of IN GOD WE TRUST. Make no mistake about it, the GOD now prominently displayed on the state seal is the Christian God, the God of the Southern Baptists, the Roman Catholics, and Tony Perkins. This law is not about freedom at all. It is all about giving Christianity preferential treatment in an increasingly secular society.

Not long ago, I said that I was tired of what I thought was petty lawsuits filed by groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, and the American Humanist Association. I now see that unless we fight the theocratic tendencies of Christians at every point, they will inch by inch attempt to turn the United States into a Christian nation. In doing so, they will destroy the secular state and give their religion preference. As history clearly tells us, when state and church become one, freedom is lost and people die.  Those of us who are secularists or who believe in a strict separation of church and state must stand our ground against the theocrats. If we don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised when more states pass similar religious “freedom” laws.  It is easy for us to get distracted by the huge progress we are making on the same-sex marriage  issue and not pay attention to the theocrats who have walked in the back door. While we are busy celebrating our successes, they are busy getting laws passed at the state level that restrict minority rights, deny women control of their own bodies, and give Christianity preferential treatment.

Published: April 4, 2014 | Comments: 11