"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
The Secular Coalition for America has released its congressional report card for the 2013 year. Each year the Secular Coalition grades both house and senate members from a scale from A to F based on their voting records, not their personal religious beliefs, on the issues that involve the separation of church and state.
Not surprising to many that all seven A grades are awarded to democrats, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI), Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Sen. Al Franken (MN), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ), and Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Rep. Rush Holt (NJ), and Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY).
While no Republicans received an A, for the first time three did receive a B grade: Murkowski (AK), Kirk (IL) and Collins (ME).
Yet 58 percent of the members of Congress received an F grade. That is 315 members who voted for or supported bills that granted special rights to religious organizations, discriminated against LGBT issues, women’s rights issues, contraception and sexual education and issues like prayer in federal environments.
According to the Secular Coalitions website, the grades are based on certain key bills:
In the House, some of the key votes were H.R. 592 which would have allowed for FEMA funding for churches, Amdt.169 to H.R.1960 which would have allowed for a humanist chaplain in the military, and H.R. 914, the so-called “Military Religious Freedom Protection Act.” Among the Senate bills scored were S.Amdt. 2013 to S. 815 which would have expanded the religious exemption of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, and S.1279 the so-called “Freedom to Pray Act.”
Below is a look at the five worst offenders from the House and the Senate. Three of which tied for the lowest score of five percent approval granted by the Secular Coalition.
These five members of Congress have shown they vote with their Bibles first, regardless of what their constituents want or what is constitutional. They are openly willing to discriminate against men and women if their personal beliefs get in the way.
1. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)
LaMalfa scored a low 5 percent from the Secular Coalition. He voted continuously against church and state separation, opposing non theistic chaplains in the military, sponsored a bill against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and sponsoring a bill to restore first amendment speech rights to Churches.
He has stated he believes the Bible preaches that individuals, and not government, should take care of the poor: “We should be doing this as individuals, helping the poor.” He has endorsed the privatization of social welfare.
Like most Tea Party Republicans, LaMalfa has taken a strong stance against a women’s right to choose and same-sex marriage. He at one point said that women needed to be informed that abortion causes cancer (it doesn’t): “Research has shown that there is a higher level of incidence, there is that risk and so I would want women to be fully informed of all the aspects of it before they would make a decision like that.”
He later apologized for such remarks and said his research was flawed on that matter.
In his fight for marriage inequality he has said, “Marriage has been debased. Why vote? It doesn’t stop here. Churches will be forced to do things they are against.”
Churches are not required to perform same-sex marriages—or any marriage—if they do not want to. LaMalfa loves rhetoric such as this to rile up the Tea Party troops into thinking the left is going to attack religious freedom.
2. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)
Walberg is a former minister in Michigan and to no surprise is a very right-leaning conservative who is a Tea Party member. He has taken issue with suites to stop prayer before meetings on congress and came under fire in his local community for his invocation to Jesus Christ, ending his prayers with “In Jesus name, I pray,” carefully leaving the “I” in there as to avoid upsetting other politicians in the room.
Walberg earned himself a low 5 percent by voting against or sponsoring every bill that the Secular Coalition flagged for removing the separation of church and state. Opposing non theistic chaplains, opposing the overturning of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, sponsoring a bill to support prayer at school board meetings, a direct violation of the First Amendment, sponsoring a marriage protection act in an attempt to redefine marriage as between only one man and one woman, and he opposed a bill that would teach young people the truth about sexual disease and prevention.
He has fought to remove contraception coverage from the Affordable Care Act and famously quoted Communist leader Joseph Stalin when trying to say bills like the ACA would cause America’s collapse by undermining its “spiritual life.”
3. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)
Jones’ own webpage on the House.gov website says it all:
“America was built upon Judeo-Christian values, and these values should be protected. During my years in Congress I have been a steadfast supporter of traditional marriage, the unborn, and the free exercise of religion. I am an active senior member of both the Values Action Team (VAT) and the Pro-Life Caucus.”
Jones is the type of Republican who believes America is founded on Christian values. This, despite the clear evidence the founding fathers wanted the complete opposite.
He has tried to repeal and amend the ACA, claiming it infringes on Americans’ religious freedom. “Forcing an individual to provide employees with health coverage that violates their religious convictions is clearly unlawful under the First Amendment,” said Jones. “It is my hope that the Supreme Court will recognize that Obamacare violates not only current law passed by Congress but also one of our nation’s founding principles — the right to religious freedom.”
He has also stated he firmly believes life begins at conception and has sponsored a bill that would deem abortion murder and would see women arrested for exercising their freedom of choice.
Like the two politicians on this list above him, he scored a low 5 percent, sharing in voting against every bill the Secular Coalition deemed an enemy to a secular society.
4. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
It is no surprise that Rubio received an F from the Secular Coalition. He has stated on many occasions that he governs thinking Bible first.
He voted to expand the right for religious institutions to discriminate based on religious beliefs that was hidden under the guise that it was meant to protect workers and religious employers. The bill’s main purpose was to protect religious institutions from further discrimination lawsuits.
Rubio also sponsored “Freedom to Pray” act that would allow federal funding to go to programs that participate in religious activities.
As a senator, Rubio has opposed women’s rights and same-sex rights. While Rubio did come out against a federal bill that would redefine marriage, he does believe states have the right to define marriage on their own and outright ban same-sex marriages.
He is a pro-life candidate who supports the notion that life begins at conception saying, “In fact, the people that are really closed minded in American politics are the people that love to preach about the certainty of science in regard to our climate, but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception.”
This shows Rubio’s flawed understanding of science, as science makes no such claim that life begins at conception. He denies the science of anthropogenic global warming, yet turns to science when he claims it proves his stance on abortion is correct.
5. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Taking after his father Ron Paul, Rand Paul has been trying to reenergize a libertarian movement in the Republican Party. Yet like his father, Paul is a staunch creationist, pro-life advocate, and climate change denier.
As a libertarian Paul advocates for personal responsibility, except when it comes to women. Women apparently cannot be trusted to make their own decision as individuals, the government should step in and help them, and by help them, he means take away their rights.
On his website Paul states:
“I am 100% pro-life. I believe life begins at conception and that abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. It is the duty of our government to protect this life as a right guaranteed under the Constitution. For this reason, I introduced S. 583, the Life at Conception Act on March 14, 2013. This bill would extend the Constitutional protection of life to the unborn from the time of conception.”
Again, another Tea Party-backed candidate taking the stance that life begins at conception, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Introducing a bill that would strip away a women’s right to bodily autonomy.
Paul counts himself as a fighter for liberty, but will use religion as a way out when the liberty he is fighting for goes against his personal views.
While arguing for a smaller government that stays out of peoples lives he says, “Libertarian and liberty doesn’t mean libertine.” This is Paul’s defense of the government being involved in abortion rights, marriage equality, and contraception. Paul is for the government staying out of your life, as long as you lead a life he approves of.
Paul has stated that libertarianism does not provide a moral compass, so in order for libertarians to lead moral lives and make moral decisions, it needs Christianity. A rather odd stance for someone to take when Christianity openly supports helping others and bringing an end to poverty. Paul has been quoted as stating he would abolish the minimum wage and let a free-market set pay scales and has took a firm stance against any government assistance in welfare and healthcare programs.
While this is only a look at the five worst offenders, given that there are 315 failing grades on this report card, you can imagine the damage being done to the U.S. by its many theocratic members.
The U.S. was built on the foundation of church and state and was proclaimed in the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 by John Adams that, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
This is a fact most Republicans seem to have missed while proclaiming that America is founded on Judeo-Christian values. Their inability to grasp American history and attempts to rewrite history to fit into their ideological vision of a theocratic America is what led the Secular Coalition to look at their record and stances and decide that an astounding 315 members would receive a failing grade.
You can view the report card to get more details about each politician’s grades here.
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)