Monday, March 27, 2017

Pastor Waxes Poetic About the Amish, Calls for More Childbearing

Peter Witkowski, associate pastor of preschool and children at the First Baptist Church in Eastman, Georgia, recently wrote a commentary piece about how to shore up declining evangelical Christian numbers. In a March 17th post at the Family Research Council blog, Witkowski argued that Christians should emulate the Amish by raising large families, doubling down on Christian instruction for children, and "protecting" children from the supposedly pernicious influence of "the world".

Witkowski approvingly cited a population study by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies showing that the Amish population has increased 18% over the past five years (more here).  He contrasted Amish population growth with declining Southern Baptist Convention membership. The culprit for these developments was breeding patterns among the Amish and Southern Baptists, with Amish couples having an average of 6.8 children compared to Southern Baptist couples' 2.1 children. Moreover, Amish retain most of their children in the faith, while children raised in evangelical homes are increasingly abandoning their natal faith as adults.

Witkowski interprets these trends to mean that evangelical Christians must breed more children if they want their faith communities to survive. He urged evangelical Christians to reproduce prolifically, even if they must sacrifice "traveling, nice homes, and our own tranquility" to do so.
"These numbers show that evangelism is not the major failing of our local SBC and evangelical churches. Our problem has everything to do with our view of children and the family. Churches that do not have members having children will not succeed.

Now, every Christian does not have to embrace the "19 Kids and Counting" lifestyle. Christ is still our ultimate goal and not family size. But, we must begin to revive pro-family values in our churches. Being pro-family goes well past having a catchy kids’ program. We need to celebrate birth. We need to praise parents for having big families instead of chastising them with snide comments. We need to come to the point where we value kids more than traveling, nice homes, and our own tranquility. We need to live as if children are a blessing."
No, parents should not raise large families if doing so would plunge them into poverty. People are entitled to make sound financial decisions, including the decision to have a small family or no children at all. The "tranquility" that comes from knowing where money for the electric bill will come from is called a good quality of life, and it has a profound impact on one's mental and physical health. No one should consign themselves and their children to a life of deprivation just because a pastor wants to boost church membership.

Prolific reproduction was only part of Witkowski's equation. Parents must also submerge their children in evangelical Christian culture, he claimed, so as to counteract the influence of "the world" which "evangelizes our kids 7 days a week" with "dangerous doctrines".
"And then, we need to commit to training our kids. We need to organize our families around the Gospel. We need to have intentional times of family worship. We must realize that going to church twice a week or twice a month will not provide our kids with an adequate religious framework. We must realize that the world evangelizes our kids 7 days a week. We must do the same. And we must intentionally find ways to protect our kids from the dangerous doctrines of the world and find ways to train them in righteousness."
Do any of these strategies sound familiar? I can think of one evangelical subculture that pressures couples to breed prolifically so as to increase Christian numbers, shelters children through hyper-Christian upbringing, and demonizes the outside world as a dangerous and contaminating influence: Quiverfull. Even if Witkowski doesn't use the terms "Quiverfull" or "Christian Patriarchy Movement" in his commentary piece, the strategy he describes is Quiverfull in everything but name.

If more evangelicals use these strategies to promote growth and retention in their faith communities, we can expect harm to befall women and children. For too many women, life in the Quiverfull subculture means patriarchal subjugation, health problems from repeated pregnancies, and spiritual trauma, as multiple ex-Quiverfull bloggers can attest. For too many children, life in that subculture is one of insularity, parental domination, and indoctrination as they are raised to be torchbearers for their parents. The existence of abuse in the Quiverfull subculture is well-known, thanks to the high-profile scandals involving Josh Duggar, Doug Philips, and Bill Gothard. The Quiverfull/Christian Patriarchy Movement subculture shows us that using women as brood mares, raising children as human tools, and isolating families in insular communities creates suffering. No amount of growth or retention justifies so much human suffering.

The implications of Witkowski admiration for the Amish are unsettling. The reason why the Amish retain so many people born into their culture is because it's very difficult to leave (not unlike Quiverfull). Someone raised in insular Amish society may not know what options are available to them in the "English" world. Even the practice of rumspringa only gives Amish youth a short, superficial taste of the outside world. Unless they have loved ones living outside Amish society, they would have no support system or mentors if they left. With little education or money, how could they build a life for themselves without that support? Under those conditions, is it any wonder that most Amish youth stay within their natal culture? While some disaffected Amish people do leave, they are in the minority.

Let's not forget that insular, patriarchal societies where women are expected to breed prolifically are not automatically safe places for families. No matter how much Witkowski wants to label the Amish  "pro-family", the reality is that child abuse and rape culture exist in Amish communities, just as they do in the "English" world. Insularity and patriarchy do not prevent these evils, but only make it more difficult for victims to seek help. If evangelicals truly want to be "pro-family", they should focus on preventing and addressing family violence instead of making their faith communities more insular and fecund.

This kind of culture may help the Amish community retain members, but it comes at the cost of self-determination and individual flourishing. This is not something that evangelical Christians should emulate for the sake of stabilizing their numbers. The Amish insularity and fecundity that Witkowski praises could easily produce Quiverfull scenarios if cross-bred with evangelical Christianity. Furthermore, these strategies would do a disservice to women and children in those communities.

Southern Baptists and other denominations hemorrhaging members should either accept their declining numbers, or address the reasons why members are leaving. Urging believers to breed prolifically and raise children in sheltered, hyper-Christian environments to shore up denominational membership will only result in misery.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

News Tidbits

Southern Poverty Law Center: Federal court permits Vermont lesbian to sue Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver for role in international kidnapping

Reuters: Come down from pulpit to deal with sexual abuse, Catholic leaders told

Associated Press: Katy Perry says she 'prayed the gay away' as a youth

The Independent: Republican politician says rape and incest part of God's will

Philly*com: Religious groups sue school district over transgender student

Buzzfeed: This Bus Is On A Road Trip To Convince You That Transgender People Aren’t Real

Washington Blade: Kentucky governor signs ‘religious freedom’ bill against LGBT students

Washington Blade: Caribbean pastors ask U.S. to stop promoting LGBT rights abroad


Commentary Tidbits

The Guardian: Mike Pence, finding God, and the shifting agenda of Christian music festivals

The Atlantic: Steve Bannon's Would-Be Coalition of Christian Traditionalists

Ashley Easter: Why Patriarchy Is Abuse

The Advocate: Trump Gives Haters a Prominent Spot at the United Nations


New Report Looks at Lives of Muslims in the Trump Era

Donald Trump's anti-Muslim efforts -- from his 2015 call for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the U.S. to his executive orders banning entry to persons from several majority-Muslim countries -- have emboldened anti-Muslim activists and fueled anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S. Similar sentiments among current and former members of his administration, as well as organizations that support him and his policies, have also shocked onlookers. Now, a new report is shedding light on the pernicious effect these developments have had on American Muslim communities.

According to Reuters, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding just released the results of a national survey of American Muslims. American Muslim Poll 2017: Muslims at the Crossroads presents the results of a January 2017 study of 1,249 respondents residing in the U.S., including 800 Muslims. While the report explores Muslim experiences and attitudes in a variety of areas, such as race issues, community involvement, and religiosity, the survey's findings regarding discrimination and safety are what concern me.

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, American Muslims report higher rates of discrimination and bullying and feel greater anxieties over their safety than the general population. The statistics presented in the report deserve attention.

  • Muslim respondents were four times as likely as members of the general population to report that their children had been bullied. Two-thirds of bullying incidents involved other students, 6% involved teachers or school officials, and 19% involved both students and teachers or school officials.

  • 36% of Muslims reported experiencing discrimination on the basis of religion "occasionally" or "regularly". Muslim women and Muslims of Asian or Arab ancestry were more likely to report occasional or regular discrimination.

  • 30% of Muslims reported being stopped by U.S. border officials for additional questioning upon returning from international travel, compared to 13% of Jews, 11% of Catholics, 11% of Protestants, 19% of non-affiliated respondents, and 12% of the general public.

  • As a result of the 2016 presidential election, 38% of Muslims feared for their safety or that of their loved ones and worried about violence from white supremacist groups. Only 27% of Jews, 8% of Catholics, 11% of Protestants, and 16% of non-affiliated respondents feared for their safety.

  • Safety fears impacted other parts of Muslim respondents' lives in the wake of the presidential election. 18% of Muslims admitted to making plans to leave the country "if it becomes necessary". 15% admitted to modifying their appearance to be less identifiable as Muslims. 11% reported that they signed up for a self-defense class.

These survey results are unsettling, especially when read alongside other reports showing a significant increase in anti-Muslim hate groups and anti-Muslim hate crimes during the 2016 presidential campaign and after the election. (More here.)

No community should have to live with fear of bullying, discrimination, and violence that comes with being demonized as "other". We should all be alarmed by the results of the ISPU report, as it demonstrates that the rhetoric of Trump and his allies are having a real impact on Muslim communities.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Religious Right Figures Among U.S. Delegation to U.N. Commission on the Status of Women




The 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will take place at United Nations headquarters in New York City on March 13-24. The Commission on the Status of Women brings together representatives of U.N. member states and non-governmental organizations to promote women's empowerment and equality around the world. To the horror of LGBTQ and women's rights groups, Religious Right figures will be representing the U.S. at the meeting.

According to a March 13th press release, the U.S. State Department will include representatives from two right-wing organizations in its delegation to the 61st session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. Lisa Correnti, executive vice-president of the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) and Grace Melton, Association for Social Issues at the U.N for the Heritage Foundation, will be part of the delegation. (Hat tip to Reuters.)

C-FAM and its president, Austin Ruse, have a long history of opposing LGBTQ equality and women's reproductive rights at home and at the United Nations. As recently as March 9th, C-FAM issued a statement criticizing U.N. staff for their resistance to the newly reinstated "global gag rule".

The Heritage Foundation's resume is more varied, but its right-wing credentials are solid. For decades, the Heritage Foundation has been a major mover-and-shaker of the American right, and is currently active in the push for "religious freedom" (which, as interpreted by the Religious Right, would allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs). Right Wing Watch has documented the anti-LGBTQ activism of Heritage Foundation senior fellow Ryan Anderson. The organization has also engaged in troubling activism to undermine reproductive rights and oppose Planned Parenthood.

I doubt that representatives of C-FAM and the Heritage Foundation will have the best interests of all women -- women seeking reproductive health services, lesbian women, bisexual women, transgender women -- at heart during the 61st session meeting. By appointing representatives of these two organizations to its delegation, the U.S. State Department has signaled its indifference to women's reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights to the world.

Activists have condemned the decision. In a March 15th open letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Human Rights Campaign urged the State Department to rescind the appointments of Correnti and Melton.
"If the United States is truly committed to improving the lives of women, including LBTQ women, in the U.S. and beyond, then Lisa Correnti and Grace Melton and the organizations they represent should not be the public face of our delegation. We urge you to immediately rescind the appointment of these delegates who do not represent our shared American values."
In a March 15th press release, Out Right International observed that it is "a bad sign that two organizations that have tried to delegitimize the United Nations and human rights internationally now sit on the official US delegation."
"In their Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Tillerson and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley repeatedly pledged to uphold the right to be free from discrimination as an American value. The appointment of these organizations to the official US delegation undermines their positions. I urge Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley to ensure that the US delegation maintains non-discrimination at the CSW in the face of obvious pressure from these newly appointed members of the delegation.

Fundamentalist notions about how women and girls should behave should never be the basis of advising or negotiating US foreign policy."
These delegation choices are another example of how the Trump administration is choosing foxes to guard the hen houses. Rest assured, women's rights activists and LGBTQ equality activists will continue to teach the world about the needs of their communities -- and remind the world that the Religious Right doesn't speak for them.


To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Right Wing Watch: Trump Names C-Fam, Heritage To U.S. Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women

Dallas Voice: Trump administration embarrasses U.S. again by appointing hate group members to U.N. women’s rights meeting

Human Rights Watch: U.S. Sends Group Rejecting Rights to UN Women’s Commission


Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope




Bloomberg: Trump to Drop Climate Change From Environmental Reviews, Source Says

New York Times: Donald Trump Budget Slashes Funds for EPA and State Department

Washington Post: President Trump's first budget proposal

Washington Post: From ‘fake news’ to no news: Tillerson leaving press behind on Asia trip could send message to China

Reuters: Hawaii judge halts Trump's new travel ban before it can go into effect

CNN: Trump admin to appeal travel ban rulings 'soon'

Huffington Post: Cherokee Nation Members Troubled By Trump’s Visit To Andrew Jackson’s Tomb



Stay hopeful! People continue to stand up against Trump.

The Tennessean: More than 2,500 protest Trump rally

The Tennessean: Meet the protester who interrupted Trump's rally


Sexual Assault Victim Unhappy After Group Uses Her Attack to Promote "Bathroom Bill"

2017 has produced a bumper crop of transphobic "bathroom bills", which would prohibit transgender persons from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in 15 states have introduced bathroom bills during the 2017 legislative session, with legislation pending in 12 of those states.

Bathroom bill proponents defend their work as an effort to protect women and children from alleged transgender predators. Such claims are ridiculous, as multiple commentators have noted. Bathroom bill proponents fail to provide any evidence that transgender persons are more likely to commit sex crimes. Furthermore, they ignore ample evidence that transgender people experience disproportionate rates of bullying, harassment, and sexual victimization  -- including in restroom settings -- due to transphobia. For example, The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that out of a national sample of over 27,000 transgender adults, 9% indicated that someone denied them access to a restroom in the past year, and 12% experienced verbal harassment while accessing a restroom. Over half of respondents admitted to avoiding using a public restroom in the past year due to fear of confrontations.

Anti-sexual violence services recognize that bathroom bills have nothing to do with protecting women and children and reject the myth of transgender restroom predators. Last year, multiple victim service organizations signed a joint letter supporting equal restroom access for the transgender community. Now, a sexual assault victim is also raising her voice against bathroom bills.

According to MyNorthwest, Kelly Herron fought off a male attacker in a public Seattle restroom this year. ABC News states that her reported attacker, Gary Steiner, has a record of multiple assaults against women and is facing attempted rape and assault charges.

Herron was disgusted when Washington's Just Want Privacy campaign campaign used her attack to promote an anti-transgender policy measure. Just Want Privacy supports I-1552, a ballot initiative that would require separate restroom facilities for males and females, as well as preventing transgender people from using facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

Herron described her shock upon seeing her assault used to promote I-1552. "I’ve been pretty even keeled throughout this recovery time," she told Dori Monson at KIRO Radio. "I haven’t really cried very much or been angry. When I opened up this link to a newsletter that went out for the bill ...the Yes on I-1552, and it’s got my bloodied face on the cover of this newsletter that's coming out, and on their Facebook page, using my violent sexual assault to promote an initiative that discriminates against transgender people. What?!"

Herron emphasized her respect for transgender people as well as her outrage at having her image used without her permission.
"I have transgender friends. I work with transgender people. They are people. They identify differently and I don’t care where they use the bathroom. When I see a transgender person in the bathroom, we talk about lip gloss ... Now my face is being used to promote discrimination. This is outrageous. One issue has nothing to do with the other."
Just Want Privacy issued an apology in a March 14th Facebook post.
"Last week a Seattle woman was attacked in a bathroom at Golden Gardens by a level III sex offender.

Because our campaign exists to help create safe spaces, we referenced her story—as we have many others before her—to highlight the need for common sense public policy to minimize danger to women and children from those who seek to harm others.

We have recently learned through several media outlets that the woman objected to our reference to her story in our communications.

Since many of the volunteers that comprise this campaign are themselves survivors of sexual assault, the last thing we want to do is make anyone feel exploited.

If our actions have inadvertently failed in this effort, we are sincerely sorry.

Our campaign would welcome the opportunity to apologize to her in person if she would like to reach out to us or provide a way for us to reach her."
According to Washington Won't Discriminate (an initiative opposed to I-1552), Herron has since joined efforts to fundraise for its Decline to Sign I-1552 campaign. "Using Kelly’s story to promote I-1552 is pure propaganda," the group wrote on its website. "I-1552 would not have done one thing to prevent the attack on her, and it’s already illegal to enter a restroom or locker room to harm someone, period."

I applaud Kelly Herron for speaking out against bigotry and the misuse of her story. Sex crime victims deserve respect and support, and their struggles should never be used as cheap propaganda. Society must realize that the struggle against sexual violence and the struggle for transgender rights are entwined, not mutually exclusive.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope




CNN: Reporters, White House debate whether Trump can be trusted

The Guardian: 'A gift to human traffickers': report warns of dangers of Trump immigration policy

Los Angeles Times: UCSD scientists worry Trump could suppress climate change data

Washington Post: Scientists are conspicuously missing from Trump’s government

NorthJersey*com: Kellyanne Conway alludes to even wider surveillance of Trump campaign

GOOD: Kellyanne Conway Suggests Obama May Have Spied On Trump Through His Microwave

New York Times: White House Says Trump’s Wiretap Claim Was Meant More Broadly



The news gives us reasons to be hopeful.

Huffington Post: Over 150 Civil Rights Groups Call On Trump To Denounce Hate Crimes

The Hindu: Pramila Jayapal, Joe Cowley introduce resolution asking Trump to end hate rhetoric

Washington Post: ACLU is leading a million-dollar resistance effort against Trump’s policies

Techcrunch: Omidyar Network and the Anti-Defamation League are launching a center to combat cyberhate

Reuters: Obama lawyers move fast to join fight against Trump


News Tidbits

Daily Beast: ‘Ex-Gay Therapy’ Leader Joseph Nicolosi Dead at 70

ABC News: Undercover at a so-called gay conversion camp

San Diego Gay & Lesbian News: Location of San Diego ex-gay therapy conference revealed: LGBT ally starts protest

On Top Magazine: NOM Urges Trump To Sign Anti-LGBT Executive Order

The Independent: Republican Steve King suggests Muslim children are stopping ‘our civilization’ being restored

Washington Post: The ‘mother and baby home’ at Tuam, Ireland, where friends just ‘disappeared, one after the other’

Irish Examiner: Irish Health Minister Simon Harris: Church must 'pay over and pay up' on sexual abuse redress

Wisconsin Public Radio: Bill Banning Aborted Fetal Tissue Research Resurfaces At State Capitol

Raw Story: ‘I’m not at all sorry’: Woman admits blowing whistle on Josh Duggar to protest family’s anti-LGBT work


Commentary Tidbits

Salon: Southern Baptist leader’s role in question because of his ardent Trump opposition

Refinery29: I Found Something Suspicious In The Duggar Family Scrapbook

Religion Dispatches: “He Got Away With It”: Conversion Therapy Survivor on Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s Legacy

The Nation: This House Republican Just Endorsed a White Nationalist

Vice: A Short History of Congressman Steve King Saying Racist S**t


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Cindy Jacobs Promotes Prosperity Gospel, Makes Tone-Deaf Statements About Jews




New Apostolic Reformation preacher Cindy Jacobs of Generals International recently spoke at the King of Kings Worship Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Right Wing Watch brought attention to her controversial comments about Jews during the event, but I'd also like to bring attention to the rest of the event's content. Jacobs spent her sermon promoting prosperity theology and making tone-deaf comments about racial and ethnic groups, as she has done in the past.

"I'm a seer, really," Jacobs told the audience as she delivered prophesies to the congregants. Jacobs told one young man that he wanted to help people and prevent suffering, and delivered a prophesy to another congregant about their church getting a bigger facility. At the 25:05 mark, however, she expressed her desire to give a prophesy to some Asian congregants. "I want to prophesy over an Asian couple," she said. "I love these Asians. I may be part Asian. Of course, my hashtag is #whitechocolate, so I think I'm part black. I don't know."

Awkward, I thought.

At the 29:44 mark, she bragged about how she converted a Mongolian man to Christianity by name-dropping a famous Mongolian actor.
"I was just eating at the Monocle Restaurant. You know what that is in Washington D.C.? Anybody been to the Monocle? It's where a lot of the Congress people go, and a guy came up to me ... I looked at his name tag, and I said, 'Oh, are you a Mongolian?'. He goes 'yes!' 'cause nobody ever pegs him for Mongolian, and I said, 'I've been in Mongolia ... By the way, I know like the top movie star in Mongolia named Anwar.' And he said, 'You know Anwar?' I mean, he's like famous, like the president will pay a million dollars to have a picture with this guy, you know. I go 'Yeah!'. And he said, 'Did you know he was in Marco Polo?'. I said, 'Not only do I know that, but I prophesied over him in Mongolia that he would go to Hollywood and that Hollywood was going to look for him and that he was going to open the door for other Mongolians, and I'm the one that made the contact in Hollywood so he would make that film.' He is freaking out right in the Monocle.

And I said, 'And not only that, why am I here talking to you when I talk to presidents all over the world, and I was in Mongolia? Now I'm talking to you, Mongolian. God loves you." And I just started witnessing salvation to him, and he goes, 'My wife watches Joel Olsteen!' I go, 'And I'm telling you what, then you need to receive Jesus!'"

I found her story puzzling. I could find no Mongolian actor by the name of "Anwar" during a Google search. Neither the 2007 Marco Polo film nor the 2014 Marco Polo series featured a man named "Anwar" among its cast members. Did I misspell the actor's name?

Jacobs proceeded to promote the prosperity gospel, telling the audience that Christians can reach a "state of blessing" if they believe God's word and donate to charity. Christians can enjoy "abundance" in every aspect of their lives, including their financial lives, she argued, urging listeners to abandon "poverty mentality".

"Poverty in the church should be an exception, not the rule, because we are the ones that are the change agents of society," Jacobs said at the 40:37 mark. She stressed the importance of money for her ministry at the 44:26 mark.
"I have learned to both abase and abound, but I much prefer abounding. I don't have to have those things to follow Jesus, but in order to do my job description in the Earth, I need money so I can do the works I'm supposed to do. You understand this?"
As reported by Right Wing Watch, Jacobs had unsettling things to say about money and Jews. After quoting Bible passages suggesting that born-again Christians are the spiritual heirs of Judaism, Jacobs argued that the Holy Spirits empowers Christians more than Jews. At the 41:57 mark, she claimed that Christians could convert Jews by gathering wealth, thereby making the Jews jealous and demonstrating that God has rewarded them for obedience.
"What the Jews have, we have. However, we have more when we’re in Christ because the Holy Spirit is inside us, empowering us to do the good works we’re called to do ... I want to say to you that one of the things I believe that’s going to bring a great harvest of Jews is the Christians becoming so profoundly wealthy ... that it’s going to make them jealous. The wealth and the riches that we’re able to obtain is going to make them jealous. Do you think our poverty is going to make a Jew jealous? Come off it! No, we are meant to prosper. Why? Because they understand, in their culture, that obedience to God brings blessing. We're called to live a blessed life, not a cursed life."
I was stunned. Jacobs was not only promoting stereotypes about Jews as money-lovers, but making rash assumptions about Jewish culture. Somehow, I don't think promoting Jewish stereotypes and adopting condescending attitudes toward Jewish culture will earn her any new Jewish converts. I would like to remind Cindy Jacobs that people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are not feathers in one's cap, not storytelling elements, and especially not walking stereotypes.

Jacobs shared a childhood story of how her family lived in a tar paper house and the soles of her father's shoes had holes, despite his fervent piety. This story seemed to contradict everything she'd preached about obedience to God resulting in material abundance. Soon thereafter, Jacobs told listeners a crass story about how God wanted her to have $600 leather shoes at the 45:53 mark.
"One day I was in Hong Kong ... and somebody said, 'I want to buy you a pair of shoes for your birthday. I said 'Okay. I know what I need. I want some black patent leather flats, okay? If my feet get tired, I want to have these black patent leather flats.' So we went shopping, and we got home, and I didn't know what the exchange rate was, you know. She said, 'I want to buy you these,' and she chose them. So I go back to the hotel, and I looked, and those were $600 shoes. I was like [gasps]. I mean, I'd never had $600 shoes before.

Actually, this poverty thing came in and said, 'I'd better sell those shoes and give that money to the poor.' And the Lord said, 'That's scarcity thinking! Don't you think I can give you what I want to give you and help you feed the poor too? You think I have a limited budget? Come on! We're not of this world!'
And then the Lord said to me, "Your daddy died when he was 49. Don't you think I saw your daddy's shoes and don't you know I knew he couldn't buy you shoes? Wow. Don't you think I want to give good gifts to my children? If I want to buy you a pair of $600 shoes, you'd better wear those shoes!'"
Why the Almighty couldn't provide Jacobs and her loved ones with shoes when she was a child was unclear. For that matter, why her God, who supposedly wants to give "good gifts" to his earthly children, allows poverty to afflict anyone was unclear.

At the 50:09 mark, Jacobs speculated that poverty exists because Christians have a "poor church". God expects Christians to address poverty in their communities, she explained.
"Maybe there's a reason there's so many people poor, because we have a poor church and we're not doing our job! ... There's a problem with food poverty, systemic poverty. Children in America go to bed hungry, no food in their bellies, and there's a church in America? What is wrong with that picture? That makes me upset. It should make you upset! I hope to upset you! Prophets kind of do that."
Why Jacob's desire to lift people out of poverty was admirable, a sound blueprint for ending poverty has no room for prosperity theology nonsense. Furthermore, her statements do not paint a picture of a compassionate, reassuring God. If the Creator can provide Jacobs with overpriced shoes, why can't he feed "children in America [who] go to bed hungry"? Many people cultivate faith in their God, but they remain poor.

Jacobs may hope to draw people to her version of Christianity by promising prosperity in exchange for piety, but these promises are empty. Prosperity theology might sound seductive to people who have suffered hardship, but they will soon discover that religiosity does not bring wealth.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Cult Next Door

The Cult Next Door (Official Short Film) from Youngman Films on Vimeo.


Jake Youngman directed a new documentary on Bill Gothard, the Advanced Training Institute, and the Institute of Basic Life Principles, The Cult Next Door. The short film features commentary from former Gothard followers such as Julie Anne Smith and Micah Murray.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope




WABE 90.1: U.S. Ethics Official To White House: No, These Rules Definitely Apply To You

Reuters: Tillerson has recused himself from Keystone pipeline issues: State Dept.

Washington Post: Trump stands with House GOP on proposal to revise Obamacare, spokesman says

New York Times: Trump Abruptly Orders 46 Obama-Era Prosecutors to Resign

New York Times: Michael Flynn Was Paid to Represent Turkey’s Interests During Trump Campaign

The Guardian: Trump transition team 'was told Flynn may need to register as a foreign agent'

The Guardian: Sean Spicer muddles answer when pressed on Trump and Russia investigation



Good news stories still give us reason to be hopeful.

Aljazeera: Standing Rock tribe takes DAPL protest to Washington

Feminist Majority Foundation: Protesters March on White House to Demand an End to Trump Global Gag

Michigan Radio: Patriotic Muslims, Hispanics, protest executive order and deportations


Three New Reports on Hate Crimes

Since Trump's election night win, and especially since his inauguration, news sources have been brimming with reports of hate crimes, including anti-Semitic incidents, threats against mosques, and attacks on LGBTQ centers. The problem has become so pressing that a coalition of news organizations, educational institutions, and civil rights groups now seek to create a database of hate crimes via ProPublica's Documenting Hate project.

Three watchdog groups have released new reports on the spike in hate crimes in the U.S., which are must-reads for anyone who is concerned about the cultural climate in Trump's America.


Southern Poverty Law Center: The Year in Hate and Extremism

The SPLC examines the implications of the radical right entering the political mainstream, "electrified" by Trump's presidential campaign and his selection of appointees with anti-Muslim and white nationalist attitudes. The report also observes that a wave of hate incidents took place shortly after Election Day, with 1,094 incidents coming to the SPLC's attention in the first 34 days. More than a third of these incidents referenced Trump, "Make America Great Again", or his misogynist comments to Billy Bush.

Against the backdrop of Trump's ascent, hate groups operating in the U.S. are proliferating. The SPLC counted 917 active hate groups in 2016, an increase from the 892 groups counted in 2015. In particular, anti-Muslim hate groups demonstrated a 197% increase from 2015 to 2016, likely due to Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and recent Islamic extremist attacks.



South Asian Americans Leading Together: Power, Pain, Potential: South Asian Americans at the Forefront of Growth and Hate in the 2016 Election Cycle

SAALT's latest report observes, with disappointment, that some members of American society continue to imagine members of South Asian, Middle Eastern, Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu communities as monolithic and pernicious. Trump's xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric during the 2016 presidential election only inflamed these attitudes. SAALT argues that the increase in hate crimes against these communities over the past year is connected to the inflammatory rhetoric of the 2016 election and its aftermath.

In November 2015, SAALT established an online database of hate incidents directed at South Asian, Middle Eastern, Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu victims. From its creation to November 15, 2016, SAALT documented 140 incidents of hate violence, 94% of which were anti-Muslim in nature. The report also highlights the use of xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric by Donald Trump and explores its correlation to discriminatory policies.

SAALT urges political leaders to address hate crimes by improving policies, legislation, and reporting mechanisms related to profiling and hate crimes. Additionally, the report encourages Americans to support civic engagement and political education both within and without South Asian, Middle Eastern, Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu communities.



Anti-Defamation League: Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2016

While far-right violence cannot be ignored in these times, many forms of extremism festered even before the election. Domestic Islamic extremists and black nationalist extremists, as well as right-wing anti-government, anti-abortion, and white supremacist extremists, were responsible for acts of violence in 2016, according to a new ADL report.

The shadow of the 2016 Pulse massacre in Orlando hung over ADL's latest report on extremist violence. The Anti-Defamation League's preliminary tally of murders committed by domestic extremists in 2016 was 69 known killings (49 victims killed by Omar Mateen during the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub and 20 victims killed by other extremists). The death toll of the Pulse shooting allowed 2016 to exceed 2015's tally of domestic extremist killings.

The ADL reminded readers that while extremist murders make up a small percentage of all killings in the U.S., they signify the presence of extremist networks that perpetrate other crimes.
"It is important to note that the number of Americans killed by domestic extremists is small compared to the total number of murders in the United States or even the number of those who die from gun violence each year. But these deaths represent merely the tip of a pyramid of extremist violence and crime in this country. For every person killed at the hands of an extremist, many more are wounded or injured in attempted murders and assaults. Every year, police uncover and prevent a wide variety of extremist plots and conspiracies with lethal intentions. And extremists engage in a wide variety of other crimes related to their causes, from threats and harassment to white collar crime."



Americans must address this increase in hateful rhetoric and hate violence. Now more than ever, it's important to stay informed about hate crime trends, take steps in our communities to promote inclusion, help victims secure services, and call out hate speech.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

News Tidbits

Huffington Post: Trans Pastor To Texas Bathroom Bill Supporters: ‘Stop Using God As An Excuse To Hate People’

Reuters: Amateur historian 'blew open locked doors' by exposing Irish babies' mass grave

Gay Star News: Philippines: LGBT rights are not natural rights says Christian pastor

Pink News: Franklin Graham claims Oscar-winning Moonlight is seducing kids into gay ‘lifestyle choices’


Commentary Tidbits

Roll to Disbelieve: The Gaze of Dead Children Follows Me Today

Rolling Stone: Betsy DeVos' Holy War

The Daily Banter: White Evangelicals Think They're Discriminated Against More Than Blacks, Jews, and Muslims

Human Rights Watch: ‘Gag Rule’ Huge Setback for Women


Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope




BBC News: More US states challenge Trump travel ban

USA Today: Activists: Trump call for honor killings report targets Muslims

New York Times: Trump Aides Address His Wiretap Claims: ‘That’s Above My Pay Grade’

New York Times: EPA Head Stacks Agency With Climate Change Skeptics 

NPR: EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Questions Basic Facts About Climate Change

Inside Climate News: Chief Environmental Justice Official at EPA Resigns, With Plea to Pruitt to Protect Vulnerable Communities

Politico: Republicans sign letter urging Trump not to cut AmeriCorps funding

The Hill: Senate Dems: State Department is in disarray

Forbes: AMA Says Trumpcare Is 'Critically Flawed'

Talking Points Memo: Major Hospitals Group Comes Out Against GOP Health Care Bill 



We can still be hopeful, thanks to ongoing activism. 

Time: Women's March Organizers Arrested at 'Day Without a Woman' Protest Outside Trump Hotel

USA Today: Native American groups to protest pipeline projects in march to White House

McClatchy: Trump turns apolitical Mennonites into protesters

Fox 17: Large protest planned for President Trump's visit to Nashville



Canadian Senator Wants to Focus on "Good Deeds" of Residential Schools



In the 19th and 20th century, many Native American and First Nations children were compelled to attend Indian residential schools in the U.S. and Canada. Administered by Christian churches, the residential schools were boarding schools intended to assimilate indigenous children into white culture and Christian religion. At worst, residential schools were attempts at ethnocide that disrupted indigenous families, subjected children to abuse and neglect, and left many students with lifelong trauma.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada investigated the experiences of residential school attendees, finding evidence of inadequate facilities, cultural suppression, and institutionalized child neglect and abuse. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has also documented the destructive legacy of the colonization and abuse that took place in the residential schools, while also honoring the attendees resilience. Other organizations have also noted the negative impact of the residential schools, and survivors have long spoken for themselves about their experiences.

Despite ample evidence that the Canadian residential school experience was harrowing for many children, one Canadian lawmaker thinks that the public should focus on the good that the schools supposedly achieved.

According to CBC News, in a March 7th speech to Canada's Red Chamber, Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak defended residential schools as institutions run by "well-intentioned men and women" that performed "remarkable works" and "good deeds." In a recording to Beyak's speech, she lamented the fact that child abuse reports have overshadowed the "abundance of good" performed at residential schools, saying that "mistakes were made".
"Honorable senators, I rise today to address Inquiry 19 of Senator Kim Pate, the knowledgeable and thoughtful inquiry that she issued here a few weeks ago. I want to present a somewhat different side of the residential school story. Far too many indigenous people, especially women, are incarcerated in Canada today, and like everyone in this chamber, I seek to find solutions. Today, I will take a broad look at several timely indigenous issues that are before us.

I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports.

Obviously, the negative issues must be addressed, but it is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good.

It is because of the less partisan nature of the Senate that we have the ability to look at issues a bit more objectively, to take that second silver look that sometimes gets missed in the theatrics of politics. Honorable colleagues, I want to first acknowledge the excellent work undertaken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mistakes were made at residential schools, in many instances horrible mistakes that overshadowed some good things that also happened at those schools."
Beyak's comments come after she made an equally controversial statement at a January 31st meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, of which she is a member. While addressing Professor J.R. Miller of the University of Saskatchewan, Beyak expressed disappointment that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission "didn't focus on the good" in residential schools. She also claimed that her First Nations friends who supposedly bask in "positivity and happiness" were Christians, but why she emphasized this fact was unclear.
"I live in a riding that has 52 First Nations around us in our catchment area, and I have many friends there, and they have sent me testimonials about many good experiences. The best example is the playwright Tomson Highway, who credits his success to going to residential school. He acknowledges the atrocities but says there were good people doing good things, who taught him language and how to play the piano ... I was disappointed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report in that it didn't focus on the good. The people I talk to are Christians. They belong to Spirit Alive, a group in Saskatchewan, and Tribal Trails. They look through the windshield rather than the rearview mirror. They want to move ahead in positivity and happiness and not focus always on the past."
Beyak's comments are not going over well with other leaders. The Globe and Mail reports that the Conservative Party is distancing itself from Beyak's remarks and emphasizing that her comments do not reflect the party's views. CTV News reports that New Democrat Senator Romeo Saganash (himself a residential school survivor) called the residential school system "genocide" and has called on Beyak to resign. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett called the comments "ill-informed, offensive and simply wrong."

While some students at Canadian residential schools did report positive experiences to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, these do not erase the negative experiences of many other students. The positive experiences of some students do not excuse acts of colonization, family disruption, physical abuse, sexual assault, and neglect reported by others.

If we are to avoid repeating historical mistakes, we must take an honest look at those mistakes instead of dismissing them as "theatrics" or "rearview mirror" gazing. Canadians (and Americans) must acknowledge all aspects of the residential schools that people in power imposed on indigenous children. If that legacy causes some people to feel uncomfortable, they should not soothe that discomfort by white-washing the actions of their historical predecessors.

(Hat tip to Shira.)


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope




Reuters: Trump backs House Republican healthcare plan, aims to cut drug prices

New York Times: Trump Tells Planned Parenthood Its Funding Can Stay if Abortion Goes

Washington Post: To fund border wall, Trump administration weighs cuts to Coast Guard, airport security

ABC News: What Unearthed Radio Recordings Tell Us About Steve Bannon's Worldview

ABC News: New travel ban drops Iraq but keeps six other majority-Muslim countries

The Guardian: UN says Trump's revised travel ban will worsen plight of refugees

CNN: Hawaii plans to file first lawsuit against new travel ban 

PBS News Hour: Congress to investigate Trump’s wiretapping claim

Politico: State Dept. staffers have one question: Where’s Rex?



Take heart! Americans are still standing against Trump.

PBS News Hour: American Indians gather in D.C. for four-day protest against Trump, Dakota Access pipeline

The Independent: 'A Day Without a Woman': Anti-Donald Trump protest forces two US districts to cancel school


News Tidbits

Huffington Post: Judge Denies ACLU’s Motion To Recoup Legal Fees From Marriage Equality Battle

LGBTQ Nation: Kentucky lawmakers vote to give students a license to discriminate

Reuters: Texas lieutenant governor calls on Christians to support bathroom bill

Associated Press: Ex-sect members tell AP that prosecutors obstructed abuse cases


Commentary Tidbits

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Legislation That Threatens Church-State Separation Is Pending In Half The Country

Jezebel: A Proposed Texas Law Would Let Doctors Lie to Women About Their Pregnancies. How Did We Get Here?

Huffington Post: Ex-Westboro Member Reveals What Growing Up In Hate Group Was Like

Buzzfeed: A Glossary of Far-Right Terms and Memes


Lou Engle Still Cranky Over Women's March




A few weeks after Lou Engle tweeted about those who complain about their leaders and protest "with a bitter spirit", he condemned the Women's March. In a March 3rd commentary piece posted at Elijah List, Engle cast the Women's March as "the first shot across the bow" in a "spiritual battle" meant to undermine President Trump. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

First, Engle sought to convince readers that his fellow Christians were actually the first ones to dream of a large-scale women's march. He claimed that he and other New Apostolic Reformation leaders envisioned a Christian women's march in the nation's capitol years ago.
"Three years ago in a leaders summit in Fredericksburg Virginia, our meeting was sovereignly hijacked as the Lord shifted our focus toward the hidden taproot of strength in the godly women of America. We began to envision something of a million women gathering on the mall in Washington DC, similar to the Promise Keepers gathering, that would be a last-stand breakthrough to hold back darkness in America. Those hours of corporate intercession were as strong and clear as any prophetic moment I have ever encountered in thirty plus years of prayer, but at the time we could not see how it could be brought to pass."
To Engle's disappointment, the 2017 Women's March on D.C. and its sister marches brought together millions of women. The Women's March, which Engle denigrated as "a false heiress", caused Engle to realize that the allegedly "true empowered woman" must make her voice heard.
"That moment arrived January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, as we watched hundreds of thousands of women take to the streets with the purported aim of "empowering women." A vacuum had been created by this election, by historic women's injustices, and it seemed that a false heiress rushed in and was seeking now to become the hinge of history by framing the narrative of a future America that does not acknowledge God's exalted view of women and His Biblical design for her glorious purpose in the earth. Instinctively we had a corporate knowing: it was the time for the true empowered woman to stand up, for the meek (strength-filled humility) shall inherit the earth.

Hundreds of thousands of women watched the March, heard the vitriol, and could not identify with the radical ideologies being expressed that would not acknowledge God's Word and ways in the public controversy. This new woman declared deep inside her heart this is not my revolution." Now, like Esther, she is arising for such a time as this. It's time for this corporate Esther to frame the future by recognizing and taking up her God-given role of persistent public persuasion in the open square as well as that of her humble appeal to God in prayer."
Much like his Religious Right brethren, Engle characterized the Women's March as "radical" and dripping with "vitriol", insisting that godly women would not identify with it. The fact that the Women's March and its sister events resonated with millions of women and men around the globe did not strike him as important. 

Engle then warned readers that the Women's March heralded a "revolutionary rise" against the president and the "Biblical truths" upon which America was supposedly founded. This "brazen challenge of the [supernatural] powers" warranted a response from Christians, he argued.

"The Women's March was the first shot across the bow, heralding a revolutionary rise against the President of the United States, "We the People", and in reality, the foundational Biblical truths upon which our nation was founded. Soon after, the second shot was manifested publicly: an unprecedented global summons of witchcraft to curse President Trump, his cabinet and all of those aligned with a Biblical worldview. Suddenly, the whole controversy was elevated to a global spiritual dimension, inaugurating a spiritual battle that cannot be won on the playing field of protests and political arguments.

Only the Church has the answer to this unprecedented manifestation of witchcraft. Spiritual strategy must be used to overcome this open-faced, brazen challenge of the powers."
Likening the situation in the U.S. to that of Esther and Haman in the Book of Esther, Engle urged readers to participate in a fast so as to "break a major spiritual power of death". He encouraged his fellow believers to take part in a three-day "Esther fast" from March 8-11 to "counter this witchcraft" and pray for President Trump.

Going without food and ecstatic praying haven't brought about the changes you want so far. What makes you think they'll work this time? I wondered.

Engle just can't accept that millions of people dislike his adored president and have no interest in his dominionist vision. Nor can he accept that millions of women and men are rejecting sexism (including the sexism of fundamentalist Christianity) and demanding a more just society. As with issues such as LGBTQ rights and abortion, Engle casts his opponents as angry radicals and puppets of infernal "powers" because demonizing them is easier than actually listening to them.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Clergy Abuse Survivor Resigns from Pontifical Commission



In 2014, Pope Francis established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, an autonomous advisory body meant to "promote the protection of the dignity of minors and vulnerable adults" in the wake of the Catholic Church's clergy sexual abuse scandals. Marie Collins, an Irish clergy abuse survivor, was appointed to serve on the commission that year. On March 1st, Collins announced her resignation from the commission, having grown frustrated with an intractable Vatican Curia.

In a statement posted at the National Catholic Reporter, Collins listed several "stumbling blocks" that impeded the work of the commission, including "lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance", as well as "reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope." She condemned members of the Vatican Curia for failing to work alongside the commission and implement its recommendations, including its suggestion that Vatican officials respond to all clergy abuse victim correspondence.
"The reluctance of some in the Vatican Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the work of a commission when the purpose is to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults around the world is unacceptable.

Is this reluctance driven by internal politics, fear of change, clericalism which instills a belief that 'they know best' or a closed mindset which sees abuse as an inconvenience or a clinging to old institutional attitudes?

I do not know the answer but it is devastating in 2017 to see that these men still can put other concerns before the safety of children and vulnerable adults.

The last straw for me, on top of the refusal to cooperate on the Safeguarding Guidelines, has been the refusal, by the same dicastery, to implement one of the simplest recommendations the Commission has put forward to date.

Last year at our request, the pope instructed all departments in the Vatican to ensure all correspondence from victims/survivors receives a response. I learned in a letter from this particular dicastery last month that they are refusing to do so.

I find it impossible to listen to public statements about the deep concern in the church for the care of those whose lives have been blighted by abuse, yet to watch privately as a congregation in the Vatican refuses to even acknowledge their letters! It is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the Church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.

When I accepted my appointment to the Commission in 2014, I said publicly that if I found what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was being said to the public I would not remain. This point has come. I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity."

In response to Collins resignation letter, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rejected the idea that the Vatican could reply to every piece of victim correspondence. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Cardinal Muller told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper that it was a "misunderstanding" to assume that his department "could deal with all the dioceses and religious orders in the world." Local clergy should respond to victim correspondence, he explained, claiming that a Vatican response would undermine "the legitimate principle of diocesan autonomy and subsidiarity".

Melanie Jula Sakoda, East Bay Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), expressed the organization's frustration with the Vatican in a March 1st press release.
 "We share Marie Collins’ justifiable frustration with the “shameful resistance” of Vatican officials to changes in procedures that would protect children. Instead, of implementing changes that would have a direct effect on curtailing the abuse crisis, the Curia continues to set up roadblocks.

While we admire Ms. Collins’ generous offer to continue to work with the Vatican to educate Church leaders on abuse, we believe that the clear answer to eradicating this crisis remains outside of the Church hierarchy.  Victims, witnesses and whistle blowers need to continue speaking out publicly, and police, prosecutors and secular authorities need to continue holding Church officials accountable for both criminal conduct and for the cover up of those crimes."

Collins' resignation from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as well as revelations that Pope Francis reduced church sanctions against sexually abusive priests, is leading many to question how seriously the Vatican is taking clergy abuse. The Catholic Church has had years to implement policies meant to protect children, with no shortage of input from survivors and professionals, but it continues to drag its feet.

Was the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors meant to bring about change, or was its creation all for show? When will the Vatican finally get serious about protecting its congregants and holding clergy perpetrators accountable?


News Tidbits

Associated Press: Victims, Roman Catholic Church spar over New York sex abuse bill

Associated Press: Connecticut lawmakers consider banning conversion therapy

ABC News: Gay conversion therapy advocates heartened by Pence, Republican electoral victories

Reuters: Ireland: Baby remains found at former Church-run home for unmarried mothers

Pink News: Christian bakers battling ‘gay cake’ fine, despite taking $500,000 donations to pay it

LGBTQ Nation: ACLU demands documents to show Trump’s plans for ‘religious’ discrimination

WRAL: Franklin Graham calls for Beauty and the Beast boycott over gay character


Commentary Tidbits

Christopher Stroop: Educated Evangelicals, Academic Achievement, and Trumpism

The New Yorker: Christian Bakers, Gay Weddings, and a Question for the Supreme Court

Right Wing Watch: The Rise of the ‘Traditionalist International’: How the American Right Learned to Love Moscow in the Era of Trump

HIV Plus: Why Do Some Countries Disapprove of Homosexuality?

The Advocate: What Even Is 'Traditional Marriage'?


Sunday, March 5, 2017

National Clinic Violence Survey Shows Increase in Anti-Abortion Violence and Harassment




Last month, the Feminist Majority Foundation released the results of its 14th National Clinic Violence Survey. The annual survey gathers data on violence and harassment endured by U.S. abortion providers, law enforcement responses to anti-abortion violence and harassment, and correlations between anti-abortion violence and clinic proximity to "crisis pregnancy centers". Survey findings suggest that anti-abortion violence and harassment is increasing in the wake of a high-profile smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

Specifically, the authors argue for a correlation between anti-abortion violence and the release of videos by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released videos showing conversations between Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast staff and anti-choice activists posing as employees of a sham company. The videos were part of a smear campaign that accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling aborted fetal tissue, when in reality, Planned Parenthood was merely donating fetal tissue to medical research without reaping a profit. Anti-abortion activists used the smear campaign as an excuse to demand defunding for the reproductive health care provider. In 2016, a two month grand jury investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, indicting the makers of the videos instead, according to CNN.

The report then connects the Center for Medical Progress videos to a 2015 mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, allegedly said "no more baby parts" after his arrest. The following spring, a judge deemed Dear mentally incompetent to stand trial and indefinitely confined him to a state mental hospital, according to USA Today.

The report argues that the Colorado Springs shooting and an uptick in violence against abortion providers may indicate that anti-abortion extremists have been galvanized by the video smear campaign.
"This incident and countless anecdotes of increasing levels of violence against providers across the country in the fall of 2015 led us to fear that anti-abortion extremists had been emboldened by the release of these videos. The results of the 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey, the first quantitative measure of nationwide violence recorded since the release of the CMP videos, corroborate these fears."
The anti-abortion violence statistics presented in the report make for sobering reading. Out of a national sample of 319 reproductive health clinics, approximately one-third reported experiencing at least one incident of severe violence or threat of violence in 2016 (compared to 19.7% of surveyed clinics in 2014). Moreover, 16% of clinics in the sample reported experiencing three or more types of severe violence, threats, and/or harassment. Almost two-thirds of clinics indicated that they experience anti-abortion activity (i.e., protests) on a daily or weekly basis. Nearly half of clinics in the sample reported that doctors and staff had been targets of intimidation and threats.

Even though many surveyed clinics reported no violence, the report warns readers that this is not a reason to breathe easy.

"In a war of attrition, anti -abortion extremists strategically target a vulnerable minority of clinics, aiming to force them to close their doors before moving on to the next set of targets. Thus a majority of clinics experience no violence, while a smaller number report numerous acts of violence, threats, or harassment.  For example, one clinic reported experiencing a total of sixteen different types of severe violence and harassment in the first half of 2016."
The importance of supportive law enforcement cannot be overstated with regard to clinic safety. Clinics in the survey that reported "fair" or "poor" experiences with local law enforcement were more likely to experience high rates of harassment and violence than clinics with "good" or "excellent" experiences with law enforcement.

Readers may be familiar with crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which purportedly provide services for women and girls facing unplanned pregnancies. More often than not, CPCs are anti-choice organizations that actively discourage women and girls from seeking abortions (sometimes through deceptive means). The National Clinic Violence Survey found that reproductive health clinics located in close proximity to CPCs experienced more violence and harassment (21.7%) than clinics that did not have a CPC nearby (6.8%). The report claims that some anti-abortion extremists use CPCs as launch sites for their activities.
"Many CPCs located near clinics provide a staging ground for individuals engaging in anti-abortion violence, threats, and harassment. For example, anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder conducted surveillance of Dr. George Tiller while ‘volunteering’ for the CPC next door to Tiller’s clinic in Wichita, Kansas before shooting and killing him in 2009."
The 14th National Clinic Violence Survey makes it clear that anti-abortion rhetoric is far from harmless. Anti-abortion violence and harassment cannot be understood apart from the wider anti-abortion movement, including its vicious smear campaigns and CPC influence. Even if these anti-abortion propaganda efforts do not advocate violence, they likely embolden anti-abortion extremists who use their propaganda to justify crimes.

For women and girls seeking reproductive health services, this is a nightmare. Access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is already fraught with challenges for many women and girls in the U.S. Clinic protests, harassment campaigns, and anti-abortion violence create an intimidating environment for patients seeking reproductive health care, and are likely intended to frighten them away from clinics. If we care about reproductive rights, we must take the findings of the National Clinic Violence Survey seriously and support reproductive health care providers.