Saturday, December 31, 2011

As 2012 Draws Near, Happy New Year from Republic of Gilead!

I'd like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year!

Without further ado, here's a list of my top eleven event posts for 2011. If you're new to the blog or just want to revisit old posts, check out the following links. Republic of Gilead is looking forward to new fans and new events in 2012!

(1) The December 15th talk in Baltimore, MD by Truth Wins Out and the Southern Poverty Law Center on the harms of so-called "ex-gay" therapy and its links to prominent Religious Right groups.

(2) Although I couldn't be there in person, the November 11th TheCall Detroit rally, featuring Lou Engle, Alveda King, Kamal Saleem, and this guy.

(3) The 2011 Values Voters Summit in Washington D.C. in October, where LGBT issues, reproductive rights, science and nature, and Mormon-Evangelical tensions were part of the heady discussion. Glenn Beck was there too, as were some very nice local atheists. Remember, don't be the weird one!

(4) The Occupy D.C. camp in McPherson Square, as well as the Stop the Machine protest in Washington D.C.'s Freedom Plaza.

(5) Abby Johnson's September 23rd anti-abortion talk in York, PA.

(6) The controversial Response rally (parts I, II, and III) on August 6th in Houston, TX, which I observed via internet livestream.

(7) The Summer of Choice gathering on August 1st, where pro-choice and anti-abortion protesters converged near Dr. LeRoy Carhart's late-term abortion clinic in Germantown, MD.

(8) The 2011 Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP) conference in Harrisburg, PA in May, featuring talks by Doug Philips of the Vision Forum and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis.

(9) The 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington D.C. on February 12th, which had generation controversy among some right-wing voices because of the involvement of GOProud.

(10) Silver Ring Thing, a pro-abstinence Christian ministry that visited Milton, PA in January.

(11) The 2011 March for Life, a prominent anti-abortion gathering in Washington D.C. on January 24th.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Truth Wins Out: TWO Steps Up Campaign Calling on Chicago Archbishop Francis George to Resign with Full-Page Chicago Tribune Ad

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Pat Buchanan's Christian Nation

Right Wing Watch: Cindy Jacobs Unveils Election Initiative to 'Remove the Lie of Separation of Church and State'

The Advocate: Teens React to Rick Perry's Anti-Gay Ad

News Tidbits

New York Times: Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion

Washington Post: 11 Ways Religion Changed in 2011

BBC News: David Cameron on Christianity

MSNBC: Fox News Latin America Apologizes to Jews for Facebook Poll on Jesus

TheEstherCall Laments the "Trail of Tears" of Abortion

Recently, a YouTube video announced TheEstherCall, an all-female anti-abortion event that will gather in spring 2012. On March 17th, 39 women (representing every year that has passed since Roe v. Wade) will initiate a 21-day walk from an abortion clinic in Houston, TX to Dallas, TX, where Roe v. Wade began. The walk will end in Dallas on Good Friday, where TheEstherCall rally will pray for an end to abortion, just as Esther beseeched the Persian king to spare her people in the Bible.

According to an information packet on TheEstherCall available from the Dallas House of Prayer, a documentary team with an internet channel will livestream the 21-day walk, featuring daily accounts from women on how abortion has impacted their lives. (See www[dot]hozdallas[dot]com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Esther-Call-Information-Packet.pdf)

In the above video, TheCall founder Lou Engle, TheEstherCall founder Tracy Eckert, and Back to Life director Laura Allred invite viewers to participate. Laura describes the 39 women participating in the walk as ""carrying the burden of the Lord for 54 million babies that have been aborted in our nation." At the 0:13 mark, Engle once again compared abortion to racial injustice, referring to abortion as "another Trail of Tears."
"Here we're actually feeling the wound of racism in America, the pain of the inner city. It's the black American Trail of Tears. The Native peoples in our nation have known their Trail of Tears. God wants to heal America. There's another Trail of Tears. Fifty-four million babies have died since Roe v. Wade, 1973, and millions of women have suffered the pain of post-abortion trauma and guilt and shame."
Republic of Gilead will keep you posted!

For additional information on TheEstherCall, visit www[dot]facebook[dot]com/pages/The-EstherCall-2012/296047497085888 and www[dot]hozdallas[dot]com/the-esther-call

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quotes from the Presidential Pro-Life Teletownhall

On December 27th, Personhood USA sponsored the Presidentual Pro-Life Teletownhall, moderated by radio show host Steve Deace. The participating GOP presidential candidates -- Texas Governor Rick Perry, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich --signed Personhood USA's Presidential Pledge, thereby endorsing the belief that life begins at conception and vowing support for a human life amendment to the U.S. constitution. (See www[dot]personhoodusa[dot]com/blog/personhood-republican-presidential-candidate-pledge) Throughout the evening, candidates reiterated anti-abortion positions discussed during the December 14th Citizens United forum in Des Moines, with emphasis on the belief that personhood begins at conception.

Deace began the forum by alleging that President Obama has shown "absolutely no regard for the inalienable right to life," and that anti-abortion voters seek a champion for the abortion issue. The first candidate to speak was Gov. Rick Perry, who quoted Psalm 139:13 and attributed his anti-abortion stance to the Founders at the 4:35 mark.
"My commitment to the unborn, it's actually rooted in the Founding Fathers documents, and that came from the wisdom of the Old Testament and the natural law written on our hearts. The Declaration of Independence declared life liberty and pursuit of happiness are rights that are endowed by out creator, and that's not open to some arbitrary bureaucrat or a judge in a black robe -- legislator's robes as I refer to them -- or for that matter any human power. They declared it as a right. It comes from God."
Rep. Michele Bachmann stressed that the anti-abortion struggle was "what I would literally die for," outlining her abortion platform at the 21:40 mark.
"We know that President Obama has a war on the family, and just days after he took office, he advanced his cause by reversing Mexico City. Nothing has helped save more human life than the Hyde Amendment, but it doesn't go far enough. What we need to do to upend Roe v. Wade and end that horrible holocaust in the United States of life is to pass the personhood amendment. I am the first person to sign the Personhood USA pledge, and I'm proud to say that, to define life from the moment of conception. We don't have to wait just for the Supreme Court. We can be involved in this ourselves ... As president of the United States ... I will veto any congressional attempt to provide federal funding of abortion."
Moderators read a question submitted by Lou Engle of TheCall, who asked how candidates would combat "chemical abortions" in the wake of Secretary Sebelius' refusal to allow the over-the-counter sale of Plan B. Bachmann replied that repealing Obamacare was the best way to do so, expressing anger that President Obama supposedly has the authority to put "abortion pills" alongside bubblegum in stores. (Bachmann seemed to be conflating emergency contraception with "abortion pills" as she did at the December 14th Des Moines forum.)

Finally, long-time abortion opponent Rick Santorum argued that the life-at-conception position is not a belief, but rather at fact at the 30:28 mark.
"When politicians say 'I believe life begins at conception,' that is conceding ground, and the ground that we concede is by using the term 'believe.' Life beginning at conception is not a belief, it's not an article of faith, it's an article of fact, the biological fact that life in fact begins at conception, and we need to begin to understand that we have to use language that is consistent with what the truth is."
On a final note, although Texas Rep. Ron Paul signed Personhood's USA presidential pledge, he did not speak at the December 27th forum. Indeed, Personhood USA requested clarification from Paul on his anti-abortion stance, according to a December 26th press release at www[dot]personhoodusa[dot]com/press-release/ron-paul-signs-personhood-pledge-personhood-usa-questions-commitment

The fact that several prominent GOP presidential candidates signed Personhood USA's pledge and spoke at a forum it sponsored should give us pause. The anti-abortion stance of several candidates is absolute, condemning the procedure under any circumstances. As the far right becomes more prominent in politics, its beliefs manifests through even more stridently anti-abortion candidates.

To listen to the forum, visit stevedeace[dot]com/news/national-politics/deace-show-podcast-12-27-11/. To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Des Moines Register: Some GOP presidential candidates sign anti-abortion pledge, but Paul’s stance is questioned

Huffington Post: GOP Candidates Reveal How They Would Enact Pro-Life "Personhood" Laws

Right Wing Watch: Bachmann to Personhood USA: Ending Abortion 'Is What I Would Literally Die For'

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Books from the Religious Right: ME TARZAN, YOU JANE

When I observed the 2011 Values Voters Summit in Washington D.C., I picked up a copy of Me Tarzan, You Jane by Janice Barrett Graham from the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) information table. A children's companion book to Wild Elephant (alternately known as Chased by an Elephant), Me Tarzan, You Jane encourages children to think of gender in fixed, binary categories and adopt heteronormative views of romance and marriage.

The book begins with young Tarzan meeting Jane in the jungle and immediately recognizing that she is different from him because she is a girl. The text emphasizes that there is no other type of "normal" human being besides male and female, as this is how God created humans. (The world's sizable population of intersex people would strongly disagree.) The differences between male and female, the book insists, are necessary to human life, and respect for this "truth" helps one live in an "orderly" manner.

Monday, December 26, 2011

GOP Candidates Lambaste Abortion at Des Moines Forum

Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.

On December 14th, Citizens United (yes, that Citizens United) hosted an anti-abortion forum for GOP presidential candidates in Des Moines, Iowa. The forum featured regional anti-abortion speakers as well as four Republican presidential candidates: Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. To boot, the event introduced the anti-abortion film The Gift of Life, the brainchild of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee produced by Citizens United. As expected, the forum featured familiar rhetoric about the sanctity of life, coupled with disturbing vows to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and erect anti-abortion policies.

The first speaker appearing in C-SPAN's coverage was Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life. With a basket of dolls in tow, Bowen devoted much of her speech to demonizing Planned parenthood for allowing "webcam" abortions, or the use of telemedicine to connect doctors and patients over long distances for the purpose of providing mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486). As a June 2010 article in the New York Times explains, the use of telemedicine to provide mifepristone makes abortion available in communities where abortion providers are not available. Bowen, however, was disgusted by the idea, insisting that the medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland "dismembers our Iowa babies alive." Bowen lambasted the use of the drug, which she described as a substance that "starves" an unborn fetus and allegedly traumatizes women because they're left to deal with a "dead baby" alone.

Next to speak was Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Family Leader. Vander Plaats told the story of his sisters' unplanned fourth pregnancy, and her distraught telephone call to their mother. According to his story, their mother urged her to keep the baby, saying, "We didn't want Bob either ... Now what would life be without him?"

Vander Plaats insisted that all people are special because they are made in the image of God. God has a plan for all lives, he argued, and humans thwart God's plan when they decide when life can begin or end. Candidates, office-holders, families, and society must embrace the sanctity of life, he told listeners, insisting that we cannot expect God's richest blessings if we get this issue wrong. At the 9:25 mark, he referred to the Founding Fathers to defend his anti-abortion stance.
"Our founders and our framers, they listed life as the first of the inalienable rights. Why? Because that's how important it is. Life was first, before liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It was the number one. It was life."
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The first presidential candidate to speak was Rep. Michele Bachmann, who called abortion the "seminal issue of our time." At the 15:44 mark, she depicted anti-abortion activists as the alleged victims of indifferent politicians.
"Too often, those of us who have called ourselves pro-life have found ourselves on the receiving end from politicians where they tell us they're going to do something, and why is it that it's the pro-lifers who always end up being told to stand against the wall, maybe later we'll get to your issue. I'm here to tell you tonight, as president of the United States, pro-lifers will never again be sent to stand against the wall. We will advance the cause of life in my administration."
Bachmann insisted that the chief way to advanced the anti-abortion cause was to repeal Obamacare, because it supposedly allows for taxpayer funded abortion. (Actually, President Obama signed an executive order in March 2010 maintaining the ban on use of federal funds for abortion in his healthcare law, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the woman.)

Ridiculing President Obama as the "most pro-abortion president" in U.S. history, Bachmann also fumed that the president required private insurance companies to cover all contraceptives and emergency contraception, which she erroneously labeled the "morning-after abortion pill." She blasted the emergency contraceptive Plan B as a "three-day abortifacient," ignoring the fact that Plan B does not induce abortion, but rather prevents pregnancy from occurring. To boot, Bachmann lamented that Plan B would be sold in grocery stores "where little girls would find it next to bubble gum and next to M&Ms." (Actually, on December 7th, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refused to allow Plan B to be sold over-the-counter, a decision that President Obama defended.)

Bachmann voiced her eagerness to repeal Obamacare and thus prevent Planned Parenthood from "essentially having an open field day in every public school classroom." In keeping with widespread anti-abortion activists' attacks on Planned Parenthood, she vowed that Planned Parenthood would be completely defunded under her presidential administration.

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Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke after Rep. Bachmann, and he quickly resorted to his usual attacks on an amorphous "secular elite." At the 24:51 mark, he had this to say.
"We're engaged in a cultural struggle with a secular elite that believes that life is random and has no moral meaning. And the whole reasoning behind Roe v. Wade is a utilitarian, phony science reasoning that has collapsed under the weight of modern technology. And the fact is as the country became more and more aware of the meaning of Roe v. Wade, it has turned more and more against abortion, and this has been a cultural fight ... It goes to the heart of what it means to be an American."
Gingrich argued that the key to American exceptionalism lies in the Declaration of Independence, which asserts that all are created equal and endowed by the creator with inalienable rights. Rights come from God, he insisted, and thus no judge or authority can take them away. Defining when someone becomes a person is central to the issue of rights, and if the state declares when someone becomes a person, why would it stop with Roe v. Wade, he asked. Gingrich suggested that euthanasia and other dubious practices could result, making abortion the central moral question of the age.

Upon becoming president, Gingrich vowed to erect four anti-abortion policies: reinstate the Mexico City policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule), reinstate President Bush's "conscience policy" that would permit medical personnel to refuse to perform procedures on religious grounds, submit legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, and submit legislation defining personhood at conception.

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Next, Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke at the podium, acknowledging that "pocketbook issues" now dominate the public conversation and that unemployment and poverty are fomenting "great angst." Nevertheless, he asserted that conservatives cannot disengage from moral debates, for if they do, they neglect the nation's moral fiber. But aren't poverty and economic injustice moral issues? I thought.

Perry wondered out loud what the Founding Fathers would think of the U.S. now, as the country has supposedly drifted from the Founder's vision of life as an inalienable right. America, he argued, was founded on the idea that human life is sacred and must be protected.

Values are coming under attack, Perry said. He disapprovingly cited the Obama administration's rejection of federal financial aid to Catholic charities over their refusal to provide abortion services, as well as the administration's mandate that religious groups provide insurance coverage for their employees that covers abortion. (Actually, the Department of Health and Human Services' Affordable Care Act mandated insurance coverage for things such as contraception and contraceptive counseling, not abortion.)

Perry proudly boasted that he signed a Texas state budget that defunded Planned Parenthood, which was followed by the closure of twelve Texas Planned Parenthood clinics. In response to the federal government's claim that said defunding was a violation of federal law, Perry told the audience that, "if Washington D.C. is looking for a fight, they found one."

If elected president, Perry vowed to end taxpayer funded abortion "period," and to add a human life amendment to the U.S. constitution. Perry's promise to end the use of taxpayer funds for abortion confused me at first, given that the Hyde Amendment already stands. However, according to a fact sheet from the National Abortion Federation, the current form of the Hyde Amendment requires funding of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. Does Perry wish to end funding for abortion under those circumstances too?

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The final candidate to speak was former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who told the audience that the 2012 election was the most important election of our time. After defending his credentials as a social conservative who has fought in the "trenches," Santorum vowed to defund Planned Parenthood and reinstate the Mexico City policy (Global Gag Rule) if elected president.

Stressing that family, freedom, and life are foundational issues, he claimed at the 42:46 mark that respect for life and the traditional family undergirds America's strength.
"We cannot be a strong country economically or any else. We cannot have limited government unless we are moral and decent people living out moral and decent lives, respecting life and embracing and supporting the American family. It is the bedrock. It is the bedrock of our economy. It is the bedrock of our country. It is the bedrock that allows limited government because when the family breaks down, and respect for life and moral values breaks down, then government gets bigger and bigger and bigger."
Santorum scoffed at the idea of a truce on social issues, pointing to abortion, funding for stem cell research, and same-sex marriage being "imposed" by courts across the country. "It is a surrender, not a truce, and under a Santorum presidency there will be no surrender," he emphasized.

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Predictably, speakers criticized abortion from multiple angles while avoiding discussions of why unintended pregnancies occur or how to prevent them. As with many issues, the candidates and their supporters cited the Founding Fathers and our founding documents to legitimize their views on abortion. Not surprisingly, several used the abortion issue as a means of condemning President Obama and an amorphous "secular elite." In short, the Des Moines forum featured familiar rhetoric from the more right-wing Republican candidates.

Amidst the candidates' often dubious claims and fiery rhetoric, several common themes came into focus: threats to defund Planned Parenthood, reinstate the Global Gag Rule, and pass policies that would make it even more difficult for American women to secure abortions. As the 2012 election inches closer, voters should reflect on these troubling vows and the impact they would have on women's reproductive health if Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry, or Santorum were elected president.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Salon: The Many Fictions of Huckabee's Abortion Forum

Talking Points Memo: GOPers Gather for Huckabee's Abortion Documentary

Los Angeles Times: Candidates tout antiabortion views before Iowa film premiere

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to All My Readers!

Happy holidays from the Republic of Gilead!

Bill Bennett Talks to James Dobson About Abstinence, Feminists, Gays

As you recall, former Secretary of Education and Drug Czar Bill Bennett just released a new book, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood, in which he discussed with Pat Robertson in an October 26th episode of The 700 Club. Bennett spoke at length with James Dobson about the book in a two-part segment of Family Talk, where the men had both positive and negative things to say.

Dobson and Bennett began "The Value of Manhood I" segment of Family Talk with familiar jabs at feminism and the LGBT community. At the 5:04 mark, Dobson and Bennett attributed modern "confusion" about masculinity to alleged moral relativism, gay culture, and feminists.

BENNETT: We used to know and be unapologetic about saying what it means to be a man and to raise men to manhood ... We're not sure of that anymore because of the things, Jim, you and I have been talking about forever ... Moral relativism, the notion that there's no right or wrong, who's to say. The dizzying array of signals, to gay culture, which has confused an awful lot of boys, the messages there.

DOBSON: And the feminist movement has just hammered away at what manhood means.

BENNETT: The feminist movement. Remember Gloria Steinem? "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." If you put on TV, if you go to the universities, if you check the popular culture, you'll see there is not a consistent message to boys about what it means to be a man, and as a result they’re confused.
Dobson and Bennett covered a wide range of topics during their discussions, including Ronald Reagan as an exemplary man and (to their credit) the horrors of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. On the topic of masculinity, the two spoke of the importance of men working hard, showing courtesy to women, and loving and providing for their families.

The conversation took an unexpected turn at the 20:33 mark of "The Value of Manhood II," when Dobson asked Bennett to talk about his wife Elayne. Bennett described his wife's work with Best Friends, a sexual abstinence program for teens that drew controversy in 2008 over its federal funding. During the conversation, Bennett lamented that Elayne could not "talk about one form of family being preferable to another" in her program, a possible jab at calls for tolerance for same-sex couples.

DOBSON: Here at the end of the program, talk about who she is ... She has had this program for teenage girls called Best Friends.

BENNETT: She's a hero of mine, and she's a hero of the country. It's by the research the most successful abstinence education program in the country, and she works in the public schools, which is not an easy place to work. She's now been given some directions from people in the Obama administration about what she can say and not say. They'd prefer that she--strongly prefer that she not use the word 'abstinence."

DOBSON: Can't even use the word. They tell her not to use the word.

BENNETT: And do not talk about one form of family being preferable to another, you know, that the the nuclear family, the family of husband--of man and woman.

DOBSON: And the government can say that to her because they provide some money for her.

BENNETT: It's the guidelines, yeah, and she's being audited, which I believe, I shouldn't say this, but I think she's being harassed because the success of her program.
Amidst otherwise positive messages -- including horror at the Sandusky abuse scandal and calls for men to be responsible and courteous -- Bennett's appearance on Family Talk also included jabs at feminists and gays that we've come to expect.

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch)

To listen to "The Value of Manhood I", click here

To listen to "The Value of Manhood II", click here. 

Commentary Tidbits

Washington Post: GOP: Gay-Obsessed Party

News Tidbits

New York Times: In Islamic Law, Gingrich Sees a Mortal Threat to U.S.

Chicago Pride: Cardinal Francis George equates gay liberation movement to KKK

Pink News: “Ex-gay” group promoted in Jamaica as US arm faces “financial oblivion”

WREG: Parent Questions School's Anti-Gay Policy

Friday, December 23, 2011

The 700 Club Interviews Kamal Saleem

My first introduction to Christian speaker Kamal Saleem was through videos of TheCall Detroit this November, where Saleem claimed to be a former Muslim terrorists who now embraced Christ and Israel. To my surprise, I discovered that Saleem has been featured several times on The 700 Club, painting Islam in ominous colors. Saleem's anti-Islam message, it seems, was in circulation long before TheCall Detroit.

On November 25th, The 700 Club rebroadcast a segment on Kamal Saleem from a May 13th, 2011 show, available at www[dot]cbn[dot]com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/archive/club/700Club112511_WS&search=Saleem&p=1&parent=0&subnav=false. In the interview, Saleem spoke of his upbringing in Lebanon, claiming that his parents raised him to be a martyr for the cause of jihad. At the 18:18 mark, he quoted his mother as follows.

"From my childhood, my mom said 'One day you'll be a martyr, my son. You will die for the sake of Allah and you will exalt Islam.' She said, 'If you kill a Jew, my son, your hand will light up before the throne of Allah, and the host of heaven will celebrate what you have done.'"
Saleem's parent allegedly sent him to Muslim training camps beginning at age seven, where he learned to use weapons and engage in "culture jihad." At the 19:02 mark, he describes such "culture jihad" as such.

"In Islam, liberty, freedom, monarchy, all these are idols, and these must be brought down, so the liberty that you have in the United States of America, it's anti-Islam, you know, so America must be changed. So I moved to the Bible belt, specifically. The Bible belt was the strongest of the strongest. That's where the stout Christians are, and I want[ed] to take on the best of the best, because I considered myself as a sword of Islam."
According to his narrative, Saleem moved to the U.S. and targeted men in his neighborhood for recruitment into Islam. After a devastating car accident which left him with a broken neck, he was treated by Christian medical professions and nursed back to health in the home of a Christian orthopedic surgeon. Saleem was touched by the doctor's compassion, but also confused to see that Christians were good people instead of enemies.

In his confusion, Saleem prayed fervently to Allah, begging to hear Allah's voice but receiving only silence. Then, he allegedly heard a voice saying his name, calling him to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Did anyone bother to tell Saleem that Allah and the god of Abraham are the same?) The glory of the God of Abraham filled the room, and he beheld a vision of Jesus with holes in his hands and feet, he claimed. Amazed, Saleem vowed to die for Jesus, but Jesus said no, as Jesus had already died for him. 

This was not the first time The 700 Club had featured Saleem. In a 2009 face-to-face interview with Pat Robertson, Saleem discussed his alleged involvement with the PLO, encounters with Saudi financial patrons, and his autobiography, Blood of Lambs. (See www[dot]cbn[dot]com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/SUS118_KamalSaleem_041409&search=Saleem&p=1&parent=0&subnav=false)

At the 2:54 mark, Saleem made the dubious claim that martyrs for Islam become "messiahs" who can intercede for their family members' entrance into paradise.

"The first reward when you--the first drop of blood, you become the savior, the messiah, almost the intercessor, and you become intercessor for seventy of your family members. These will go to heaven without judgment because the Quran teaches that everybody will have to go to hell first, pass through it, and then they will have to go through heaven."
As discussed in a previous post, Saleem's words have not gone unquestioned by observers. For instance, Haroon Moghul offered scathing criticism of Saleem's questionable statements about Islam at TheCall Detroit, while Sakil Saghir dissected Saleem's October 2011 presentation at the Midland Center for the Arts. Similarly, Chris Hedges, Doug Howard, and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have also looked askance at some of Saleem's more colorful assertions. Whether Saleem's statements are true or not, several observers have found him less that credible.

Kamal Saleem's recurring presence on The 700 Club served a transparent purpose: to glorify Christianity and disparage Islam as a bellicose religion. As with TheCall Detroit, his presence on The 700 Club suggests a certain distaste for Islam by those who invited him, and a certain willingness to depict Muslims as "other." While terrorism and religious extremism are very real, we need credible information in order to resist them. And, we must resist them in a way that does not demonize all who follow Islam.

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Truth Wins Out and SPLC Tackle "Ex-Gay" Programs in Baltimore

(Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video)

On Thursday, December 15th, I had the pleasure of attending a talk about the harms of so-called "ex-gay" programs, hosted by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Truth Wins Out. The event took place at 2640 Co-op, a beautiful venue housed within St. John's United Methodist Church in Baltimore, MD. In this retired worship space, amidst stained glass windows and pillars, an audience had gathered to hear Wayne Besen, Chris Camp, and others speak.

The evening began with a presentation by Ashley, an LGBT community advocate with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Ashley provided an introduction to the SPLC, including its background, its work monitoring U.S. hate groups, and its Teaching Tolerance project, which encourages educators to promote justice and equality. She encouraged audience members to share input with the SPLC about what issues they should address through their LGBT rights efforts.

Next, the audience listened to a presentation by Sam Wolfe, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center and a member of its LGBT Rights Project. Wolfe introduced listeners to the SPLC's legal efforts in the name of LGBT rights, the first of which involved two Minnesota girls -- Desiree Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom -- who were forbidden to walk as a couple in their high school's Snow Days processional. After the SPLC filed a federal lawsuit on the girls' behalf in early 2011, the school agreed to a settlement that allowed the girls to walk in the Snow Days promenade with the other students.

The SPLC also filed a lawsuit challenging an Anoka-Hennepin School District policy that mandated teacher neutrality on sexual orientation, arguing that the policy contributed to a hostile environment for gay students. According to the Minnesota Independent, the Parents Action League, a conservative group with ties to the Minnesota Family Council, urged the school to retain the policy. The Minnesota Independent also reported that the Parents Action League pushed the school district to include "ex-gay" programming and oppose LGBT content in classrooms. The ex-gay agenda, Wolfe observed, is trying to enter schools and send homophobic messages to youth.

Wolfe, himself was a survivor of "ex-gay" therapy, reminded listeners that the ex-gay movement is a political movement, noting that Religious Right groups that opposed LGBT equality such as NARTH and the Family Research Council espouse ex-gay thinking. If people can allegedly change from gay to straight, their thinking goes, why give LGBT people a seat at the table?

Given that the talk was taking place in Maryland, Wolfe spoke briefly about the International Healing Foundation, an ex-gay program based out of Bowie, MD. It was ludicrous, he argued, to think that the IHF's "touch therapy" (i.e., cradling exercises) could make gay people straight.

Wolfe shared his story of growing up in a Mormon family and attending Bringham Young University after his two-year mission. To live in the Mormon community, he developed coping mechanisms to appear straight, but concluded that this strategy was unsustainable. While at BYU, he sought help through Evergreen, a Mormon ex-gay program, but was surprised by what he observed in the group. Older men in the group seemed clearly gay, and their men's marriages to women were disastrous, often resulting in divorce and unhappy children. After attending Evergreen and a BYU reparative therapy group and failing to become straight, Wolfe came to embrace his gay identity and affirm who he truly was.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Next, Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out spoke next, sharing his own experiences with homophobia and ex-gay efforts. From a young age, he felt societal pressure to appear heterosexual. For example, in high school, after the high school basketball team he played with lost a game, their coach berated them by saying that everyone "played like a fag" except Besen. When Besen came out to his parents, they bought him "Gay and Unhappy" cassette tapes, which were intended to hypnotize the listener into heterosexuality through pro-heterosexual messages and ambient music (!). Besen shared a hilarious excerpt from The Daily Show which featured the "Gay and Unhappy" tapes, as well as Richard Cohen of the International Healing Foundation defending reparative therapy.

Besen noted out the faulty logic and sexism behind ex-gay theory, which attributes homosexuality to problems with one's relationship with one's parents. Lesbian women supposedly reject their mothers and their associated femininity, while gay men supposedly reject their fathers and masculinity. Thus, much of ex-gay theory associates binary ideas of gender with sexual orientation.

Besen pointed to the early 1990s as the time when the ex-gay movement came into its own. As more LGBT people were coming out, and more people knew someone who was LGBT, hateful anti-gay messages were becoming less effective. Thus, the Religious Right turned to ex-gay programs to create the appearance that they cared about LGBT people while still opposing LGBT rights.

Unfortunately for the ex-gay movement, several prominent ex-gay voices were found to be less than heterosexual. As examples, Besen listed John Paulk (whom he'd photographed in a Washington D.C. gay bar in 2000) and Michael Johnston (a former employee of Jerry Falwell who resigned after allegedly having encounters with men he met on the Internet).

Besen listed five reasons why observers should care about the ex-gay movement: (1) it's a wealthy industry, (2) ex-gay groups are political, in that they strive to keep anti-LGBT discrimination legal by lobbying against pro-LGBT laws, (3) the ex-gay movement focuses on youth, in that it is trying to get ex-gay literature and speakers into schools, (4) the ex-gay movement does great harm, and (5) the ex-gay movement's scope is international. On this final point, Besen added that Exodus board member Don Schmierer, ex-gay counselor Caleb Brundidge, and Pink Swastika author Scott Lively took part in an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda in 2009. Uganda, as readers may recall, later became the center of an international controversy over its proposed "kill-the-gays" bill.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The next presenter to speak was Chris Camp, a non-denominational minister and an ex-gay program survivor. Camp told listeners of his upbringing in a loving conservative California family, his early realization that he was gay, and his attempts to mask his sexual orientation as a young man by playing sports and having girlfriends. He spoke of the hopelessness and sorrow he felt at having to hide his identity, unable to confide in anyone about his attraction to the same sex.

In college, Camp fell in love with his best friend, later having an intimate encounter with the friend that left him wracked with guilt. When he confided in his pastor, the pastor referred him to an ex-gay church group that had received its training from Exodus. Like Wolfe, Camp was convinced that the men in the group were still gay, suggested by the lingering gazes and too-long handshakes of some of the men. Even though Camp was not physically intimate with men anymore, his feelings had not changed, and he poured himself into faith studies and the Bible in response.

Camp eventually went to Dallas Theological Seminary as a world missions major, where he had the realization that after all his efforts, he was still gay. He's always felt that way, he admitted to himself, and he'd never chosen that sexual orientation, in contrast to what the church had taught him about homosexuality. After this realization, Camp came to accept his sexual orientation as inborn and morally neutral, like eye color, finally accepting himself as a gay man. He expressed his happiness that he no longer had to hide who he was, and that his faith has deepened since accepting himself.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Wayne Besen provided the final presentation of the night, exposing the many hidden facets of the ex-gay movement. For example, he noted that while reparative therapy groups glorify heterosexual marriage, they don't tell observers about the nightmares that result when "ex-gays" enter opposite-sex marriages, including extreme sexual incompatibility, divorce, and straight spouses' sense of betrayal. Besen shared several video clips in which the straight spouses of supposedly ex-gay people shared their feelings of being used and deceived.

Besen also shared the many stories of the ex-gay movement's failings, as well as the triumph of truth and healing for many formerly ex-gay voices. Among them were Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, the co-founders of Exodus International who later left the group, accepted their gay identities, and married each other. Also among them was John Smid, the former executive director of Love in Action who admitted this fall that sexual orientation cannot change and that he is indeed gay. Brazilian ex-gay leader Sergio Viula also reached conclusions similar to Smid's. And, of course, who can forget George Rekers and his rentboy?

With no minced words, Besen accused the ex-gay movement of false advertising, in that it promises change of sexual orientation without delivering that change or even defining what "change" entails. People in ex-gay groups are encouraged to deny what they feel and behave like actors reciting lines, he argued, but eventually the "final curtain of reality comes crashing down." To boot, he accused the ex-gay movement of targeting people at vulnerable times in their lives and grasping at contrived reasons to blame their homosexuality on. Chillingly, many groups that promote reparative therapy have also been classified as hate groups by the SPLC, including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association.

The evening was an amazing education into the politics of the ex-gay movement, one that more people need to hear. I applaud Truth Wins Out, the SPLC, and Chris Camp for sharing their stories and educating the public about ex-gay groups!

It's Been a Busy Week

My regrets for not blogging this week. Work has been insanely busy, and I've also been running around getting things done for Christmas. I will report on the December 15th talk by Truth Wins Out and the SPLC in Baltimore very soon, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's what I'm listening to right now. I command you to rock to Unheilig!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Anti-Choice Voices Delighted with Sebelius Decision on Emergency Contraception

On December 7th, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refused to lift age restrictions on the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception, overruling a decision by the Food and Drug Administration. Plan B One-Step, according to the New York Times, has been available without a prescription to women ages 17 and older, but girls under 17 will continue to need a prescription. Reproductive rights supporters, including Planned Parenthood vice-president Dr. Vanessa CullinsSharon Camp of the Guttmacher Institute, and Andrew Beck of the ACLU, were very unhappy with Sebelius' decision.

To provide background, emergency contraceptive (EC) pills can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. EC is also offered to rape victims as part of sexual assault forensic exams. EC pills prevent pregnancy by delaying or inhibiting ovulation, inhibiting fertilization, and possibly by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium, according to Princeton University's emergency contraception website. EC pills do not induce abortion once pregnancy occurs, and are not the same as abortion pills.

Still, EC has been a frequent target of right-wing anti-abortion activists who equate it with abortion, as discussed in a prior post. Not surprisingly, several Religious Right voices were delighted about this news.

First, in a December 7th press release, Jeanne Monahan of the the Family Research Council wrote that Secretary Sebelius was right to in her decision not to make EC available over the counter to adolescents. Monahan claimed that giving girls access to Plan B would have "bypassed" medical care for sexually active adolescents. Furthermore, she claimed that Plan B could be given to sexually abused or trafficked girls without their consent. Finally, Monahan reverted to anti-abortion attacks on EC, claiming that Plan B can "act in a way that can destroy life by preventing implantation."

Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, penned a commentary piece at USA Today that praised Sebelius' decision. Scheidler claimed that the "pro-abortion lobby" wants Sebelius to reverse her decision and therefore "sacrifice" adolescent girls' health for the sake of their "radical ideology." Furthermore, he claimed that if EC were available to girls over the counter, it would foment discord between children and parents, while encouraging both girls and older predators to engage in high-risk sexual behavior.

Anti-abortion preacher Lou Engle tweeted about the decision as well. In a December 6th message on Twitter, Engle wrote, "Have you ever seen a woman under the wound of guilt who has used the morning after pill? Did I or didn't I forever." Also, in a December 8th response to a woman who asked if EC and the abortion pill were the same, Lou Engle tweeted, "the morning after pill prevents a fertilized egg from being implanted thereby destroying life after conception."

It is important to remember that the struggle for reproductive rights is not just about abortion, but also about contraception and a host of other issues. Secretary Sebelius' decision, as well as the Religious Right glee surrounding it, serve as a reminder that the struggle continues.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Pump Handle: Shocking move from Secretary Sebelius on Plan B

Salon: Obama's Woman Problem

NPR: A Very Bad Plan: How Selebius Endangered Our Girls

RH Reality Check: In Astounding Move, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Overrules FDA Recommendation to Make Plan B Over-the-Counter

Obama Administration Stands Up for LGBT Human Rights; Homophobes Go Ballistic

On Tuesday, December 6th, President Obama issued a historic memorandum announcing initiatives to advance LGBT human rights internationally. The memorandum directed agencies involved in U.S. foreign assistance and diplomacy to safeguard LGBT human rights. Specifically, it called for such agencies to combat criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, protect vulnerable LGBT asylum seekers and refugees, and work with international organizations in the struggle against anti-LGBT discrimination.

The release of the memorandum coincided with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's address to the United Nations in Geneva, in which she urged all countries to respect LGBT civil rights. Secretary Clinton acknowledged the violence and unjust treatment encountered by LGBT worldwide, calling them "an invisible minority." Wisely, she countered common stereotypes that homosexuality is supposedly a Western phenomenon, that homosexuality is a disease than can be cured, that gays are sexual predators, etc. Secretary Clinton also acknowledge that LGBT rights are human rights, and that LGBT persons share "a common humanity." Finally, she announced the launch of a new Global Equality Fund that will support organizations working on LGBT issues worldwide.

This is amazing news. The U.S. government has taken a concrete stand for the global LGBT community, and has issues two powerful statements expressing their support for LGBT human rights. In a world where LGBT people face horrors such as murder, corrective rape, and draconian anti-gay legislation, such support could not be more timely.

Unfortunately -- but not surprisingly -- members of the Religious Right have expressed outrage at this White House show of support for LGBT rights. Tiresome rhetoric about "special rights" and "traditional values" abounds among Religious Right commentators, as the following examples demonstrate.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Godless in Italy: The cost of the Catholic church

Washington Post: Newt Gingrich, the savior of the religious right?

RH Reality Check: Concerned Women for America's Condescending Treatment of Our Female Troops

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Freshwater Continues to Lie

Talk to Action: The Camp Pendleton Cross: The Facts vs. What the "Persecuted" Christians Are Saying

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: What About the Gay Members of Eddie Long's Church?

I Kissed Reality Goodbye: Gender Roles and Abuse

Friendly Atheist: The Problems with Biblical Parenting and Discipline

Love, Joy, Feminism: Spanking, Fear, and Privileging Obedience
(Hat tip to Be the Change)

News Tidbits

New York Times: Anti-Abortion Groups Are Split on Legal Tactics

New York Times: Charismatic Church Leader Eddie Long, Dogged by Scandal, to Stop Preaching for Now

ABC News: HHS Under Fire for Denying Grant to Catholic Group

NPR: Catholic Groups Fight Contraceptive Rule, But Many Already Offer Coverage

CBS News: Kentucky church's ban on interracial couples voided

WMUR 9: Pastor In Willis Rape Trial Resigns From University

Roanoke Times: Ten Commandments lawsuit survives motion to dismiss

Homeland Security News Wire: Kentucky allowed to rely on God for homeland security

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Pew Report: Lobbying for the Faithful

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released a report entitled Lobbying for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington D.C. The report provides an overview of religious lobbying and religion-related advocacy groups in the U.S., with sobering information about Religious Right advocacy and lobbying.

The Pew Forum found that the number of organizations engaged in religion-related advocacy or religious lobbying in the nation's capitol has exploded in the past 40 years, from less than 40 groups in 1970 to over 200 now. Almost two-thirds (64%) of groups in the study involve themselves in both domestic and foreign issues. Groups commonly involved themselves in human rights (56%), poverty and economic issues (49%), peace and democracy (44%), and tolerance/interfaith dialogue (28%), among other issues.

Catholic (18%), evangelical Protestant (18%) and mainline Protestant (8%) organizations make up a sizable percentage of religious lobbying groups, suggesting a substantial Christian presence among such groups. Interestingly, roughly one-forth of the groups in the study either represented multiple faiths or advocated for religious issues without subscribing to a specific religion.

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing data in the Pew report is its list of the organizations with the greatest advocacy expenditures. The report estimates that the combined annual expenditures of religious lobbying and advocacy groups is over $390 million. However, most of the the groups that expend more than $10 million a year are prominent Religious Right organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (over $26 million in 2009), the Family Research Council (over $14 million in 2008), Concerned Women for America (over $12 million in 2009), the National Right to Life Committee (over $11 million in 2009), the Home School Legal Defense Association (over $11 million in 2009), and Focus on the Family affiliate CitizenLink (over $10 million in 2009). Several of these groups loudly oppose LGBT rights and/or abortion rights, and the Family Research Council has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The fact that several prominent Religious Right organizations are among the most high-spending religious advocacy and lobbying groups should give us pause. Lest we underestimate the Religious Right or dismiss Religious Right organizations as fringe voices, we must remember that they are well-funded and active in Washington D.C. The data above should serve as a reminder that pro-LGBT, pro-choice, and church-state separation activism is highly important, given that we face well-funded and well-organized challengers.*

To read an executive summary of Lobbying for the Faithful, click here. For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Mother Jones: Study: K Street Is Holy Place

Equality Matters: Anti-LGBT Organizations, Hate Groups Ramped Up Spending in 2009

Open Secrets: Religious Lobby on the Rise

* It is not my intent to portray all religious advocacy and lobbying groups as negative. Many such groups do positive work in the world, which should be commended. It is Religious Right organizations that oppose LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and church-state separation that are my concern here.

More Gems from the Thanksgiving Family Forum

In a prior post, readers were treated to startling quotes from Republican presidential candidates from the first few minutes of the Thanksgiving Family Forum. In this post, we have even more right-wing rhetoric to share from CitizenLink's edited video of the roundtable discussion, available at

First, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke of values and religion, conflating secularism with an absence of values. He claimed that a faction in the U.S. "which believes thing which are profoundly wrong" is determined to destroy values. At the 19:00 mark, he had this to say.

"I don't think liberty means libertine. I don't think liberty means absence of values. None of the Founding Fathers thought liberty meant that. The pursuit of happiness in the 18th century enlightment meant wisdom and virtue ... The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 to organize Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin says 'religion, morality, and knowledge being important,' we need schools. It was the Pelosi House that cut off the first three words, and said 'knowledge being important.' None of the founding fathers would have said that education without character is useful. They would have said it is in fact dangerous. Now what you have today is an outgrowth of the French Revolution. Gertrude Himmelfarb brilliant book on three enlightenments captures it perfectly. The French Revolution was an anti-clerical, anti-God rejection of the larger world in favor of secularism. It has dominated our academic world. Our academic world supplies our news media and our courts and Hollywood, and so you have a faction in America today which believes thing which are profoundly wrong. Now that is a fight. That's not a passivity. In a culture in which they know what they're doing and they are determined to destroy our value system, and we are passive or confused, is a world in which America is going to stay in deep trouble."
Gingrich, like so many other right-wing commentators, painted the world in black-and-white, binary terms. In this vision of the world, forces of faith and morality struggle against immoral secularism, with little room for gray area or thoughtful analysis.

At the 34:20 mark, Gingrich lashed out at the Occupy movement, caricaturing demonstrators as entitled, lazy protesters who need to bathe. The fact that Occupy demonstrators might have valid grievances, pay taxes, or defy stereotypes was not discussed.
"All the Occupy movements start with the premise that we all owe them everything. They take over a public park they didn't pay for, to go nearby to use bathrooms they didn't pay for, to beg for food from places they don't want to pay for, to obstruct those who are going to work to pay the taxes to sustain the bathrooms and sustain the park so they can self-righteously explain that they are the paragons of virtue to which we owe everything. Now that is a pretty good symptom of how much the left has collapsed as a moral system in this country and why you need to reassert something as simple as saying to them, 'go get a job right after you get a bath.'"
Other participants waxed poetic about the "Judeo-Christian" values that supposedly undergird American society. At the 21:19 mark, Texas Governor Rick Perry told the audience that "Judeo-Christian" values need to be the values guiding the issues faced by Congress and the president.
"If you are a pastor, you need to be in the pulpit every Sunday, and frankly every day that you have the opportunity to be in that pulpit, talking about values, because values are going to get decided. Somebody's values are going to decide what the Congress votes on or what the president of the United States is going to deal with, and the question is whose values? And let me tell you, it needs to be our values, values and virtues that this country was based upon in Judeo-Christian founding fathers."
Similarly, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann argued that American exceptionalism is grounded in "the Judeo-Christian ethic" and that the Ten Commandments allegedly formed the foundation of American law. These comments were framed in her larger commentary on the "censorship" of Americans pastors, who must abstain from endorsing candidates to maintain their tax-exempt status. At the 24:08 mark, Bachmann had this to say.
"I think probably the the greatest amount of censorship in this country today is in the pulpits of our churches, because we have a law that limits pastors for what they can say about politics in the pulpit. That's not the American way ... That is the First Amendment, allowing pastors to say whatever they want to say in the pulpit, because one thing they recognize is the the whole concept of American exceptionalism, and American exceptionialism is grounded on the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is really based upon the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were the foundation for our law."
By branding restrictions on clergy endorsement of candidates as "censorship," Bachmann fails to consider the role this restriction plays in safeguarding church-state separation. Furthermore, by linking America's alleged exceptionalism with "the Judeo-Christian ethic," Bachmann seems to suggest that Christianity is what makes the U.S. strong and unique. Bachmann's statement should be troubling to those who value church-state separation and religious diversity in the U.S.

The candidates' comments at the Thanksgiving Family Forum troubled me for several reasons. First, several candidates conflated American identity with Christianity -- presumably right-wing Christianity -- thereby excluding Americans of other faiths or no faith. To exclude non-Christians from national identity in a religiously diverse society is to promote division. Second, political rhetoric at the Thanksgiving Family Forum demonized secularism and liberalism, promoting a right-wing Christian vision of the state. Sadly, none of this rhetoric was new, as this batch of candidates has made similar statements in the past. In short, American voters need to take these candidates at their word, and remember their theocratic rhetoric in November 2012.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Religion Dispatches: Gingrich’s Anti-Secularism Greatest Hits

Slate: Rule of Lord

Def Shepherd: The GOP Thanksgiving Family Forum Debate: The Giblets

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Groping the Elephant: Rick Santorum: Idiot And Presidential Candidate 

GLAAD: JONAH rabbi circulates anti-LGBT "Torah Declaration"

Ex-Gay Watch: Exclusive: Secret Conference Held to ‘Save Exodus International’ from Ruin

The Daily Beast: Evangelicals Flocking Toward Newt Gingrich

The Bilerico Project: Why You Shouldn't Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Salon: Are evangelicals a national security threat?

RH Reality Check: Mike Huckabee to Premiere an Anti-Choice "Documentary"

Ms. Magazine: Should Organized Religion Have More Rights Than Women?

Media Matters: Pat Robertson: Don't Worry About Living Next To Cemeteries...Unless There Are Witches

Politicus USA: Pat Robertson Resurrects Old Fears that Peace Symbol is Broken Cross

News Tidbits

CNN: Gingrich meets with pastors in South Carolina

New York Times: Evangelical Leader Rises in Brazil’s Culture Wars

Nashua Telegraph: Santorum claims conservative mantle

Associated Press: Georgia counseling student in court over view on gays

Des Moines Register: Michele Bachmann debates same-sex rights with high-school students in Waverly

Vancouver Sun: Atheists, rapists top list of people religious believers distrust the most, UBC study finds

Washington Post: Religious coalition vows to fight same-sex marriage in Maryland

Telegraph: 'Harry Potter and yoga are evil', says Catholic Church exorcist