Sunday night odds and ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Alabama has a long history of labor agitation

The history of Black History Month

Frederick Douglass and America

Haiti’s religious culture and imperialism

American cynicism

History podcasting

An 1895 cotton field in Brooklyn where Black workers reenacted slavery

The final days of the GOP?

John Inazu on Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne.

The White House staff speaks about life with Trump

Reviewing The New York Times Book Review

The religious left

QAnon in historical context

Philadelphia’s black churches

To what are Christian schools pledging their allegiance?

It is probably time for Andrew Cuomo to resign

I admit that I loved watching Cuomo during the height of the pandemic back in Spring 2020. I thought he showed strong leadership at a time when it was desperately needed.

But now Andrew Cuomo is in big trouble. Multiple women have charged him with sexual harassment. He has a lot of enemies and they are ready to release “a decade of resentment” against him. After we learned more about Cuomo’s failure to report thousands of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, the New York governor even lost Saturday Night Live. An investigation is on its way, but Cuomo seems to have lost his moral compass.

It is probably time for him to resign.

A decade or two ago, a politician who did what Cuomo did would be gone. But we now live in a different age. Today, if a U.S. President puts children in cages, lies endlessly, and commits sexual harassment dozens of times, he can still stay in office. If Trump can survive, so can Cuomo. We will see what happens.

Karen Tumulty’s piece at The Washington Post addresses how New York Democrats are responding to the charges of sexual harassment against Cuomo. Their criticisms do not appear as strong as their criticisms of other politicians accused of sexual harassment. Here is a taste:

Calls for his resignation are now growing in New York, though more prominent voices, especially feminist ones, held their fire after the first accuser surfaced.

New York’s own Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) led the charge for her colleague Al Franken of Minnesota to be forced out of the Senate when he confronted sexual harassment allegations. But she sounded surprisingly incurious about the merits of Boylan’s accusations.

“I have not read her allegations or her post, her Medium post,” Gillibrand told reporters Thursday, the day after Boylan wrote her account on that platform. “But as I said, everyone has a right to be able to come forward, speak their truth, and be heard. And that’s true for her and that’s also true for Gov. Cuomo.”

On Sunday, after the report of a second accuser, Gillibrand put out a statement that said: “There must be an independent, transparent and swift investigation into these serious and deeply concerning allegations.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also tweeted Sunday: “Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read. There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”

They are absolutely right, though there will no doubt be a round of whataboutism if the allegations are borne out. Democrats will point out that Donald Trump was elected and survived in office despite being accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women.

For Democrats, there will likely be conflicting impulses when it comes to how quickly and decisively to move. As the #MeToo era dawned, many began to regret having stood by then-President Bill Clinton when he was found to have had an illicit affair with an intern. Gillibrand said the “appropriate response” would have been to demand his resignation. On the other hand, the general consensus among Democrats is that they acted too precipitously against Franken.

Read the entire piece here.

The making of North Carolina congressman Madison Cawthorn

This rising star in the Trump wing of the Republican Party has a dark side. Here is Michael Kranish at The Washington Post:

Madison Cawthorn was a 21-year-old freshman at a conservative Christian college when he spoke at chapel, testifying about his relationship with God. He talked emotionally about the day a car accident left him partially paralyzed and reliant on a wheelchair.

Cawthorn said a close friend had crashed the car in which he was a passenger and fled the scene, leaving him to die “in a fiery tomb.” Cawthorn was “declared dead,” he said in the 2017 speech at Patrick Henry College. He said he told doctors that he expected to recover and that he would “be at the Naval Academy by Christmas.”

Key parts of Cawthorn’s talk, however, were not true. The friend, Bradley Ledford, who has not previously spoken publicly about the chapel speech, said in an interview that Cawthorn’s account was false and that he pulled Cawthorn from the wreckage. An accident report obtained by The Washington Post said Cawthorn was “incapacitated,” not that he was declared dead. Cawthorn himself said in a lawsuit deposition, first reported by the news outlet AVL Watchdog ,that he had been rejected by the Naval Academy before the crash.

Shortly after the speech, Cawthorn dropped out of the college after a single semester of mostly D’s, he said in the deposition, which was taken as part of a court case regarding insurance. Later, more than 150 former students signed a letter accusing him of being a sexual predator, which Cawthorn has denied.

Yet four years after Cawthorn spoke at the chapel, the portrait he sketched of his life provided the framework for his election in November as the youngest member of the U.S. House at the minimum age of 25 years old. A campaign video ad repeated his false claim that the car wreck had derailed his plans to attend the Naval Academy.

Read the rest here.

Some you may remember Hannah Rosin’s 2007 book on Patrick Henry College, God’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America. I did not know that the son of former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows also attended the school.

The CPAC vocabulary. Defining terms.

I am teaching the American Revolution this semester. The other day, as we were reading and interpreting some primary documents, I asked the students to notice how the writers of these documents all seemed to use a similar political language. There was a shared vocabulary that historians describe as “Whig.” It was a British political language that the colonists applied to their own political reality in the 1760s and 1770s.

After a few weeks, my students started to identify this language through vocabulary words and phrases such as “liberty,” “power,” “arbitrary government,” “slavery,” “tyranny,” “standing armies,” and “political jealousy.”

I thought about my class today while watching the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Like the 18th-century patriots, these Trump conservatives have developed a “revolutionary” language of their own. (Ted Cruz, in yesterday’s CPAC speech, referred to the Trump movement as a revolution). This language, from what I have seen so far at CPAC, includes the following vocabulary words:

Wokeness: At CPAC, this word is usually applied to people concerned about civil rights for all citizens or those who want to address systemic injustices in American life. It is often used to describe those who champion human dignity and believe that such human dignity should inform the stories we tell about the United States and its past. Most CPAC attendees are correct when they say that the Founding Fathers were not “woke.” It is also true that many of the founders’ ideas have led to “wokeness” in later reform movements such as the women’s right movement or the civil rights movement.

Cancel culture: This phrase is usually applied to a political culture that does not allow free public discourse. At CPAC, however, it applies to a culture that does not give free speech to people who peddle lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.

The Left: Anyone who is not at CPAC is part of this group. The Left hates the American family, wants to abolish the First and Second Amendments, loves killing babies, and believes in Marxism. We should be afraid of the Left and be prepared to “fight” and “wage war” against it.

Elites: See “The Left” above. These “elites” also hate working people and want to do everything in their power to mute their voices.

Socialism: This is a label used to describe the beliefs of any Democrat and maybe even a few Republicans. It is applied to anyone who believes, like the founding fathers, that individual rights must always be understood in the context of the public good.

Gun rights: This is the “God-given” right to own an AK-47 and other automatic weapons. One does not need to make a theological argument as to whether or not the right to own an AK-47 is God-given. Instead, all one needs to do is quote Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States. Jefferson, you may recall, is the founding father who rejected the inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, and the resurrection of Jesus.

Big Tech: A phrase used to describe social media companies that will not permit lies and conspiracy theories on their platforms. Ironically, these companies have obtained an immense amount of power because the Republican Party and other conservatives have historically championed free markets and deregulation. Those watching CPAC should remember this every time the speakers invoke Ronald Reagan.

Freedom: The ability to exercise one’s rights no matter how the exercise of those rights affect other members of one’s community. The founders would not recognize much of CPAC’s understanding of freedom. Nor would Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and the rest of the authors of the New Testament. Of course this will not stop CPAC speakers from boldly referencing the Bible this weekend.

Enjoy CPAC!

The golden Trump statue was made in Mexico

Good thing they never finished that wall or else CPAC would be deprived of its Trump statue. I wonder if any of those “drug dealers, criminals [and] rapists” worked on the golden Trump.

Here is The Guardian:

Now the artist behind the huge statue of Trump – Tommy Zegan – has revealed that the object was made in Mexico; a country that has been the target of much Trump racist abuse over his political career, and somewhere he has literally sought to build a wall against.

“It was made in Mexico,” Zegan told Politico’s Playbook newsletter. Zegan, who lives in Mexico on a permanent resident visa, described the transport of the monument to CPAC in full to Playbook.

Politico reported: “Zegan spent over six months crafting the 200lb fiberglass statue with the help of three men in Rosarito. He transported it to Tampa, Florida, where it was painted in chrome, then hauled it from there to CPAC.”

Read the entire piece here.

Sasse: “Half of all presidential impeachments in U.S. history happened before Nebraska won another Big 10 game”

Politico recently interviewed the Nebraska senator who is likely to be censored by his party today. Here are a few snippets of Burgess Everett’s article:

Strong opinions came to Sasse easily during a 30-minute interview in his Capitol hideaway. Of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), he says: “That guy is not an adult.” President Joe Biden’s White House is “cowering” to the opinions of people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.). Sasse sees Congress itself as little but “a bunch of yokels screaming.”

Sasse, 49, has a youthful energy, a rapid speaking pace and an everyman’s appeal. When he cracks open his mini-fridge, a hefty selection of Bud Light cans reveals itself. He has a dry sense of humor, deadpanning of his beloved Cornhuskers’ recent struggles in men’s basketball: “Half of all presidential impeachments in U.S. history happened before Nebraska won another Big 10 game.”

And this:

Dismissing his colleagues who clamor to wear the pro-Trump mantle to further their own ambitions, he said he doesn’t pursue issues that are “sexy for the rage-industrial complex tomorrow. That stuff doesn’t doesn’t interest me. It actively bores me.”

Sasse perplexed some senators when he first landed in the Capitol in 2015, but today there’s growing respect for him as a wonky and earnest member who is serious about his job. When Democrats took back the Senate this year, Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) put a good word in for Sasse with Democratic leaders to make sure he didn’t lose his seat on the panel. Warner says keeping Sasse was “very important” to him.

Also this:

Sasse talked to Trump during his presidency more than he let on publicly, lobbying Trump to pick Justice Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court and trying to dissuade his tariff regime. Generally, Sasse supported Trump’s nominees and legislation on the Senate floor but loathed the ex-president’s antagonistic style.

Read the entire piece here.

Adam Kinzinger: “The man who refused to bow”

Another great piece on Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger. Here is a taste of Peter Wehner’s piece at The Atlantic:

If military service shaped Kinzinger in some important ways, Christianity has shaped him in others. Kinzinger was raised as an independent fundamentalist Baptist until he was 20, but the experience left him alienated. “That was a really damaging, in my mind, a very damaging religion,” he said. I asked him why.

“The best way to put it is your salvation is by faith alone unless you do something wrong—and then you were never saved in the first place,” he said. “And by the way, we have these really strict rules that you have to follow that nobody can follow, but everybody at the church is going to act like they are and you’re the only one that isn’t.”

For Kinzinger, that sort of legalism took “the joy out of Christianity.” He resolved to find something different; today, he considers himself a nondenominational Protestant. “The second part of my life has been the journey to really, truly understand what faith is,” he said.

This new phase in his pilgrimage has made him less rigid. “I think as I’ve gotten older and I’ve kind of journeyed on in my faith, I understand what salvation is. I understand that Christ spent his time hanging out with sinners, not great people—and not because they were sinners but because that’s just where his compassion was.” Twenty years ago, he admitted, he had a hard time seeing how a Democrat could be a Christian; today, it’s easy for him to understand. “There are frankly roles for Christians on all sides of the aisle,” he told me. And like many Christians, Kinzinger believes the Trump years, in which so many conservative evangelicals enthusiastically embraced a man who embodies an ethic antithetical to biblical Christianity, have done untold harm to the Christian witness.

“My goal is frankly to admonish the Church for the real damage it has done to Christianity,” Kinzinger said. “The thing I’m always asked, and I don’t think anybody with a straight face can answer differently—maybe they can, but—‘Do you think the reputation of Christianity is better today or five years ago?’ And I think most people would say it was better five years ago.”

Kinzinger’s stance has earned him some critics. One of Trump’s fawning court pastors, Franklin Graham—the son of the prominent evangelical preacher Billy Graham—attacked the 10 Republicans who supported impeachment. “It makes you wonder what the thirty pieces of silver were that Speaker Pelosi promised for this betrayal,” Graham wrote on Facebook.

“He said we took pieces of silver from Nancy Pelosi because—what?” Kinzinger asked me. “Trump is Jesus Christ? Christians have got to open their eyes and be like, ‘What is happening?’”

Read the rest here.

What did Joe Biden learn from FDR?

He learned that in a time of crisis Americans need direct relief from their national government.

Here is historian Suzanne Kahn at The Washington Post:

The United States has surpassed an ignominious milestone: 500,000 deaths from covid-19. President Biden has promised strong leadership and proposed legislation to provide both relief and the stirrings of a recovery. Such an approach emulates the way that Franklin D. Roosevelt also attempted to lead the country through a grim period, a model of presidential activism that Biden has frequently invoked. Many Americans remember the New Deal’s popular recovery programs such as the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps, which gave unemployed people dignity through necessary work and a paycheck. Or, they might think of Social Security, a program that lasted almost a century.

But Roosevelt’s efforts also included direct relief.

When he took office, unemployment was well above 20 percentenvironmental disaster in the form of drought was sweeping the middle of the country, an upsurge in racial lynching was taking place in the South, and the worst financial collapse in American history was driving a rolling bank crisis, not to mention the looming threat of authoritarianism abroad. The new Roosevelt administration had ambitions to restructure the economy, but it also knew that a key first step was immediate relief to struggling Americans.

Read the rest here.

ADDENDUM (11:23am): The House passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

On Josh Hawley’s brazen and cynical CPAC speech

Sometime prior to November 8, 2020, four members of the Fea household voted in the presidential election. We joined millions of Pennsylvanians who voted by mail. We are the “people” of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our voice was heard.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley disagrees.

Here is a taste of Philip Bump’s piece at The Washington Post:

On Friday, Hawley gave a keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida. And according to that speech, the senator who sought to block the will of Pennsylvania voters from being counted in the 2020 election is now a champion of restoring the voice of the people in American politics.

He began by disparaging the power of big technology companies, as he had in his Dec. 30 news release.

“We can have a republic where the people rule or we can have an oligarchy where Big Tech and the liberals rule,” Hawley said. “And that is the choice, that is the challenge that we face today. It’s a perilous moment.”

It’s worth noting the dichotomy he draws here. Either “the people” can rule or “the liberals” can — as though liberals aren’t Americans who have a voice in government. The reason “the liberals” have power in Washington at the moment is that more Americans voted for Democrats in the 2020 election.

But Hawley still insists somehow that the opposite is happening.

“That’s the fight of our time: to make the rule of the people an actual thing again, to restore the sovereignty of the American people,” he said a bit later.

The rule of the people is “an actual thing,” since the efforts of Hawley and his allies to block the people’s voice fell short. The American people have sovereignty, because Hawley’s cynical decision to pander to Trump supporters failed.

The implication from Hawley’s speech is that, at least in part, the system doesn’t accurately reflect the popular will. He insists that tech companies shape and obstruct that will, which he’s welcome to claim. But this is also again a tacit endorsement of Trump’s wildly false claims about the legitimacy of the election.

As you might expect, Hawley also explicitly defended his actions on Jan. 6.

“On January the 6th, I objected during the electoral college certification. Maybe you heard about it,” Hawley said.

The crowd, heavily populated with fervent Trump supporters, offered him an extended round of applause. Which, of course, is why he offered his objection on Jan. 6 in the first place.

“I did,” he continued, over the cheers. “I stood up — I stood up and I said, I said we ought to have a debate about election integrity. I said it is the right of the people to be heard, and my constituents in Missouri want to be heard on this issue.”

Hawley concludes: “Hawley used his effort to undercut democracy to proclaim how he would defend the democratic voice of those who agree with him. It doesn’t get much more cynical.”

Read the rest here.

Josh Hawley, please stop trying to say my vote didn’t count.

Will Donald Trump become our 19th president on March 4, 2021?

According to QAnon followers and other conspiracy theorists, Donald Trump will return as the 19th President of the United States on March 4, 2021. Yes, the 19th president.

Here is Nicole Narea at VOX:

Their rationale for this evidence-free belief — and the meaning behind the March 4 date — is, perhaps unsurprisingly, convoluted and based on a series of misinterpretations, conspiracy theories, and outright lies. But here’s how the theory goes:

QAnon believers claim that the US federal government secretly became a corporation under a law they believe passed in 1871 but does not actually exist, rendering every president inaugurated and every constitutional amendment passed in the years since illegitimate.

But on March 4, the narrative goes, Trump will return as the 19th president, the first legitimate president since Ulysses S. Grant, with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as his vice president. Why March 4? It’sthe original date that presidents were inaugurated. Inauguration Day changed to January 20 with the passage of the 20th amendment in 1933 — the same year that Franklin D. Roosevelt ended the gold standard.

This is actually relevant to the conspiracy theory: QAnon believers argue that in ending the gold standard, Roosevelt transferred power to a group of shadowy foreign investors who have since been controlling the US government. (Trump sought to bring back the gold standard while in office.)

“Trump will be back on March 4. By Constitution. Read it. Read a book and educate yourself,” wrote the user Wesley McBride on a Telegram channel for people who migrated from Parler after Amazon Web Services booted the right-wing social media site from its servers.

Read the entire piece here. Trump’s DC hotel is getting ready for all the visitors by raising their rates.

I am reminded of similar predictions in the history of American religious history.

In her book Doomsayers: Anglo-American Prophecy in the Age of Revolution, historian Susan Juster chronicled a variety of eighteenth-century prophecies.

A millennial movement known as the Millerites gained popularity in 1844 when their leader, William Miller, predicted that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. When his prophecy did not pan out, his followers made further predictions.

Many evangelicals believed that the rapture would occur in 1988, forty years and 120 days after the birth of modern Israel.

More recently, Christian radio broadcaster and amateur theologian Harold Camping predicted that “Judgment Day” would occur on September 6, 1994. He then revised the date to September 29, 1994. Then October 2, 1994. Then May 21, 2011. (I wrote about the last prediction here).

I imagine that Q will float another date after things don’t pan out on March 4, 2021. I wonder if Trump will somehow reference this conspiracy theory during his CPAC speech on Sunday. I am sure the Q followers will be watching closely.

“Nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense”

Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith reflects autobiographically and vocationally on this Marilynne Robinson line. Here is a taste of his piece at The Christian Century:

Needless to say, I’ve abandoned all hope that we can think our way out of the mess we’ve made of the world. The pathology that besets us in this cultural moment is a failure of imagination, specifically the failure to imagine the other as neighbor. Empathy is ultimately a feat of the imagination, and arguments are no therapy for a failed, shriveled imagination. It will be the arts that resuscitate the imagination.

So I’m back to Proust and literature. If love alone is credible, literature is truer than philosophy. Which is also why I left my post as editor in chief of Comment magazine and assumed my role as editor in chief of Image journal, a community of writers and artists bearing witness at the intersection of art, faith, and mystery. In the spirit of tikkun olam, Judaism’s endeavor to repair the world, I’m throwing in my lot with the poets and painters, the novelists and songwriters. While Plato would exile them from his ideal city, these artists are the unacknowledged legislators of the city of God.

“Nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense.” This insight from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead has never left me since I first read it. Indeed, the Rev. John Ames, narrator of the novel, looms large in my change of mind. Along with the whiskey priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory and the country priest in Georges Bernanos’s Diary of a Country Priest, Ames is the literary embodiment of a pastoral relation to truth.

There are layers to this: it’s not so much that I learned new information from this fictional minister, but that Robinson’s invention was more true for me than all my philosophical disquisitions. Her art found a way to say love; her words found a mode of incarnating the grace at the heart of the gospel. The novel, I was realizing, is a better match for the mysteries of mercy embodied in the crucified one now risen.

Read the entire piece here.

GOP Congressmen skipped votes in Congress today, citing the “public health emergency.” And then they flew to Orlando for CPAC

What do Paul Gosar of Arizona, Jim Banks of Indiana, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Mark Green of Tennessee, Darrell Issa of California, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Devin Nunes of California, and Greg Steube of Florida have in common?

They are all members of Congress. They are all speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando this weekend. They all skipped today’s votes in Congress and signed a letter saying they could not do their jobs “due to the ongoing health emergency.”

Here is CNN:

The move is especially surprising given that Republicans were furious critics of the system to vote by proxy during the coronavirus pandemic, even suing over it and often ridiculing Democrats for staying at home and demanding they return to Washington.

“Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are,” Cawthorn tweeted last summer. “The Democrats are cowards for not showing up to work.”

Top Democrats on Friday reacted strongly to the news, first reported by CNN.”

Apparently hypocrisy has become a tenant of the Republican Party,” said House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, a Democrat of Massachusetts. “Let me get this straight: these Members can’t vote in person because of the pandemic, but they manage to attend CPAC? They were even maskless at this super spreader event. It’s outrageous!”

To vote by proxy, lawmakers must sign a letter with the House clerk and allow another member to vote at their direction and on their behalf. The letters, which are filed with the House clerk’s office, say: “I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency.”

Friday is a critical day in the House, where Democrats are pushing through a massive Covid relief plan — though all the Republicans at CPAC are expected to oppose the measure. There have been other votes in the House through the course of the day.

Republicans aren’t the only ones who have misused this process.

Democrats in the past have signed similar letters, saying they couldn’t attend because of the public health emergency, voting by proxy instead even though their failure to show up had nothing to do with the pandemic.

Read the entire piece here.

This is all very interesting. These congressmen are citing the “public health emergency” as their reason to skip votes and go to Orlando for CPAC. I am not sure how they reconcile their excuse for missing votes with past statements about coronavirus:

In September 2020, Paul Gosar said that the pandemic was hyped up by Trump’s enemies. Has he changed his mind? If he hasn’t, then why would he use “public health emergency” as his excuse for missing votes?

Darrell Issa believes that COVID-19 was “manufactured” by the Democrats. Again, has he changed his mind? If he hasn’t, then why would he use “public health emergency” as his excuse for missing votes?

Ronny Jackson thinks wearing masks should be a “personal choice.

Ralph Norman was part of this video.

Devin Nunes says it is OK to go out to eat at a restaurant, but he can’t do his job in Congress because we are in a “public health emergency.”

From *Nebraska* to Jeep ads

Tony Norman is right about the Springsteen Super Bowl ad.

Watch it again:

Here is his Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column on the ad:

This is not Bruce Springsteen’s best work. Those of us of a certain age were immediately compelled to reach for our vinyl copies of his 1982 album “Nebraska”–a far more honest depiction of America than his Jeep commercial by a factor of 100–and play it nonstop just to counteract the treacly sentiments and blatant inauthenticity of what we’d just seen and heard in an ad broadcast only once on TV.

If the Jeep commercial had been filmed after the putsch by a pro-Trump mob on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Mr. Springsteen would’ve been more specific about the maladies at the heart of the American narrative because he would’ve looked ridiculous avoiding it.

The ad’s appeal to bland centrism in the service of selling cars juxtaposed with the reality of our traumatized American moment was too much to reconcile.

Regardless of their political ideology, most die-hard Springsteen fans hated the ad because it failed to say anything that could be corroborated by their lived experience. Mr. Springsteen has written dozens of songs with cars as the main or secondary character, but none of them was as rusted through with cliches as that Jeep commercial.

Read the entire piece here.

Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah reintroduces the Fairness for All Act

I’ve been covering this all day. Here is a taste of Kelsey Dallas’s reporting at Deseret News:

Utah Rep. Chris Stewart reintroduced legislation Friday that aims to reduce anti-LGBTQ discrimination and, unlike the competing Equality Act that passed the House Thursday, boost protections for people of faith.

The Fairness for All Act, which Stewart originally introduced in December 2019, would update federal civil rights law to require fair treatment of gay and transgender Americans in housing, hiring and many other areas of public life.

It would also expand existing faith-based exemptions to anti-discrimination law to ensure that religiously affiliated schools, adoption agencies and other organizations could continue to operate according to their beliefs about sexuality and marriage.

“It is hard to really love our neighbors when we are fighting with them over whose rights are more important. This country can accommodate both civil liberties for LGBT individuals and religious freedom. We have wasted enough time, energy, and money fighting over who deserves which legal protections. It is time to define the federal protections for our LGBT and religious friends and neighbors,” said Stewart, a Republican who was elected to his fifth term in November 2020, in a statement.

The bill has 20 co-sponsors in the House, including Utah Republican Reps. John Curtis and Burgess Owens.

Read the rest here. I am disappointed that no Democrats sponsored this.

Here is the most recent press release from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities:

In addressing the cultural tension surrounding religious freedom and LGBT rights, the CCCU advocates for a balanced legislative approach that preserves religious freedom and addresses LGBT civil rights under federal law.

There is a bill that addresses essential religious liberty protections and LGBT rights (already granted in employment by the Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County), and the CCCU supports the Fairness for All Act, reintroduced by Congressman Chris Stewart in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 26, 2021. The bill is both principled and pragmatic—it is principled in providing a clear and demonstrable way for people of faith to “love our neighbor” in the civic context, and pragmatic in that the bill makes explicit many religious protections that are important to a rich and vibrant civil society. Orthodox Christian convictions are central to Christian colleges and universities and there must be freedom to practice, teach, and uphold those convictions without penalty.

In pairing religious freedom and LGBT civil rights, the Fairness for All Act underscores that all persons, including LGBT people, are created in the image of God, and therefore possess full dignity, value, and worth. This approach represents civic pluralism at its best, in a society where people with deep differences can live alongside each other with respect and understanding.

The Equality Act, as currently drafted, fails to do justice to the rich complexity of moral traditions that are central to the multi-faith and pluralistic world of 21st century America, and also fails to do justice to core ideals of America itself, including a deep respect for differences and the role of religious freedom as a primary driving force in the founding of our nation.

As currently drafted, the bill fails to provide essential religious liberty protections that would allow a diverse group of social service and civic institutions to continue to thrive. In particular, as it relates to the sector of faith-based higher education that has religious convictions around marriage, human sexuality, and gender, the Equality Act would put at risk their ability to hire and operate in accordance with their religious beliefs and missions.

Perhaps most importantly, the Equality Act would restrict student choice in an unprecedented way by preventing middle- and low-income students from being able to take their federal student aid to these institutions. Seven out of 10 CCCU students receive federal funding, and the withdrawal of financial aid, including Pell grants and federal research grants, would have a disproportionate impact on low-income and first-generation college students, as well as students from racial and ethnic minority groups (in 2015-16, 72% of Black students nationally received Pell Grants, compared to 34% of white students).

Faith-based higher education has always been an essential element of the diversity of the higher education system in the United States—many of the first colleges and universities in the United States were religious—and students must continue to be given the opportunity to choose and access the college of their choice in a diverse educational landscape.

The CCCU urges Congress to pass legislation that addresses essential religious freedoms and LGBT civil rights in a comprehensive, balanced, and enduring way.

Gerson: CPAC is not conservative

As many of you know, Gerson was George W. Bush’s speechwriter.

Here is a taste of his Washington Post column on CPAC:

By a conservative standard, what should we make of the activists and participants at CPAC? It is worth noting that many who attend each year are young. What moral messages is an older generation transmitting to the next?

With many of the sessions premised on the big lie of a stolen presidential election, young attendees will certainly be taught that truth is infinitely malleable in service to ideology.

They will surely be instructed that their political opponents are really ruthless, inhuman enemies, bent on canceling and silencing them by any means necessary.

By the systematic downplaying of the recent attack on the Capitol — and probably some wink-and-nudge approval — they will learn that the recourse to violence is permissible in politics, and that democracy is valuable only if it serves their ends.

From the attendance of eager presidential hopefuls such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, they will learn that exclusion, deception and the maximization of White grievance are the future of the GOP, and that encouraging sedition is not a shameful disqualification for the Oval Office.

From Trump’s deification they will learn that civility is for losers, that compassion is for suckers, that misogyny can be fun, that strength requires brutality and that racism makes for good politics. They will learn that deadly incompetence, based on lies and lunacy and costing countless lives, means nothing. They will learn that the Constitution can be shredded in the pursuit of raw power and that populism must be rowdy enough and transgressive enough to break a few windows and kill a few policemen.

Read the entire piece here.

Ted Cruz’s CPAC speech

Watch:

He mocks AOC’s speaking voice and makes strange Star Wars and Star Trek references that seem to go over everyone’s heads. He talks about sand in a skate park and men French-kissing. His makes reference to Cancun and John Boehner.

He even implies that if rioters came into his neighborhood in Houston he and his neighbors would shoot them.

Here is my “favorite” part of the speech:

Expect Cruz to run for president in 2024.

Quote of Day

“I have a theory: Google has changed how college students interact with their teachers. I estimate that 90% of the questions that students email to ask me are already answered on their syllabus and the webpages linked to from the syllabus. But hardly anyone thinks to look at the syllabus before firing off an email question. My theory is that they are strongly habituated to dealing with a question by asking Google, and in relation to our class, I am Google.”

Alan Jacobs, Baylor University professor

Will the Democrats add religious exemptions to the Equality Act?

I wrote about the Equality Act this morning. I share Jonathan Rauch’s perspective here. I believe the Fairness for All Act is the best way forward.

Here is a taste of Rauch’s piece:

For religious and faith-based organizations, the House version of the Equality Act is toxic, because it overrides religious-liberty protections granted in 1993. More broadly, they fear that both law and secular culture are on a path to equating traditional religious teachings about sexuality to racism.

Yet compromise could be achieved by packaging LGBTQ civil rights protections with relatively narrow exemptions for religious objectors. Many states have done this — including Utah, in a 2015 compromise among LGBTQ rights groups, conservative state legislators and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). More recently, a coalition of faith-based groups — including such heavy hitters as the LDS church, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and the National Association of Evangelicals — joined with the American Unity Fund, a center-right LGBTQ advocacy group, to propose such a compromise, called the Fairness for All Act.

The Fairness for All Act has too little Democratic support to pass, and the Equality Act has too little Republican support. As written, both are dead on arrival in the Senate. But amended, the Equality Act could become a vehicle for bipartisan Senate negotiations that could add tailored religious exemptions. That kind of bill would have a real shot at winning 60 or more Senate votes and a majority in the House.

Members of the Fairness for All coalition are eager to negotiate, but they need a partner. Congressional Democrats will not support a bill over vigorous objections from LGBTQ and civil rights groups. So the question becomes: Will those groups abandon their purist positions and come to the bargaining table?

To be fair, their earlier reluctance to compromise is understandable. With no chance of Senate passage, why should they have negotiated with themselves? Why should LGBTQ people seeking to rent homes, patronize businesses and adopt children be burdened with religious carve-outs that don’t apply to other protected groups?

But now, not only is Senate passage possible; there also has been a sea change among some religious groups. As one member of the Fairness for All coalition told me, “In the religious communities, in part because of acculturation and in part because of generational shift, I think there is a real openness to trying to work this out that was not there a decade ago.” Another member said, “We hope that President Biden will be the president who signs comprehensive LGBT rights legislation as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. We just fundamentally think it’s the right thing to do. We believe it’s what our savior would have us do.”

Read the entire piece here.

If Joe Biden really cares about “unity,” he could get behind the Fairness for All Act.

Here some of my past posts on this act:

What is at stake for religious liberty in the latest SCOTUS decision (June 16, 2020)

Shirley Hoogstra of the CCCU explains Fairness for All (December 11, 2019)

A Southern Baptist theologian suggests that the CCCU-NAE “Fairness for All motion is the work of Satan (December 20, 2018)

The National Association of Evangelicals and Council for Christian Colleges and Universities adopt a “Fairness for All” motion (December 14, 2018)