I bought Accidental Activist from the American Family Association, a notorious hate group, because I was afraid they would try to bury it and deny its existence once the tide turned so profoundly against homophobia that they could not sustain their membership any longer. Since that single purchase, AFA has been sending me a monthly newsletter. In August, accompanying that newsletter was a form allowing me to receive a free copy of A Time to Speak on DVD: all I had to do was sign a pledge that I would do my duty as a Christian and vote in the November elections. Although I crossed out the word “Christian” and replaced it with “atheist”, AFA were true to their word and the film arrived earlier this week.
It’s a documentary about the threat to religious liberty posed by secular advocacy organizations like the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation, although it’s not so much a film as a procession of talking heads repeating right-wing Christian talking points. In between the interviewees, the film splices in random video of people walking on sidewalks in a bustling city (probably D.C.?) and cars driving on streets in presumably the same city. It could only be more generic if the film just went to a black screen between the interviewees. No wonder they were giving this away for free.
The people interviewed, including flailing politicians Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, describe several examples of Christian persecution in the United States. Ultimately, as you might have guessed, the movie works its way to the obligatory comparisons of the United States to Nazi Germany, complete with black-and-white images of Jewish ghettos and somber current-day footage of the concentration camps. One of the interviewees says that there is a parallel between the two because the U.S. government is “getting larger and pushing against the church.” That’s it. That’s why the U.S. is like Nazi Germany. Because people are not immediately cowed by the demands and coercions of right-wing Christianity, the United States is similar to a regime that systematically slaughtered millions of human beings. “People think I’m being incendiary or hyperbolic,” one man argues, “but I’m not.” No, of course not.
And what is it that makes the United States so similar to Nazi Germany? Well, consider the case of the Mount Soledad cross. There has been a huge white cross on top of Mt. Soledad in San Diego for years – but recently, the ACLU argued that a sectarian symbol should not be on government land because it conveys that the government is favoring Christianity over other religions and non-religion. SEE? JUST LIKE NAZI GERMANY. At this point, the movie’s argument becomes muddled. It simultaneously argues that the cross should remain because to remove it would infringe religious liberty (the liberty to… get preferential treatment?), and that the cross does not represent religion. An old man begins crying as he says, “I see it as a symbol of the selfless sacrifices veterans made to our country.” Mike Huckabee claims it represents freedom. It’s all nonsense – and extremely flimsy nonsense, at that. Their argument is rooted entirely in the belief that, as Christians, they should be allowed to use the government to gain preferential treatment and to coerce others. Limiting that power, even slightly, is just like genocide!
What’s amazing about it all is that Huckabee, without understanding what he’s saying, makes the exact argument for separation of religion and government: “It’s not the government’s job to determine which religious symbols are proper.” No kidding, Mike. That’s why the government shouldn’t be in the business of promoting religion in the first place. How difficult is that to understand?
It’s clear that Mike and his cohorts believe that their faith trumps the law, no questions asked, or else there has been an impermissible infringement on religious liberty. The movie moves to the story of poor widdle cwosely-held corporation Hobby Lobby, which in 2014 gained national prominence after the Supreme Court ruled that it – that’s right, the corporation – has religious beliefs that must be catered to (because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a heinous piece of legislation if there ever was one). Hobby Lobby believes that life begins at conception – wait, doesn’t everybody? Oh, you meant to say that personhood begins at conception, and that a recently-fertilized human egg is no way different than an adult – and as a result, they did not want to pay for birth control pills which they believed were abortafacients. Those birth control pills, incidentally, did not induce abortions… but why let a little thing like “facts” get in the way of religion? No reason to start now. In any case, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby indeed has the right to excise birth control from its insurance plans although it was a requirement of the Affordable Care Act. That is, Hobby Lobby’s religious belief gave it authority to disregard the law. SEE? JUST LIKE NAZI GERMANY.
Wait. No. Um. Laws exist! Just like Nazi Germany! There we go.
Speaking of the law, everybody jumps on the bandwagon that the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”) means only that there should be no national church. So, in their world, it’s perfectly acceptable for the U.S. government to funnel money into a particular religion, give it preferential treatment, and otherwise imbue it with the powers of the state… as long as it doesn’t name a national church. Am I misrepresenting their position? They’re clearly defending the use of government funds to promote Christianity, so where is the line drawn regarding what is permissible versus impermissible in their minds? They go on to argue that “separation of church and state” doesn’t mean that the church shouldn’t be able to reach into government’s pockets – it’s only a one-way street, meant to prevent the government from constraining the church. How con-veeeeeeeen-ient. Again, these are clearly ridiculous propositions, but they’re being pitched to an audience with no critical thinking skills or good taste. It’s a free DVD given away to supporters of the American Family Association.
So yeah, why not complain that “anyone who dares oppose non-discrimination is accused of supporting discrimination” as though that makes your position palatable in any way? Why not have a baker who refused to serve a homosexual couple act completely confused about why the couple was upset (“I was very friendly to them!”)? Why not argue that right-wing Christianity was entirely responsible for the gains of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, rather than fighting against them – and while you’re at it, why not argue that what you’re going through now (being shamed for your homophobia) is similar to what African-Americans went through during that time? And yeah, why not tell your audience that they’re literally living in Nazi Germany and that even though they can’t see it, it’s only a short time until “full bore persecution”?
It’s a movie made by malicious frauds for unthinking fools. And it ends with a call to action: be sure to vote your religious values in November! The mere thought of it sends chills down my spine.