Guest Blog by Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny!
These days, the Senate doesn’t pass anything remotely controversial, let alone pass it unanimously. But last month they did– a bill by Tim Scott (R-SC), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) to make lynching a federal hate crime. Their bill, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act (S.3178), had 39 co-sponsors, including conservative Republicans Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chuck Grassley, Thom Tillis and John Cornyn. The bill defines lynching as the “willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person” and mandates life imprisonment for those found guilty.
NPR’s report included an interesting tangent:
“This is an historic piece of legislation that would criminalize lynching, attempts to lynch and conspiracy to lynch for the first time in America’s history,” Harris said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “We finally have a chance to speak the truth about our past and make clear that these hateful acts should never happen again without serious, severe and swift consequence and accountability.”
While Harris spoke, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) presided. During Mississippi’s runoff election last month, Hyde-Smith was caught on camera complimenting a supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
Hyde-Smith, who is white, was defending her seat against Democratic challenger Mike Espy, a former congressman who is African-American. She was widely criticized for her comments, but won reelection.
While this is the first time the Senate has passed anti-lynching legislation, Congress has been trying for over a century. According to the measure passed Wednesday, almost 200 bills were introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th century in an effort to end lynching.
But it still hasn’t been signed into law. Why not? Simple: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) refused to schedule it for debate so the process has to start all over again in the Senate, where the craven Miss McConnell has vowed to not permit any votes unless he’s given the OK from Trump. And there’s a problem. Reactionary white evangelicals– Trump’s base– are now opposed to the bill. The corporate media doesn’t talk much about it but celebrated author Marianne Williamson is running for president right along the politicians and billionaires. This kind of religious bigotry is something she has confronted before. Today she told me that “This argument goes back to Eleanor Roosevelt trying to convince her husband to support a federal anti-lynching bill, which he refused to do; he said Americans weren’t ready for it. But now we are. The Cindy Hyde-Smiths of the world still win some elections, but they don’t speak for the American heart and the heart is where we are going. We simply must persist.”
Another presidential aspirant, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, is very sensitive to religious bigotry intruding into politics. And in the distant past, coming from a very conservative family, she wasn’t always on the same page as Hawaii’s LGBT community. After her military service in Iraq her views have been much more gay-friendly and she wasn’t happy about extremists’ attempts to target the LGBT community with this legislation. Yesterday, in the midst of her presidential campaign rollout, she told me that “We must learn from the dark stains of our country’s history, from slavery, to the Jim Crow era of lynching, to the failed War on Drugs, and more. The passage of this landmark legislation in the Senate to establish lynching as a hate crime is a critical step forward, which is why it is unconscionable to attempt to block these protections from applying to the LGBT community. All Americans– no matter their sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, disability, zip code, national origin, or anything else– must receive equal protection and treatment under the law.”
Suppose Miss McConnell were out in Pickle Park or Louisville’s Fruit Loop, cruising late one night and instead of a young man, he ran into a dozen red necks with Louisviille slugger baseball bats and suppose they clobbered him into hamburger. Under the legislation he and McCarthy (who is not gay) are blocking, the perpetrators would be guilty under the federal lynching bill.
The hate-filled evangelical fanatics are demanding that victims who are targeted for their sexual orientation or gender identity be excluded from the bill’s protections. The Trump-supporting Liberty Counsel– an off-shoot of Falwell’s Liberty “University”– and led by deranged and obsessive homophobes, Mathew and Anita Staver– is at the forefront of the demands. Mathew Staver: “The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in. And this would be the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation, as part of this anti-lynching bill… So far they’ve been unsuccessful over the many years in the past, but this is a way to slip it in under a so-called anti-lynching bill, and to then to sort of circle the wagon and then go for the juggler at some time in the future.”
Staver tolds OneNewsNow that his fanatical organization, Liberty Counsel, is talking to lawmakers in the House in an effort to convince them to strip the bill of the amendment before taking a vote. Instead he seems to have persuaded McCarthy just to not take a vote at all.
Matt Cartwright (D-PA) is a member of two very powerful committees, House Appropriations and the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee. Before being elected to Congress, he was one of Pennsylvania’s top attorneys. And, like Tulsi Gabbard, he’s not happy about this kind of thing. “People,” he told me, “who think it’s okay to commit murder because of the victim’s sexual orientation have no business commenting on American law, let alone holding themselves out as followers of Jesus Christ.”
Yesterday, Doug Pagitt, a progressive evangelical pastor in Minnesota and executive director of VoteCommonGood, suggested I use the term “conservative Evangelicals” instead of “white evangelicals” because it’s more accurate and helps make the distinction and because it “calls people to the progressive ideas and actions Jesus teaches… The people who support these measures are by far more committed to their conservatism, and even white nationalism, than they are to any sense of evangelicalism. This is born out in the fact that the primary question that should be put to any Jesus following Evangelical group is not the well deserved question, ‘are they a hate group?’ but, ‘how do they find no end to the love they show all people?'”
Jamie Raskin (D-MD), one of the most distinguished members of the House Judiciary Committee, told me that “It’s hard to believe that, while the Congress is already up in arms over the dangerous white nationalism voiced by Rep. Steve King, the GOP is indulging the bigotry of right-wing religious forces. Conservative Evangelicals apparently cannot abide the inclusion of gay and lesbian Americans in our federal anti-lynching legislation. What do they think the social message is of removing the LGBT community from the protection of a law against lynching? Here’s another simple moral test for the GOP.”
Expanding on a theme he’s been developing for a decade, evangelical expert and best-selling author Frank Schaeffer asked “Where did Trump’s evangelicals come from?: Children born into households that isolate them in homeschooling and church schools then send them to institutions like Bob Jones or Liberty U or Wheaton so identity is cemented and they carry forward the fundamentalist religious supremacy crusade. The Bible Trump’s evangelicals quote sanctifies humanity’s moral infancy idolizing the worldview of the Iron Age, leaving believers susceptible to justifying all manner of Trump’s evil in the name of God.
Face it: American Evangelicals are the Number 1 threat to democracy. Of course lynching gay people would be fine with them. As Trump joked about Mike Pence “He’d like to hang gay people.”
When one treats the Bible as the literally perfect word of God it isn’t hard to find support for the ugly list racist, Christian-Zionist, xenophobic magical thinking that now darkens the Trumped evangelical brand. It’s time to say it: Evangelicals are a threat to the USA.
Evangelical religion has made evangelical leaders and ordinary Bible-believers susceptible to courtship by Trump’s authoritarian, bigoted, sexist, tribal, anti-intellectual greed-mongers who dangle the carrot of theocracy. It is time to define evangelical voters as a hate group.
Mark Foley, a personal friend of Trump’s and a gay former Republican congressman who represented Mar-A-Lago, told me this morning that “the fact that they are working to exclude any group from this legislation is appalling and shows a total lack of true Christian beliefs.” He then warned his former colleagues that “If the Republican Party wants to continue to placate a vocal, yet distinct minority of individuals who cloak their bias by using the church as their shield, they will be justly rewarded on Judgment Day and those legislators that aid and abet this calculated hateful political stunt will pay dearly at the ballot box if their conscience doesn’t get them first…”
After years of a hateful lunatic in the presidency, how do we make our way back into love, beauty and creation? Discover my book Letter to Lucy: A Manifesto of Creative Redemption—In the Age of Trump, Fascism and Lies, a multi-touch book about art, love and parenting, from the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the prophetic music of Green Day and everything in between. Read the first chapter for free on your kindle fire or iOS device. Available now on iBooks and Amazon. Want more political videos and commentary? Show your support.