Archives For Michele Bachmann

Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann today announced that she would not be seeking re-election to her seat in 2014. While partisans on both sides of the left-right divide can speculate on why she has chosen to do this, I think it’s important to take a quick look at the legacy left by her somewhat unorthodox and highly effective mixture of (politically and socially) conservative Christian populism. Specifically, I think it’s important to showcase how religious minorities (including modern Pagans) were made increasingly anxious by the affiliations she celebrated and stances she took.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann

“We’re in a state of crisis where our nation is literally ripping apart at the seams right now, and lawlessness is occurring from one ocean to the other. And we’re seeing the fulfillment of the Book of Judges here in our own time, where every man doing that which is right in his own eyes—in other words, anarchy.”Michele Bachmann

Whatever Bachmann’s plans are in the future, I’d prefer they be outside of a political office. It’s easy to make a “greatest hits” of Bachmann’s various comments, but I was always more concerned by her unwavering allegiance to inserting a very particular kind of Christianity into our political discourse. It’s easy to paint Bachmann as “kooky” but I think few people took her as seriously as they should have. Whatever one’s opinion of her, Bachmann was effective at winning elections and influencing the discourse, and considering her religious views that rightfully made a lot of religious minorities very nervous.

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Thursday.

NAR on Fresh Air: I’ve written at some length on the Christian movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a group that’s been getting increased media scrutiny lately due to their proximity to presidential candidates like Texas governor Rick Perry. However, as the recent blowback over the term “Dominionist” proves, there’s quite a bit people don’t know about this increasingly connected religio-political network of apostles and prophets. A key figure in studying the origins and activities of NAR is Rachel Tabachnick of Talk To Action, who was interviewed yesterday on NPR’s Fresh Air.

“On Wednesday’s Fresh Air, Rachel Tabachnick, who researches the political impact of the religious right, joins Terry Gross for a discussion about the growing movement and its influence and connections in the political world. Tabachnick says the movement currently works with a variety of politicians and has a presence in all 50 states. It also has very strong opinions about the direction it wants the country to take. For the past several years, she says, the NAR has run a campaign to reclaim what it calls the “seven mountains of culture” from demonic influence. The “mountains” are arts and entertainment; business; family; government; media; religion; and education.”

If you’re looking for NAR 101, I would suggest listening to this program, or reading the full transcript. Tabachnick has also supplied a supplemental post of relevant informational links at Talk To Action. At the end of the interview host Terry Gross mentions that the program reached out to several NAR figures for an interview, though none said they could fit it into their schedules. However, Mike Bickle (famous for calling Oprah a forerunner of the Antichrist) of the International House of Prayer has agreed to come on the show in the near future.

What Makes A Tribe: Religion Clause points to a Christian Science Monitor article on the plight of unrecognized Native American tribes in the United States, and how their lack of legal status inhibits the free practice of their traditional rites, and silences their voices when it comes to redress for wrongs done to them.

“The profiles of some federally recognized American Indian tribes have grown in recent decades as they parlayed their sovereign status to create profitable ventures such as gambling enterprises. But there are many other tribes that – never having had a reservation or simply falling through the cracks of Indian policy – are unrecognized by the United States. Scholars estimate that more than 250,000 of the 5 million who identify themselves as American Indians belong to about 300 unrecognized tribes, making them almost invisible to federal Indian law.”

The article notes that unrecognized tribes wouldn’t be able to file for a grievance under the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, due to a position paper issued by the United States government saying they wouldn’t include them, and that the process to becoming recognized is largely viewed as a bureaucratic nightmare, with almost impossibly high bars of entry.

“Anthropologists and tribal members also argue that the requirement to show “continuous and distinct community” since 1900 is unrealistic given US history. “These people went through massacres, dislocations, and suffered all these horrible atrocities, and then the government demands, ‘Show us your continuous community.’ It’s absurd,” says Les Field, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.”

For tribes like the Winnemem Wintu in Northern California, who aren’t recognized despite clear documentation by the United States government that they do, indeed, exist, recognition could mean the difference between preservation of their identity or total eradication. Their difficulties in simply holding their rites is only the tip of the iceberg, as plans to raise the Shasta Dam would flood their traditional sacred places. It’s clear that the voices of unrecognized tribes aren’t being heard, and that the process to being heard is no guarantee of success. It should be the duty of the entire interfaith community, particularly those who care about the preservation of sacred lands, to raise up their own voices and put pressure on the federal government to do more.

When a Daycare Becomes a Christian Daycare: The WaukeePatch in Iowa reports on a long-running daycare, and the changes that happened when the church that was renting space to them took over.

A Waukee church is being criticized by angry parents for forcing child-care staffers to adhere to Christian principles, banning non-Christians, sexually-active singles, male-female roommates and practicing homosexuals from employment. [...] Employees wanting to remain needed to reapply for their positions and agree to the new guidelines. These new guidelines were spelled out in a Christian Lifestyle Agreement included with employment applications. The agreement states that “every employee accept and follow a lifestyle commitment based upon Biblical principles.”

At least one employee wouldn’t be able to reapply for her job since she’s a lesbian. Parents were given no warning of the switch-over. Shocking as this may be, this move doesn’t seem too surprising considering the fact that Point of Grace church is now run by a pastor, Jeff Mullen, who is markedly anti-gay and recently hosted Michele Bachmann during an Iowa campaign stop. Now that the daycare formerly known as “Happy Time” is a religiously-run organization, what Point of Grace is doing is now perfectly legal. This may not be an issue in isolation, but what happens when an entire community is run this way?  What happens is that tacitly enforced “no-go” areas for non-Christians are created.  I’m not attacking Point of Grace for running a religious organization they way they want to run it, but I do think this is a good example of what can happen when a community’s social safety net is placed in the hands of the dominant religious body.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Forgive the nod to Nirvana, whose “Nevermind” is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, but I’ve been reading an awful lot lately about accusations of paranoia regarding coverage of the Christian religious phenomenon known as Dominionism. For some reason Kurt Cobain sneering “just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you” kept entering my mind. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

In any case, ever since the presidential candidacies of Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas governor Rick Perry started making news, their connections to conservative Christian groups who espouse some form of Dominionism, a religio-political movement that seeks “influence or control over secular civil government through political action,” has been getting increased attention in the mainstream media. The three most prominent examples come from Forrest Wilder’s piece on Rick Perry in the Texas Observer, Ryan Lizza’s piece on Michele Bachmann in The New Yorker, and Michelle Goldberg’s piece on both candidates in The Daily Beast. Suddenly, “Dominionism,” a term usually relegated to small watch-dog groups and religious leaders considered to be on the fringes of mainstream society, was everywhere. All this attention seems to have rattled some cages, and a seemingly inevitable backlash against the term is in full flower.

The former spokesperson for famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham, A. Larry Ross, says that Dominionism is a “broad label that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify” (though he also admits to not personally knowing either Bachmann or Perry). A similar line is taken by religion journalist Lisa Miller at the Washington Post, who chides journalists who use the term, and points out, like Ross, that most evangelical Christians don’t want to take over the government. Barry Hankins at the American Spectator also works to acquit evangelicals, while Jonathan Tobin at Commentary says the newest conspiracy theory is Christian “Manchurian Candidates,” and Reason magazine implies that such stories amount to a constitutionally unsound “religious test.” Even the Dominionists aren’t Dominionists anymore! As Right Wing Watch recently documented, influential New Apostolic Reformation figure C. Peter Wagner says his movement doesn’t want theocracy, just Christian influence over every sector of society (a message echoed by another influential NAR figure).

“The usual meaning of theocracy is that a nation is run by authorized representatives of the church or its functional religious equivalent. Everyone I know in NAR would absolutely reject this idea, thinking back to Constantine’s failed experiment or some of the oppressive Islamic governments today. The way to achieve dominion is not to become “America’s Taliban,” but rather to have kingdom-minded people in every one of the Seven Mountains: Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business so that they can use their influence to create an environment in which the blessings and prosperity of the Kingdom of God can permeate all areas of society.”

So is this coverage just secular paranoia from the journalistic elite, one that bares a longstanding bias against pious Christians? The smaller media outlets that have been covering these theocratic tendencies among the Christian fringes are now responding, starting with Peter Montgomery, associate editor at Religion Dispatches.

“…this is not a movement dreamed up by people with no understanding of Christianity who simply want to stir up fear of conservative evangelicals. The increasingly widespread use of “Seven Mountains” rhetoric reflects an effort by a broad swath of conservative evangelical leadership to adopt a shared set of talking points, if you will, to unite theologically disparate elements in common political cause to defeat the Satanic/demonic enemies of faith and freedom: secularists, gays, liberals, and the Obama administration.”

Montgomery also blasts the false equivalencies being made by defenders of conservative Christianity’s honor, asking to see “the evidence for this leftist anti-Christian jihad.” Meanwhile, the folks at Talk To Action are surprised at the ignorance some journalists are displaying when trying to downplay Dominionist influence, and are quick to point out that groups like the New Apostolic Reformation are an “egregiously underreported sector of the Religious Right – not a conspiracy.”

In the book “Gravity’s Rainbow” Thomas Pynchon writes that “if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” When you start getting peppered with questions like: “do you think all evangelicals want a theocracy,” or “do you believe Rick Perry/Michele Bachmann is a brainwashed Manchurian Candidate,” the inevitable negative answers from most corners will simply return us to a more comfortable frame of reference. Instead of getting answers to questions about why several political figures mingle, hobnob, and praise individuals who do call for something that looks very much like theocracy, or why these extremist elements seem to be getting absorbed into mainstream  conservative Christianity, we become mired in discussions over terminology and whether evangelical Christianity is being treated fairly. Still, as Adele Stan at AlterNet points out, this flurry of denials and reframing is actually something of a victory.

“Believe it or not, for progressive reporters, Miller’s high-profile denial is something of a victory, for it means the work of investigative journalists for progressive publications is making its mark on the more mainstream outlets, as when the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza echoed Sarah Posner’s reporting for Religion Dispatches in his profile of Bachmann, or when Michelle Goldberg built on the dogged research of Rachel Tabachnick (writing here for AlterNet) and others for her Daily Beast piece on dominionism’s claim on both Perry and Bachmann.”

For me, the bottom line is how a candidate will treat religious minorities once given the chief executive’s job. The arguments over terminology mask the fact that rhetoric, associations, and intentions do matter when we’re talking about national politics. As I pointed out recently at the Washington Post, even things said before an individual becomes president can be later interpreted into policy at high levels.

“Due to the unique “bully pulpit” power possessed by our Commander in Chief even comments made before a politician becomes president can later be interpreted into policy by his administration. There is a strong indication this happened during the presidency of George W. Bush, who famously remarked in 1999 that “I don’t think witchcraft is a religion, and I wish the military would take another look at this and decide against it.” In this case “it” was allowing Pagan soldiers to freely practice their religion at Fort Hood in Texas, but nearly a decade later the Washington Post reported on a case involving grave markers for fallen Pagan soldiers where Barry Lynn of Americans United said that discovery documents showed “references to Bush’s remarks … in memos and e-mails within the VA.” In Lynn’s opinion “the president’s wishes were interpreted at a pretty high level.” In short, rhetoric, especially when you go on to lead the world’s most powerful nation, does matter, as does the rhetoric of those who have played king-maker during the election.”

If a politician builds up a proven track record of hostility towards non-Christian faiths, or associates without qualm with those who do, as I believe Michele Bachmann has, then there is great risk in allowing these figures to lead a secular multi-religious nation. These debates over how much influence figures from various extremist Christian groups truly have isn’t simply an academic matter for those who don’t benefit from Christian privilege. Even if someone like Rick Perry isn’t a true believer and is cynically hitching his wagon to the horses he thinks will help win him the race, the tide of an elected president raises all boats, and we would see figures who believe that Pagans are demonically controlled suddenly granted new levels of access to power. That’s scary, because as the recently-released West Memphis 3 can tell you, Satanic panics are nothing to laugh off. Or as veteran Lakota journalist Tim Giago says: “Watching political candidates for the highest office in this land standing on podiums espousing their individual religious beliefs as gospel for all of us takes me back to those days when priests and ministers led the assault on the indigenous people using the Bible as a weapon of mass destruction.”

No doubt to some Christians this will all seem like paranoia, but I would surmise that most of them didn’t suddenly realize one day why their parents never revealed their religion to them as children. I know that most Christians could care less about what Pagans get up to (I’m grateful for that, and reciprocate their general lack of concern), but I know that the ones who do crave the ears (and souls) of influential individuals with an unrestrained passion. The trouble is that it only takes a few well-placed individuals to make things difficult for those who don’t toe some arbitrary theological/cultural line. I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because some of this sounds paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after us.

Top Story: In the second part of a six-part series on the geopolitical ramifications of global warming in the Arctic, NPR’s Morning Edition focuses on Russia’s aggressive push to claim waterways and resources becoming available as the Arctic ice melts. One group that is particularly concerned over the rush to claim the Arctic is the indigenous Saami people, a group native to the Kola Peninsula of Russia. NPR interviews traditional singer Nadezhda Lyashenko, who discusses the environmental consequences of this rush to exploit one of the few remaining untouched regions on our planet.

Nadezhda Lyashenko. Photo: David Greene/NPR

The indigenous people of this region bore much of the brunt. The Saami tribe, for one, has lived centuries in Russia’s northwest, near the Norwegian border. Saami people were forcibly collectivized on farms under Stalin. Nadezhda Lyashenko, the Saami woman singing traditional tribal music here, can recount the horror stories. Her grandfather, a reindeer shepherd, was shot in 1937, accused of being a spy after he crossed into Finland chasing a reindeer herd. After decades of relative peace, Lyashenko says, trouble seems to be returning to her native Arctic lands. She sees Russia and other world powers in a race for oil and gas, ignoring the potential impact to a part of the Earth that’s been rarely touched. “The Arctic is just so fragile,” she says. “This time, it’s a research boat going out there. It’s like the prick of a needle, and the land will heal. But if they go with knives, with spears, they could break everything. And then what?”

The Saami and other indigenous peoples living in or near the Arctic, on the front lines of global climate change, could have much to teach us, if we are willing to listen. Sadly, the rights and concerns of the Saami are often ignored, or greeted with hostility by those who want economic development at any cost. For those who identify with the indigenous peoples and culture of Europe, the plight and position of the Saami should be of great concern. The trend of indigenous rights being undermined needs to be halted and reversed.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Republican presidential candidate Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is performing strongly in Iowa polls, and while some are skeptical that she has the momentum necessary to win the Republican nomination, we are often told to not underestimate her. So until such time as it becomes clear that Bachmann won’t be able to grab the brass ring and face off against President Obama in 2012, or perhaps get the nod as a Vice Presidential candidate, we should take her potential rise to the executive branch of the United States government seriously. In the past I have pointed out that Bachmann funneled tainted campaign money into an anti-Pagan Christian charity (which they later returned), has had a long friendship with pseudo-historian David “paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses” Barton (Bachmann wanted Barton to teach the 2010 freshmen House Republicans about the Constitution), and has been a longtime supporter of virulently anti-gay Christian musician/activist Bradlee Dean. Any one of those instances is enough to give any Pagan pause, but a recent in-depth profile of Bachmann by Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker provides one more. In the New Yorker piece, Lizza recounts how Bachmann tells an audience in Iowa how the 1970s evangelical Christian documentary “How Should We Then Live” had a “profound influence” on her life.

“["How Should We Then Live"] also was another profound influence on Marcus’s life and my life, because we understood that the God of the Bible isn’t just about Bible stories and about Bible knowledge, or about just church on Sunday. He is the Lord of all of life. Every bit of life, including sociology, theology, biology, politics. You name the area and walk of life. He is the Lord of life. And so, as we went back to our studies, we looked at studying in a completely different light. Not for the purpose of a career but for a purpose of wondering, How does this fit into creation? How does this fit into the code and all of life that is about to come in front of us? And so we had new eyes that were opened up as we understood life now from a Biblical world view.”

This documentary showcased the ideas of influential evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer, a man whom Bachmann calls “very inspirational” and “a tremendous philosopher.” These opinions aren’t that controversial within evangelical circles, where Schaeffer is widely credited as inspiring the politically engaged “Religious Right,” but I think few outside evangelical and conservative Christian circles know or understand the message Schaeffer was sending. Let’s look at two excerpts from the first part of his ten-part documentary series.

Aside from peddling misinformation about pre-Christian religion (and the fall of Rome), he delves into conspiracy theory in later episodes, insinuating that perhaps the government is trying to control us by spiking our drinking water.

At the end of his life, Schaeffer penned “A Christian Manifesto” in which he railed against pluralism, secular humanism, and advocates for Christian civil disobedience in the face of secular “tyranny.” In a sermon given after the book was published, Schaeffer said that “we must absolutely set out to smash the lie of the new and novel concept of the separation of religion from the state” and that  “Christ must be the final Lord and not society and not Ceasar.” Bachmann’s admiration of Schaeffer isn’t some inch-deep put-on for conservative Christians in Iowa, Lizza points out that Bachmann is also of fan of Nancy Pearcey (her book “Total Truth” is “wonderful”), a student of Schaeffer’s who has worked to continue his message. Pearcey is something of a creationist superstar among conservative Christians (she co-authored the infamous “Of Pandas and People”), and believes that only monotheist Christianity could have created the scientific advances we enjoy today.

“Why didn’t polytheistic religions produce modern science? The answer is that finite gods do not create the universe. Indeed, the universe creates them. They are generally said to arise out of some pre-existing, primordial “stuff.” For example, in the genealogy of the gods of Greece, the fundamental forces such as Chaos gave rise to Gaia, the great mother, who created and then mated with the heavens (Ouranos) and the sea (Pontos) to give birth to the gods. Hence, in a polytheistic worldview, the universe itself is not the creation of a rational Mind, and is therefore not thought to have a rational order. The universe has some kind of order, of course, but one that is inscrutable to the human mind. And if you do not expect to find rational laws, you will not even look for them, and science will not get off the ground.”

Frank Schaeffer, the son of Francis Schaeffer, who helped his father make those films back in the 1970s, has since recanted much of his evangelical past, and now categorizes politicians like Michele Bachmann as “religious fanatics,” noting that “she got into politics because of reading my father’s work. And she is one of his extremist followers.” When Michele Bachmann says that she “will have doors locked and lights turned off” at the Environmental Protection Agency, that isn’t simply conservative populist economic rhetoric, it’s a stance that is synergistically merged with and informed by the strains of conservative Christianity that formed her worldview, many of which see environmentalism as a false religion.

Bachmann is the embodiment of what the Christian Broadcasting Network calls the “Teavangelical Movement,” further blurring the lines between economic and religious conservatism. Whether or not you agree with Bachmann on some issues, what is clear is that her commitment to Francis Schaeffer’s idea of a “Christian consensus” American government runs deep throughout her history, she’s no late-arriving cynical opportunist. The question we need to ask Michele Bachmann is what place religious minorities have in her vision for the United States, and how she would govern a secular nation with millions of non-Christians living in it.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

 

First off, welcome to Patheos everyone! I’m still getting used to the new digs, but so far the hitches seem to be relatively minor. One thing, the comments from Intense Debate are still in the process of being exported to Disqus, our new commenting system. The comments themselves are safe, but it may take a bit before they all appear. So please be patient as we get that worked out. Now then, let’s start off with a few quick notes shall we?

Peg Aloi Talks Medieval Horror: Over at TheoFantastique Pagan media/movie critic Peg Aloi has a podcast chat with  John Morehead about religious themes in the film Black Death.

TheoFantastique Podcast 2.2 for 2011 is now available. In this edition my special guest is Peg Aloi, a religion scholar and film critic and who maintains her own blog at The Witching Hour, who engages me about the film Black Death directed by Christopher Smith. In this interview and dialogue, Peg and I discuss the film cinematically, as well as its religious elements (bringing together our different religious traditions, an idea I first suggested at The Wild Hunt), and how this film may, in the words of Smith, function as a dark parable for our times. TheoFantastique Podcast 2.2 can be listened to by clicking this link, and downloaded here.”

Peg’s work is always worth checking out, whether she’s interviewing exorcists or doing scholarly reviews, so head over to TheoFantastique and listen in.

Rachel Pollack on Tarot: In advance of the upcoming Omega Institute Tarot Conference Mary K. Greer interviews famed Tarot expert Rachel Pollack (of Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom fame) about her career, and how she keep the subject of Tarot fresh after 40 years.

“I have never walled Tarot off into its own corner.  To me, Tarot is the world, so as I learn more about anything I think of how it can apply to Tarot.  For instance, just yesterday I read an intriguing idea about the story in Genesis that God took a rib from Adam and made Eve.  At first glance, this seems very sexist, and has been used  to describe women as inferior.  But the writer I was reading looked at the fact that chimpanzees have 13 ribs and humans have 12.  Thus the creation of woman was the evolutionary change from ape to human.  Women can be said to introduce human consciousness.  How does this affect Tarot?  Well, for one thing we find Adam and Eve in the Rider version of the Lovers, so now we can consider new and interesting points about that card.  But it also opens up the relationship between the male and female cards, such as the Magician and the High Priestess, or the Empress and the Emperor.”

The whole thing is certainly worth a read. I had the privilege of  interviewing both Mary K. Greer and Rachel Pollack last year, talking about psychic services and the law.

The Extremism of Michelle Bachmann: Michelle Goldberg at Newsweek/Daily Beast does a profile of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s “unrivaled extremism.” Paying special attention to her history of opposition to gay marriage.

Lots of politicians talk about a sinister homosexual agenda. Bachmann, who has made opposition to gay rights a cornerstone of her career, seems genuinely to believe in one. Her conviction trumps even her once close relationship with her lesbian stepsister. “What an amazing imagination,” marvels Arnold. “Her ideology is so powerful that she can construct a reality just on a moment’s notice.”

Of course, she isn’t just extreme in her opposition to LGBTQ equality,  I’ve covered at some length her unfortunate views regarding the equal treatment and rights of minority religions as well, culminating in her support for pseudo-historian David Barton. Now that Bachmann seems to be holding pole position as the Christian conservative candidate to beat after her performance at the recent Republican presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire we’ll have to take seriously the possibility that she could be on the ticket in 2012.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Wednesday.

Bachmann’s Gay-Bashing Friends: Mother Jones reports on the cozy, friendly, relationship between Rep. Michele Bachmann (R–Minn.) and Christian musician/activist Bradlee Dean. Both Dean and Bachmann are scheduled to appear at the upcoming Tea Party Founding Fathers-sponsored Freedom Jamboree in Kansas, billed as the national Tea Party straw poll convention. Journalist Tim Murphy notes that Bachmann has been an ongoing supporter of Dean, despite the incendiary and hateful anti-gay rhetoric spouted by the Minnesota-based talk-show host and Christian youth leader.

“But over the last five years, Bachmann, the politician, and Dean, the metal-head, have formed an unlikely but powerful alliance. Bachmann has helped raise money for Dean’s traveling youth ministry, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International; guest-starred in his television series; and prayed for his ministry to multiply 10-fold. Dean, for his part, has embraced Bachmann, whose district includes his suburban community of Annandale, as an ally against the gay agenda. But his inflammatory rhetoric and past links to an anti-government organization make Bachmann’s own controversial views seem downright pedestrian—and raise serious questions about the congresswoman’s choice of associates.”

Dean is perhaps best known for his admiring comments concerning Muslim countries that call for the execution of homosexuals (though he says his words were “twisted”, but it’s all on tape for anyone to judge for themselves) and seems to be all for locking gays and lesbians up. Dean’s ministry is directly linked to the scandal of Target donating to anti-gay hate groups. As for Bachmann, we already know she’s no friend to modern Pagans. With Bachmann seriously considering jumping into the presidential race, we’ll have to keep our eyes open to see if conservatives anoint a woman who would seem to have no qualms radically changing our country.

The Unfortunate Return of Eilish De’Avalon: Australian Pagan priestess and Witch Eilish De’Avalon, who garnered international attention last year for dragging a cop by the arm during a routine traffic stop, is now appealing her conviction, despite the fact that she’s quite plainly guilty of dragging the police officer.

“A self-proclaimed witch who says she is not subject to earthly laws is appealing against convictions for dangerous driving and recklessly causing injury. She was sentenced to jail after pleading guilty to dragging a traffic policeman by the arm for 190m. Highton marriage celebrant Eilish De’Avalon told Sen-Constable Andrew Logan in February last year she was not subject to earthly laws because she was from another world.”

Australian Pagans have been concerned about the negative publicity this incident has garnered, especially now that there’s documented widespread distrust of modern Pagans in that country. Ms. De’Avalon’s appeal simply gives the anti-Pagan pundits and culture warriors more fuel for their rhetorical fires. Here’s hoping the unfortunate return of De’Avalon to mainstream press attention is short-lived.

Catholicism and Fertility Rituals: Reuters reports on a centuries-old May fertility ritual at Obando in the Philippines.

“The rite has taken place in Obando for centuries and apparently originated from a pagan fertility ritual where couples once rubbed their body parts against an idol. But the act was later changed by the Catholic Church when they introduced Saint Claire, the patron saint of fertility, to the locals. [...] The Philippines, with 80 percent of its 100 million population devoted Catholics, holds many festivals honouring patron saints that are believed to grant miracles.”

One wonders how many of its Catholic festivals originated as pre-Christian celebrations, and simply substituted a saint for a local deity. There are still a smattering of “animists” preserving the old ways, do they celebrate these festivals in their original forms still? It would have been interesting to know, too bad the report couldn’t have dug deeper.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

 

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Glenn Beck calls him “one of the most important men in America,” People For the American Way call him the “right’s favorite pseudo-historian, “ and Time Magazine listed him among the 25 most influential evangelicals in 2005. He’s David Barton, founder and president of WallBuilders, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann wants him teaching the freshman class of recently elected Republicans all about the U.S. Constitution.

“Rep. Michele Bachmann announced last month that she wants to hold “Constitution classes” for new members of Congress in the hopes of preventing them from being “co-opted into the Washington system.” She’s already announced several people she wants to teach the classes, including David Barton, a controversial figure whose ideas about the constitution and the founding fathers have drawn sharp criticism from both the religious and secular communities. “Every week the hour before we take our first votes, we have our weekly class so that we are reminded of our constitutional jurisdictional limits,” Bachmann told Glenn Beck in a recent radio interview. She mentioned Barton as a key figure in those weekly classes.”

Anyone who pays attention to the nomination and approval of Supreme Court nominees knows that there are different schools of thought regarding the constitution and how it should be applied in court cases, but Barton’s interpretations and views go beyond whether we have a “living constitution” or not, they are something far more radical and dangerous. In short, Barton has a theocracy-tinged exceptionalist view of America that would see the equal treatment of non-Christian religions eliminated. That isn’t hyperbole on my part, I’ll let Barton speak for himself.

The true historic meaning of “religion” excludes paganism and witchcraft, and thus, does not compel a conclusion that McCollum has state taxpayer standing … paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses. Thus, in the present case there can be no violation of those clauses … Should this Court conclude that McCollum has taxpayer standing … this Court should at least acknowledge that its conclusion is compelled by Supreme Court precedent, not by history or the intent of the Framers.”

That quote is from an amicus brief written by Barton in the case of Patrick M. McCollum; et al., v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. McCollum v. CDCR centers on the state of California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy, which limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents.

It’s unsurprising that Rep. Michele Bachmann is so keen on Barton since she tried to funnel tainted contribution money into an anti-Pagan charity (which they later returned), one that has ties to the virulently anti-Pagan New Apostolic Reformation. Indeed, Barton and Bachmann have been chummy for years.

“Bachmann and Barton have a long relationship going back to Bachmann’s time as state senator. Barton was invited to Minnesota to help Bachmann with legislation on school history standards, she’s appeared his radio show numerous times and she and Barton have conducted tours in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate to tea partiers how religious the Founding Fathers were.”

Sadly, Bachmann isn’t the only politician Barton has on his speed-dial. He helped Republican candidate Marco Rubio win a senate seat, and Mary Fallin the governor’s chair in Oklahoma, this November. He’s also close to potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

Despite being engaged in various scandals and outrages, nothing seems to have slowed Barton’s ascent to a position of influence in national politics. That he may be in a position now to “educate” unexperienced politicians elected with a largely fiscal mandate by an unhappy electorate is chilling. If Barton gathers enough “students” among holders of high political office, how long before his distorted perspectives on the Religion Clauses start to carry real weight? As recently as 1999 there was a congressional effort to ban Wiccans from serving in the military. Who’s to say that the next time an anti-Pagan (or minority-religion) amendment gets attached to a vital spending bill it won’t sail through the House and get ignored by the Senate?

What is certain is that any politician who counts Barton as a friend or mentor can’t be guaranteed to have the best interests of religious minorities in America at heart. If your representative, governor, or senator was endorsed by, or takes “lessons” from, Barton, maybe you should ask them if they agree with his stance on the Religion Clauses.

I had never heard of Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann until her recent brush with infamy, when she advocated that Barack Obama, and other liberals, be investigated for “anti-American” views by the press.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann

“What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think the American people would love to see an expose like that.” When asked about Sen. Barack Obama’s views she said, “Absolutely, I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.”

However, channeling Joseph McCarthy is hardly unique among the far-right, what has caught my eye about this witch-hunting poster child is the fact that she is funneling tainted contribution money into an anti-Pagan charity.

“Earlier this month we reported Bachmann’s connection to Frank Vennes Jr., convict-turned-good who was also a heavy Bachmann contributor. She wrote a letter on his behalf requesting a pardon, but pulled it after his homes were raided in connection with the Petters’ fraud investigation. Her campaign reported that she donated at least one of Vennes’ contributions to charity, but wouldn’t specify which one. Bachmann donated a $9,200 contribution on Oct. 3 to Minnesota Teen Challenge, according to Minnesota Independent.”

A quick look a the Minnesota Teen Challenge web site would lead you to believe they are a run-of-the-mill faith-based anti-drug and alcohol organization. But appearances can be deceiving. Local anti-Bachmann bloggers have dug through the organization’s newsletters and found some pretty familiar rhetoric.

“We would have people put curses over candy and place jewelry with demonic symbols in Trick or Treat bags. When the kids take it willingly, it opens the door for demonic attack. Kids would be sick for weeks after Halloween. Drug dealers were out in full force. We would all try to recruit at least one person to come back to the Satanic meeting. Usually, we would just try to impress them with different displays of demonic power, like levitation and casting spells.”

If that weren’t all, the scandal-tainted money was donated to a charity that used to be run and funded by the very person who tainted it in the first place!

“Frank Vennes is a former board member of Teen Challenge. He’s also involved in the nonprofit Fidelis Foundation, which has served as a fiscal agent for — and donated millions of dollars to — many evangelical ministries and other religious organizations, including Minnesota Teen Challenge.”

Now supporting a charity that peddles in lies and distortions of Pagan religions is most likely the least of her worries at this point, but it certainly gives some insight into what causes Bachmann is willing to support. Being socially conservative is one thing, but unthinkingly supporting a group that teaches mentally vulnerable children with addictions that we are evil is another matter entirely. Here’s hoping that Paganistan can elect someone a bit more friendly to our faiths come November.