The AntiCivil Rights Era

It’s been quite a week. Beginning with Juneteenth, the celebration of the abolition of slavery, in the closing days of Pride Month, this week’s promise took several sharp turns.

This week alone, SCOTUS has further eroded the Separation of Church and State, further enabled America’s gun obsession, weakened the rights granted under Miranda, and officially overturned Roe v. Wade with the explicitly stated intention of bringing Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell under review (that’s GOP talk for making them next on the chopping block). Notably, Loving, which stands to be gutted under the same principles, was not mentioned in the upcoming ‘To Do list’ penned by Justice Thomas, for obvious reasons. But I am mystified as to how he could not be aware that Loving is not among the soon-to-be-condemned.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous’ … we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents … After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated.” _Justice Clarence Thomas

It may not be immediately obvious how (or even if) these cases are related, but they are. All represent part of a long effort on the part of the Evangelical Right to transform the US into a theocratic tyranny. But first, let’s take a moment to look at each of these decisions and what they mean specifically.

Vega v Tekoh

If you are not familiar with what ‘Miranda’ refers to, it’s the set of instructions a law enforcement officer is required to give a defendant on arrest informing them of their constitutional rights, such as remaining silent, and having an attorney to represent them. It has been the case that if a defendant was not informed of their rights, and confessed, they had a case to have that confession barred from their court proceedings, since, they argued, they were unaware they had the right to remain silent, or have an attorney present during interrogation. Now, this has not always been a question about whether someone knew they could legally keep their mouth shut. It’s been about police using all kinds of tactics to force confessions, including intimidation, threats of more dire charges if they did not confess, as well as taking advantage of someone’s possible ignorance of the rights they have.

In other words, it has served as a check on police power to force a confession using manipulation. SCOTUS did not overrule the right to legal counsel or the right to avoid self-incrimination. But they ruled that not being informed of one’s rights is not ground for any remedy under the law and that while the rights Miranda describes are protected, being informed of them is not a right. While that may be true, “Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the ruling was taking away the remedy that individuals have when their constitutionally protected right is violated. ‘The majority here, as elsewhere, injures the right by denying the remedy,’ she wrote.” What this will do is protect cops who do not inform a detainee of their rights, and therefore, trample all over them. This is a blow to civil rights and due process.

Carson v. Makin

In this case, SCOTUS further weakened the wall of separation between chruch and state by ruling that a requirement by Maine’s tuition assistance program that schools be ‘nonsectarian; to qualify was in violation of the Constitution. In this case, the plaintiffs wanted taxpayer dollars to send their children to Christian schools which not only teach religiously based (and biased) curricula but also maintain policies that actively discriminate against LGBTQ students and faculty.

What Maine’s requirement was designed to do was prevent religious schools from being funded by, and therefore, in effect, endorsed by the state, as the establishment clause prohibits However, the plaintiff argued, and the court ruled, that denying assistance to families who selected religious schools violated their right to free exercise. However, according to Reuters, “The two schools describe themselves as seeking to instill a ‘Biblical worldview'” in students, according to court records. They refuse to hire gay teachers or admit gay and transgender students. Bangor Christian Schools teaches that a ‘husband is the leader of the household’ and includes a class in which students learn to ‘refute the teachings of the Islamic religion with the truth of God’s Word.”

At odds here are, supposedly the rights of the parents to exercise their religion by choosing schools, and the taxpayers’ right to not find religious instruction. However, it is questionable if the right to free practice of religion includes getting free tuition to a religious school. What is not questionable is that having taxpayers, regardless of their own religious leanings, funding schools with a very specific leaning, particularly when it is an institution that discriminates in clear violation of the constitution. This, to me, is a chilling sign that the rights of non-religion (i.e. non-Christian) persons and the rights of LGBTQ persons–the most obvious grounds on which to challenge this ruling–will themselves soon no longer be relevant.

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Abortion and Responsibility

In the wake of the SCOTUS’s leaked draft on Roe v. Wade, it’s time to post this. Again. 

“When can we talk about abortion and a woman’s personal responsibility?” 

I’m glad you asked. 

We can maybe (and that’s only MAYBE) talk about ‘personal responsibility with regard to the need for safe, legal, accessible abortion when (and ONLY when): 

1. When ALL birth control is fully effective and without harmful side effects. 

The pill, for example, is supposedly  99% effective. That’s assuming ideal conditions; real-life numbers are more like 85-90%.  Efficacy rates for condoms are about the same. More expensive options, which require insurance and access to medical care (both of which anti-choice folks have ALSO tried to decrease!), can be more effective (none are 100%) but often have serious side effects, even if a woman has access to them (see #2). But even assuming ideal conditions, that’s still 1 failure for every 100 women (technically it’s 1 for every 100 times PIV sex occurs, but again, I’m erring on the conservative side). In a country with about 174 million females, let’s say (conservatively) half of whom are sexually active, even assuming ideal conditions and optimal possible efficacy, that’s almost 870,000 potential unwanted pregnancies among women being ‘responsible.’

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A project of mine….

So I’ve been working slowly on putting together all my information on theocracy and the religious right in America (mostly, not exclusively), as well as my academic pieces on the history and doctrine of Christianity. And now on a site that will serve as a repository of that info, and hopefully, as a resource for those wanting to halt the trend of theocratic developments in the US. On this anniversary of the insurrection at the US capitol, and thinking about the crosses that appeared there, I decided it was time to make this (sort of) public. It’s very much a work in progress, and I’m not really going to promote it until there’s more to it, but if you land there, please look around, kick the tires, and drop me a line if you find any problems, or there is something you’d like me to include. Be kind; remember, it’s just barely getting started, but feel free to mosey over: Anti-Theocracy

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To Lead, To Drive, To Do: Why (and How) I Teach

(Originally published December 29, 2018)

Students tend to like solid, concrete, specific answers. Or, more accurately, they like to know, solidly, concretely, and specifically what answers I want from them. They rarely get them, however, and that’s a good thing. Take the Latin verb agere. Our students learn this verb early in their Intro Latin, and it throws them. It throws them because it can mean so many things: to lead, to drive, to do, to plow, to pass time, and a hundred other shaded variations. There is simply not a solid, concrete, specific answer to what the verb means that can be plugged in every time. “But how do we know when it means which thing?” they inevitably complain. That’s the beauty of Latin, though. While it demands meticulous attention to every letter and every syllable, at the same time, it defies specificity precisely because so many words in Latin mean so many things. I tell them they need to look at the rest of the sentence, or even the rest of the passage, to determine what the verb agere is doing in this particular sentence. In other words, students need to look at context to find meaning. They need to infer, interpret, and choose the best meaning in this instance, and in every instance. If there’s a better reason to teach Latin (or any foreign language), I can’t think of one. Continue reading

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Why do I say misogyny masks racism? (WIP)

This is a work in progress, so it’s messy, not entirely organized, and still a bit rough – I’ve only started thinking about things from this angle recently, after reading this AMAZING essay on Political Misogyny ( and with some boss-level input from some kick-ass feminist & black voices I am lucky enough to follow here and on Twitter. I welcome comments, input, questions, etc.

-Misogyny and racism come from the same place; threatened white male entitlement. Though the conversation about race and gender play out in different arenas, they are essentially the same conversation and tend to intersect when women of color (in particular, black women), enter the fray. Undeserved benefits, special rights, ‘you’re already equal, stop complaining,’ ‘NotAllMen/Whites,’ etc. It’s the same crap, and it tends to come overwhelmingly from the same people. That’s not to say that gender inequity doesn’t to exist in communities of color (intersectionality’s complicated, amirite?), but there is a brand of American racism that is brought to you by the makers of American sexism and vice versa, and they are pumped out of the same factory.

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Trump and the Blood Libel

Detail of “The Martyrdom of Simon of Trent in Accordance with Jewish Ritual Murder, Giovanni Gasparo” (2020)

I have said before that Trump has intentionally evoked thinly veiled white supremacist rhetoric. I’ll cover a few instances of this before noting what I found most disturbing in his speech from Tulsa, and what it has to do with the ghastly painting, of which a detail is shown above, by an Italian artist.

Let’s begin with Tulsa (a place with an agonized history of racism). One example that might easily be missed without context is his comment about the ‘good bloodlines,’ of Henry Ford: “good bloodlines, good bloodlines — if you believe in that stuff, you got good blood.” On the surface, this seems like an odd way to praise someone. But to anyone familiar with the history of white supremacy and anti-Semitism, this ominous observation, particularly when made about Ford, is an outright endorsement of white supremacy. Continue reading

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We We Don’t Vote and Why it Sucks

America has a voting problem. We don’t vote, and we are losing our democracy as a result, pure and simple. I am not railing at those who don’t.  I am speaking to those who proudly declare that either they are voting third party/write in, or who otherwise do vote, but will decline to do so any time their preferred candidate didn’t get the nomination. I know full well entirely too few people vote at all. (and it’s not just the ‘bottom’ who doesn’t vote, BTW. The left has far lower numbers than the right, and it’s not just lower-income demographics that stay away in droves.) There is not one single, monolithic reason for that; it’s way more complex a question for one answer.  Continue reading

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Evolution 101; the gradeschool edition

Because I am so tired of having to explain this over and over, here it is on one handy-dandy spot. Evolution 101. (To all you science folks, I am going for the 3rd grade version, so I know I’m oversimplifying.)

It’s just this easy: Reproduction, Mutation, Selection-An Idiot’s Guide to Evolution. 

1. Reproduction: All organisms reproduce, producing offspring that share DNA from both parents. Something that does not make copies of itself where DNA is transmitted cannot evolve. This means all living things (and possibly some very complex proteins, because they do this with a sort of proto-DNA) can and do evolve. Continue reading

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Who Made Whom? The Legacy of Fingerpointing in the Era of Trump

Someone posted this as pushback to the fear and bewilderment at Trump and his ilk, and the rise of fascistic ideology springing up worldwide. I felt the need to reply.

“How did this happen you ask? You created “us” when you attacked our freedom of speech.”

– No, we did not ‘attack’ your freedom of speech. We asked you not to denigrate your fellow Americans, and to treat others with kindness, even if they are different from you. We also pointed out that freedom of speech does not mean that others cannot critique what you say. In other words, it’s not a magic shield from the consequences of being a dick. Continue reading

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Losing Treasures; the Need for Cursive

Article for the school paper, March, 2017

An example of Sutterlin script

An example of Sutterlin script

I have a treasure in my home, but I cannot access it. The treasure is a box of letters and postcards from grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts, and others of my family. I am unable to access it not because of language (though my German is rusty, I’ll admit), but because they are written in Sütterlin script. If you are unfamiliar with Sütterlin, you are far from alone. It was a form of German cursive introduced in the early 1900s, and formally banned in 1941. Consequently, native writers (and therefore, readers), of Sütterlin are no more. Were I to want to read these thoughts, hopes, and dreams inherited from my family, I would need to hire an expert, a paleographer, to decipher them for me. It is a shame, but such is history. Continue reading

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