Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Musical Interlude: "Man of Constant Sorrow" by Asp

Asp, one of my favorite goth metal bands, recently covered the folk song "Man of Constant Sorrow". Fans of the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? will recognize the song immediately.

News Tidbits

New York Times: Kim Davis, Kentucky County Clerk, Met Pope Francis

Willamette Week: Sweet Cakes by Melissa Owners Defying Order to Pay $135,000 to Lesbian Couple Who Wanted a Wedding Cake

The Advocate: Antigay Indiana Lawmaker Resigns After Sex Tape Text

The Guardian: Anti-abortion campaigner Troy Newman denied visa for Australia after Labor's intervention

NPR: 6 Clips Of Audio You Should Hear From The Planned Parenthood Hearing

Raw Story: Out of control congressman badgers and interrupts Planned Parenthood head 19 times in 5 minutes

ABC News (Australia): Anglican Church concerned gay marriage would force Christian wedding suppliers to cater for same-sex couples

Commentary Tidbits

Orlando Sentinel: 'Fundamentalist mind' explains why GOP won't compromise

National Catholic Reporter: Pope sends painfully mixed signals to abuse victims

The Atlantic: Why Did Pope Francis Meet With Kim Davis?

Politico: Donald Trump’s saving grace: Televangelists

Buzzfeed: I Asked An Anti-Marriage Equality Group For An Interview 17 Times And They Never Replied

Slate: The Planned Parenthood Hearing Shows How out of Step Republicans Are With America

The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser: The Closing of the Evangelical Mind

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

No Fear Panel Champions "Religious Freedom" at 2015 Values Voters Summit

The Values Voters Summit took place on September 25-27 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. As discussed in a prior post, much of this year's conference content focused on imagined threats to the "religious freedom" of conservative Christians. A perfect example of such thinking was the "No Fear" panel, featuring Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and three young champions of the Religious Right. As I watched a video of the panel discussion at the Values Voters Summit video archive, I realized how narrow their understanding of religious freedom really was.

Tony Perkins promoted his new book, No Fear: Real Stories of a Courageous New Generation Standing for Truth, which shares the stories of right-wing young people standing up for "God's truth" against "oppression". Perkins praised millennial members of the Religious Right for their convictions.
 "We're told that millennials are walking away from their faith, walking away from the church, and clearly some of that is happening, but what I have found is that there are young people in this country, in this upcoming generation that are more committed to their faith than those of my generation ever thought they'd be, because they understand the cost of discipleship."
Perkins reminded listeners that the Religious Right seeks to foment piety, not rebellion against authority. The irony of his statement in the wake of Religious Right defiance of the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision made me chuckle.
"What we're not trying to do is create a generation of rebels or even feed this strain of libertarianism that just is rebellious against authority. That's not what we're about. But there is a time and there is a place when we have to choose whether or not we have a greater fear of God than a fear of man. I believe we're living in such a time ... [when] all of us, as followers of Jesus Christ are going to have to choose between following faith in Jesus Christ and stepping out, or shrinking back in fear."
Among the "No Fear" panel lineup was Live Action's Lila Rose, an anti-abortion activists best known for secretly filming abortion clinic employees. Also on the panel was the Radiance Foundation's Ryan Bomberger, an anti-abortion activist who landed in legal trouble with the NAACP when he referred to them as the "National Association for the Abortion of Colored People". The third member of the panel was Roy Costner, the 2013 Liberty High School valedictorian who tore up an approved speech and recited a prayer at his graduation. The Freedom from Religion Foundation -- which Perkins referred to as the "atheist Taliban" -- criticized Costner's speech as unconstitutional proselytizing to a captive audience, according to Raw Story.

Rose wasted no time lambasting Planned Parenthood, assuring the audience that the health care provider would be defunded. "I don't think it's a matter of if Planned Parenthood will be defunded; it's just a matter at this point of when Planned Parenthood will be defunded," she said. Rose depicted her anti-abortion activism as a righteous crusade against evil, arguing that it was an unfolding of God's plan.
"We need to expose the evil. As long as the evil is hidden, as long as the evil is quiet behind the serial abortion facility doors, it can continue. It can keep happening. And these children are at risk of this incredible injustice, and women are being lied to, so we need to expose it."
Costner urged listeners to stand up for Biblical values, warning them that their religious liberty was in jeopardy. Costner seemed to see his graduation prayer as a small victory for religious freedom in a politically correct society, rather than an inappropriate stunt.
"I encourage all of you: stand up for what you believe in. Our liberties are being taken away. We've got to wake up and realize this. We can't be fearful of what others may think of us, of what politicians may say, of what implications we may have. We've got to take a stand for what's Biblically correct, not politically."
Throughout the panel discussion, Perkins spoke warmly of people who are "standing boldly and courageously" for their Christian faith. The implication, it seemed, was that fighting abortion and bringing religion into secular spaces were acts of courage. Along this line of thought, respecting other people's boundaries and heeding the wall of separation must therefore be acts of cowardice. The Religious Right's lionization of activists such as Rose, Bomberger, and Costner thus serves a two-fold purpose: it encourages right-wing Christians to encroach on the secular realm, and it demonizes their opponents as cowards who are ashamed of Christ.

The "No Fear" panel reminds us that the Religious Right still hasn't learned anything. Religious Right activists still refuse to respect the wall of separation between church and state, the LGBTQ community's right to equal treatment, and women's right to control their reproductive destinies. Any attempt to compel the Religious Right to respect these things is interpreted as an attack on their faith and freedom. Thus, in their minds, fanatics become valiant heroes, and those who respect secular spaces and their fellow citizens become cowards.

Monday, September 28, 2015

News Tidbits

Religion News Service: Hundreds shut out of sole session on gays at World Meeting of Families

Reuters: Pope Francis backs ‘conscientious objection’ to marriage licenses for gay couples

Los Angeles Times: Junipero Serra statue at Carmel Mission vandalized days after he was made a saint

On Top Magazine: Kim Davis Honored At FRC's Values Voter Summit

NPR: Hot Topics At Values Voter Summit: Boehner, Trump, Kim Davis

Associated Press: Conservatives pumped up by Boehner's stepping down warn 2016 field: Defy us at your own peril

KGTV ABC 10: Girl barred from San Diego Christian school due to lesbian parents

WLWT 5: Street preacher caught on video ripping pages out Quran at Wright State University

Salt Lake Tribune: Conversion therapies don’t work, experts say, so why do gay Mormons still seek them out?

Commentary Tidbits

The Atlantic: What Happens When the 'Moral Majority' Becomes a Minority?

Inquisitr: Josh Duggar Makes Bill Maher's List of Conservative "Instant Heroes" Who Turned Out to be "Embarrassments"

Right Wing Watch: Far-Right's Choice For Speaker Tied To Disgraced Duggar Leader

RH Reality Check: Anti-LGBTQ Headline Makers Lionized at Values Voter Summit

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pope Francis Addresses Clergy Abuse During His Visit to Philadelphia

In a prior post, I expressed dismay at how little attention Pope Francis gave to clergy sexual abuse during his U.S. visit. I may have spoken too soon. This weekend, Pope Francis had much more to say about the clergy abuse crisis plaguing the Catholic Church, but was it enough?

On September 27th, Pope Francis met with five survivors of childhood sexual abuse at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to Huffington Post. Pope Francis met with the survivors for 30 minutes and delivered a message of remorse.
"Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love. I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. In some cases the trust was betrayed by members of your own family, in other cases by priests who carry a sacred responsibility for the care of soul. In all circumstances, the betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.

For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children."
Pope Francis also touched on clergy abuse during a Sunday speech to clergymen, according to Huffington Post. During a September 27th address to American bishops at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, he grieved over the harm causes by clergy abuse. "God weeps", he told the audience, assuring them that perpetrators would be held accountable.. "The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of children can not be kept secret any longer."

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was unimpressed. "Is a child anywhere on earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No," he wrote in a September 27th statement.
"Almost every survivor cares most about prevention. That’s also what helps us heal best: knowing that our pain prompts action that might spare even one child a lifetime of devastation from sexual violence.

Francis and his colleagues, however, refuse to take that action. Brave and bold on other topics, here Francis plays it safe and timid. He and his underlings prefer to talk ‘healing.’ It’s safer, easier, less controversial and more comfortable than the hard work of prevention. (The more skeptical would also point out that it’s more self-serving to talk ‘healing’ than initiate reform.)

Kids are safer when we acknowledge that every day, several boys and girls are being sexually assaulted by Catholic clerics. Every day, thousands of Catholic officials selfishly sit on secrets about child molesting clerics that police and prosecutors could use to pursue and prosecute these criminals.

So we beg Francis to stop acting like the abuse and cover ups are over and that only healing is needed. That’s disingenuous and dangerous."
Pope Francis shares kind words abundantly, but time will tell if he is serious about holding clergy perpetrators accountable. Were his Sunday talks merely good PR, or will he back up his words with concrete action?

News Tidbits

Pew Research Center: What’s a sin? Catholics don’t always agree with their church

Columbus Dispatch: Gay-marriage debate facing Pope Francis at Philadelphia event

Buzzfeed: LGBT Catholics Alarmed With Pope’s Remarks About “Unjust Discrimination”

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Jindal: Boehner resignation isn't enough; 'It's time to fire everybody'

Reuters: Evangelicals’ event to hear Trump and Carson — no Jeb Bush

CNN: Conservatives boo Trump after Rubio 'clown' insult

Associated Press: Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Blames Governor for Legal Woes

Topeka Capital-Journal: Ken Ham's book looks at millennials and the church

New York Times: Refugee Crisis in Syria Raises Fears in South Carolina   (Hat tip to Infidel753

Commentary Tidbits

SPLC Hatewatch: Anti-LGBT and Anti-Muslim Extremists Dominate 2015 Values Voter Summit Lineup

Mother Jones: The Boy Scouts Are No Longer Welcome at This Anti-Gay Jamboree

Washington Post: Social conservatives cheer Boehner’s resignation: ‘It’s an answered prayer!’

Nashville Scene: How a terrible worship song drove me from Christianity   (Hat tip to Bruce Gerenscer)

Buzzfeed: This Is What Happens When You Confront The Former Head Of The Gay “Cure” Movement

The Guardian: Harry Potter was forbidden as a child, but the Bible's bloodshed was fair game

New York Magazine: Pope Francis’s Revolution Has Left Out Women

Huffington Post: Invasion of the Family Snatchers

The Advocate: The High Cost of the Black Church's Homophobia

Musical Interlude: "Supernature" by Inkubus Sukkubus

In honor of tonight's supermoon eclipse, here's "Supernature" by Inkubus Sukkubus. Nature is a beautiful and magnificent thing!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Clergy Abuse Victims Disappointed with Pope Francis During U.S. Visit

Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. has been full of positive messages and happy gatherings. However, the clergy abuse crisis still looms over his church. As Reuters noted, Pope Francis is visiting a country where the Catholic Church has lost members and money in the wake of countless clergy sexual abuse cases.

The Catholic Church's long history of sexual abuse by clergy is well-known. Too often, the church has responded to child sexual abuse with cover-ups and silence, traumatizing victims in the process. To add insult to injury, some Catholic diocese have adamantly opposed legislation that would extend the statute of limitation for childhood sexual abuse. Rather than cherish children as its savior did, the Catholic Church has all too often chosen to protect itself at the expense of childhood abuse victims.

The world noticed. In 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Committee Against Torture came down hard on Vatican representatives during two hearings on clergy abuse. Concluding Observations on the Second Periodic Report of the Holy See, a report issued by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, criticized the Catholic Church for covering up clergy abuse at the expense of victims.

To be fair, the Catholic Church has taken steps to address clergy abuse. The Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Ireland's Hussey Commission, and and the USCCB's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People are examples of church efforts to address the clergy abuse crisis. In 2013, the Vatican announced plans to create a commission that would advise Pope Francis on how to counsel clergy abuse victims and prevent future abuse, according to the New York Times. This summer, Pope Francis launched a new tribunal section that will hear cases of bishops who failed to take action against clergy abuse. How successfully the tribunal will address clergy abuse remains to be seen, however.

While Pope Francis did touch upon the clergy abuse crisis during his U.S. visit, many observers feel that he did not go far enough. During a September 24th speech at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Pope Francis alluded to the clergy abuse crisis. While Pope Francis acknowledged the suffering caused by the scandal, he did not explain how the Catholic Church would confront the problem. 
"I know that, as a presbyterate in the midst of God’s people, you suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the Church in the most vulnerable of her members ... I accompany you at this time of pain and difficulty, and I thank God for your faithful service to his people." 

The Pope's praise for American bishops in the wake of the clergy abuse scandal gave some people pause. During a September 23rd address to Catholic bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C., Pope Francis praised the bishops for supposedly helping clergy abuse victims heal.
"I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice. Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful. I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated."
How could Pope Francis be so naive? How could he ignore the countless bishops who covered up clergy abuse and abandoned victims? Where was the call for accountability, the acknowledgement of unethical behavior?

Advocates for clergy abuse victims were unhappy with Pope Francis' remarks. In a September 23rd statement, SNAP president Barbara Dorris was disappointed in Pope Francis over his praise for U.S. bishops.
"We're sad that Francis claims US bishops have shown "courage" in the abuse crisis. Almost without exception, they have shown cowardice and callousness and continue to do so now. They offer excuses, exploit legal technicalities and hide behind expensive lawyers and public relations professionals, hardly the marks of courage.

We're also sad that Francis can't bring himself to call this crisis what it is - not "difficult moments in recent history," but the continuing cover up of clergy child sex crimes by almost the entire church hierarchy."
SNAP director David Clohessy accused Pope Francis of minimizing the clergy abuse crisis in a September 25th statement.
"We’ve long sought better papal actions more than better papal words. We still do. But this degree of insensitivity is hurtful. It deters victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from reporting child sex crimes, known and suspected. When in 2015, even this pope minimizes and mischaracterizes this crisis - calling it “difficult moments” for instance – where’s even the hope, much less the evidence, of change? Why bother speaking up if even Francis sees the scandal only through the eyes of clerics?"
John Salveson, president of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, told the Washington Post that the Pope's comments to American bishops were "bizarre".
"In reality, the American church hierarchy has treated clergy sex abuse victims as adversaries and enemies for decades ... His concern about how the abuse crisis has weighed on the bishops’ spirits, and his hope that all of their good deeds will help them heal from the crisis, reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role the church has played in this self-inflicted crisis."
Several lawmakers gave Pope Francis the opportunity to show his commitment to stamping out clergy abuse. For example, Capital New York reported that New York Assemblywoman Margaret Markey urged Pope Francis to convince New York's bishops to support a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.

Additionally, District of Columbia Councilman David Grosso urged the Catholic Church to support a statute of limitations reform bill. Earlier this year, Grosso introduced the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act of 2015, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for the recovery of damages related to childhood sexual abuse. In a statement at the SNAP website, Grosso called on Pope Francis to hold bishops accountable for clergy abuse.
"In his prayer meeting with U.S. bishops yesterday, Pope Francis spoke of a 'generous commitment to bring healing'- this stance must extend to those who have suffered sexual abuse.  I am calling on the Pope to hold the bishops of the Catholic Church accountable for abuse committed on their watch. It is past time for the Church to support better laws that protect children, expose predators, and punish enablers.

Earlier this year I introduced the 'Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act' to give child victims of sexual abuse more time to file a civil lawsuit against perpetrators. Our current laws unjustly protect predators, and too often the Church has opposed legal reform. If the Catholic Church is truly committed to healing and forgiveness, then it will support this legislation and efforts to protect children from harm."
Clergy abuse victims deserve more than a few kind words from Pope Francis. The Pope's U.S. tour represents a squandered opportunity to address the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The Pope's visit could have been an opportune time to publicly acknowledge the church's failings and demonstrate remorse to victims. Understandably, victims and advocates are disappointed.

9/27/15 UPDATE: On September 27th, Pope Francis met with childhood sexual abuse survivors and discussed clergy abuse in an address to American bishops. For more information, click here.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Vox: Pope Francis is doing more to fight sex abuse than his predecessors. That's still not enough.

Los Angeles Times: Abuse victims say Catholic Church must do more to atone for predatory priests

Love, Joy, Feminism: Pope Francis Presides over a Church Still Fighting to Keep Accused Sex Abusers from Going to Trial 

Boston Globe: Pope Francis, the church sex abuse scandal is not over

Pope Francis Warns World About Climate Change; Right-Wingers Disgusted

Pope Francis is in the midst of a week-long visit to the United States, which has included stops in Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia. In recent speeches to U.S. and world leaders, Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of protecting the environment, citing his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si. Passionately, he has urged audiences to safeguard the natural world because of its intrinsic value and because humanity's future depends on a healthy environmental. Predictably, some right-wing commentators are unhappy with the Pope's environmentalism.

During his September 23rd address at the White House, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of addressing climate change and caring for our "common home".
"Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies ... [W]e wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home."  
In a September 24th speech before a joint meeting of Congress, Pope Francis noted that safeguarding the environment serves the common good. The Pope called on listeners to avert the worst effects of environmental harm, adding, "I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play."

During his September 25th address at the United Nations, Pope Francis listed the natural world as one of the "victims of power badly exercised" by humans. He spoke optimistically about the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, as well as the upcoming Paris Conference on Climatic Change.

During his United Nations speech, Pope Francis reminded his audience that human life if intimately connected to the environment, and thus humans must respect the natural world.
"First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity."
Pope Francis argued that all living beings possess intrinsic value, having been created by a loving deity.
"Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.)."

Many Americans were receptive to Pope Francis' calls for environmental consciousness. On September 24th, as the Pope spoke before Congress, the Moral Action on Climate Justice Rally was under way at the National Mall. According to Religion News Service, speakers from Pax Christi International, Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists addressed the crowd, while Eric Paslay and Moby provided musical entertainment. At the climax of the rally, attendees watched Pope Francis' speech to Congress live on jumbotrons.

Unfortunately, some right-wing figures refused to take Pope Francis' environmental message seriously. Despite ample evidence demonstrating the role of human activity in climate change, and despite the moral imperative to preserve the environment, several right-wing voices criticized the Pope for discussing climate change.

Even before the papal visit to the U.S., one political figure made his displeasure known. In a September 17th commentary piece at Town Hall, Congressman Paul Gosar took offense at the environmental content of Pope Francis' upcoming speeches, livid over their supposed "socialist talking points" and "false science".
"Media reports indicate His Holiness instead intends to focus the brunt of his speech on climate change--a climate that has been changing since first created in Genesis. More troubling is the fact that this climate change talk has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into “climate justice” and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policies. If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line. If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly. But when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one ...

The earth’s climate has been changing since God created it, with or without man. On that, we should all agree. In Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment (written with the consultation of that great seminary the EPA and its embattled head Gina McCarthy), he condemned anyone skeptical of the link between human activity and climate change and adopted the false science being propagated by the Left. If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous."

The Heartland Institute dismissed Pope Francis' environmental concerns in a series of statements posted on September 23rd. For example, external relations vice president James Taylor was disappointed that the Pope promoted "poorly supported global warming theories".
"We all share Pope Francis’s desire for responsible environmental stewardship. Unfortunately, Pope Francis appears to believe poorly supported global warming theories that have been strongly and repeatedly contradicted by real-world observations. His decision to spend so much time and effort venturing outside the realm of religion and into the realm of science and public policy is unlikely to advance his Christian mission."

After Pope Francis' speech at the White House on September 23rd, Fox Business commentator Stuart Varney was incredulous. Varney suggested that environmental issues belong in the realm of politics, ignoring the fact that climate change is also a pressing moral, economic, and public health-related issue. (Hat tip to Raw Story.)
"I was shocked at how much time the Pope spent on climate change, and how he walked right into the politics of climate change ... We have just sat through the president of the United States greeting Pope Francis to the White House, and the Pope then launched into a fifteen minute speech in which it was largely about climate change, and how we've all got to get on board with efforts to combat climate change. I think he stepped right into policy."

Some conservatives were not so much hostile to the Pope's environmentalism as lukewarm. Jeb Bush greeted Pope Francis' visit with enthusiasm, but his feelings toward the Pope's environmentalist message were chilly. Vanity Fair reports that during a presser on September 24th, Bush spoke warmly of the Pope but reminded journalists that Pope Francis is "not a scientist" with regard to climate issues. (According to the National Catholic Reporter, the Pope does have scientific training, having earned a título in chemistry from the Escuela Técnica Industrial in his native Argentina.)
"The Pope is not wrong. The Pope is a religious leader that I admire greatly, and I'm excited that he's coming for the first time to our country to have a dialogue with us. I think it's extraordinary.

Carbon emissions have dropped by 10 percent in the last decade. The United States has played a pretty constructive role if you're talking about climate change being an issue. And the way you create a focus on protecting the natural environment and the creatures that are divinely inspired, which is the Pope's view -- he's not a scientist; he's a religious leader -- is to create economic growth, to generate revenues to be able to help people."
Whether right-wing figures want to admit it or not, environmental harm is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Pollution threatens the public health and economic viability of countless communities, while climate change threatens to drastically reshape the planet. As a religious leader, Pope Francis has a moral imperative to discuss environmental issues, and thus his words on climate change were appropriate and important. While I disagree with Pope Francis on many issues, I respect his environmental awareness.

Too many right-wingers live in an ideological bubble that neither facts nor moral imperatives can penetrate. Neither the science corroborating claims of climate change nor the concrete dangers of pollution will persuade them to rethink their assumptions. Accepting climate change would force them to acknowledge that unregulated industry is not without negative environmental consequences, that unbridled consumption and waste are not sustainable, and that God is not going to rescue humanity from the planet it has sullied. Pope Francis reminded them of uncomfortable facts, and they would do well to listen.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Politico: Trump: Pope is wrong on climate change

Think Progress: Catholic Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio Explains Why He Won’t Listen To Pope Francis

Huffington Post: Conservatives Dismiss Pope On Climate Change, Warn Of Immigrant 'Anarchy'

Friday, September 25, 2015

So ... much ... material ...

The Religious Right has gathered for the 2015 Values Voters Summit ... Catholics are in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families ... Pope Francis is in the middle of his U.S. tour ... It's a tsunami of material on religion and the Religious Right!

:: faints ::

News Tidbits

New York Times: Pope Francis to Find a Church in Upheaval

Politico: Huckabee: Obama made pope's visit a 'cattle call for gay and pro-abortion activists'

Capital New York: New York Assemblywoman calls on Pope Francis to back child sexual abuse bill

The Guardian: Protesters urge pope to ordain female priests and stop 'legitimizing sexism' 

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Religious group sets 'Bring Your Bible to School Day' for Oct. 8

NPR: Israel Courts African-American Evangelicals, Despite Some Hurdles

Washington Post: Ben Carson’s take on Islam wins support on the right 

Pink News: Australian MP compares same-sex parenting to stealing children from Aborigines

Commentary Tidbits

My Naptime Journal: Yes, We're Still Talking About This (Trigger warning)

Battered Sheep: What Language Does Your Church Speak? The Language of Abusive Churches and Groups

Samantha Field: Huckabee and the Downfall of Western Civilization

This Ain't Livin': The right’s clever hold on rhetoric

New York Times: Bible Belt Atheist

Think Progress: Pope Extends His Support To Nuns Fighting Against Obamacare’s Birth Control Coverage

Religion Dispatches: How to Make Nones and Lose Money: Study Shows Cost of Catholic Sex Abuse Scandals

Gay Star News: Why Pope must act on Catholic adoption agencies refusing to place kids with gay parents

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis Canonizes Junipero Serra During U.S. Visit

Pope Francis' trip to the U.S. has drawn massive media attention, and I'll be blogging on Pope Francis soon. In the meantime, I'll focus on one of the controversial aspects of his visit.

On September 23rd, Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. Serra, an 18th century Spanish Franciscan friar who established numerous missions in California, has drawn fire for his role in the colonization of California and abuse of Native Americans.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Indian Country Today Media Network: Suzan Shown Harjo to Pope Francis: Don't Canonize Junípero Serra

Los Angeles Times: What California Indians lost under Junipero Serra, soon to be saint

Think Progress: Native Americans Protest The Pope’s Canonization Of A Man Who Abused Their People

Sunday, September 20, 2015

"Religious Freedom" Will Be the Talk of the Town at the 2015 Values Voters Summit

One of America's premier Religious Right events is the annual Values Voters Summit, a high-profile conference held in Washington D.C. I've observed past Values Voters Summits, and they provide a great opportunity to take the pulse of the Religious Right and watch Republican candidates woo conservative Christian voters. The annual conference is sponsored by Family Research Council Action, American Family Association Action, American Values, and other prominent Religious Right organizations. The 2015 Values Voters Summit will take place on September 25-27 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C.

"Religious liberty" (that is, the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people while hiding behind religion) will be a prominent theme at this year's Values Voters Summit, judging from the schedule. The conference's narrative, it seems, is that homophobes are persecuted people of faith under fire from the sinister LGBTQ community.

For example, a ticketed breakfast event will include a talk entitled "Whatever the Cost: Religious Freedom Under Fire", delivered by the Benham brothers and Kelvin Cochran. Jason and David Benham are Religious Right darlings who lost a lucrative reality show deal with HGTV over David's anti-gay comments, while Kelvin Cochran is Atlanta's former fire chief who was dismissed after distributing an anti-gay book in his workplace.

A ticketed luncheon will feature a talk entitled "American Cannot Wait", which will focus on a florist who refused to furnish flowers for a same-sex wedding.
"Barronelle Stutzman is the florist in Washington state who politely, but firmly, declined to provide flowers for a wedding between two homosexual men. Her refusal to betray her Lord and her biblical beliefs didn’t come without consequences. The Washington state attorney general and the ACLU filed lawsuits against Mrs. Stutzman.  The judge told the state AG and the homosexuals who filed the lawsuits that they could collect damages and attorney’s fees not only from Stutzman’s business – Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts – but from Stutzman personally. If they prevail, this means they can take everything she owns – her business, home, savings … everything. When the AG approached the 70-year old grandmother with a plea deal – pay a $2,000 penalty, a $1 payment for court costs and fees, and agree not to discriminate in the future – Mrs. Stutzman said: “NO!” Rather, she chose to fight for you and me and everyone who values religious freedom."
Another ticketed breakfast will feature Liberty Institute president Kelly Shackelford delivering a talk entitled "Saving Religious Freedom in Our Military...And Beyond". Shackelford's speech will argue that military personnel are being stripped of their religious liberty by "politically correct officials and activists" in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges.
"A war is raging inside our military. The men and women who risk their lives to protect our freedom are losing their religious freedom to politically correct officials and activists. If we lose religious liberty in the military, how can it survive elsewhere? Join Liberty Institute president Kelly Shackelford, along with our lawyers and clients, as we discuss current battles and celebrate recent victories for religious freedom in our armed forces, as well as in our schools, churches, ministries, workplaces and throughout our nation. Come hear our clients tell their inspiring real-life stories ... and get equipped to stand for your religious freedom in light of the continuing fallout from the Supreme Court marriage decision."
The Value Voters Summit will fête several high-profile figures who discriminated against LGBTQ persons, glorifying them as defenders of religious liberty. Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, will receive the Cost of Discipleship Award on the evening of September 25th. Also scheduled to speak at the award ceremony are Aaron and Melissa Klein (bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple) and Casey Davis (another Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples).

"Religious freedom" was a recurring topic on the list of breakout sessions as well. Session titles suggest that conservative Christians have been silenced and legally hounded.
  • The Silencing of Free Speech for Christians in the Media and in Education

  • Are You Ready for the Coming Legal Attack? Is Your Church? Learn How to Be Prepared?

  • The Battlefront in Our Backyards: What Everyday Americans Can Do to Bring Positive Change
The Values Voters Summit is, above all, a political event, and this year's summit will include speeches by multiple Republican candidates. Workshops promoting a persecution narrative alongside political candidate speeches are no accident. I expect the conference's talk of alleged threats to "religious liberty" to energize attendees into voting for right-wing Republican candidates. Illusions of persecution are useful for arousing voters' anger and fear, two emotions that the Religious Right will make good use of as the 2016 election approaches.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

News Tidbits

Associated Press: Kim Davis' husband rallies for religious awakening in Nashville

WRAL: North Carolina bill redefines sex education 'expert'

Q Salt Lake: WCF and Sutherland bringing Prop 8 leader to Salt Lake

Greenville Online: South Carolina conference to equip hundreds to ‘defend their faith’

Gay Star News: Famous rapper says Caitlyn Jenner ‘marketing evil’

Commentary Tidbits

The Frisky: Duggar Homeschool Leader Deletes Flood Of Sexual Abuse Allegations From Facebook Post

Inquisitr: Kim Davis to Receive Award, Be Honored at Values Voter Summit

The Toledo Blade: God, the Supreme Court, Politicians, and Kim Davis’ 15 Minutes of Fame

Talking Points Memo: GOPers, Stop Pulling A Kim Davis On Planned Parenthood And Do Your Job

Entertainment Tonight: Dr. Phil Talks Josh Duggar Scandal: 'I Don't Believe the Whole Truth Has Come Out Yet'

Raw Story: Republicans push to change NC law so Christians can teach public school kids abstinence-only sex ed

The Advocate: 5 Reasons To Be Thankful Rick Perry Dropped Out

The Kim Davis Saga Continues After Clerk Released from Jail

As discussed in a prior post, U.S. District Judge David Bunning had Rowan County (Kentucky) clerk Kim Davis taken into custody earlier this month because of her repeated refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis was found to be in contempt of court and incarcerated at the Carter County Detention Center in Kentucky.

The Religious Right was outraged, lionizing Davis as a martyr for "traditional" marriage and Christian values. For example, protesters converged outside of Bunning's home to demand the release of Kim Davis. Approximately thirty people protested outside of Bunning's house in Fort Thomas, Kentucky on September 7th, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Protesters brandished homophobic signs, including one that cited Leviticus 18:22 and others that read "Don't Make a Moral Wrong a Civil Right!"

At one point, the radical Oath Keepers made an offer of protection to Davis. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes condemned Bunning for supposedly overstepping his authority and violating Kim Davis' rights. In a September 9th statement, Rhodes offered to protect Davis from similar infringements. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"We believe Federal District Court Judge David Bunning grossly overstepped his bounds and violated Mrs Davis’ due process rights, and in particular her right to a jury trial.  This judge has assumed unto himself not just the powers of all three branches of government, but has also taken on the powers of judge, jury, and “executioner.”  What matters to us is not whether you agree with her position on gay marriage or her decision to not issue marriage licenses.  What matters is that the judge is violating the Constitution in his anger and desire to punish her for going against his will ... We must stand against this.  And so we will protect her and prevent it from happening again."
Davis' legal team declined the offer of protection from Oath Keepers, and thus Oath Keepers canceled their planned security detail. Given the Oath Keeper's reputation, this was a smart move on behalf of her legal team.

Several days after Davis' incarceration, the parties involved reached a truce. According to CNN, Bunning ordered Davis released from jail, on the condition that she refrain from interfering with the issuing of marriage licenses by her deputies. Davis left the Carter County Detention Center on September 8th and appeared at a rally held in her honor in front of the jail. According to LEX 18, several schools closed on September 8th due to expected traffic congestion from the rally.

Flanked by her husband Joe Davis, Mat Staver, and Mike Huckabee, Davis greeted the jubilant rally crowd. Crosses and signs, including a yellow poster board that read "Supreme Court = The New ISIS of America!", floated above the audience. According to TMZ, Davis greeted the crowd as Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" played in the background, which angered Survivor's Frankie Sullivan. Should've asked permission first, I thought.

Davis praised God and applauded Christians for rallying behind her cause in a video clip captured by CNN.
"I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people! We serve a living God who knows exactly where each and every one of us is at. Just keep on pressing. Don't let down, because he is here."

After Davis left the stage, Huckabee depicted anti-LGBTQ Christians as a persecuted population who might be arrested for their beliefs at any time. Raw Story posted a video of Huckabee's comments from MSNBC's coverage of the rally.
"All of us need to ask: who's next? Your pastor? The head of a school? Who's next? My question as we leave here today: will you be ready to take the stand even at expense to yourself to stand firm for your convictions, for the Constitution and for your faith and will not waver nor fall? God bless you! Thank you for being here today!"

In another rally excerpt captured by Right Wing Watch, Mike Huckabee blasted the Supreme Court for its alleged "judicial tyranny" in permitting same-sex marriage. He attributed Kim Davis' defiance to God, praising God for allowing America to come into being.
"Our founders were so concerned that they said that should we ever come to the place that we allow a court to run amok of its purpose that we would be living under what is no less than judicial tyranny. That's why we gather today. It is far more than one clerk saying she will not issue marriage licenses. It's that every one of us will have to decide whether or not we want to keep this great republic or whether we're willing to sacrifice it and surrender it to tyranny. And I think we gather here today to say, 'We will not surrender to the tyranny of one branch of government!'.

I do not think that it is possible to explain America apart from the providence of Almighty God. There is no other explanation for how this country could have come into being. There is no other explanation for how this country could have been sustained. The only explanation is that God intervened, and I believe this week, once again, as Forest Gump so wonderfully said, 'God showed up'. And he showed up in the form of an elected democrat named Kim Davis."

In another Right Wing Watch video, Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage likened same-sex marriage to slavery and idol worship. He flatly refused to acknowledge same-sex marriage as a legally sanctioned right, calling it "the supreme lie of the land".
"Christians are good citizens. We pay our taxes. We want to obey just authority. But throughout history, when unjust laws have been promulgated and put forward, when we are told 'choose, choose between your maker and the state', when we are told to bow down to pagan idols in early Rome, when we were told to support the slave trade in England, when we were told, abolitionists were told, 'Well hey, Dred Scott's the law! You have to go along!' What did we do? Did we obey? [Crowd shouts "No!"]

We need to know where we come from. We stood up for truth against state power time and time again. We know in our hearts, we know in our minds that same-sex marriage is not the supreme law of the land. It is the supreme lie of the land."
Following Davis' release, Liberty Counsel issued a statement depicting Davis as a martyr who was persecuted for her religious beliefs.
"Judge Bunning issued an order this afternoon ordering that Kim Davis be released from the custody of the U.S. Marshals. She has been held at the Carter County Detention Center since last Thursday where she had been sentenced to jail for exercising her sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Kim can never recover the past six days of her life spent in an isolated jail cell, where she was incarcerated like a common criminal because of her conscience and religious convictions. She is now free to return to her family, her coworkers and the office where she has faithfully served for the past 27 years."
Initially, the matter seemed settled. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway did not plan to launch an investigation into Davis' actions, according to Pink News. Davis was supposed to resume her job without incident. Naturally, Davis couldn't leave well enough alone.

First, Davis complained that she was allegedly being forced to disobey God by permitting her office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to the Associated Press. When Davis returned to work at the Rowan County Courthouse the morning of September 17th, she insisted that licenses issued by her office would be "unauthorized".

Soon thereafter, Davis reportedly removed her name from marriage forms and made deputy clerk Brian Mason initial the forms instead of signing them. The Associated Press reports that Davis may have defied Bunning's order by altering marriage license forms to remove her name. If so, she could find herself in more legal hot water over her dereliction of duty.

Davis' obstructive behavior has already earned her legal hassles and jail time, and yet she remains recalcitrant. Instead of dealing with the matter gracefully by either granting same-sex marriage licenses or resigning, she continues her homophobic crusade. Davis' actions may lionize her in the eyes of the Religious Right, but they show her to be an obstructionist homophobe in the eyes of most Americans.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Huffington Post: Kim Davis: Canary in the Coal Mine Called Theocracy

What Would JT Do? Kim Davis speaks at Huckabee’s rally. Have puke bucket nearby.

Right Wing Watch: Staver: Requiring Kim Davis To Do Her Job Is Like Forcing Her 'To Grant A License To Sodomize Children"

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Kim Davis Should Go Back To Jail If She Interferes With Deputy Clerks’ Ability To Issue Marriage Licenses 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

News Tidbits

KATC 3: Louisiana: New "In God We Trust" Bumper Stickers For Iberia Parish Deputy Vehicles

USA Today: Lawmakers fear Islamic 'indoctrination' in Tennessee schools

The Guardian: Planned Parenthood not invited to congressional hearing on organization

On Top Magazine: 26% Of Voters Say Elected Officials Can Ignore Court Rulings For Religious Reasons

Talking Points Memo: Second Oregon Judge Stops Performing Weddings After Gay Marriage Ruling

Reuters: Oregon judge who refused gay marriages says freedom of religion violated

WKRN-TV: East Tennessee store owner sells out of anti-gay merchandise

WOWK TV: Parents angry over transgender student's bathroom choice

Pew Research Center: Relatively few U.S. Catholics skipped annulment because of cost or complications

Washington Post: Pope to declare Spanish priest a saint, but Native Americans beg to differ

Associated Press: Brazil Pentecostal church welcomes gays spurned elsewhere

Commentary Tidbits

Reuters: Touting morality, billionaire Texas brothers top 2016 donor list

The Nation: If Pope Francis Really Wanted to Fight Climate Change, He’d Be a Feminist

The Advocate: Making Trans People the Enemy Was Another Vatican Mistake 

Al Jazeera America: Kim Davis is a symbol of a past whose time is over

Ms. Magazine: God Responds to Kim Davis 

Mother Jones: The War on Women Is Over -- And Women Lost

Huffington Post: That's Me in the Corner, Losing My Religion

Friday, September 11, 2015

Linda Harvey Proposes Anti-LGBTQ "Sanctuary Cities"

Earlier this week, Mission America's Linda Harvey penned a commentary piece for World Net Daily entitled "Where Are Sanctuary Cities for Marriage?". In her column, Harvey proposes anti-LGBTQ cities for Americans who cannot bear to see advances in LGBTQ equality.

Harvey caricatures the U.S. as an anti-Christian society that is falling into lawlessness. "Christians are now going to jail if they don't support homosexuality as marriage", Harvey claims, ignoring the fact that Kim Davis was jailed for contempt of court, not her opinions. Furious at the decline of homophobia in American society, Harvey devotes much of her commentary piece to slamming LGBTQ activists ("the vicious homosexual lobby"), politicians, and "judicial bias". She complains that "tyranny and mythology are winning and American constitutional principles are the rule of law are losing", an ironic statement in light of the fact that Kim Davis defied the law.

As an alternative to living in a society in which LGBTQ people enjoy rights, Harvey suggests "sanctuary cities" for anti-LGBTQ Christians. Harvey envisions cities in which the existence of LGBTQ people is erased, business owners can discriminate with impunity, and homophobes can inflict conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth.
"So what do we do now? Here’s my suggestion. Since we are beginning to see violations of constitutional rights based on objections to homosexuality as marriage, I believe there’s a clear precedent for establishing sanctuary cities for authentic, lawful, man/woman marriage.

Think about how great life would be in those cities. After all, unlike the defiance of immigration law, these cities would be upholding the actual law under our actual Constitution, not the imaginary one in the mind of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

So, why not cities that uphold a standing, just law? Family life would be much healthier and safer in these cities. Keep out the vile “gay-pride” parades as well as harassment lawsuits against bakers and florists. And how about no pro-homosexual lessons in school, falsely implying that some people are born homosexual, or born to mutilate themselves by sex-change surgery? Also, no ban on counseling for teens who have same-sex attractions."
Harvey imagines such cities as utopian paradises for the Religious Right, in which homophobes can wallow in bigotry without repercussions.
"But imagine the freedom to live the truth. No one in such cities would be arrested or sued or fired or demoted over marriage, or have a TV show canceled, or be kicked out of grad school, or lose a consulting contract, or be mocked, or given a failing grade for supporting only man/woman marriage, or be prevented from preaching the whole Gospel."
Harvey expects LGBTQ people and their allies to respond to such cities with "screeching" and false accusations of hate crimes.
"Of course, such cities would not be without challenges. They would be targets for dirty tricks, phony “hate crimes,” special sections on “gay apartheid” by the New York Times and so on. The formulaic fables and drama, based on no facts but lots of screeching, can be composed now in advance."
Such cities would be nightmarish for LGBTQ people, their loved ones, and any remotely enlightened citizens. When I picture Harvey's "sanctuary cities", I have flashbacks of the U.S. during the segregation era, an era that America rightfully left behind. .

Religious Right figures such as Harvey think that they can drive out LGBTQ people by excluding them and denying them equal rights. They ignore the fact that LGBTQ people are not monsters over there, but their children, siblings, neighbors, and colleagues. LGBTQ people would still be born in the "sanctuary cities", and would grow up to be adults who would resent the homophobia and transphobia of  their birth cities.

I highly doubt that the Religious Right has the legal standing or critical mass to create such dystopian cities, but the thought alone is chilling. This is the world that many Religious Right figures want to create: a world of scapegoating, hatred, and tribalism.

(Hat tip to Gay Star News.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

News Tidbits

CNN: Kim Davis released, but judge bars her from withholding marriage licenses

Washington Post: Conservative dissent is brewing inside the Vatican 

New York Times: Pope Francis Announces Measures to Simplify Marriage Annulments

The Guardian: Ohio Planned Parenthood fights back at frontline of new conservative assault 

Raw Story: Creationist Ken Ham: Science has ‘contaminated’ kids into believing in evolution and LGBT rights

Pink News: Australian TV ad suggests equal marriage will lead to more rapists and drug users

Commentary Tidbits

Heather Emmebolisms: Kim Davis and The God of Glowering Women

Wisconsin Gazette: Christian right seeks religious martyrdom for anti-gay Kentucky clerk

The Wartburg Watch: Pedophile Supported by Doug Wilson ‘Allegedly Molests’ a Baby. Christians: There Is No Excuse. This Must Stop!

Love, Joy, Feminism: Doug Wilson’s Pedophile Problem: Sex Offender For Whom Wilson Begged Leniency [Allegedly] Molests Infant Son

Homeschoolers Anonymous: The Jamin C. Wight Story: The Other Child Molester in Doug Wilson’s Closet

Huffington Post: The Arson Attack on Planned Parenthood and Political Violence Against Women

Monday, September 7, 2015

Thousands Attend Pro-Family Rally in South Carolina

South Carolina was the site of a recent "family values" rally for the Religious Right. The Pro-Family Rally brought together Religious Right supporters who opposed same-sex marriage, abortion, and supposed affronts to "religious liberty". Rally organizers encouraged attendees to "Bring your family and your faith and show the Supreme Court there is a Supreme Creator with a supreme law on marriage." According to the State and WISTV 10, roughly 10,000 people attended the Christian revival rally in front of the State House in Columbia, South Carolina on August 29th.

The Pro-Family Rally website urged Americans to stand against the supposed evils of same-sex marriage, "civil unrest", and "perversion".
"All must agree that we are living in very uncertain times. The landscape of this great republic is eroding daily and the floods of change are seeking to assassinate the moral fiber of the land we love. Crime rates are rising, civil unrest is abounding and perversion is growing exponentially. The recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex-marriage is yet another proof of the spiraling degeneration of this nation's morals. It is evidently obvious that we are not the nation the Founders intend. The United States was founded upon the Bible ...


... We must stand and oppose those who disdain our heritage and our Founders wishes. Thirty- six states voted that marriage is recognized in each of these respective states as being between a man and a woman. Seventy-eight percent of South Carolinians voted in this same manner. The Supreme Court's decision is an open attack on the sovereignty of every state in the Union. As citizens and as patriots of America we cannot support nor obey the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex-marriage. The repercussions of this decision will have far reaching negative effects on churches and religious ministries in days to come. As Christians we do not hate homosexual people but we must stand where God stands regarding sin. The purpose of We Stand With God is to encourage and empower God-fearing citizens to stand in this evil day. Timing is critical.  Come stand with us on Saturday, August 29, 2015 as we gather at the South Carolina State Capitol in Columbia, SC for a peaceful protest against the sin of the Supreme Court."

Among the rally's speakers were presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, who raged against Washington, the Supreme Court, and Planned Parenthood before a rapt crowd. Right Wing Watch captured an excerpt of Rick Perry's speech, in which he likened himself to Jesus overturning the money-changers' tables at the temple.
"Literally, the foundation of America is under attack from those on the left! It's under attack from Washington, D.C. You know, talking about Washington, D.C., early in the ministry of Jesus Christ, he saw corruption in the temple, and he got angry about it, and he did something about it. He went in there and he overturned the tables of the money changers. He saw corruption, just like today. We need somebody that's got the backbone to go to Washington, D.C. and turn over the tables of the money changers, of the corruption, of the greed that we see in Washington, D.C. And the question is, will you join me in that effort? Will you load up? Are you ready to sacrifice? Are you ready to stop the corruption, the crony capitalism, the greed that we see in that temple of government in Washington, D.C.? Jesus was angry. I'm angry. I hope you're angry."
Perry asked listeners what sacrifices they were willing to make for God and country, calling them "Christian soldiers".
"What are you willing to die for? What are you willing to sacrifice for? Are you willing to rise up and stand for God, and to go forward and deliver the principles and the values that this country were based upon? Are you ready to do that? ... Onward Christian soldiers!"

Ted Cruz offered plenty of angry red meat to the audience, stoking their anger against abortion providers. Cruz promoted the dubious claim that Planned Parenthood allegedly sells fetal tissue at the 2:36 mark of this video.
"We've seen in recent weeks these horrific videos of Planned Parenthood. Let me tell you right now, innocent life should not be treated as a business transaction. Merchants of death who are selling the body parts of unborn children--I call upon every citizen on South Carolina, every American, watch these videos. Even if, especially if you call yourselves pro-choice, watch these videos. See these senior Planned Parenthood officials coldly, callously selling the body parts and laughing about it, and ask yourself 'Are those my values?" On those videos they are confessing to multiple felonies. It is a felony with a ten year jail term to sell the body parts of unborn children!
And I'll tell you something right now. If I'm elected president, on the first day in office, I will instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and to prosecute any and all criminal violations by that organization."
Homophobia frequently rears its head at Religious Right events, and the Pro-Family Rally was no exception. At the 5:16 mark, Cruz sneered at the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, calling it "illegitimate" and "lawless". Cruz promised to restore the right of marriage definition to the states if elected president.
"Just a couple of months ago, we saw the U.S. Supreme Court issue a decision, a fundamentally illegitimate, lawless decision that purports to tear down the marriage laws of every state. Let me tell you something. Marriage existed long before the United States Supreme Court. Marriage existed long before the United States of America. Marriage was not ordained by any law in this country. Marriage was ordained by God Almighty.

And Caesar has no jurisdiction over the pulpit! In the United States Senate I've introduced a constitutional amendment to protect the authority of state legislatures of every state in the union to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman."
At the 9:55 mark, After citing cases of business owners who were held accountable for discriminating against LGBTQ people, Cruz warned listeners that they could be persecuted for their faith.
"If you think your faith is safe, next may be you. Next may be me. Next may be you pastor who preaches the word from the pulpit. Next may be your sister or brother or mom who volunteers at the pregnancy crisis center."

The Religious Right persecution narrative was very much alive at the Pro-Family Rally. Tony Beam, host of the Christian Worldview Today radio show, also stoked the audience's persecution fantasies. In a video posted by Right Wing Watch, Beam depicted Christians as a marginalized population that the powers that be seek to criminalize.
"You know, if you look back and you look through history, there’s a three step process that’s always resulted in tyranny and dictators, and that process is this. First comes the demonization of any people you want to get rid of. We saw that start in the 1970s as the church began to be demonized and God’s people were made fun of, and it’s continued to today. The next step is marginalization. They take the people they want to get rid of and they push them to the side of the debate and they ignore them. You know, a lot of the national media may ignore us today, but we can’t be ignored because we stand for the sovereign God of the universe. And so, after marginalization comes criminalization. And you know we live in a country now that’s trying to criminalize God-fearing believers for trying to run a business to honor God."
The Pro-Family Rally served to unite and energize Religious Right voters as the 2016 presidential race heats up. By playing to the audience's persecution complex, homophobia, and disdain for Planned Parenthood, speakers sought to galvanize them into voting for right-wing candidates. We can expect more rhetoric like this as November 2016 draws closer.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The New Civil Rights Movement: 'Marriage Was Ordained By God Almighty': Ted Cruz Preaches At 'Pro-Family' Rally

Right Wing Watch: Ted Cruz: Anti-Christian Persecution Will Soon Take Your Pastor, Your Mom, Me

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Kim Davis Supporters Hold Rally Outside Detention Center

Kim Davis, the Rowan County (Kentucky) clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was recently found in contempt of court and placed in jail. On September 5th, supporters of Kim Davis attended a prayer rally outside the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky. In a video posted on YouTube, attendees carried signs that read "Acts 5:29 We Ought to Obey God Rather Than Men", "The Laws of Man Versus the Laws of God", and "Kim Davis for President".
According to the Associated Press, rally organizers distributed flyers to attendees encouraging them to support Davis through prayer and letter-writing. The flyers reportedly accuse "wicked" people of trying to make an example out of Davis and criticize America for "celebrating sexual perversion and imprisoning Christian dissidents".

Rally participants were not fond of District Judge David Bunning, who found Davis in contempt of court and ordered marshals to take her into custody. According to the Associated Press, one man carried a sign calling Bunning an "abomination". AP also reports that local preacher Randy Smith urged Judge David Bunning to "get saved", even though Bunning is already a devout Catholic. Smith reportedly encouraged listeners to pray and fast in response to "unlawful tyranny".

Today's event wasn't the first time that opponents of same-sex marriage attended a rally in Davis' honor. On August 22nd, Davis and her supporters gathered for a rally behind the capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky as supporters of LGBTQ equality held a competing rally along the Kentucky River, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader and Towleroad.

The Kim Davis controversy allows the Religious Right to indulge in fantasies of Christian persecution and martyrdom, as these rallies demonstrate. Attendees ignore the fact that Davis was incarcerated for contempt of court, not her beliefs. It never occurs to the attendees of these rallies that Davis was wrong to discriminate against same-sex couples and wrong to neglect the responsibilities of her office. Contrary to what rally attendees think, religious freedom does not excuse her actions.