Wednesday, March 30, 2016

News Tidbits

Pennlive: Three religious leaders allowed predator priest to continue abusing children: Pennsylvania Attorney General  (Trigger warning)

Fox 13: LDS Church named in lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of Navajo children in foster program

NPR: Evangelicals Key To Republican Support For Israel

Gay Star News: Ted Cruz announces endorsements of more than 30 key Ohio leaders, many of them anti-LGBTI

Washington Blade: Cruz accepts anti-LGBT recommendations from ‘religious liberty’ council

Pink News: Prison gardener who told gays to repent loses ‘unfair dismissal’ case

LGBTQ Nation: Hate group leader elected to GOP platform committee

Colorado Public Radio: Conversion Therapy Ban Moves To Colorado Senate

ABC News (Australia): Catholic bishop calls for resignation of bishops who failed to address child sexual abuse

The Guardian: Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders goes on trial for inciting hatred

Commentary Tidbits

Slate: The ACLU Sues to Stop North Carolina’s Anti-LGBTQ Law

Los Angeles Times: The Supreme Court floats a contraception compromise

SPLC Hatewatch: Southern Baptist Convention claims to harbor no ill will toward LGBT people, but its actions suggest otherwise

Revolutionary Faith: Complementarian Crimes: Erasing the Needs of Women

The Root: The Other N-Word: To Germans, There’s Something Familiar About Donald Trump 

Washington Post: I was a devout Catholic. Not being able to get birth control shook my faith.

The Guardian: Think Trump's an Islamophobe? Meet Ted Cruz's national security adviser

The Advocate: How President Ted Cruz Will Save Bakers From the Gays

Musical Interlude: "Dangerous" by Within Temptation

Sorry about the radio silence! I've been busy lately, so I haven't had a lot of spare time for blogging. I'll return to blogging soon, so in the meantime, enjoy "Dangerous" by Within Temptation.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

News Tidbits

Raw Story: Christian blogger: Pro-choice women ‘need to be reminded’ men are ‘supposed to be leaders’ on abortion

KKTV 11: Robert Dear Tells 11 News He's Been Declared Incompetent

Associated Press: Homophobic Bishop protests Notre Dame decision to honor Vice President Joe Biden

The Advocate: Tennessee GSA Supporters Rally While Hate-Group Leader Calls It 'Vile'

Pink News: Cruz ‘proud’ to be backed by activist who claims gays are possessed by demons

Burlington Free Press: Vermont vote bans conversion therapy for gay teens

Reuters: Religious liberty bill passes Georgia state legislature

CBS News: Georgia's "religious liberty law" stirs backlash from business

Washington Blade: Kansas bill for ‘religious freedom’ in schools reaches governor

Gay Star News: Cardinal who said gay marriage would cause incest accused of covering up pedophilia

Commentary Tidbits

Danthropology: Atheist group raising money to put up counter Ark Encounter billboards

The Guardian: A 'queer Bible'? Better to re-interpret The Word through a new lens

Huffington Post: How Mormonism Is Creating an Increasingly Toxic Environment for Its LGBT Youth

In These Times: I Saw the Good, Bad and Ugly of Donald Trump Supporters at His Chicago Rally

Buzzfeed: Far Right In Europe Hope Donald Trump Will Set Them Free

Los Angeles Times: Will evangelicals take Trump on faith?

Disappointing Quotes from the GOP Debate in Miami

On March 10th, CNN hosted a debate between the remaining Republican presidential candidates in Miami, Florida. Questioning the candidates were CNN's Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan, and Salem Radio's Hugh Hewitt. CNN posted a transcript of the debate, which made for depressing reading about scapegoating entire groups, climate change, rally violence.

Jake Tapper pressed Donald Trump on his statements about Muslims. Trump replied with word salad about the "tremendous hatred" that Islamic extremist feel toward the U.S.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, let me start with you. Last night, you told CNN quote, "Islam hates us?" Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?

TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.

DINAN: Do you want to clarify the comment at all?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I've been watching the debate today. And they're talking about radical Islamic terrorism or radical Islam. But I will tell you this. There's something going on that maybe you don't know about, maybe a lot of other people don't know about, but there's tremendous hatred. And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.
Marco Rubio, who has since suspended his campaign, commented that anti-Muslim statements coming out of the presidential race is tainting the way global Muslims see the U.S. However, he reminded viewers that many American Muslims cherish the U.S.

RUBIO: Two days ago, I met this extraordinary couple who were on furlough because they are missionaries in Bangladesh. It's a very tough place to be a missionary. It's Muslim.

And their safety and security very much relies upon friendly Muslims that live along side them, that may not convert, but protect them and certainly look out for them. And their mission field really are Muslims that are looking to convert to Christianity as well. And they tell me that today they have a very hostile environment in which to operate in because the news is coming out that in America, leading political figures are saying that America doesn't like Muslims. So this is a real impact. There's no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world.

I can also tell you if you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you're going to see crescent moons there. If you go anywhere in the world you're going see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims.

And they love America. And as far as I know, no one on this stage has served in uniform in the United States military. Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America. No matter what their religious background may be.
After Rubio's comments, Trump rambled about the violence perpetrated by Islamic extremists, saying little about law-abiding Muslims in the U.S.

TRUMP: Marco talks about consequences. Well, we've had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and could have been the White House. There have been a lot of problems.

Now you can say what you want, and you can be politically correct if you want. I don't want to be so politically correct. I like to solve problems. We have a serious, serious problem of hate.

There is tremendous hate. There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means. Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.
Ted Cruz appealed to the audience's fear by warning them that vicious enemies supposedly want to use "nuclear weapons to murder us" and undermine Israel.
CRUZ: And I'll tell you, frankly one concern I have with Donald is that although his language is quite incendiary, when you look at his substantive policies on Iran, he has said he would not rip up this Iranian nuclear deal. I think that's a mistake.

The Ayatollah Khomeini wants nuclear weapons to murder us. I'll give you another example, dealing with Islamic radical terrorism. On Israel, Donald has said he wants to be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians.

As president, I will not be neutral. And let me say this week, a Texan, Taylor Force. He was an Eagle Scout, he was a West Point graduate, he was an Army veteran. He was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist this week in Israel, and I don't think we need a commander in chief who is neutral between the Palestinian terrorists and one of our strongest allies in the world, the nation of Israel.
When Tapper asked Rubio about climate change, Rubio trotted out the usual right-wing excuses for not passing pro-environment legislation, such as the claim that pro-environment legislation will cripple the economy.
TAPPER: [Miami] Mayor Regalado told me, "Climate change means rising ocean levels, which in south Florida means flooding downtown and in our neighborhoods. It's an every day reality in our city. Will you, as president acknowledge the reality of the scientific consensus about climate change and as president, will you pledge to do something about it?"

Senator Rubio, the Miami mayor has endorsed you. Will you honor his request for a pledge and acknowledge the reality of the scientific consensus of climate change and pledge to do something about it?

RUBIO: Well, sure if the climate is changing and one of the reasons is because the climate has always been changing.

There's never been a time when the climate has not changed. I think the fundamental question for a policy maker is, is the climate changing because of something we are doing and if so, is there a law you can pass to fix it?

So on the issue of flooding in Miami, it's caused by two things. Number one, south Florida is largely built on land that was once a swamp. And number two, because if there is higher sea levels or whatever it may be happening, we do need to deal with that through mitigation. And I have long supported mitigation efforts. But as far as a law that we can pass in Washington to change the weather, there's no such thing.

On the contrary, there is laws they want us to pass. There are laws they want to us pass that would be devastating for our economy or these programs like what the president has put in with the Clean Power Act or all these sorts of things that he's forcing down our throats on the war on coal.

Let me tell you who is going to pay the price of that? Americans are going to pay the price of that. The cost of doing that is going to be rammed down the throats of the American consumer, the single parent, the working families who are going to see increases in the cost of living. The businesses who are going to leave America because it's more expensive to do business here than anywhere else.
John Kasich countered Rubio's statements by arguing that environmentally friendly legislation is compatible with a healthy economy, telling the audience, "I happen to believe in solar energy, wind energy, efficiency, renewables ...You can have a strong environmental policy at the same time that you have strong economic growth and they are not inconsistent with one another."

Finally, Tapper held Trump's feet to the fire regarding violence at his rallies. Trump denied that he was the catalyst for the violence -- "It's not me," he protested -- pointing instead to rising anger among Americans.
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, I want to start with you in this block. Earlier today, a man was arrested and charged with assault after sucker- punching a protester in the face at your rally in Fayettville, North Carolina. This is hardly the first incident of violence breaking out at one of your rallies ... Do you believe that you've done anything to create a tone where this kind of violence would be encouraged?

TRUMP: I hope not. I truly hope not ... People come with tremendous passion and love for the country, and when they see protest -- in some cases -- you know, you're mentioning one case, which I haven't seen, I heard about it, which I don't like. But when they see what's going on in this country, they have anger that's unbelievable. They have anger.

They love this country. They don't like seeing bad trade deals, they don't like seeing higher taxes, they don't like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. And I know -- I mean, I see it. There is some anger. There's also great love for the country. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.

TAPPER: Some of your critics point to quotes you've made at these debates -- at these rallies including February 23rd, "I'd like to punch him in the face," referring to a protesters. February 27th, "in the good ol' days, they'd have ripped him out of that seat so fast." February 1st, "knock the crap out of him, would, you? Seriously, OK, just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise."

TRUMP: We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people ... And if they've got to be taken out, to be honest, I mean, we have to run something. And it's not me. It's usually the municipal government, the police because I don't have guards all over these stadiums. 
While the tone of the Miami debate was far less childish and inflammatory than the tone of the Detroit debate, the debate itself was still disappointing. Two of the remaining Republican contenders -- Donald Trump and Ted Cruz -- still cultivate their supporters' fear and hatred for political gain. Cruz appeals to the Religious Right's fetishization of Israel, instead of examining the nuances of Middle East unrest. Trump refuses to reflect on how his words exacerbate the violence that has occurred at some of his rallies. Even though Marco Rubio has suspended his campaign, his short-sighted approach to environmental problems reflects a greater ignorance in the Republican party. The GOP remains backwards and therefore a poor choice in the November election.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Catholic Church Dealt a Triple Whammy

NOTE: Many of the articles cited below contain disturbing content. Trigger warning!

In the span of a few weeks, the Catholic Church has been dealt a triple whammy. Oscar awards for Spotlight, the eruption of a massive clergy abuse scandal in Pennsylvania, and Cardinal George Pell's testimony have brought child sexual abuse front and center into public consciousness again.

Spotlight Wins at the Oscars

The 2015 film Spotlight, starring Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton, tells the story of the Boston Globe reporters who unearthed child sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Boston Archdiocese. Spotlight director Tom McCarthy told PRI that he hopes the film will inspire new journalists to undertake "strong investigative journalism" on a local and national level.

To the delight of advocates who support clergy abuse victims, Spotlight won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 2016 Academy Awards. According to PIX 11 News, Fox 2 Now, and WHO 13 News, more clergy abuse victims and whistle blowers have sought out the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) since the Oscars.

A Clergy Abuse Scandal Erupts in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was left shaken when the state Attorney General's office released a damning report accusing the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese of rampant child sexual abuse by clergy. The authors of the report described the document as an effort "not to slander a religion but expose the truth about the men who hijacked it for their own grotesque desires."

According to the investigating grand jury report released by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, hundreds of children were sexually abused by clergy in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. Moreover, the report states that Bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec failed to report predators to the police, choosing instead to protect the predators instead.

According to the report, special agents of the Office of the Attorney General found overwhelming "evidence of an institutional crisis" in the diocese' files in form of clergy abuse victim statements, letters from victims, and internal correspondence related to offending priests. The grand jury documented child sexual abuse by at least fifty priests and religious leaders in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. The bishops' reported inaction resulted in impunity for predatory priests. Bishop Adamec in particular behaved in a callous manner when confronted with abuse in his diocese, according to the report.
"The [FBI's] Behavioral Assessment Unit characterized Bishop Joseph Adamec's approach to sexual child abuse as "laissez-faire." [Supervisory Special Agent] Isom and the group noted in particular that Adamec was mailed an anonymous letter stating that Joseph Bender had sexually abused children. When Adamec interviewed Father Bender he stated he hadn't done anything like that for 20 years. Adamec's bold effort to protect the children of the Diocese was to return Bender to ministry reasoning that if it had been serious the writer would have signed the letter.

The FBI noted other incidents where even the accused priests were alarmed that Adamec wasn't taking notes when interviewing them regarding the allegations. Adamec's statement that he would "write down what he needed to remember" would have only furthered the accused's belief that the allegation alone must be insufficient or not important.

While the Grand Jury found it was not Bishop Joseph Adamec's practice to call the police when dealing with allegations of sexual child abuse, the FBI noted ... how little Adamec seemed to be concerned with the wellbeing of the children of his Diocese ..."
Adamec reportedly crafted a payout chart that he used to determine how much payout money would be given to clergy abuse victims, according to Pennlive. "Level 1 abuse", such as fondling over clothes, was assigned a diocese payout of $10,000 to $25,000. "Level 4 abuse", which included penetrative abuse, was assigned a payout of $50,000 to $175,000.

Adamec responded to the grand jury report with a statement claiming that "the Grand Jury was not provided with a full and balanced set of facts based on all the materials and information that were available ... As a result of this failure, the above Report contains criticism of Bishop Adamec that is unfounded." The statement insists that Adamec "always adhered to a standard process for investigating, evaluating, and addressing allegations of abuse." (Hat tip to Pennlive.)

After the release of the report, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese apologized. In a March 3rd statement, Bishop Mark Bartchak offered a 'heartfelt and sincere apology" to the victims, their loved ones, and the people of the diocese. Bartchak promised to publish a list of priests who had been subjects of "credible allegations" as well as their current status.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office launched a hotline for those who wanted to report more clergy abuse accusations. The hotline was immediately flooded with calls, according to the Associated Press and Pennlive.

In the wake of the scandal, SNAP director David Clohessy urged Pennsylvania's Catholic leaders to aggressively battle clergy abuse.
"We urge Catholic officials in central Pennsylvania to use church websites, parish bulletins and pulpit announcements to aggressively seek out anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by these clerics and beg them to call police. This is the very least that church officials should do.

All too often, when clergy sex crimes emerge, church staff pretend to be powerless. They are not. They have both the resources and the duty to spread the word and actively help police and prosecutors build a strong case against predatory preachers."
Pennsylvania's current statute of limitations prevents many of the diocese's victims from seeking justice. Under Pennsylvania law, sexual abuse victims have until age 30 to sue and age 50 to seek criminal charges, reports CBS 21. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) lamented that so many cases of child sexual abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese went unpunished because the statute of limitations expired. Like the authors of the grand jury report, PCAR advocated for the removal of the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases, calling the current statute "outdated and ineffective legislation".

Australian Cardinal George Pell Testifies

Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was created in 2013 with a mission to investigate institutions that failed to protect children from sexual abuse or to respond appropriately to reports of abuse. Among the institutions investigated by the Royal Commission was the Diocese of Ballarat in Victoria.

Evidence shows that at least 130 claims of child sexual abuse have been made against the Ballarat diocese since 1980, with as many as 14 priests accused of abusing children, reports the Guardian. Those who testified before the Royal Commission accused Ballarat Diocese leaders of responding inappropriately to abuse reports, moving predatory priests from parish to parish, blaming and belittling victims, and trying to bribe at least one victim into silence.

Last month, former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns told the Royal Commission via video link that he was sorry for failing to halt the "problem with priests", according to the Sydney Morning HeraldCardinal George Pell, who served as a consultor to former Bishop Mulkears, served in the Ballarat Diocese alongside some of the priests who were accused of abuse. (To boot, Pell himself is no stranger to abuse accusations.)  Pell would later serve as Archbishop of Sydney and Archbishop of Melbourne before rising to the rank of cardinal.

After mounting pressure to testify and the release of a satirical song, Pell agreed to deliver testimony via video link to the Royal Commission. Fifteen survivors of clergy abuse flew to Rome to hear Pell's testimony at Hotel Quirinale, their travel expenses raised through crowdfunding, according to 9 News and the Age. The Guardian reported that a journalist was allegedly punched and a cameraman was shoved by security personnel when they tried to film Pell outside the Hotel Quirinale.

According to Al Jazeera, Pell also denied offering a bribe to a clergy abuse victim in exchange for the victim's silence. Pell also told the commission that rumors of clergy abuse he heard as early as the 1970s were not his responsibility to investigate. He was also inclined to believe priestly denials of abusive behavior. "I must say in those days, if a priest denied such activity, I was very strongly inclined to accept the denial," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Pell admitted feeling apathy toward Gerald Ridsdale's alleged abuse of children. "It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me ... I had no reason to turn my mind to the extent of the evils that Ridsdale had perpetrated," he told the Royal Commission, according to the Guardian. Pell's lack of curiosity when confronted with possible abuse in the church forced columnist Andrew Bolt to conclude that he was either lying or "dangerously indifferent", reports the Guardian.

Pell admitted that clergy abuse is "indefensible", adding that "the church has made enormous mistakes", report the Guardian and Al Jazeera. It was a "disastrous coincidence" that so many predators were present in the Ballarat Diocese, he said, according to ABC News (Australia), and denied that they might have been placed together intentionally.

Pell's laughable claims that he could not remember details of important events and that he was kept in the dark by other clergy angered some observers. According to Reuters, the clergy abuse survivors who flew to Rome faxed a message to Pope Francis that read, "This is about children. Children who were abused and damaged in the past. ... We would like to request a meeting to discuss the commitment to the children of the past and children of the future, to implement systems so that this is never repeated again."

Pope Francis did not meet with the clergy abuse survivors. Upon their return to Australia, the group urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to support a national redress scheme for abuse survivors, according to the Guardian.

These three events show us that public awareness of clergy abuse has growing by leaps and bounds. Victims, entertainers, and authorities refuse to stay silent about clergy abuse, and are instead demanding accountability from the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, for its part, can no longer deny the problem without revealing its own callousness and incompetence.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Guardian: We learned about George Pell's pain. But what about the children?

Sydney Morning Herald: Cardinal George Pell has to resign, or Pope Francis must act

Mother Jones: Hundreds of Children Allegedly Abused Over 40-Year Period in Pennsylvania Diocese, Grand Jury Determines

New York Times: Spotlight Oscar Warms Boston Globe, and Journalism

Friday, March 11, 2016

Images from Tonight's Protest at the Trump Rally in Chicago

Donald Trump Postpones Chicago Rally After Thousands Protest Outside

Donald Trump was scheduled to speak tonight at a rally at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Hundreds of anti-Trump demonstrators gathered outside the UIC Pavilion to protest Trump's statements and policies. Media coverage of the protest showed protesters waving Mexican flags and holding signs that read "Will Trade Trump for 1 Million Refugees", "Trump Makes America Hate", and "No Racism".

According to NBC 5, Trump later postponed the rally, reportedly due to safety concerns. The Trump campaign website posted the following message this evening.
"Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with law enforcement has determined that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight’s rally will be postponed to another date."
During a phone interview with MSNBC shortly after the cancellation, Trump remarked that, "We have a country that's so divided that maybe even you don't understand it. I've never seen anything like it, and this has been going on for years ... There's a lot of anger in the country." During another interview with CNN, Trump refused to take responsibility for the chaos. "I don't take responsibility," he said, according to NPR. "I certainly don't incite violence or condone violence."

After the announcement, scuffles broke out between protesters and Trump supporters, reports NBC 5 and Reuters. Outside, protesters and police clashed, with a group of protesters shouting "Sixteen shots!" (a reference to the killing of Laquan McDonald) as seen in a Fox 10 video. Another group of protesters entered the pavilion after the cancellation and chanted "Bernie! Bernie", while a group of Trump supporters shouted "Trump! Trump!", as seen in a CNN video. Footage from inside the pavilion shows arguments, attendees snatching flyers away from rivals, people being led away by security personnel.

At the time of this blog post, at least one Chicago police officer is known to have been injured, according to NBC 5. A video by DNAinfo shows an African American man with a head injury, as an onlooker cries out, "They busted his head!".

It is fair to ask whether violence by Trump supporters at previous rallies precipitated this incident, and whether Trump takes such violence seriously. Can a political candidate who triggers this much anger and division truly be expected to unite America as president?

News Tidbits

Associated Press: Pope's abuse accountability tribunal going nowhere fast

BBC News: Pope imposes new rules for saint-making after 'abuses' of system

The Evening Sun: Pennsylvania: Loud protesters divide Confederate Flag Day attendees

Salt Lake Tribune: After Mormon church ‘balance’ statement, LGBT bills swept aside

Washington Post: This church’s cancer-curing elixir is really bleach, federal authorities say

The Tennessean: Rev. James Lawson: Pro-life movement is attempt to dismantle equality

Raw Story: Anti-abortion group cheers as flood waters threaten Louisiana abortion provider

LGBTQ Nation: Rafael Cruz: ‘Gay marriage shall destroy society’

Washington Blade: Tony Perkins calls lesbian-themed musical ‘sexual propaganda’

Ghana Web: Lion nearly killed prophet after botched miracle

Commentary Tidbits

Dallas Voice: Bully Boykin

Overturning Tables: If You Care About Abuse, You Should Care About Who Ted Cruz Wants on the Supreme Court

Des Moines Register: Senator's offensive bid to make abortion a hate crime

The Advocate: What Happens When Two Women Hold Hands at an Antigay Conference

The Nation: Republican Candidates Give Trump a Pass for Violence at His Rallies

Religion News Service: How Trump resembles many popular evangelical preachers

Mother Jones: Marco Rubio Had Some Really Dumb Things to Say About Climate Change Last Night

The Atlantic: Marriage Will Not Fix Poverty

Will Colorado Pass a Conversion Therapy Ban?

A bill banning conversion therapy for minors is currently under consideration in Colorado. If passed, House Bill 16-1210 will prohibit "a licensed physician specializing in psychiatry or a licensed or registered mental health care provider from engaging in conversion therapy with a patient under 18 years of age".

The bill comes at a time when so-called "ex-gay" proponents are reeling from humiliating defeats. Currently, four states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning conversion therapy for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Last year, a New Jersey jury concluded that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healins (JONAH) made fraudulent claims when it told clients it could change their sexual orientation, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Unfortunately, JONAH is still operating overseas.) Recently, LGBTQ groups have filed a federal consumer fraud claim against so-called "ex-gay" organization People Can Change, according to the Guardian and Wisconsin Gazette.

On March 8th, opponents of conversion therapy spoke before the Colorado House Health Committee, urging them to support House Bill 16-1210. Speakers included Dave Montez, executive director of One Colorado, and Esteban Lee O'Neal, a survivor of Evergreen (a Mormon ex-gay program). According to  Fox 31 and KWGN 2, the measure passed by a vote of 7-6 and will move on to the Colorado legislature. Here's hoping that the legislature will vote the bill into law.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

News Tidbits

The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Planned Parenthood clinic vandalized

Riverfront Times: Missouri Senators Filibuster "Religious Freedom" Resolution All Night Long

Associated Press: Missouri Religious Exemption Measure Advances

CBS Denver: Bill Banning Gay Conversion Therapy On Kids Goes To House Floor 

Gay Star News: Margaret Cho criticizes Singapore anti-gay sex law and megachurch pastor in her shows

International Business Times: Ted Cruz’s Ties To Controversial Christian Leaders In 2016 GOP Race

LGBTQ Nation: Ted Cruz’s Michigan co-chair hopes to ban homosexuality 

Washington Blade: GOP dropping gay marriage attacks in favor of ‘religious freedom’

KVAL 13: Buddhist monk, apparently mistaken as Muslim, attacked in Hood River

Commentary Tidbits

Political Research Associates: Dominionism is the New Religious Freedom

SPLC Hatewatch: Boykin Singles Out Trans People at Liberty Counsel Conference

RH Reality Check: Filmmakers Use Virtual Reality to Depict Abortion Clinic Protests

The Guardian: Training children to obey authority doesn't keep them safe, it puts them in danger

Think Progress: Missouri Democrats Wage Wendy Davis-Style Filibuster Against Anti-Gay Religious Amendment

Right Wing Watch: Ted Cruz: Supreme Court On Brink Of Throwing Religious People In Prison

I Fail to See the Beauty of Complementarianism

The Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference will take place in Louisville, Kentucky on April 12-14. The conference will feature an exclusively male line-up of Religious Right speakers such as R. C. Sproul, John Piper, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, and C. J. Manahey of the Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.

The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, a Christian organization devoted to male "headship" and rigid gender roles, will be hosting a pre-conference called "The Beauty of Complementarity". The pre-conference will feature pro-patriarchy, anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQ workshops.

  • Complementarity and the Disappearance of Men
  • Complementarity and the Beauty of Submission
  • Complementarity and the Call to Purity
  • Testimony: My Journey Out of Lesbianism to Complementarianism
  • Testimony: My Journey Out of Feminism
  • Redemption Through Motherhood: Why Caring for Children is Caring for the World
  • The Gospel for the Struggling: Overcoming Sinful Desire
  • God's Design for Women

The pre-conference will feature a special women's track with stereotypical gems such as these.

  • Count It Pure Joy: A Generation Returning to Motherhood
  • Fitted for Flourishing: How the Bible Creates a Happy Home
  • Teachers of Life: Titus 2 and Theological Discipleship
  • Bound for Life: Following Your Husband Through Life's Challenges

Complementarians baffle me. In their desperation to restore outmoded gender roles, they struggle to recreate an era that never really existed. They insist that women will find happiness if they abandon their autonomy and dignity by submitting to a man, even though many women know better. They stubbornly ignore evidence that gender roles are not innate, and that gender identity can take infinitely many forms. Glaringly, they also ignore the unhappiness, unfairness, and even abuse that occur in complementarian communities.

I suspect that complementarian men feel threatened in our day and age. They live in a world in which many women demand equality and LGBTQ people serve as a reminder that sex and gender are not binary. They live in a world in which white, straight males no longer have the unfair power and privilege they had decades ago. Desperate to regain power, they seek refuge in a patriarchal system, no matter how outdated, unfair, or inaccurate that system may be.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

It's 2016, and Ken Ham Still Believes Labor Pain Is a Consequences of Sin

Let's take a break from politics for a moment and discuss some Religious Right silliness. I was stunned to learn that it 2016, at least one fundamentalist Christian still believes that labor pains are a result of Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden.

On February 11th, Ken Ham posted a two-minute audio snippet entitled "What Causes Birth Pains". Labor pain is a result of sin rather than evolution, he claimed.
"The Smithsonian Institute launched a human evolution traveling exhibit last year visited libraries across America. At one library, they had a lecture on why women have pain in childbirth when chimpanzees and bonobos don't. They claim it's due to our evolutionary heritage of walking upright and having bigger heads, but the Bible gives us the real answer. God originally created everything very good. There wasn't any suffering, pain, or death in the original creation, but Adam and Eve's sin changed everything. One consequence of sin was pain in childbirth. Women have a difficult time giving birth today because of sin and the curse, not because of some evolutionary story."
As always, Ham is interpreting Genesis 3:16 as a literal account of history rather than a just-so story written by ancient men. To my surprise, other fundamentalist Christians agree with his claim that labor pain for women was God's response to Eve's transgression.

Even though Ham sees labor pains as a punishment inflicted on women for Eve's sin, his organization condoned the use of anesthesia during labor. A 2011 Answers in Genesis commentary piece argues that anesthesia is permissible during childbirth. The author, Elizabeth Mitchell, encourages communication and trust between a pregnant woman and her obstetrician regarding pain management during childbirth and supports patient empowerment.

The claim that labor pain is a punishment for Eve's sin is ridiculous for several reasons. First, there is no evidence that the Garden of Eden story in Genesis is historically accurate, and copious evidence that humans came about through evolution instead. Second, if a supreme being truly wanted women to suffer during childbirth, that being wouldn't have made labor pain so easy to circumvent through anesthesia and other medical interventions. Third, if God wanted to punish all women for Eve's sin, using labor pains as punishment excludes significant numbers of women who never give birth. Fourth, it would be unfair and pointless for God to punish billions of women for one woman's actions. Finally, women experience vastly different levels of severity of labor pain and postpartum pain, so why would the Almighty arbitrarily punish some women more than others?

Ham's labor pain argument is yet another example of the absurdities that result when one takes a collection of ancient stories literally.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hundreds Protested Outside GOP Debate in Detroit

On March 3rd, as Republican presidential candidates debated inside the Fox Theater in Detroit, hundreds of protesters gathered outside. Peaceful protesters demanded an increase in the minimum wage, decried to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and denounced Donald Trump. According to the Detroit Free Press, members of the National Action Network (NAN) and the Fight for $15 organization were among the demonstrators.

Flint water crisis protesters shouted "Shut this down!" and held signs that read "Flint Lives Matter" and "Fix Flint Now". One sign featured in a WXYZ-TV video showed a sign blasting Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Donald Trump as "Two Republican Racists".

Other protesters demonstrated against Trump. WXYZ-TV showed a woman holding a green sign that read "Down with Fascist Scum Drumpf", a reference to Trump's ancestral name as revealed by John Oliver. An amatuer video of the protests a cardboard "wall" that read 'Donald this is your future wall; send me the bill".

The Flint water crisis was expected to be a major issue at the GOP presidential debate. I wonder how protesters felt when Marco Rubio called the "politicization" of the crisis "unfair" and applauded Governor Snyder for allegedly taking responsibility for the problem. (Are you sure about that, Sen. Rubio?)

These protests serve as a reminder of the issues facing ordinary Americans: jobs, wages, inadequate infrastructure, and marginalization. Many voters desperately want political leaders to address these problems. If the Republican candidates are smart, they'll take these matters seriously. Unfortunately, I doubt they will.

(Hat tip to Crazy Eddie's Motie News for the WXYZ-TV video.)

GOP Presidential Debate in Detroit Was Part Circus, Part Horror Show

On March 3rd, four Republican presidential candidates -- Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and John Kasich --  took part in another presidential debate at Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan Moderated by Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace, the debate explored topics such as global extremism, the economy, firearms, same-sex marriage, the Flint water crisis, and failing schools. The Washington Post published a transcript of the debate, available here.

At times, the debate was a circus, with Rubio and Trump bickering like children. At other times, the debate was horrifying, with Trump's cavalier talk of gutting government offices, authorizing waterboarding, and giving illegal orders to the military. The debate should remind us how high the stakes are in the 2016 election, and the consequences that will befall us if enlightened voters fail to elect a trustworthy candidate.

Chris Wallace referenced Mitt Romney's excoriation of Trump when asking Trump about the endorsement he received from white supremacist David Duke. Trump disavowed Duke's endorsement, but quickly became evasive.
WALLACE: Mr. Trump, Romney also talked about your position on race, and the controversy over your failure to denounce David Duke on Sunday. You have repeatedly disavowed him since then, but I'd like to go deeper than that. What are your views on the Klu Klux Klan, and white supremacists?

TRUMP: I totally disavow the Klu Klux Klan. I totally disavow David Duke. I've been doing it now for two weeks, this is your -- you're probably about the 18th person that's asked me the question. It was very clear, that question was also talked about in the form of groups. Groups, I want to know which groups are you talking about? You have to tell me which groups? Ultimately, he got to the Klu Klux Klan, which obviously I'm going to disavow. And, by the way, if you look on my Twitter account, almost immediately after the program they were disavowed again.
Trump brought up Rubio's claim that he had small hands (which some people interpreted as a joke about the size of Trump's reproductive organ). "And he referred to my hands. If they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee," Trump assured the audience.

Wow. A serious presidential contender talking about his member during a debate. Classy.

Cruz and Rubio traded barbs with Trump for several minutes. The squabbling between Rubio and Trump became so childish that even Chris Wallace warned, "You have got to do better than this." Kasich prefered to rise above the fray and focus on his viability in the general election.
KASICH: It frankly is boring to me. I would like it clear though, since we're talking about polls, I beat Hillary Clinton by more than 11 points, and the reason it happens ... is because, as the Democrats tell me all the time, I can get the crossover votes. You see, because throughout this campaign I've talked about issues, I have never tried to go and get into these scrums that we're seeing here on the stage. And, people say everywhere I go, 'you seem to be the adult on the stage' ... What I want the people to know is, I know how to bring people together, Republicans and Democrats. I have successfully, both at the federal level and the state level brought economic growth, wage growth, and economic security to this country."
Trump's performance went from boorish to disturbing when Wallace asked him how he would keep the economy afloat after instituting large tax cuts. Trump admitted that he would gut the Department of Education, Department of Environmental Protection, and Internal Revenue Service to save money. Wallace reminded him that gutting these departments would not save the U.S. sufficient money to offset the federal deficit.
WALLACE: Mr. Trump, your proposed tax cut would add $10 trillion to the nation's debt over 10 years, even if the economy grows the way that you say it will. You insist that you could make up for a good deal of that, you say, by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse.

TRUMP: Correct.

WALLACE: Like what? And please be specific.

TRUMP: Department of Education. We're cutting Common Core. We're getting rid of Common Core. We're bringing education locally. Department of Environmental Protection. We are going to get rid are of it in almost every form. We're going to have little tidbits left but we're going to take a tremendous amount out. We have various other things. If you look at the IRS, if you look at every single agency, we can cut it down, and I mean really cut it down and save. The waste, fraud, and abuse is massive.
Wallace also questioned Ted Cruz about his plans to abolish the IRS if elected president. Naively, Cruz argued that Americans could just submit their taxes on a postcard to the Treasury Department.
WALLACE: Senator Cruz, one of centerpieces of your campaign, in fact, you mentioned it again tonight, is that you will abolish the IRS. Question though, who will collect the taxes that you are still calling for? Who will oversee to make sure that people pay the taxes that they rightfully owe? And who will check on the various tax deductions and tax credits that you still want?

CRUZ: So my simple flat tax I have rolled out in precise detail how it will operate where every American can fill out our taxes on a postcard. And if you want to actually see the postcard, see all the details, you can find them on our Web site. It's tedcruz-dot-org ... Now, at the end of that there will still be an office in the Treasury Department to receive the postcards but it will be dramatically simpler.
Bret Baier reminded Trump that over one-hundred Republican national security leaders signed an open letter declaring him unfit for office. Baier then asked Trump how he would react if U.S. military leaders refused to obey illegal orders related to torture and attacks on noncombatants. Trump was cavalier, insisting that the military would not refuse his orders. Chillingly, he expressed approval of waterboarding and even "stronger" (read: more brutal) measures.
BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists' families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they've been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders. So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they're illegal.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They're chopping off heads. They're chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They're drowning people in steel cages. And he -- now we're talking about waterboarding.

This really started with Ted, a question was asked of Ted last -- two debates ago about waterboarding. And Ted was, you know, having a hard time with that question, to be totally honest with you. They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it's fine. And if we want to go stronger, I'd go stronger, too ... We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding.
Megyn Kelly played several video clips in which Trump contradicted himself on issues such as Syrian refugees, the war in Afghanistan, and whether George W. Bush lied to justify the Iraq War. Trump maintanced that he was maintaining "flexibility" on the issues.
KELLY: But the point I'm going for is you change your tune on so many things, and that has some people saying, what is his core?

TRUMP: Megyn, I have a very strong core. I have a very strong core. But I've never seen a successful person who wasn't flexible, who didn't have a certain degree of flexibility. You have to have a certain degree of flexibility.
Rubio scoffed at Trump's excuse. "There's a difference between flexibility and telling people whatever you think you need to say to get them to do what you want them to do," Rubio said.

Crippled or nonexistent Departments of Education and Environmental Protection. Illegal military orders. Waterboarding and worse. Deception. After November, this is what awaits reasonable voters if we fail.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

NPR: Is The Republican Party On The Verge Of A Historic Crackup?

Detroit Free Press: Marco Rubio slams 'politicizing' of Flint's water crisis, defends Snyder

News and Commentary Tidbits: CPAC 2016 Edition

The 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place on March 2-5 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. The annual right-wing gathering featured GOP presidential candidates such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, as well as conservative commentators and Republican political leaders. The conference agenda was brimming with the usual anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, anti-climate fare.

Hilariously, CPAC workshop presenters are still convinced that right-wingers can woo millennials, people of color, and young women as part of a larger effort to "win back the culture."

Right. Sure. Whatever you say.

  • Reaching the Female Youth Vote
  • Engaging Millennials
  • Talking to Minority Voters: Making the Case for Conservatives Nationally
  • The Entertainment Gap: How Conservatives Can Win Back the Culture Through Books & Engagement in the Arts

The GOP's internal strife, the event's hypocrisy regarding guns, and accusations of racism and anti-Muslim sentiments have haunted CPAC for the past week. For your reading pleasure, here are some news and commentary pieces on 2016 CPAC.

Daily Beast: Right to Bear Arms? Not at CPAC 2016

Slate: CPAC Is Irrelevant

Time: Donald Trump Drops Out of Controversial CPAC Speech

The Atlantic: Taking a Stand—Sort Of—Against Trump at CPAC

NPR: Ted Cruz Rouses Crowd At CPAC Conference

Right Wing Watch: CPAC Welcomes Back Conspiracy Theorists

Washington Blade: ‘Smooth sailing’ for gay Republicans at CPAC

SPLC Hatewatch: Anti-Muslim Hate Group Invites European Racists to Speak at CPAC

SPLC Hatewatch: CPAC 2016 Recap – Anti-Muslim Commentary Galore

This Scene Looks Strangely Familiar...

Earlier today, Trump told attendees at an Orlando rally to raise their right hands and swear that they would vote for him. This scene looks oddly familiar ...

News Tidbits

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Louisiana child law violates priest's religious freedom, judge rules

The Seattle Times: Racketeering suit claims Mark Driscoll misused Mars Hill donor dollars 

KRDO: Self-proclaimed Planned Parenthood gunman calls shooting 'righteous crusade'

New York Times: Evangelists Adapt to a New Era, Preaching the Gospel to Skeptics

Associated Press: Bill: Florida churches don't have to do same-sex weddings

Washington Blade: West Virginia Senate rejects religious freedom bill

The Advocate: Georgia Governor: 'License to Discriminate' Bill Isn't Christian

Pink News: Mormon leader claims Church has zero gay members

The Arizona Republic: Phoenix City Council votes to bring prayer back to meetings

Commentary Tidbits

Vox: The rise of American authoritarianism

The Atlantic: The Religious Roots of Shaming-as-Rehab Programs

Out from Under the Umbrella: An Explanation for Trump’s Popularity from Shallow Hal

Right Wing Watch: Franklin Graham Boycotts Girl Scouts Cookies As Part Of Anti-LGBT Crusade

RH Reality Check: Accused Clinic Shooter Says His Victims Are ‘Casualties’ of ‘War’

Huffington Post: Read This Before You Say Anything Else About 'Taking Back America'

Friday, March 4, 2016

Romney Blasts Trump as a "Phony" and "Fraud"

Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney had harsh words for Donald Trump this week. NBC News reports that on March 3rd, Mitt Romney offered a scathing indictment of Trump at the Hinckley Institute of Politics Forum in Salt Lake City, Utah. The New York Times posted a transcript of the speech, which pulled no punches.

"If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished," Romney argued. Romney began by slamming Trump's proposed economic policies, claiming that they would undermine trade and enlarge the national debt.
"Let me explain why I say that. First on the economy. If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into prolonged recession. A few examples. His proposed 35 percent tariff-like penalties would instigate a trade war and that would raise prices for consumers, kill our export jobs and lead entrepreneurs and businesses of all stripes to flee America.

His tax plan in combination with his refusal to reform entitlements and honestly address spending would balloon the deficit and the national debt. So even though Donald Trump has offered very few specific economic plans, what little he has said is enough to know that he would be very bad for American workers and for American families."
Romney mocked Trump's statements about Muslims and the unrest in the Levant, criticizing Trump for his short-sightedness and recklessness.
"Now let me turn to national security and the safety of our homes and loved ones. Mr. Trump’s bombast is already alarming the allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies. Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS, and for what purpose? Muslim terrorists would only have to lie about their religion to enter the country.
And then what he said about on “60 Minutes”. Did you hear this? It was about Syria and ISIS, and it has to go down as the most ridiculous and dangerous idea of the entire campaign season. Let ISIS take out Assad, he said, and then we can pick up the remnants.

Now, think about that. Let the most dangerous terror organization the world has ever known take over an entire country? This recklessness is recklessness in the extreme. Now, Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart."
Romney was also quick to condemn Trump for his immaturity, bigotry, and vulgarity, referring to Trump's histrionics as "absurd third grade theatrics".

"Now, I’m far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament to be president. After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter’s questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.

Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics. You know, we have long referred to him as “The Donald.” He’s the only person in the entire country to whom we have added an article before his name, and it was not because he had attributes we admired." 
The list of Trump's flaws was long. Romney lambasted Trump for his slim chances of defeating Hillary Clinton if nominated, his inconsistency on important issues, and his reluctance to release his tax documents for public scrutiny. The final blow was an attack on Trump's broken moral compass, as well as his unpresidential temperament and poor judgment.

"Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press.

This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University ... His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill."

Trump responded with his usual bravado. During the Fox News GOP presidential debate in Detroit on March 3rd, Trump called Romney a "failed candidate". During a rally in Portland, Maine, Trump accused Romney of disloyalty and claimed that Romney once begged for his endorsement. "You can see how loyal he is. He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, 'Mitt, drop to your knees.' He would have dropped to his knees," Trump said, according to CNN.

On one hand, I found Romney's hypocrisy grating. He criticized Trump for bigotry against Muslims and immigrants, but he himself has exhibited bigotry toward LGBTQ people. For example, during his 2012 presidential campaign, Romney repeatedly denounced same-sex marriage. He criticized Trump for his misogyny, but his own disregard for reproductive rights is hardly respectful toward women. He blasted Trump's stance on torture, but he himself expressed approval of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the past. Romney was all too eager to decry Trump's sin while remaining oblivious to his own.

Romney also refused to acknowledge his party's role in setting the stage for a demagogue such as Trump. For years, members of the Republican party have expressed contempt for LGBTQ persons and immigrants, supported war and inhumane measures as part of the "War on Terror", and generally cultivated irrational anger and paranoia among their supporters. The GOP helped stir up anger, fear, and irrationality among voters, to which Trump is pandering now. Why won't Romney admit that his own party helped create this Frankenstein monster?

On the other hand, Romney is right. He accurately described Trump's flaws and rationally explained why Trump is unsuitable for the presidency. As much as I hate to admit it, Romney hit the bulls-eye.

The question is, will he sway Republican voters? I worry that voters who support Trump are listening to their anger and fear, not to reason.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Atlantic: Will Mitt Romney’s Anti-Trump Pitch Work?

Slate: If GOP leaders really want to stop Trump, they need to be willing to lose the election

The Guardian: 'Mitt, drop to your knees!': Trump's locker-room banter is simple homophobia

The Situation Is So Bad That the X-Men Have Gotten Involved

The X-Men unite to defeat the greatest threat to humankind yet: Donald Trump! (Hat tip to Pink News.)