First up from the God Machine this week is an over-the-top reaction from the religious right movement to the Obama administration’s latest efforts to protect transgender students.
Officials at the Department of Justice and the Department of Education wrote a letter yesterday to every public-school district in the country, urging local officials to allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their chosen gender identity, School districts that ignore the directive may put their federal funding in jeopardy.
“A school’s failure to treat students consistent with their gender identity may create or contribute to a hostile environment in violation of Title IX,” the Obama administration wrote, pointing to the 1972 law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in public education.
As Right Wing Watch reported, social conservatives and the religious right movement were apoplectic, with one leading organization recommending impeachment for President Obama in response to the policy.
After claiming that the president is “sacrificing children to advance an evil agenda” and is intentionally causing “social chaos,” [Family Research Council President Tony Perkins] told Fox News’ Todd Starnes today that Congress should launch impeachment proceedings against the president in retaliation: […]“If the president chooses to go forward with this outrageous order – then congress should begin impeachment proceedings,” [the FRC president] said. Perkins said the decree should be “resisted with ever legal and moral instrument we have available to us in this country.”
Chances are, congressional Republicans are not going to use this as the basis for presidential impeachment – in fact, GOP leaders on Capitol Hill were surprisingly quiet yesterday in the wake of the news – but the response from the religious right was nevertheless a striking reminder: social conservatives may have lost the fight over marriage equality, but they’ve made transgender bathroom use the new hot-button issue in the culture war.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The pope isn’t done revisiting some old assumptions: “Pope Francis reportedly said Thursday he is willing to create a commission to look at whether women can become deacons, signaling openness to a possible break with the Roman Catholic Church tradition of all-male clergy. The pontiff made the remark during an audience with representatives of women’s religious orders around the world.”
* A controversy worth watching out of New Jersey: “A diverse group of faith and justice organizations on Wednesday backed the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, New Jersey’s, federal lawsuit against a local planning board for rejecting its application to build a mosque. The interfaith coalition, led by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and joined by Sikhs, Southern Baptists, and Hare Krishnas, argued in an amicus brief that the proposal to erect the mosque should be approved.”
* It’s safe to say this was the week’s most unexpected religion-and-politics story: “Around a dozen members of a right-wing Indian Hindu group lit a ritual fire and chanted mantras Wednesday asking the Hindu gods to help [Donald Trump] win the U.S. presidential election. While Trump has dominated the Republican primary race to decide the party’s candidate for the November election, his calls for temporarily banning Muslims from America and cracking down on extremist groups abroad have earned him some fans in India” (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the heads-up).