Progressives in Pennsylvania seek a stronger presence in government but seem to fail to go after the real enemies of progressive  causes here.  For example, in the last gubernatorial contest, Progressives pouted and didn’t turn out to vote for Dan Onorato, because he was a too-conservative Democrat, and the result was to elect a far more conservative, anti-progressive Tom Corbett. But more importantly, the lack of Democratic turnout led to the take-over of the PA House by the GOP including many new Tea Party-type individuals. This take-over too, allowed already present conservatives to rise in the power structure, so that an extreme right-wing religious zealot, Daryl D. Metcalfe is head of possibly, the single most important committee in the House.

If it sounds like I’m trying to pin this on the Progressives, perhaps I am. But even if they don’t deserve full credit, the bigger question is what are they willing to do know about it?

Let’s be clear about what Religious Extremism looks like. It isn’t merely strong religious beliefs or views. Having strong personal convictions is an admirable trait, but when the focus is about forcing your religious views on everyone else a problem occurs. Religious Extremism is the opposite of Religious Liberty even though Extremists use “Religious Liberty” as their battle cry. Religious Liberty creates a space for everyone’s religious views to be accepted and treated with respect. The critical word there is everyone’s and that includes those who see themselves as non-religious who who seek a strong separation of Church and State. Religious Extremists on the other hand speak only for their own spiritual proclivities, and act as if that mindset is the only one that exists or should exist. Religious Extremists are the first to scream that their Constitutional Rights are being harmed as they see to quell the Constitutional Rights of others which seem incongruous wight heir personal religious ideas.

I think this is why, not only progressives, but Democrats of most stripes struggle to combat Religious Extremism, because they get nervous around that 2nd Amendment and don’t have the backbones to voice the differences between Religious Liberty and Religious Extremism.

Last week, Metcalfe displayed yet again his extremism, and it raises a red flag, and ought to prompt any thinking Pennsylvania citizen to wonder what we are going to do about it. and, Progressives, I think it is your job, to get to work on this. 

An excellent blog that covers Daryl Metcalfe is  2 Political Junkies here in Pittsburgh, and I saw this coverage of Metcalfe there first. However, I’m puling from the WHYY site like they did:

“I wasn’t planning on chastising anybody. I wasn’t planning on discussing how far we have to come in Pennsylvania or that we really have no civil rights in Pennsylvania,” Sims said. “It was really just going to limit my comments to how important the cases were.”

It takes just one legislator to end the impromptu remarks. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe was one of the House Republicans who objected.

“I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law,” said Metcalfe, R-Butler.

Two more Democratic legislators got up to speak in support of Sims. Neither was allowed to proceed.

The objectors to a speaker are sometimes recorded in the official record, confirmed Parliamentarian Clancy Myer. In this case, the House speaker declined Democrats’ explicit request to name the person who had objected.

In other words, for Metcalfe, the Religious Beliefs of some persons takes precedence over the voice of all to be heard in the PA House of Representatives. No where in the PA Constitution does it say anything about placing God’s Law above all else. does it?

If you mention Sharia Law, it is easy to find most people get nervous, and many conservatives have gone so far as to try and outlaw Sharia Law here in the US, but in reality, what Metcalfe is suggesting is the Christian equivalent to Sharia Law.

Let’s be clear here. The US Supreme Court made historic Rulings about the Constitutionality of (secular) Laws. In a legislative body, during a portion of discussion where it is appropriate, an elected representative tried to voice the significance of these rulings, and Daryl Metcalfe silenced him because Metcalfe deemed the Supreme Court’s actions as “open rebellion to God’s Law.” That’s extremism! The fact that the House GOP Caucus seemed to keep the names of those who silenced the Democrats secret is another story, but outside the scope of this post.

This extremism isn’t only apparent in the PA House. Daryl Metcalfe is not alone in his wish for a Christianist version of Sharia to control the State of Pennsylvania.

John Aravosis posted and details a threat issued by a group of Religious Right organizations towards the US Supreme Court.  In a nut shell, these groups claimed that if SCOTUS issues decisions approving same-sex marriage, then these groups will refuse to obey the decision. There are two Pennsylvania organizations listed as signatures on that threat, They are:

  • American Family Association of PA, Diane Gramley
  • Pennsylvania Catholics Network, John and Patsy Radcliffe, Ted Meehan, and Deal Hudson

In a democratic system of governance, the solution to laws are things you don’t agree with is at the ballot box, not in threatening to refuse to obey the Government. But that too, is subject for another post. Here, I want to draw the connection between Religious extremists across the state and our state government. Consider this, the PA Catholic Conference has five paid lobbyists working in Harrisburg! Yes- five!  Number of LGBTQ paid lobbyists? Zero. Suffice to say that the efforts to manipulate PA law in ways consistent to “God’s Law” are not limited to a very few politicians.

So what to do about this?

  1. It is essential for any concerned citizen to recognize the differences between Religious Liberty and Religious Extremism, and the pressure to adopt a Christianist version of Sharia. As advocates and activists for Fairness, we must stand strong for Religious Liberty while refusing to accept religious extremism! If you can’t discern the difference between liberty and extremism, then stop, and ponder that issue before doing nothing more.
  2. Get active in the governing process! Reach out to your elected officials and demand that they place the Constitution above all other guiding factors when it comes to legislating what is best for the whole of everyone.
  3. Get active in the electoral process! Get out there and find candidates to run who offer to be leaders for the whole of the State and work for one minority of PA constituents. Find candidates to run and support those candidates.

Religious extremism harms every PA resident including those who identify as religious, because it pits people against each other.  It generates an environment where it would appear that “Religion” is the enemy of the people, where the reality is it is those few who force their own religious views upon everyone who are the real problem. Religion isn’t bad in and of itself, but extremism is.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Andrew Aliferis