Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fundamentalists Are "Rebuking" Their Local Target Stores

Right-wing hysteria over Target's bathroom policies has led to fundamentalists annoying Target shoppers. Several YouTube videos show fundamentalists "rebuking" Target employees and customers for supporting LGBTQ rights. (Hat tip to Friendly Atheist for the first video.)

This is understandably frustrating for Target employees, such as this young woman who had an unpleasant encounter with a transphobe.

What transphobes fail to realize is that their histrionics are only hurting their cause. These public displays of bigotry and self-righteousness will only serve to alienate their audience. My heart goes out to Target shoppers and employees who have to deal with their tantrums.

Monday, May 2, 2016

News Tidbits

Dallas Observer: An Advocate for the Sexually Abused Demands Answers from Prestonwood Baptist Church

Religion News Service: Wheaton group blasts Christian college’s silence over Hastert abuse confession

Boston Herald: Bill would require colleges to reveal religious exemptions

Gay Star News: Anti-LGBTI groups form coalition to fight UN for protecting same-sex couples and families

Associated Press: Kasich calls for balance on gay rights, religious beliefs

Associated Press: Lead singer of Neon Trees changing tune on Mormon religion 

Washington Blade: Cruz won’t let up on anti-trans ‘bathroom predator’ myth

Pink News: Turns out this anti-gay bakery just can’t back down

Buzzfeed: Australia: A Gay Conversion Advocate Is Speaking At A University And Students Are Mad

Military*com: Redstone Worker Says Sex Assault Program Used to Espouse Christianity   (Hat tip to Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Commentary Tidbits

Heresy in the Heartland: Violence, Abortion, and Frank Peretti

Huffington Post: Armed Vigilantes and Bathroom Cameras

A Woman's Freedom in Christ: Why Complementarian Leaders Ignore Their Insightful Sisters in Christ

Right Wing Watch: Anti-LGBT Activists 'Testing' Target By Sending Men Into Women's Rooms

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Target Bathroom Hysteria Reaches a Fevered Pitch

The recent wave of transphobic bathroom bills, such as House Bill 2 in North Carolina, has prompted a national retailer to institute a transgender-friendly restroom policy. On April 19th, Target posted a press release supporting the federal Equality Act and welcoming transgender visitors to use its restrooms and dressing rooms. "[W]e welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity," the press release stated.

The Religious Right quickly threw a tantrum over Target's decision. The American Family Association (AFA) announced a boycott of Target later that week, demanding that Target should uphold separate restrooms for men and women and a single occupancy unisex restroom for transgender. The AFA's boycott statement shamelessly pandered to their supporters' fear by claiming that Target's bathroom policy "poses a danger to wives and daughters" and is "exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims".

I doubt that the AFA has enough critical mass behind its boycott to weaken Target's bottom line. However, I'm alarmed at how the AFA and other Religious Right figures are demonizing transgender persons as supposed sexual predators. By depicting transgender persons as predatory monsters, the Religious Right dehumanizes the transgender community.

First, according to Right Wing Watch, anti-LGBTQ activist Dave Daubenmire protested Target's restroom policy at a Target store in Heath, Ohio on April 26th. In a video of his protest, a Target employee asked Daubenmire to leave after he stood in the store with a sign that read, "Caution: Men may be in women's restroom!" He insisted that he was merely protecting female shoppers. "There's no warning that a man could walk in that restroom. There's no warning at all," Daubenmire told the employee. "I just feel that I have a moral obligation to warn women. That's what my sign says, that a woman could be in danger in the restroom if a man could come in." In another video, police ask Daubenmire to leave the property.

Christian radio host Rick Wiles was particularly disgusting in his assessment of Target's restroom policy. During the April 25th edition of Trunews, Wiles joked about relieving himself on Target's floor, claiming that the company was soiling America. At the 24:44 mark of the show, he had this to say to Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"How about if I just urinate on your floor? How about that, Molly? Because you’re defecating on this nation."
Stay classy, Rick.

At the 13:14 mark, Wiles denounced transgender rights advances as symptoms of "sickness" and "moral depravity" in American society. He urged listeners against being passive while "toilet rights" advance.
"One of the biggest retailers in America, and it is going all-out to promote the LGBT radical militant toilet rights campaign. This is how far we've gone down the path of sickness. The biggest issue politically now in America is toilet rights. How sick can a society become when people are demanding toilet rights? It's an indication of the moral depravity of the United States of America ...

People are going to have to make a decision right now. Are you going to put up with it? Are you just going to sit there and do nothing, twiddle your thumbs and just say, 'oh, it's terrible, it's terrible', or are you going to do something about it? You better do something about it, because they're not going to stop at toilet rights."
At the 18:40 mark, Wiles inflamed his audience's fears with lurid warnings about transgender predators staring at them or worse in Target restrooms.
"Guys, it means a transvestite may be staring at you the next time you're standing at a urinal in a Target restroom. Think about that. Get that uncomfortable feeling. Ladies, it means that if a man decides he feels like being a woman today, he has the right to enter a women's restroom in any Target store. Moms and dads, it means that Target stores management is more concerned about the rights of sexual deviants and perverts than your sons and daughters. Would you allow your ten year old daughter or granddaughter to enter a Target restroom knowing that men could follow her into it?"
Alarmingly, some transphobic figures are using violent language when discussing transgender people in restrooms. Tracy Murphree, a Republican candidate for the Denton County Sheriff seat in Texas, wrote a hateful message about transgender women on his Facebook page, according to the Dallas Observer. "If my little girl is in a public restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into that bathroom, he will then identify as John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Your identity does not trump my little girl’s safety," Murphree reportedly wrote.

Equality Texas, an LGBTQ rights organization, condemned Murphree's transphobic post. When Equality Texas reached out to Murphree, communications with Murphree's office were "abruptly cancelled".

Murphree is not the only person using inflammatory language. Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver (wife of Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver) created controversy when she vowed to bring a gun with her into restrooms. On April 22nd, she posted a Tweet stating, "I'm taking a Glock .45 to the ladies room. It identifies as my bodyguard. #BoycottTarget" If she does so at Target, she will run afoul of Target's ban on firearms in its stores.

The Religious Right is so desperate to undermine LGBTQ equality that it is not only endorsing homophobic and transphobic legislation, but promoting vile myths about LGBTQ persons. This violent, dehumanizing language against transgender persons is dangerous. Will transphobic hate crimes increase in the wake of these vicious statements? Will someone kill a transgender person in a public restroom out of paranoid, unwarranted fear? The Religious Right is playing a dangerous game by pandering to its followers' fear and hatred.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Take nothing for granted

Appreciate the wonders of this era in history. Appreciate the many comforts that you enjoy. Appreciate each other. Never take them for granted.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tennessee Governor Signs Counseling Bill Into Law

For opponents of the Religious Right, it's been a rocky few weeks in Tennessee. A bill that would have made the Bible Tennessee's state book was mercifully vetoed earlier this month. Liberty Counsel and MassResistance undermined attempts to create a gay-straight alliance club at a high school in Franklin County, Tennessee. Now, a new bill will make it legal for counselors to discriminate against LGBTQ clients.

On April 27th, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 1556 into law, according to MSNBC. The bill states that "No counselor or therapist providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist; provided, that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy."

In effect, the bill allows counselors to refuse service to LGBTQ clients on the basis of their religious beliefs. To boot, the law could plausibly allow counselors to refuse service to anyone whose identity of behavior, no matter how harmless, run afoul of their religious sensibilities. Will we now see fundamentalist counselors in Tennessee denying care to LGBTQ people, people who engage in premarital sex, or non-Christians? Will people who don't fit the fundamentalist mold now be bounced around from therapist to therapist when they need mental health treatment?

Like other bigoted bills coming forward across the U.S., SB 1556 should anger us. SB 1556 would permit actions that contradict the very ethical foundations of the counseling profession. Discriminating against clients due to religious beliefs runs counter to the counselor's responsibility to promote social justice, enhance human development, and foster client autonomy.

The new law has been poorly-received by mental health professionals. Art Terrazas, director of government relations at the American Counseling Association, told LGBT Weekly that the "dangerous" law "codifies discrimination", adding that the ACA would continue to fight such legislation. According to the Tennessean, the ACA was scheduled to hold its annual conference at Music City Center in Nashville in 2017. Now that Governor Haslam has signed SB 1556 into law, the organization may move the event.

On April 28th, the Tennessee Counseling Association posted a statement expressing disappointment in the passage of SB 1556. TCA president Audrey A. Elion and advocacy chair Lisa Henderson encouraged all Tennessee counselors to engage in organizations that shape decision-making regarding the counseling profession, so as to " reduce the likelihood that issues related to counseling become politicized".
"We are very disappointed to see a bill that allows counselors the ability to deny services to potential clients, which is in direct conflict with ACA’s nondiscrimination statement, go into effect for licensed mental health practitioners in the state of Tennessee."
Other mental health professionals stand in opposition to the recent wave of bigoted legislation. A few days before SB 1556 was signed into law, the American Psychological Association posted a press release condemning anti-LGBTQ legislation.
"The American Psychological Association is committed to promoting the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are therefore seriously concerned about the recent wave of state-level legislation discriminating against these individuals. Our association has a long history of supporting protections for LGBT people, including in those areas currently under attack — most notably employment, marriage and public accommodations.
APA is calling for passage of the federal Equality Act to provide protections for LGBT people against such unfair and harmful treatment. The adoption of such legal protections offers one way to reduce this undue burden of discrimination faced by LGBT people."
By contrast, Religious Right figures are praising the bill. In an April 28th Washington Update, the Family Research Council loudly praised Governor Haslam as a protector of supposedly persecuted Christian counselors.
"Under the bill he just signed into law, counselors don't have to make the choice between their practice and their principles. H.B. 1840 is just one in a long line of state defenses to the sexual bullying of the Left. Although Tennessee's bill is the first of its kind, the ongoing battle between religious liberty and LGBT activists guarantee it won't be the last. After the American Counseling Association stripped counselors' rights to act according to their beliefs, Tennessee leaders stepped in to give them the protection they deserve. As part of H.B. 1840, no private practice therapist can be forced to take on a client who has "goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with [the counselor's] sincerely-held principles."

That used to be common sense. Not anymore! Americans are being punished at an alarming rate for daring to live out their beliefs in the workplace. And Christian counselors are one of the growing targets. "As a professional," Governor Haslam argued, "I should have the right to decide if my clients' end goals don't match with my beliefs -- I should have the right to say somebody else can better serve them. Lawyers can do that. Doctors can do that. Why would we take this one class of professionals and say you can't?"

Unfortunately, that's exactly the kind of ideological coercion the Left is trying to make official U.S. policy. In their intolerance, liberals are demanding a new system of involuntary servitude -- and they want the state to enforce it. Tolerance isn't a one-way street -- and laws like Tennessee's make sure of it. Our thanks to Governor Haslam for doing the right thing -- not just for counselors, but for liberty."
In an online statement, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins had the audacity to claim that SB 1556 represented "tolerance and understanding."
"Tennessee lawmakers are right in acting to protect the ability of therapists and counselors to continue serving in their helping profession in a manner that does not conflict with their religious beliefs. America has a long and storied history of respecting Americans’ freedom to believe and actually live their lives according to those beliefs. It was this tolerance and understanding that led the first Congress and the American people to enshrine religious freedom in our Constitution.

Senate Bill 1556 is an important first step in preserving this fundamental freedom for those who do not agree with the Left’s radical ideology. Tennessee joins North Carolina and Mississippi in the growing list of states refusing to criminalize people whose beliefs about sexuality and marriage are at odds with President Obama’s extreme political and social agenda."
Other Religious Right voices are defending SB 1556 as well. David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) was a vocal lobbyist in favor of the bill, according to NPR. In an April 29th post, FACT called opponents of the bill "hypocrites" who are "coming unglued" over a bill that is "no big deal".

Legislation such as SB 1556 is unacceptable. Discrimination is morally wrong, whether it involves marriage licenses, bathrooms, or mental health services. LGBTQ persons deserve access to the same amenities and services as anyone else. Counseling should be available to everyone, not just people who fit a Christian fundamentalist mold.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Atlantic: A Controversial Therapy Law in Tennessee

ACLU of Tennessee: Governor Signs Bill Allowing Counselors to Discriminate

Wonkette: Bigot Tennessee Therapists Can’t Wait To Screw The Gays For Jesus

News Tidbits

The Guardian: Tennessee continues anti-LGBT legal onslaught with 'therapist bill'

NBC Local 15: Alabama: Justice Moore addresses complaints filed against his marriage orders

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 'Religious freedom' measure defeated in Missouri House committee

Lexington Herald Leader: State awards $18 million tax break to Noah’s Ark theme park

Washington Blade: Booker, Murray introduce legislation against ‘ex-gay’ therapy

Scientific American: Many More Republicans Now Believe in Climate Change

USA Today: When religion and the LGBT collegiate athlete collide

Pink News: University awards honorary degree to director of listed anti-LGBT hate groups

Pink News: NOM declares another funding emergency as donations dry up

Gay Star News: Singapore pastor does not believe gay Christians deserve to be happy with who they are

Commentary Tidbits

The Atlantic: Religious-Liberty Laws That Have No Meaning

Great Falls Tribune: Dinosaurs, the Bible and a Glendive museum

Jezebel: King Doofus Kirk Cameron: 'Wives Are to Honor and Respect and Follow Their Husband's Lead'

Feminist Majority Foundation: Is Robert Dear a Lone Wolf? FMF Demands House Select Panel Investigate Anti-Abortion Violence

The Advocate: The Ghost Children of Mormon Country

Washington Post: Prince helped me overcome a religious upbringing that shunned secular music

Gawker: Satanists to Boehner: Please Don't Associate Us With Ted Cruz

Religion News Service: Why Trump’s rise does not spell the end for the Christian right

Huffington Post: How Rape and “Pro-Life” Politics Are Intimately Connected

Rosa Rubicondior: Pope Francis And The Predatory Priest

Think Progress: Anti-Gay Counseling Student Sues University Over His Refusal To Follow Professional Ethics

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

World Congress of Families X Taking Place This May in Tbilisi, Georgia

The World Congress of Families hosts regular conferences around the globe, and their next gathering is coming up fast. The World Congress of Families X Conference will take place on May 15-18 at the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel in Tbilisi, Georgia.

This year's gathering is supported by Religious Right organizations such as the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society, the National Organization for Marriage, and Alliance Defending Freedom. Among WCF X's organizers is the Georgian Demographic Society XXI, a right-wing group created to address the "extremely grave demographic situation" in Georgia. The organization seeks to increase Georgia's population by encouraging "traditional marriage and strong family propaganda" through the promotion of "a large family and anti-abortion agenda."

The Georgian Demographic Society's founder, Levan Vasadze, has a history of right-wing activism. Vasadze's name appeared on a 2013 open letter decrying homosexuality as "depravity" that flies in the face of "Christian morality". In a 2013 commentary piece, Tabula Magazine accused Vasadze of anti-western sentiment. (Hat tip to Bartholomew's Notes on Religion.)

Prior WCF conferences have shown us exactly what to expect from these gatherings: anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminist rhetoric. Attendees can look forward to retrograde workshops and speeches such as these:

  • Gender theory and sexuality education and how they undermine the family and parental authority
  • Anti-family indoctrination in education
  • Civilization at the Crossroads: The Natural Family as The Bulwark of Freedom and Human Values
  • Culture of Live vs. Culture of Death: Family and Marriage Issues; The role of religion
  • Culture of Live vs. Culture of Death: Demographic Winter; Abortion, euthanasia, surrogacy and other life issues
  • Parental rights to guide children's education: Homeschooling

Workshops will focus on topics such as "marriage deconstruction in the name of equality", "demographic winter", and "the sexual revolution and cultural Marxism".

The American Religious Right continues to network with its international counterparts to challenge LGBTQ equality, reproductive freedom, and gender equality. The Tbilisi conference will also allow Georgia’s right-wing voices to make global allies and draw international supporters to its cause. Will enlightened Georgians stand for these messages at WCF X?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Noah Conference Will Bring Together Ken Ham, Kevin Swanson, and the Benhams

Noah Conference Official Trailer from Kevin Swanson on Vimeo.

Ken Ham, creator of the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter theme park, will be taking part in a conference that likens modern "ungodliness" to the Great Flood.

The Noah Conference will take place on August 19-20 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Registration includes admission into the Ark Encounter theme park nearby. The Noah Conference website describes the event as an opportunity to disciple children in the midst of an "enticing me-centered, entertainment-saturated, and peer-dominated culture".

"You, like Noah, are competing against a thousand corrupt voices," the website tells visitors. "Like Noah’s sons, your children must also follow you into an ark to be saved – the ark that is Jesus Christ."
"You and your family might feel like you’re swimming upstream. But have you ever tried swimming against a flood?

4,000 years ago, the earth was covered by the greatest flood of all time. Every man, woman and child was swept away...except for one man and his family. But that wasn’t all. Another flood was raging which posed even greater danger to Noah and his family - a worldwide flood of ungodliness.

What did Noah do?

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Heb 11:7)

What can you do?

Join families from across the country for the Noah Conference in Cincinnati on August 19 & 20 - just minutes away from the new life-size Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. Based on lessons from the life of Noah, the Noah Conference will prepare you to engage your kids, disciple them in an ungodly generation, and launch them into life as ambassadors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The all-white, all-male list of conference speakers includes Ken Ham, the Benham Brothers, anti-abortion activist Flip Benham, and the ever-colorful Kevin Swanson. (Let's hope that Swanson refrains from screaming, gesticulating, and making references to manure and pus-filled sores this time.) The workshop schedule features the typical right-wing fare about how the Christian family is supposedly under attack from a wicked world, and how families must batten down the hatches under male headship.

  • Lot vs. Noah: Combating the Influence of the World on Your Home
  • Children, Obey Your Parents

  • Why Every Family Needs an Ark

  • Discipleship 101: Bringing Your Children into the Ark

  • It’s Time to Build an Ark in the Secular Age

  • Living Among Lions: How to Thrive like Daniel in Today's Babylon

  • Getting Your Kids on Board: How Dad Passes a Vision to His Children

The Noah Conference brims with Christian myths, and not just the Great Flood myth. Fundamentalist Christians are not living in an era of incomparable evil. Some monolithic, wicked "world" is not out to taint their families and persecute them for their faith. Adopting a siege mentality and shunning the outside world will not keep them safe or sanctified. Heaven's floodgates have not opened, and there is no need for a metaphorical ark.