Wednesday, May 27, 2015

News Tidbits

Reuters: Hobby Lobby to make appearance in EEOC transgender bias case 

NPR: Santorum Hopes To Catch Lightning In A Bottle A Second Time 

Gay Star News: Mike Huckabee will ignore Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage

Colorado Independent: Evangelicals pray to end ‘transgender tyranny’ as Girl Scouts and schools welcome trans youth

Associated Press: Pence passes up presidential bid, but future still cloudy

Associated Press: Vatican: Irish gay marriage vote a 'defeat for humanity'

Charleston Daily Mail: Lawsuit claims evolution is a religion

Lincoln Journal Star: Catholic bishop tells women to abstain from yoga

KFSM 5 News Online: Senator: Springdale Police Chief Should Be Fired Over Child Sex-Crime Report 

USA Today: More advertisers bail out of Duggar show

The Advocate: Dan Savage Calls Out Duggar's 'Staggering' Family Values Hypocrisy
People Magazine: Jessa Duggar's Father-in-Law, Michael Seewald, Pens Essay in Wake of Josh Duggar Molestation Scandal: 'I'm Rooting for You'

Commentary Tidbits

Rosa Rubicondior: So You've Decided To Be An Internet Creationist

Think Progress: Rubio: If We Don’t Stop Gay Rights, Soon The Teachings Of The Catholic Church Will Be ‘Hate Speech

Jonathan Merritt: The Christian baker who refuses LGBT couples is not a persecuted preacher

Right Wing Watch: The Radical Anti-Contraception Ideology That Links The Duggars And The Anti-Choice Right

Irreverin: What About the Girls? The Duggar Scandal and the Cost of Fundamentalism

Ex-Communications: Why I Can’t Remain Silent about Josh Duggar’s Sexual Abuse Victims

MSNBC: Why did the Duggar abuse investigation end?

Permission to Live: It’s Not Just The Duggars 

Gawker: Quiverfull of Sh*t: a Guide to the Duggar's Scary Brand of Christianity 

Mic: Inside the Christian Cult That Told the Duggars to Blame Their Daughters for Their Abuse

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Josh Duggar Backs Out of Teach Them Diligently Conference

After In Touch Weekly alerted the public to the Josh Duggar sexual abuse scandal, Josh Duggar has withdrawn from public life. Duggar is no longer an employee of FRC Action, and his official website is offline, reports Time. Now, Josh Duggar's speaking engagement at Teach Them Diligently's Christian homeschooling conference has been canceled, according to E! Online. The entertainment magazine reports that Duggar is no longer scheduled to speak at the 2015 Teach Them Diligently convention, which will take place in Sandusky, Ohio from May 28-30.

In a public letter shared on Facebook, David Nunnery of Teach Them Diligently announced that Josh Duggar withdrew as a speaker at the conference. Actor and athlete T.C. Stallings will replace him on the schedule, according to the statement. "Despite the disappointment and disbelief that accompanies news like we have heard, we have come to expect that through disappointments, we will witness God working mightily!" Nunnery wrote.

I'm relieved that Duggar will not be speaking at the event. However, when I skimmed over the conference workshop schedule, I was disappointed that the topics reflected the unhealthy Christian homeschooling culture in which the Duggars live.

Some workshops covered the usual homeschool convention topics: academics, balancing marriage and homeschooling, creationism and evolution, the Great Flood as historical fact, and so forth. The Benham brothers, who lost their HGTV show due to David Benham's homophobic remarks, are scheduled to deliver a talk about how they were "fired for their Biblical values".

Other workshops gave me pause. For example, two workshops will depict families as under attack by ominous outside forces. When fundamentalists obsess over real or imagined threats from outside the family, they forget the threats that can emerge within families. Family violence (including sexual abuse) is a far more pressing danger to children than "spiritual warfare", "the Enemy" or "the World", and I wish Christian homeschoolers would take the problem seriously.
Call to Arms: The Guts & Glory of Courageous Fatherhood
Chuck Black
Perfect Praise Publications
There is a war being waged for our families. Our enemy is strong and we are in his territory, but God  has called us to arms. Chuck offers straight answers and practical help for dads who are looking to  equip and launch soldiers for Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Warfare: Fighting for your Family
Chuck Black
Perfect Praise Publications
Homeschooling doesn’t exempt families from spiritual warfare; instead it puts us on the front line. Don’t underestimate the Enemy. Trained as a military warrior, Chuck offers insight and training on how to survive the battles and advance the Kingdom.
Another workshop urged parents to teach "purity" values to their sons. With regard to the Duggar scandal, other commentators have argued that purity culture prevents young people from developing a healthy sense of sexuality, discourages open conversation about sexual issues, denigrates sexual abuse victims, and encourages silence about sexual abuse. Now more than ever, purity culture deserves close scrutiny.
Shining Armor:Your Son’s Battle for Purity
Hal and Melanie Young
Raising Real Men
Most purity resources these days focus on girls, but purity tends to be a much bigger problem for young men and many seem hopelessly naïve about the battles our sons are facing. Today’s young men grow up with challenges to their purity on every side. In a time when over 90% of teens have been exposed to Internet pornography, how can we teach our boys to keep their way pure? What can we do when temptation is lurking on friend’s phones and beckons just a click away? How can we give them a Biblical context for sexuality—from their toddler years to adulthood? Come hear the parents of six sons give you frank, practical advice on raising your son to be a virtuous knight.
The Youngs are also scheduled to deliver a workshop on how to resist the world's alleged attempts to "feminize" boys through "gender-bending". Such gender essentialism, which assumes that boys are automatically more aggressive than girls, runs the risk of normalizing male violence. To boot, where we find rigid gender roles, we find devaluation of qualities labeled "feminine"and of females in general. In the wake of the Duggar scandal, especially the erasure of Josh Duggar's female victims, these attitudes should give us all pause.
Raising Real Men: Surviving and Appreciating Boys
Hal and Melanie Young
Raising Real Men
In spite of what the culture is telling us, boys and girls are different. Have you ever had a war break out in the middle of history, or had a single math lesson take three hours? Then you’re probably raising boys! If the world seems intent on gender-bending and forcing our sons into a feminized mold, Hal and Melanie, parents of six boys, explain the Biblical way out – and a better way to turn wild little dirt-lovers into strong Christian men!
When I see workshop offerings at Teach Them Diligently, CHAP, and other Christian homeschooling conventions, my heart sinks. While the parents and presenters at these conferences have good intentions, they seem oblivious to how unhealthy their worldview is for children. When Christian communities rage at imaginary attacks on families while ignoring real ones, foster toxic attitudes toward sex, and promote rigid gender roles, they do a disservice to children. As the Duggar scandal reminds us, these attitudes do not necessarily protect children, and may actually make it more difficult to confront child abuse.

If the Christian homeschooling community wants to protect its children, it must learn from the Duggar scandal. It must question its own toxic values about sex, gender, and the outside world.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Homeschoolers Anonymous: Josh Duggar Withdraws from Teaching Them Diligently Convention

Inquisitr: Josh Duggar Cancels Speaking Engagement, But 19 Kids And Counting Could Still Go On Without Him

Monday, May 25, 2015

News Tidbits

USA Today: Pence says he has regrets about religious freedom debate

Pink News: Mormon LGBT group rejected from Utah parades

Washington Blade: Jindal faces backlash over religious freedom order

New York Times: Catholic Church Ponders Future After Same-Sex Marriage Vote in Ireland

Gay Star News: Campaigners in only Irish constituency to vote against same-sex marriage blame local politicians  

Washington Post: After court-martial, this Marine cites religious freedom in her continued legal fight

The Independent: Purity balls: Girls in the US making virginity pledges as fathers vow to 'protect purity'

Time: Josh and Anna Duggar Shut Down Website Amid Molestation Reports

E! Online: Josh Duggar Cancels Appearance at Christian Home-School Convention in Sandusky, OH

Raw Story: Montel Williams blasts Josh Duggar, Tony Perkins as ‘hypocrites, charlatans’ in epic Facebook rant

Commentary Tidbits

Huffington Post: 6 Of The Most Ridiculous Stunts Pastors Have Pulled To Get People To Church

LGBTQ Nation: Anti-gay bill rejection gives Jindal a campaign opportunity 

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests: Huckabee defends sex offender; SNAP responds

Washington Post: Republicans’ Josh Duggar problem

Diary of an Autodidact: How Fundamentalism's Teachings on Sexuality Create Predatory Behavior

Friendly Atheist: Ray Comfort: Josh Duggar Wasn’t Really a Christian When He Molested Those Girls

Wide Open Ground: On Growing Up Duggar

Mary DeMuth: Dear Mike Huckabee

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ireland Votes in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

Ireland's referendum on same-sex marriage ended with a victory for LGBTQ rights. According to the Irish Times, 62% of voters voted in favor of a constitutional amendment permitting same-sex marriage. A total of 1,935,907 persons voted in the referendum, an impressive turnout of 60%. The victory makes Ireland the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote.

The referendum results serve as a reminder that the Catholic Church no longer has a stranglehold on Irish morality. In spite of loud opposition to same-sex marriage from Ireland's Religious Right and Catholic Church, the Irish people still voted in favor of LGBTQ equality.

Even some members of the Catholic clergy supported the referendum, suggesting dissension within the Irish Catholic Church itself on the issue of LGBTQ rights. For example, Pádraig Standún, a Carna priest, penned a commentary piece for the Connaught Telegraph in which he announced that he would vote 'yes' on the referendum. Iggy O’Donovan, a Limerick priest and member of the Augustinian order, also revealed that he would be voting 'yes' in a commentary piece at the Irish Times.

One Irish Catholic leader recognizes that Irish society is changing, but refuses to admit that the Catholic Church must adapt in meaningful ways. During an interview with RTÉ News, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin admitted that the vote was part of a "social revolution" in Ireland. Martin argued that the Catholic Church must do a "reality check" with regard to Irish culture, especially regarding the attitudes of young people.
"I think the Church needs to do a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it is doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, have we drifted away completely from young people? ... We have to stop and have a reality check and not move into a denial of the realities. We won't begin again with a sense of renewal by simply denial."
Martin understood that many of the 'yes' votes came from young people who had been educated in Catholic schools, suggesting that the church has failed to engage with younger generations.
"Most of those young people who voted 'yes' are products of our Catholic schools for twelve years ... There's a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the church. There are huge things going on in the Catholic Church in this country of which we can be immensely proud. That's happening here today. But I do thing we need a real reality check, to sit down and say, 'Are we reaching out at all to young people?'"
Martin was quick to remind the interviewer that the Catholic Church will not renounce its ban on same-sex marriage. Instead, the church needs new language and new outreach efforts, he argued.
"We're becoming a church of the like-minded, and a sort of a safe space for the like-minded rather than the church which Pope Francis is talking about as reaching out. Now that doesn't mean we renounce our teaching on the fundamental values of marriage and the family. Nor does it mean that we dig into the trenches. We need to find, as in so many areas, a new language which is fundamentally ours, but speaks to, is understood, and becomes appreciated by others."
When the interviewer reminded Martin of the moral importance of equality, the archbishop engaged in doublespeak, unfortunately. Martin strongly opposed "changing the definition of marriage" but insisted that he empathized with the suffering of Ireland's gays and lesbians. The idea that being denied equal rights could be part of that suffering never occurred to him.
INTERVIEWER: But doesn't the fundamental value of marriage and the family need to be leavened by perhaps a greater overarching value, the value of having an open hearth, a welcome to national family for everybody, and perhaps that ought to have trumped the old-fashioned teaching?

MARTIN: I constantly, in anything I said, tried as much as I could to be respectful to the, first of all, the suffering of gay men and women in this country. And I think that if they're rejoicing this evening, much of that is rejoicing because they're moving out from that. But on the other hand, I have the strong belief--there's a strong belief in the church about the nature of marriage and the family. I would have liked to have seen that the rights of gay and lesbian men and women could have been respected without changing the definition of marriage. That hasn't happened, but that's the world we live in today, and that's the world we, as a church, we will begin to try and find ways in which the Christian message can be got across not just on this question, but on all the other inequalities that exist  in society."
Martin's interview reflects the dilemma in which the Catholic Church finds itself. On one hand, church leaders clearly understand that the world is changing, and that people are rejecting Catholic teachings en masse. On the other hand, leaders do not see (or refuse to admit) that Catholic teachings and systemic sins are driving away 21st century people. The only way for the church to stay relevant is to jettison antediluvian doctrines and atone for its rampant child abuse, financial scandals, and sexist structure. No amount of outreach or "new language" will make the Catholic Church's homophobia, misogyny, or moral failures any less repugnant. Until church leaders grasp this simple fact, people around the world will reject Catholic teachings.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Human Rights Watch: Pride in the Name of Love

Huffington Post: Double Rainbows Show Up In Time For Ireland's Gay Marriage Vote

BBC News: Emotional posts as Ireland votes yes to same-sex marriage in referendum

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Betty Bowers on Tax-Exempt Churches

In her latest video, Betty Bowers skewers U.S. churches for their tax-exempt status. Enjoy.

News Tidbits

BBC News: Ireland same-sex referendum set to approve gay marriage

Buzzfeed: Priests Defy Bishops To Support Marriage Equality In Ireland

Religion News Service: Australians push for Vatican cardinal to testify on abuse 

Washington Blade: Booker, Brown introduce resolution against ‘ex-gay’ therapy

Raw Story: Alabama’s chief justice: The ‘pursuit of happiness’ means following the Bible

CBC News: Jewelry store sign prompts same-sex couple to ask for refund

Fort Worth Weekly: Birdville ISD Sued Over Christian Prayer

WJAC 6: Religious leaders protest psychic and holistic expo

Commentary Tidbits

The Telegraph: Ireland has said 'yes' to gay marriage and 'no' to Catholicism

The Wartburg Watch: Christian Janeway’s Story    (Trigger warning)

Spiritual Sounding Board: Insidious Behavior at The Village Church Regarding a Pedophile and His Former Wife 

The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person: Josh Duggar says he’s sorry. So what?

The Daily Beast: How The Duggars’ Church Encourages Young Women To ‘Submit’

Slate: Duggar Revelations Are Just the Latest Sex Abuse Scandal to Rock Far-Right Fundamentalism

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mike Huckabee Defends the Duggars

As discussed in a prior post, Josh Duggar resigned from his position at Family Resource Council Action yesterday after news of his sexually predatory behavior became public. Amidst the public outrage, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is defending the Duggar family.

In a March 22nd Facebook post, Huckabee voiced his support for the Duggars in a manner that minimize the situation. I'd like to parse Huckabee's Facebook post, in which he insisted that the abuse was in the past and blasted the "blood-thirsty" media for its attention to the scandal.

First, Huckabee described Josh Duggar's abusive behavior as "inexcusable" but not "unforgivable".
"Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn’t mean 'unforgivable.' He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities."
No, they weren't. According to In Touch Weekly, Jim Bob Duggar told police that he's learned about Josh's abusive behavior in 2002, but did not have Josh speak with Arkansas State Trooper Jim Hutchens until 2003. Before taking Josh to Hutchens, Jim Bob discussed the matter with church elders, but did not seek professional help for his son. What, if any, support was shown to Josh's victims remains unknown. The family did not deal with the abuse appropriately, and instead of truly being "honest and open about it", they kept it under wraps for years.

Next, Huckabee chided the "blood-thirsty media" for "sensationalizing" the scandal, insisting that "Good people make mistakes".
"No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one's judgement is not mature. No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager, but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility."
Mike, sexual abuse is not a "mistake"; it's a morally reprehensible act and crime. Even if Josh's judgment was immature, his behavior was evidence of a grave problem that his parents refused to take seriously. Furthermore, how do we know that Josh's predatory impulses were ever truly addressed? The Duggars followed Bill Gothard, and from what we know about Gothard's Advanced Training Institute, it's unlikely that Josh received sound advice about his behavior.

Sexual abuse is a serious matter, and the media has every right to devote attention to the scandal. When the stars of 19 Kids and Counting are implicated in a morally reprehensible scandal, of course the media should report on the matter. The scandal shattered the Duggar's carefully crafted image of a wholesome Christian family and exposed their hypocrisy in demonizing LGBTQ people as supposed predators.

Huckabee argued that the media was revictimizing Josh's victims by bringing up the abuse.
"Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims."
In a breathtaking reversal, Huckabee accused the media of victimizing Josh's victims by drawing attention to the abuse. By deflecting attention and blame onto the media, Huckabee minimized Josh Duggar's behavior.

Huckabee concludes his statement by reminding readers that no one is perfect, and that we are all sinners.
"Janet and I love Jim Bob and Michelle and their entire family. They are no more perfect a family than any family, but their Christian witness is not marred in our eyes because following Christ is not a declaration of our perfection, but of HIS perfection. It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God’s love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends. In fact, it is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support."
While no one is perfect, most people do not molest children. Most people do not utterly mishandle and obscure sexual abuse. The Josh Duggar scandal is not about imperfection, but about a serious crime against five children. Huckabee's arguments sounded suspiciously like sin-leveling, which holds all sinners as equally guilty and ignores the fact that some sins are far worse than others. His refusal to recognize the gravity of the situation floored me.

Huckabee's insensitive statement is yet another example of a religious figure minimizing abuse, deflecting focus, and failing to hold guilty parties accountable. His words boil down to the same excuses that people use when closing ranks around predators: it's in the past ... he said he was sorry .. you're a sinner too so shut up ... stop attacking this poor man! This pattern plays out in too many churches when abuse victims seek help, and now it has played out on Huckabee's Facebook page.

(Hat tip to CNN and Right Wing Watch.)

5/23/15 UPDATE: Raw Story is reporting that Huckabee's Facebook followers are blasting him for defending the Duggars. Even conservative Christians can't swallow Huckabee's defense of Josh, Jim Bob, and Michelle.