A sheet of commemorative stamps honoring Harvey Milk, the California politician and gay rights icon, are photographed at a U.S. Post Office in San Francisco, on May 22, 2014.
Jeff Chiu/AP

This Week in God, 5.31.14

First up from the God Machine this week is a curious reaction from a religious right group to, of all things, postage stamps.
 
The U.S Postal Service recently released a stamp honoring Harvey Milk, one of the nation’s first openly gay elected officials. It appears the unveiling has not gone over well with some social conservatives.
Incensed by the release of a postage stamp honoring Harvey Milk, the American Family Association is urging its members not only to avoid purchasing the stamp…but to refuse to accept or open any letter or package postmarked with one. […]
 
In his daily email alert yesterday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins also attacked the Obama administration for issuing the stamp, linking the move to the imprisonment of a Sudanese mother who is facing the death penalty for her conversion to Christianity.
In the case of the American Family Association, the far-right group specifically told its followers to “refuse to accept the Harvey Milk stamp if offered by your local post office.” Perhaps more importantly, the AFA went on to urge conservatives to “refuse to accept mail at your home or business if it is postmarked with the Harvey Milk stamp. Simply write ‘Return to Sender’ on the envelope and tell your postman you won’t accept it.”
 
Note, for the AFA, it doesn’t matter what it’s in the mail. What matters is whether the stamp shows the face of a gay guy – and if it does, you shouldn’t even open the envelope. (Presumably, the thinking goes, if enough Americans rise up against the stamp, people will stop using them.)
 
In an amusing experiment, Abby Ohlheiser decided to test the AFA’s commitment by sending a $5 donation to the American Family Association in an envelope with a Harvey Milk stamp. The test, of course, is to see which the AFA values more: the financial support or the bizarre anti-gay animus. I’ll let you know what happens to Ohlheiser’s contribution.
 
In the meantime, it’s worth noting that Post Office’s Milk stamp is a “forever” stamp, which means it can be used as first-class postage indefinitely into the future. Sorry, AFA.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
 
* A creationist group’s plan to build the proposed Ark Encounter theme park was supposed to be subsidized with tax dollars in Kentucky. That support is now in doubt: “[A]ccording to new information LEO just discovered from Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet, the facts on the ground have changed. [Answers in Genesis’ Ken Ham] and his dinosaur boat will absolutely not receive $43 million in tax incentives from the state, and there’s still doubt that they will be eligible for any incentives at all.”
 
* The Freedom From Religion Foundation strikes out at the 2nd Circuit: “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled on Wednesday that the use of ‘In God We Trust’ on American currency does not violate the Establishment Clause or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
 
* Retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, a leading right-wing activist in the religious right movement and vice president of the Family Research Council, “detailed some of the Pentagon’s most sensitive operations of the 20th century” in his book published in 2008. The Pentagon wasn’t pleased: “The Army struck back last year, quietly issuing him a scathing reprimand following a criminal investigation that concluded he had wrongfully released classified information, according to an Army document obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request.”
 
* And in related news: “In the days following the horrible massacre perpetrated by Elliot Rodger at University of California, Santa Barbara, people across the political sphere have been notably reticent to try to use the incident as a vehicle to forward their ideological hobbyhorses. Well, that period of discretion is now over. According to Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, the Isla Vista murders weren’t caused so much by misogyny or the prevalence of guns, but rather due to Hollywood and Obamacare.”
 

Rachel Maddow Show This Week in God and Religious Right

This Week in God, 5.31.14