Someone blew the whistle on Hookers for Jesus

The Department of Justice gives out grants to groups to help fight human trafficking. That's good!

But this year, the DOJ decided to ignore the expected recipients, who both received high marks from grant application reviewers, and gave around $500,000 each to the Lincoln Tubman Foundation, a new organization founded by the daughter of a prominent Trump-supporting South Carolina Republican, and the Nevada-based Hookers for Jesus.

Here's what Reuters, who broke the story, had to say about Hookers for Jesus:

Hookers for Jesus, which received $530,190 over three years, is run by a born-again Christian trafficking survivor who has lobbied against decriminalizing prostitution, a policy position aligning with many in the Republican Party.

Hookers for Jesus operates a safe house for female adult trafficking victims that, in 2010 and in 2018, maintained a policy of requiring guests to participate in religious activities, internal program manuals obtained by Reuters through public records requests show.

The safe house’s manuals had rules that included a ban on reading “secular magazines with articles, pictures, etc. that portray worldly views/advice on living, sex, clothing, makeup tips.” Other rules limited everything from who victims could call to banning them from bringing their purses with them on weekly shopping trips. Rule-breakers could be penalized by being assigned chores such as washing windows.

There are major issues here. First, that the policies around this particular grant forbid the government from funding any activity that is explicitly religious — that whole separation-of-church-and-state thing. Second, that the organizations that have received the grant in the past, and expected to receive it once again, were both involved in activities that were decidedly opposed to the Trump agenda. Read the rest

A harrowing look inside the apocalyptic Evangelical cult around Donald Trump

I have kind of an unhealthy fascination with the cultishness of Christian Nationalist American Evangelicals. I was raised Catholic; before I went to high school, my mom actually worked at the local church, and later taught "family and life skills" at a private Catholic school. But she was always more interested in the Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa side of Catholicism. Later, in life, a family friend and child of Irish immigrants replaced his drug addiction with a Jesus addiction, and exposed us to a whole new world of hellfire-and-brimstone American Authoritarian Christianity that sharply conflicted with the Jesus I'd grown up with.

That family friend has now blocked me out of his life after I called him on his xenophobic and Islamophobic bullshit one too many times. But not before he tried one last time to get me to convert and accept his version of Jesus as my personal savior; apparently, my Agnostic view of "Idunno just be a good fucking person, and if there's Heaven, then you're set" is not enough for that wrathful, vengeful, Old Testament God that these people believe in.

But I thought of as I listened to a recent article from Rolling Stone written by a recovering Evangelical named Alex Morris. Morris dives deep into the ways that Trump has specifically courted the Christian Nationalist base, and why they fail to see any moral conflicts with his language, behavior, or beliefs. Over the course of 45 minutes (via Audm), she effortless weaves this political story with her own personal narrative of growing up in, and ultimately escaping from, this cultish movement:

For the God-fearing evangelical, gay marriage, abortion, and the evils of socialism — as opposed to racial injustice, family separation, or income inequality — put America squarely in the path of the wrath of God.

Read the rest

How America's hatred of poor people ties back to Puritan work ethic

Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowship-winning philosopher Elizabeth Anderson recently spoke with Joe Humphreys at the Irish Times about America's toxic obsession with by-your-bootstraps individualism, and specifically how it relates to poverty.

There are plenty of impactful quotes throughout the interview, but the parts that stuck out the most to me—as an agnostic born into an Irish Catholic family, whose mother worked for the church for a long time—were her observations about America's puritanical roots, and, later, the impacts of World War II. Anderson essentially proposes the idea that early America Puritans like the Pilgrims were determined to distance themselves from the institutional power of the Catholic church—which, for all its faults, has at least had a longstanding commitment to helping and empathizing with those suffering from poverty. In addition to Manifest Destiny, these Puritans believed that hard work was the only promise of salvation, which eventually evolved into the whole "rugged individualism" idea that consumes so many American conservatives and Evangelicals. While Anderson acknowledges that this ethic is rooted in a very pro-worker mindset, it's clearly been secularized over time into a highly partisan hatred of the poor, with a nod towards its religious roots:

There is a profound suspicion of anyone who is poor, and a consequent raising to the highest priority imposing incredibly humiliating, harsh conditions on access to welfare benefits on the assumption you’re some kind of grifter, or you’re trying to cheat the system. There is no appreciation for the existence of structural poverty, poverty that is not the fault of your own but because the economy maybe is in recession or, in a notorious Irish case, the potato crop fails.

Read the rest

Whistleblowers out Falwell's Liberty University as a grifty, multibillion-dollar personality cult

Jerry Falwell, Sr founded the Moral Majority, brought evangelicals into the voting booth, elected Ronald Reagan, and changed the face of American politics forever; his son, Jerry Jr now commands the Falwell empire, including Liberty University, which now has $3b in assets. Read the rest

Trump's pastor to flock: Give me your January salary or God will punish you

Donald Trump's “prosperity gospel” spiritual advisor Paula White, a pastor who is reported to reside in an 8,000 square foot house and travel on a $2.6 million private jet, is commanding her congregation to cough up their January salaries to her or else God is seriously going to punish them so hard. Read the rest

Megachurch pastor struggles to defend $200,000 Lamborghini purchase

A Lamborghini here, a Lamborghini there, sooner or later it starts to add up. Read the rest

Ugandan president wants to outlaw oral sex because "the mouth is for eating"

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni doesn't want people to use their mouths in ways he does not approve, so he trying to ban oral sex. This is the same gentleman who made it a crime not to report people suspected of being gay. "“Let me take this opportunity to warn our people publicly about the wrong practices indulged in and promoted by some of the outsiders. The mouth is for eating, not for sex. We know the address of sex; we know where sex is.

From The Week:

The remarks come as part of a broader crackdown on sexual freedoms by the socially conservative evangelical leader.

Sexual activity “against the order of nature” has been outlawed under Uganda’s penal code since the colonial era, but Museveni’s comments reflect a toughening of existing laws in recent years, mostly targeting the LGBT community.

Amid rising concern about the “spread” of homosexuality, partly stoked by US-backed evangelical Christian preachers, in 2009 one of Museveni’s ministers proposed legislation making same-sex activity punishable by death.

Museveni is enjoying his fifth term in office, and has run the corruption-plagued country for over 30 years. His estimated net worth is $4 billion and Forbes ranked him among The World's 10 Worst Dictators. Read the rest

Trump's Prosperity Gospel backers say Jesus makes you rich, cures Ebola, resurrects chickens

That weird meeting between presidential candidate Donald Trump and a number of so-called Prosperity Gospel evangelists sounds weirder the more we learn about who was there, and what they actually say they believe. Read the rest