Thursday, May 31, 2012

Commentary Tidbits

Green Eagle: The New Kincaid

Red Letter Christians: Anti-Gay Marriage Legislation is an Example of An Overextended Church in Decline

Vancouver Sun: The state of evangelicalism: Canada differs from U.S.

Freak Out Nation: Conservative crazy talk alert: “Homosexuals in Congress have a plan to indoctrinate our children”

Reason Being: Freedom to Practice Religion is NOT the Freedom to Impose Religion

Washington Post: How the Web is killing faith

Media Matters: Live Action's New Planned Parenthood Attack Manufactures "Widespread" Sex-Selective Abortion Problem

Good As You: Kansas Pastor: Government Should Kill Gays

Good As You: Maryland pastor on killing gays: "I will be very honest with you, my flesh kind of likes that idea."

(Hat tip to Infidel753 for several of these links)

News Tidbits

ABC RTV 6: Church Under Fire For Video Of Boy's Anti-Gay Song

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: California Senate bans "ex-gay" therapy

Pink News: Christian ‘gay cure’ therapist loses appeal

Los Angeles Times: Target of Maryland abortion protesters turns tables on them

Women's eNews: U.K. Sees Rise of U.S.-Style Anti-Abortion Tactics

CNN: Conservative leader Tony Perkins agrees to visit home of married gay couple for first time

Monday, May 28, 2012

Is Mike Bickle a Feminist?

On Mother's Day earlier this month, IHOP's Mike Bickle gave a talk entitled "The Incredible Worth of a Woman." As I listened to his talk online, I was startled by how progressive his message sounded. Having observed the Religious Right for some time, I'd come to expect sexism from male voices, but Bickle's message of respect for women was unexpected. As I listened to the rest of his talk, however, I found that Bickle's attitudes toward women were a mixed bag.

Bickle began the talk by describing a prophesy he'd had one night while sleeping. In the story, he woke from a sound sleep and prophesied to himself about the "worth of a woman." Bickle explained to the audience that the Lord will establish honor for women before his return, which will be connected to the glory of the church as a whole. Men are to honor their wives, lest they discover obstacles to their prayers.

As he talked, Bickle showed surprising sensitivity toward women's oppression. Throughout history, women have been a dedicated workforce in the church, but their contributions have been largely ignored by male historians, he said. Satan tries to undermine women's honor through the sexual objectification of women, the abuse of women's labor, and the proliferation of sexist stereotypes. Unfortunately, both sexes believe Satan's lies about women, Bickle told listeners.

I nearly fell out of my chair. A New Apostolic Reformation leader? Calling sexism evil? Acknowledging the unfair treatment that women have endured over history? WHAT IS GOING ON!? I didn't know whether to applaud or faint.

Bickle urged listeners to treat women with honor. Honoring women involved "purity," meaning no inappropriate touching, innuendos, or jokes at women's expense, he explained. It also entailed respect for the "full function" of women, including women's service in spirit-informed leadership positions. The global prayer movement must honor women, he stressed, adding that machismo is not Biblical.

Outrage over Charles L. Worley's "Electrified Fence" Sermon

Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC is in hot water. Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate posted an excerpt from Worley's May 13th sermon, in which Worley said that he would never vote for a "baby killer and a homosexual-lover." Worley joked about fencing in gays and lesbians until they "die out."
"The Bible's against [homosexuality], God's against it, I'm against it, and if you've got any sense, you're against it ... I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn't get it past the Congress. Build a great big large fence, hundred, fifty or a hundred miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them, and you know what? In a few years, they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce."
After the video went viral, a firestorm erupted over Worley's homophobic statements. LGBT rights advocates and faith leaders alike have decried Worley's sermon, while members of his congregations have rushed to defend him.

Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, decried Worley's comments during an appearance on Anderson Cooper 360. (Hat tip to Truth Wins Out.)
"I see nothing Christian about it and nothing American about it ... It is about as contradictory to a religion based on love and acceptance and welcome as you could imagine, and it violates everything we understand about the Constitution and its affirmation of diversity and freedom for people to live out their identity."
Gaddy worried that hateful words could ignite violence among people with "sick minds."
"In one fell swoop, this angry minister managed to discredit from his pulpit both the Constitution of the United States and the compassion that we find in the Bible. And additionally, he did a very dangerous thing by planting seeds of hatred in sick minds that, in the right circumstances, can act on them and do the kind of violence that has no place in our world."
A fellow Baptist also condemned Worley's hate. In a commentary at ABP News, Bill Leonard called Worley's comments "abhorrent" and "repugnant," grieving that his sermon "shame[d] the name Baptist and undercut the gospel itself."

LGBT rights advocates soundly criticized the sermon. Human Rights Campaign has created a petition slamming Worley's homophobic comments, which has gathered over 50,000 signatures. Additionally, the Hickory Daily Record reports that more than 2,000 pro-LGBT demonstrators protested against Worley's sermon in Newton, NC on May 27th. Unfortunately, a group of over 50 counter-protesters also held signs mocking "Sodomites" and quoting anti-gay Bible passages. (Hat tip to Towleroad.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Speaker Cries at Watchmen on the Wall Briefing

Right Wing Watch has posted several videos of the Family Research Council's Watchmen on the Walls Pastors Briefing. One video from May 24th featured Jesse Connors from TrueLife[dot]org, who wept while promoting an evangelization tool targeting gays who are "struggling with homosexuality." Presented without comment.

News Tidbits

ABC News: Ephren Taylor Accused of $11 Million Christian Ponzi Scheme by SEC

Philadelphia Inquirer: A camp for sports and avoiding gay sex

Huffington Post: Planned Parenthood In Pennsylvania May Be Defunded

Edge Boston: Watchdog Group Goes After Anti-Obama Pastor in Kentucky

NPR: Spitzer's Apology Changes 'Ex-Gay' Debate

St. Cloud Times: Minnesota: Catholics support LGBTs at rally against amendment

Ms. Magazine: 12 Lawsuits Filed by 43 Catholic Institutions Over Contraception Mandate

Talking Points Memo: Fallen Televangelist Jim Bakker Now Hawking Apocalyptic Survivalist Gear On The Web

New York Times: Romney’s Faith, Silent but Deep

Gaystar News: Orthodox Christians attack gay parade in Georgia

Commentary Tidbits

Raw Story: Former Navy chaplain insists gay demons can infect animals

Towleroad: North Carolina Pastor Wants to Build Electrified Fence to Contain, Starve, and Ultimately Kill Gays

Washington Blade: Anderson Cooper takes on ‘put gays in cages’ pastor

Right Wing Watch: Ken Ham Explains How the Theory of Evolution Leads to Same-Sex Marriage

SPLC Intelligence Report: 30 New Activists Heading Up the Radical Right

The Way Forward: Why Evangelicals Fear Kurt Hummel

Buzzfeed: 40 Faces Of Homophobia Around The World

Salon: What killed social conservatism?

New York Times: Here Comes Nobody

Wall of Separation: Americans United Wins Preliminary Ruling In Delaware Prayer Lawsuit

Gawker: Our Father's Not in Heaven: The New Black Atheism

RH Reality Check: History Has Not Been Kind To The Exorcist

Truth Wins Out: Alveda King Is None Too Happy About The NAACP’s Marriage Equality Endorsement

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Lady Gaga in the Philippines

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

World-renown singer and LGBT rights advocate Lady Gaga is no stranger to controversy. Hits such as "Born This Way" celebrate the LGBT community, while song such as "Judas" play with Christian religious themes. Unfortunately, Lady Gaga's music and concert antics have earned her the ire of religious conservatives in Asia, now that her "Born This Way" world tour is in full swing. Muslim conservatives raged over a concert planned in Indonesia, and the authorities later denied Lady Gaga a permit for her Jakarta concert, according to the Guardian. Meanwhile, CBC News reports that Christians in South Korea condemned her music as "pornographic," "homosexual," and disrespectful toward religion. The Philippines have been no exception, with Catholic and evangelical Christian voices condemning her concerts.

According to CBS News, Filippino Christian groups protested Lady Gaga's upcoming concert in and around Manila over the weekend. The CBS article featured a photograph of protesters holding signs that read "LADY GAGA: THE ICON OF PERVERTED VALUES" and "LADY GAGA, JESUS LOVES YOU." The Associated Press estimates that 200 protesters marched against Lady Gaga in Manila.

An AFP video of a March 19th protest against Lady Gaga featured Orlando Cutaran, president of the Christian Professionals Evangelism Fellowship. An interpreter quoted Cutaran as such.
"She's a sinner too. We're giving her a chance. Instead of throwing tomatoes at her, we would wait for her to ask for forgiveness for what she's done. Once she has, everything's going to be all right."
Several Filippino political figures have weighed in on the controversy. GMA News reports that former Manila mayor Jose Atienza Jr. and attorney Romulo Macalintal called Lady Gaga's music "anti-Christian." The article states that Atienza and Macalintal wished to speak with Pasay City mayor Antonio Calixto so that they could urge him to ban Lady Gaga's concert. Other political figures are similarly incensed. Pink News quotes Manila mayor Alfredo S. Lim as saying "we should inculcate into the minds of the children and adolescents the benefits of healthy and normal living and discourage them from indulging in gay activities or becoming one."

One Catholic leader has loudly voiced his disgust over her music as well. ABS-CBS News reports that Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles lambasted Lady Gaga during a mass at the Shrine of Jesus, The Way, The Truth and The Life parish. The article quotes Arguelles as saying that Lady Gaga's music can "destroy the spirit of those who listen." He referred to the singer as Gaga, refusing to use the honorific "Lady" title. "We are here to pray for all those who have been instruments in bringing here in our country beloved by God, bringing here evil things, the evil that comes from outside," he said.

Evangelical Christians have also entered the fray. Prominent among Lady Gaga's detractors is Biblemode Youth Philippines, a Christian youth organization which hosts the annual Baptist Heritage Youth Convention. Biblemode Youth's Facebook page quotes a pastor named Reuben Abante who condemned Lady Gaga's "lewdness." (See www[dot]facebook[dot]com/biblemodeyouth)
"We have laws and ordinances against lewdness, nudity and the sort. But we have a system of government in the Philippines that when nobody stands to protest, the authorities will never act to implement such laws and ordinances.

In addition to being a Bishop and a Pastor, I am a Christian Filipino. As a Filipino, I stand to give a wake up call and a reminder to our government authorities to implement the country's laws and the ordinances. For all of Lady Gaga's lewdness and nudity in appearance, let her face the law of the land ... For all of what Lady Gaga declares and sings about the Lord Jesus Christ, I never expect the laws of the land to go against her. Who will? And for what the law of the land provides, as freedom, Lady Gaga thinks she can declare and sing how she wants about Jesus Christ without regard to Bible-believing, God-loving, Christ-honoring Christian Filipinos."
Abante's comments may refer to a Filippino law that punishes participants in "indecent shows" with up to six years in prison.

Protests notwithstanding, Pink News reports that Lady Gaga's Philippines concerts would take place on May 21st and 22nd as scheduled. Lady Gaga herself remains undaunted. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, during her May 21st concert at the Pasay Arena, Lady Gaga sang "Judas" and proclaimed, "I'm not a creature of your government, Manila". Her concert was well-attended, with tickets selling at high prices.

What are these Asian controversies really about? Why was Lady Gaga the target of so much anger? I suspect that these religious outcries are not so much about Lady Gaga as they are about the tensions within diverse world. As the world grows smaller, religious conservatives across the globe can no longer hide from religious and sexual diversity. Lady Gaga's concerts are a jarring reminder to fundamentalists that not everyone shares their religious beliefs or sexual attitudes. While Lady Gaga may have been an easy target because she is a foreigner, fundamentalists will soon learn that religious and sexual diversities within their own countries as well.

As the world transforms into a global village, we will encounter people of different religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Understanding how to live peacefully alongside other people is crucial now, but it is a lesson that some Asian and American fundamentalists alike need to learn.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Commentary Tidbits

The Maddow Blog: Mississippi lawmaker: Coat hanger abortions might come back. 'But hey...'

The Way Forward: No One is Good but God

Alternet: How the Christian Right's Homophobia Scares Away Religious Young People

Pandagon: In the battle between morality and faith, morality is winning

Religion Dispatches: Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves

RH Reality Check: Susan B. Anthony List Opens Anti-Guttmacher Research Center to Push Polls That Support Their Agenda

Box Turtle Bulletin: What Makes Paul Cameron Tick?

News Tidbits

CNN: In face of faith-based attacks, Obama campaign hires faith outreach director

Fox 23: "180" movie comparing abortion to the Holocaust shown to Wagoner students

American Independent: How the Family Foundation of Virginia kept a gay prosecutor off the bench

Los Angeles Times: Mississippi antiabortion activist's zeal born on church doorstep

Los Angeles Times: Rush Limbaugh enters Missouri hall of fame; not all are pleased

Washington Post: Washington’s Catholic archbishop, Georgetown president spar over graduation invitation to Kathleen Sebelius

Yahoo News: Catholic college to drop health care coverage as bishops threaten to sue over Obamacare

The Advocate: Boxer Manny Pacquiao Compares Marriage Equality to Sodom and Gomorrah

AOL Jobs: Baptist University's Anti-Gay Pledge Causes Faculty To Quit In Droves

Fox 40: Conservative Group Encourages Parents to Keep Kids Home from School on "Harvey Milk Day"

Talking Points Memo: Virginia GOPer Who Opposed Gay Judge: ‘Sodomy Is Not A Civil Right’

Edge Boston: ’Ex-Gay’ Group Accuses Maryland School System Head of Discrimination

Monday, May 14, 2012

Obama Supports Marriage Equality; Religious Right Mortified

May 9th was an intense day for same-sex marriage supporters. Days before on NBC's Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden said that he supported same-sex marriage. On May 9th, during an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, President Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage as well and admitted that his views were "evolving."

To hear the president and vice president support same-sex marriage was comforting to those striving for LGBT equality. The Obama administration's statements serve as another reminder that American society is moving forward on the issue of LGBT rights.

Unfortunately and predictably, the Religious Right was disgusted.

- In a May 9th commentary at the Concerned Women for America website, Penny Nance warned that the president should not called same-sex marriage opponents bigots. She complained that some LGBT voices are perfectly comfortable with "bullying" Christians due to their religious beliefs about marriage, and that an increasingly hostile environment toward the First Amendment has "poisoned our freedoms." (See www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=21161)

- In a May 9th press release, Family Research Council expressed disappointment with President Obama's support for marriage equality. FRC president Tony Perkins accused the president of undermining "the spirit if not the letter of the law" by taking measures in favor of LGBT rights. Perkins insisted that "redefining marriage" is not a mainstream idea in the U.S., citing North Carolina's recent vote on Amendment One. (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/pressrelease/obama-ends-hypocrisy-on-homosexual-unions-frc-criticizes-his-support-for-redefining-marriage)

- In a May 9th statement at the National Organization for Marriage website, NOM president Brian Brown accused President Obama of being "disingenuous" on the issue of gay marriage. Brown insisted that the Obama administration has tried to "dismantle" U.S. marriage laws it its refusal to support DOMA. He called President Obama an "activist politician" who is indebted to marriage equality advocates for campaign funds, and stressed that marriage is not an institution that can be changed "according to presidential whim." (See www[dot]nomblog[dot]com/22746/)

- In a May 9th statement at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, USCCB president Cardinal Timothy Dolan called President Obama's words "deeply saddening." Dolan wrote that Americans cannot remain silent "in the face of words or actions that would undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society." He accused the Obama administration of taking measures that ignore or undermine marriage. (See www[dot]usccb[dot]org/news/2012/cardinal-dolan-president-obama-remarks-on-marriage-deeply-saddening.cfm)

- In a May 10th blog post, Vision Forum president Doug Phillips was livid over President Obama's "legally protected justification for perversion." He claimed that the president's position on same-sex marriage was "publicly raising his first at the Heavens" and endangering the American people by supporting same-sex marriage. President Obama, he insisted, has turned marriage into "a convention of convenience for the children of Sodom" and thereby crossed a line. (See www[dot]visionforum[dot]com/news/blogs/doug/2012/05/10125/)

- In a May 10th statement at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, Franklin Graham lambasted President Obama for having "shaken his first" at God, who allegedly defined marriage as heterosexual. Graham insisted that marriage should not be defined by political figures, polls, or the media. (See www[dot]billygraham[dot]org/articlepage.asp?articleid=8673)

Let the Religious Right complain all it wants. LGBT equality is gaining momentum as more and more Americans recognize LGBT persons as human beings. Despite setbacks such as the Amendment One vote in North Carolina, same-sex marriage has much more support than it did in the past. Kudos for President Obama and Vice President Biden for supporting marriage equality!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sean Harris' Sermon About Punching "Effeminate" Boys Condemned

As discussed in a prior post, Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC drew condemnation for his comments about punching "effeminate" boys. Good As You posted an audio clip from one of Harris' sermons in which he told fathers to punch sons who act feminine and to scold daughters who act "butch." In the wake of the controversy, Harris has spoken publicly about his statements amidst criticism from secular and faith voices alike.

Following the firestorm over his sermon, Harris issued a retraction and participated in a filmed interview. On May 7th, blogger Justin Griffith of Rock Beyond Belief posted a video of his interview with Harris, which touched upon child discipline, political activism, and the impact of Harris' controversial sermon.

At the 1:44 mark, Harris tells Griffith that his church does not promote a violent environment for children.
"It's abundantly clear that we are not encouraging parents to beat their children. That is not the environment we have here. The statement that is on our website with regard to child discipline has been on that website for two years. That wasn't a statement that was manufactured in response to the incident. That is a defined paragraph to help parents understand their parental responsibilities."
During the interview, Harris stressed that he did not mean for parents to beat their children, admitting that he needs to be more mindful about what he says. However, at the 5:32 mark, he seemed to deflect attention away from his shocking sermon by suggesting that the audio clip was edited.
"I did not realize the degree to which someone could take a sermon, edit it any way they want, upload a portion up to the website, chop out the words that they don't like, and then present that to the world. I'd like to be more careful with my words, but I can't keep them from doing that in the future."
Harris was unwavering in his defense of traditional gender roles. At the 4:41 mark, Harris defended "gender distinctions" that were allegedly created by God, adding that fathers have a responsibility to foster "manhood" in their sons.
"I believe that the gender distinctions that God created must be affirmed in children. I do not believe that  children are allowed to pick a different sexual orientation for themselves. If they become adults and they want to act out that kind of behavior, that is their choice. All I was affirming is a father's responsibility to affirm and develop the manhood in their son. That's the extent of it, and with regard to the special dispensation, that was a joke. Yes, I was joking."
At the 9:29 mark, Griffith confronted Harris about his political advocacy for North Carolina's Amendment One, pointing out that Harris' church has pro-Amendment One signs above the bathroom urinals.
GRIFFITH: You're church is not a political action committee. I heard you say this.

HARRIS: That's correct.

GRIFFITH: Why do you have signs telling your members how to vote, even right at eye level at your urinals?

HARRIS: Oh, because we believe that this issue is not a political issue. We believe that this is a Bible issue. We're not endorsing any candidates. You didn't find that anywhere in the church, but this marriage amendment as far as we're concerned is a Bible issue, and so as the pastor of the church, I have a responsibility to instruct the congregation on that which I think is good for America and good for the state of North Carolina.
At his blog, Griffith admitted that some of Harris' statements about child discipline were "odd," and that Harris doesn't seem to think before speaking. (Hat tip to Unreasonable Faith.)

As Harris strives to defend himself in the public eye, other voices of faith are condemning his comments. For example, Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, executive director of Soulforce, penned a May 8th commentary on Sean Harris' tirade for Huffington Post. Love expressed disappointment that no mothers in Harris' audience said "no" to his hateful comments, noting that this may have been an effect of patriarchal norms in fundamentalist Christian circles. Harris' church, she observed, is part of the expanding Christian patriarchy movement which admonishes women to remain silent and submit to men. Christian fundamentalism and the Christian patriarchy movement have wronged both women and LGBT persons, thereby creating much suffering. Love urged mothers to "just say no" to homophobic rejection of their children.
"I would like to use this occasion to recommend a role reversal for any moms who are caught at the religious divide on this issue, or any home or church that espouses any part of its doctrine. Just say no ... Mother's Day can be a national coming-out day of love and reconciliation for families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning children. Claim it, moms (and dads)! Just say no to rejection."
During an appearance on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Rev. Dr. Cindi Love discussed the high ethical standards to which clergy are held. (Hat tip to Soulforce.)

"I think those of us who are ministers are called to a  really high ethical standard of what we speak to and about in our congregation. If I had heard those words and I were a young child, I would have felt that the perceived authority of my church, someone like my dad, was saying it was okay to punch or crack the wrist of another child who appeared to be effeminate ... Jesus wouldn't have preached that sermon. What was chilling to me was hearing the members of the congregation laugh and say 'amen' and really sort of be in concert with what the minister was saying."

Faithful America, an online community of believers devoted to addressing social issues, responded to Harris' sermon by creating an online petition that reads as follows.
"Faithful Christians are appalled by Pastor Sean Harris's hateful tirade urging violence against gay and lesbian youth. Violence and child abuse can never be justified by the teachings of Jesus Christ. All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, should be assured in church that they are beloved children of God."
The petition has already gathered over 14,000 signatures. (Hat tip to Gaystar News.)

People of faith are also reaching out to Harris' congregation. According to Huffington Post, Judson Baptist Church of New York, NY is creating "Cards of Hope" which will be mailed to Sunday school students at Berean Baptist Church. The article quotes Judson church school director Andy Frantz explaining that the project will allow the children to talk about discrimination and God's love.

Harris can apologize and backpedal all he wants, but the fact remains that his sermon was vicious, misogynist, and homophobic. His hateful rhetoric has left many people disgusted, including people of faith who reject bigotry and violent words. Kudos to everyone who is holding Harris accountable.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Judas, Intestines, and Cussing After Coupling (UPDATED)

Courtesy of Aksarbent, the following video features a colorful anti-gay rant against a proposed LGBT protection ordinance in Lincoln, Nebraska. Prepare for incoherent ramblings about gay Judas, Whitney Houston, and ruptured intestines. Yikes.

UPDATE: According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the woman in the video -- Jane Svoboda -- is a protected person living in an assisted living facility in Lincoln, Nebraska. The article quotes her brother and conservator, Patrick Svoboda, as lamenting society's disregard for people with mental illnesses.

In a May 14th post at Truth Wins Out, Evan Hurst explains that the video went viral not necessarily because of mental illness stigma, but because Ms. Svodoba's rant was so similar to those of prominent anti-gay activists.
"With all due respect and understanding to the situation her brother Patrick finds himself in, that rant didn’t go viral because people are insensitive to mental health issues [okay, yes, Americans are, but that's NOT why the video went viral]. It went viral because, in its content, it is no different than an anti-gay rant from Scott Lively in Uganda; from a vicious hate screed by Linda Harvey or Laurie Higgins; from an overcompensating anti-gay treatise by Matt Barber on how manly Matt Barber is; from a leathersex photo gallery and commentary posted by Peter LaBarbera; and of course, from a radio interview with disgraced, sad quack Paul Cameron. The remarkable thing about the video of Jane Svoboda in Nebraska was that her rant was, qualitatively, the exact same thing as the weird, prurient, deranged crap we deal with from America’s most notorious homophobes on a daily basis."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

North Carolina Approves Amendment One

On May 8th, North Carolina voters approved Amendment One, which would ban same-sex marriage in the state. According to CNN, 61% of North Carolina voters approved the amendment.

The amendment is controversial not only because it deals a blow to LGBT marriage equality in North Carolina, but because it will impact other protections for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. For example, according to a 2011 report by four legal experts from the University of North Carolina School of Law, Amendment One would not only eliminate domestic partner benefits offered by local governments, but potentially undermine domestic violence protections for unmarried partners and create problems for child custody and visitation. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper called Amendment One "unwise" and wrote that he would not vote for it. (Hat tip to Media Matters.) The full impact of this troubling amendment remains to be seen, but this remains an unfortunate turn of events for North Carolina's LGBT community.

As expected, anti-LGBT voices among the Religious Right are delighted with the outcome.

First, in a statement at its website, Vote for Marriage NC was jubilant over the vote. Chairwoman Tami Fitzgerald described opposite-sex marriage as a "sacred institution" created by God and thanked North Carolina voters for their support. Fitzgerald argued that the amendment will ensure that "the people" of North Carolina will define marriage instead of "an activist judge or future politicians." I wonder if she would feel the same about the will of the people if the Amendment One campaign had failed?  

Next, Concerned Women for America was delighted by the news. In a May 9th statement at the Concerned Women for America website, CWA CEO Penny Nance commended North Carolina Voters for supporting Amendment One. She repeated familiar claims that "traditional" marriage is defined by God and serves as the backbone of civilization.  

In a May 8th press release, Family Research Council applauded the election result. The press release quotes FRC president Tony Perkins as saying that "redefining marriage remains a losing position in mainstream American politics." He praised North Carolina religious leaders, the North Carolina Family Policy Council, and the North Carolina Values Coalition for their work against same-sex marriage. 

In a May 9th press release, Liberty Counsel praised North Carolina voters who disregarded "the elite media, Hollywood, and even the Obama Administration" in voting for Amendment One. Liberty Counsel chairman Matt Staver insisted same sex marriage is an alleged threat to religious liberty, insisting that the marriage equality movement seeks "dominance" rather than coexistence.  

In a May 8th blog post, the National Organization for Marriage expressed delight at the Amendment One results. NOM boasted about its role in the Amendment One campaign, noting that it contributed $425,000 to the cause and that NOM president Brian Brown held a role on the campaign's executive committee.  

Fortunately, supporters of LGBT rights remain undeterred, vowing to continue efforts toward LGBT equality. For instance, in a May 9th press statement, the Campaign for Southern Equality expressed its disappointment in the Amendment One vote. However, it quotes executive director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara as affirming that a growing number of people in North Carolina endorse LGBT rights. The press release announced that the organization will launch the next step of the WE DO Campaign, vowing to continue the struggle for LGBT equality.

In a May 9th blog post at the Human Rights Campaign website, Sharon Groves extended sympathy to the couples that will be harmed by Amendment One, stressing that the LGBT rights movement is still making progress. Groves approvingly described the advocacy work of pro-LGBT clergy in North Carolina, who are mobilizing for the struggle ahead.

Amnesty International called the Amendment One vote a "setback" for human rights in North Carolina. Susan Lee, Amnesty International Director for the Americans, said that banning same-sex marriage also impedes other rights, such as the right to housing and social security.

The Amendment One vote serves as a reminder that the Religious Right is well-funded, organized, and staunch in its resistance to LGBT equality. It also serves as a reminder that plenty of people in the U.S. still embrace anti-LGBT views, so the march toward progress still has a long way to go. However, pro-LGBT advocates remain undaunted, and many more opportunities lie ahead to improve the station of the American LGBT community.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Religion Dispatches: North Carolina’s Gay Marriage Ban: “It’s Going to Hurt the Church”

Telling Secrets: The Monster in North Carolina

Osbourne Ink: Morning Awful: North Carolina

Groping the Elephant: Fundamentalism Gives Religion A Bad Name

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: There will be another day for us to win

Commentary Tidbits

The New Civil Rights Movement: Report On NC Amendment One Shows What Politics-Fueled Anti-Gay Hate Looks Like

RH Reality Check: The Next Phase Of States Of Refuge: God Punishing Wyoming With "Evils" Because of Abortion

Talk to Action: Christian Right-Wing Multi-Billionaire Is Out to Frack Your World

Salon: Right-Wing Sexual Pathos

An Apostate's Chapel: The Progressive United Methodist's Dilemma

News Tidbits

Metro Weekly: House Committee Plans to Consider Measures Devised With Support of Anti-LGBT Groups, Email Shows

Xtra: Ontario religious groups blast GSAs at anti-bullying committee

NPR: Black Christians Struggle Over North Carolina Gay Marriage Ban

American Independent: The anti-abortion game of life

Herald Sun: Australia: Catholic Church says would-be brides are being too fussy

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jesse Lee Peterson's Breathtaking Misogyny

There's run-of-the-mill Religious Right stupidity, and then there's stupidity so breathtaking that you're left speechless.

Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering recently wrote a post on Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND). BOND, which counts Sean Hannity as an advisory board member and received praise from the Heritage Foundations's Rebecca Hagelin, aims for "rebuilding the family by rebuilding the man," according to its website. (See bondinfo[dot]org)

Peterson, a right-wing media commentator, has a long history of making controversial statements about President Obama and other African-Americans, as documented by Media Matters, Huffington Post, and Right Wing Watch.

On March 5th, Exploring Your Destiny with Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson featured a talk by Peterson entitled "How Women Are Building a Shameless Society." Peterson's talk oozed with hostility and condescension toward women, and his brazen misogyny surprised even me.

Peterson begins the video by lamenting the end of America, which he attributes to women attaining positions of power in society. He insisted that most women are illogical and incapable of making sensible decisions.
"I want to say goodbye to America. It's over. My America is gone. It's unfortunate, but it's over, and short of God intervening, I don't see any turnaround ... One of the primary reasons that it is over for America is women are taking over. Women are taking over. They're in high, so-called powerful positions. They're running companies, they're making decisions ... There are some, a few out there, logical women [who] can make sound decisions, but most cannot, and the unfortunate thing is that they're in powerful positions."  
Women, he claimed, are allegedly running wild and putting both their souls and offspring at risk. At the 5:40 mark, he had this to say.
"It's unfortunate that women are allowed--that men are so weak, they've been so intimidated, that that they allow these women to just run wild and screw up everything, including their souls and their children."
At the 7:17 mark, Peterson insisted that women allegedly panic or get angry when confronted with challenges, making them unsuitable for positions of authority.
"Another big mistake ... is to put women in power positions in businesses and jobs because they can't handle stress, they can't handle anything,. You walk up to them with an issue, they freak out right away. Especially if they can't get the problem resolved right away. I've seen it happen at airports, in banks, in the post office. Whenever issues go wrong, they go nuts, they get mad, they get upset, just like that. They have no patience because it's not in their nature."
Jesse, millions of women gracefully cope with stress every single day at work and home. Your statement is not only ugly, it's inaccurate. The world simply would not be able to function if most women behaved as Peterson claims. Also, raising children is far more stressful than many paid jobs, but strangely I don't hear Peterson discouraging women from raising their children.

At the 1:23 mark, Peterson claimed that women are incapable of handling power effectively, adding that men rarely made mistakes in the past when they held the reigns of power. (!)
"Women cannot handle power. It's not in them to handle power in the right way. They don't know what to do with it. And secondly, it's not real power anyway. Power that the world gives you is not power. It's all ego-building. Real and true power comes from God, and God is the one that gave man the power and authority over the wife and to spiritually guide the world ... And I realize that men made mistakes in the past, but most men did not make mistakes in the past, and when men were in charge, things were tougher, you know and more solid."
Really, Jesse? I'd say centuries of senseless wars, oppression, superstition, and ignorance in patriarchal societies throughout history were pretty big mistakes, dude. To boot, if worldly power (i.e., jobs, authority, autonomy) is just "ego-building," why is Patterson so eager to secure it for men?

At the 2:25 mark, Peterson ridiculed Sandra Fluke's testimony before the House Democrat Steering and Policy Committee in February. His description of Fluke's statement suggests that he did not actually listen to her testimony, but rather drew information from the likes of Rush Limbaugh.
"Women have been degraded ... They have no shame. There was a woman from Georgetown University ... She testified before a committee about condoms and birth control and all that kind of stuff, and and in her testimony, she said ... women need to be able to get free birth control, free condoms, and things like that ... This woman's standing there, testify about how much, all the sex they're having, and all that kind of stuff, and it's really all about maintaining the freedom to kill babies in the womb, because that's how this whole thing got started."
Stunningly, Peterson condemned female suffrage in 2012. At the 8:29 mark, he claimed that women should not have been allowed to vote because they vote for evil candidates.
"I think that one of the greatest mistakes that America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote. We should have never turned it over to women ... Right now, 50% of the voting population are women. Did you know that? There are more women out there voting than men now, because there are more women than men, and these women are voting in the wrong people. They're voting in people who are evil, who agrees [sic] with them, who are going to take us down this pathway of destruction. And this probably was the reason that they  didn't allow women to vote when men were men, because men in the good old days understood the nature of the woman. They were not afraid to deal with it, and they understood that [if] you let them take over, this is what will happen."
At the 10:17 mark, he claimed that women in power sow confusion, and that women are to blame for LGBT rights.
"Look at every place where a woman is in control ... most, you'll see nothing but confusion. There's no good in it at all, none. This is how homosexuality came to the forefront. Now they have this gay marriage thing coming to the forefront. It just blows my mind to see how evil is working its way through."
First, there's nothing wrong with LGBT equality. Second, there are plenty of workplaces, businesses, and governments with female leaders that are doing quite well. Peterson's sentiments suggest a man who has not or will not look at the world around him.

Progressive commentators wasted no time in lambasting Peterson's misogyny. Writing at Pharyngula, P. Z. Myers mocked Peterson mercilessly.
"This guy, Jesse Lee Peterson, is amazing. You listen to him, and notice that he’s incoherent and stupid, completely lacking in charisma, with a speaking style that makes you wonder if he’d been stunned with a hammer just before, and yet he’s got a ministry and a television show and is beloved of the Republican Party."
Vyckie Garrison insightfully observed that Peterson is not unique among Religious Right voices in his misogyny.
"Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson is not exceptionally extreme or outlandish in fundamentalist circles. What makes Peterson “edgy” is that he has the audacity to speak aloud what most right-wing men truly believe about women - the Reverend is aberrant only because he is outspoken enough to post his misogynist views on YouTube."
Peterson's hateful, retrograde, and just plain stupid pontification sounds like the rhetoric of a man from ancient times, rather than a man from 21st century America. His naked contempt for women and antipathy toward their sexuality, political rights, and careers suggest deep-seated hostility toward females. Sadly, I suspect that more than a few men in the Christian Patriarchy Movement think as Peterson does. Fortunately, many people recognize Peterson words as venomous and false, and refuse to live their lives that way.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pro-LGBT Advocates Condemn Scott Lively's Visit to Oklahoma City

On April 27-29, Draper Park Christian Church in Oklahoma City hosted anti-LGBT activist Scott Lively for a weekend of talks on the so-called gay agenda. The Draper Park website describes Lively's talks in blatantly anti-LGBT language : "THE L.G.B.T. LONG CON – Its mission to neutralize Bible-based Christianity; how it’s been done before & is succeeding now; & what you must do about it." (See draperparkokc[dot]org/index.php/exposing-the-long-con-of-the-gay-lesbian-agenda/)

Scott Lively, founder of Abiding Truth Ministries and author of The Pink Swastika, is an American preacher with a long history of anti-LGBT activism, as documented by Right Wing Watch and Box Turtle Bulletin. Republic of Gilead has posted on Lively's disturbing rhetoric here and here.

Lively is one of several American Christian and anti-gay figures who promoted anti-gay sentiments in Uganda, a situation discussed in a 2010 report by the Advocate. In 2009, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer (a board member of "ex-gay" group Exodus International) spoke at an Ugandan conference on the "gay agenda", soon after which Ugandan MP David Bahati introduced a draconian anti-gay bill. Lively claimed that the bill was "a step in the right direction". In an interview with Vanguard correspondent Mariana von Zeller, he claimed that he helped start the so-called "pro-family" movement in Uganda. Lively's activism earned him the ire of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the country's most prominent LGBT advocacy organization. On March 14th, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda.

Other advocacy groups have condemned Lively's anti-gay crusade. Human Rights Watch nominated Lively for its 2011 "Homophobia Hall of Shame", and the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Abiding Truth Ministries a hate group.

The Cimmaron Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group in central Oklahoma, immediately took notice. In an online statement, Cimmaron Alliance executive director Scott Hamilton described Lively as a "holocaust-revisionist of the worst order" and expressed dismay at his Draper Park speaking engagement.

Oklahoma, Inside Out, the broadcast of the Cimmaron Alliance, hosted a panel discussion on April 28th in response to Lively's Oklahoma visit. The discussion, entitled "Speaking Only the Truth" took place at the Church of the Open Arms in Oklahoma City. The panel included Cimmaron Alliance executive director Scott Hamilton, Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen, reparative therapy survivor Pastor Neil Spurgeon, and Respect Diversity Foundation founder Michael Kornblitt.

News Tidbits

The Australian: Christians fear gay marriage will create 'motherless' children

Edge Boston: One Million Moms Attacks JC Penney, This Time Over Lesbian Couple in Ad

New York Times: TBN Fight Offers Glimpse Inside Lavish TV Ministry

Women's eNews: Pro-Choice Faith Group Goes Beyond Roe V. Wade

Commentary Tidbits

Dad's Primal Scream: Mormon Architecture

Exercise in Futility: Oh Lordy Lord! Think of the Children!

The Christian Left: Jesus: The Original Liberal

The Way Forward: Why Would Any Woman Want to be a Christian?

Why I Left Christianity: Random Thoughts on Attack of the Theocrats!

Truth Wins Out: Is Grandview, Missouri The Next Colorado Springs?

Ex-Gay Watch: Exodus Cancels Next ‘Love Won Out’ Conference Due to Lack of Interest

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Charismatics, Collective Ecstacy, and the Penguin

This 2010 clip from The Young Turks on Current TV features a segment from the late Kenneth Hagin's ecstatic worship gatherings. Gatherings like this serve as a reminder of the power of charismatic leaders and collective irrationality.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

North Carolina Pastor Tells Parents to Punch Effeminate Boys

On Tuesday, Good As You shared an audio excerpt from last week's "Marriage Sunday," a faith even sponsored by Vote For Marriage NC in opposition to same-sex marriage. The event comes before a May 8th vote on Amendment One, the so-called North Carolina Marriage Protection Amendment which would ban same-sex marriage. 

The audio segment features Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC, telling parents to punch sons who act effeminate and force "butch" daughters to act stereotypically feminine.
"So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he's four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, 'Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, cause that's what boys do,' you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.

Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up! Give him a good punch, okay? You're not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male. And when your daughter starts acting too butch, you reign her in, and you say, 'Oh no, oh no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.'

You say, “Can I take charge like that as a parent?” Yeah, you can. You are authorized. I just gave you a special dispensation this morning to do that."
The viciousness of the message, combined with Harris' loud, overbearing voice, made the excerpt difficult for me to listen to. What shocked me even more was that members of the audience were laughing and saying "Amen" during the sermon.

According to a May 2nd article in the Fayetteville Observer, Harris insisted that he does not advocate violence against children and was joking when he made those comments. Nevertheless, he stressed that "effeminate behavior is ungodly." At his personal blog, Harris insisted that his words were being "completely taken out of context by those in the LGBT community." He stressed that he does not believe violence is capable of "fixing effeminate behavior or homosexual behavior," and that parents should not punch babies or children. Only Jesus, he wrote, can "deliver" people from homosexuality and effeminacy. "The opposition is revealing their complete lack of toleration toward those do not approve of the LGBT lifestyle or agenda," he concluded. In short, Harris backed off from his statements about violence, but not from his disapproval of homosexuality or of males who don't act stereotypically masculine enough for him.

Let me get this straight. Joking (allegedly) about punching little boys and cracking their wrists? Oops, so sorry. Expressing horror at such statements? Oh, that's a "complete lack of toleration." Huh!?

Also on May 2nd, Harris issued an official statement of retraction, admitting that he should not have made comments about "cracking," "punching," and "special dispensation." He apologized to anyone he may have offended and claimed that he did not saying anything to intentionally offend the LGBT community. Harris insisted that he never suggested that children or people in the "LGBT lifestyle" should be physically or psychologically abused. (Listen to his sermon and decide for yourselves.) However, he still referred to homosexuality as an abomination and form of sexual immorality. The retraction, he stressed, should not be construed as an apology for his views on marriage.

Radio host David Pakman condemned Harris' statements on a recent edition of his show. He called Berean Baptist Church and threw Harris' comments back at them, which was absolutely priceless. (Hat tip to Truth Wins Out.)

Harris' comments sickened me. Not only did his sermon reek of homophobia and misogyny, but his "joke" about brutalizing boys who don't fit his masculine ideal was repugnant. Why on earth would anyone joke about punching children? What's wrong with allowing children to be themselves? What's wrong with acknowledging that there are many healthy ways to be a boy or a girl? Why do girls necessarily have to be attractive to others? What is this thing Harris has against "effeminancy"? Why are traits associated with females so abhorrent to Harris that he would joke about literally beating them out of boys? 

His lukewarm apology notwithstanding, Harris was out of line, whether he was joking or not. His statements suggest a worldview in which heterosexism is the rule, children are shoehorned into rigid gender roles, and people who deviate from antiquated stereotypes are targets of scorn.

The pastor says that he was joking, but I'm not laughing.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Think Progress: Amendment One Pastor: 'Crack' Your Four-Year-Old Son's Limp Wrist

The Advocate: Hateful Pastor Sean Harris Thinks Effeminate Children Are Ungodly

Box Turtle Bulletin: NC Pastor: Gay Kids Just Need a Good Punch

Good As You: I Proudly, Unapologetically Reject Sean Harris' Non-Apology