Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kevin Swanson Calls Hillary Clinton "Anti-Christ"; Compares Female Leaders to Measles

Kevin Swanson, host of Generations with Vision, devoted the April 20th edition of his radio show to whether or not Christians should vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Swanson's rant offered a taste of the anti-Clinton vitriol that will continue to come from the far right as the election draws near.

Swanson began his show by asserting that Christ is supreme ruler over the rulers of earth, reminding listeners that they should trust in God instead of government. At the 8:53 mark, he insisted that the government had become a messiah to some Americans.
"Politics is not the savior. Christ is ... That's a huge affront to the average socialist ... Government is an aspect of life that needs to bow the knee to Jesus Christ, but it's not the savior. It's not the messiah, and the messiah complex that's been imposed upon our educational systems and other things have effectively brought these systems to ruin. So, hey, don't trust in government. Don't trust in princes. Don't trust in horses. We will trust in the Lord our God."
Having declared that God must be the foundation of political life, Swanson asked if true believers could endorse Hillary Clinton. "If you vote for Hillary Clinton, can you be a Christian, or are you anti-Christ?" he asked rhetorically. At the 21:16 mark, he told listeners that voting must be an act of submission to Christ.
"What are the fundamental reasons to vote for or not for some candidate or other? The word of God, of course, bears out who you are to vote for. You are to submit yourselves to the rule of Jesus Christ in the voting booth. Everybody is. At least those who are Christians first and foremost ought to submit themselves to Jesus Christ."
One of the chief requirements of a sound political leader is fear of God, Swanson insisted. After fuming about Hillary Clinton's support for reproductive rights, her alleged "socialist" and her supposed ambitions for "redistribution of wealth", Swanson concluded that she does not fear God. At the 31:00 mark, he blasted her as unrighteous and "anti-Christ".
"This is Hilary Clinton, friends. No, she doesn't fear God. No, she doesn't want to preserve human life. She's demonstrated this. She is anti-Christ. She is against the commandments of God. She opposes righteousness on just about every opportunity she has to vote."
"Any "Christian" who would vote for Hillary Clinton seems to be would be anti-Christ in placing that vote," he fumed. Swanson also seemed ill at ease with the idea of a woman president, likening female leadership to measles at the 25:11 mark.
"When women lead in a civil magistrate, it's considered to be a negative, much like the measles is negative. Now, having measles is not a sin. I don't consider a woman leading in the civil magistrate as being sinful. Deborah would be an example in the Book of Judges, but friend, be careful, be careful."
Swanson represents one example of the right-wing hatred for Hillary Clinton that has erupted since the launch of her presidential campaign. The Religious Right is aghast at her record on reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality, and I suspect they're also uncomfortable with the possibility of a moderate female president. Right-wing Christians will continue to depict Hillary Clinton as ungodly in an attempt to dissuade believers from voting for her, and if that fails, they will likely resort to misogyny. As the election approaches and more Religious Right voices opine on candidates, we can expect bombastic rhetoric similar to that of Kevin Swanson.

Commentary Tidbits

Micah Moore at Airborne, Anchored: Who the hell joins a cult?

The Stranger: I Sat In on My Son’s Sex-Ed Class, and I Was Shocked by What I Heard

The American Prospect: How the Decline of Southern White Evangelicals Fuels the Passage of 'Religious Freedom' Laws

Salon: “This man knows as much about Jesus as I do about fixing cars”: Homophobic repair shop gets destroyed by Yelp reviewers

The New Civil Rights Movement: Claiming Trans People Are Sex Offenders, Pastors' Spokesperson Turns Out To Be Serial Rapist

Vice: Why Gay Mormon Men Married to Women Are Fighting Gay Marriage

Faithfully LGBT: Ex-gay stories flourish when bisexuality is ignored

The Daily Beast: The Fundamentalist Witch Hunt’s New Prey

Lady Atheist: The Most Dangerous Christian Denominations: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist

Lady Atheist: Most Dangerous Christian Denominations: Pentecostalism

News Tidbits

Fox 17: Massive backlash after Grandville business owner says he won’t serve gay people

Autoblog: Cummins asks anti-gay repair shop to stop using its logo 

Religion News Service: Charles Stanley declines award after Jews question his views on gays

Washington Examiner: Evangelicals investigating GOP candidates on gay marriage, abortion 

12 News: Woman declares disbelief in God after extreme bullying

Huffington Post: Atheist Mom Gets Threats After School Cancels 'Bible Man' Visits

The Royal Gazette: Bermuda: ‘Ex-gay’ group forced to cancel meeting

CNN: Businesswoman stands by her man-only view of presidency 

Metro Weekly: Jeb Bush to speak at Liberty University

Charisma Weighs in on Pine Ridge Youth Suicides

As readers know, Charisma News and Charisma Magazine are a wellspring of bizarre and often offensive commentary. The online magazine has posted troubling commentary pieces on the LGBTQ community, government policies, school shootings, clergy abuse, Muslims, and trauma survivors. Some of Charisma's authors also have an unhealthy fixation on demons, blaming demonic activity for everything from household odors to sexual inclinations. Once again, one of Charisma's writers has demonstrated superstitious thinking.

In an April 23rd commentary piece entitled "Wave of 200 Teen Suicides Reveals Spiritual Warfare in South Dakota", Katey Hearth discusses youth suicides at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The commentary piece comes in the wake of a spate of adolescent suicides among the Oglala Sioux since December 2014. Hearth quotes Ron Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, who insists that the suicides are rooted in "a spiritual battle with spiritual forces".

To her credit, Hearth's acknowledges the historical and modern traumas that have impacted Pine Ridge, placing the youth suicides in context. The legacy of white conquest and violence, high rates of infant morality, and poverty continue to afflict Pine Ridge communities, she observes. Unfortunately, the commentary piece uses tragedy as a backdrop for superstition. Hearth quotes Hutchcraft, who attributes the suicides to demons.
"They call them the shadow people or the dark people ... There are spirit beings—demonic beings—that are stalking the reservation and convincing young people that they are worth nothing ... and [that have] started this 'cloud of death' over the reservation."
According to the article, Ron Hutchcraft Ministries will send 20 Native American youth to Pine Ridge "to share the hope of Christ" as part of its annual Summer of Hope outreach.

Charisma wasted no time blaming tragedies on demons, demonstrating its usual tastelessness and insensitivity. However, the root of Native youth suicides are much more complex. Research shows that suicidal ideation among Native youth is correlated with a host of problems facing Native American communities. Many Native communities experience elevated rates of interpersonal violence, which is correlated with drug and alcohol abuse, depression, suicidality, and other negative outcomes. Native women and girls are at disproportionate risk for domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. Colonization and racism intersect with other forms of oppression for some Native Americans. Poverty remains a very real problem for some Native communities. Surrounded by these harrowing realities, is it any wonder that some Native youth sink into despair? Native youth suicides have nothing to do with demons and everything to do with real-life problems that require sophisticated solutions.

I have much more confidence in service providers who are trying to help Native youth than in proselytizing. I have more faith in evidence-based suicide prevention programs than in superstition. We must all have faith in the resilience of Native youth and in the compassion of their communities.

So Charisma, spare us the demon talk.

Friday, April 17, 2015

News Tidbits

The Tennessean: Senate kills bill to make Bible official Tennessee book

The Guardian: 'Gay conversion therapy' conference: speakers claim religious freedom is under attack

LGBTQ Nation: Christian auto shop owner in Michigan vows to deny service to gay customers

NPR: Vatican Ends Scrutiny Of U.S. Nuns

Pink News: Louisiana Governor wants tougher ‘Religious Freedom’ bill

Dallas Morning News: Police: Pastor starved 2-year-old, led failed resurrection rite

Commentary Tidbits

Cracked: 5 Insane Realities At My Fundamentalist Christian College

Stuff Fundies Like: 10 Signs You’re Still A Fundamentalist (Even If You’ve Left the IFB) 

Political Research Associates: Promoting Anti-LGBTQ Bullying in Schools: Focus on the Family’s “Day of Dialogue” 

The Age: The fight continues against male-sanctioned female submission

Media Matters for America: Hate Group Will Bring Fox News, GOP Hopefuls On A Trip To Israel 

The Independent: I tried to 'pray the gay away', and ended up in a hospital bed

The Atlantic: How Christians Turned Against Gay Conversion Therapy

Human Rights Campaign: HRC Hosts Educational “Conversion Therapy” Panel in Minnesota

Equality Matters: How An Extreme Anti-LGBT Legal Powerhouse Is Working To Enact "Religious Freedom" Laws

Liberal America: 28 Reasons I’m Done Talking To Most Of My Conservative Friends And Family Members

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The White House Condemns Conversion Therapy

On December 27th, 2014, transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide. According to her suicide note, when Alcorn revealed that she was transgender, her parents took her to Christian therapists who berated her for being "selfish and wrong", insisting that she "should look to God for help." Her death drew national attention to the plight of transgender youth and the harms of so-called conversion therapy, which seeks to alter the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ persons.

In honor of Alcorn, LGBTQ rights activists launched an online petition calling for a national ban on conversion therapy. The petition to enact Leelah's Law has gathered nearly 121,000 signatures at the White House website and almost 150,000 at

On April 8th, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett issued a response to the petition, announcing that the Obama Administration supports efforts to ban conversion therapy for minors. "While a national ban would require congressional action, we are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the actions taken by these states will lead to broader action that this Administration would support," Jarrett wrote.

The White House statement emphasized that mental health and medical professionals reject conversion therapy as harmful and unsound. "The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm," Jarrett argued.

Shortly thereafter, the White House released a video calling for an end to conversion therapy for minors. The video features leaders from the U.S. government calling for acceptance of LGBTQ youth and rejection of conversion therapy.

The White House statement comes at a time when conversion therapy faces unprecedented challenges. For instance, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) has introduced a resolution calling on states to ban conversion therapy for minors. Lawmakers have proposed bans in multiple states, and New Jersey's ban on conversion therapy for minors was recently upheld by a federal appeals court.

LGBTQ rights and civil liberties organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, Truth Wins Out, Lambda Legal, GLSEN, were delighted with the White House statement. Alan Chambers, former president of ex-gay ministry Exodus International (which shut down in 2013 following Chambers' apology to those harmed by the organization), applauded the statement in an April 9th commentary piece.
"...I stand with President Obama in calling for a ban on this practice for minors and for greater measures to protect adults seeking this niche therapeutic intervention.

This ban is in no way an attempt to strip parents of their ability to be good parents or to keep them from helping their child to navigate the complexities of sex and sexuality. Nor is it an infringement on religious liberties.

Regardless of a person’s opinions on sexual morality, efforts to change someone’s primary sexual orientation are dangerous and always unsuccessful. Every adult should have the right to choose his or her own path. And if someone has a religious or moral objection to a particular sexual expression, then who are we to tell that person he or she must embrace a specific act or identity?"
Ex-gay organizations, on the other hand, were livid. In an April 10th press release, the Restored Hope Network, a coalition of ministries that endorse conversion therapy, blasted the White House statement. Anne Paulk, director of the Restored Hope Network, condemned what she called "a growing intolerance of Christian sexual ethics" and worried that a moratorium on therapy based in "a biblical worldview" was imminent. She suggested that conversion therapy was actually intended to help sexually traumatized youth, despite the fact that sexual abuse does not make people LGBTQ.
"It is tragic that children who have been exposed to unwanted sexual advances or abuse by same-sex adults can no longer seek therapeutic help for resolving their sexual confusion ... By withholding therapy to those in confusion we provoke suicidal ideation."
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) also issued a press release in the wake of the White House statement. Regina Griggs, executive director of PFOX, claimed that "homosexual activists" were trying to outlaw "talk therapy" for youth who want to overcome unwanted sexual feelings and "gender confusion".
"The term ‘conversion therapy’ is misleading ... and is used by homosexual activists to paint sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) in a negative light and sway public opinion against this therapy. The truth is that this is simply ‘talk therapy’, and those who oppose it have the intent to outlaw this therapy for minors who voluntarily seek counseling from a licensed professional therapist or counselor to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion.

The White House’s position on banning talk therapy would take away the legal rights of minors and make it illegal for parents to support their child if he or she seeks mental and spiritual care to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion. Parents have a legal right to be involved in the raising of their sons and daughters."
These statements from ex-gay organizations ignore the failures and bad reputation of conversion therapy. For example, a 2009 report by the American Psychological Association concluded that efforts to change people's sexual orientation are not only unlikely to be successful, but involve risks of harm as well. The Pan American Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and other health groups have criticized conversion therapy, while research has shown sexual orientation change efforts to be highly dubious. Defenders of conversion therapy such as NARTH have been accused of promoting dangerous junk science, misrepresenting other professionals' research, and fueling homophobia. Survivors of conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries have spoken out through websites such as Beyond Ex-Gay, Truth Wins Out, Box Turtle Bulletin, and personal blogs.

The White House was right to condemn conversion therapy. In doing so, it joins a chorus of enlightened voices calling for an end to this quackery masquerading as therapy.

Conversion therapy is rooted in the belief that anything other than a heterosexual, cisgender identity is wrong and must be changed. Nothing spiritually redemptive or emotionally nourishing can come from efforts to change people's sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ youth are not "confused" and do not need adults inundating them with homophobia and transphobia. Despite all the rhetoric from ex-gay groups about "helping" minors, conversion therapy was never about helping youth -- it was always about pressuring LGBTQ people to conform. Conversion therapy proponents and ex-gay ministries that ignore these truth are quickly finding themselves on the wrong side of history.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Guardian: 'Praying the gay away': Trauma survivors crusade to ban conversion therapy 

Salon: Leelah Alcorn’s legacy: The White House moves against conversion therapy

RH Reality Check: White House Takes Stance Against ‘Reparative Therapy’