Tuesday, March 29, 2011

News Tidbits

I will be traveling for the next few days, so posting at Republic of Gilead will resume next week.

CBS News: "Ten Commandments Judge" Roy Moore to run for president

CNN: Gingrich fears "atheist country ... dominated by radical Islamists"

Beliefnet: Bishops Push Back on Allowing Gay Couples in Housing

Edge Boston: Is Religious Right Conceding on Gay Rights Issues?

Pennlive: Rick Santorum: Social Security fund would be OK if there were fewer abortions

Iowa Independent: Controversial videographer to headline Iowa anti-abortion event

Texas Independent: State-funded pregnancy center conflates religious, educational material

NECN: 'Abstinence only' sex ed in North Dakota schools approved

Commentary Tidbits

WITF Smart Talk: The Myth of American Religious Freedom

Talk to Action: What the Left Behind Series Really Means

Arkansas Times: Ronnie Floyd and the Gay Menace

Alternet: Christian Intruders: New Law Will Force Women to Listen to Religious Lectures Before Getting an Abortion

Religion Dispatches: Crisis Pregnancy Centers and Obama's Faith-Based Initiative

RH Reality Check: Leslee Unruh: The Queen of Ab-Only and CPCs Now Leads Anti-Choice Efforts in South Dakota

Protest Against Social Transformation Conference this Saturday

The upcoming Social Transformation Conference at Harvard University has drawn controversy, given that several scheduled presenters have made anti-gay and anti-Islamic statements in the past. To boot, this new expose video by Bruce Wilson of Talk to Action claims that two speakers -- Os Hillman and Pat Francis -- have ties to Julius Oyet, an anti-gay Ugandan religious leader who says he helped write Uganda's draconian anti-gay bill.

In response, Truth Wins Out plans to run a full-page ad in the Harvard Crimson to raise awareness of the speakers' extreme ideas. Truth Wins Out and Join the Impact Massachusetts are also co-sponsoring a protest against the Social Transformation Conference this Saturday, April 2nd at noon at Harvard University's Northwest Science Building (52 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA). Visit their respective websites for additional updates as the date approaches.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reflections on Fukushima and Three Mile Island

Protest sign at this year's TMI vigil
 Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the Three Mile Island disaster in Middletown, PA. On this date in 1979, a partial nuclear core meltdown occurred in TMI's Unit 2 reactor, resulting in the greatest nuclear plant disaster in U.S. history.

Early this morning, I attended a vigil near the Three Mile Island facility sponsored by No Nukes PA, Three Mile Island Alert, and Academics for a Nuclear Free Future (ANUFF). Vigil attendees mourned the TMI disaster, called for an end to nuclear power, and expressed solidarity with the people of Japan amidst the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. Demonstrators held candles and anti-nuclear signs, while votive candles, flowers, and origami cranes sat on the ground at our feet. At 3:53 a.m. (the approximate time when the crisis began on March 28th, 1979), vigil attendees held a moment of silence. A video of local news coverage is below. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

Others around the world are marking the TMI disaster alongside Fukushima crisis as well. South Korean environmental activists also staged a rally today to mark the 32nd anniversary of the TMI disaster. Speaking events comparing TMI and Fukushima are scheduled for tonight as well.

What motivates these anti-nuclear is the belief that societies can learn from past mistakes and prevent future nuclear catastrophes. In other words, a belief in human responsibility lies at the core of these efforts. People would not speak out against the potential dangers of nuclear power unless they believed that society could move away from nuclear power and toward safer, renewable sources of energy. Good decisions by leaders, energy industry professionals, and citizens can prevent future disasters and cultivate a safer world.

Thus, it disappoints me when some fundamentalists blame Japan's catastrophes on God's wrath over alleged impious behavior, divine withdrawal of protection, or associate them with demonic influences (as this YouTube video does, assuming it is not a Poe). When we blame problems on supernatural causes, we erase our own responsibility to prevent those problems through concrete measures. The Fukushima crisis will not be solved through superstition, but through the dedication, sacrifice, and ingenuity of everyone working on the crisis. Future nuclear crises will not be prevented through superstition, but through practical human efforts.

On the 32nd anniversary of TMI, as the crisis in Fukushima rages, let's honor those who are working diligently to bring the disaster under control. Let's also honor those who are striving for a safer future beyond nuclear power.

Talk to Action's Expose on the Social Transformation Conference

Bruce Wilson at Talk to Action recently penned a hard-hitting commentary on the Social Transformation Conference scheduled for April 1-2 at Harvard University. The conference is being billed as a discussion on the role of faith communities in social change, but a quick look at the conference speakers suggests a more fundamentalist tone to the event. Several of the speakers -- including Pat Francis, Lance Wallnau, and Os Tillman -- herald from the New Apostolic Reformation movement and embrace troubling ideas about the LGBT community and non-Christian religions (namely Islam and "witchcraft").

Sunday, March 27, 2011

News Tidbits

The Advocate: Huckabee: Fight Gay Marriage, Even if it Costs You Your Job

American Independent: Group asks high-profile conservatives to answer for Bryan Fischer's anti-Muslim comments

CNN: "Good Against Evil" in Iowa

Christian Post: Most Evangelicals Blame Disasters on End Times, Poll Finds

Northwestern University News Center: Religious Young Adults Become Obese By Middle Age

Commentary Tidbits

Talking Points Memo: "Creationist Theme Park" Group Prez Accused of "Ungodly" Remarks

Daily Kos: “Rediscovering God in America” Conference told Jesus hates Minimum Wage & Estate Tax

365 Gay: Gay Marriage and Abortion Aren't the Problem

DNA: Evangelical Christianity: Devils in High Places

Salon: I Preached Against Homosexuality, but I Was Wrong

Right Wing Watch: Bryan Fischer Interviews Newt Gingrich

RH Reality Check: Every Sperm Is Your Brother

Quotes from the Conservative Principles PAC Conference

On Saturday, March 26th, the Conservative Principles Political Action Committee held a day-long conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Featuring prominent conservative figures such as Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, and Rep. Steve King, as well as representatives of right-wing organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, and Susan B. Anthony List, the gathering was infused with conservative themes. For your edification, below are a few quotes from the Conservative Principles PAC conference. (To watch C-SPAN's video recording of the event, click here.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

News Tidbits

Philadelphia Weekly: Anti-Abortion Radicals Coming to Philly

Reuters: Vatican tells U.N. that critics of gays under attack

The Advocate: New York Archbishop Compares Marriage Equality to Incest

The Advocate: Chick-fil-A's $1 Million Antigay History

Anchorage Daily News: Sex outside marriage should be illegal, says Parnell nominee

Iowa Independent: Sioux City pastor: ‘It’s not about hate, it’s about natural law’

BBC News: Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says

American Independent: Michele Bachmann goes on Bryan Fischer’s show after he claims Muslims have no First Amendment rights

USA Today: Poll: Most in U.S., except evangelicals, see no divine sign in disasters

Minnesota Independent: Watchdog group sends letter to Senate leaders over Campbell prayer

Pink News: Christian publisher forced to cancel launch of ‘gay cure’ book/

Womens eNews: Anti-Choice Religious Bloc Began With Tax Battle

CBS New York: Controversial Anti-Abortion Fliers Spark Campus Outrage

Commentary Tidbits

Christian Ethics Today: Why the Religious Right Will Dominate

People for the American Way: How Not to Respond to Political Bullies: Lessons from the Smithsonian’s Response to the Manufactured Right-Wing Controversy Over Hide/Seek 

Akimbo: Conservatives Target Women and Girls at UN’s 55th Commission on the Status of Women

Politics Plus: The Jewish Alternative to AIPAC

God Discussion: Christian Dominionists Plan to Transform the World During "4/14 Window" by Focusing Prayers on Children

Talk to Action: Japan's Disaster Is Goldmine for "Armageddon Entrepreneurs"

Talk to Action: NAR Apostles' Brand of "Transformation" to be Promoted at Conference at Harvard

RH Reality Check: What Are They Doing Out There? Misguided, Sometimes Dangerous "Prayer Warriors" Abrogate Human Rights

Religion Dispatches: Hypocritical Freakout Over Shari'ah, But Not Biblical Law

Media Matters: Beck: Islam's 12th Imam "Really Is The Biblical Antichrist"

Right Wing Watch: FRC Outraged That US Opposes The Criminalization Of Homosexuality

Feministing: Not Oprah’s Book Club: The Flipside of Feminism

Mother Jones: 9 Bills That Would Put Creationism in the Classroom

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lou Engle, Race, and Abortion at Firestorm 2011

Life Center Ministries in Harrisburg, PA held its Firestorm 2011 revival on March 2-5, with Lou Engle among its inspirational speakers. Engle, a prominent New Apostolic Reformation speaker, is the founder of TheCall and a member of the International House of Prayer leadership team. Known for his opposition to abortion and homosexuality, Engle has drawn controversy for promoting homophobia in Uganda, where a draconian anti-gay bill is being considered by Ugandan parliament. Although I could not attend Firestorm 2011 myself, I secured a DVD recording of Lou Engel's March 4th talk, which was heavily laden with messages about abortion, gender, and race.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comic Relief for the End Times

Sometimes, all the apocalyptic rhetoric coming from right-wing commentators and end times preachers gets annoying. For comic relief, here is some apocalyptic humor from Tallahassee comedian Hearty White.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Think Progress: Family Research Council Blames Unmarried Fathers, Postmodernism for Child Sex Trafficking

Think Progress: Jim DeMint's Theory of Relativity: "The Bigger Government Gets, the Smaller God Gets"

Right Wing Watch: Glenn Beck: Religious Right Friend or Foe?

Media Matters: Beck On Japan Earthquake: "There's A Message Being Sent" From God

Religion Dispatches: Jesus Hates Taxes: Biblical Capitalism Created Fertile Anti-Union Soil

RH Reality Check: Anti-Choice Forces Adopt In-Your-Face Tactics and the Danger to Women is Real

Box Turtle Bulletin: Christianity Today: 2009 Kampala Anti-Gay Conference Goals Were “Therapeutic”

Mother Jones: Gingrich Courts Incendiary Pastor Renounced by McCain in '08

Talk to Action: Rushdoony's Theocratic Libertarianism at Work in the Nation's Statehouses

Psychology Today: "E Pluribus Unum" becomes controversial
(Hat tip to Freak Out Nation)

News Tidbits

The Baltimore Sun: Prayer Service at City School Called Improper

Des Moines Register: Gay marriage critics rally in Des Moines

Newser: Evangelicals Slam New Gender-Neutral Bible

CNN: House panel considers 'In God We Trust'

Uganda Pulse: Ugandan MPs to discuss anti homosexuality bill

GoErie.com: Racist language targeted in Alabama Constitution

Washington Examiner: Religious objections kill Maryland gay-marriage bill

The Tennessean: Nashville's anti-gay discrimination bill divides clergy

WDBJ 7: Students walk out of high school to bring Ten Commandments back in

CBS: Gingrich sends $150K to Iowa through aide's group

Texas Independent: Nearly all of Texas’ anti-abortion subcontractors are Christian groups

Minnesota Independent: Pastor who gave controversial Senate prayer bought anti-Muslim ads

The Advocate: Antigay Forces Run for El Paso Council

The Advocate: Michigan AG Supports Antigay EMU Student

Newsday: Hundreds of worshippers dying as West African churches ban HIV and AIDS medication

San Francisco Chronicle: Man arrested in attacks on California clinic, mosque

Beliefnet: Court Rejects Mother's Religious Home-School Arguments 

Pennlive: Pennsylvania man stoned friend to death because of homosexuality, police say

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The King Hearings Stir Heated Discussion about Islam in America

On Thursday, March 10th, the Congressional Committee on Homeland Security held the first in a series of hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in America, led by Rep. Peter King (R-New York). At a time when several states are considering legislative bans on Shariah law, mosques and Islamic community center projects are meeting with strong resistance, and aggressive anti-Islam rallies have drawn national attention, the King hearings have been interpreted by many progressives as another attack on Muslim Americans. However, Rep. King insisted that the hearings are meant to "inform and not to inflame", highlighting several prominent cases of extremist radicalization in the U.S. (To watch the hearings, visit the C-SPAN archive here.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

When Disaster Strikes, the Blame Game Begins (UPDATED)

Recently, I was struck by several articles involving religion and natural disasters. First, in her commentary at Religion Dispatches, Anthea Bulter reflects on religious conversations via Twitter that attribute the 8.9 earthquake in Japan to God's wrath. Second, Right Wing Watch reports that Chuck Pierce described Japan as a "stronghold of spiritism" and its recent earthquake as a message from God. KVIA 7 reports that El PAso city council candidate Malcolm McGregor III said the Japanese earthquake was a possible curse from God. Generals International preacher Cindy Jacobs claimed that God is using the earthquake to pierce the "darkness" surrounding the Japanese people, according to Truth Wins Out. Finally, Pink Paper reports that an American church is preaching that the New Zealand Christchurch quake is God's retribution against gays and lesbians. In the face of disasters, why is it that some observers respond with compassion, while others respond with victim-blaming?

I've noticed that some high-profile fundamentalist Christians have reacted to tragedies by blaming either the victims or a despised group for inciting God's fury. No introduction is needed for the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members cite everything from military casualties to private horrors as evidence of God's disgust with America's alleged immorality. However, other high-profile fundamentalists have blamed victims or despised groups for tragedies, earning them endless controversy.

For example, shortly after the September 11th attacks, Jerry Falwell appeared on The 700 Club and insisted that the ACLU, feminists, pagans, abortion providers, and gays helped the tragedy happen. 700 Club host Pat Robertson concurred. Falwell later backtracked on this statement.

Pat Robertson himself has made controversial statements about disaster victims as well. Following the 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, Robertson attributed Haiti's misfortune to a supposed "pact to the devil" that their ancestors made.

"They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'Ok it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called Robertson's comments "stupid."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Friendly Atheist: Lake Zurich School Board Candidates Retract Pro-Creationism Statements

Media Matters: After Shootings, Does Pat Robertson Still Support Recalcitrant Ivory Coast Leader?

Right Wing Watch: Religious Right Group Says Anti-Bullying Programs Will "Homosexualize" Children

Talk to Action: Huck Run Amok: The Hysterical Harangues of a Hapless Huckabee

Salon: NPR sting also nets ... Pamela Geller?

Truth Wins Out: Hate Comes to Harvard

News Tidbits

Pink News: UK: David Cameron says Christians should be ‘tolerant’ of homosexuality

Yahoo News: Soldiers Wrongly Punished for Skipping Concert

Beaver County Times: Dueling Rallies on Abortion at Atlmire's Office

The American Independent: Reps. Pence, Jordan: House must insist on provision to defund Planned Parenthood

American Independent: Ralph Reed says gay marriage not an issue for 2012 Republicans – because they’re all equally against it

Minnesota Independent: GOP bill seeks to condemn UN children’s rights treaty

Colorado Independent: Religious right calls for tough love in denouncing civil unions legislation

Florida Independent: Catholics for Choice: Jacksonville mayoral candidate using ‘rhetoric of violence’

The Advocate: Santorum's 180 on Legal Gay Sex?

The Advocate: Chuck Norris Thinks Schools Are Too Gay

"Pray Away the Gay?" on OWN

On Tuesday evening at 10 p.m. Eastern, OWN presented an edition of Our America with Lisa Ling that discussed Christian "ex-gay" ministries. Not only did Ling bring attention to a worrisome movement, but she incorporated multiple voices into the show in a respectful manner, without neglecting the controversies surrounding "ex-gay" programs.

The episode began with scenes from the 35th Exodus International Freedom Conference, where Exodus president Alan Chambers acknowledged that the ex-gay ministry offered no guarantees. "What if your feelings never change?" he asked the audience. "Will you still serve Him?" Chambers insisted that God "created us for something better" than homosexuality.

In a one-on-one talk with Ling, Chambers said that while he still struggles with same-sex attraction, he had resisted the "power" that those "fleeting temptations" had over him before. He claims that he is now living his life through the "filter of faith" instead of the "filter of sexuality." Chambers told Ling that he did not say homosexuality was wrong, God did. Reflecting on the six passages in the Bible that address homosexuality, Ling wondered if the Bible was a "moral compass" or an iron-clad cage.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

News Tidbits

MSNBC: High court rules for anti-gay funeral protesters

Beliefnet: Publisher Backs Off Warning Label for Evangelical Books

Nola.com: Southern Decadence protest leader booked with masturbating at Metairie park

Florida Independent: Personhood Florida leader: Many opponents have ‘participated in taking their own child’s life’

Minnesota Independent: Tempers flare over anti-gay bullying at Anoka-Hennepin school board meeting

American Independent: Abortion provider disputes Operation Rescue’s claims of wrongdoing

Iowa Independent: Iowa ‘Pastors’ Policy Briefing’ to host Bachmann, other 2012 hopefuls

Commentary Tidbits

Scientific American: The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools

President Terry O'Neill of NOW: U.S. Catholic Bishops Major Force Behind War on Women

Talking Points Memo: Pam Geller on “Hate Group” Label: “A Badge of Honor”

Media Matters: Beck Again Ties Islam To "The Antichrist From The Book Of Revelation"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The 700 Club on the Family Research Council's Hate-Group Label

The 700 Club recently aired a segment on the Southern Poverty Law Center's decision to list the Family Research Council as a hate group, due to the FRC's promotion of anti-gay falsehoods.  (To read a transcript of the segment, click here.)

While the segment did discuss the mission of SPLC and featured quotes from Intelligence Report editor Mark Potok, it devoted far more attention to conservative anti-gay voices, such as Peter Sprigg and Bishop Harry Jackson. Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council defended FRC, insisting that his organization presents evidence for its anti-gay views, adding that he doesn't think "the debate should be shut off by these gratuitous charges of hate." Sprigg cited a controversial study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, claiming that most male child molesters studied identified as homosexual or bisexual.

The claim that gay and bisexual men allegedly abuse children at higher rates than other populations has been proven incorrect by several sources. Also, Box Turtle Bulletin posted commentary that placed the Archives of Sexual Behavior study in context.

Sprigg and Jackson also claimed that anti-gay activism cannot be equated with racism, with Jackson citing the violence against African-Americans that his father witnessed in the South. Sprigg accused the SPLC of inappropriately extending the hate-group label to organizations that "hold politically incorrect positions on certain issues like homosexuality."

These claims ignore the reality of homophobic violence, as well as homophobic discrimination and discriminatory legislation (i.e., anti-sodomy laws, DOMA, and the now repealed DADT). To claim that racism is a form of oppression and anti-gay attitudes are not is to ignore widespread evidence to the contrary. For Sprigg to claim that homosexuality is simply an "issue" that people can disagree on is to belittle millions of gays and lesbians while ignoring the oppression that LGBT people encounter.

I regret that The 700 Club did not take a more balanced approach to the SPLC's decision to label FRC as a hate group. It appears that some anti-gay voices cannot understand why FRC has warranted this label, or why homophobia is noxious in the first place.