Stores Can Be Anti-Abortion Christians, Supreme Court Rules
Today the Supreme Court’s session went out with a bang as it settled two cases on identical 5–4 partisan lines. The decision in Harris v. Quinn hurt public employees’ unions by refusing to let them automatically deduct dues from wages, and the ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. allowed some companies to avoid paying for their workers’ birth control.
It’s the second one that everyone is shouting about today, and for good reason. To recap: Hobby Lobby is a chain of craft stores with 13,000 employees, 572 outlets, and billions in annual revenue. It’s run by the Green family, who aren’t exactly shy about their Christianity: According to the company’s website, Hobby Lobby is committed to “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.” After the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. ObamaCare) passed, a federal agency ruled that employers were going to have to provide health-insurance plans that offered coverage for a range of birth-control options. A lot of these methods the Greens, like many other devout Christians, have no problems with, but they are super, super upset by techniques that, to quote the Supreme Court’s decision, prevent “an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus.” (These include Plan B and IUDs, which they think of as being equivalent to abortion.)
Now, a lot of people might find the belief that stopping a man’s sperm from meeting a lady’s egg is fine but stopping a fertilized egg from sticking to the uterus is AWFUL MURDER AND MUST BE STOPPED: a bizarre bit of hair-splitting. Those people might also note, as some have, that the owners of Hobby Lobby aren’t using these devices themselves, and they aren’t even paying for them directly—they’re paying for insurance plans that allow some women to get these horrible, no-good, very bad birth-control options. But the grounds on which the Greens challenged the ACA don’t require them to prove that their beliefs are correct; it’s enough that they feel that paying for certain kinds of plans is a sinful act. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which was passed in 1993 with Democratic support, for what that’s worth) says that laws can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless there’s a “compelling governmental interest” at stake and the law represents “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.. Since corporations count as people (yeah, I know, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), Hobby Lobby could claim with a straight face that its rights were being violated by the ACA, and the five more conservative justices could with a straight face concur. So presto change-o, the court has decided that companies that really, really want to deny certain types of health coverage to people can totally do that.
Thursday’s Supreme Court decision didn’t do much to alter access to clinics, but rather laid what we already know about the abortion debate in America: Being cornered by strangers who want to talk about your uterus and pray for your unborn child is obviously horrifying and invasive, but it’s not illegal. Because while you may have the right to get an abortion, someone else has the right to make you feel terrible about it.
—Supreme Court Rules Pro-Life Zealots Can Still Make You Feel Terrible About Abortion
Watch VICE Profiles: Slut-Shaming Preacher
In August of last year, campus preacher Brother Dean Saxton caused outrage after preaching at the University of Arizona and holding a sign that read, “YOU DESERVE RAPE.”
This is typical behavior for Dean, who believes, among other things, that women shouldn’t be allowed to attend university, that feminism is evil, and that immodestly dressed women are asking to be raped.
VICE went to Arizona to meet up with Dean as he was preparing to protest the screening of a documentary about a rape survivor.
VICE Profiles is a weekly window into our eccentric and idiosyncratic world. Check back for new episodes every Monday.
Here’s the First Look at the New Satanic Monument Being Built for Oklahoma’s Statehouse
In January the Satanic Temple announced plans to erect a monument glorifying the Dark Lord on the front lawn of the Oklahoma Statehouse. An Indiegogo campaign was launched with what seemed like a somewhat lofty goal of $20,000, but by the time donations ended almost $30,000 had been raised. Now an artist trained in classical sculpture is toiling away in New York, crafting a Baphomet figure sitting beneath a pentagram and flanked by two children gazing upward in loyalty. When it is finished, it will be cast in bronze and, the Satanists hope, eventually displayed in Oklahoma.
The statue is a direct response to the state’s installation of a Ten Commandments monument outside the Capitol in 2012. State Representative Mike Ritze paid for the controversial statue with his own money, and therefore it was considered a donation and OK to place on government property. Following that line of reasoning, the Satanic Temple submitted a formal application for their monument.
As Trait Thompson of the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission told CNN last December, “Individuals and groups are free to apply to place a monument or statue or artwork.” The applications are then approved or rejected by the Commission. Unfortunately, the state has placed a halt on issuing permits for any other monuments until a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Ritze’s Commandments monument is settled.
A Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Is Rattling Christian Homeschoolers
Last fall, Douglas Phillips, a fundamentalist Christian homeschooling guru and leading proponent of the “Biblical Patriarchy” movement, shocked his followers by publicly admitting that he had a relationship with a woman other than his wife, and subsequently shuttered his popular—and lucrative—Vision Forum ministries. Given that philandering religious leaders are a dime a dozen, the story seemed pretty unremarkable at the time. Sure, it was sad news for Phillips and his fundamentalist friends, an illustrious circle that included Kirk Cameron, Creationist talking head Ken Ham, and the Duggar vagina militia. But mostly, it just looked like another minister getting a taste of forbidden fruit.
“There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance,” Phillips said in a statement posted to Vision Forum’s website. “I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.”
Then, last week, the bomb dropped. The woman with whom Phillips was involved, 29-year-old Lourdes Torres, slapped both him and Vision Forum with a lawsuit that indicates Phillips dramatically understated the nature of their “inappropriate relationship”—not least by implying that it was consensual. In the suit, Torres accuses him of sexual battery, exploitation, assault, and fraud, among other charges, and claims he used her as a “personal sex object” over the course of several years, including while she was working as a nanny in Phillips’s home. Torres is also suing Phillips’s now-defunct Vision Forum Ministries, and its for-profit arm, for negligent supervision and retention—in other words, for knowing about the abuse and not doing anything to stop it or remove Phillips from his leadership roles.
According to the lawsuit, Phillips met Torres and her family at a homeschooling conference in 1999, when Torres was just 15. It claims that Phillips then proceeded to “methodically groom” the teenage girl, inviting Torres on family vacations, taking her on as a nanny for his kids, and showering her with compliments, money, and spiritual advice, until eventually she moved into the Phillips’s home as a nanny in 2007.
That’s when the allegations get gross:
While Ms. Torres was living with Douglas Phillips and his family in October of 2007, Douglas Phillips entered Ms. Torres’s bedroom and without her consent began touching her breasts, stomach, back, neck, and waist. Phillips then began to masturbate and ejaculated on her. Ms. Torres asked Phillips to stop and broke down crying. Despite Ms. Torres’s repeated requests for Phillips to stop masturbating and ejaculating on her, Phillips proceeded to return and repeat this perverse and offensive conduct. Each night that Phillips returned, Ms. Torres requested that he stop. Defendant blatantly disregarded her requests but continued to masturbate and ejaculate on her each night.
The 30-page complaint goes on to sketch a devastating picture of Phillips and his ministry, offering a glimpse into the darker side of the Biblical Patriarchy movement that has taken root in some corners of Christian fundamentalism. In the belief system advocated by Phillips and Vision Forum, men have spiritual authority and dominion over church and family, while women are expected to submit absolutely to their fathers and husbands in all aspects of life.
We Got Members of the Westboro Baptist Church to Take Buzzfeed Quizzes
As I’m sure you’ve heard, Fred Phelps, founder and head-dickhead of the Westboro Baptist Church, has died.
Presumably this has been a game changer in the Westboro world, and I wanted to get to know the new them. And what better way to get to know someone than making them do a bunch of Buzzfeed quizzes? They have told me many, many things about myself and others that I never knew (and also probably didn’t want to know, TBH.)
Below is how the members of the church answered the quizzes I sent to them. The answer they selected is presented with a short quote from them explaining their choice. Enjoy!
Which Sex and the City Guy Is Your Soulmate? – Taken by Westboro member Mara Phelps
Q. Pick a dress color for your first date
A. Black ("Black is the color of the human soul. We have no good in us.")
Q. Pick the activity for your first date
A. Dancing (“King David danced in the street after seeing the Lord’s divine rule acted out.”)
Q. Where do you want to sleep right now?
A. A four poster bed. (“It reminds me of Roman times, when people had the word of God with them.”)
Q. What would you want for your anniversary?
A. A dog. (“Because dogs are loyal.”)
Q. Pick a dog
A. A terrier. (“It reminds me of a dog called April that we used to have. And someone, in the middle of the night, broke in and slit her throat.”)
Q. Pick a flower
A. An iris (“When we first moved to this house, we could see these flowers outside.”)
Q. Which New York City tourist attraction would you actually like to visit?
A. The Empire State Building. (“It couldn’t have been made unless God had given the engineers and the people who built it the ability to do so.”)
Q. Pick a romantic comedy
A. Pretty Woman (“She was supposedly a prostitute with a heart of gold. This generation has been raised to think being promiscuous is something to be proud of. And it is not.”)
Q. Which word makes you squirm?
A. Ooze (“There’s a sickness to it. The Lord has cursed fags with AIDS which causes them to have sores that ooze.”)
Q. When looking for a boyfriend, which of the following is most important?
A. Loyalty. (“It’s important for people to have loyalty to one’s brothers.”)
Q. Pick a brunch dish
A. Grapefruit. (“It looks really healthy.”)
"I’m not familiar with this character or the show at all. It says he expects the perfect wife. A lot of people expect things to be perfect for them even though they don’t deserve it."
The World’s Largest Christian TV Network Has a Lot to Hide
Trinity Broadcasting Network (or TBN) is the largest Christian TV network in the world. Its shows are currently available in 95 percent of American homes.
TBN has its headquarters in Costa Mesa, California, in the modest building you see above. The network offers free tours to the public, so I headed down to check it out.
This guy (above, right) was the tour guide for my group, which was made up of me and a visiting Boy Scout troop. I’m not sure if he was new or something, but he left A LOT of the company’s history out of his tour, so I’ll be filling in some gaps for him as I go.
Our tour began in the grand entrance hall. As we walked through, the tour guide explained to us that TBN was started in the early 70s by married couple Jan and Paul Crouch in an effort to spread Christianity to as many people as they could.
What he failed to mention is the church’s reliance on what’s known as “prosperity gospel.”
If you’re not familiar, prosperity gospel is a system in which you’re told that the more money you give to the Lord, the more blessings the Lord will give to you in return. In this instance, “the Lord” refers to “Trinity Broadcasting Network.”
They gather these donations by holding telethons in which they promise viewers miracles in exchange for donating money to TBN. And being poor isn’t a problem: The network tells viewers that God especially likes it when people who are poor or in debt donate money they can’t afford. ”He’ll give you thousands, hundreds of thousands; he’ll give millions and billions of dollars,” Paul Crouch once told his viewers, according to the LA Times.
The company is reported to bring in tens of millions of dollars in tax-free donations annually. It is unclear if God held up his end of the bargain to those who donated.
Next, we were taken around a small museum area that featured various old copies of the Bible, some of which were more than 100 years old.
I wanted to know: Would Jesus ever use a gun?
The pastor thought a moment. “I don’t think so, because as God, he doesn’t need a gun. He can command anything, and it would happen. But all of his followers carried swords for three and a half years, and not one time did he tell them to put those swords down. The only time that Jesus told Peter to put his sword back was at the very end. That was because Jesus came to die on the cross to pay for our sins, and he did not want Peter to get in the way.”
“Why did Jesus want them to have swords?”
“For exactly what we need guns for—for personal protection and to protect our liberties… All you have to do is read 1984 to know what’s going on in this country.”
—We visited the church in upstate New York that’s giving away AR-15s
Westboro Baptist Church Founder Fred Phelps Has Died – Fuck That Guy
So, Fred Phelps has gone to live with the big fag-hater in the sky. America mourns. The rainbow flags are fluttering at half mast. Really, you can’t overestimate how cut up the nation is. Who, for example, is left to piss all over the country’s dead soldiers? It’s a responsibility everyone will have to shoulder together.
Saddest of all, the big ol’ flirt ended his days estranged from even the two dozen people he’d made it his life’s work to keep tame and mute. Excommunicated from his church and emotionally exiled from 99.9 percent of the human race, Fred Phelps died as alone as it is possible for a man to be. Pity him for his grim motiveless anger, but let’s at least remember him as he would have wanted us to: as a psychotic, sadistic life-wrecker and overall pretty bad egg. He certainly didn’t want your pity, as the following catalog of ugh will show.
Continue reading about how terrible Fred Phelps was