Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 2014 Values Voters Summit is Approaching!

It's that time of year again! The 2014 Values Voters Summit will take place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. on September 26-28. Sponsored by Family Research Council Action and allied groups, the Values Voters Summit is an annual conference in Washington D.C. that draws prominent right-wing political figures. According to its website, the event was created in 2006 as a forum for citizens "to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong."

This year's Values Voters Summit will feature current and former political leaders such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal. Also on the list of scheduled speakers are influential figures from the Religious Right, including Gary Bauer of American Values, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, right-wing commentator Glenn Beck, and radio host Sandy Rios.

Always a crowd favorite, the Duggar family of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting will deliver an evening plenary session alongside their son Josh Duggar, who will be representing FRC Action. Jason and David Benham, whose anti-gay and anti-choice activism cost them a series on HGTV, will also attend. Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of an Oregon bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, have confirmed their presence. Hobby Lobby's Green Family has also been invited to participate, but their presence has not yet been confirmed.

This year's scheduled workshops feature titles such as:

  • Empowering Students to Reclaim Schools for Religious Freedom

  • The Pelletier Story and the Assault on Parental Rights

  • Common Core: The Government's Classroom

  • The Assault on Constitutional Rights Under a Nanny State

  • The Future of Marriage: To the Supreme Court and Beyond

  • Pro-Life Battleground 2014: A Look Toward Election Day

  • Sexuality in the "Hook-Up" Culture

Between workshops, visitors can always explore the exhibitor room, which will feature tables from Religious Right groups such as World Congress of Families, Concerned Women for America, Family Watch International, American Family Association, Charisma Media, and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), among dozens of other groups.

Past Values Voters Summits were brimming with homophobia, misogyny, anti-abortion messages, uncomfortable race narratives, and persecution rhetoric. (More here, courtesy of Right Wing Watch.) I expect this year's conference to be no different, and I await coverage of the 2014 summit's troubling messages.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Joe.My.God: FRC Announces 2014 Values Voters Summit Lineup: A Cavalcade Of Crackpots

Good As You: FRC Invites Oregon's Discriminatory Bakers to Speak at Values Voters Summit

Stand for the Family Conference Taking Place in Utah

Anti-LGBTQ activists are hosting yet another conference on allegedly "protecting the family" against LGBTQ equality. Family Watch International is hosting the Stand for the Family Conference this week, which will promote the idea that "the international sexual rights agenda is threatening families and targeting children worldwide."
Among the most critical issues discussed will be:

  • How a sexual rights agenda is being used around the world to threaten families and especially to target innocent children.

  • How the issue of same-sex attraction is being misconstrued and how to address it with understanding and compassion.

  • How parental rights are being undermined and what can be done to protect those rights.
The Stand for the Family Conference will take place in the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah on September 18-19. The event will begin with a "kick-off rally" at the Utah State Capitol Building on the evening of September 18th, followed by a day of workshops on September 19th.

The Stand for the Family Conference is a who's who of the anti-LGBTQ movement, featuring several high-profile activists condemned in the new Human Rights Campaign report, Export of Hate. Scheduled speakers include Brian Brown (president of the National Organization for Marriage), Sharon Slater (president of Family Watch International), and Robert Oscar Lopez (founder of the English Manif blogging collective).

The conference schedule will include screenings of the anti-LGBTQ documentary Cultural Imperialism: The Sexual Rights Agenda and the so-called ex-gay documentary Understanding Same-Sex Attraction, produced by Family Watch International and NARTH. Scheduled workshops include:
  • The Sexual Rights Agenda: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Family

  • The National Strategy for Protecting Marriage

  • The Status of Marriage in the Courts & How the Supreme Court Ruling Will Affect the Battle

  • How Marriage & Sexuality Impact Individuals and Generations

  • Changing the Population Paradigm: Why the World Needs Families

  • Reclaiming Ground & Standing for the Family

The Religious Right's homophobic rhetoric is getting tiresome. More and more people realize that by obstructing LGBTQ equality, Religious Right activists are protecting their prejudices, not families. Bigotry will not produce stable marriages, happy families, or healthy children; rather, it will foster an environment in which people are dehumanized for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Enough with the "pro-family" propaganda. Call a spade a shovel and admit that this is about intolerance, not family.

(Hat tip to Good As You)

News Tidbits

Christian Post: America's Christian Heritage Under Threat, Say Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins at 'Star Spangled Sunday'

Raw Story: Hobby Lobby president Steve Green urges Christians to stand up to the government

The Atlantic: More Americans Speak in Tongues

On Top Magazine: James Dobson Explains How Marriage Equality Will Destroy The 'Superstructure Of Society'

Fox 17: Tennessee: Anti-Gay Billboard Causes Controversy

The Globe and Mail: Nova Scotia law society rejects accreditation as long as Trinity Western maintains same-sex covenant

BBC News: T.B. Joshua: Nigeria's best known televangelist

Commentary Tidbits

The Daily Beast: The Adrian Peterson Beating and the Christian Right's Love of Corporal Punishment

Mother Jones: Texas' New Public School Textbooks Promote Climate Change Denial and Downplay Segregation

Religion Dispatches: Are Religious Leaders Prepared to Engage “Religious Liberty” Questions Post-Hobby Lobby?

The Atlantic: The Genesis Code

Edge Boston: The Homophobia-Christianity Complex

GLAAD: Mainstream media is catching on to NOM's broader agenda

RH Reality Check: The Aftermath of ‘Hobby Lobby': Multiple Attacks on Contraception Access

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

HRC Releases Report on the Religious Right's "Export of Hate"

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has been a vocal opponent of the anti-gay Religious Right, calling out activists who promote homophobia at home and abroad. HRC has just released Export of Hate, a collection of profiles on American anti-LGBTQ activists who promote homophobia worldwide. Export of Hate comes shortly after the release of Exposed: The World Congress of Families, a report on the role of the World Congress of Families in international anti-gay activism.

Export of Hate warns readers that the hateful rhetoric of American anti-LGBTQ figures is having devastating consequences for LGBTQ communities throughout world.
While LGBT people around the world face systematic stigmatization, persecution and violence, there exists a network of American extremists who are working tirelessly to undercut them at every turn. These individuals are spreading venomous rhetoric, outrageous theories and discredited science. Some claim that LGBT people are responsible for the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Others argue that LGBT people are luring away children, and that acceptance of LGBT people will lead to the destruction of families around the world. Some even suggest that the death penalty may be an appropriate punishment for homosexuality.

While this vicious brand of bigotry is currently finding little traction in the United States, public opinion in many other nations makes their words and work much more dangerous. In fact, their actions pose a fundamental threat to the safety of LGBT people around the world, and that threat is growing.
Export of Hate contains background information on 14 Religious Right figures, including countries in which they are active and particularly noxious quotes. Activists profiled in the report include:
  • Scott Lively, the head of Abiding Truth Ministries whose name has become synonymous with a draconian anti-gay law.

  • Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress of Families, an organization best known for its recurring international conferences at which anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, and anti-feminist figures network.

  • Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, who anti-LGBTQ activism in Russia and France has drawn attention from news media and condemnation from LGBTQ groups.

  • Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International and a vocal supporter for anti-LGBTQ attitudes and policies in Africa.

  • Jordan Sekulow, director of international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal advocacy organization with multiple international affiliates.

As a side note, Scott Lively was not amused at being included in the report. In a September 17th blog post, he called Export of Hate "nothing less than an enemies list designed to help people like “gay” activist Floyd Lee Corkins identify their assassination targets." In his usual bombastic fashion, he accused LGBTQ equality activists of "malicious hatred" and claimed that "if [gay activists] thought they could get away will killing every person on the HRC and SPLC hit lists, they would do it."

Export of Hate reminds us that anti-LGBTQ activism isn't just about toxic rhetoric. Many of the figures profiled in the report have actively lobbied international lawmakers, applauded anti-LGBTQ measures, and promoted destructive stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. Their efforts have had harsh consequences for LGBTQ communities, and they will continue to undermine equality unless their efforts are brought to light. At home or abroad, homophobia must be condemned by people of conscience.

The HRC report provides a global snapshot of the American Religious Right's machinations across the globe, and is a must-read for supporters of LGBTQ equality. Download the report here.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The New Civil Rights Movement: Big Hate: American Religious Extremists Exporting Anti-Gay Hate Around The World

LGBT Weekly: Anti-gay groups, facing mounting losses at home, take their message abroad

Towleroad: Human Rights Campaign Exposes Extreme Anti-Gay American Activists

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Complementarianism, Male Headship, and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence has figured prominently in the media this week. Ray Rice, the Oscar Pistorius verdict, and the 20th anniversary of VAWA remind us yet again that many women still endure abuse from their partners.

Two conservative Christians weighed in on domestic abuse this week, condemning violence against women. Unfortunately, they also defended complementarian gender roles and male "headship" over wives, oblivious to how these paradigms imperil women.

First, Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, penned a commentary piece on domestic violence at his website. In "The Church and Violence Against Women", he advocated for supporting abused women and holding abusers accountable in both the church and the public sphere.

Moore encouraged believers to tell women in their churches, “A man who hits you has surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting church discipline.” He called for social and economic justice to help vulnerable women while encouraging collaboration with secular feminists to combat rape culture.
"Church discipline against wife-beaters must be clear and consistent. We must stand with women against predatory men in all areas of abandonment, divorce, and neglect. We must train up men, through godly mentoring as well as through biblical instruction, who will know that the model of a husband is a man who crucifies his selfish materialism, his libidinal fantasies, and his wrathful temper tantrums in order to care lovingly for a wife. We must also remind these young men that every idle word, and every hateful act, will be laid out in judgment before the eyes of the One to whom we must give an answer.

In the public arena, Christians as citizens should be the most insistent on legal protections for women. We should oppose a therapeutic redefinition of wife abuse as merely a psychological condition. And we should call on the powers-that-be to prosecute abusers of women and children in ways that will deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse."
At first, I was pleased to see a conservative Christian condemning domestic abuse so firmly. As I kept reading, however, I became uncomfortable with Moore's defense of complementarianism. He claimed that abuse does not spring from "over-enthusiastic" complementarianism, reluctant to believe that male "headship" and rigid gender roles could play a role in abuse. He also warns readers against embracing a caricatured "gender-neutral feminism".
"An abusive man is not an over-enthusiastic complementarian. He is not a complementarian at all. He is rejecting male headship because he rejecting his role as provider and protector. As the culture grows more violent, more consumerist, more sexualized and more misogynistic, the answer is not a church more attenuated to the ambient culture, whether through a hyper-masculine paganism or through a gender-neutral feminism."
What Moore fails to realize is that domestic abuse will end only when society achieves true gender equality. A paradigm that gives men arbitrary power over women renders women vulnerable to mistreatment, whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. While Moore's heart is in the right place, he is so invested in the male headship paradigm that he refuses to jettison it for the greater good.

Similarly, John Piper discusses domestic abuse and complementarianism in a September 11th transcript of his "Ask Pastor John" podcast. He devotes much of his monologue to vaguely defining and sugar-coating complementarianism, as well as the male "headship" paradigm.
"Complementarians say men and women are different in deep and important ways, not just physical and surface ways, and that these differences God has designed, for our good, have profound influence on the way we relate to each other and what roles God wants us to take up ... This means that complementarians don’t think all the roles defined for us are based merely on competencies. So in a relationship you don’t just ask: Who is smarter? Or more articulate? Or physically stronger? Or faster? Or a better reader? Or neater? And so on. You ask, more significantly and more fundamentally: Is the man as man, created by God with a built-in deep sense — an inclination, a disposition, something deeper than cultural, deeper than societal, deeper than upbringing — a sense of responsibility deep in his soul to nurture and provide for and protect and take life-giving initiatives with the women in his life?

Complementarians answer that question yes. Man — as God created him, not as sin has distorted us, but man as man — senses deep in his masculine soul, “It is my special responsibility to show special care for and provide for and protect and be hope-giving and life-enhancing and woman-ennobling in the initiatives that I take in relation to the women in my life” (knowing this will look different from one relationship to the other, say, to the woman who brings the mail to the house or the bank teller or the woman police officer or his wife or his daughter or his mother)."
Piper insists that through these arbitrary gender roles, men offer "protection and care and vision" to women. He criticized Ray Rice for failing to do so.
"The complementarian says to Ray Rice, and every other man: Your manhood, as God designed you, and as Jesus Christ the Son of God can remake you through a faith relationship with him, means conquering your selfish impulses with the realization that real men don’t hit women. Real men protect women. Real men don’t use women to provide for their appetites. Real men use their strength to provide for a woman’s good. Real men are not led by the leash of their temper. Real men master their temper and lead women out of harm, not into it."
Piper ignores the fact giving men arbitrary authority over their wives is unfair, unethical, and potentially harmful. This arrangement takes agency away from wives, mutes their voices, and allows husbands to make decisions for them, all while arguing that these hierarchical roles are hard-wired in men and women. As much as Piper sugar-coats it, this paradigm is toxic.

While complementarianism and the male headship paradigm do not cause domestic violence per se, they do create an environment that renders women vulnerable to abuse. Women are commanded to submit to their husbands, so when a relationship becomes unhealthy, it can be difficult for the woman to undo the conditioning and escape. By dissolving healthy boundaries between husbands and wives, male headship sets the stage for the boundary violations that characterize domestic abuse. In real life, any belief system that gives men unchecked power over women and values men's voices over women's will put women at a disadvantage. Domestic abuse springs from the belief that a man is entitled to control his wife/girlfriend, so we need to look hard at these parallels.

Also, remember that domestic abuse is about power and control. Physical violence is but one of the forms that domination can take. As the power and control wheel reminds us, abuse can take the form of exploiting male privilege, economic domination, and isolation. Even if a husband never strikes his wife, if he makes all the major decisions, controls the household finances, prevents his wife from seeking employment, and tells her what she can and can't do -- all of which could be justified under male headship -- how is this not abusive?

Instead of clinging to a misogynist paradigm for marriage, people like Moore and Piper should embrace an egalitarian vision of relationships. Equality and mutual respect, not dominance and submission, are the basis of healthy relationships. If we truly want to end domestic violence, we must resist patriarchy and promote an egalitarian world.

Many thanks to Joan for bringing the Moore and Piper commentary pieces to my attention.

For additional commentary on domestic violence, visit the following links.

Religion Dispatches: Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome: Christian Women and Domestic Violence

Love, Joy, Feminism: Just Obey: Christian Patriarchy as Spiritual Abuse

Love, Joy, Feminism: That’s Some Accountability You’ve Got There

Rhymes with Religion: #WhyIStayed: How some churches support spousal abuse 

News Tidbits

Michigan Live: Religious liberty' a sticking point for Republicans wary of new LGBT anti-discrimination bills

Oregon Live: National Organization for Marriage continues legal battle against Oregon's gay marriage decision

WITF: Penn State pulls Gideon Bibles from hotel rooms

CBS Los Angeles: Chick-fil-A Banned From Ventura High School Campus Over Stand On Gay Marriage

Winston-Salem Journal: Thousands turn out to hear Reinhard Bonnke in Greensboro, NC

Gay Star News: Russian Orthodox Church cancels summit with Finnish Lutherans over support for gay rights

Commentary Tidbits

Joe.My.God: Creationist Ken Ham To Headline For Group That Calls For South To Secede

Rhymes with Religion: #WhyIStayed: How some churches support spousal abuse

Slate: Christian Groups Beg Public Universities to Subsidize Their Anti-Gay Discrimination

Los Angeles Times: Don't use religion to cloak bias toward LGBT families

Warren Throckmorton: Mars Hill Church Board of Elders Investigate Charges Against Mark Driscoll

Huffington Post: Mark Driscoll, Women as Penis Houses, and Crumbling Temples