Sean FAIRCLOTH, Author, “Attack of the Theocrats: How The Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About it” & Former Mayor and State Senator of Bangor, Maine, presented below Keynote Speech on Secularism.

Faircloth’s Keynote Speech on “Secularism” of the “PEACE, WOMEN, SECURITY & SECULARISM” Event, which took place at the Salvation Army Intl. Social Justice Commission in NYC on Thursday, April 11, 2019. Presented by The Light Millennium

The forces of democracy, women’s rights, and human rights will only prevail if we forcefully call upon the U.N., the E.U. and the U.S. to condemn the undermining of the most basic separation of religion from government that originally distinguished America in its founding, then grew nation to nation.”

Let’s have a round of applause for your host who put together this wonderful event., and even been willing to put up with me which is a big burden. 

And I’ve got to say this is intimidating for me, when you have distinguished ambassador, distinguished ambassador — and then hick politician from a small state. 

So it’s a bit challenging for me with the knowledge that they have about the United Nations whereas as I am learning about these important issues here on an international level. 

I’m going to speak to what I view as the human impact of what politics involves. As the brochure titles it “Peace, Women and Security” and then “Secularism” at the end of that list.  I’m going to tie how secularism relates to helping with all of these three other important issues.  

I was very glad Ambassador Chowdhury mentioned about being a feminist. I am also a feminist.   

I would encourage all of you, especially the young people that are here to day. Think for yourself about whether you might want to run for office. And it doesn’t matter whether you are a woman or man, boy or a girl, consider it. Because I appreciate what Ambassador Chowdhury said that some people want to run for office to be something and some want to run for office to DO something. 

Boys, men, women, girls, you can live out a life in elective office where you can be there to do something and to help others. I’d hope you’d consider that, and I’m hoping also, especially for the young people, that I might offer a couple of reasons why you might want to consider running for office yourself because, frankly, there is a lot that needs to get done. 

I’m also intimidated because I’ve got a microphone in my hand and they say Italian people speak with their hands and I’d say Irish people will at least jab with their hands and now I’ve got one hand tied up, so this is going to be a challenge for me.  I’m going to try to proceed. 

So I want to talk first about a Congresswoman, Maria Do Rosario is an advocate for women’s rights and protection of children. Congresswoman Rosario introduced legislation to better protect women from rape. 

Mocking Congresswoman Rosario, was another Congressman, Jair Bolsonaro who said Rosário was “not worth raping; she is very ugly”.

On New Year’s Day 2019 one of these two Congress-people became president of Brazil, the world’s fifth most populated nation.  It wasn’t Congresswoman Rosario.

Consider the possibility that Congressman now-President Bolsonaro isn’t an aberration, but a historic trend — and not a trend that would’ve been imagined three decades ago when the term “end of history” was popularized.

In 1989 when the Soviet Union fell, respected academic Francis Fukiyama coined the phrase “end of history” a phrase that seemed — to many — very reasonable. Fukiyama claimed humanity was achieving:

“the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

An understandable prediction in 1989.

Now in the second decade of the 21st Century we see what Fukiyama and others, in 1989, perceived as defying a basic law of political physics:

Nations with a democratic track record now emulating the Putin model. 

Revising his famously optimistic prediction, Fukiyama now warns that what he calls America’s political rot is infecting the world order to the point where it “could be as big as the Soviet collapse.”

The Obama administration invested in supporting a free press in places like Hungary.  President Trump withdrew that support for an independent press in Hungary.

Trump’s team refers to authoritarian Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as a quote “strong leader.”

And, true, Orban keeps a list of state-registered religions. Churches that don’t support Orban are excluded, diminishing the influence of churches that don’t tow the Orban line.

Orban, not particularly religious before, now says Europe is in a power struggle between, quote, “forces that protect Christian Europe and those that support migration.”

In a recent speech Orban used the word “Christian” 31 times, including this gem:  “Let us confidently declare that Christian democracy is not liberal.”

Churches on Orban’s approved list, including top leaders of Hungary’s large Calvinist and Catholic churches, supported Orban’s anti-refugee agenda. 

Orban has deemphasized secular public school funding. In six years church-run schools have increased 60 percent.

Governmental and religious power? increasingly intertwined.

Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim. Authoritarians like Turkey’s President Erdogan are rarely inspired to align with minority religions.

In 2019 tens of thousands of Turks tried to participate in International Women’s Day. Erdogan banned the march, sending police, wielding tear gas, batons, guard dogs.

Erdogan praised the attacks. Quote: “It’s our honor to be against the enemy of the nation, the enemy of the call to prayer.”  In fact the protesters hadn’t denigrated the Muslim call to prayer but Erdogan lied and said they did. Similarly Erdogan banned a 2018 gay pride parade.

An expert analyzed the demise of secular democratic Turkey this way:

democratic socialism was, seen as a threat from the left to, quote, “capitalist supremacy.” Islamic values were restored in education and more broadly as ‘best suited to neutralize any challenges from the left to capitalist supremacy.’

Turkey, once a beacon of secular democracy in a Muslim nation, faces deep state ties between Erdogan and ultra-wealthy oligarchs, while publicly Erdogan stirs fires of increasingly conservative Islam, rejecting the women’s rights that were integral to the Turkey’s founding.

Poland is as Catholic as Turkey is Muslim. Poland’s dominant political party combines uber-patriotism with conservative Roman Catholic piety.

The Polish government and Polish Catholic Church stoke fear of quote “genderism” and “gender ideology.” Opposing “gender ideology” in practice means to “curb reproductive rights, undermine protections regarding violence against women, hinder reproductive health education, and smear women’s rights” and LGBTQ rights.

Reproductive health education and services for female survivors of violence remain well below international standards. Polish leaders minimize violence against women.

A top Polish politician, Joachin Brudzinski joked that “European feminists would want to buy roses for ‘young, horny bulls called ‘refugees’ who once again might feel ‘provoked’ to rape.”  In other words, this top leader “joked”, feminists support refugees because they want to be raped by them.

The Rev. Marek Dziewiecki, a top religious leader, said the plus in “L.G.B.T.Q.+” stood for “pedophiles, zoophiles, necrophiles,”and that the goal was to “make people into infertile erotomaniacs.”

“infertile erotomaniacs” would be a good name for a band.

Poland’s top authoritarian leader, Jaroslaw Kacynski, said – no joke this time – that “this is a war.” Poland must defend “the entire civilization that is based on Christianity.”

In “defending” already powerful religious organizations, Kacynski emulates the master.

Putin was an atheist KGB agent. Now his government arrests people who disagree with the dominant Russian Orthodox Church. In fact the Russian Orthodox Patriarch was a KGB informant. In turn the ROC defies international Orthodox Church leaders in order to support Putin’s takeover of Ukraine.

The ROC and the murderous Putin piously tout  “traditional values.” Translation?  Homophobia, harming women’s rights while the ROC joins Putin in hostility to religions and political groups that question Putin’s power.

Under Putin domestic violence penalties were weakened to short sentences if bones weren’t broken, dramatically increasing leeway for domestic violence, in an already patriarchal authoritarian society.

When Fukiyama posited the end of history three decades ago, Putin was an obscure KGB man. Putin has now led Russia longer than any Soviet era leader other than Stalin. Stalin, like Mao, made decisions that slaughtered millions.

Putin kills unhesitatingly, but Putin is more targeted, eliminating specific enemies, with the implicit message to Russians: mind your own business, defer to political and religious powers, and Putin won’t come after you.  Putin’s targeted method may have more long-term viability than Stalin’s.

End of History? We’re in the thick of history.  And the result is very much in doubt.

Stanford Professor Larry Diamond, states, “until a few years ago if [authoritarian leaders] were blatant in their reversal of democracy, the U.S. and the E.U. would call them out. There might be consequences for aid…They wouldn’t be welcome at the White House.”

Now we see Trump’s outright embrace of authoritarians.

United Nations General Comment 34 commendably seeks to prohibit discrimination based on religious viewpoint.

But the increasing pattern of alliance between authoritarian regimes and religious hostility to women and minority rights must be faced head on, not as a side issue — but as a central phenomenon of rising authoritarianism in the 21st Century.

Now is the time for an emphatic call from the international community, the UN, the European Union and America, for increased explicitness in UN General Comment 34 rejecting specifically:

  1. governmental collaboration with a favored religion, thus mutually increasing power, and discrimination against un-favored political and religious groups.
  2. Government pointing to religion to legitimize harm to any minority political or religious group.

This pattern is consistent in the authoritarian regimes I’ve named.

President Bolsonaro, the one who said a congresswoman wasn’t pretty enough to rape, may indeed be the wave of the future.

Brazil, more populated than Russia, is the dominant South American economy. During the 21st Century trend toward authoritarianism never has so large a nation — with a democratic tradition — elected such an express authoritarian.

In a country where the two most powerful religious groups are Catholics and right-wing protestant, Bolsonaro isn’t ambidexterious, but he is ambi-religious.  He claims Catholicism but also, conveniently, was baptized as Evangelical Protestant while campaigning, thus aligning with the top two conservative religious groups.

Bolsonaro has said, “There is no such thing as a secular state.”

Quote: “The people sent a message.” “They want the family” “They do not want gender ideology.” 

Notice the term “gender ideology” to dismiss equal rights for women, the same term used by Polish authoritarians.

And what are President Bolsonaro’s Christian values:

Quote: “I see two men kissing on the street, I’m going to hit them.”

Quote: “If your son begins to act … gay, he deserves a smack.”

Quote: “I would be incapable of loving a gay son”, adding that he’d prefer any gay son of his to quote “die in an accident.”

When teachers wanted to distribute sex ed and STD information packets, Bolsonaro dismissed them as “gay kits.”

Bolsonaro is a vociferous opponent of same-sex marriage and reproductive choice.

Monsignor Abib, founder of a huge Brazilian religious organization known for big TV audiences and right wing views said, “It was not the people who elected [Bolsonaro]. It was God.”  Bolsonaro’s presidency quote “accomplishes the will of God. Brazil will change completely.”

We now know it is not the end of history, but we don’t know which direction history will take. Those who support democracy, those who favor women’s rights, those who favor human rights have an obligation to be bold in denouncing an integral characteristic of authoritarian regimes: the intertwining of religious and governmental power.

The result of this struggle is in doubt. The forces of democracy, women’s rights, and human rights will only prevail if we forcefully call upon the U.N., the E.U. and the U.S. to condemn the undermining of the most basic separation of religion from government that originally distinguished America in its founding, then grew nation to nation.

Madison said, “total separation of church and state.” President Kennedy said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

The principles of Madison and Kennedy are essential to a safer or more just world. Being tepid about this principle will not do. History and lives are on the line.

Since the result is in doubt this is a worthy time to get involved.

About the Author: Sean FAIRCLOTH, Keynote Speaker (on Secularism), Author, “Attack of the Theocrats: How The Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About it” & Former Mayor and State Senator of Bangor, Maine.

Mr. Faircloth is author of Attack of the Theocrats: How The Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About it.   On the topic of separation of religion and government, Faircloth has spoken all over the United States and at the Sydney Opera House and Istanbul.

Mr.  Faircloth served as Mayor and State Senator of Bangor, Maine, and as Majority Whip of the Maine House. Sean spearheaded over thirty laws, including the R&D Tax Credit that cut taxes for business innovation, and the deadbeat dad child support law, which saved taxpayers many millions of dollars and became a model for federal law.

Mr. Faircloth had the idea for the Maine Discovery Museum, serving as lead administrator, fundraiser, and presenter for this $4.5 million project. On opening day, the BDN headline read “Heart Restored to Downtown Bangor”, kicking off the downtown revitalization of the city. Sean Faircloth is also author of a children’s geography fantasy adventure novel called The Enchanted Globe.

“Peace, Women, Security & Secularism” event
Leading Organizer: The Light Millennium (UN-DGC-CSO)
Co-Organizer: Azerbaijan Society of America
  Atatürk Society of America (UN-DGC-CSO);
Red Pepper Association (Kırmızı Biber Derneği, ECOSOC); Turkish Women’s League of America & Africana Women Working Group at the UN–1000 Women in Religion for Global Peace (ECOSOC).

Event photo credit: Demet DEMIRKAYA, The Light Millennium

Photo Album: Opening Session of the Event:


• Who is the ‘Trump of the Tropics?’: Brazil’s divisive new president, Jair Bolsonaro— in his own words

• Hungary’s Orban vows defence of ‘Christian’ Europe

• Hungarian PM sees shift to illiberal Christian democracy in 2019 European vote

• Church schools taking over in Hungary’s poorer regions

• “The Breath of the Government on My Back”
Attacks on Women’s Rights in Poland – February 6, 2019

• Decline In Democracy Spreads Across The Globe As Authoritarian Leaders Rise

• Jair Bolsonaro’s Southern Strategy
In Brazil, a budding authoritarian borrows from the Trump playbook.

• Netanyahu Won the Election. Will He Now Dismantle Israel’s Democracy?

• A look at offensive comments by Brazil candidate Bolsonaro

• Poland’s Populists Pick a New Top Enemy: Gay People

• Church schools taking over in Hungary’s poorer regions

• Poland’s Most Powerful Man Isn’t Well. Questions Are Swirling.

• LGBTQ People Now Public Enemy Number One in Poland

• “The Breath of the Government on My Back” Attacks on Women’s Rights in Poland

• Turkey’s journey from secularism to Islamization: A capitalist story

• Poland’s Populists Pick a New Top Enemy: Gay People

• Turkey’s Islamist President Erdogan Attacks Women’s Rights Activists as ‘Enemy of the Nation’

• Decline In Democracy Spreads Across The Globe As Authoritarian Leaders Rise

• Brazil’s new chief rewards Catholic, charismatic backers in conservative agenda

• A look at offensive comments by Brazil candidate Bolsonaro

• In Brazil, a budding authoritarian borrows from the Trump playbook.

• Netanyahu Won the Election. Will He Now Dismantle Israel’s Democracy?

• Poland is sliding into authoritarianism. Now we see if the E.U. can stop the drift.

• The gay atheist launching an attack on Poland’s conservative establishment

• How Evangelical Conservatives Are Gaining Power in Brazil
Bolsonaro May Be Just the Beginning of the Rightward Turn

• Christian Fascism Comes To Brazil: New President Bolsonaro Promises Christian Theocracy

• It happened there: how democracy died in Hungary
A new kind of authoritarianism is taking root in Europe — and there are warning signs for America.án#Views_and_public_image

• EU executive hits back at Hungary’s Orban ahead of elections

• PM Orbán: We won’t compromise on migration and the protection of Christian culture

• Prime Minister Viktor Orban addressing a crowd at a national celebration in Budapest this month.

• How Viktor Orban Bendes Hungarian Society to His Will

• How Putin Uses Russian Orthodoxy to Grow His Empire

• Hungary’s Leader Was Shunned by Obama, but Has a Friend in Trump

• PC Explains: Religion, Politics and the State in Hungary

• Hungary’s slide to authoritarianism

• Putin’s holy war

• Vladimir Putin saved KGB offices from East German looters

_ . _

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