Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

(UPDATED 11/1/10)

On Saturday, my friend Jody and I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. To watch a recording of the rally, visit the C-SPAN website here.

Jody and I drove to the Shady Grove, MD metro station, where we encountered a line of rally-goers spanning hundreds of yards out of the entrance. After nearly an hour in line, we bought tickets and boarded the insanely crowded metro to Washington D.C. As more people packed into the metro cars at each stop, we found ourselves packed like sardines until no more people could fit. Fortunately, everyone remained calm and polite despite the oppressive conditions, an auspicious portent for the day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Commentary Tidbits

Jeff Sharlet at CNN: Is the Tea Party becoming a religious movement?

Right Wing Watch: Taking the Tea Party Seriously

Right Wing Watch: FRC To Fight Coverage For Birth Control Because "Fertility Isn't a Disease"

Think Progress: GOP Senate Candidate Ken Buck: ‘I Disagree Strongly With The Concept Of Separation Of Church And State’

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Why can't the religious right stop denigrating gay suicide victims?

Zack Ford Blogs: Halloween Special: Catholic Materials for Young Adults

John Corvino at 365 Gay: What do we do with Evangelicals who ‘want to help’?

Lez Get Real: Randy Roberts Potts, Grandson of Oral Roberts, ‘It Gets Better’

Truth Wins Out: Linda Harvey and Other Religious Right Leaders Still in Damage Control Mode

RH Reality Check: Daughters of The Right Wing

RH Reality Check: Stoking Fire: Donuts, Candy Canes, Fetuses and Free Speech in New Mexico

Religion Dispatches: Is Downward Dog the Path to Hell?

Religion Dispatches: Nikki Haley: Churches Should Take Over Universal Pre-K Education

Media Matters: Attack on MoveOn worker is just the latest example of right-wing violence

News Tidbits

NPR: Religious Undercurrent Ripples In Anti-Gay Bullying

Colorado Independent: Reporter unfazed by Summers denial about work to ‘cure’ gay teens

The Raw Story: GOP candidate: Gay marriage like marrying a table or a clock

Pink News: Ugandan MP says anti-gay bill ‘will be law soon’

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Transgender Law Center investigating offensive letter from DMV employee in San Francisco

The Advocate: GOP Rep: Gay Marriage Will Lead to Warehousing Kids

Iowa Independent: Anti-judge bus tour dwarfed by pro-retention rally

Iowa Independent: Hurley says gay marriage offends God, calls for laws curbing homosexual acts

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Update on the Lauren Valle Beating

In the wake of an attack on Lauren Valle by several Rand Paul supporters this week, new information is slowly becoming available. According to New York Daily News and the Louisville Courier-Journal, Tim Profitt donated almost $2,000 to Rand Paul's campaign, which the campaign is not returning. As you may recall, Profitt was former Bourbon County campaign coordinator for the Rand Paul campaign, and the man who stomped on Valle's head during the attack. Also, ABC News reports that Kentucky police are considering two more arrests in connection with the beating.

Voices from across the political spectrum are offering commentary on the attack. James Brady at Greenpeace commended Valle's grace and courage in standing up for her beliefs. On Wednesday's Hardball, Chris Matthews expressed disgust at the beating. On The Colbert Report, Steven Colbert mocked the attackers with his unique flair.

Other commentators were not so kind. According to Media Matters, Rush Limbaugh called Valle a "professional agitator" and claimed that reports of the attack were exaggerated. Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft condemned Valle as an "unhinged leftist". In a recent tweet, radio host Neal Boortz joked about someone standing on a Media Matters' staffer's head. Firedog Lake reports that several right-wing blogs have mocked Valle and insinuated that she brought on the attack.

And what about all the Religious Right figures who endorsed Rand Paul, including James Dobson, Jim DeMint, and Concerned Women for America? Surely they've spoken out against such un-Christlike behavior from Paul's supporters, right?

:: crickets chirping ::

For more commentary on the incident, visit these links:

Salon: Paul Head-Stomper: Blame Everyone But Me

Politico: Dem ad: "The Rand Paul Stomp"

Barefoot and Progressive: Rand Paul runs ANOTHER full page ad touting endorsement of the Curbstomper

Talking Points Memo: Democrats Doing Their Best to Politicize the Kentucky Stomp

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lauren Valle attacked by Rand Paul supporters in Kentucky

Kentucky GOP candidate Ron Paul has become a friend of the Religious Right, endorsed by right-wing voices such as Jim DeMint, James Dobson, Sarah Palin, and Concerned Women for America. They politely ignored his "Aqua Buddha" incident and endorsed him as an upstanding candidate. Recently, however, Paul's campaign took a dark turn.

On Monday evening, a debate was scheduled between Paul and Democratic candidate Jack Conway at the Kentucky Educational Television studio in Lexington, KY. That night, several men were filmed beating and stomping on MoveOn activist Lauren Valle outside the building. One of the men, Tim Proffitt (former Bourbon County campaign coordinator for the Rand campaign) was filmed stomping on Valle's head. Valle was treated at a hospital for a concussion and sprained shoulder and arm, and has since been released.

(Trigger warning)

According to WKYT, Profitt claimed that he was protecting Paul from Valle and demanded that Valle apologize instead (!). With regard to the incident, Proffitt told reporters that he didn't think it was a big deal. He now faces a fourth-degree assault charge, and the Rand campaign claims that it has severed ties with him.

A pack of men beat up a woman half their size, giving her sprains and a concussion in the process, and it's not a big deal!? Sickening.

Valle claimed that the attack was pre-meditated when she spoke on MSNBC. How much more right-wing violence can we expect? As Media Matters points out, other incidents of right-wing violence have marred this election season, and I doubt we've seen the last of such violence. I desperately hope that those responsible for the attack on Valle -- ALL of those responsible -- are held accountable.

For commentary on the incident, visit the following links:

Huffington Post: When in Doubt, They Beat Up Women

Barefoot and Progressive: Full page ad in Herald Leader today touts endorsement of the Curbstomper

Think Progress: Rand Paul Head-Stomper To Victim: ‘I Would Like For Her To Apologize To Me’

Politics Plus: Rand's Republican Brownshirts Strike

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Commentary Tidbits

Talk to Action: Alarming Amendment: Fundamentalists Use "Personhood" Proposal to Invade America's Bedrooms

Freak Out Nation: Tea Partiers Are Instructed on Control and Manipulation

Politicus USA: The GOP is Living on a Prayer

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: DOJ Files Brief in Tennessee Mosque Case

Godless Liberal Homo: Christian Taliban More Openly Expresses Opposition to Birth Control

Religion Dispatches: Dads Against Daughters Dating

Religion Dispatches: Replacing Godless Hollywood with Bible-Based "Cultural Dominion"

Religion Dispatches: Are School Districts Getting the Message on Government-Sponsored Prayer?

RH Reality Check: Voters Turn On Anti-Choice Extremism

Right Wing Watch: Christine O'Donnell: Pray "That The Eyes of the Voters Be Opened"

Truth Wins Out: No Maggie…And You Don’t Have Any Blood In Your Heart Either

Salon: The 10 most terrifying would-be congressmen   (Trigger warning)

Salon: Husband confronts abortion protesters

Media Matters: Beck: "The Satanists in today's world ... look rational, look open-minded. They're tolerant."

SPLC Hatewatch: Religious Right Claims Gay Advocates to Blame for Suicides

SPLC Hatewatch: New Report Examines ‘Tea Party Nationalism,’ Charts Extremist Ties

Prop 8 Trial Tracker: NOM, Brian Brown, Rick Santorum, and Tony Perkins invade Iowa for “Judge Bus Tour” — Courage there to cover it

Prop 8 Trial Tracker: NOM-Driven Iowa for Freedom Gets Smacked Down. Hard.

Ex-Gay Watch: Book Review: The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality, Part I, Part II, and Part III

News Tidbits

KENS 5: LGBT Catholic congregation aims for dialogue with San Antonio's bishop

CNN: Graphic anti-abortion ads air on Washington stations

My Fox Memphis: Chattanooga School to Stop Game Prayers

Democracy Now: Anti-Gay Fervor in Uganda Tied to Right-Wing U.S. Evangelicals

Beliefnet: ACLU Questions Sunday Morning Voting at Churches

Worldwide Religious News: Northern Indiana school board votes to end Bible class that triggered ACLU lawsuit

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Documentary hints at forces behind murder of abortion doctor

Journal Star: Martin Luther King's niece speaks at Lincoln pro-life event

The Advocate: Gold's Gym Gives Money to Rove Org.

365 Gay: Activists: Mormon beliefs factor in LGBT struggles

Augusta Chronicle: Ku Klux Klan rally for Keeton runs short

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Glenn Beck and the Green Dragon

No, it's not a children's book . . . or an alcoholic beverage . . .

Trailer for the anti-environmentalism curriculum Resisting the Green Dragon.

According to Media Matters, Glenn Beck recently condemned the progressive Tides Foundation for sponsoring The Story of Stuff Project, a curriculum about overconsumption and the environment. In response, Beck promoted a fundamentalist Christian, anti-environmentalism series called Resisting the Green Dragon as an alternative to The Story of Stuff Project.

Resisting the Green Dragon is a production of the Cornwall Alliance, a Christian "stewardship" organization which supports the use of fossil and nuclear fuels and condemns policies meant to curb global warming. I visited the website for Resisting the Green Dragon, which is being marketed as a "Christian response to radical environmentalism". The website claims that environmentalism has become a "new religion" that is harming the poor and threatening the sanctity of life. Several big names from the Religious Right appear in the curriculum, including David Barton (WallBuilders), Bryan Fischer (American Family Association), Tom Minnery (Focus on the Family), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), and Wendy Wright (Concerned Women for America). If several right-wing organizations have given their blessing to this curriculum, that support alone says volumes about the agenda behind Resisting the Green Dragon.

The website's trailer for the curriculum claims that environmentalism elevates nature above the needs of humanity and ignores the plight of the poor -- but it doesn't stop there. The trailer describes "radical environmentalism" as one of the greatest deceptions of our era, a sinister movement seeking to control America and the world. The "green dragon" as environmentalism is nicknamed in the curriculum, is supposedly "seducing" our children and popular culture in its insatiable lust for domination.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Crisis Pregnancy Centers and the Religious Right

An HBO trailer for the documentary 12th and Delaware.

On Saturday morning, I manned an information table at a community health fair for a non-profit I volunteer with. As luck would have it, my table was next to a table for the local crisis pregnancy center (CPC), bedecked with baby magazines, healthy pregnancy pamphlets, and sets of plastic fetuses showing stages of fetal development. (The fact that these were the same type of plastic fetuses that Lou Engle showed to children in Jesus Camp was a ominous sign.)

I played dumb and struck up a conversation with the CPC volunteer at the table, asking her what her organization did. She replied that the CPC provided consultations, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and donations to pregnant women, describing the CPC in clinical terms. Later, when she briefly stepped away from her table, I took a few innocuous pamphlets entitled "Healthy Pregnancy" and "The First 9 Months". When I looked at the back covers, guess who published the pamphlets? Focus on the Family!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Commentary Tidbits

Religion Dispatches: The Latest Suspicious Ex-Muslim

Truthout: Why Christine O’Donnell Is Not a Joke

Marie Fortune at FaithTrust Institute: Dear Bishop Long

Frank Schaeffer: PBS “God in America” Interview with Frank Schaeffer

Talk to Action: New Apostolic Reformation Leaders Burn Native Art

Think Progress: Glenn Beck Brings ExxonMobil-Linked Religious Front Group to Tell Christians Not to Believe in Climate Change

Media Matters: Beck warns that "you are going to see a split in our churches" and that some will be "more state-run"

Media Matters: Beck brings on guest to root out "American Native," "new age pantheistic," "Hindu," "Buddhist" thinking from our churches

Media Matters: Beck claims Tides and progressives pose a threat to "your religious liberty"

RH Reality Check: Catholics United Stands Up To Susan B. Anthony List, As Anti-Choice NRLC Defends Lies

Politico: NAACP report to tie Tea Party, 'hate groups'

Right Wing Watch: Gohmert: God has Ordained Christians to Run the Country

Right Wing Watch: Personhood USA Calls President Obama the “Angel of Death”

Liberal Values: A Tea Party Insult To the Founding Fathers

(Hat Tip to Infidel753 for the last item.)

News Tidbits

Beliefnet: Study: More Link Christian Faith to Being American

Los Angeles Times: Walking away from church

MSNBC: Gays in Uganda say they're living in fear 

PR Newswire: FRC Action Announces Iowa Judge Bus Tour Urging 'No Retention' on Activist Judges

Colorado Springs Gazette: Buck's gay comments not uncommon among Springs ministry leaders

Edge Boston: MassResistance ’Exposes’ Gay Day at 6 Flags

The Advocate: NOM’s Gallagher Says She Isn't Killing Gay Teens

The Indy Channel: School Board Votes To End Bible Class

NPR: Gay-Marriage Critics Try To Oust Iowa Justices

News OK: Religion takes center stage in US Senate race Anti-abortion group sues to erect billboards critical of Driehaus

Huffington Post: Christine O'Donnell Questions Separation Of Church & State

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Soulforce Symposium

(11/9/10 UPDATE: For an in-depth description of my time at the Soulforce Symposium, click here.)

Soulforce, an LGBT organization founded by Mel White, will be hosting a symposium in Philadelphia in protest of a NARTH conference taking place therein. NARTH, as you may recall, is an "ex-gay" organization that supports dubious research on so-called "reparative therapy. Some factions of the Religious Right have supported "reparative therapy", despite accusations that such therapy is ineffective and harmful.

Soulforce Symposium: The Truth About Faith, Science, Love, and Reparative Therapy will take place on November 5-7 at the William Way Center and Historic Courtyard Marriott Downtown, 21 N. Juniper Street, Philadelphia, PA. More information on the symposium can be found at the Soulforce website here. The symposium agenda/program book can be downloaded here.

Mel White, a former speechwriter and ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Billy Graham, took part in attempted but futile "cures" for his homosexuality. After leaving the Religious Right and coming out as a gay man, he founded Soulforce in 1998. His autobiography, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America, charts his sexual and spiritual journey. For more information on Mel White, visit his website here.

Now I have a dilemma. Do I attend the LiftMyLuggage protest outside the NARTH conference, or do I attend the Soulforce Symposium? Choices!

Philadelphia Gay News posted an article on the upcoming symposium, available below.

Philadelphia Gay News: National LGBT Group Stages Anti-"Ex-Gay" Weekend

Friday, October 15, 2010

Making a Difference: No Longer Silent
(Hat tip to Box Turtle Bulletin)

Given the countless fundamentalist Christian voices that are promoting homophobia, it's fantastic to find people of faith supporting the LGBT community. Through a post at Box Turtle Bulletin, I learned about an Arizona-based group of Christian clergy called No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice that acknowledges the rights and dignity of LGBT persons.

The organization's website is a refreshing (and vitally important) reminder that right-wing Christians do not speak for everyone in the faith community. In their mission statement, No Longer Silent rejects fundamentalist homophobia and advocates for full acceptance of the LGBT community:

The time has come to share an alternative Christian perspective on the issue of homosexuality. Conservative political and Christian rhetoric condemning homosexuals has monopolized public perception of the stance of religious persons on this issue. We disagree with these views of condemnation and judgement.

We believe that homosexual persons are people of wholeness and worth, entitled to a complete and full life. We are convinced that the Bible makes clear God's unconditional love and acceptance of all people. We therefore welcome homosexual persons, as we welcome all people, into our Christian communities and organizations.

We regret that the judgemental pronouncements of some political and Christian leaders have characterized homosexual persons as inherently more sinful and/or immoral than their heterosexual counterparts. We disagree with these views, and feel that interpretations of the Bible used to support such views are inaccurate and incomplete. We believe that homosexual persons are no more sinful and are of equal character and personal integrity as any other group of people.
Earlier this year, over 160 clergy signed the organization's Phoenix Declaration, affirming their support for non-homophobic interpretations of Scripture, their support for LGBT persons, and their categorical rejection of intolerance. No Longer Silent also embraces the Phoenix Affirmations, a list of theological affirmations created by CrossWalk America that is infused with progressive values.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Books from the Religious Right: WILD ELEPHANT by Janice Barrett Graham

(UPDATED 10/12/10)

After sifting through the free books I picked up at the Values Voters Summit again, I decided to review a book I'd found at the PFOX table entitled Wild Elephant: The Gospel Truth about Today's Stampeding Sexuality by Janice Barrett Graham. The author is the wife of Stephen Graham, the head of Standard of Liberty, an "LDS-oriented" organization that promotes homophobia.

It appears I have great synchronicity. Today, I stumbled on an article stating that over 100 Wal-Mart stores are carrying the book under an alternate title, Chased by an Elephant: The Gospel Truth about Today's Stampeding Sexuality. People will be buying this for their sons and daughters. What better time to discuss this distorted propaganda piece than now?

Wild Elephant is a fundamentalist Christian book on sexuality, geared toward adolescents. Please note that it is not a book on sex education per se, as it does not discuss anatomy, puberty, reproduction, or sexual health. Rather, the book is a fundamentalist condemnation of homosexuality, masturbation, pre-marital sex, abortion, and any conception of gender outside of stereotypical gender roles. The fact that this propaganda is being directed at young people makes it especially troubling.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Abstinence-Only Sex Education and a New Bill

Recently, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced a bill that would end federal funding for abstinence-only sex education programs. If passed, the bill would mean more funding for the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), which funds sex education programs that teach about abstinence, contraception, and STDs. Human Rights Campaign has more information about the bill here, as does a press release available at Sen. Lautenberg's website.

I wish this bill success. Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are not only less effective in preventing early intercourse and teen pregnancy than comprehensive sex education programs, but they promote views about sexuality that are unrealistic, stereotypical, and unhealthy. The American Academy of Pediatrics has denounced abstinence-only programs as ineffective and potentially misinformative, advocating instead for comprehensive sex education programs that include information on abstinence AND medically sound information on STDs and pregnancy prevention.

To boot, abstinence-only programs ignore the existence of the LGBT population and contribute to heteronormative worldviews, with heartbreaking consequences. In its 2007 National School Climate Survey, GLSEN found that LGBT students in schools with abstinence-only sex education programs reported higher levels of harassment and assault and fewer supportive educators than students in schools without abstinence-only curricula.

The elephant in the room, of course, is fundamentalist Christianity. Many so-called "pro-family" Christian groups encourage abstinence-only sex education, since it reflects the rigid sexual attitudes and gender stereotypes central to the fundamentalist Christian worldview. If progressives are concerned about the Religious Right, they need to be concerned about sex education in U.S. schools.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Franken responds to LGBT bullying and Minnesota Family Council

The Advocate recently posted an article on how Minnesota Senator Al Franken has condemned homophobic comments by a members of a right-wing group in his state. Acknowledging the reality of anti-LGBT bullying, Franken advocated for measures to combat bullying.

Franken was responding to comments by Minnesota Family Council president Tom Prichard, who reportedly blogged that  “homosexual activists” were manipulating the media and that homosexuality is an "unhealthy" lifestyle. The Minnesota Family Council is a right-wing organization with anti-LGBT, anti-abortion, and pro-abstinence-only sex ed views, as I quickly learned when I visited their website.

According to an article posted at the Twin Cities Daily Planet, Prichard claimed that the suicide of 15 year-old Justin Aaberg was being "manipulated" by homosexuals to allegedly get indoctrination into schools. He argued for the removal of gay-straight alliances from schools, saying that it was "sad and harmful" for young people to condone homosexuality. How any human being could say such things in the wake of a young person's tragic death defies comprehension. Such is the callousness of too many figures among the Religious Right.

None of this rhetoric is new, unfortunately. We've heard it before from the likes of Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, and other homophobic Religious Right organizations. The damage that such intolerance causes is very real, as evidenced by a string of suicides by young people who were bullied for being LGBT. The suicides have to stop. The hate crimes have to stop. The discrimination has to stop. For all these to occur, homophobia has to stop!

I commend Senator Franken for speaking out against homophobia and taking direct action on behalf of youth. (For example, in May he introduced the federal Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring anti-LGBT bullying.) Let's condemn those who fuel bigotry and commend leaders like Franken who stand up for justice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

NOM Exposed

Human Rights Campaign and Courage Campaign have collaborated to create NOM Exposed, a new website that monitors the activities of the homophobic National Organization for Marriage. The blog section of the website featured commentary on NOM tours, and a campaign called "NOM Doesn't Speak for Me!" encourages visitors to sign a petition in support of LGBT rights.

For news and commentary on this new resource, visit these links:

The Advocate: NOM Exposed by HRC, Courage Campaign

Newsweek: Website Documents NOM Supporters

GLT News Now: HRC & Courage Campaign reveal the Real National Organization for Marriage

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Making a Difference: Silent Witness Peacekeepers

In past posts, I've talked about the need to take constructive action when faced with destructive fundamentalism. I want to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to a wonderful organization that has done just that: Silent Witness Peacekeepers.

In Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley region (as in many other places), homophobic fundamentalists often protest at LGBT events, holding anti-gay signs and preaching forcefully about the "sin" of homosexuality. Obviously, these spiritually toxic messages can be very disturbing to attendees, for whom LGBT events are supposed to be safe spaces. Silent Witness Peacekeepers was founded in 2006 to act as a "human spiritual firewall" between fundamentalist protesters and attendees at LGBT events in central Pennsylvania. Bedecked in neon vests and holding rainbow umbrellas, Silent Witnesses position themselves between protesters and visitors to help visitors feel safe and to show solidarity with the LGBT community.

What is remarkable is that these volunteer peacekeepers respond to hatred with patience and maturity. Silent Witnesses are trained not to engage fundamentalist protesters in any way, including through speech or eye contact (hence the name Silent Witness Peacekeepers). At Susquehanna Valley pride events, it's amazing to see peacekeepers standing quietly between attendees and protesters, maintaining grace and poise while nearby protesters spew hateful rhetoric. I suspect anti-gay protesters get VERY annoyed when they can't get a reaction out of their targets -- and when they can't feed on the emotions of others, they quickly deflate.

While I have no statistics to back this up, anecdotal accounts I've heard indicate that fewer anti-gay protesters have been showing up at central Pennsylvania LGBT events. I suspect that this is due to the presence of Silent Witnesses, who prevent protesters from intimidating their usual prey. I can confirm that attendees at LGBT events feel safer with peacekeepers present, which is important for the LGBT community's morale.

In short, I want to give a warm THANK YOU to Silent Witness Peacekeepers for supporting the LGBT community, standing up to homophobic fundamentalists, and demonstrating courage and patience. With luck, the program can be a model for similar organizations across the country.

To learn more about the Silent Witness Peacekeepers Alliance, visit their website. You can also watch this news video about their deployment at Judy Sheppard's speech in Reading, PA, in anticipation of a (cancelled) Westboro Baptist Church protest.