Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Southern Baptist Convention Hosting Summit on Sexuality

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention will host a summit on sex and sexuality this spring. The Associated Press reports that the ERLC Leadership Summit will take place on April 21-23 at the Southern Baptist Convention center in Nashville, Tennessee. According to the summit website, the event is intended to teach religious leaders about the Gospel's stance on human sexuality, including ways that scripture "sets free those who are held captive to sin’s bondage." A glance at the conference lineup, however, suggests a gathering where the conversation on sexuality will be incomplete.

Workshop titles and the language surrounding the event suggest that the ERLC Leadership Summit will approach sex through the lens of sin and purity. "From broken marriages to pornography to homosexuality, sexual confusion and sexual brokenness has ravaged our culture and can deteriorate the integrity of our churches," the summit website asserts. Keynotes and workshop offerings include the following:

  • The Gospel and the Pastor’s Purity
  • Walking the Line: The Gospel and Moral Purity
  • Ministering in a Sex-saturated Society
  • Marriage Matters: Contemporary Threats to Biblical Marriage
  • Mending Fences: The Gospel and Pastoral Care for Sexual Sin
  • Resisting Lips that Drip Honey: Wisdom on Sexuality from Proverbs

Other workshops will focus on talking to young people about sex, "Biblical" manhood and womanhood, marital sexuality, pornography, and trafficking. Conspicuously absent were workshops on sexual health, reproductive issues, or sexual violence (save for two workshops on sex trafficking). Considering the many sexual abuse scandals that have plagued Baptist communities, I'm surprised that the summit will not include workshops on pastoral misconduct or sexual abuse prevention. To boot, since sexual victimization is frighteningly common, I'm disappointed that the summit is not discussing sexual violence topics such as intimate partner sexual assault, consent, supportive congregational responses, or healing from sexual trauma. While sex trafficking is a devastating problem that must be addressed, it is not the only form of sexual violence afflicting society.

Also conspicuously absent was respectful acknowledgement of sexual diversity. The summit website spoke of homosexuality in pathological terms as a manifestation of "sexual brokenness" in society. The only workshop remotely related to sexual diversity was a panel discussion on "The Gospel and Homosexuality", but given the SBC's stance on LGBTQ issues, I do not expect the workshop to be LGBTQ-affirming. The presence of Mark Regnerus (the researcher behind a controversial study on same-sex parenting) on the list of speakers also suggests an incomplete approach to LGBTQ issues. Affirming voices do exist in the Baptist community, and I lament that these voices were not included in the summit.

Finally, with the exception of one woman of color, the summit speaker lineup consists entirely of white men. How can the summit have a robust discussion of sexuality and faith without including diverse voices? Sexuality is a rich and complex topic, one deserving of commentary from male voices, female voices, racially diverse voices, straight voices, LGBTQ voices, survivor voices, medical voices, activist voices, and many more.

While I am pleased that the SBC is openly discussing sexuality and social issues such as trafficking, they need the expand the discussion. Limiting the discussion to sin, purity, and heterosexuality fails to capture the breadth of sexual matters facing modern society. Baptist congregations include trauma survivors, LGBTQ people, people with sexual health concerns, and people seeking sexual flourishing. The SBC has a responsibility to address these issues in a respectful, nuanced manner with congregants, so as to include body, mind, and spirit in pastoral care.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Two Must-Reads on IHOP and the Bethany Deaton Case

In late 2012, Micah Moore was arrested and charged in the murder of 27 year-old Bethany Deaton. A statement of probable cause revealed sordid details about Bethany's husband, Tyler Deaton, and the Christian group he ran out of his home. The Deatons had ties to the International House of Prayer (IHOP), a prominent New Apostolic Reformation ministry in Kansas City, Missouri. As more details emerged, IHOP distanced itself from Tyler Deaton, and Moore's attorney recanted his client's murder confession.

I'd like to share two must-read links about the case with readers. First, Rolling Stone published a detailed look into Bethany and Tyler Deaton's lives entitled "Love and Death in the House of Prayer". Jeff Tietz takes readers into the world of IHOP, the shocking accusations against Tyler Deaton, and Bethany Deaton's sorrow in the days leading up to her death.

Second, Kendall Beachey  recently shared his memories about Tyler Deaton at the Cosmic Cathedral. Beachey's post conveys his sorrow and devastation after Bethany's murder, when he was faced with so many questions about his former friend.

Both are powerful reads. I encourage readers to check both out.

Commentary Tidbits

Right Wing Watch: Scott Lively: Right To Choose 'Robs' Men Of 'Their Biblical Authority As Heads of Households'

My Cult Life: I’m Not a Christian Anymore

The Daily Beast: What Do Threats To Roe V. Wade And Domestic Violence Have In Common? Patriarchy.

Salon: GOP congressman: Wives should “voluntarily submit” to their husbands

Rhymes with Religion:  5 self-serving responses by sex offenders in the church

Alternet: Supreme Court To Decide If Anti-Abortionists Have Right To Lie In Political Ads

News Tidbits

Washington Post: Thousands of abortion foes set out on March for Life in Washington

Associated Press: Priest Sex Abuse Files From Archdiocese Of Chicago Go Public

Religion News Service: Study: Conservative Protestants’ divorce rates spread to their red state neighbors

Ms. Magazine: Federal Appeals Court Reinstates CPC Regulation in New York City

Raw Story: Chicago GOP hopeful: Autism and dementia are God’s punishments for LGBT rights

Gay RVA: Virginia: Bill to Ban Ex-Gay Therapy on Minors Formally Announced

Gay Star News: TV doctor Christan Jessen to test 'gay cures'

The Guardian: Australia: Victorian schools warned following complaints about religious education

Monday, January 20, 2014

UN Committee Grills Vatican on Clergy Abuse

On January 16th, Vatican representatives appeared before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to answer questions about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The hearing was part of the committee's 65th session in Geneva, scheduled for January 13-31 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the New York Times, the Geneva hearing was meant to explore the Vatican's failure to uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The committee will issue final recommendations on February 5th.

Observing the hearing were advocates for clergy sexual abuse victims from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). SNAP  distributed leaflets outside of Geneva's Basilique Notre-Dame de Genève on January 14th to bring public attention to the upcoming hearing.

CCR and SNAP submitted a supplemental report to the committee in December 2013 in advance of the hearing, accusing the Holy See of neglecting its responsibility to address clergy abuse. "[T]he acts and omissions of its agents have clearly produced effects that resulted in the violation of the rights of children to be free from sexual exploitation and violence," the report argues. Specifically, the document slams the Holy See for claiming that its jurisdiction is limited to Vatican City rather than to its clerical representatives around the globe.
"We note that the Holy See’s response goes to great length to confine its obligations and liabilities under the Convention to the territory of Vatican City State, where it acknowledges citizenship and/or residence of 31 children. The Holy See seeks to redirect responsibility for widespread and systemic violations of the Convention and OPSC occurring in other sovereign territories that were committed, abetted, facilitated or covered up by Catholic officials acting under its authority to other States ... This representation by the Holy See is particularly disingenuous in light of the all-too-numerous accounts of efforts by bishops, archbishops, cardinals and other Church officials around the world to cover up these crimes and subvert the course of justice in other States, further compounding the harm to victims."
Representing the Vatican at the January 16th hearing were Bishop Charles J. Scicluna, former Vatican chief sex crimes prosecutor, and Msgr. Silvano Tomasi, Vatican representative to the United Nations. In a transcript of his presentation posted at the Vatican website, Msgr. Silvano Tomasi told the committee that the Holy See has taken concrete steps to address clergy abuse.
"Confronted with this reality, the Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse and to collaborate with respective State authorities to fight against this crime. The Holy See is also committed to listen carefully to victims of abuse and to address the impact such situations have on survivors of abuse and on their families."
The UN panel pulled no punches with Vatican representatives. "Why is there no mandatory reporting to a country's judicial authorities when crimes occur?" asked committee member Hiranthi Wijemanne, according to the Christian Science Monitor. The New York Times reports that committee vice president Sara de Jesús Oviedo Fierro asked Vatican representatives about efforts to cover-up sexual abuse cases. “It is not the policy of the Holy See to encourage cover-ups. This is against the truth," Scicluna insisted. When asked why the Holy See does not mandate that local diocese report sexual abuse to civil authorities, Scicluna replied that, "Our guidelines have always said the domestic law of the country needs to be followed."

Tomasi deflected responsibility away from the Vatican, arguing that the Holy See is not responsible for the actions of clergy abroad, as its jurisdiction is limited to Vatican City. Priests, he argued, are "not functionaries of the Vatican but citizens of their countries and fall under the jurisdiction of their own countries," according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Following the meeting, SNAP expressed its disgust. Shortly after the hearing, SNAP and CCR leaders offered commentary during a live webcast. SNAP president Barbara Blaine praised the hearing as a historic milestone at the 5:35 mark.
"Today, it was a historic day. It's the very first time ever that Vatican officials were called to task or that they had to answer questions ... What gives me hope at this point is that I know that there's going to be a report, and then there's going to be standards by which the Vatican will be judged. And hopefully this is the beginning, and now maybe other international bodies will begin to question the Vatican as this Committee on the Rights of the Child did today."
At the 6:40 mark, Barbara Blaine claimed that Vatican representatives failed to give satisfactory answers to questions at the hearing, adding that Pope Francis needs to take more action against abuse.
"I'm extremely disappointed in the response of the Vatican ... Bottom line is that they didn't answer any new questions, and they're giving more of the same. They're giving lofty statements without any action, and we think that Pope Francis should be taking action that will protect children by turning over evidence of sex crimes to police and by punishing bishops who have enabled and who covered up for and shielded predators from police."
In a January 16th press release, SNAP national board member Mary Caplan criticized Vatican representatives for their anemic testimony. "We are disappointed that Catholic officials ignored those questions or answered them poorly," she wrote
"Two high-ranking Catholic officials today basically told a United Nations panel that the Vatican has little real power to stop bishops from hiding clergy sex crimes. We’re very saddened that such a huge and powerful church bureaucracy continues to pretend it’s powerless over its own officials.

These clerics said some nice things today in Geneva. But unfortunately, the encouraging public words today by Catholic officials differ radically from the actual and distressing private behavior of Catholic officials. Before the cameras, the church hierarchy often denounces predators and thanks victims. But behind closed doors, the church hierarchy often protects predators and rebuffs victims.

The Catholic officials today repeatedly cited vague, new and unenforced internal church abuse guidelines. But these are meaningless because no one is ever punished for breaking church abuse guidelines.

And many of the guidelines focus on child molesting clerics while ignoring the bigger problem: corrupt church officials who are still endangering kids, moving offenders, stonewalling law enforcement and deceiving parishioners and the public."
Pam Spees, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, lamented that the Holy See has "consistently refused to accept responsibility for its role in perpetuating rape and sexual violence against children in the Church and further enabling it by protecting offending priests." In a CCR statement, Spees expressed disappointment in the Vatican's response to clergy abuse but admitted that the hearing was a positive step.
"The Vatican attempted to relegate the issue to the past and claim it is a new era, that they now ‘get it,’ but they continue to refuse to turn over records for prosecution, punish higher-ups that covered up the crimes, or provide any real evidence that they are now putting the safety of children above the reputation of the Church.  Nonetheless, today’s hearing is a milestone in calling for an end to these days of impunity. The international community is demanding answers, and that is the first step toward true accountability and, we hope, an end to the widespread violence against children.”
SNAP and CCR have every right to be disappointed. Clergy sexual abuse  has left too many children traumatized, and cover-ups by church leaders have impeded justice. The Catholic Church is obliged to take responsibility for clergy abuse if it wants to be seen as a moral authority instead of a corrupt, callous institution. Deflecting responsibility and protecting abusers was immoral in the past, and it continues to be immoral now.

However, SNAP's Barbara Blaine was correct when she called the hearing "historic". The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child held the Vatican's feet to the fire on a global stage, drawing international attention to clergy abuse. If the Vatican understands that it will be held accountable before a global audience, it may take its moral duty to address abuse more seriously.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Religion Dispatches: In Sexual Abuse Hearing UN Calls Holy See on Girls’ Reproductive Right

RH Reality Check: The Vatican Sex Abuse Hearing in One Word: Troubling

Global Voices Express Outrage at Nigerian Anti-Gay Law

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan recently signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law, worsening the situation for LGBTQ persons in Nigeria. World leaders and human rights activists have expressed outrage at the anti-gay law, which mandates prison time for same-sex relations and outlaws patronage of gay organizations and clubs.

In a January 13th press statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrote that the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about Nigeria's new anti-gay law.
"Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.

Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.

People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.

We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights."
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf also criticized the law as an affront to basic freedoms, according to the Washington Blade. “We just don’t support any legislation that institutionalizes discrimination against one select group of people, and I think one of the key reasons we are opposed to this is that the law goes far beyond prohibiting same-sex marriage,” she said. “It restricts freedom of assembly, association and expression for all Nigerians.”

Other global voices have criticized the law's attack on fundamental rights as well. Pink News reports that the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office has blasted the Nigerian law. Canada has cancelled President Goodluck Jonathan's state visit, according to Pink News. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, forcefully condemned the Nigerian law. “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights," she said, according to UN News Centre. “Rights to privacy and non-discrimination, rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention: this law undermines all of them.”
“It turns anyone who takes part in, witnesses or helps organize a same sex marriage into a criminal. It punishes people for displaying any affection in public towards someone of the same sex. And in banning gay organizations it puts at risk the vital work of human rights defenders who speak up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.”
Global health organizations lament that the law will have a devastating impact on public health in Nigeria. In a January 14th press statement, UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria warned that the law could obstruct access to HIV services by criminalizing organizations that serve LGBTQ populations.
"The provisions of the law could lead to increased homophobia, discrimination, denial of HIV services and violence based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. It could also be used against organizations working to provide HIV prevention and treatment services to LGBT people ... UNAIDS and the Global Fund call for an urgent review of the constitutionality of the law in light of the serious public health and human rights implications and urge Nigeria to put comprehensive measures in place to protect the ongoing delivery of HIV services to LGBT people in Nigeria without fear of arrest or other reprisals. UNAIDS and the Global Fund will continue to work with the Nigerian authorities and civil society organizations to ensure safe access to HIV services for all people in Nigeria."
Human rights activists also expressed alarm at developments in Nigeria. In an open letter to John Kerry, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin urged the Secretary of State to take action regarding Nigeria's new anti-gay law including LGBTQ refugee processing at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, reevaluation of Nigeria's aid status, and suspension of bilateral agreements between the U.S. and Nigeria.

Human Rights Watch called the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill a "sweeping and dangerous piece of legislation". Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director of Human Rights Watch, argued that the law “undermines basic universal freedoms that Nigerians have long fought to defend and is a throwback to past decades under military rule when civil rights were treated with contempt.” Reid added that the law is so ambiguous that it will likely result in arbitrary arrests, extortion, and blackmail of vulnerable people.

Amnesty International demanded that Nigerian authorities release those arrested under the new law. Makmid Kamara, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher, called the new law "draconian", adding that reports of police compiling lists of gay people to arrest "extremely worrying". “The deeply repressive Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act must be withdrawn without delay. With the stroke of a pen, President Goodluck Jonathan has essentially turned Nigeria into one of the world’s least tolerant societies," Kamara said.

Will Nigerian leaders take international outrage seriously and move to repeal the law, or will the law stay in place and exacerbate to an already ugly situation for LGBTQ Nigerians? Will Nigeria acknowledge that the law is an affront to fundamental human rights and public health, or ignore its impact in the name of homophobia? The world will be watching Nigeria closely.

Commentary Tidbits

RH Reality Check: The Vatican Sex Abuse Hearing in One Word: Troubling

Norwegian Council for Africa: How the American Christian Right has promoted African anti-gay laws

Rolling Stone: The Stealth War on Abortion

The Daily Beast: Creationism’s Latest Trojan Horse Edges Toward Virginia Schools

Good As You: Uganda = Russia = Nigeria = Anti-LGBT Insanity

Rachel Held Evans: The Bible was ‘clear’...

The American Jesus: What Are Biblical Values?

News Tidbits

The Republican: Lawsuit against Scott Lively has no trial date yet

Associated Press: Methodist Clergyman Charged Over Gay Wedding

Pink News: Newly appointed Spanish cardinal: Homosexuality is a ‘deficiency’ that can be cured

QNotes: Charlotte pastor-politician receives hate group endorsement

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nigerian President Jonathan Signs Anti-Gay Bill Into Law

On January 7th, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law, reports the New York Times. The draconian anti-gay law mandates prison time for same-sex relations, outlaws patronage of gay organizations and clubs, and refuses to recognize same-sex marriages accepted as legal in other countries. Even though Nigeria already has other anti-gay laws, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act worsens the already poor state of LGBTQ rights in Nigeria.

HIV activists in Nigeria have decried the law, arguing that it will drive vulnerable populations underground and shutter HIV services, while others fear that the law will trigger an influx of asylum seekers as LGBTQ people flee the country. Global leaders and human rights organizations have criticized the law as an affront to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

The situation in Nigeria has become increasingly inhospitable for gays, according to news reports. The Associated Press reports that 38 men have been arrested for alleged violations of the law, out of a list of 168 targets compiled by police. The executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights has accused Nigerian police of brutally beating four gay men until they revealed the names of other gays, according to the Associated Press. An Islamic court in Bauchi sentenced a man to 20 lashes for reportedly engaging in same-sex relations, reports BBC News.

Predictably, members of the American Religious Right have been applauding anti-gay sentiments in Nigeria, when not overtly encouraging them. Long before the bill was signed into law, American Religious Right voices were cheering on homophobia in Nigeria. According to Kapya John Kaoma's 2012 report, Colonizing African Values, Sharon Slater of Family Watch International has made connections in several African countries, including Nigeria. Slater reportedly delivered a homophobic speech at the 2011 International Law Conference on Challenges in Upholding the Rights of Women and Children in Nigeria, depicting LGBTQ rights as a threat to religious freedom and parental prerogatives.

In 2009, after the Nigerian government refused to recognize same-sex marriage, Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel condemned the European Union for criticizing Nigeria.  "The European Union has certainly been infiltrated by homo-fascists," he said, according to One News Now.  "They are using that body to essentially try to push the international homosexual agenda down the throats of countries that respect traditional values relative to sexual morality."

In June 2013, MassResistance commented on Nigeria's "bold steps" to resist "the Western world's efforts to subvert public morality". The statement claimed that African nations have "had enough" of societal breakdown allegedly caused by gays.
"In many ways, the Africans are feeling the brunt of the world-wide homosexual activist movement even more than the United States. They are dealing with the huge spread of AIDS. But also, the breakdown in society caused by the homosexual movement seems to bring more general social destruction in African cultures than in the West. And nation after nation has had enough.

Should the punishments be this harsh? That's certainly up for debate. Obviously, the Nigerian legislature thinks so, given the desperate situation there. But similar laws are found around the world. To give some perspective, current Massachusetts law punishes homosexual behavior with up to 20 years in prison."

This is not to say that the American Religious Right created the current situation in Nigeria. Homophobia is a widespread problem in many parts of the globe, with or without outside activism. However, fomenting homophobia in an already homophobic environment is unethical, and applauding bigoted laws is vile.

Some American anti-LGBTQ activists will smile upon Nigeria's new law, just as they have smiled upon anti-gay efforts in Uganda, Russia, and Jamaica. Despite evidence that homophobic policies and attitudes are having a deleterious impact on Nigeria's LGBTQ community, many among the Religious Right will be unmoved. The American Religious Right's reactions to Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, and Jamaica have revealed their true colors, showing us what they want to see in the U.S.

The Religious Right aside, the signing of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law is yet another reminder that the struggle for LGBTQ rights continues. As LGBTQ communities make gains in some parts of the world, other communities are losing ground because of bigotry and ignorance. The world must condemn unjust legislation such as this if equality is ever to be realized.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Huffington Post: Into the Heart Of Darkness? Uganda and Nigeria Pass Anti-Homosexuality Laws

NPR: Nigeria's New Anti-Gay Law A Harsh Reminder Of Global Attitudes

Associated Press: Why it's a crime to be gay in Nigeria

Commentary Tidbits

Love, Joy, Feminism: Oscar Nominated Alone But Not Alone: A Product of the Doug Phillips / Michael Farris Empire

Talk to Action: The Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Politics of The Knights of Columbus

OnFaith: 5 Churchy Phrases That Are Scaring Off Millennials

Council on Contemporary Families: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates

News Tidbits

Aljazeera: Vatican criticized in report on child abuse

The Advocate: California Caterer Refuses to Serve Gay Wedding Over 'Christian Beliefs'

ABC 15: Sexual education causing controversy in Tempe

San Francisco Chronicle: Colorado cake maker appeals order to serve gays

Lone Star Q: Federal judge rejects anti-gay group’s attempt to file brief in case challenging Texas’

Topeka Capital Journal: KCC employee uses state email to air intent to 'extol King Jesus'

ABA Journal: Judge censured for asking staffers to pray, run errands

Raw Story: Eighty percent of congregation quits after Indiana church forces out gay choir director

Boston Globe: Can the evangelical church embrace gay couples?

WKRN ABC 2: Vandals spray paint pro-gay message on Cookeville Chick-fil-A

“I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb"

According to Raw Story, the city council of Shreveport, Louisiana recently passed a non-discrimination ordinance, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. When a dissenting councilman, Ron Webb, opposed the ordinance by citing the Bible, one transgender woman insisted that Webb put his money where his mouth is. The following video captures Pamela Raintree's powerful public comment at a Shreveport city council meeting.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Commentary Tidbits

The Nation: How U.S. Evangelicals Fueled the Rise of Russia’s ‘Pro-Family’ Right

Amnesty International: Living for love, dying because of hate: the rising tide of homophobia in Africa

Overturning Tables: Why I am a Radical Activist for All Things Evil 

Patrol: Homeschoolers Anonymous and Evangelical Response

Godless in Dixie: Father Abraham Had Many Psychoses

TFN Insider: Judge Smacks Down Texas Religious-Right Group for Trying to Waste His Time

GLAAD: Brian Brown extends his anti-LGBT activism across the globe

Raw Story: Muslim U.S. President to team up with gays to make us go extinct just like the gay dinosaurs

News Tidbits

Religion News Service: This year’s March for Life reaches a new group: evangelicals

Reuters: Pope, in nod to conservatives, calls abortion "horrific"

Associated Press: Vatican to Polish Prosecutor: We Don't Extradite

Huffington Post: Sally Kern Slams Oklahoma Gay Marriage Ruling: 'Homosexuality Is Not A Civil Right'

Huffington Post: Rick Santorum Book Blue Collar Conservatives To Be Released This Spring

LGBTQ Nation: Mormon church reminds local leaders they are still opposed to homosexuality

Edge Boston: Christie Named By Hate Group As Co-Defendant In Appeal On Conversion Ban Decision

Washington Blade: Trans rights bill, ‘ex-gay’ therapy ban top Maryland legislative agenda

Gay Star News: UK Christian therapists ban ‘gay cures’

Louisville Courier-Journal: Noah's Ark biblical theme park project risks collapsing without more bond buyers

Pink News: Utah man says he went on hunger strike ‘to expose the hatred of the homosexual movement’

Gay Star News: Gays are ‘sick’ like witches, says Ghana church leader

Ugandan President Rejects Anti-Gay Bill (UPDATED)

As mentioned in a prior post, Ugandan parliament passed a draconian anti-gay bill in December 2013, which would mandate life imprisonment for same-sex sexual acts. On Friday, January 17th, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni refused to sign the bill, according to BBC News.

The Daily Monitor reports that Museveni criticized Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, a supporter of the legislation, for passing the bill without a quorum of MPs. “How can you pass law without the quorum of Parliament after it has been pointed out? What sort of Parliament is this? How can Parliament be the one to break the Constitution and the Law repeatedly?” he wrote in a December 28th letter to Parliament.

Museveni's refusal to sign the anti-gay bill should not be interpreted as evidence of a pro-LGBTQ stance, however. In a copy of President Museveni's letter posted by Warren Throckmorton, Museveni described homosexuality as an instance in which "nature goes wrong", likening it to albinism, epilepsy, and sterility. According to the Daily Monitor, Museveni referred to gays as "abnormal", rejecting the idea that non-heterosexual orientations are normal variations of human sexuality. "You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people,” he stated. Museveni also claimed that some people become gay or lesbian due to "sexual starvation" or for "mercenary reasons", the Daily Monitor reported. Museveni's solution involves increasing economic opportunities in his country so that Ugandans will not be tempted by financial enticements to become gay for "mercenary reasons".

Museveni, like his more hardline colleagues in Ugandan parliament, embraces false stereotypes about LGBTQ persons. He refuses to countenance homosexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation, attributing it instead to pathology, sexual frustration, or financial enticement. Museveni's attitude does not bode well for LGBTQ rights in Uganda, even if his refusal to sign the anti-gay bill was a sound decision.

LGBTQ activists have welcomed Museveni's decision while admitting that more needs to be done. According to Pink News, African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group's director, Edwin Sesange, welcomed Museveni's decision but added, "we are urging him to do more by publicly declaring the anti-gay bill unlawful."
"President Museveni should come out and tell the public that he doesn’t support it. He should also tell the public that he doesn’t support sections 145, 146, 148 of the penal code – which stipulates that homosexuality should be criminalised as ‘unnatural offences’.

He should also ask the MPs to vote against the bill when it goes back to Parliament. The President should work towards striking down both sections of the penal code in order to achieve equality and justice for the LGBT people in Uganda."
The Washington Blade reports that a delegation of U.S. lawmakers, led by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), is scheduled to meet with President Museveni in Uganda later this month. (Sen. Inhofe condemned Uganda's anti-gay bill in 2011, according to Red Dirt Report.) The delegation will reportedly address armed conflict in central Africa, although whether U.S. lawmakers will discuss the anti-gay bill is unknown. However, the Washington Blade added that the delegation rejected an offer to meet with Ugandan LGBTQ rights advocates during their visit.

The future for LGBTQ persons in Uganda is uncertain. Will Ugandan parliament try to push the legislation through in spite of Museveni's decision? Will international pressure alter the course of the bill? What role will the Religious Right play in the bill's future, given that U.S. Religious Right leaders have encouraged homophobia in Uganda? Uganda's LGBTQ community and LGBTQ rights supporters across the globe will watch the situation closely.

UPDATE: According to a press release from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, a delegation of human rights advocates met with President Museveni today to discuss the anti-gay bill. The press release stated that Museveni pledged to reject the anti-gay bill in its current form, branding it "fascist".

Museveni reportedly plans to consult with his party and propose new legislation protecting minors from coercive sexual activity. In response, the RFK Center argued that the Ugandan government should enforce its current laws outlawing sexual abuse of minors and refrain from introducing bills that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. (Hat tip to Box Turtle Bulletin.)

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Reliefweb: Prosecution and persecution: Anti-gay legislation in Nigeria, Uganda endangers LGBTI refugees, too

The Bilerico Project: Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill: What the West Should Know

Anthony B. Susan: When Shaping Culture Means Shaping Hate

Monday, January 6, 2014

Commentary Tidbits

Dulce de leche: Why I Burned My Newsboys CDs

The Guardian: The nuns' Obamacare contraception lawsuit isn't about religious freedom

New York Times: Indoctrinating Religious Warriors

Cosmopolitan: Meet the Woman Suing the Catholic Bishops Over Their Anti-Abortion Policies

Religion News Service: The evangelical unease over contraception

Spiritual Sounding Board: The Christian Patriarchy Movement’s Dark Secret of Wife Spanking

Salon: More than half of American women now live in a state actively trying to deny them abortion care

Alternet: 10 Signs Religious Fundamentalism Is in Decline

News Tidbits

Aljazeera: Anti-abortion pregnancy centers thrive in Texas as real clinics close

Talking Points Memo: Gay Marriage Opponents Call For Uprising In Utah

CNN: RNC winter meeting to make time for anti-abortion rights rally

The Advocate: Anti-LGBT Activist Peter LaBarbera Links Trans People to Satan, Calls Robin Roberts 'Tragic'

Los Angeles Times: Vatican says pope's comments on gay couples don't mark policy change

Edge Boston: Christian Programs Offer Alternative to Gay-Friendly Boy Scouts

My Fox 4: Mayor of Flower Mound declares 2014 Year of the Bible

Pink News: Catholic Bishop says Maltese Catholic MPs will commit a ‘grave moral act’ by voting for civil unions

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Religious Right Promotes Homophobia at Jamaica Conferences

It's no secret that the America Religious Right has applauded and even encouraged homophobia across the globe. Journalists and bloggers have reported on American anti-gay activism in Uganda and other parts of Africa, Russia, and Belize, among other countries. Recently, American Religious Right figures have promoted homophobia in Jamaica, a country where several high-profile cases of homophobic and transphobic violence have rocked the LGBTQ community. (Hat tip to Dadland Shut Up)

First, the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) and the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship hosted a conference in Kingston on December 7th, 2013 entitled "International Law and the Welfare of the Family: The Impact of the Secular Worldview on Children". The workshop offerings included the following titles:

  • New Rights and the War on Family
  • The Education System: The Final Frontier of Contending Worldviews
  • Parental Responsibility and the Rights of the Child: The Necessity of Balance
  • The Institution of Marriage and its Social Implications
  • The Social and Economic Costs of Fatherlessness

Conference speakers included Religious Right activists from across the globe, including Andrea Minichiello Williams (founder of Christian Concern) and Peter LaBarbera (president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality). Buzzfeed reports Christian Concern and AFTAH are lobbying against the repeal of a Jamaican law criminalizing same-sex sexual relations.

“Do not be like us, do not be like Britain, do not sit idly by as so-called ‘LGBT activists’ manipulate words and laws to achieve dominance in your country," LaBarbera said at the conference, according to Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed also quoted LaBarbera as defending ex-gay ideology and speaking of LGBTQ people and pedophiles in the same breath.
"The dirty little secret that the media and homosexual activists are desperate — desperate — to squelch is that people are coming out of homosexuality every day. This is the work of God, this is the work of Jesus ... It’s another secret that American activists don’t like to tell is that NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, used to march in gay pride parades."
LaBarbera called LGBTQ equality efforts a "sin movement", discouraging Jamaica from repealing its anti-gay law.
"I do not stand with my government. I’m a patriotic American, but I do not stand with the current United States government in its promotion of homosexuality and gender confusion. But I do stand with the Jamaican people ... I pray that you will learn from our mistakes and from lessons of history and avoid the inevitable moral corruption and health hazards and the danger to young people that come from capitulating to this sin movement that calls itself gay. It is almost now can be predicted with 100 percent accuracy, if the law is a teacher: If you take down this law, it will only lead to more demands. Appeasement does not work."
Similarly, Andrea Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern slammed LGBTQ equality efforts as an attack on Jamaican families, according to Buzzfeed.
"Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families' ... If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe."
Like LaBarbera, she spoke of LGBTQ people and sexual predators in the same breath. “They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to pedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”

Later, LaBarbera was unrepentant about his participation in the conference. In the December 17th edition of The Janet Mefferd Show, LaBarbera praised JCHS as "wonderful believers who are trying to preserve their anti-sodomy law, essentially, under pressure by the United States, the European Union and other western powers to get rid of it." He applauded anti-LGBTQ activists in Jamaica for resisting international calls for equality.
"America has become a force promoting, exporting sexual immorality. We've long done it with abortion. Now it's sexual immorality, and what's happening is the United States is using its money, its foreign aid dollars, and its power to push the gay agenda on small countries like Jamaica. And the Jamaicans are saying no ... The European Union is also pressuring them."
LaBarbera insisted that the Jamaica's anti-gay law isn't harmful because it's allegedly not enforced. Rather, he defended the law as a tool for teaching morality, warning that LGBTQ activists would make more demands for equality if the law were repealed.
"[The anti-gay law is] not enforced. It has a hard labor provision, but it's not enforced. I mean, there's gay activists that operate in Jamaica. There are homosexuals operating in Jamaica, so it's not like they're sentencing homosexuals to hard labor. But they understand that the law is a teacher, and if you take away this law, it's the first step leading to the the next gay activist demand, then the next demand, until you're like here in the United States where we have homosexual so-called marriage spreading from state to state."
Actually, LGBTQ people have been arrested, detained, and prosecuted in Jamaica because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, according to Human Rights Watch. Whether or not the anti-LGBTQ law is enforced, it remains an unjust law that has no place in an enlightened society.

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Additionally, Brian Camenker of Mass Resistance was a guest speaker at a JCHS event in Kingston's Emancipation Park on December 10th, 2013. (Hat tip to Buzzfeed and Bartholomew's Notes on Religion.) In a video excerpt from the event, the announcer praised Mass Resistance as a group fighting the "sexual rights agenda". At the 2:28 mark, Camenker warned his Jamaica audience that repealing Jamaica's anti-gay law would have "terrible consequences".
"Here in Jamaica you are facing pressure by special interests to repeal the buggery law, which is being pushed hard both in the courts and at your prime minister. I am here to warn you that it will have terrible consequences. A law that contradicts God's law is the beginning of a slippery slope that you cannot imagine."
Camenker claimed that legalization of same-sex relations in the U.S. has resulted in gay pride parades "parading down the streets of cities are all kinds of bizarre, perverse activities, vulgar and profane signs, cross-dressers, sadomasochism, people mocking the church, and much more." He lamented non-discrimination laws that have frustrated anti-gay businesses, as well as gay adoptions and pro-LGBTQ lessons in schools.

At the 7:45 mark, Camenker complained that state governments have to spend money on HIV and other diseases he associated with gays. Outrageously, he claimed that most violence against gays is perpetrated by other gays. His anti-gay words deflect from the fact that anti-LGBTQ hate violence is a serious problem, and that intimate partner violence among gays, lesbians, and bisexuals is comparable to that of heterosexuals.
"The state and federal government are being asked in Massachusetts to spend enormous amounts of money on HIV and AIDS and other diseases associated with homosexual behavior.  Gay-on-gay violence has become so epidemic that there's now considerable money allocated in the Massachusetts state budget to deal with it. You will hear a lot of talk about violence against gays. What they don't tell you is that it's overwhelmingly from other gays."
At the 9:00 mark, he claimed that same-sex attraction and gender nonconformity supposedly result from sexual abuse, framing dubious "conversion therapy" as a form of much-needed help for minors that is being banned by U.S. states.
"What about kids who are sexually molested early on and as a result have homosexual and cross-dressing feelings? Suppose they want help and counseling to deal with those issues? The radical homosexual movement will have none of that. They're saying that kids shouldn't be allowed to get counseling or help because they say the kids are really 'born that way' and that homosexuality is natural and normal, so they are pushing for laws in Massachusetts and other states to make it illegal for licensed mental health professionals to give children the help they desperately need in those situations."
At the 10:01 mark, Camenker claimed that the ascendancy of LGBTQ rights is allegedly extinguishing free speech in America. He incorrectly claims that churches can no longer speak freely or hold events on LGBTQ matters, when in reality, churches and religious organizations can and do promote anti-gay messages.
"But what's particularly chilling is what happens to free speech when all this is imposed. At first, we were free to talk about what we think. After a while, anyone who publicly or even privately disagrees with these things can now expect to be relentlessly labeled as a hater, a bigot, and other disgusting things I won't mention here. Just Google me if you don't believe it. Churches are no longer free to speak out or even hold events that discuss these issues."
In short, Religious Right figures are fueling homophobia in Jamaica using the same strategies they have used in the U.S. Anti-gay voices tell Jamaican audiences that gay rights are an affront to God, a danger to children, a disease vector, and a threat to free speech. In their efforts to prevent the repeal of anti-gay legislation, American Religious Right voices are networking with their Jamaican counterparts and spreading pernicious stereotypes. This is unethical and unacceptable.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: Mass Resistance Spreads Anti-Gay Hate in Jamaica

SPLC Hatewatch: Peter LaBarbera Spreads Anti-LGBT Propaganda at Jamaican Conference

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Peter LaBarbera blames Jamaican LGBTs for their own persecution

LGBTQ Nation: U.S., British anti-gay activists spread homophobic messages at Jamaica conference