Republican religious extremism in America is reaching new heights as it moves farther and farther away from reality. It’s now threatening to take 46 million low-income Americans hostage – leaving them to go hungry by denying them food stamp benefits, starting October 1. Nothing exists in isolation, and the Republican threat to shut the government over funding for Planned Parenthood will also result in denying funding to the Agriculture Department (USDA), which administers the SNAP program – necessary food stamps benefits.
The Associated Press (AP) reported the other day that “If Congress does not act to avert a lapse in appropriations, then USDA will not have the funding necessary for SNAP benefits in October and will be forced to stop providing benefits within the first several days of October… .” “Once that occurs, families won’t be able to use these benefits at grocery stores to buy the food their families need.” This is a cash-flow issue, as the Department does not have sufficient reserves to pay out benefits as they did two years ago during the 2013 Republican-instituted government shutdown. According to Democratic lawmakers: “USDA does not have enough money in reserve to pay a full month’s benefits and a partial government shutdown would affect recipients in states that pay out their benefits at the first of the month until further notice.”
In addition to the health and welfare crisis that will develop if 46 million Americans were to go hungry, Republican Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, recognizing the impending moral crisis that will ensue, told the Huffington Post: “The best way to ensure SNAP recipients receive needed support is to vote for the [continuing resolution], I’m prepared to do so, and if members are worried about SNAP funding, they should too.” The ‘continuing resolution’ is the GOP sponsored stipulation making passage of the bill contingent upon defunding Planned Parenthood.
We call these kinds of threats extortion. How is allowing of 46 million Americans to go hungry a Christian value? But then there is this new wave of militantly religious Tea Party Republicans elected to Congress in the 2010 midterms – who really only know one word – ‘no’ – in the name of God, of course. They did not come to Washington to govern, at least not in the traditional sense guided by our Constitution, but instead, guided by their unique interpretation of fundamentalist Christianity and their disdain for Planned Parenthood.
As we all know by now, the latest controversy for Planned Parenthood resulted from the release of highly doctored, discredited videos regarding the sale of fetal tissue from abortions. Forgetting for the moment that Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the video scandal, Planned Parenthood provides affordable healthcare services to nearly three million women and men annually. Defunding the organization would leave many of these people, who are among the most vulnerable, without vital, affordable healthcare. However, that does not matter, as this new class of militantly religious Republicans cheered with the announcement of Speaker of the House Boehner’s resignation over his apparent willingness to do his job and negotiate a budget deal to keep the government open. On the other hand, Republican Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, supports holding Americans hostage to a government shutdown refusing to recognize the moral and economic crises his party is about to create. He is spinning the impasse as if it was a political juggernaut caused by democrats: “I know Democrats have relied on Planned Parenthood as a political ally, but they must be moved by the horrifying images we’ve seen…Can they not resolve to protect women’s health instead of powerful political friends?”
In their attempt to Christianize the United States, despite our Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, this new band of fiscally conservative militantly Christian God-loving Republican crusaders are willing to allow 46 million Americans to go hungry, and three million more to go without affordable healthcare, possibly costing the American people tens of billions of dollars as it did the least time Republicans shut down the government.
How is this not an attempt, by these religious zealots, to imposing their own form of sharia Law on the American people for which they have so much disdain?
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.