Monday, February 28, 2011

News Tidbits

Beliefnet: Judge Rejects Christians' Health Care Suit

Pink News: Anonymous takes down ‘God Hates F***’ church websites

Minnesota Independent: Archdiocese cancels LGBT event at Minneapolis church

Iowa Independent: Senate bill takes aim at satellite voting during church services

CNN: Billboard focused on African-American abortions was taken down

Colorado Independent: Focus on the Family pushing bills to protect anti-gay discrimination

The Tennessean: Bill Ketron proposes law to make following Shariah law a felony

Mother Jones: Revealed: The Group Behind the Bills that Could Legalize Killing Abortion Providers

My Fox Philly: Catholic College Fires Openly Gay Priest

Washington Blade: Dozens testify at Maryland House hearing on marriage bill

Commentary Tidbits

Religion Dispatches: Pence Amendment Not Just About Abortion, But About Thwarting Contraception

Religion Dispatches: Religious Right Doubles Down on DOMA

The Wall of Separation: Was America Founded to Be a Christian Nation? AU's Oklahoma Chapter Welcomes Debate

Barefoot and Progressive: David Williams Praises the Work of Frank Simon at His Hate Group's Candidate Forum

Colorlines: 9 Reasons To Hate Anti-Abortion Billboards That Target Black Women

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: SPLC Puts Cliff Kincaid’s Homophobia on Center Stage

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pat Robertson at Catch the Fire Conference

Catch the Fire, a global revival ministry, held its ten year anniversary conference on February 16-19 in Virginia Beach, VA. Among the conference speakers was Pat Robertson, conservative founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and host of The 700 Club. Right Wing Watch posted video and commentary on a mass faith healing he facilitated for the audience, the video for which is below. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

I listened to parts of the Catch the Fire conference at CBN, and I was taken aback not so much by Robertson's faith healing, but by his seeming embrace of prosperity theology. The prosperity gospel teaches that God bestows material wealth on those he favors, and has been promoted by evangelists such as Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, and Joel Olsteen.

At the 1:24:37 mark of his talk, Robertson described how God allegedly provided funds for a campus library project.

"So, month one, we needed a million dollars. The Lord sent in an extra million. Second month, we needed another million. God sent in another million . . . Seventh month, same thing. Eighth month, same thing. Ninth month, same thing. Tenth, eleventh, twelfth. Twelve months, God sent in an extra million dollars. Every month! Every month! And we built that library . . . debt free. God supplied the money. Being fully persuaded at what God had promised he was also able to perform."

"God is absolutely able. He's waiting for people to believe him. He looks for us to believe him, just like he's looking for us to believe him for healing of cancer, for healing of heart conditions, for healing of every other malady. The same God that heals your body can heal your finances. He can heal your marriage. He can do anything. He is a God of miracles."
Robertson's approach to divine beneficence troubled me on many levels. First, he attributes to God what should really be attributed to humans. His supporters furnished those millions of dollars in donations, but Robertson gives gratitude to God rather than those who made concrete financial sacrifices for his project.

Second, Robertson insists that God can ameliorate all manner of human crises, from financial difficulties to life-threatening illness. What message does this send to people in crushing poverty? To the terminally ill? To people who have lost loved ones to disease? What does it say about our responsibility to those who suffer? At worst, this kind of thinking can lead to the conclusion that those who are suffering have lost God's favor, or that their unfortunate circumstances are due to insufficient faith. Robertson's statement shows little reflection on the roots of suffering or the institutional structures that perpetuate poverty and poor health.

Any sound spirituality -- be it theistic, deistic, atheistic, or agnostic -- must grapple with the suffering and oppression that are all too common in our world. Rather than take refuge in a neat, clean worldview that promises easy solutions, we must confront the complex realities of physical and material suffering.

To hear Robertson's complete talk, visit event[dot]cbn[dot]com/ctfconference/?EventID=120589.

For more information on Catch the Fire, visit www[dot]catchthefire[dot]com/

Video -- Soulforce and HRC at the International House of Prayer

On February 20th, representatives from Soulforce, Human Rights Campaign, and EQUAL of Kansas City held a vigil outside of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO. These LGBT advocates delivered a collection of signatures opposing Lou Engle's promotion of homophobia in Uganda, as described here at Republic of Gilead a few days ago. Soulforce released a video of the event, featuring commentary from Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Joanna Blotner, Moses Kushaba, and other participants. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

God Discussion: The "Don't Say Gay Bill" Introduced in Tennessee

Truth Wins Out: Michele Bachmann Says Family Is On ‘Bubble’ Due To Gays

Talk to Action: Right Perfects Art of Bonking Planned Parenthood

RH Reality Check: Does the Media Finally Get That Anti-Choice Is About Far More Than Abortion? 

Media Matters: Fox's Bolling Ignores Key Fact While Promoting Lila Rose's Planned Parenthood Smear

Right Wing Watch: Focus on the Family Preparing Anti-Gay "Day of Dialogue"

Right Wing Watch: Barton: Christians Must Control The Culture So Those With A "Secular Viewpoint Cannot Survive

News Tidbits

Iowa Independent: Iowa bills open door for use of deadly force to protect the unborn

Mother Jones: Nebraska Resurrects "Justifiable Homicide" Abortion Bill

CNN: Tea Party support correlates to religious affiliation, survey finds

Politico: Santorum: Left hates 'Christendom'

Politico: Newt Gingrich confronted over affair

Associated Press: Protesters arrested outside Boehner's office

NewsOK: Oklahoma House panel votes down science bill

The Age: Website blames Christchurch quake on gay community

Pink Paper: Protest planned over book which sees Jesus 'cure' gays

The Advocate: Vatican Adviser Blasts Cuomo

American Independent: Federally funded abstinence group linked to ‘Kill the Gays’ Uganda minister

Edge Boston: Anti-Gay Group NOM Loses Secret Donor List Case

NECN: South Dakota House passes abortion counseling measure

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Justice Department No Longer Defending DOMA, to the Religious Right's Chagrin

On Wednesday, President Obama instructed the U.S. Department of Justice to refrain from defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. In a February 23rd statement, the Department of Justice issued a statement indicating that President Obama and Attorney General Holder see Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional. The statement reminds Americans that although the Obama administration will not defend DOMA's constitutionality in court, DOMA will remain in effect until Congress repeals it or a judicial finding strikes it down. In an open statement to Speaker John Boehner, Attorney General Holder explained the reasoning behind this decision. California Senator Diane Feinstein has announced that she will put forth legislation to repeal DOMA, according to the Advocate.

Predictably, members of the Religious Right are unhappy. Right Wing Watch has documented various Religious Right responses to the DOMA decision, including those of Family Research Council, American Family Association, National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, and more. Right-wing news website World Net Daily posted an article featuring angry quotes from Alliance Defense Fund, Massachusetts Family Institute, Foundation for Moral Law, and other conservative groups. Many other right-wing voices are weighing in, apoplectic over President Obama's decision.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Commentary: Wisconsin Protest Edition

For several days, thousands of demonstrators have protested at the Wisconsin state capitol building in Madison, WI. Demonstrators are protesting against Gov. Scott Walker's legislation to cut public employee benefits and reduce their collective bargaining power.

Several progressive voices have penned commentary on the relationship between the Religious Right and opposition to the Wisconsin protests. For your reading pleasure, here are a few commentaries from the past week.

Religion Dispatches: Is Wisconsin Union-Busting Religiously Sanctioned?

Right Wing Watch: Gary Bauer Outrages by Incivility of Wisconsin Protests

Talk to Action: Two Decades of Christian Nationalist Education Paved Way for Today's War on Labor

Talk to Action: The War on Unions, Regulatory System, and Social Safety Net - Examples from Fundamentalist Textbooks

HRC and Soulforce Call Out Lou Engle

Lou Engle, a member of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) leadership team, has come under fire from LGBT advocates for promoting homophobia in Uganda. Engle's actions in Uganda are especially grave in the context of a draconian anti-gay bill proposed by Ugandan MP David Bahati, as well as several high-profile cases involving homophobic hate crimes and asylum cases involving Ugandans. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Soulforce, two respected LGBT advocacy groups, have sent a powerful statement to Engle.

In an open letter dated February 11th, HRC and Soulforce accused Engle of contributing to Uganda's homophobic cultural climate and standing behind supporters of Uganda's anti-gay bill, thereby putting the safety of LGBT Ugandans at risk.

"The safety of LGBT people, as well as their friends and their families, has been put at risk because of the proposed “anti-homosexual bill.” You have claimed to oppose this bill, but you have not taken a clear and public position in Uganda where your opposition could make a difference.  Instead, after fueling the flames of anti-LGBT sentiments in Uganda, you have stood beside the bill’s supporters and referred to their work as righteous. You cannot preach that  “homosexuals have demons” or say to LGBT people, “let the Bible kill you?” and then ignore the results of speaking such words. Words have power.  And, your words create fear and hatred toward LGBT people.  This fear and hatred puts the lives of LGBT people at risk and perpetuates a climate of terror and violence."
The letter informed Engle of HRC and Soulforce's plans to visit IHOP's Kansas City church and deliver a petition beseeching Engle to stop promoting homophobia. Drawing upon the principles of Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., HRC and Soulforce demanded and end to this outrage.

On Sunday, February 20th, a delegation of fifteen LGBT people and allies -- including Joanna Blotner (HRC religion and faith Coordinator), Dr. Cyndi Love (executive director of Soulforce), and Moses Kushaba (a gay asylum seeker from Uganda) -- visited the International House of Prayer's main office in Kansas City, Missouri. The delegation delivered a 70,000-signature petition* urging Engle to stop using religion to justify homophobia and to cease anti-gay activism in Uganda. According to Blotner's account, the delegation was warmly invited to a worship service by an IHOP designee, as Engle could not be present himself. Blotner and her fellow advocates engaged some of the worshippers afterwards, many of whom reportedly had no idea that Engle was involved in anti-gay activism in Uganda.

I applaud HRC and Soulforce for holding Engle accountable for his activities in Uganda. I also applaud their efforts to have respectful, honest dialogue with the Kansas City IHOP congregation about LGBT issues. Using accountability, knowledge, and courage as their tools, LGBT people and their allies are working hard to end religious homophobia.

For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

The Advocate: LGBT Groups Protest Minister's Uganda Ties

Pitch: Moses Kushaba, Gay Ugandan, Worships at IHOP in Effort to Pressure Lou Engle

Box Turtle Bulletin: KC Vigil to Tell Lou Engle to Stop Exporting Hate to Uganda

Change.Org: Time for Rev. Lou Engle to Condemn Anti-Gay Hatred in Uganda

*Blotner's commentary at the HRC website listed 70,000 signatures, but an article at the Advocate said that the petition sported 36,000 signatures. Whichever number is correct, it's an impressive signature count!

A Fellow Blogger Infiltrates "Love Won Out" Conference

(Hat tip to Truth Wins Out)

Christopher Jay Hall, founder and executive director of Central Arizona Rainbow Education (CARE), infiltrated an "ex-gay" conference in Phoenix, Arizona on February 19th. The Love Won Out conference, hosted by Exodus International, promotes so-called "reparative therapy" under the assumption that homosexuality is a disorder that can be cured. Hall's account of the symposium has been posted at Raging Pride, and I encourage readers to check it out.

Hall summarizes some of the unhealthy messages he heard at the Love Won Out conference in his report. For example, he laments the lack of empathy that speakers exhibited toward transgender persons.

"It was hard for some of the speakers to grasp the concept of respect when it came to transgender issues. They said they were going to call a person by the way god intended them to be, not by what they wish. This really irked me especially the way it was presented and the audience laughed and agreed with every hateful word."
Hall also questioned speakers' assumptions about LGBT people, addiction, and other psychopathologies.
"The gay gene is like any other gene that cause alcoholism, violent behavior, depression, etc. They are all unwanted genes that have a negative impact on our lives. Well, let me tell you, I am a happy homosexual who wants to be the way I am."
On a positive note, Hall spent time among his supportive LGBT community afterwards, giving him an opportunity to offer supportive outreach to others.
"When I left the conference with the anti-homosexual philosophy behind me and our supporting LGBTQ community in front of us peacefully gathering to let these individuals know they are loved regardless of what they may have been forced to listen to, I felt as though I was going home."

Read the whole thing. I applaud Hall for observing Love Won Out and sharing his observations at Raging Pride. The more people who shine lights into Religious Right events, the easier it will be to hold Religious Right groups accountable.

Commentary Tidbits

Dispatches from the Culture Wars:  ACLJ’s Propaganda Film

RH Reality Check: What Conservatives Really Want: Total Control

Box Turtle Bulletin: KC Vigil To Tell Lou Engle to Stop Exporting Hate to Uganda

Salon: Tea Partiers Gone Wild!

Media Matters: Who Is Raymond Ruddy, Lila Rose's Funder?

Media Matters: In Hour-Long Attack On Planned Parenthood, Beck Inexcusably Ignores Key Fact

365 Gay: The GOP’s War on Women and Children

Religion Dispatches: Apocalyptic DADT Scenarios Simply Aren’t Happening

Religion Dispatches: Creeping Shari’ah…Ahem, Excuse Me…. Biblical Law

News Tidbits

BBC News: Westboro Baptist Church targeted by Anonymous

The Advocate: LGBT Groups Protest Lou Engle’s Uganda Ties

Washington Post: Ten Commandments in school stirs fight in Virginia district

Edge Boston: Two Men Claim to be Gay Couple; Creation Museum Denies Them Entry

Kaiser Health News: HHS Overturns Bush “Conscience” Rule for Workers Opposing Abortion

Vancouver Sun: Publisher: Benny Hinn violated our morality clause

Beliefnet: Marriage Seminar Sparks Chik-Fil-A Boycott

Sunday, February 20, 2011

House Votes to Eliminate Funding for Planned Parenthood

According to ABC News, the House of Representatives has passed a measure that would eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The Pence Amendment passed in the Republican-dominated House in a 240-185 vote on February 18th, according to AOL News.

The Pence Amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana), was added as an amendment to the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution, which would also eliminate all Title X family planning funding. If approved by the Senate, this measure would eliminate federal funds for cancer screenings, contraception, STD testing, and other forms of medical care provided by Planned Parenthood, warned Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards in a February 18th statement. The Pence Amendment follows in the wake of controversial videos taken at a Planned Parenthood clinic by anti-abortion group LiveAction.

Many right-wing voices, including the Family Research Council, Priests for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, the National Right to Life Committee, and the Traditional Values Coalition, rejoiced at this news, as Right Wing Watch has documented. The anti-abortion news site LifeSite News posted enthusiastic quotes from Lila Rose of LiveAction and Krista Hawkins from Students for Life.

Other Religious Right and right-wing voices have expressed antipathy for Planned Parenthood recently:

- Writing for the Bound4Life blog, Susan Tyrrell expressed delight at this recent development and antipathy toward abortion (see bound4life[dot]com/blog/2011/02/18/house-votes-240-185-to-remove-funding-for-planned-parenthood)

- In a statement by CEO Penny Nance, Concerned Women for America urged the government to immediately cease all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. (See www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=19917).

- Liberty Counsel expressed support for a end to taxpayer funding for organizations that provide abortion, claiming that citizens should not "be forced to fund abortion" and condemning federal funding used to "propagate genocide." (See www[dot]lc[dot]org/index.cfm?PID=14102&AlertID=1241)

- At the Heritage Foundation blog, Sarah Torre wrote that Planned Parenthood has "ridden the waves" of taxpayer funding and allegedly accrued large surpluses while American families face hard economic times and a large national deficit looms. (See blog[dot]heritage[dot]org/2011/02/18/planned-parenthood-feels-the-heat-in-government-spending-bill/)

Fortunately, progressive voices are defending Planned Parenthood and condemning threats to reproductive health care funding. At NARAL Pro-Choice America, NARAL president Nancy Keenan called the Pence Amendment a "war on contraception" and vowed to hold lawmakers accountable for their "extreme anti-choice agenda." Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, lamented this recent "attack on American women," criticizing conservative lawmakers for focusing on culture wars instead of important economic issues. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, accused Republicans who supported the Pence Amendment of disregarding women's health care, vowing to stop passage of the Pence Amendment in the final Continuing Resolution.

If Title X funding and funding for Planned Parenthood are eliminated, it would have devastating consequences for reproductive rights and public health. Whether or not the Senate will approve this measure remains to be seen.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Pam's House Blend: GOP-led House votes to kill funding for Planned Parenthood

The Root: Planned Parenthood Speaks Out on GOP Attack

Politico: House Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood

The Loathsome Joy: Planned Parenthood by the Numbers

The Blog that Ate Manhattan: We Must Keep Title X and Planned Parenthood Funding

Saturday at CPAC: The Workshops

One of the main speaker halls at CPAC

(Click here for commentary on the 2011 CPAC exhibit hall.)

On Saturday, February 12th, I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington D.C. to observe the various workshops and speakers. The first workshop I observed was entitled "Free Speech and Israel on Campus: How Students are Speaking Up," presented by two staff members from Christians United for Israel (CUFI). The workshop provided an introduction to CUFI's campus-based efforts and political leanings.

Jeremiah Nasiatka, CUFI's national campus director, described CUFI's pro-Israel lobbying efforts and campus events, including a two week advocacy trip to Israel each August. These events, he explained, are intended to help people recognize the value of a strong relationship between Israel and the U.S. Another CUFI supporter, John Winchester, described his own upbringing in a Christian home, which included teachings about the Jews as God's chosen people and their Biblical mandate to reside in Israel. Winchester emphasized that college and university campuses shape discussions on important issues, including political discussions surrounding Israel.

Winchester insisted that academia is often neglectful of Israel and Jewish studies. For example, he claimed that Arabic language courses often try to erase Israel from history by labeling it as "Palestine" on maps, and Middle Eastern studies programs often fail to include Jewish studies. (When I researched this claim, I found evidence to the contrary. Several Middle Eastern studies programs include courses in Hebrew language and Jewish studies, including University of Texas at Austin, New York University, Harvard University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and U.C. Santa Barbara, to name a few.) Winchester also criticized campus speakers such as Norman Finkelstein who cast Israel in negative terms.

On the subject of radical Islam, Winchester talked at length about the role of radical Islam in international politics. Arguing that the U.S. and Israel have a common enemy in radical Islam, Winchester claimed that the U.S. is seen as a "Christian nation" and an obstacle to Islamic expansion by observers in the Middle East.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Saturday at CPAC: The Exhibit Hall

Exhibit room visitors could throw
eggs at pictures of Al Gore
and Michael Mann.

On Saturday, February 12th, I attended Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C. to observe the presentations and exhibits. Before I describe the workshops I attended, I would like to provide some details on the exhibit room, which was a study in contradictions.

Judging from the mess on the floor,
throwing eggs was pretty popular.

As many readers know, controversy erupted when CPAC announced that conservative LGBT group GOProud would be a co-sponsor for the 2011 conference. Several right-wing groups, including the Heritage Foundation, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council, refused to participate in CPAC because of GOProud's participation.

However, some groups that participated in CPAC displayed anti-gay attitudes, as I quickly noticed in the exhibit hall. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), an organization that promotes "reparative" therapy, had a booth at CPAC, complete with copies of the controversial book Wild Elephant (also published under the alternate title, Chased by an Elephant). A CBS journalist at CPAC interviewed PFOX president Gregory Quinlan, which can be viewed here. CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, gave away free anti-gay materials at their booth, with titles such as Ten Persuasive Answers to the Question "Why Not Gay Marriage?" and Straight Answers: Exposing the Myths and Facts About Homosexuality. CitizenLink even shared free DVDs from Love Won Out, a Christian "ex-gay" program that has been criticized by LGBT voices such as Truth Wins Out and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

A certain dissonance surrounded Islam as well as LGBT issues in the CPAC exhibit room. On one hand, Muslims for America had a booth in the exhibit room. On the other hand, so did pro-Israel groups such as Christians United for Israel and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, while at a conference that hosted two screenings of Pamela Geller's film, The Ground Zero Mosque: Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks. Just as I wondered why GOProud wanted to be at CPAC, so too did I wonder why Muslims for America wanted to set up an information table in such an atmosphere. Perhaps they want to challenge stereotypes among conservatives, or soften right-wing attitudes toward their respective groups? I don't know.

A sign at the
American Tradition Partnership booth.

One information booth that caught my eye belonged to the American Tradition Partnership, an anti-green group that claims that environmentalism is detrimental to business, jobs, and the free market. One of the signs on its table read, "POP QUIZ: WHAT DO RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISTS HATE MORE?", with boxes underneath that read "FUN" and "JOBS."

One of the exhibit room's more controversial tables belonged to Youth for Western Civilization, which a recent article at the Advocate described as a "white supremacist group" and the Southern Poverty Law Center detailed at their Hatewatch blog. Their kiosk sported "Straight Pride" T-shirts and free copies of The Social Contract magazine, which devoted an issue to lambasting the SPLC. In an interview with Salon, Youth for Western Civilization founder Kevin DeAnna defined western civilization as a "cultural compound of Christian, classical, and then the folk traditions of Europe." (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

To read about some of the workshops at 2011 CPAC, click here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Demonstration Against Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson

Today in Harrisburg, PA, hundreds of people participated in a demonstration urging Harrisburg mayor Linda Thompson to resign. Amidst multiple administrative and fiscal controversies surrounding Mayor Thompson, some area residents took to the streets to voice their unhappiness.

Linda Thompson was at the center of a controversy last summer involving church-state separation. Thompson reportedly began staff meetings with prayers, although she has stated that participation in prayers is voluntary and staff can leave the room if they wish. According to WGAL 8, after a Harrisburg employee filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU sent Thompson a private letter in July 2010 asking her to stop opening staff meetings with prayer.

Rob Boston at The Wall of Separation (the blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State) worried that Harrisburg city staff could be ostracized if they did not wish to take part in prayers. Friendly Atheist and American Humanist posted additional commentary on the prayer controversy.

The controversies surrounding Thompson go far beyond prayers at staff meetings. In addition to Harrisburg's financial problems (including Act 47 status) and an SEC investigation into city finances, several of Thompson's staffers have resigned since she took office in January 2010, including several spokespersons, an interim business manager, a city solicitor, and a chief of staff. One former spokeswoman, Joyce Davis, told WGAL 8 that Mayor Thompson needs help and that she resigned due to a hostile work environment. Another former spokesman, Chuck Ardo, claimed that Thompson made homophobic comments about the city controller, as well as anti-Semitic comments about a Jewish developer.

Creators of "The Art of Marriage" Appear on Huckabee

Last evening on Fox News' Huckabee, Mike Huckabee interviewed Dennis and Barbara Rainey, founders of FamilyLife and creators of "The Art of Marriage" workshop. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

At the 2:11 mark, Dennis Rainey discusses his vision of family, which he limits to heterosexual couples:

"I think God designed children to be raised by a mom and a dad in a committed relationship called marriage. It's where truth is taught, love is learned, and when a mom and dad are committed in a marriage relationship that goes the distance over a lifetime, I think that family unit becomes the cornerstone of a civilization. And frankly, it's a part of the impact of the breakdown of the family today all across the country. I think our country is in serious trouble because of what's happening in homes."

At the 4:05 mark, after Huckabee asks what she's taught her husband during their marriage, Barbara Rainey discusses her belief in innate gender characteristics:
"The main thing I've had to teach him, which is what I think every wife has to do, is how to speak the language of a woman, because he is a man, and I think very differently than he does as a man, and I think it's true in every marriage. I think like a woman, he thinks like a man, and part of the art of marriage is learning to appreciate our differences, and how we blend together to really produce a better union together than we would individually, apart. So I think the overarching lesson is how to speak woman."

The Art of Marriage, Part II

Click here to return to Part I.

After watching two videos sessions of "The Art of Marriage", I reflected on what I'd just seen. It goes without saying that "The Art of Marriage" was intended for a heterosexual Christian audience, since same-sex couples were neither shown nor discussed. What surprised me, however, was that much of the first two videos seemed to be geared toward a male audience. On-the-street segment notwithstanding, nearly all of the speakers in the video were men. When women did speak at length in the video (either as actresses playing characters or as real people), they did so as part of a couple. I thought it was odd that a program intended by definition for a mixed gender audience would take this approach.

I was troubled by the video's antipathy toward divorce and what I felt was a disregard for personal happiness. Chronic unhappiness in a relationship is a sign that something is wrong, and if the unhappiness persists, it can drain the vitality from a person's life.While I agree that people should try diligently to work through problems in relationships, sometimes couples are simply incompatible, and divorce is the most reasonable option. Major problems such as chronic infidelity may throw into question whether a relationship is salvageable. Moreover, dangerous problems such as domestic abuse require a completely different approach, one that prioritized the abused partner's safety and means of escape over preservation of the marriage.

"The Art of Marriage" stressed Christian faith as the foundation of a successful marriage. I can see how being on the same page spiritually can be an asset for couples, but at times, I felt that the program was expecting too much from religious piety. What happens, I wonder, if a married couple has different expressions of their faith, or if one partner loses their faith? What if problems are so deeply entrenched that well-meaning religious faith cannot change them? Does the Biblical admonishment to avoid being "unevenly yoked" ever come into play?

The Art of Marriage, Part I

Last month, I posted on a Christian marriage workshop to be held in central Pennsylvania called "The Art of Marriage." Created by FamilyLife and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, "The Art of Marriage" became a source of controversy because Chik-Fil-A was reportedly sponsoring the event as well. Members of the LGBT and progressive blogosphere were unhappy that Chik-Fil-A was reportedly co-sponsoring an event with Pennsylvania Family Institute, a right-wing group that promotes the "traditional family." In an article at the Christian Post, Pennsylvania Family Institute president Michael Geer insisted that Chik-Fil-A was merely donating food for the event.

"The Art of Marriage" debuted this weekend at churches in Camp Hill and Reading, PA, and I attended the first night of the event (February 11th) at Christian Life Assembly in Camp Hill, PA. I attended the workshop not because of Chik-Fil-A (which was not mentioned at all while I was there), but because I wanted to hear what messages about marriage, gender, and religion would be promoted.

FamilyLife, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, offers relationship guidance to Christian couples. I have already written on some of the disconcerting messages about gender and homosexuality found at the FamilyLife website, some of which were reflected in "The Art of Marriage" workshop videos. After watching two of the six video modules and perusing "The Art of Marriage" workbook, I found that the program contained both healthy and unhealthy advice. While the program does promote positive relationship elements such as good communication and intimacy, it does so within a heteronormative, patriarchal framework that expects religious faith to do a lot of heavy lifting.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mubarak Resigns!

Shortly after 11:00 a.m. Eastern time today, CNN reported that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak had resigned. Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced on state television that Mubarak had left power and that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would run the affairs of the country. Demonstrators who have spent the past 18 days protesting in cities across Egypt thus achieved their goal.

I am delighted that Mubarak has stepped down, and I am also curious as to what the future holds for Egypt. Let's hope that a just and democratic future awaits the Egyptian people. They've certainly earned it.

During the past 18 days, voices from the far-right and Religious Right have been reflecting on conditions in Egypt. Conservative Christian news sites such as OneNewsNow and CBN posted articles on Mubarak's departure with a positive or neutral tone. However, other right-wing and Religious Right commentators have been less than enthusiastic about events in Egypt.

A Theology of Reproductive Justice

On Monday, February 7th, I attended a celebration hosted by Planned Parenthood of York, PA, commemorating the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. "Celebrating Roe in a New Century with Liberty and Reproductive Justice for All" was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York. After opening comments and recognition of two outstanding Planned Parenthood volunteers, the audience listened to a talk by lay minister James Cavenaugh. Cavenaugh, a prison chaplain, clinic escort, and founding director of the regional Fund for Choice, gave an eloquent talk on spirituality and reproductive rights.

Cavenaugh began by framing women as a group that is frequently mistreated and marginalized in our society. Many of the women he meets in prisons and clinics have been abused, he said, and many of the women seeking abortions feel like "the last, the least, and the lost." He applauded clinic escorts for giving comfort and protection to such women.

Reading from a letter he submitted to the Patriot News, he chided speaks from the 2011 March for Life in Washington D.C., who showed great concern for fetuses but little concern, in his opinion, for women and families. Had they forgotten all the deaths from botched illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade? The devastating health impact of botched abortions was considered so serious that in 1967, a group of concerned clergy formed the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion* and advocated for abortion rights.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

News Tidbits

NECN: Pittsburgh settles abortion 'speech zones' lawsuit

Des Moines Register: Bill in Iowa House aims to protect same-sex marriage objectors

The Advocate: Preacher: Reinstate DADT for $159

Pink Paper: Christian health worker guilty of misconduct for snubbing gay patients

The Advocate: Is This a Face You Can Trust?

The Advocate: NOM Site Flies Gay Pride Flag, Crashes

Commentary Tidbits

The Progressive Christian: The Gospel According to Fox News

Los Angeles Times:  Phony Solutions for Real Social Ills

Popular Mechanics: Science Guy Bill Nye Explains Why Evolution Belongs in Science Education

Native American Netroots: Dominionism’s Threat Against Indian Country

Truth Wins Out: Truth Wins Out Slams The American Family Association For Offensive Remarks Against Native Americans

The Guardian: My cut-out-and-keep guide on how to stop women having sex

Religion Dispatches: Barton: Founders Intended to Ban Abortion

Talk to Action: Freedom Falsehood: Religious Liberty Isn't Under Attack In America

Right Wing Watch: Horowitz: Teachers' Unions Leading the "Infiltration of Islamic Jihadist Doctrines Into Our K-12 School Systems"

Right Wing Watch: Focus on the Family's Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Agenda for Congress Unveiled

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


An accessible, in-depth introduction to fundamentalism can be found in Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements (Second Edition) by the late Richard T. Antoun. A professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton, Antoun was stabbed to death in his office in December 2009. Abdulsalam S. al-Zahrani, one of his graduate students, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. al-Zahrani's trial is set for February 22nd of this year, according to WSYR 9. In the wake of this tragedy, Antoun's work on religious studies, Middle Eastern studies, and transnational issues continue to educate readers.

Understanding Fundamentalism explores the worldview and themes at the heart of fundamentalist movements across the Abrahamic faiths. The book touches upon many influential fundamentalist persons and organizations from the 20th and 21st centuries. Antoun explores Christian fundamentalism around the globe, detailing conservative U.S. Bible colleges, right-wing groups such as Concerned Women for America, figures such as Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, and Afrikaner followers of covenant theology. Islamic fundamentalist forces such as Sayyid Qutb, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic nationalist movements receive ample attention and analysis as well. Transnational forms of Islamic fundamentalism receive special attention in Understanding Fundamentalism's final chapter. Finally, Jewish fundamentalists, including ultra-orthodox Jews (haredim) and Israeli nationalists, also receive coverage, although not to the same extent as Christian and Islamic fundamentalists.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

News Tidbits

Pioneer Press: Pawlenty touts evangelical background in speech to Iowa social and religious conservatives

The American Independent: Pawlenty in Iowa: American society must ‘elevate traditional marriage’

BBC News: US fight over abortion heats up again

The Iowa Independent: Vander Plaats denies involvement in anti-gay seminars

Beliefnet: UK Catholics Caution Followers on 'Dangers' of Witchcraft

The Daily Athenaeum: Chick-fil-A cow portrays anti-gay message on sign

Pink Paper: Christian podiatrist ‘didn’t want to treat patients he thought were gay’

Pink News: UK: Christian GP sacked from drugs panel over views on homosexuality

MSNBC: Bless me iPhone for I have sinned

Commentary Tidbits

Religion Dispatches: Rushdoony’s Philosophy of Law on Wall of Ohio Courtroom 

Box Turtle Bulletin: Exodus Co-Founder: “It was a terrible mistake for Exodus to get involved in politics”

RH Reality Check: Why Give Lila Rose's Dishonesty Mainstream Media Attention?

Huffington Post: The Battle Over the Smithsonian and the Right's New Culture Wars 

Right Wing Watch: Fischer: Native Americans Are Mired In Poverty and Alcoholism Because They Refuse to Accept Christianity

Right Wing Watch: Religious Right Channels Reagan to Condemn CPAC

Talk to Action: "Spiritual Fitness" is Christian, Says Professed Co-Author of Army Leadership Manual

Monday, February 7, 2011

Demonstrators Protest National Prayer Breakfast and Mourn for David Kato

On Thursday, February 3rd, thousands of religious and political leaders from around the globe gathered in Washington D.C. for the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation (also known as the Family) since 1953, the breakfast has featured high-powered keynote speakers such as Bono, Tony Blair, and Barack Obama.

The Family, a private Christian organization with ties to many conservative politicians, has come into the public spotlight after Jeff Sharlet published two books on the group, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power and C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy.

The Family reportedly has ties to Ugandan MP David Bahati, author of a draconian and controversial anti-gay bill currently under consideration in Uganda. Angry at the Family's reported support of Bahati and homophobia in Uganda, LGBT advocates demonstrated on the day of the National Prayer Breakfast. GetEqual organized the Breakfast Without Bigotry demonstration outside the Washington Hilton, drawing attention to the murder of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato. According to the Washington Blade, demonstrators held signs that read “If Christians Kill Kato, They’ll Kill Me” and “David Kato: Brutally Loved to Death by Christian Missionaries.”

Similar LGBT prayer events and demonstrations took place in seventeen cities, according to the New York Times. The American Prayer Hour organized prayer gatherings across the U.S., calling for justice in Uganda and accountability from the Family for its alleged ties to the anti-gay bill there.

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, a government watchdog organization, urged President Obama and congressional leaders not to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. Bishop Gene Robinson and Rev. John Vaugh of Auburn Theological Seminary also beseeched the president not to speak at the event. President Obama did speak at the prayer breakfast despite these pleas.

Below is a Metro Weekly video on the Breakfast Without Bigotry. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

This amateur video shows Darryl Moch of InnerLight Ministries speaking at the demonstration. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

To watch C-SPAN coverage of the National Prayer Breakfast, click here. For additional news and commentary, visit these links.

Washington Blade: LGBT Activists Protest National Prayer Breakfast

CNN: Gay Rights Advocates Question Obama's Prayer Breakfast Appearance

The Guardian: Is This Secretive Christian Group a Threat to U.S. Church/State Division?

Truth Wins Out: Religious Leaders Call on National Prayer Breakfast to Say Prayer in Honor of Slain Ugandan David Kato

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Protests Loom Over National Prayer Breakfast

Politics Plus: Obama Was Wrong to Pray with Hatemongers

News Tidbits

Yahoo News: Ohio judge cannot display 10 Commandments

The Advocate: Activists Want Justice for Kato

Voice of America: Africa’s Gays Say They’re ‘Under Siege’

Beliefnet: Critics Wary of New Smithsonian Review Policy

ABC News: CPAC Conference Tangled in Controversy Over Gay Conservative Group

CNN: Chick-fil-A controversy shines light on restaurant's Christian DNA

Commentary Tidbits

Mother Jones: Bryan Fischer, Basketball Analyst

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Republicans Continue to Flock to Fischer

Telling Secrets: Unbearable Sadness

It's a Curmudgeon's Life: Who Says You Get to Define the Family, Mr. Christensen

Prairie Nymph: Anti-Abortion Motives

Truth Wins Out: California Family Council Doesn’t Support Bullying, Except For Gay Kids

Box Turtle Bulletin: Scott Lively endorses anti-gay violence in Uganda

Media Matters: Who Is Mark Crutcher?

Media Matters: Schlafly Blames Violence Against Women Act For Marriages "Broken By False Allegations Of Domestic Violence"

Nerdy Apple Bottom: Epilogue

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Grassley Withers Under Religious Right Heat

Saturday, February 5, 2011

FRC Action and LiveAction Host Webcast Lambasting Planned Parenthood, Part II

(To return to Part I, click here. To watch the webcast, click here.)

Next on the webcast was Marjorie Dannenfelser from the Susan B. Anthony list, an anti-abortion political action committee. Dannenfelser observed that now is a good time for anti-abortion advocate to flex the muscle built up during the November 2010 election.

Speaking alongside her was Tom McClusky, senior vice president of FRC Action. McClusky spoke approvingly of an anti-abortion organization called 40 Days for Life, which he described as group on the front lines as it prays in front of "abortuaries." He told viewers that Planned Parenthood also received funding on the state and local level, encouraging the audience to research how much local and state money was going to them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

FRC Action and LiveAction Host Webcast Lambasting Planned Parenthood, Part I

Anti-abortion and conservative Christian groups have expressed alarm at the latest videos by LiveAction, an anti-abortion group that infiltrates abortion clinics. LiveAction claims that its recent videos show Planned Parenthood employees in Virginia and New Jersey helping an infiltrator (posing as a pimp) arrange abortions for young victims of sex trafficking. The manager depicted in the New Jersey video has since been fired. Planned Parenthood reported the suspected trafficking to the FBI, as stated on its website, and had requested an official FBI probe.

On February 3rd, Family Research Council Action and LiveAction co-sponsored a webcast called "Expose Planned Parenthood," highlighting the videos and condemning Planned Parenthood for allegedly abetting sexual abuse and trafficking. Between interviews with anti-abortion voices, the webcast played short segments of the controversial LiveAction videos. I watched the webcast, facilitated by Tony Perkins and Lila Rose, here.

Tony Perkins, president of FRC Action, began the webcast by stating that LiveAction's videos depict what could be considered "a criminal conspiracy" to facilitate child prostitution and sex trafficking. Lila Rose, president and founder of LiveAction, referred to Planned Parenthood as an "abortion chain" and lamented that the organization reportedly received a third of its budget from taxpayer dollars. Claiming that Planned Parenthood doesn't care about girls, Rose accused the organization of institutionally covering up the sexual abuse of minors and creating a "safe haven for human traffickers."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Media Matters: Who Is Lila Rose?

Media Matters: Beck Warns Of The Coming "Caliphate," "Global Government," "Marxists," "Global Chaos" And "The Anti-Christ"

Religion Dispatches: Beck Fuels End-Times Hysteria Over Egypt

Salon: Planning your CPAC 2011 weekend

An Apostate's Chapel: 3 "I"s

Washington Post: Heritage Foundation: Gay group is a factor in CPAC pullout

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: American Teachers Often Ignore Evolution

Good As You: CWFA to Put Anti-Gay Ad in New Hampshire Paper

New American Media: Gay Ugandan's Murder Blamed on U.S. Evangelicals

Conservative Babylon: Rod Parsley Church Official Indicted on Charges of Raping, Impregnating 15-Year-Old    (Trigger warning)

Right Wing Watch: Euteneuer Resigned From HLI For "Violating The Boundaries Of Chastity" While Engaged In The "Ministry Of Exorcism"

Right Wing Watch: AFA: Tea Party Married to Religious Right, Like It or Not

Talk to Action: Hate, Demonization, and Violence in Uganda

The Atlantic: The Unbearable Whiteness of Pro-Lifers and Pundits
(Hat tip to Infidel753)

News Tidbits

The Advocate: Liberty Counsel Joins DOMA Fight

The Advocate: Eddie Long Talks

USA Today: Controversy looms again for National Prayer Breakfast

Hollywood Patch: Church Banner Supporting Marriage Equality Vandalized

Beliefnet: After Controversy, Christian University Changes Gay Policy

Edge Boston: 'Ex-Gay’ Organizations Have Spread Worldwide 

Time: Controversial Chicken: Chick-fil-A's Gay Rights Rumble

The Vancouver Sun: Pastor claims censorship after TV show cancelled due to anti-gay remarks

Pocono Record: Cop who refused order to disperse anti-gay and anti-abortion protesters appeals

The Baltimore Sun: Judge rules Baltimore pregnancy center ordinance unconstitutional

Mail Online: In public he rails against immorality as the voice of Christian Britain but in private he is a wife beater, says his former partner

The Indy Channel: Chick-Fil-A Banned from Campus Over Anti-Gay Connection

The Christian Post: Pastors, LGBT Groups React to Osteen's Remarks on Sin

Ms. Magazine: Anti-Abortion Rights Groups Seeks to Discredit Planned Parenthood 

The Bismarck Tribune: North Dakota: Questions raised over abstinence sex education bill

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Halal Hysteria

A January 27th article at the conservative World Net Daily website lashes out at halal food, or food that has been prepared in accordance with Islamic law. The article quotes Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries (a Washington-based Messianic Jewish ministry) as stating that because the name of Allah has been prayer over halal food, and Allah is supposedly an idol, halal food is unfit for Christian consumption. He cites Acts 15:20 and Acts 21:25 as Biblical justification for this view. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association weighs in as well, warning readers about food in UK public institutions that has been blessed in the name of the "demon-god" Allah.

This line of logic assumes that Allah is distinct from the Abrahamic god, which is incorrect. As an Abrahamic religion, Islam revers the same deity as Jews and Christians, as demonstrated by Quranic passages that identify Allah as the god of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and Jesus. (See Surah 2:133, 2:87, and 3:3 for examples.) Allah is simply the Arabic word for "god," rather than the title of a pagan deity. Thus, claims that halal foods are unfit for Christians because they have been consecrated to an "idol" are incorrect, rooted either in ignorance about Islam or in a wish to ostracize Islam from the ranks of the Abrahamic religions.

Unfortunately, antipathy toward halal food is nothing new. For instance, a January 9th article at CBN claims that some of the proceeds from halal food sales in France fund radical Islamic groups. Also, in late 2010, a group of anti-Muslim activists lambasted Campbells for distributing halal soup in Canada, according to Right Wing Watch and Talking Points Memo. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were among those criticizing Campbells. Additionally, in fall 2010, a London-based group called Christian Concern launched a petition against halal meat. On their website, the group argued against the widespread sale of halal products in the UK because of its alleged role in "Islamisation" of British society. In short, Biltz' scriptural argument is merely the latest in a long line of accusations against halal products.

In my opinion, conservative Christian hostility toward halal food is rooted in misunderstandings about Islam, as well as fear and distrust of Muslims. Condemnation of halal products seems to be more about ostracizing Muslims as "other" than anything else, which serves as a reminder that interfaith dialogue still has a long way to go.