Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year from Republic of Gilead!

I would like to wish my readers a Happy New Year! You're the reason why I blog, and I look forward to sharing more Religious Right news with you in 2011.

I started this blog in August, and roughly five months, 185 posts, five book reviews, four progressive events reports, and six right-wing event reports later, I can enthusiastically say it's been worth it. I've learned so much these past five months, not only from my own research but from the many bloggers I've met along the way. I want to send a warm thank you to my fellow progressive bloggers and followers who have taught me so much in 2010.

2011 will bring with it new issues and new adventures, which I'm eager to explore with all of you. Happy New Year!

News Tidbits

Iowa Independent: Steve King: Determining when life begins is like shooting gun into crowd

Minnesota Independent: Family Council claims success in stopping anti-bullying efforts in Anoka-Hennepin

The Advocate: Antigay iPhone App Rejected a Second Time

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Anti-gay Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa charged with blackmail

Pink News: Why did BBC call on Christian who supports execution of gays to comment on Sir Elton’s baby?

Commentary Tidbits

Extremities: Slacktivist Lies

Truthout: The "Family" - Who Really Is Behind This Secret Organization?

Talking Points Memo: Tea Party Nation Names DHS, NAACP Among 2010's 'Liberal Hate Groups'

365 Gay: Right wing groups hate right wing gays

Mother Jones: The Year in Islamophobia: Timeline

Talk to Action: Repent Amarillo "Executes" Santa, Continues Prayer Warfare Against Other Congregations The REAL Reason Christians (and others) Get So Crazy About Gays
(Hat tip to Truth Wins Out for the last link)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Right-Wing Groups Back Out of 2011 CPAC over Gays

According to articles in the Washington Independent and the right-wing World Net Daily site, the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America have refused to participate in the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington D.C. CPAC is an annual event hosted by the American Conservative Union, a conservative organization founded in 1964.

According to both articles, Tom McClusky, senior vice president of FRC Action cited CPAC's "financial mismanagement" and neglect of "conservative principles" as the impetus behind FRC's decision. Concerned Women for America's president Penny Nance stated that her organization refuses to participate because of the presence of GOProud, an LGBT Republican group.

These two dissenting organizations are hardly alone. Several other right-wing organizations -- American Principles Project, American Values, Capital Research Center, the Center for Military Readiness, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage -- have also refused to participate in the 2011 CPAC because of GOProud. The DV8 has a rundown of the above groups, which I encourage readers to check out. American Principles Project spearheaded the boycott of CPAC back in November over GOProud's participation, according to an article at World Net Daily. (A coalition letter sent to the American Conservative Union is available at www[dot]americanprinciplesproject[dot]org/blogs/cpac-coalition-letter.html)

The debate over LGBT issues has penetrated even conservative ranks, as disagreements smolder between anti-gay hard-liners and conservatives who are at least willing to hear LGBT people out. I predict that the fissure between these two camps will widen over time, as support for LGBT rights becomes more mainstream.

Don't get me wrong. CPAC remains a staunchly right-wing event, and I have no illusions about their unpalatable views on other issues. Among the dozens of participating organizations at CPAC are the John Birch Society, Christians United for Israel, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and the anti-abortion Americans United for Life, which says volumes about CPAC's political leanings. Still, the fact that an LGBT group is participating this event -- and that its presence is fomenting dissension in the right-wing ranks -- is a fascinating development.

As a side note, I plan to attend the 2011 CPAC event in February, barring any snowstorms. Rest assured, I'll share all the details of my foray afterwards, if the weather permits me to attend. CPAC might be allowing an LGBT group at the table, but it remains a right-wing event, with Religious Right groups among its participants.

To read additional commentary, visit these links.

Right Wing Watch: Family Research Council and Concerned Women For America pull out of CPAC, Religious Right Boycott Gains Momentum

Right Wing Watch: Farah: “Purge” the Conservative Movement of Gays and Gay-Rights Supporters

The DV8: Hate Groups Pull Out of CPAC

Truth Wins Out: Anti-Gay Bigots Throwing Temper Tantrum, Refusing to Go to CPAC

Think Progress: Right-Wing Groups Abandon Conservative Forum For Inviting Gay Conservatives To Participate

Peter Wehner at Commentary Magazine: Boycotts vs. Public Debate

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Emergency Contraception in the Crosshairs

In August 2010, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new prescription emergency contraceptive, ella (ulipristal acetate). Manufactured by HRA Pharma, ella has been available in Europe under the name ellaOne since May 2009. Women can take ella to prevent pregnancy up to five days following unprotected sex, whereas the drug's predecessor, Plan B, has a window of only 72 hours.

Emergency contraceptives (EC) like ella are among the many tools at women's disposal to protect their reproductive autonomy. If a woman has unprotected sex, or a condom breaks, EC can help prevent an unwanted pregnancy. EC is especially critical for rape victims, and is usually offered to victims as part of sexual assault forensic exams.

Unfortunately, voices from the Religious Right look askance at EC and have shown considerable animosity toward ella. By incorrectly labeling EC an "abortifacient", they seek to cultivate anti-abortion advocates' antipathy toward this important form of contraception. The common argument is that by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, EC medications like ella terminate a potential pregnancy. This differs from the medical definition of abortion, which involves the termination of an established pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg has already implanted in the uterus. In short, by opposing EC, these Religious Right voices seek to thwart another means by which women make their own reproductive choices.

Commentary Tidbits

Metro Weekly: DC's Cardinal Wuerl continues campaign against gay marriage and sex

Media Matters: Star Parker: DADT Repeal Represents Most Dangerous Threat To Nation

Think Progress: Rep. Randy Forbes Decries Smithsonian Art Museum Funding as Unconstitutional

SPLC Hatewatch: The Last Word: Hatewatch's 4th Annual Smackdown Awards

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Religious Right Scared that California Youth Will Learn about Gays in History

The Wall of Separation: Pulpit Politicking Panned: Once Again, Americans Say No To Church Electioneering

News Tidbits

Kansas City Star: Grand jury weighs whether there was a conspiracy to kill abortion doctor

The Advocate: "Poo-Poo" Pastor Charged with Blackmail

Pink News: Court rules that religious charities are free to ban gay couples from adopting in Australia

Edge Boston: Pope's Message of Peace: No Relationship Parity for Gays

Sunday, December 26, 2010

African-Americans and the 8:18 Movement

The 8:18 Movement, a collaborative evangelical ministry geared toward African-Americans, caught my eye recently. The ministry's name refers to Isaiah 8:18, which heralds children as "signs and symbols" from God, implying that African-American youth have a role to play in the nation's future. While the ministry discusses serious problems such as HIV and violence, its pronounced anti-abortion message to people of color warrants attention.

The 8:18 Movement leadership team is a mash-up of prominent figures from the New Apostolic Reformation and black anti-abortion camps. Featuring anti-abortion advocate Alveda King (Priests for Life), Dehavilland Brown (Blacks United for Life), Rev. Arnold Culbreath (Protecting Black Life), Lou Engle (TheCall), Stuart Greaves (International House of Prayer at Kansas City), and many others, the leadership team boasts multiple anti-abortion advocates.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

News Tidbits

Merry Christmas!

Louisville Courier-Journal: Lawsuit Filed Against Louisville Abortion Protester

The Hill: Anti-abortion group aims to influence race for RNC chairman

Pink Paper: Homophobic bakery owners forced to serve gay customers

Edmonton Journal: Morinville mother asks for school without religion

Explore Harford: Abortion protest deal reached

The Advocate: LDS Church Invites Gay Leaders to Christmas Concert

Commentary Tidbits

Merry Christmas!

Box Turtle Bulletin: Ssempa, Other Ugandan Pastors Charged With Conspiracy

An Apostate's Chapel: Let the Protests Begin!

Al Stefanelli: U.S. Army: Atheists Unfit to Serve

Right Wing Watch: Abstinence-Only Advocates Misfire on New Teen Pregnancy Data

Right Wing Watch: Barton: The Smithsonian, like Satan after the Crucifixion of Jesus, Regrets Hide/Seek Exhibit

Talk to Action: Archbishop Timothy Dolan Wins the Third Annual Coughie Award!

RH Reality Check: Racist Anti-Abortion Campaign Comes to Austin 

Truth Wins Out: Pat Robertson: Don’t Let Gay Friends Drag You Down into a Sinful Lifestyle

Friendly Atheist: Fox News Chicago Sends Undercover Agents to Anti-Gay Fundraiser

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Noah-period climate change policy from the 112th Congress?

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Cadets For Christ Solicits Letters to the Air Force Academy to Use as Ammo

Friday, December 24, 2010

Books from the Religious Right: NAZIRITE DNA by Lou Engle

Lou Engle, founder of TheCall and a member of the International House of Prayer leadership team, is an avuncular preacher associated with the New Apostolic Reformation. My first exposure to Engle was through the documentary Jesus Camp, in which he spoke to a group of children about the supposed evils of abortion. As I learned more about Engle, I discovered that he not only possesses considerable charisma, but that he also promotes chilling anti-gay and anti-choice messages. In the Vanguard documentary Missionaries of Hate, Engle is revealed as one of several American evangelical leaders who have promoted homophobia in Uganda, where a controversial anti-gay bill is currently under consideration. Because of Engle's disconcerting statements, several politicians who have associated with him, including Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback, have come under public scrutiny.

Lou Engle's 2009 book, Nazirite DNA, was available as a free download from TheCall's website this month, so I decided to review it for the blog. In Nazirite DNA, Engle reinterprets the Biblical Nazirite vow as a modern spiritual discipline for returning America to God. In the Bible, Nazirites were Israelites who dedicated themselves to God by vowing to abstain from wine and grape products, grow their hair long, and avoid contact with dead bodies (see Numbers 6:2-11). Biblical figures such as Samson and John the Baptist were legendary Nazirites, endowed with power because of their consecrated vow.

Engle himself recites the audio book, preaching in a gravelly voice that can be warm and intensely zealous at once. Back in 2000, he claims, his son Jesse resolved to be a Nazarite until TheCall D.C. gathering later that year. That night, Engle had a visionary dream announcing that America had not yet seen her Nazirites. At the September 2000 D.C. rally, Jesse called out for the Nazirites to rise in America. Engle believes that faith of this intensity heralds another spiritual awakening in the U.S., asserting that "nations will shake" and turn back to God because of the spiritual power of modern-day Nazirites.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

News Tidbits

My Fox Phoenix: Hospital, Bishop to Decide on Catholic Affiliation

Pink Paper: American evangelists spreading homophobia across Uganda

NPR: Anti-Gay Atmosphere Permeates Uganda

American Independent: Austin anti-abortion group plans international expansion

Gallup: Four in 10 Americans Believe in Strict Creationism

Medical News Today: E-mails Show Wisconsin D.A. Discussed Anti-Sex Ed Letter With Conservative Advocates

Louisville Courier-Journal: Job candidate sues University of Kentucky, claiming religion cost him the post

The Advocate: New Yorkers Protest Smithsonian Censorship

Herald Sun: Australia: Catholics told to lobby their MPs to vote against gay marriage

Commentary Tidbits

Jews on First: Jewish Federation of Portland, Oregon Joins Effort to Limit Conservative Christian Released Time Program

Treehugger: Religious Group Puts Out 12 DVD Series on Environmentalists' "Spiritual Deception"

Huffington Post: Would Jesus Discriminate?: Responding to Uganda's Gay Death Penalty Bill

Media Matters: Limbaugh: Dems "Destroy Things Based On Or Rooted In God"

Media Matters: Fox Attacks LGBT History Bill As "Propaganda" From "Pro-Gay Agenda"

Lez Get Real: House Republicans Use Deceit to Block Child Brides Legislation (Trigger warning)

Lez Get Real: Lynchburg Mayor Declares ‘Day Of Purity’ For 14 February

SPLC Hatewatch: AFA’s Fischer Doubles Down on Anti-Gay Lies

Good As You: Keep Talking About the SPLC List, Kiddies! We Love Bearing Actual Witness!

Religion Dispatches: “Dark” Skin No Longer a Curse in Online Book of Mormon

Monday, December 20, 2010

Anti-Choice Propaganda Links Abortion to the "Occult"

I'm noticing a trend -- more and more radical anti-abortion voices are trying to connect abortion with the Devil and the "occult." As you may recall, a right-wing Christian film called The Abortion Matrix claimed that abortion and "witchcraft" are somehow linked. Fundamentalist books such as Demonic Abortion do the same. Now, a woman claiming to be the daughter of an abortion clinic worker is making similar accusations.

In an interview with LifeSite News, Abigail Seidman makes outrageous statements about an abortion clinic where she claims her mother worked. Seidman alleges that the abortion clinic was a haven for goddess worship and pagan rituals. Like The Abortion Matrix, her allegations make full use of fundamentalist Christian fear and misinformation about neo-paganism.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reflections on Rumi

On Friday night, I attended a beautiful Rumi celebration in my area, filled with music, dancing, chanting, and readings of Rumi's poems. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was a 13th century Persian Sufi mystic whose poems celebrated union with the divine.

After all the joyful singing and dancing with dozens of people in attendance, I felt alive. This was delight, to let go and flow like rainwater with a room full of kindred spirits, where no one was an outsider. At length, we sat down to listen to readings of Rumi's poems, as local musicians strummed their guitars and tapped their drums.

One reader recited "This We Have Now", a poem about the eternal presence that everything in the universe reaches for and emerges from. Another recited "The Guest House", which urges the mystic to welcome each thought and emotion as a teacher. It was so easy to be intoxicated by the music and poetry, to be swept up in reflections on something ineffable. I am agnostic, but at moments like this, when I feel a connection to something greater, I start to wonder if something lies beyond.

Rumi's poetry, and the beautiful mood in the room that evening, reminded me of how wondrous spiritual experiences can be. They can remind us of our unity with everything around us. They show us the value of other people. They remind us that wisdom ultimately transcends dogma. They help us appreciate our world and the common humanity we share.

There was another, darker Rumi poem that stayed with me. "The Snake Catcher's Tale" tells the story of a man who found a dead dragon on a snowy mountain. Confident that people would pay to see the dead dragon, he dragged the beast back to Baghdad. When he set up shop in the city, throngs of people flocked to see the creature, which was not dead, but only dormant. Warmed by the sun, the dragon awakened and rampaged through the crowd, slaughtering bystanders as the horrified man looked on. Rumi likened the dragon to our "animal soul", our baser impulses that can cause great harm if allowed to run wild.

I began to think about this blog, and how the story could be given a modern interpretation. Some fundamentalist leaders, eager for wealth and an audience, draw in followers with appeals to people's fear of the other. The dead dragons that fundamentalists drag out of the snow are fear and hatred of LGBT people, abortion providers, independent women, and many more scapegoats. Tragically, when these dormant dragons awaken, their rampages are just as horrifying as the one in Rumi's story -- homophobic hate crimes, assassinations of abortion providers, antipathy to women's equality, and many more tragedies. Just as the dragon killed the man who showed him off, so too do these fears spiritually kill the people who harbor them, filling them with hatred and suspicion.

Let's leave those dragons in the snow, and focus instead on the things that unify us. Life is too wondrous to spend it hating.

Religious Right Unhappy will Impending Demise of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Right Wing Watch has an exhaustive list of Religious Right reactions to the impending repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, with unhappy quotes from the AFA's Bryan Fischer, AFTAH's Peter LaBarbera, the Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund, and MassResistance. Let's hear what other right-wing voices have been saying about DADT this month.

First, at the Freedom Federation website, a December 15th letter signed by dozens of conservative organizations claims that this is not the time to "experiment with social engineering" in the armed forces. The letter claims that repealing DADT will supposedly result in religious discrimination toward those who express anti-gay sentiments in the military, and that service members will supposedly leave the military if the repeal occurs.

Next, Lou Engle published a December 15th press release at the Call to Conscience website, insists that a "cultural and moral time bomb" will go off if the armed forces succumb to the "homosexual agenda." Engle claims that attempts at repealing DADT are a "backdoor political move" intended to circumvent the U.S. people's moral beliefs. Like other Religious Right commentators, he states that a repeal would allow for an "assault" on religious freedom.

Finally, Fred Jackson, writing for OneNewsNow, penned an article entitled "An end to religious liberty in U.S. military?", in which he discusses the Alliance Defense Fund's position on an impending repeal of DADT.

:: sighs ::

If and when President Obama signs the repeal of DADT, I expect even more outrage from the Religious Right.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Child Marriage Prevention Bill Voted Down in U.S. House

S.987, the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010, introduced by Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate. Praised by organizations such as PLAN International, CARE, and the International Women's Health Coalition, as well as global figures such as Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Irish president Mary Robinson, the legislation denounced child marriage as a human rights violation and would have made elimination of child marriage a U.S. foreign policy goal. S.987 would have authorized the president to provide assistance, through non-governmental and faith-based organizations, meant to prevent child marriage in developing countries and promote empowerment of girls and women.

Ending child marriage is a noble endeavor. Who could argue with this bill? Some House Republicans, apparently.

News Tidbits

The Advocate: NOM Attacks Steve Jobs for App

The Advocate: Warhol Foundation May Drop Smithsonian

Gay Rights: Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation Pulls Funding from Smithsonian Over Gay Censorship

CNN: DMV employee resigns over letter condemning customer to hell

The Guardian: Hotel owners barred gay couple on religious grounds, court told

Telegraph: English Defence League says Pastor Terry Jones will not speak at rally

Edge Boston: A (Straight) Writer Reveals: What Goes On at ’Conversion Camp?’

Fox News: Louisiana Moves to Block Creationism Debate From Inclusion in Biology Textbook

Womens eNews: 'Filthy Book' Attack Spotlights Date-Rape Novel

Christian Science Monitor: Westboro picketers outnumbered at Elizabeth Edwards funeral

NECN: About 600 protest at abortion clinic

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Anti-Gay Groups Upset with Southern Poverty Law Center

(My regrets for not posting the past few days. I've been under the weather. -- Ahab)

The Southern Poverty Law Center's decision to add several anti-gay Religious Right organizations to its list of hate groups has attracted much attention these past few weeks. Anti-gay organizations such as the Family Research Council, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH), and the American Family Association are among the groups that the SPLC categorized as hate groups due to their homophobic statements.

In response, a plethora of right-wing groups and conservative political leaders have signed a statement expressing solidarity with the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and other "pro-family" organizations recently labeled hate groups by SPLC. The web page for this statement, ironically named "Start Debating, Stop Hating", calls SPLC a "liberal fundraising machine" and frames its recent actions as an "attack" on groups that embrace Judeo-Christian moral values. Right Wing Watch has commentary on the statement and its implications here. In response, the SPLC published a commentary at Hatewatch reminding readers about the false and homophobic claims that several designated hate groups have made about the LGBT community.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rachel Maddow interviews Ugandan MP David Bahati

On the December 8th edition of The Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow interviewed David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who authored a proposed anti-gay bill. As progressive bloggers have documented, American fundamentalist leaders such as Lou Engle and Scott Lively have promoted anti-gay attitudes in Uganda, so the controversy surrounding the Ugandan bill also encompasses these figures.

In the full interview, Maddow confronted Bahati about a political group called "the Family", possible consequences of the bill, anti-gay rhetoric, and Ugandan newspapers that have outed gays. In my opinion, Maddow asked the hard questions, but Bahati came across as evasive. At many times in the interview, Bahati insisted that his proposed legislation is meant to protect children, and that he is not a hateful man. To watch the full 32 minute video, click here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Commentary Tidbits

Main Street Plaza: What if Mormons ceased their anti-gay marriage political agenda?

The Gaytheist Agenda: Study Discovers What Should Be No-Brainer: LGBT Children with Accepting Parents Fare Better

The Liberal Agnostic Who Could: Conservative Faith and the Literate Female

RH Reality Check: Expect More "Action" From Live Action Come 2011

Amanda Hess: Meet LeRoy Carhart's anti-abortion protesters

Extremities: Innumerate Inerrancy

An Apostate's Chapel: Evangelistic Ethics

Truth Wins Out: MSNBC Interview: Uganda’s Kill-the-Gays Emperor Has No Clothes

Good as You: FRC to launch responsibility-shirking 'Start Debating, Stop Hating' campaign

Talk to Action: The Prophecy/Conspiracy Genre - Using End Times Prophecy to Mainstream New World Order Narratives, Part I and Part II

Right Wing Watch: Glenn Beck: Irresponsible And Indifferent To The Violent Consequences of His Dangerous Rhetoric

Right Wing Watch: IHOP: Preparing Thousands of Students For the End of the World

Right Wing Watch: Liberty Counsel: DADT Keeps "Moral Perverts" Out Of The Armed Services

Media Matters: On Fox & Friends, Perkins claims he's not "anti-gay" while promoting "research" that says "homosexual behavior is harmful"

Spewing Truth in the Face of Lifes: Reading: Wendell Potter's "Deadly Spin" and How it Relates to NOM

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Religious Right Doesn't Want LGBT Children to Have Parental Support

(Hat tip to the DV8 for the last link.)

News Tidbits

Louisville Courier-Journal: Beshear Says Ark Park Contract Will Prohibit Religious Discrimination

CNN: Conservative Christians ask Apple to reinstate controversial app

Toronto Sun: Salvation Army Bans Harry Potter and Twilight Toys

Newsweek: One Nation Under God

Indy Week: Abortion protesters target Enloe High School

The Advocate: Christian B&B Owners Sued for Discrimination

Beliefnet: Religious groups rally behind traditional marriage

Minnesota Independent: Bachmann calls for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood

Minnesota Independent: Minnesota Family Council’s Anderson talks with ‘hate group’ founder Peter LaBarbera

Radio Iowa: Bishop urges Catholics to be “cascading voice” opposing abortion clinic

Florida Independent: Texas anti-abortion group targets Planned Parenthood, African-Americans in North Florida ad campaign

Edge Boston: NOM’s Gallagher mocks pro-marriage equality Catholics

Minnesota Public Radio: Group to return same-sex marriage DVDs to archdiocese

Pink News: Anti-gay Christian preacher wins £4,000 compensation for arrest

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Homophobia and Hope

It's disheartening to hear Religious Right figures promoting homophobia in the name of God. Fortunately, more and more people of faith are recognizing that homophobia is wrong and that LGBT people are human beings. Recently, I came across three accounts of people who abandoned the homophobia of their prior religious upbringing, opting instead to become advocates for inclusion and justice. If these people can transcend religious homophobia, there's hope for many more.

The first story centers around Symon Hill, a Christian writer and associate director of the UK think tank Ekklesia. According to an article in Pink News, Hill plans to walk from Birmingham to London in 2011 to repent for his past homophobia. Along the way, he will speak at various churches to encourage LGBT inclusion among Christians. Several pro-LGBT organizations have endorsed his walk, including Inclusive ChurchCourage UK, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and Ekklesia.

Hill told Pink News that homophobia is sinful and that Christians are called to support justice.

“I have struggled for years with issues of sexuality – through prayer, reflection, personal experience and reading the Bible. These struggles have led me to the conclusion that it is not homosexuality, but homophobia, that is sinful and contrary to the message of Christ . . . Many churches continue to reject loving same-sex relationships and to oppose equality. Others have failed to speak out due to a misplaced desire for unity. Given the hurt and abuse involved, minor changes are not enough. As Christians, we are called to take a stand against injustice.”
The second story involves story involves Bishop Richard Davis, pastor of the Orlando-based Church of Healing and Prosperity. In a December 4th article in the Orlando Sentinel, Davis discusses his prior homophobia and the epiphany he had about the LGBT community. Raised in a black Pentecostal church that believed gay people would suffer eternal damnation, Davis retained that homophobia when he entered the ministry as an adult. A lesbian friend opened his eyes to the importance of LGBT inclusion, which he now fosters in the black religious community through interfaith discussion forums.

The final story comes from the blog of Christy Frink, who has rejected the homophobia she absorbed from her Southern Baptist upbringing. LGBT friends and exposure to new ideas led her to accept homosexuality as a natural variant of human sexuality, a stark contrast to her earlier beliefs. The controversy surrounding Lisa Howe at Belmont University has galvanized Christy into confronting homophobic discrimination.

These stories give me hope. Religious homophobia need not poison people forever, so long as their empathy allows them to recognize LGBT people as fellow human beings. If these three people, raised in homophobic religious environments, can abandon intolerance and embrace justice, perhaps other people of faith can do the same.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Religious Right Scoffs at Cancun Climate Change Summit

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is wrapping up its two-week long conference in Cancun, Mexico today. The conference brings together signatories to the UNFCCC treaty, as well as subsidiary bodies related to science, technology, and implementation, to discuss global responses to climate change.

Representatives of global governments are not only discussing climate change policies, but also attending workshops on how climate change relates to biodiversity, economics, commerce, technology, agriculture, alternative energy, and a host of other spheres. (To read about side events for each day of the Cancun conference, click here.)

Governments taking collaborative action to address climate change gives me hope that humanity can respond effectively to environmental issues. However, voices from the Religious Right have been mocking this important meeting, which says volumes about their priorities, as usual.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Choosing the Best

Amplify Your Voice recently posted a videos about the content of an abstinence-only sex education curriculum called "Choosing The Best." (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

"Choosing the Best", while not a faith-based abstinence program according to its website, is among many abstinence-only curricula praised by conservative Christians. As the above video demonstrates, the curriculum's dragon story promotes female submissiveness and passivity:
"Moral of the story: Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess." (Choosing the Best, Inc., Choosing the Best Soulmate, 2003, p. 51)
It gets worse. According to a 2004 report by the U.S. House of Representatives, "Choosing the Best" promotes other sexist stereotypes, such as the idea that men are detached and women are emotional:
“Generally, guys are able to focus better on one activity at a time and may not connect feelings with actions. Girls access both sides of the brain at once, so they often experience feelings and emotions as part of every situation.” (Choosing The Best Life, Leader Guide, p. 7.)
Sex, Lies & Stereotypes, a policy brief by Legal Momentum on the content of abstinence-only programs, lists numerous examples of sexist messages about gender in "Choosing the Best". These sexist statements, presented as fact without any supporting evidence, shoehorns young people into unrealistic and restrictive roles. What messages does this curriculum send to boys whose emotions are all too real, girls who are independent and smart, or gender-nonconforming kids?

The flaws of this abstinence-only curriculum are not limited to its messages about gender. The U.S. House of Representatives report also states that "Choosing the Best" also makes dubious statements about condom failure rates and HIV transmission. An Advocates for Youth policy brief on sex education in Illinois argues that "Choosing the Best" provides inaccurate information on cervical cancer and HPV. A 2008 SIECUS review of the curriculum observes that it associates sex with shame and guilt, and sends mixed messages about the victim's role in sexual abuse. To boot, SIECUS notes that "Choosing the Best" mandates heterosexual marriage, thereby completely ignoring LGBT youth (which the curriculum openly admits).

As I've noted in prior posts here and here, the Religious Right's admiration for abstinence-only sex education is misguided. A curriculum that provides misinformation about sexual health and toxic messages about gender is not appropriate for youth. "Choosing the Best" is not alone in this, as other abstinence-only curricula do the same. With this in mind, do we really want our tax dollars supporting these programs in our schools?

The SIECUS website features in-depth reviews of several abstinence-only curricula, including "Choosing the Best." To read reviews of the program, click here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

News Tidbits

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Bishop Christopher Senyonjo does God's work helping LGBT people in Uganda

The Hill: Anti-abortion group: Congressman's reform vote cost him his seat

News Observer: Abortion protests stir North Carolina high schools

CBC News: Canada: Homosexuality can be 'overcome', says charity

Minnesota Independent: Bradlee Dean: Keith Ellison is advancing Sharia law through ‘homosexual agenda’

Edge Boston: Promise Keepers Founder Apologizes for Anti-Gay Comments Made Two Decades Ago

Commentary Tidbits

MoHoHawaii: Coming Home in a Pine Box

The DV8: Resisting the Green Dragon

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Creationists Fight Over "Real" Noah's Ark

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Iowa Supreme Court Judges Voted Out After Religious Right Smear Campaign

Mother Jones: The Video John Boehner Doesn't Want You to See

Mother Jones: The GOP's New Abortion Agenda

SPLC Hatewatch: A Poll of Their Own: Family Research Council Takes on the Pentagon

CNN: Maher: Glenn Beck Like L. Ron Hubbard

Think Progress: Kentucky Creationism Theme Park Set to Open in 2014 Will "Include Dinosaurs"

Truth Wins Out: What’s So Unholy and Un-American about the Manhattan Declaration

U.S. News and World Report: The Religious Ties of the Republican Party

RH Reality Check: "The Assassination of George Tiller:" What It Got Right, What It Left Out

Religion Dispatches: McCarthy, Born Again and Retooled for Our Time

Monday, December 6, 2010

Anti-Abortion Press Conference in Germantown

NOTE: This post contains photographs of anti-abortion signs with disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised.

Abortion opponents gathered in Germantown, MD today for a press conference and prayer march near Reproductive Health Services (the clinic where Dr. LeRoy Carhart will be performing late-term abortions). For background on Carhart's arrival in Germantown, see my prior post.

I drove to Germantown today to observe the event, which drew hundreds of people from both sides of the abortion debate. When I arrived at Wisteria Drive, anti-abortion protesters with gory signs stood alongside pro-choice demonstrators from the Feminist Majority and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Local police and escorts from the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force were on hand to ensure a peaceful gathering. Journalists flitted about, taking photographs and interviewing attendees. Tension hung in the air as everyone waited for the press conference to begin.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Concerned Women for America and LGBT Youth

Concerned Women for America (CWA), a right-wing Christian organization, recently posted an interview with Jeanne Sparks on its website. Sparks, a CWA prayer chapter leader in Westchester County, NY, has zeroed in on an LGBT youth conference called Prideworks, sponsored by GLSEN Hudson Valley.

According to a commentary piece at the CWA website, for the past six years, Sparks has been distributing "ex-gay" literature to young people outside the Prideworks conference. In addition to handing out brochures from Exodus International and JONAH, she tells young people that no one is born gay, and that they can change their sexual orientation if they choose. Sparks admits that she was asked to leave the conference premises on at least one occasion.

In their commentary, which brands GLSEN as a "homosexual pressure group", CWA praises Sparks for presenting "a case for healing" to LGBT youth. Sparks claims that GLSEN "discriminates" against people who hold a "Biblical worldview" because it refuse to acknowledge the supposed benefits of reparative therapy.

I was appalled. Promoting these unhealthy messages outside what is supposed to be a safe space for LGBT youth is unacceptable. In a world where LGBT youth have to contend with bullying and hate crimes, adults should be showing them acceptance. In a world with so much homophobia, adults should be encouraging LGBT youth to be proud of who they are. They should NOT telling them that they are disordered and in need of change. They should NOT promote destructive and ineffective reparative "therapy" to youngsters. They should NOT be invoking God to justify intolerance. People such as Sparks need to understand this.

Kudos to GLSEN Hudson Valley for providing LGBT youth with a safe space. To learn more about this year's Prideworks conference, visit these links. PrideWorks conference to promote respect for others PrideWorks draws 600, features gay country singer

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Late-Term Abortion Provider Coming to Germantown, MD

A late-term abortion provider is coming to Maryland. Unfortunately, so is the Religious Right.

Dr. LeRoy Carhart, a nationally known abortion provider, is slated to provide late-term abortions at Reproductive Health Services in Germantown, MD, starting on December 6th. In November, Carhart stated that he planned to open clinics in Iowa and the Washington D.C. metro area, after Nebraska passed legislation outlawing abortions past the 20th week of pregnancy.

Carhart was a colleague and friend of the late Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered during a church service by Scott Roeder on May 31st, 2009. Roeder, an anti-abortion extremist, was convicted of Tiller's murder in April of this year. After Tiller's murder. Carhart continued to perform late-term abortions while enduring considerable hostility from anti-abortion advocates.

Upon learning of Carhart's slated work in Germantown, Christian anti-abortion advocates have been up in arms. Operation Rescue and Maryland Right to Life have devoted considerable attention to the matter on their websites. Anti-abortion website Lifesite News has published disapproving articles about Carhart's arrival here and here, as has Christian Newswire here. A website called "Kick Carhart Out of Maryland" recently sprung up to spearhead protests against Carhart and Reproductive Health Services.

News Tidbits

Pink News: Apple removes ‘anti-gay’ iPhone app

Pink News: Christian group campaigns to have anti-gay app reinstated

WTOP: Virginia lawmaker claims pat-downs part of 'homosexual agenda'

Edge Boston: Catholic College Class on Marriage Parity Draws Death Threats, Students

Colorado Independent: Colorado Succeeds school reform group leans on shoddy Heritage Foundation research

Huffington Post: Religious Groups Support Repealing Gay Military Ban

The Cap Times: Anti-abortion group places 'Black children are in danger' billboards in Milwaukee

Womens eNews: NYC Tests Brakes on Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Commentary Tidbits

365 Gay: Bigotry Watch: NOM goes after Prop 8 judges

Amplify Your Voice: Does the Ring Mean a Thing?

Media Matters: Beck: Obama is "religiously, an enigma"

Media Matters: Michigan paper runs another anti-gay advertisement

Freak Out Nation: Is C street Winning? Orders Given to Arrest Gays in Kenya

Right Wing Watch: Beware the Green Dragon!

RH Reality Check: The Pope, Condoms, and Contraception: Let's Get This Conversation Started

RH Reality Check: State of Emergency? Conservatives Warn CEDAW Ratification Will Threaten American Norms

Mature Landscaping: Ayn Rand's Right: Vomiting in its Own Hat

Salon: John Boehner hangs out with Randall Terry

Progress Online: Defending LGBT rights in Africa

The American Prospect: Dominion Over the Earth?

SPLC Hatewatch: Tony Perkins Defends Family Research Council, Sort Of

Religion Dispatches: Answers in Genesis Seeks Tax Breaks for New Theme Park

Barefoot and Progressive: Steve Beshear humiliates the state of Kentucky

Ethics Daily: Conservative Christian Leaders Plot to Replace Obama

Care2: The Family's Threat to American Democracy
(Hat tip to Donna Banta for the last article)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stay-At-Home Daughters

Gina McGalliard wrote a fascinating piece at Bitch Magazine entitled "House Proud: The Troubling Rise of Stay-At-Home Daughters." McGalliard introduces readers to the Christian patriarchy movement, a fundamentalist subculture that emphasizes male authority over the family and rigid gender roles. Groups such as the Vision Forum and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood promote this patriarchal paradigm as God's vision for the sexes. Overlap between the Christian patriarchy movement and the Quiverfull movement have been observed.

In the Christian patriarchy movement, men are encouraged to be leaders and providers, while women are encouraged to be submissive wives, mothers, and homemakers. As McGalliard's article explains, daughters are raised with the expectation that they will submit to their fathers (and later husbands) and devote themselves to the domestic realm. Higher education and careers are discouraged for young women, because they would instill independence in women that would be inimical to the Christian patriarchy movement's aims.

A Review of DADDY I DO

A few weeks ago, I wrote a short post about the documentary Daddy I Do, which explores Christian purity culture and abstinence-only sex education. I saw the documentary last weekend, and I was impressed with the breadth of interconnected subjects that the film covered.

Daddy I Do begins with a father and young daughter adorning themselves in finery for a purity ball. After the girl gracefully walks down a staircase, her smiling father kneels down and hands her a white rose. 1 Corinthians 6:20 flashes across the screen. In the background, we hear the father and daughter reciting a purity pledge, followed by Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Leave My Little Girl Alone."