Rep. Mike Kelly’s Office: There is No Law that Requires Separation of Children from Asylum Seeking Families

Today, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated Donald Trump’s false claim that there is a law that requires children be removed from their asylum seeking parents at the U.S. border. Watch:

Because I couldn’t find a law nor has anyone supporting the policy cited a specific law, I called my representative Mike Kelly (R-PA). The fellow who answered the phone (I didn’t get his name) said he would help me find that law. As he searched for it, he engaged in a bit of discussion with me about people illegally crossing the border. However, my question was about those presenting for asylum with children together as a family.

After searching and talking for about 10 minutes, Rep. Kelly’s staffer concluded that there is no law requiring the separation of children from their parents. He indicated that the practice fell within the jurisdiction of the border agencies and immigration officials and ultimately the Trump administration.

Thus, according to the office of my Trump supporting Republican representative, President Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders are deceiving the American people by saying there is a law which they are simply enforcing. 

How low can Sanders and company go? Today she invoked the Bible after Jeff Sessions also did to justify this awful policy. Watch the video above to the end.

In one way, I am glad that Kelly’s office acknowledged that there is no law requiring the Trump administration policy. However, on the other hand, it is discouraging to know that Rep. Kelly must silently know that the story being sold to the American people is false.

Trump Says Nuclear Threat is Over; North Korea Experts Skeptical

A former foreign service officer who served in North Korea while Kim Jong-Un’s father ruled is skeptical of President Trump’s claim that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” David Lambertson who worked as American liaison to the Korean Economic Development Organization in North Korea told me that the threat is over only in Trump’s “imagination.”

Early yesterday, President Trump congratulated himself in this tweet:

Lambertson spent five years as a part-time KEDO representative and was also an ambassador to Thailand during his career. He was in North Korea as a part of the project negotiated during the Clinton administration with Kim Jong-Il, the father of Kim Jong-Un. In exchange for a promise of halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, a consortium of nations agreed to build a nuclear power plant in North Korea. Eventually, the project ended without a completed plant and without the promises being kept by North Korea.

Lambertson told me that Trump returned from his summit with Kim Jong-Un “with very little of substance to show us.” Moreover, Trump gave up a couple of “substantive points, namely the halt to ‘provocative war games,’ and simply the elevation to world statesman of the world’s worst dictator.”

Making a comparison to the Iran treaty, Lambertson said that the meeting was “the beginning of a ‘process,’ we are told–one that will bear close watching.”  He added that “every milestone along the way needs to be looked at carefully and skeptically.”

Lambertson said “we should be thankful” that “tensions with North Korea are lower than they were” but added, “until there is actual, verifiable progress toward denuclearization, we should keep our enthusiasm under control, despite Trump’s bloviating.”

Lambertson concluded:

The North Korean nuclear threat has not disappeared, except perhaps in the President’s imagination.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations concurs with Lambertson:

Since Trump has returned from Singapore, he has praised Kim Jong-Un as a ruler who loves his people. This of course will come as a surprise to the people of North Korea.

Donald Trump Pledges to Pardon Dinesh D’Souza

In today’s Corruption Watch News, I bring you this:

Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions. Now Trump will pardon him.

Reaction has been swift and severe, as it should be.

Former Director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub thinks the pardon might be a signal to Trump’s former associates now under indictment.

Law professor Joyce Alene agrees:

At the time, D’Souza admitted he committed the crime, saying

I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids. I deeply regret my conduct.

He asked two other people to make contributions to the U.S. Senate campaign of Wendy Long which he promised to reimburse. He admitted he reimbursed those individuals.

D’Souza identifies as an evangelical and he is fiercely pro-Trump. Although he has been losing his luster as an evangelical intellectual since 2010, he is admired in pro-Trump circles.

Recently, he has become known for his incendiary remarks and fractured history. D’Souza has sparred with historian Kevin Kruse over political history (Kruse for the win). He supported Roy Moore for Senate and generally comes across as a bomb thrower.

Pro-Putin

D’Souza is also pro-Putin. He once tweeted his admiration of the Russian strongman.

D’Souza didn’t like my post about it so he did what any Trump supporter would do, he made fun of me and doubled down.

Great Victory?

Even though D’Souza admitted breaking campaign finance laws, he is celebrating as if he was the victim of a false accusation.

For some reason, Christians are celebrating this pardon. I understand we are all guilty of various things and in Christ, we are pardoned but our rejoicing isn’t to be gloating over others. The prosecutors did their jobs and the precious rule of law that Republicans go on about has been set aside. I agree with the first tweeter above, this appears to be an abuse of power and if Karma is indeed a bitch, there may be a day of reckoning in November.

Trump Really Thought it Through

There are no words to describe the lunacy of how Trump decided to pardon D’Souza.

New Study: Trump Support Associated with Christian Nationalism and Anti-Muslim Sentiment

Evangelicals have been a big puzzle since Donald Trump has come on the scene. Why would these moral crusaders fall behind a womanizer who bragged about sexual assault? A new study from sociologists Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker and Samuel Perry in a recent edition of the Sociology of Religion journal provides some answers.
The study, which is also summarized by the authors in Monday’s Washington Post, points to a belief in core tenets of Christian nationalism as a major factor associated with Trump support. To assess Christian nationalism, the authors asked participants in the Baylor Religion Survey the following questions:

“The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,”
“The federal government should advocate Christian values,”
“The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state” (reverse coded),
“The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces,”
“The success of the United States is part of God’s plan,” and
“The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”

The authors found that the more a person believed America is or should be a Christian nation, the more likely that person was to vote for Trump. This was true across party affiliation. The image below taken from the study demonstrates that Democrats with Christian nationalist beliefs were three times more likely to vote for Trump than Democrats who didn’t have those beliefs.

Item five above is one which can be interpreted without a Christian nationalist meaning. Christians of many stripes see God as having a general plan which includes the success and failure of nations in it. One need not see America as having a special plan to endorse this item. Otherwise, I think the items assess important components of Christian nationalist beliefs about church and state.

Make America Christian Again

In short, the more you buy into David Barton’s way of looking at history, the more likely you are to be a Trump supporter. Christian nationalist voters reason that Trump will move America toward their vision of a Christian America even if he isn’t personally devout. Once upon a time, Christian leaders told us that character counts in leaders. Now, power is what matters. Trump voters want policies in place which will coerce a Christian consensus — make America Christian again.*
The authors also found that anti-Muslim sentiment related to Trump support. Christian nationalists, such as David Barton, have demonized Islam beyond the historical record and at least one Christian “religious liberty” group denies religion status to Islam.
After reading this study, I feel on the side of the angels by fact checking Christian nationalists historical claims (e.g., Getting Jefferson Right). Christian scholars have a special responsibility to present the facts and withstand the pressure from Christian leaders to corroborate a false Christian nationalist narrative.
 
*The title of the Sociology of Religion article is “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.”
Further reading:
Does Christianity Need Donald Trump’s Help?

Tony Perkins: Christianity is Great Except When It Isn't

The title of this post summarizes what I get out of this Tony Perkins interview with Politico. Tony Perkins is the head of the Family Research Trump court evangelical picCouncil which claims to promote family values. Because FRC has historically called for politicians to exemplify family values, Perkins gets a lot of questions about his support for Trump.  This exchange between Perkins and reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere  is especially revealing:

Evangelical Christians, says Perkins, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”
What happened to turning the other cheek? I ask.
“You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins says. “Look, Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”

Shorter Perkins: when Christian teachings don’t get you want you want, then try something else. As I understand Perkins here, there is a limit to Christianity. You can follow it so far, but when it doesn’t work to get power in the situation, you resort to whatever tactics might be necessary. Otherwise, the unthinkable might happen: Christians might lose political power.

Christianity? What Christianity?

To me, this is another example of an evangelical leader changing Christianity to fit the requirements of being a Trump follower. Today, it is Perkins; often it is Franklin Graham, most days it is Jerry Falwell, everyone’s favorite fallen angel. After Trump’s indecorous reflections on third world nations earlier this month, Jerry Falwell went out with an defense – Trump was being presidentially authentic.  Columnist Jonah Goldberg was having none of that.

Falwell, in a riot of sycophantic sophistry, not only wants to argue that whatever a president does is presidential but also seeks to elevate the idea that authenticity is its own reward. This is contrary to vast swathes of conservative and Christian thought. A person can be authentically evil, crude, bigoted, or asinine. That is not a defense of any of those things. I’m no expert, but my understanding of Christianity is that behavior is supposed to be informed by more than one’s “authentic” feelings and instincts. Satan is nothing if not authentic.

We live in a time when some of our Christian leaders model how Christian leaders act when they believe Christianity has failed as a practical matter. “You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins said. Once you’ve turned both of them, it must be time to move on to some other approach.
And nearly every day, we see evidence that they have moved on.

Evangelical Reaction to Trump's Shithole Comments

I don’t even know if I am allowed to write that at Patheos. I guess we will find out.
By now, most of my readers will have heard that Donald Trump yesterday expressed preference for Norwegian immigrants over Haitian andTrump court evangelical pic African immigrants. The original report came from Josh Dawsey in the Washington Post. When discussing immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and Africa, Trump reportedly said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” According to the Post and Reuters, he then said we should take more immigrants from Norway.
Earlier today he denied saying those words, but Senator Dick Durbin — who was in the meeting — confirmed that he said those words and more. Others in the meeting have confirmed it and White House staff have not denied it.

Evangelical Response

Court evangelical and Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress came out in Trump’s defense.
Jemar Tisby Tweeted his test for consistency.


National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez came out with a mildly critical statement this evening.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, issues the following statement:
“Every single person is created in the image of God. Without exception. Therefore, as it pertains to immigration, we must provide a legal avenue, with rigorous vetting, that enables individuals from both Norway and Nigeria, from Holland and Haiti, to come to our nation if they embrace our values, commit to self-reliance and to enriching our collective American experience.
“In addition, and with great due deference, I believe that the comments attributed to our president can best be described as wrong, inappropriate, and hurtful. Why? Because when God looks at these nations, He sees His children.”
###
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, executive producer of The Impossible with 20th Century Fox, and bestselling author of “Be Light.” He has been named by CNN and Fox News as “the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement” and TIME Magazine nominated him among the 100 most influential leaders in America.
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference is recognized and identified by Time Magazine, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Christianity Today, Charisma Magazine, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, Fox News, CNN, and a number of additional media outlets, publications, and periodicals as America’s largest and most influential Hispanic/Latino Christian organization with 40,118 certified member churches in the United States and chapters in Latin America.

President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention Russell Moore tweeted a comment which can only be taken as opposition to the president’s comment.


Sarah Pulliam Bailey has an article at WaPo on evangelical reaction. It looks like Samuel Rodriguez’s views evolved through the day.
 
Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer biographer Eric Metaxas just can’t bring himself to find fault with Trump. I just can’t imagine Bonhoeffer reacting this way.


He doesn’t seem to understand why his fans are upset with him.


Author Gregory Thornbury simplifies things for Mr. Metaxas.


Thabiti Anyabwile at The Gospel Coalition takes a negative view of Trump’s comments. He talks about his immigrant family. A quote:

On the drive home from our family meeting last night, I learned that in the Oval Office, that hallowed ground of American political power and aspiration, President Trump reportedly made racist and troublesome comments regarding immigrants and their countries of origin. My family.
I’m a pastor, not a politician. But I am a pastor of particular people with diverse and rich backgrounds. They contribute to our church family in indescribable ways. They are our church family. My job is to shepherd them, which means I am to feed them, lead them, and protect them.
As a shepherd, I cannot abide the comments our President makes regarding immigrant peoples and their countries of origin. I cannot leave them alone to hear racist barbs, evil speech, incendiary comment, and blasphemous slander against the image and likeness of God in which they are made.

Ed Stetzer has a nice column on the comments at Washington Post.
I will add reaction as I find it.

United States of Trump?

Believe it or not, this isn’t in Alabama.
The part of Western Pennsylvania where I live is a conservative place. Republicans outnumber Democrats and Trump did well here. Some people here like Trump so much they put up a flag with his name on it.
Trump flag clip
Instead of the American flag which Trump wants everybody to stand for, this Trump supporter has hoisted a banner for a little Trump worship.
As for me, I prefer the good old American flag and place my political hope in the genius of the founders who devised a system which I hope will weather the Trump storm and someday return sanity to the land.
 

Could There Be a More Perfect Tweet?

If there’s a tweeting contest for 2017, I enter fellow Patheos blogger Hemant Mehta’s tweet.


The layers of this tweet would take political pundits many hours on CNN, FOX, and CNBC to unravel. At once, it nails Donald Trump and Roy Moore and succinctly expresses their immaturity and incompetence. And it captures the Twilight Zone that is our current national government.
Here is a screen cap of the tweet with Trump’s tweet in case it all doesn’t show up in the embedded tweet above.
childish tweet
For those who have been vacationing off planet, the Roy Moore story has taken social media by storm. He has denied molesting a 14 year old girl when he was in his 30s but the Washington Post story was well researched and has numerous GOP colleagues calling for him to get out of the Alabama Senate race. Now he has threatened to sue the Post.
I doubt he will sue. He and his accusers would testify under oath. If everything is as it seems to be, his accusers would debunk the stories about money changing hands in exchange for their story.  In print and subsequent interviews, his accusers seem credible. Furthermore, Moore would have to take the stand. He hasn’t been terribly convincing with his public statements. I don’t think it would go well for him unless of course he is completely innocent.
In this story, the shocking thing isn’t that people believe he could be innocent. False allegations do happen. Sometimes accusers lie. Many people only know Moore in a context where he is an honorable public servant. Naturally, they want to believe the best about him. What has been shocking to me is that too many Republican leaders have said they would support him even if the allegations were true.

W.H. Chief of Staff John Kelly Can't Get the Confederacy Right

no Confederate flagAs has been widely reported, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly last night on the Laura Ingraham Show said Robert E. Lee was an honorable man and the Civil War was fought because the North and South couldn’t compromise. Kelly was brought into the White House to keep Trump from stepping on verbal landmines. However, he has stepped on a few of his own in recent days.
The unforced historical error comes amid two indictments and the revelation yesterday of an even more damning guilty plea from a former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos relating to the Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Some historical matters arouse little passion, some are critical to get right. Anything involving slavery and the Confederacy and understandably critical to get right. And it isn’t difficult. Lee fought for the South in the Civil War which was fought to keep African slavery as a moral good. All the compromising took place before the war and was evil. See, not hard.
A good social media place to look at for a response to Kelly is Ta-Nehesi Coates thread on Lee and the Civil War.
For more from past posts, see below:
Robert E. Lee on slavery – This post contains a letter from Lee to his wife.
The Vice-President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens on slavery as the reason for the Confederacy – This post contains the words of a speech by Stephens declaring slavery as integral to the new Confederacy.
Unfortunately, it appears that Kelly may have read too much history from David Barton. Barton believes Lee was a good guy and isn’t in favor of removing the Confederate statues. Even though Barton correctly attributes the cause of the Civil War to slavery, he falters on many other alt-right talking points.
UPDATE:
And of course, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, W.H. Spokesperson came out and defended Kelly’s comments.


The heads of thousands of sane historians explode.
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter