Thursday, November 13, 2008

Catholic Bishops Overreaching With Demands to Obama Over Abortion

When the Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church Clashes with American Women's Constitutionally-Protected Right to Reproductive Choice, the Constitution Must Take Precedence; It's Why We Have Separation of Church and State in This Country -- Something the Church's All-Male Hierarchy Doesn't Seem to Understand

US bishops, seen in April 2008, gather in the Crypt Church at ...

U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, at their fall conference in Baltimore, warned President-elect Barack Obama against enacting an "evil law" that would deregulate the "abortion industry," saying it would alienate millions of Americans and sow disunity. But it is the bishops who are the ones sowing disunity: With its all-male hierarchy, the Roman Catholic Church clearly does not respect the constitutionally-protected right of American women to freedom of reproductive choice -- and when church doctrine clashes with the Constitution, the Constitution, with its separation of church and state, must take precedence. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Thursday, November 13, 2008)


Dear Readers,

It's been barely 10 days since President-elect Barack Obama's history-making victory and he won't be sworn in until January. But already, he's facing a direct challenge to his authority by the Roman Catholic Church on the volatile issue of abortion.

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the new Obama administration over its support for abortion rights, denouncing as "evil" a proposed executive order lifting restrictions on family-planning programs imposed eight years ago by the outgoing Bush administration.

At their fall conference in Baltimore, several bishops declared they would take an uncompromising hard line on abortion, condemning Catholic voters for voting to elect Obama and other pro-choice candidates. Other bishops pushed for the excommunication of Catholic politicians, such as Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden, unless they followed church doctrine that condems abortion as murder.

Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pennsylvania, specifically singled out Biden, a Scranton native. "I cannot have a vice president-elect coming to Scranton to say he's learned his values there when those values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church," Martino said.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas said politicians "can't check your principles at the door of the legislature." Naumann has said repeatedly that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic Democrat who also supports abortion rights, should stop taking Holy Communion until she changes her stance.

"They cannot call themselves Catholic when they violate such a core belief as the dignity of the unborn," Naumann said Tuesday.

Excuse me, Bishop Martino and Bishop Naumann, but since you've decided to take an uncompromising hard line on abortion, I'm going to do likewise -- to protect women's constitutionally-protected right to freedom of reproductive choice.

When did anyone put you in charge of running the government of this country? America is a democracy, not a theocracy. As such, the first duty of all elected officials, Catholic or otherwise, is to the citizens who elected them, not to the church (and do I really need to remind you that a 2-1 majority of Americans are Protestants?).

Our elected officials are also bound by their oath of office to uphold not the doctrine of the Catholic Church, but the Constitution of the United States -- which, I must remind you, is the supreme law of this country.

It is, therefore, unrealistic for you to expect government officials who happen to be Catholic to always adhere to Catholic doctrine in the performance of their duties -- especially when Catholic doctrine, in the case of abortion, directly clashes with the constitutionally-protected right of women to freedom of reproductive choice.

The decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy (unless the pregnancy is in its final three months) is not a decision for the bishops to make. It is not a decision for elected officials to make. It is not even a decision for the expectant father to make. It is a decision for the woman -- and only the woman -- to make. Neither the church nor the state can interfere with her decision.

For the bishops to expect elected officeholders who are Catholic to violate the Constitution they are sworn to uphold in order to adhere to the teachings of the church on abortion is unrealistic. To expect them to make Catholic doctrine on abortion the law of the state in direct conflict with the Constitution is unacceptable.

There is a reason our Founding Fathers inserted into the Constitution a strict separation of church and state. They did not want to live under a theocracy. Many were Freemasons who faced bitter persecution under the British monarch (which many Americans don't realize was -- and still is -- the head of the Church of England as well as head of state of the United Kingdom).

This separation of religion and government is also essential to the flourishing of religious freedom in this country. Without it, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and many other non-Christian people of faith would face persecution.

This blogger was raised a Catholic, but I renounced Catholicism in 1976 because I could not stomach the church's shameful treatment of women which continues to this day. Nor could I stomach the church's position on homosexuality (a position that, quite frankly, I find to be downright paranoid -- but that's a subject for another editorial).

Many bishops condemned American Catholics who had argued it was morally acceptable to back President-elect Obama because he pledged to reduce abortion rates. Let me make one thing clear: Every American, Catholic or otherwise, has a right to vote for whatever candidate he or she chooses to support. That, too, is guaranteed by our Constitution.

What are the bishops going to do, excommunicate the millions of Catholics who voted for Obama? That would lead to a legal hornet's nest over individual freedom and the separation of church and state. And that, in turn, could jeopardize the Catholic Church's continued exemption from paying taxes.

I strongly suggest that the bishops think very carefully about the unintended consequences if they proceed with cracking down on Catholics who don't adhere to the church's doctrine on abortion.

Skeeter Sanders
Editor & Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report

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Volume III, Number 74
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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Monday, November 10, 2008

Secret Service, FBI on High Alert After Spike in Racist Death Threats Against Obama

Threats by White Supremacists to Assassinate President-Elect Have Increased Sharply in the Past Month, Law-Enforcement Sources Say; Dramatic Post-Election Increase in Sales of High-Powered Assault Weapons Is Also a Cause for Concern

The front page of the Roswell Beacon of Roswell, Georgia bore this dramatic headline and image of Barack Obama last May as it reported that local law enforcement agencies were investigating threats by white supremacist groups to assassinate the then-candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Since then, at least three alleged plots to kill the now-president-elect by white supremacists -- including the arrests of two neo-Nazi skinheads two weeks ago -- have been thwarted, but the Secret Service and other federal law-enforcement agencies fear that there will likely be many more and are on high alert to head off a possible assassination attempt before Inauguration Day. (Image courtesy

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, November 10, 2008)


Barack Obama's history-making election last Tuesday as the first African-American president of the United States brought an emotional outpouring of euphoria, pride and hope for the future by millions across the country and around the world.

Unfortunately, Obama's election has also sent radical white supremacists and other far-right extremists into apoplectic fury -- and already has put the Secret Service on heightened alert in the face of a dramatic spike in death threats against the president-elect.

The Secret Service, FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other federal agencies are keeping a close watch on numerous white-supremacist groups -- infiltrating some -- in a coordinated effort to prevent any attempt to assassinate the president-elect, especially in the weeks leading up to his January 20 inauguration, federal law-enforcement sources have told The 'Skeeter Bites Report.

Adding to the concern of the Secret Service, the principal agency responsible for protecting the nation's chief executive and his family, is an equally dramatic surge in sales of firearms since Obama's election -- not of ordinary handguns, but of high-powered, military-grade assault weapons favored by extremist groups.

As the nation's first black commander-in-chief, the 47-year-old Obama -- who's been under full-time Secret Service protection since May of last year, longer than any other presidential candidate in history -- will likely face an unprecedented number of threats against his life, including one thwarted two weeks ago when two neo-Nazi "skinheads" were arrested in Tennessee for plotting to kill Obama.

You might have noticed, if you watched Obama's victory speech at Chicago's Grant Park Tuesday night, that the lectern from which the president-elect spoke was shielded by bulletproof plexiglass -- the first sign that the Secret Service had significantly ramped up its security cordon around him.

"It's going to be a unique and challenging environment" for Obama's security detail, said Fred Burton, vice president of counter-terrorism at the geopolitical intelligence analysis firm Stratfor, in an interview with Agence France-Presse. "The protective security threat and the challenges surrounding the protection for him is extremely difficult. It's going to take a lot of resources and a tremendous amount of protective and tactical analysis to stay ahead of the bad guys," he added.


The Secret Service disclosed last week that it had warned the Obama family in mid- October that its agents had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, triggered by attacks on the Illinois senator's patriotism by Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin at several of her campaign rallies.

The Alaska governor drew criticism -- including a blistering denunciation of her as "a dangerous, fearmongering demagogue" by The 'Skeeter Bites Report in a rare editorial -- for accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists," citing his association with former 1960s radical William Ayers.

Palin's attacks sent many of her supporters into a lynch mob-like frenzy, yelling "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" even as the Republican presidential nominee John McCain -- confronted with open bigotry against Obama by at his own town hall-style campaign events -- told his supporters to be "more respectful" of his opponent and ordered Palin to tone down her rhetoric.

But the Secret Service now fears that Palin's demagoguery has -- however unintentionally -- inflamed white supremacists to issue death threats against the now-president-elect and his family, much to the alarm of Michelle Obama, the future first lady, who reportedly asked her friend and campaign adviser Valerie Jarrett, "Why would they try to make people hate us?"


Inauguration Day itself -- which ironically will fall on the day after the national holiday honoring what would have been the 80th birthday of the slain civil rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- will find security agencies on maximum alert.

Racist extremists have long been blamed for the murders of King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and other prominent African-American civil rights leaders in the 1960s. The thought of white supremacists attempting to kill the nation's first black president on the day he's sworn in, 24 hours after the King holiday is indeed a very scary thought.

Evers was gunned down in 1963 by a member of the Ku Klux Klan, the granddaddy of white-supremacist groups, whose Web site this week carried a video clip warning against an Obama administration.

"I don't want to sound like a doomsday prophet," said Thomas Robb, co-host of the KKK's Internet TV show, "This Is the Klan" on its online White Pride Media Network. "But what will happen to this nation?

"A lot of people are concerned if Barack Obama becomes president of the United States. There may be a backlash, there may be many white people throughout this country who will become awakened," Robb said.


Adding to the sense of urgency for Obama's safety is a dramatic upsurge in gun sales across the country -- not of handguns, but rather of high-powered, military-grade assault weapons of the kind sought after by white supremacist and other far right-wing extremist groups.

This blogger has noticed that, based on anecdotal evidence provided by television news footage, the buyers of these high-powered weapons are exclusively white males. Whether any of the purchasers in the current buying spree have ties to white supremacist groups is not known, although federal law requires all gun buyers to undergo background checks prior to purchase.

Gun-store owners have reported a particularly high demand for AK-47 rifles -- originally designed for use by the Soviet Red Army -- in the weeks since it became apparent that Obama would win the election.

Gun enthusiasts fear that Obama, backed by a more firmly Democratic-controlled Congress, will reinstate the assault weapons ban of the 1990s, which the previously Republican-controlled Congress -- under heavy lobbying pressure by the National Rifle Association -- allowed to expire in 2002.

While Obama strongly supports the Second Amendment right of Americans to possess firearms, he draws the line at assault weapons, making it clear that the military-grade firearms "belong on a battlefield abroad, not on our streets at home."

Even as the U.S. Supreme Court, in striking down a Washington, D.C. handgun ban, affirmed the basic principle of Americans' right to bear arms under the Second Amendment last June, the justices also made it clear that the right to bear arms is not absolute -- leaving open the possibility for restrictions on military-grade weapons.


As early as January, while Obama battled it out with fellow Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the South carolina Democratic primary, concerns for Obama's safety had risen to the point where Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), in a letter to Secret Service officials, wrote that Obama's high profile "gives rise to unique challenges that merit special concern.

"As an African-American who was witness to some of this nation's most shameful days during the civil rights movement, I know personally that the hatred of some of our fellow citizens can lead to heinous acts of violence," Thompson wrote.

Obama himself has tried to downplay concerns about his safety that have been on the minds of many African-Americans for months. In an interview in February with The New York Times, Obama expressed confidence in the security cocoon that the Secret Service has in place around him. "I've got the best protection in the world," repeating a line he tells concerned supporters. "So stop worrying."

A Secret Service spokesman told Agence France-Presse that since the election, his agency has significantly increased its security shield around the president-elect and his family. "Changes in presidential administrations necessitate a lot of operational planning and implementation in terms of our protective mission," spokesman Ed Donovan said.

Although he declined to provide specifics on the new security regime, Donovan did say that the Secret Service has "planned for every contingency."

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Volume III, Number 73
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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