After Kansas Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal forwarded an email invoking Scripture to pray for President Obama’s death, people of faith across the country quickly condemned this reprehensible exploitation of faith.
Over 25,000 people have now signed Faithful America’s petition calling on Speaker O’Neal to resign, and Kansas media outlets are asking O’Neal about his comments.
In an Associated Press story, Speaker O’Neal finally responded to the controversy with a classic non-apology apology.
“I understand the debate over the verse interpretation, about which I have explained and for which I have repeatedly apologized to the extent anyone misconstrued my intent or was otherwise offended”
Unfortunately for Speaker O’Neal, there’s no real debate about the verse. His email asked readers to go look up Psalm 109:8, so surely he opened the Bible and saw that the “may his days be few in number” verse is followed immediately by “may his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”
That Speaker O’Neal knowingly sent around and endorsed a verse that is obviously about the death of a political leader shows a tremendous lack of judgment that his evasive half-hearted apology only further confirms.
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A popular conservative meme after President Obama’s election were bumper stickers issuing a “tongue-in-cheek” call to pray for the President, referencing Psalm 109 in the Bible, which actually is a prayer for the death of a leader.
The psalm reads in part:
Let his days be few; and let another take his office
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.
Now the Speaker of the Kansas House has come under fire for forwarding this same prayer around in a personal email. When the Psalm 109 email was discovered, Speaker Mike O’Neal was already facing backlash for a racist email he sent describing First Lady Michelle Obama as “Mrs. YoMama” and making fun of her appearance when a second email including the prayer was unearthed. O’Neal added his own endorsement to the Psalm:
At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president!” O’Neal wrote. “Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!
To send a clear rejection of this kind of exploitation of faith in service of hateful political attacks, Faithful America launched a petition calling on Speaker O’Neal to resign. The petition has already garnered over
5,000 13,000 18,000 25,000 signatures.
Speaker O’Neal’s office refuses to even apologize for the email, demurring that he only was referencing verse 8 of the Psalm to call for an end to President’s days in office. But as Rockford Register Star columnist Pat Cunningham explained to a reader attempting this same defense, that’s a poor excuse:
You say that verse 8 of Psalm 109, as applied to President Obama, does not suggest a wish for his death. But the first five words of verse 8 are: “Let his days be few.” And verse 9 says: “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”
The clear implication is not changed by the intervening words: “And let another take his office.”
You suggest yourself that scripture should not be “taken out of context.” Well, the context of Psalm 109 is a wish for someone’s death. As O’Neal says himself: “Look it up — it is word for word!”
Does he expect that anyone who looks up Psalm 109 is going to isolate the second half of verse 8 from the rest of that Psalm?
Speaker O’Neal should know better than to use the Bible to joke around with implicit threats to the President’s life and well-being. His actions run counter to his office and basic religious and American values.
Update: In under 24 hours the Faithful America petition has already garnered over 13,000 signatures and counting.
Update II: As of Friday at 2:15pm the petition is up to 18,000 signatures.
Update III: As of Wednesday, 1/18 at noon, the petition has over 25,000 signatures.
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A news story of a Kentucky church that banned interracial couples from joining their congregation has earned deserved national attention for exposing the kind of shockingly blatant racism that is rarely made public in modern society.
According to press accounts, Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church passed policy was by a vote of 9 to 6 when the church’s former pastor proposed it after his daughter (white) returned home from college with her black fiancÃ©.
The good news is that outrage over this church’s racism is making headlines, and the church’s parent denomination has already issued a statement disavowing the policy.
In anticipation of the local church’s re-vote on the policy next week, Faithful America has launched a petition condemning the policy and calling on the church to repeal it.
Read their petition and sign on to the campaign here.
Whenever ugliness likes this appears in communities of faith, it’s first and foremost the responsibility of other people of faith to stand up and speak out. It’s imperative that they hear immediately from people of faith from across the country who are appalled by this blatant display of racism.
Photo credit: Captured_by_Becca, Flickr
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When Alabama implemented its radical immigration legislation last month, it became the most extreme anti-immigrant state in the nation. As written, the law will require local law enforcement, social service providers and even churches to become de facto immigration agents–threatening to make criminals out of good-hearted Alabamians who help their undocumented neighbors.
While some provisions of the law have been temporarily blocked, if it is fully enacted, soup kitchens could get in trouble for feeding families who come to them in need, volunteers could face penalties for taking fellow parishoners to church functions, and Alabamians might even get in legal trouble for giving their neighbors a ride to the grocery store
Religious groups in Alabama have already voiced their opposition to the law, even filing a lawsuit challenging these provisions in court. But today Faithful America launched a nationwide petition to show that people of faith around the country reject this anti-religious law and want it repealed.
Faithful America’s petition specifically appeals to Alabama governor Robert Bentley, who–despite speaking proudly of his Baptist faith and his role as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at his church–signed the law and continues to defend it.
As a Baptist Sunday school teacher, you know that Jesus didn’t ask for anyone’s papers before helping them. But the immigration law you signed would do just that–criminalizing the compassion mandated by our religious beliefs. As a person of faith, I’m appalled by your support for this cruel, anti-religious law and demand you repent and work to repeal it.
Join Faithful America and sign the petition here.
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With Religious Right groups joining banking interests to try and put a to stop to the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement, we at Faithful America thought it was important to show solidarity with the Occupiers and the rest of the 99% movement.
So, we’re giving away free stickers to anybody who wants to show their support for this new movement for economic justice (click here to get yours).
Is Jesus also with the 1%? Of course. But In a world that too often makes demi-gods of the ultra-rich, and politicians are telling tell struggling Americans to “blame themselves,” we all could use a reminder that Jesus paid special attention to the powerless and vulnerable in society and sharp words for the wealthy and powerful.
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