Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Armed and Dangerous

The signs of the times slap us in the face on a daily basis. A determined core of the national Republican Party is driving this nation toward theocracy, and at the very least they intend to cow into submission those who disagree with their intentions.

I caught part of the dust-up live on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday, but this is what went down, according to Mike Allen in the WashPost:

The House was debating a Democratic amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill that would have required the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to develop a plan for preventing "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing." (More about coercive and abusive religious proselytizing at that military facility below.)

Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.) spoke against the amendment and couldn't resist laying his Republican cards on the table, i.e., the Right Wing's current jihad against "godless" Democrats:

"...The long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives" and "continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats. Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians."

Let's see on which side the "denigrating and demonizing" is happening. Reports of what's been going on at the Air Force Academy have seeped out, including in the New York Times. Apparently, the location of the Academy in the same city where James Dobson runs Focus on the Family, and where other huge evangelical orgs have their headquarters, has created a certain opportunity for what we might call "inter-connectivity" between the behemoths of religious fundamentalism and the big dicks at the academy. An investigation of what was happening there led the superintendent of the Air Force Academy to acknowledge earlier this month that his campus is "so permeated with evangelical proselytizing that it will take years to rid the institution of religious intolerance." For example, a particular chaplain instructed cadets to tell fellow classmates, some of whom were Jewish, that they were "gonna burn in hell" if they didn't accept Jesus Christ. (Information about the situation is all over the news media and elsewhere: for examples, here and here and here and -- oh, that's enough.

Wanting to stop that kind of coercion is now known as "denigrating and demonizing Christians."

Which takes us back to the floor of the U.S. House yesterday and to the lovely mega-Christians who are joyously sending everybody else's soul to hell (and if you don't like the Air Force Academy as a kind of fundamentalist labor camp, it's an index to just how much you hate God!).

So Rep. Hostettler of Indiana sez that Democrats hate Christians, and Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, protested the statement, saying: "I move that the gentleman's words be taken down." "Taken down" in the arcane lingo of the U.S. House means "thrown out," incidentally, NOT "recorded for posterity."

Under the rules, Hostettler had a choice: to agree to withdraw his words, or to stick by them and face a ruling from the chair that he had violated rules against disparaging another member on the floor. If the member's words are taken down, it is considered a serious offense and the lawmaker would not be able to speak for the rest of the day. Eventually, Hostettler rose and read a sentence that had been written out for him in large block letters by a young Republican floor aide: "Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the last sentence I spoke."

All of this brought business in the House to a complete standstill for 45 minutes.

Rep. Hostettler, incidentally and just to complete the portrait of the sort of "Christian" we're dealing with here, pled guilty last year to a misdemeanor for carrying a concealed Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun to Louisville International Airport as he was preparing to board a flight to Washington.

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