Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Making a Difference: OneFamilyOneVoice

For some time, the human rights community and progressive blogosphere have drawn attention to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. Crafted by Ugandan MP David Bahati and introduced to parliament in 2009, the bill proposes draconian penalties for same-sex sexual activity, "aiding and abetting homosexuality," and "promoting homosexuality." Furthermore, efforts by several American Religious Right figures to foment homophobia in Uganda provide an ominous backdrop to the situation. According to Reuters, Ugandan parliament struck down an attempt to reintroduce the bill last week, but some fear that the world has not seen the last of it. Fortunately, a new voice has emerged to condemn the anti-gay bill.

OneFamilyOneVoice is a new lobby group formed by Ugandan ex-patriots living in the U.S., according to the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. According to the group's website, the mission of OneFamilyOneVoice is "to promote understanding about diversity in the human family and to raise awareness about needless crimes against humanity." The organization arose out of concern about the anti-gay bill and the perceived need for a clear voice from the Ugandan-American community.

OneFamilyOneVoice proposes three courses of action in response to the bill: (1) shed light on strategies to pass the anti-gay bill without the global community's knowledge, (2) work in cooperation with other groups to eliminate the bill and prevent the adoption of similar bills by other African countries, and (3) create a voice to empower and educate leaders about diversity. As the world watches Uganda, groups such as OneFamilyOneVoice will undoubtedly monitor the status of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill closely.

To learn more about OneFamilyOneVoice, click here.

News Tidbits

Charlotte Observer: Minister Flip Benham charged with violating noise ordinance at gay pride fest

Orlando Sentinel: GOP hopeful Michele Bachmann gives personal, Christian testimonial in Orlando

The Advocate: Santorum: Gays Have "Gone Out on a Jihad" Against Me

American Independent: Catholic Church, NOM register PACs in Minn. ahead of same-sex marriage amendment campaign

American Independent: Former manager of defunded Planned Parenthood clinic now giving speeches on her ‘pro-life conversion’

Commentary Tidbits

Talk to Action: Quotes on Dominionism from the Apostles and Prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation

The Guardian: A very muscular brand of Christianity

Dallas Morning News: Rick Perry & the evangelicals: A marriage made in heaven 

LGBTQ Nation: ‘God Has A Better Way’ protest aims to stifle Charlotte Gay Pride festivities

Warren Throckmorton: What Would Dominionists Do with Gays?

Philadelphia City Paper: Cash and Carry: Why are your tax dollars feeding the pro-life machine?

Right Wing Watch: If Dominionism Is A Liberal Conspiracy, Why Does It Have Conservative Critics?

Daily Kos: Texas lawmakers fighting to insert Christian language in funerals for non-Christian soldiers
(Hat tip to Infidel753)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Glenn Beck Hosts "Restoring Courage" Event in Israel

Last week, Glenn Beck hosted a mass gathering with religious overtones in Jerusalem called "Restoring Courage." According to Beck's website, the gathering was intended to unite people from around the world in the name of Israel, demonstrating that Israel "does not stand alone". Restoring Courage actually consisted of three events, the chief of which took place on August 24th at the Southern Wall Excavations. For U.S. viewers who wanted to watch the event from half a world away, viewing parties took place across the U.S. (see here and www[dot]glennbeck[dot]com/israel/map/).

Unlike his 2010 "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C., the rally received only modest coverage from the American media. Although I could not watch the Restoring Courage gathering in full, I found excerpts of the gathering online that offered a taste of the event.

Mixed messages about ecumenicalism left me puzzled. On one hand, at the 5:02 mark of an excerpt posted at Media Matters, Beck proclaimed that "This plot of earth may be tiny, but it has been large enough for three faiths, and the pilgrims and the faithful who come here. It must be as big as God's heart, and it must remain open to all." In this, Beck came across as ecumenical and welcoming of all Abrahamic faiths in Jerusalem, in sharp contrast to some of his previous statements.

Despite this ecumenical introduction, the Restoring Courage gathering featured several speakers known for their less-than-ecumenical statements. For example, the gathering featured a talk by John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel who generated controversy through his reported anti-Catholic and anti-Islam statements. Also speaking at the rally was right-wing history author David Barton, who has also made controversial statements about non-Christians, according to People for the American Way and the SPLC. Media Matters posted commentary on several controversial speakers at the event, and excerpts of their talks can be seen at www[dot]glennbeck[dot]com/2011/08/22/video-restoring-courage-the-courage-to-love/

Even Beck himself made a statement later that struck me as unecumenical. At the beginning of another excerpt, Beck rejected the idea that Israel was an "apartheid" state, despite criticism of Israel for its human rights record. At the beginning of the YouTube video below, Beck made the following statement.

"Some call Israel an apartheid state. Let us begin here. I reject that, and so the moment I leave this stage, I am flying to South Africa, which is where apartheid actually existed. And I will broadcast from Cape Town tomorrow morning, to remind the world what the evil of apartheid actually looked like." [Applause]

In the same excerpt, Beck mentioned his new nonprofit venture, Mercury One, rooted in the idea that "one man with one God" can make an impact. (See www[dot]glennbeck[dot]com/2011/07/01/glenn-beck-announces-non-profit-venture-mercury-one/). In a theatrical moment, Beck warned his followers of the supposed dangers of following his path at the 1:55 mark.

"It will not be easy for me, and it will not be easy for you. Others, I warn you, will say to you, 'Come! Come this way! Come over the horizon.' But I warn you that horizon is a cliff, and when you don't go along, you will stand out. You will be mocked, and in some cases your life may be in danger. But you must remember, square your shoulders and say lo eira! I fear not."
With the demeanor of a devout preacher, Beck delivered a pro-Israel message at Restoring Courage alongside other speakers, spiced with religious language. The purpose of the gathering, I surmised, was to reach out to pro-Israel Christians by providing a religious revival in the romantic Holy Land.

For an irreverent live-blogging of the Restoring Courage rally, visit this Haaretz link. For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

CBS News: At rally in Israel, Glenn Beck calls for courage

New York Times: At Temple Mount, Glenn Beck Draws Crowd of Hundreds

The Atlantic: Glenn Beck's Ambivalent Welcome in Israel

Jerusalem Post: Feiglin objects to Beck Jerusalem event

The Cosmic Significance of the Mid-Atlantic Earthquake

On August 23rd, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. The epicenter was believed to have been near Fredericksburg, VA, and the quake could be felt several states away. The earthquake damaged historical structures in Washington D.C., including the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.

Some Religious Right figures are prone to attributing cosmic significance to natural disasters, even to the point of blaming disasters victims for their misfortune. As if on cue, several Religious Right voices claimed that this particular quake was a sign from God or a warning to America.

First, Pat Robertson claimed that the earthquake damage to the Washington Monument was "symbolic", much like the tear that appeared in the temple curtain when Jesus was crucified. On the August 25th edition of The 700 Club, Robertson had this to say at the 5:23 mark.

"Ladies and gentlemen I don’t want to get weird on this, so please take it for what it’s worth, but it seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America’s power. It has been the symbol of our great nation. We look at that monument and we say this is one nation under God. Now there’s a crack in it, there’s a crack in it and it’s closed up. Is that a sign from the Lord? Is that something that has significance, or is it just result of an earthquake? You judge, but I just want to bring that to your attention. It seems to me symbolic. You know, when Jesus was crucified and when he died the curtain in the Temple was rent from top to bottom ... and there was a tear and it was extremely symbolic. Is this symbolic? You judge."
Second, New Apostolic Reformation preachers Mike and Cindy Jacobs created a video for Generals International on the significance of the earthquake. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

08-24-2011 GI News from Generals International on Vimeo.

Mike and Cindy Jacobs talked about prophesy, prayer, and natural disasters as a message about God's will. At the 3:21 mark, Cindy Jacobs claims that God sends earthquakes to warn humanity, and that the damage of quakes can be mitigated through prayer.

"God is shaking, but why is he shaking? He's shaking not--you know, he doesn't want things to be destroyed. In fact, he tells us and he warns us through the prophets so that we can pray. What does prayer do? Prayer stops ... people really being hurt, or damaged. It mitigates against it, sometimes incompletely stop it, but does lessen what can happen."
I find the implications of this statement disturbing. How are people and structures not destroyed in natural disasters? Plenty of people pray during earthquakes, but fatalities still occur. Is this to say that structural damage and fatalities occur because of a lack of prayer?

Commentary Tidbits

This Week in Christian Nationalism: How Much Money Could the Department of Defense Save if it Stopped Trying to Save Souls?

Center for American Progress: Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America

SPLC Intelligence Report: Christian Crusader

SPLC Intelligence Report: Christian Right Direct-Mail Guru Named in Custodial Kidnapping 

Q Salt Lake: Surviving "Ex-Gay" Therapy Programs         Trigger warning

Fallen From Grace: The American Taliban in Their Own Words

Washington Monthly: Rick Perry and The 5,000 Year Leap

Time: Perry Compared Homosexuality to Alcoholism in 2008 Book

Politico: Rick Perry signs Susan B. Anthony List pledge

Politicus USA: Glenn Beck Bombs As Only 1,000 Attend Jerusalem Rally

CNN: Jews torn over Glenn Beck, Jerusalem rally

Gawker: How Michele Bachmann Is Tied to the Ugandan Movement to Execute Gay People

Right Wing Watch: Wendy Wright's New Job: Stopping The Girl Scouts' "Radical, Feminist, Pro-Abortion" Agenda

News Tidbits

Houston Chronicle: Marriage grant funded salaries, rent at Iowa Family Policy Center

American Independent: ‘The Response’: Step one in a conservative Christian voter mobilization drive

Iowa Independent: Catholic physicians don’t want birth control covered as preventative service

Edge Boston: Anti-Gay NY Town Clerk: Marriages with Animals Next?

Pink News: Rick Santorum accepts “decision” to be gay, but “disagrees vehemently” on equality

The Advocate: Facebook Oversharing Teacher Tells Students to Get Out If They Don't Like "God's Truth"

The Advocate: Megachurch Pastor: Not Against Gays, Just Against Gay Sex

NPR: The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Eddie Long accusers break silence on relationships with embattled bishop

Bay Windows: MIT grad student remembers "ex-gay" therapy

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Expat Ugandans organize to fight "Kill The Gays" bill

Minnesota Public Radio: Same-sex marriage supporters, foes stake out ground at Minnesota state fair

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Barbarian Flash Mob Dances in Front of Marcus Bachmann's Clinic

On August 25th, a flash mob of "barbarians" descended on Marcus Bachmann's Christian counseling clinic in Lake Elmo, Minnesota to protest his homophobic comments and reported use of so-called "reparative therapy." In this hilarious flash mob dance set to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," an actor playing Marcus Bachmann berates the group, only to receive a shower of glitter. At the end of the performance, the dancers shout "one of us!", with a special message for Marcus!

Hat tip to the Minnesota Independent. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Columbus Go Home: Barbarian Flashmob Converts "Marcus Bachmann" in Glitter Baptism at Clinic

Think Progress: Over 100 Barbarians Glitter 'Marcus Bachmann' Outside Ex-Gay Clinic

The New Civil Rights Movement: Flash Mob Glitters a Marcus Bachmann and Performs Gaga's "Born This Way"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Freak Out Nation: Politicians are Backing out of Glenn Beck’s Rally In Israel: This Could be Why

Al Jazeera: Glenn Beck is exploiting Israel 

Vertigo: And Still Call Yourself 'Pro-Life'

The Awl: What I Learn in Two Years at the Tea Party

Right Wing Watch: NAR Doesn't Want Theocracy, Just The Establishment Of God's Kingdom On Earth

Business & Heritage Clarksville: Treat hate groups with the contempt they deserve 

Truth Wins Out: In Extravagant Visit, Morally Compromised Pope Lectures Europe On Morality

Huffington Post: Isn't It Ironic When Politicians Parade Their Faith but Act Unchristian?

Religion Dispatches: American Anti-Gay Campaign in Africa Opposes "Fictitious Sexual Rights"

News Tidbits

Pennlive: Gay-conversion therapy 'was constantly undermining my sense of self,' central Pa. man says

Orange County Register: Couple claims God wants us to beat our children

Christian Science Monitor: US judges rule for teacher who called creationism 'superstitious nonsense'

Daily Monitor: Ugandan Cabinet Drops Bahati’s Gay Bill

BBC News: Nigeria: Where religion is big business

The Advocate: Storm Aborts Pope's Antigay Speech

Pink News: Alliance Defense Fund may now intervene at ECHR as views sought on exemptions

American Independent: Parent group warns of ‘radical homosexual agenda’ in Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin schools

American Independent: Family Research Council decries government spending while affiliates take in millions

Texas Independent: Perry to co-chair gala for influential anti-abortion rights group

Florida Independent: Focus on the Family website praises Florida for accepting abstinence education dollars

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Anti-LGBT Gathering in Canberra, Australia

On August 16th, opponents of same-sex marriage held a "National Day of Marriage" conference at the Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. Organized by the Australia Christian Lobby*, the National Marriage Coalition, Dads4Kids, and the Australian Family Association, the rally drew approximately 500 attendees, according to Pink News. The gathering was the climax of National Marriage Day, an Australian campaign against same-sex marriage. (See www[dot]marriageday[dot]org[dot]au/)

The Australian Family Association declared the gathering a success on its website, citing quotes against same-sex marriage from speakers. (See www[dot]family[dot]org.au/index.php) As I looked through the quotes from various right-wing speakers, I was struck by how their rhetoric closely resembled that of American anti-LGBT voices: marriage is sacred, children should have a mom and a dad, same-sex marriage will topple the nation, opposite-sex marriage has been the cornerstone of all successful societies, men and women need each other, ad nauseum. Is this resemblance because anti-LGBT activists across the globe network and thus speak the same language? Is it because such activists tend to think within the same paradigms, no matter what their nationality? I don't know.

Among the speakers at the gathering was Queensland MP Bob Katter, who mocked same-sex marriage as something that "deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed," according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The article also quoted Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce, who said he did not want legislators to take the right to marry away from his four daughters. The "best protection" for his daughters, he claimed, was a relationship with a caring husband. Katter's words angered me, while Joyce's words left me puzzled. LGBT activists across the globe struggle for the right to have same-sex marriages, not to deny marriages to heterosexual couples! To boot, what exactly is he protecting his daughters from? His rhetoric seemed to depict same-sex marriage as somehow a threat to opposite-sex marriage, which it is not.

Another speaker  at the National Day of Marriage was Rebecca Hagelin, a right-wing American columnist and the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad. During a talk entitled “One Man, One Woman: The Future Of Civil Society”, Hagelin reportedly claimed that same-sex marriage would lead to legalized marriage between children and pedophiles, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. (Any of this sound familiar?) The LGBT rights group Australian Marriage Equality was outraged, condemning Hagelin's homophobic rhetoric.

ABC News (Australia) did a short segment on Hagelin's comments and the uproar they have caused. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

However, the week had its bright points. In the days leading up to August 16th, numerous pro-LGBT rallies took place in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, protesting a 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act which forbade same-sex marriage. Also, on August 16th, Galaxy Research released the results of a survey commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality in a report entitled Same-Sex Marriage and Religion. The study found that the majority (53%) of Christian respondents supported marriage equality, demonstrating that many Australian Christian reject homophobia. Not surprisingly, the Australian Christian Lobby sneered at the report. (See australianchristianlobby[dot]org[dot]au/2011/08/mr-lobby-dismisses-claim-that-christians-support-same-sex-marriage/)

Australia, like the U.S., has both Religious Right voices condemning LGBT equality, and devoted activists calling for LGBT rights. As struggles between right-wing and progressive values continue in the U.S., they also continue in many other parts of the world.

For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

Brisbane Times: No Love for Gay Marriage Among Queensland MPs

Pink News: Australian anti-gay marriage rally held as poll finds Christians support equality

Sydney Morning Herald: Anger over rally to ridicule gay marriage

Standpoint: Marriage Equality Debate: Anti-Marriage Equality Rally Held in Canberra

* = As a side note, I was struck by how the goals of the Australian Christian Lobby resembled those of some American Religious Right groups. The Australian Christian Lobby's website states that the organization's vision is to see "Christian principles" accepted in the way Australia is governed, and to have the contributions of Christianity reflected in Australia's political life. (See australianchristianlobby[dot]org[dot]au/about-acl/)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Angus Buchan and his Mighty Men

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

Republic of Gilead has focused almost entirely on the Religious Right in the United States, since American fundamentalism is what I'm most familiar with. However, right-wing Christianity has a presence across the globe which is every bit as deleterious as it is in the U.S. The role of American fundamentalist preachers in fomenting homophobia in Uganda is well know, and Jeff Sharlet's books (The Family and C Street) have documented the international reach of "the Family." To the north, the Canadian Religious Right is making its presence felt in Canadian society. However, right-wing Christianity is not merely a North American export. Homegrown Religious Right groups are receiving more attention across the globe, and we would do well to educate ourselves about their efforts.

I'd like to start with commentary on Angus Buchan, a Christian evangelist in South Africa whose rhetoric bears remarkable similarities to that of the American Religious Right. Buchan has attracted international attention, with his ministry and Mighty Men Conferences receiving coverage from American Christian media sources such as Charisma and The 700 Club. He has published several books and travels the world with his hearty style of evangelism.

According to the Shalom Farm website, Angus Buchan was a Zambian farmer who moved to Greytown, South Africa and established Shalom Farm with his wife Jill. His autobiography, Faith Like Potatoes, documents Buchan's conversion to Christianity and has been made into a feature film. Buchan's Shalom Farm, in addition to raising livestock and crops, houses the Beth-Hatlaim children's home and hosts Buchan's annual Mighty Men rallies for Christian men. Reminiscent of Promise Keeper rallies in the U.S., the Mighty Men Conferences are male-only gatherings devoted to Christian revival.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Wow! Today's commentary post is overflowing with essays on Christian dominionism, especially as it relates to some of the current GOP presidential contenders. I'm relieved that this alarming form of fundamentalism is making its way into the public consciousness, since people can't organize against something unless they know it exists.

Political Research Associates: The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy

Infidel753: The drive toward minority rule in the US

The Daily Beast: A Christian Plot for Domination?

Singing with Crows: Democracy or Dominion?

Andrew Sullivan: The Christianist Takeover
(Hat tip to Noodleepoodlee)

Politicus USA: Rick Perry’s Hardcore History of Investment in Porn

Human Rights Campaign: Rick Perry’s Anti-Gay History

SPLC Hatewatch: LGBT Rights Group Tells FRC to Cease Distribution of False Video

Salon: What Michelle Bachmann's submission theology really means

Media Matters: Beck: "A Religious Figure That I Respect" Told Me That Restoring Courage "May Be A Fulfillment Of Zechariah Prophecy"

Right Wing Watch: Jackson: There Is No Separation Of Church And State

News Tidbits

Christian Science Monitor: Abortion opponents have a new voice

Mother Jones: Horror Stories From Tough-Love Teen Homes 

Pink News: Australian anti-gay marriage rally held as poll finds Christians support equality

The Advocate: Antigay Church Sign Smashed in North Carolina

American Independent: Anti-LGBT record casts shadow over Chik-Fil-A’s arrival to Minneapolis

Texas Independent: More districts remain unaware of flaws in Austin LifeGuard sex ed program

Texas Independent: Rick Perry to fundraise for Family Research Council affiliate in New Hampshire

Monday, August 15, 2011

Two More Pledges You Should Know About

You may remember the controversy surrounding "The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family", a pledge created by the Family Leader and signed by several right-wing presidential candidates. Other right-wing organizations have also penned pledges for like-minded candidates to sign, so I'd like to introduce readers to two prominent pledges.

First, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a well-known anti-LGBT organization, has crafted a pledge against same-sex marriage for presidential candidates to sign. According to the NOM website, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum have signed the pledge, with NOM's Maggie Gallagher lauding them as "champions."

By signing the pledge, candidates vow to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Furthermore, signatories pledge to appoint like-minded judges and attorney generals who are committed to the "original meaning" of the Constitution. Candidates who sign the pledge also vow to put forward legislation granting residents of Washington D.C. the right to vote on marriage (although it does not specify what to do if D.C. voters vote in favor of same-sex marriage rights). Finally, and most chillingly, signatories pledge to establish a "presidential commission on religious liberty." This commission would be responsible for investigating alleged harassment or threats against Americans who organize, speak, propose "protections" or vote for marriage (!?).

News Tidbits

CNN: Air Force's use of Christian messages extends to ROTC

Providence Journal: Anti-gay marriage group NOM loses appeal of Rhode Island court ruling

Ms. Magazine: NYC Mandates Sex-Education, Catholic Church Objects

365 Gay: As Perry looms, Bachmann presses faith in GOP race

American Independent: GOP presidential candidates fundraise for anti-gay groups

Colorado Independent: In 2012, there’s a name for the place where prayer meets politics: Rick Perry

Minnesota Independent: Minnesota Family Council registers ‘marriage protection fund’

The Advocate: Starbucks CEO Cancels on Church Linked to Conversion Therapy

The Advocate: Scare Tactics Used Against Transgender Bill

The Advocate: 6 Travel Companies Stop Funding Christian Values Network

Commentary Tidbits

Snoring Dog Studio: Hurry. No, Don’t Hurry.

Singing with Crows: One Nation, Under Whose God?

The Guardian: Christian teen camps are wicked

County Fair: Byron York And Chris Wallace Defend "Submissive" Question To Bachmann

PBS Frontline: Meet The Christian Philosopher Who Shaped Michelle Bachmann's Views

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Hate group leader doesn't want gays to serve on juries

Right Wing Watch: Barton on Spanking: "We Do The Same Thing With Horses"

Mother Jones: Santorum on Anti-Sodomy Supreme Court Justices: No Promises

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: As last "Pink Triangle" dies, gay-bashers alive and well and supporting Rick Perry

RH Reality Check: A Summer of Choice: What We Learned in Germantown

Media Matters: Beck And Crew Discuss Gender Relations, Double Standards: "Everything We Do" -- Making Money, Going To Church -- "Is For Girls"

Money.co.uk: The Business of Religion
(Hat tip to Infidel753)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Quotes from the Iowa GOP Presidential Debate

On Thursday, August 11th, the GOP presidential candidate debate took place at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Sponsored by Fox News, the Washington Examiner, and the Iowa Republican Party, the debate was moderated by Bret Baier and Chris Wallace of Fox News, as well as Byron York and Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner.

Debating candidates included Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R-Minnesota) former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich,  ambassador and former Utah Governor John Huntsman, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and businessman Herman Cain.

Much of the debate was devoted to health care, immigration, and the economy, with electric moments throughout the night. Pawlenty and Bachmann exchanged heated remarks, as did Santorum and Paul. Several moderators threw hardball questions at candidates, grilling Romney about his business background and questioning Gingrich about mass defections from his presidential campaigns. When Gingrich criticized Chris Wallace over "gotcha" questions, Wallace retorted that Gingrich is responsible for his record, which delighted me. Oddly, when asked about presidential contender Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), the candidates failed to focus on his controversial affiliations with fundamentalist groups or his recent Response rally in Houston.

Given my fascination with the Religious Right, it was the social issues segment of the debate that riveted me the most. For your reading pleasure, I've collected several quotes from the debate on LGBT rights, women, and religion.

News Tidbits

NPR: Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve

Baltimore Sun: Archbishop O'Brien urged O'Malley against backing gay marriage

The Advocate: Rick Santorum: Marriage Is Like a Napkin, Not a Paper Towel 

Pennlive: Vacation Liberty School in Cumberland County takes tea party approach to teaching history

American Independent: Anti-LGBT group launches campaign to keep gay people from donating blood

Colorado Independent: McCain heckled by Dan Maes-style anti-UN Tea Partiers

Iowa Independent: Anti-abortion advocates turn to Hungary for answers

Commentary Tidbits

New Yorker: Leap of Faith: The making of a Republican front-runner

SPLC Intelligence Report: The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle

Dallas Voice: The non-LGBT Response to ‘The Response’

LGBTQ Nation: Trans-mockery in the House of God? Get educated

Media Matters: Beck Uses Holocaust Images, Distortions, Self-Aggrandizement To Promote His Israel Rally

Mother Jones: Rick Perry's Apolitical Spiritual Experience

Ms. Magazine: Dispatches from an Abortion-Rights Battleground: Germantown, Maryland

Salon: The abortion that Mitt doesn't talk about anymore

Wild Times at the Iowa State Fair with Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Santorum

This week, several Republican presidential candidates delivered speeches at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA, in anticipation of the Iowa Republican Straw Poll in Ames on Saturday. C-SPAN has devoted extensive coverage to the candidates' talks at the Iowa State Fair, capturing hecklers, debates with listeners, and quotes that reflect Religious Right sensibilities. For all of the recent focus on GOP candidates' approaches to economic issues, events at the Iowa State Fair serve as a reminder that candidates' views on social issues remain important.

First, after Michele Bachmann delivered her talk, tensions arose when her husband Marcus appeared. A heckler in the audience condemned Marcus for his controversial comments on LGBT people and reported support for so-called reparative therapy. "According to Marcus, I'm a barbarian! Pray the gay away, right Marcus? Treat me like a second-class citizen! Shame on you!" the heckler shouted, chanting "Shame on you!" afterwards.

The heckling begins at the 0:30 mark in the video below. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

Tim Pawlenty was also confronted in a more reserved manner by the same man, identified by the Minnesota Independent as Gabe Aderhold . At the beginning of the video below, Aderhold makes the following statement to Pawlenty.

"I thought our country was about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone, no exceptions. So Tim Pawlenty, I want to know know, when will you stand up for me …because you are discriminating against me and it hurts, it really does."
Pawlenty replied with a defense of "traditional" marriage at the 1:05 mark of the video. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)
"From my perspective, I'm not at the point, nor will I ever be at the point where I'll say that every domestic relationship is the same as traditional marriage. The relationship between a man and a woman in a traditional marriage is important to our country, our society, our culture. I think it should remain elevated, not just in our words but under our laws."

Finally, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum gave a lengthy talk at the Iowa State Fair, emphasizing his beliefs that rights are allegedly God-given and that America is a "Judeo-Christian country." At the 10:45 mark of this C-SPAN video, Santorum defended the Mosaic religious code and the moral concept of natural law as values that undergird America.

"Who we are, ladies and gentlemen, is a country that believe that our rights come to us from our creator, to each and every one of us equally. I love the Constitution. I love the Constitution and I love the Tea Party, but when the Tea Party says its all about the Constitution, they're only  half right. Our country with a Constitution  without the Declaration of Independence, ladies and gentlemen, is France, okay? Because ... the Constitution is the how of America. The Declaration of Independence is the why, who we are. I talked about this last night when I had my debate with Ron Paul on the Tenth Amendment. Who we are is a country that has its rights given to us by God to each and every one of us. Why? Because we are creatures of God. And what did God give us those rights to do? He didn't just give us those rights to do whatever you want. No. There are laws. The Mosaic code. There are laws. There's a natural law. Nature and nature's God as it said in the Declaration. There are values that hold this country together as a Judeo-Christian country, and those values is what made America America. When they said unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they said the value, the right to life was invaluable, that that couldn't be violated, and it's being violated in America today."
At the 13:26 mark, Santorum's rhetoric included praise for the "institution of marriage," a subtle swipe at those who support LGBT equality.
"Our founders said life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They didn't say guarantee of happiness. They didn't say provision of happiness. They said that every American would have the right to pursue happiness, but it isn't happiness that some on the far right and some on the far left suggest. Happiness isn't the pursuit of pleasure. Go look it up in Websters, if you can get an old dictionary of that time. Happiness was the pursuit of what was morally good. God gave us rights so we could follow his will. Our founder John Adams, every founder, read them, every founder said the same. Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the governance of any other. You cannot be free and live whatever life you want ... If we truly want to be free, we have to be a good and decent moral society. We have to believe in the foundational principle of the family and the institution of marriage, and we have to stand for those principles, because that's where that moral values are inculcated."
Finally, Santorum celebrated his anti-abortion advocacy at the 4:30 mark.

"On moral, cultural issues, no one stood up and fought for the santity of human life as much as I did in the United States Senate ... I was the author of the partial-birth abortion ban act. Again, an abortion measure that ... went at the heart of the abortion industry, indentifying what is in the womb, which is a child. We finally got this issue out before the American public."

Despite the heavy focus on economic and health care issues at the recent Iowa GOP debate, the Iowa State Fair is a strong reminder that several Republican candidates stand firm in their opposition to reproductive rights and LGBT equality. Social issues will remain a powerful undercurrent in the 2012 election, with several candidates from the Religious Right promoting an anti-LGBT, anti-abortion agenda.

For additional; commentary, visit the following links.

Truth Wins Out: Gay Man Confronts Tim Pawlenty on Marriage Equality; Pawlenty Punts

Think Progress: Gay Man Challenges Pawlenty on Opposition to Marriage Equality: 'Do you think I'm a second class citizen?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Response Rally Wasn't the Only Gathering in Texas this Weekend

Think the Response rally went unnoticed by progressives and moderates in Texas? Think again! Multiple events took place in Texas this weekend to take a stand against Gov. Rick Perry and the groups affiliated with the Response. Supporters of church-state separation, LGBT rights, and a variety of other issues organized counter-rallies on August 5th and 6th.

First, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Texas ACLU co-sponsored an alternative event to the Response rally, entitled "Family, Faith, and Freedom." Held in Houston's Mount Ararat Baptist Church on August 5th, the event was intended to reaffirm the importance of church-state separation on the eve of the Response. According to ABC News, the "Family, Faith, and Freedom" rally featured speakers from various denominations who criticized the Response for excluding non-Christians and affiliating with radical voices.

Second, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which criticized Gov. Perry's partnership with the American Family Association for the Response, also organized a counter-rally. Held in Houston's Tranquility Park on August 5th, the rally condemned the homophobia of several Response supporters and called for LGBT inclusion. Speakers at the gathering included regional LGBT advocates and LGBT-affirming religious leaders. For example, at the 3:25 mark of the video below, Houston GLBT Political Caucus president Noel Freeman condemned the American Family Association for its homophobic rhetoric. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

"The American Family Association has gained its notoriety by attacking out community, by attacking Muslims, by attacking people of other faiths. We will not stand for that. The Westboro Baptist Church is coming here as well. These are two of the most vile groups recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups, for their constant stream of lies and their hatred of people in our community ... The American Family Association calls us Nazis and says we were responsible for the Holocaust. They tell us we should spend the rest of our lives in prison, that people living with HIV and AIDS should be eradicated from our society. Houston is a progressive city, one of the most progressive cities in the south. And they want to say that our community shouldn't even be able to hold elected office. Well you know who works in that building right there? The first openly lesbian mayor of a major city in America."

Finally, the Travis County Democratic Party hosted a rally entitled "Rick Perry: Bad for Texas, Worse for Our Nation" today at the state capital in Austin, TX. Co-sponsored by Texans for Obama, the Texas Democratic Party, and the National Gray Panthers, among other groups, the rally was intended to bring attention to Gov. Rick Perry's record on education, the environment, and other important issues.

Rev. Jim Rigby of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church spoke at the rally, looking askance at the type of Christianity promoted by Gov. Perry and the Response Rally. At the 0:44 mark of the video below, he had this to say. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)
"Rick Perry is having a prayer event today in Houston. A lot of us would not be welcome there. That's understood. But there's something very ironic about it to me. Rick Perry is saying that we need to bring Texas to its knees. I think he's doing a great job of that. We are becoming first in almost every misery index you can find. That's the wrong direction. But the Christianity they're going to be talking about would not like me very much. The idea that Jesus doesn't want us to feed the hungry, the idea that Jesus doesn't want us to clothe the naked, the idea that Jesus does not want us to take care of the weakest among us is very strange. And when somebody looks at the Beatitudes and sees in that a call to flat-tax, you know you're not really worshipping Jesus, you're worshipping Newt Gingrich in sandals and a beard."

The Response Rally, Part III (UPDATED)

As the Response rally continued into the afternoon, listeners heard from other political figures in addition to Gov. Rick Perry. In a pre-recorded video for the rally, Florida Gov. Rick Scott thanked Gov. Perry for the Response rally. Unfortunately, my livestream link faltered at that very moment, and Gov. Scott's message was over by the time I reestablished the livestream link.

Next, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas spoke live at the rally, citing the Beatitudes as a guide for believers. He led a prayer asking for forgiveness of hypocrisy, judgmental attitudes, lack of mercy, and other sins, urging believers to be humble and at peace in an unstable world.

At approximately 1:55 p.m. Eastern, controversial preacher John Hagee delivered a prayer and talk, starting with Ephesians 1:15-23. "We confess that we are still a Judeo-Christian nation. We confess that we are still one nation under God," he said, drawing cheers from the audience. Hagee prayed that people leave behind their wicked ways and that the U.S. be healed of its division. Furthermore, he prayed to God to guide lawmakers, the Supreme Court, and the president, pleading that the "cloud of chaos and confusion that engulfs that city may be lifted." Finally, he praised Gov. Rick Perry for his courage in calling for a time of fasting and prayer.

The Response schedule featured a prayer for Israel, and at approximately 2:15 p.m. Eastern, a bearded caucasian man (whose name I did not catch, unfortunately) gave a heartfelt talk on Israel and Christianity. Celebrating Israel as "host nation of all host nations," the man claimed that God made a covenant with Israel, promising to bless all nations of the Earth through Israel. None of the nations of the world received a Messiah except Israel, he reminded listeners, and that messiah went on to become the world's redeemer. He lamented that Jews have been persecuted throughout history in the name of Christ, citing tragedies such as pogroms, exile, and the Holocaust. For these wrongs, he asked God to help the church repent. Afterwards, a procession of people came on stage and prayed for Israel.

Throughout the Response rally, there was a conspicuous lack of overt LGBT-related rhetoric until Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer took the stage. Bickle looked askance at "tolerance" in the churches that is "redefining love," insisting that Jesus alone defines marriage. He also had strong words about non-Christian religions, refusing to acknowledge their validity. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

"There's a crisis of truth in the pulpits today in our land that in the name of tolerance, even in the name of love, we are redefining love that's not on God's terms ... All the world religions, they can say what they say. There is no other God besides Jesus ... Jesus alone is the standard of truth. He defines morality. He defines marriage. He defines life. He defines righteousness, and in our allegiance to him, we say what he says."
After a long day observing the Response rally, I decided to sign off early, before the rally concluded. Click here to read parts I and II.

For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

Los Angeles Times: Rick Perry Offers a Prayer for Obama at the Response rally

RH Reality Check: Kansas Governor Brownback Goes to Texas... To Pray for a U.S. Theocracy

The Wall of Separation: 'Gee, Thanks, but I Have to Wash My Hair": Governors Skip Perry Prayer Rally

The Response Rally, Part II (UPDATED)

As the Response rally livestreams, more awaited speakers are appearing on stage. At approximately 12:22 p.m. Eastern, rally organizers Gov. Rick Perry of Texas spoke to an elated crowd, headlining the "corporate repentance" phase of the rally.

Gov. Perry acknowledged those who have lost hope due to affliction or hardship during these difficult times, reminding listeners that a loving God wipes away darkness and gives hope to those who trust in him. God does not require a show of religion, Perry insisted, but rather connection with worshipers' deepest being. God's agenda is not a political agenda, but rather a salvation agenda, he told the audience, adding that God is not affiliated with any political party or man-made institution. Perry quoted from Joel 2:12-17, Isaiah 40:28-31, and Ephesians 3:14-21, telling the audience that God is calling Americans to return to him and know his love and grace.

The Response Rally, Part I

Today's the day! The Response Rally is taking place today in Houston's Reliant Stadium, and the event's Twitter feed claims that there are over 25,000 people in attendance. The rally is currently livestreaming here, and I'll be watching the event throughout the day. For a full rally schedule, click here.

Much like a contemporary worship service or prayer gathering, the Response rally started this morning with Christian musical performances. Houston's Reliant Stadium was packed with thousands of worshipers from many races and walks of life, praying and swaying to the Christian music. At approximately 10:10 a.m. Eastern, a man on stage blew into a shofar, perhaps a reference to the practices of the ancient Hebrews.

Even amidst innocuous worship music, political commentary found its way into the Response. At approximately 10:21 a.m. Eastern, a performer in a white shirt and red tie prayed that God would save the nation and return it to its "Judeo-Christian roots." At approximately 10:24 a.m. Eastern, a woman with light hair said that those who are free in Christ are free indeed, but that "freedom has always had its detractors." She urged listeners to be "freedom's advocates," adding "we pledge allegiance to the lamb, the true source of liberty and justice for all." Her words startled me, especially the words she borrowed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Was she implying that God, rather than worldly authorities, truly ensures freedom and justice? Was she indicating that loyalty to faith trumps loyalty to country? I don't know.

Friday, August 5, 2011

More on the Summer of Choice in Germantown, MD

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

More photos, videos, and stories are coming in from the Summer of Choice and Summer of Trust campaign this week. As you recall, anti-abortion activists are protesting near Dr. LeRoy Carhart's late-term abortion clinic in Germantown, MD as part of their Summer of Mercy 2.0 campaign. To show solidarity with Dr. Carhart and support women's reproductive rights, pro-choice activists have also convened in Germantown to take part in pro-choice demonstrations. (See here.)

Here's what pro-choice activists are sharing from this week's activism in Germantown.

- The World Can't Wait has posted several short videos at YouTube, featuring pro-choice demonstrators from the Summer of Choice and Summer of Trust efforts. The video at the top of this post is one example of their video series.

- Bloggers have posted their own accounts and photos from Germantown, including Femisisters, Feminist Campus, and Amplify Your Voice.

- RH Reality Check has accounts and photos from various demonstrators in attendance.

Anti-abortion activists are also weighing in from this week's Summer of Mercy 2.0 efforts.

- At the Operation Rescue website, Operation Rescue president Troy Newman is quoted as describing Dr. Carhart as a "dishonest man" and a "danger to the public" who allegedly belongs in prison. Newman was jubilant that Dr. Carhart's clinic would be closed for the week, calling the Summer of Mercy a "victory" as a result.

- The Priests for Life website described Father Frank Pavone's July 30th talk in Germantown, in which he urged anti-abortion advocates to mobilize others against abortion. 

- In a YouTube video from the Summer of Mercy 2.0, Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League spoke approvingly of graphic anti-abortion signs. At the 4:40 mark, he compared the use of graphic anti-abortion signs to the use of images in abolitionist, child labor, and civil rights struggles.
"I am an advocate of the graphics. I say that no social issue has ever been solved without looking at the victim. All the way back, Wilberforce had to show the chains and do a diagram of the way slaves were packed into these slave ships until Parliament woke up and outlawed slave trade. We had to show the backs of some of these slaves who had been whipped almost beyond endurance ... We had to show civil rights pictures, the people fighting for civil rights being hosed down and with dogs chasing them, and so on. We have to see-- the child labor acts came in after they took pictures of little boys working in the coal mines and the little girls running the big looms. You have to see the victim to understand what is going on. I don't say you have to use it all the time, or walk into church with a graphic sign, but you have to be willing to show what abortion is."
You can watch the video below. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Regent University Researchers Study Gays in Opposite-Sex Marriages

Progressive commentators have devoted much attention recently to a study entitled "Characteristics of Mixed Orientation Couples: An Empirical Study" by M.A. Yarhouse et al. Starting on page 41 of volume 4, issue 2 of Edification: The Transdisciplinary Journal of Christian Psychology, the study examines the lives of 106 sexual minority respondents and 161 current or former heterosexual spouses of sexual minorities. What drew commentators' attention was that all of the authors of the article either psychology professors or doctoral candidates at Regent University, a Christian university founded by Pat Robertson in 1978.

The study looked at couples in what it called "mixed orientation marriages," or marriages in which one partner is heterosexual and one partner is a sexual minority. Out of the 167 respondents, 66.7% were currently married to their other-orientation partner, 10.1% were separated, 15% were divorced, and 1.5% were currently in a same-sex relationship. Respondents answered a questionnaire about relationship dynamics, relationship satisfaction, sexual functioning, and sexual orientation and identity.

News Tidbits

New York Times: Judge Dismisses Atheists’ Suit Against Texas Governor’s Prayer Rally

Al-Jazeera: America's Own Taliban (article on New Apostolic Reformation)

Pink Paper: Street preacher told us to burn in hell, gay couple claim

Washington Blade: Log Cabin repudiates Ann Coulter’s endorsement of ‘reparative therapy'

Dayton Daily News: A push for creationism gains in Springboro

NPR: Can Therapy Help Change Sexual Orientation?

American Independent: Florida’s state-subsidized crisis pregnancy centers, in detail

Colorado Independent: Controversial minister Bradlee Dean sues Rachel Maddow, Minnesota Independent

The Daily Caller: GOProud and Birchers ousted as CPAC co-sponsors (David Horowitz survives vote)

Truthout: Air Force Pulls Christian-Themed Ethics Training for Nuclear Missile Officers After Publication of Truthout Report
(Hat tip to Gaytheist Agenda)

Commentary Tidbits

Anti-Defamation League: Clergy and Community Leaders Express Concerns over Governor's Official Call for Prayer

Wall of Separation: Yielding To Censorship: Missouri School Board Bans Books That Are ‘Contrary To The Bible’

Ex-Gay Watch: IRS Revokes Peter LaBarbera’s AFTAH Tax Exempt Status

Media Matters: The Bigotry Of Pat Buchanan

The Advocate: Where to Find "The Gay Gospels"

God's Politics: Family Research Council Attacks Evangelical and Catholic Leaders

RH Reality Check: Jim Bob Duggar Against Abortion -- Go Figure

Politicus USA: Rick Warren Derides The Tax Paying Poor As His Church Pays No Taxes

Right Wing Watch: Is Wendy Wright Out At Concerned Women For America?

Right Wing Watch: Scott Lively: Gay Marriage Is A Sign Of The End Times

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pro-Choice and Anti-Abortion Demonstrators Converge in Germantown, MD

A pro-choice banner at the
Summer of Choice demonstration
Note: This post contains photos of anti-abortion signs with disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised.

Pro-choice and anti-abortion forces have converged near Dr. LeRoy Carhart's late-term abortion clinic in Germantown, MD to kick off opposing campaigns. The anti-abortion "Summer of Mercy 2.0" effort and the pro-choice "Summer of Choice" and "Summer of Trust" efforts are taking place in Germantown this week, drawing activists from both sides of the abortion issue.

According to its website, Summer of Mercy 2.0 is an anti-abortion effort from July 30th to August 7th in Germantown. The name heralds from the first Summer of Mercy campaign in 1991, which featured protests against the late Dr. George Tiller's abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas. Summer of Mercy's 2.0's long list of sponsors include the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Operation Rescue, 40 Days for Life, the Christian Defense Coalition, and countless other churches and organizations. The list of confirmed speakers included prominent Religious Right voices, such as Wendy Wright from Concerned Women for America, Troy Newman from Operation Rescue, Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council, Bishop Harry Jackson, Patrick Mahoney from the Christian Defense Coalition, and Michael Martelli from the Maryland Coalition for Life. (Several of these speakers gave talks at a December 6th, 2010 press conference near Dr. Carhart's clinic, which I described here.) The week-long event schedule includes prayers and demonstrations near Dr. Carhart's late-term abortion clinic, masses at local churches, and a weekend gathering in Gaithersburg that reportedly included live ultrasounds (!).

The Washington Independent reports that a July 30th gathering at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD kicked off the Summer of Mercy 2.0. According to the article, anti-abortion organizers seek to shut down Dr. Carhart's abortion clinic and reclaim the word "choice" for the anti-abortion movement.

Local musicians have also participated in Summer of Mercy 2.0. ChristCentric, a Germantown Christian hip-hop group, performed their anti-abortion song "Fight for the Children" as part of the Summer of Mercy 2.0 efforts. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

In response to the Summer of Mercy 2.0, pro-choice advocates have spearheaded the Summer of Choice effort to show solidarity with Dr. Carhart. Organized by Abortionclinics.org and the Abortion Access Fund, the Summer of Choice featured a charity walk which drew over 200 supporters, according to the Germantown Patch. Also participating is the Summer of Trust campaign, which is encouraging participation in the week-long pro-choice demonstrations near Dr. Carhart's clinic. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the National Organization for Women have been providing nearby trainings on peaceful demonstrations. To boot, a Words of Choice theater performance took place on July 31st, while a talk entitled "Abortion, Morality, and the Liberation of Women" took place on the evening of August 1st.

I took part in the pro-choice demonstrations on Wisteria Drive in Germantown yesterday, and the atmosphere was electric. To reach the pro-choice demonstrators, I quietly walked through a group of anti-abortion protesters lining the sidewalk near Dr. Carhart's clinic, carrying signs about the sanctity of life. Large posters with photos of fetuses lined the walk, and I saw at least one sign that read "ABORTIONIST", with an arrow pointing to Dr. Carhart's clinic.

Down the street, scores of pro-choice demonstrators held up signs with words such as "THIS CLINIC STAYS OPEN," "KEEP ABORTION LEGAL," and "DR. CARHART IS A HERO." In my conversations with pro-choice demonstrators, I learned that supporters had traveled from as far as New York, Boston, and Chicago to participate in the week-long effort. Even as temperatures rose and shade shrank, the demonstrators lost none of their enthusiasm, holding signs that earned them horn honks and thumbs-up from several passing cars.