God Nazis on the March

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has announced the ultimate pseudo-conservative project[*] — a program designed to destroy religious liberty in the name of saving it. Ladies and gentlemen, the First Freedom Project

The First Freedom Project includes a number of facets to ensure that this precious right, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution, is recognized and protected:

  • A commitment to continued expansion of enforcement of civil rights statutes protecting religious liberty.
  • Creation of a Department-wide Task Force on Religious Liberty, chaired by the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, to review DOJ policies impacting religious liberty, coordinate religious liberty cases, and improve outreach to stakeholder communities.
  • Initiation of a series of regional seminars to be held around the country to educate religious, civil rights, and community leaders, attorneys, government officials, and other interested citizens about the laws protecting religious freedom enforced by the Department of Justice and how to file complaints.
  • Increased outreach to religious organizations, civil rights organizations, and other groups and individuals concerned with religious liberty issues through meetings, speaking engagements, and distribution of informational literature.
  • DonByrd of Talk to Action comments,

    Imagine if the religious right’s beloved “war on Christmas” was a year-round affair. Legions of lawyers ready to pounce on school and civic administrators, the persistent neon buzz of ACLU-paranoia in the air, Pat Robertson and the Bill O’Reilly Persecution Complex (nice band name…) pressuring corporate America to replace every “gesundheit” with a “God bless you.” Now, imagine if the leaders of the effort weren’t just the Jerry Falwell Admiration Society, but instead the full weight and force of the Department of Justice, training lawyers and enlisting supporters across the country ready to blow the whistle on any perceived slight to religion. Got the picture? It’s the DOJ’s new “First Freedoms Project” announced earlier this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, an effort to tout and enhance the Department’s pursuit of religious discimination claims through the Civil Rights Divison.

    Is there some outbreak of religious oppression I haven’t heard about? Or is Gonzales just trying to keep the culture wars going for politics’ sake? And why am I asking this question?

    See also (from 2004, but still true) — “Conservatives Try to Take Over Protestant Mainlines.”


    [*] Definition of pseudo-conservative — “The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.” — Theodore W. Adorno

    Protesting 102

    (Please note I’ve turned comment moderation on; the spam is back.)

    Sara Robinson at Orcinus has written a lovely commentary on my old Protesting 101 post from 2005.

    Unfortunately, several of Sara’s commenters don’t get it. I think they’re still caught up in the romance of being Outcasts and Rebels, and Speaking Truth to Power, and are not serious about taking and using power to effect change. A couple of random observations:

    The point of a protest is not to change the minds of politicians but to gain public sympathy for a cause. It’s a change in public sympathy that eventually brings about changes in politics and policy. With this in mind, I cannot emphasize the Bigger Asshole rule enough. Protests are effective when the protesters make the people they are protesting look like bigger assholes than they are. Gandhi, for example, made the whole British Empire look like assholes. But when the protesters come across in public as a pack of assholes, the public will just write them off as, well, assholes, and usually will sympathize with the Powers That Be. This is not the effect protesters want to achieve.

    There’s nothing magical about getting arrested as a form of protest. It’s fine to be willing to be arrested, but getting arrested in and of itself doesn’t mean anything. If you don’t have much in the way of public sympathy before you were arrested, then the arrest will have no significance. People will just think “good; they jailed the son of a bitch.”