Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Thursday, June 9, 2022

A Clear and Present Danger

The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious NationalismThe Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” uncovers a clear and present danger to the United States and may well presage the destruction of our representative democracy.

Katherine Stewart’s deep dive into the world of Christian Nationalism — a form of fascism to be sure — exposes the actors and the money trying to turn back the clock of the country’s progress since the Great Depression. The right-wing’s key is to contaminate our understanding of the First Amendment’s notion of separation of church and state, so clearly articulated by Thomas Jefferson, with the claims that the U.S. was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation and the purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the church from the state.

From this false foundation, she bares the right-wing’s plans to take over the country’s public school system and replace it with a combination of private religious schools — all teaching the conservative version of Protestant Christianity. These right-wingers attack the progress of our nation by claiming public schools’ indoctrination of our children with sinful and perverted ideas such as climate change, evolution and science in general. Never mind that it’s the right-wing that wants to do the indoctrination. The Christian Protestant view on health care focuses on reproductive health — that is, abortion and contraception, of course; and on LBGT issues as well — a war Texans are seeing waged by right-wing leadership.

As for financing this the implementation plan was to get like-minded politicians elected and pliant judges appointed that shared the Protestant Christian view of the First Amendment and governance she names names: Charles and David Koch, the DeVos family, the Mercers and all the usual suspects of the billionaire plutocrat class. But, and this is really my only quibble, she mentions, almost in passing, the libertarianism in the Christian Protestant takeover of the economic system making, again in passing, reference to the Austrian school of economics. She was right to attribute the political traction to the rise of the “Moral Majority” in the 1970s and the political kickstart with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. But, as she points out, there was far more going on than the public knew.

In fact, this movement started in the 1950s, with Charles Koch’s interest in the public choice theories of one James McGill Buchanan, a Nobel laurate economist who not only wanted to return the United States to John C. Calhoun’s racist 1850s but also to the total free market economy by tearing government out at the roots. Buchanan’s theory and his tactics and strategy were well documented in “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America” by award winning Duke University historian Nancy MacLean. In fact, MacLean’s book on Buchanan along with Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” are essential companion reading to Stewart’s incredible journalism.

Stewart’s book came out during the disastrous term for Donald Trump and here is where she makes points to show how the clear and present the danger is ow for the United States and other world democracies. The Christian Protestant leadership admires the dictators of the world. In fact, she “blows the lid” off the Trump and his defenders about the Russian alliance with the movement and electing Trump. For example, she exposes Franklin Graham’s defending Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and having multiple meetings with Putin. Further, with Vice President Mike Pence’s “blessing,” Graham met with Russian Orthodox Church leaders “for the purpose of strengthening relationships between the U.S. Congress and the Duma.” How this treason hasn’t been investigated isn’t clear to this reviewer.

Stewart ends the book on an optimistic note, saying that while the right-wing has made immense progress, the good people on the other side of their issues still can thwart this fascist takeover. I wish I shared that optimism.



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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Paxton is scum

Parents of a trans child who reached out to Attorney General Ken Paxton over dinner are now under investigation for child abuse

"Parents of a trans child who reached out to Attorney General Ken Paxton over dinner are now under investigation for child abuse" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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In 2016, when Texas tried to stop transgender students from using the bathroom of their choice, there were protests, press conferences and a whole lot of anger directed toward the state’s elected officials.

But one mom tried something different — she invited Attorney General Ken Paxton to have dinner at her house with her 8-year-old transgender son. Amber Briggle told The 19th recently that Paxton and her son washed up together in the bathroom before dinner.

“He turns around and looks and says, ‘This is nice. It’s been a while since I had kids this age,’” Briggle told The 19th.

More than five years later, Paxton has helped set in motion a targeting of families with trans kids unlike anything experts or lawyers say they’ve ever seen — and the Briggles are now caught in the crosshairs.

According to their attorney, they are one of several families who are being investigated for child abuse for providing gender-affirming medical care to their children.

“Raising a transgender child in Texas has been one long political emergency,” they said in a statement provided by their lawyer. “It always seemed like this day would come. Now it has arrived.”

In late February, Paxton issued a nonbinding legal opinion that equated certain gender-affirming medical treatment with child abuse. Gov. Greg Abbott then issued a letter directing the state’s child welfare agency to investigate “any reported instances of these abusive procedures.”

While most gender-affirming care focuses on “social transition” — allowing a child to express their gender how they’d like — some transgender children take puberty blockers, a completely reversible medical treatment that's prescribed for a wide range of situations beyond transition. Paxton and Abbott also cited concerns over gender-affirming surgeries that are rarely, if ever, used on children.

Since Abbott’s letter, The Texas Tribune has been able to confirm that Child Protective Services has opened investigations into at least five families — and the real number may be much higher. A spokesperson for the agency said they could not confirm the number of active investigations due to pending litigation.

The Briggle family said in their statement that a CPS caseworker interviewed them and their children and inspected their house.

“We showed her all the food in our cabinets, the kids’ artwork on the walls, the toys, books, and games in the family room … The gardens and trampoline in the backyard. The beds piled with blankets and stuffed animals,” they said in the statement. “It was impossible for her not to feel the love in our home.”

The investigator told them they were “clearly doing something right,” according to the statement. But the investigation remains open.

“We are the family you would want to place a foster child with, not the family whose children should become foster kids themselves,” they said. “And yet, the government is attempting to rip our family apart because we love our children unconditionally. Is this who we are, America?”

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Lambda Legal has managed to block one of these investigations from proceeding with a temporary restraining order. A judge is set to consider a statewide injunction on Friday, though that hearing is stayed at the moment while Paxton appeals the restraining order.

The Briggle family, in their statement, called on people in Texas and around the country to push back against these policies.

“We need you to not normalize this state terrorism through your silence. Don’t just wring your hands. We need you to draw a line right here,” they wrote. “It is not acceptable that some Americans have to flee their homes to secure their civil rights. Stop telling us to move. Help us.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/03/08/paxton-transgender-child-abuse/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.