Thursday, December 18, 2014

News Tidbits

New Orleans Times-Picayune: What the Christian group holding Bobby Jindal's prayer rally has said about homosexuality, Eric Garner, and more 

NBC WAVE 3: Ark Park billboards pop up after state pulls plug on tax incentives

The Advocate: Report Debunks Right-Wing Claims of Military Persecution of Christians

The Daily Beast: Beaten By His Church for Being Gay

Pew Research Center: U.S. nuns face shrinking numbers and tensions with the Vatican

New York Times: Vatican Report Cites Achievements and Challenges of U.S. Nuns

Associated Press: 2nd victim added to pope's sex abuse commission

New York Times: Can’t Have Your Cake, Gays Are Told, and a Rights Battle Rises

Washington Post: Some conservatives urging right not to serve gays on religious grounds

Commentary Tidbits

E! Online: Jim Bob Duggar Says Petition to Cancel 19 Kids and Counting Has Only Given His Family's Show "More Exposure"

Slate: Hate on Trial: What the Case Against Scott Lively Really Means

Friendly Atheist: Torture is Okay, Because God Sanctioned Brutality in the Bible, Says Bryan Fischer

Mother Jones: This GOP Lawmaker Wants a Woman to Get Permission From the Father Before Having an Abortion

The Daily Beast: The 26 Next Hobby Lobbys

Think Progress: Virginia Billboard Promoting Ex-Gay Therapy To Remain In Place

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Response Louisiana Comes Under Fire

As discussed in a prior post, the Response Louisiana will take place in Baton Rouge in January 24th. The gathering will take place at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the Louisiana State University campus, a decision that has drawn fire from opponents of the rally.

A project called Organizing Against Hate Groups is speaking out against the figures hosting and attending the Response Louisiana, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. According to their Facebook page, Organizing Against Hate Groups will hold a demonstration outside of the Peter Maravich Assembly Center on January 24th, followed by workshops on social justice and grassroots organizing.

The project counts several regional LGBTQ and women's rights groups among its sponsors, including Feminists in Action, Qroma, the Louisiana LGBTQ Business List, and NOW Shreveport. A statement by Organizing Against Hate Groups criticized Jindal for breaking bread with homophobes and anti-choice activists.
"On January 24th. Governor Jindal plans to take his first steps in running for the presidency by hosting a prayer rally on the LSU main campus in Baton Rouge.

Unfortunately, he has again chosen to ally himself with the radical Christian right, and by this I mean the right-wing of Christians. The people who want to re-criminalize homosexuality and applaud the actions of the Ugandan government which is trying to make homosexuality punishable by death. These are the same people who blame natural disasters on unwed mothers, abortion, and marriage equality.

These are the same people who are fanatical about abortion laws but think that helping poor people when they need help is destroying our country. These are the same people claiming persecution in the US yet support countries like Uganda attempting to make homosexuality punishable by death.

We are protesting this event not because it is a Christian event, we are protesting because this is our campus, and we do not accept their message of hate and exclusion.

We are also hosting break out sessions to help train people on how to be better community organizers in their areas of interest ranging from effective use of social media to engaging in civil disobedience, and more.

These individuals claim to be part of a moral majority, but we know that there is no morality in their words. There is no morality in hate.

LSU has a saying “Love Purple, Live Gold.”

It is our responsibility to Live Gold by taking a stand and saying no more, so come join us on January 24th at 9am."

Louisiana State University Students are also petitioning LSU's administrators, urging them not to host the Response Louisiana on campus. A petition entitled "Ban the American Family Association from rallying on campus at LSU" condemns the American Family Association, one of the sponsors of the rally, as an anti-gay hate group. Inflammatory statements by AFA representatives run contrary to LSU's code of conduct, the petition argues.
"In LSU's own code of conduct it outlines a "commitment to community" that expects that students will:

"hold myself and others to the highest standards of...personal, and social integrity"

"practice justice, equality, and compassion in human relations"

"respect the dignity of all persons and accept individual differences"

If students are held to these standards of basic decency, why do the same rules not apply to visitors to LSU's campus? As a member of the LSU student community, it saddens and offends me that our administration would welcome to campus a recognized hate group whose vile rhetoric targets gay and transgendered people, Muslims, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. Such action undermines the safe, tolerant, respectful atmosphere that LSU seeks to provide for its diverse community. Please help me in petitioning the administration to reconsider letting an unabashedly bigoted group rally on our campus. LSU is better than that."
Another petition reminds LSU administrators of its commitment to equality, alarmed that "the university has agreed to allow Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to host an on-campus, politically-motivated prayer rally in January which distributes materials blaming recent tornadoes and hurricanes on LGBT people." The petition also urges LSU not to host the Response Louisiana, an event that would fly in the face of LSU's non-discrimination policies.

Not everyone in Louisiana is excited about the Response Louisiana's upcoming "revolution of righteousness". As rally organizers champion a right-wing vision for America, opponents continue to remind them that their vision is flawed.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Response Louisiana Scheduled for January 2015

In August 2011, the Response Rally took place in Reliance Stadium in Houston, Texas, which I had the dubious pleasure of live-blogging. The gathering, promoted by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was intended as a day of Christian prayer in the midst of economic decline and "moral relativism". Sponsored by the American Family Association and the International House of Prayer, the Response Rally featured a plethora of anti-gay and anti-abortion speakers from the Religious Right, including James and Shirley Dobson, John Hagee, Mike Bickle, Alveda King, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, and Rick Perry himself. Now, Louisiana plans to host its own Response Rally.

The Response Louisiana is scheduled to take place on January 24th, 2015 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. According to the Response website, the gathering will be a time for "humility and repentance" as worshipers ask God to intervene in America's struggles.
"We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially, or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles. The Response: Louisiana is committed to prayer above politics, to seeing the church moved to stand for righteousness, and to pray for God’s mercy for America.

According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene. The Response will be another historic gathering of people from across the nation to pray and fast for America."
The front page of the Response website describes just what is wrong with America, according to its organizers.
"America is in the midst of a historic crisis. We are besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. Our nation is faced with fatherless homes, an epidemic of drugs and crime in our inner cities, a saturation of pornography in our homes, abortion, and racism."
Right Wing Watch recently brought attention to a Response Louisiana prayer guide, which gives readers a taste of the rally's right-wing tone. The guide insists that sin has intensified to a level never before seen in America, thanks to abortion, LGBTQ rights, adult entertainment, and "apostasy". I would argue that America was the setting for far more heinous sins in the past, including slavery, conquest, and ethnocide. Do the prayer guide authors really think that LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights are so monstrous as to dwarf these national sins?
"We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before. We live in the first generation in which the wholesale murder of infants through abortion is not only accepted but protected by law. Homosexuality has been embraced as an alternative lifestyle. Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and Washington, D.C. Pornography is available on-demand through the internet. Biblical signs of apostasy are before our very eyes. While the United States still claims to be a nation “under God” it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity."
A host of New Apostolic Reformation figures are featured in promotional videos for the Response Louisiana, including Jim and Rosemary Garlow, Cindy Jacobs of Generals International, and Jennifer LeClaire of Charisma Magazine (yes, that Jennifer LeClaire) . Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal has also launched a promotional video for the rally, in which he promised a spiritual revival that could put America back on track. "What we really need in these United States is a spiritual revival," he said. "It is time to turn back to God."

As Right Wing Watch has observed, Bobby Jindal has been wooing the Religious Right as of late, possibly in preparation for the 2016 election. Will the Response Louisiana provide him with enough allies on the Religious Right to be a political contender? Or will it fail to provide him with sufficient political momentum, as was the case with Rick Perry after the first Response Rally? Will ties to anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion figures earn him friends among conservatives, or only serve to alienate liberal and moderate voters?

Right-Wing American Figures to Speak at Jamaican Conference

Today, anti-gay figures from the U.S. joined their Jamaican counterparts for a conference in Kingston, Jamaica. The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, the Jamaica Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, and Jamaica CAUSE hosted International Human Rights Conference 2014, with "The Family as a Strategy for Development" as this year's theme. The Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society has advocated in favor of the country's anti-sodomy law and opposes LGBTQ rights, as demonstrated by its media resources.

For those who could afford the $1500 admission fee, or for students who received free admission, the conference offered talks by Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver and Liberty University professor Judith Reisman, among other speakers. A past conference also featured U.K. and U.S. Religious Right speakers such as AFTAH's Peter LaBarbera and Christian Concern's Andrea Minichiello Williams.

Mat Staver, a prominent voice from the American Religious Right, received a dishonorable mention in Human Rights Campaign's Export of Hate report for his international anti-LGBTQ activism. His anti-LGBTQ statements have been extensively cataloged at Right Wing Watch. Staver has made bombastic statements about reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, as well as blasting bans on "conversion therapy" as alleged affronts to religious freedom.

Judith Reisman, a major voice in the anti-Kinsey movement, is the author of several books lambasting Alfred Kinsey and his research into human sexuality, including Sexual Sabotage, Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences, and Stolen Honor, Stolen Innocence. Like Staver, Reisman has promoted homophobia both at home and abroad. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Reisman was tapped earlier this year to serve as an "expert witness" in a Jamaican case challenging the constitutionality of its anti-sodomy statute. She came under fire last year from LGBTQ rights advocates when she was scheduled to speak before Croatian parliament. (Hat tip to Bartholomew's Notes on Religion.)

Jamaica has earned a reputation as a hostile place for the LGBTQ community, where anti-gay legislation, homophobic violence, and homelessness are among the challenges faced by LGBTQ Jamaicans. Unfortunately, the American Religious Right has a history of promoting homophobia in Jamaica, and given their past statements, I worry that Staver and Reisman may do the same.

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch and Human Rights Campaign.)

News Tidbits

The Guardian: Sex abuse report: Bob Jones University fosters culture of victim-blaming

American Prospect: Report: Bob Jones University Responded to Rape Claims with Woeful Ignorance of the Law, Often Blaming Victims 

Greenville Online: Solicitor Walt Wilkins will launch investigation into BJU abuse response

Huffington Post: Bill Nye: Creationism Is 'Raising A Generation Of Young People Who Can't Think'

Raw Story: Arizona pastor tricks Holocaust survivor into appearing in his anti-Semitic film

CBS News: Bill would let Michigan doctors, EMTs refuse to treat gay patients

Texas Observer: ‘License to Discriminate’ Bills Pile Up in Texas Legislature

NBC 12: Openly-gay model in 'Nobody is born gay' billboard reacts

Commentary Tidbits

Glory to God for All Things: Going to Hell with the Terrorists and Torturers

Mediaite: Rick Santorum Announced He’s Running for President and Nobody Noticed

Rosa Rubicondior: Pope Francis Just Can't Hide His Misogyny

Huffington Post: Christians Do Not Need an Olive Branch From the LGBTQ Community

Religion News Service: Evangelicals respond to torture, Mormons not so much

Religion News Service: Is there a right way to respond to extreme homophobia?

Ark Encounter Denied Roughly $18 Million in Tax Incentives

Answers in Genesis, the organization behind the infamous Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, plans to open a Noah's Ark theme park. Ark Encounter, scheduled to open in Williamstown, Kentucky in summer 2016, will include a full-scale replica of Noah's ark as described in Genesis 6. However, when an Ark Encounter job posting required applicants to provide a "salvation testimony" and affirm a statement of faith, Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged Kentucky's Tourism Development Finance Authority to deny state tax subsidies to the project.

The Tourism Authority agreed. Earlier this week, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that the theme part planned will not receive roughly $18 million in state tax incentives. Ark Encounter was denied the tax incentives over concerns that awarding such incentives would violate church-state separation, the article explains. Americans United applauded the decision.

According to the Washington Post, Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet sent a letter to Answers in Genesis arguing that the Noah's Ark park resembled a ministry rather than a tourist attraction, and that its hiring practices failed to meet state requirements for tax incentives.

Answers in Genesis may challenge the decision in court, according to the Associated Press. In a video statement, Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham offered his side of the issue, urging Christian groups to take note of Kentucky's decision. (Hat tip to Friendly Atheist.)
"This employment issue is a matter of great importance not only to AIG, but to every Christian organization, to every church that doesn't want to give in to demands from the government to hire non-Christians. In fact, every religious organization should be worried at what the state of Kentucky is trying to do."
What is so confusing about this? Answers in Genesis is a religious ministry. Ark Encounter promotes religion -- in this case, a literal interpretation of the Great Flood story -- and hires only employees who embrace a particular interpretation of Christianity. If Kentucky were to offer tax incentives to Ark Encounter, it would raise problems for church-state separation. Whether Answers in Genesis takes this decision lying down remains to be seen.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Think Progress: Noah’s Ark Loses $18 Million In Tax Breaks

Danthropology: Ken Ham continues to lie about the Ark Encounters employment discrimination

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Ky. Officials Reject ‘Ark Park’s’ Request For $18 Million Tax Rebate