Wednesday, August 29, 2012

News Tidbits

BBC News: The curious allure of child preachers

Chicago Tribune: California lawmakers vote to ban gay 'conversion' therapy for minors

New York Times: After Gay Son’s Suicide, Mother Finds Blame in Herself and in Her Church

Washington Post: Baptist leader stands his political ground on Todd Akin’s campaign

CBS 21: Republican challenging Sen. Casey compares having child out of wedlock to rape

Edge Boston: Washington State: Catholic Churches Can’t Collect Donations to Overturn Gay Marriage Law

Pink News: Prop 8 contributor and church youth leader indicted on child abuse charges

Commentary Tidbits

The Fix: Drying Out With Jesus

Religion Dispatches: “Mass Graves, Child Soldiers” and a Crusading Army of International Evangelists -- A Report from Northern Uganda

Talk to Action: Todd Akin Defended by Religious Right Leaders Including Some Who Support Execution for Abortion

Mother Jones: At Anti-Abortion Bash, Todd Akin Is a Hero

U.S. News and World Report: Romney's Roster of Catholic Supporters Leaves Evangelicals Cold

SPLC Hatewatch: Conspiracy Theorists: Isaac Caused by God, Gov’t, or Maybe Chemtrails

Truth Wins Out: Fringe Catholic Sect in Mexico Says Virgin Mary Opposes Public Schools

No Longer Quivering: The Natural Use of a Woman: Jim Bob Duggar says, “It’s fun trying” for Baby #20

Media Matters: Undercover At NOM's Anti-Gay Student Conference

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Exodus International Equipping Event: A Short Intro to Exodus

(To read part I, click here. To read part II, click here. To read part III, click here.)

Today, I attended an all-day ministry equipping event hosted by Exodus International at the West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, PA. Exodus equipping events are meant to teach religious leaders, educators, counselors, and other figures how to respond to people dealing with "unwanted same-sex attraction." The event comes before Exodus International's next Love Won Out conference, scheduled for the same location on September 22nd. (See exodusinternational[dot]org/exodus-events/exodus-equipping-events/)

Before I describe the equipping event itself, I'd live to provide some background on Exodus International, especially in light of executive director Alan Chambers' recent public rejection of conversion therapy. Exodus International is a Christian ex-gay organization with numerous ministries under its aegis. The organization claims to help people "struggling" with "same-sex attraction," and it frames homosexuality as diametrically opposed to Christian faith. As of late, Exodus has rejected the idea that people can be "cured" of homosexuality, although the language I heard at the equipping event insisted that faith in Christ can "transform" people with same-sex attraction and help them transcend their old lives. Exodus looks askance at queer theology and LGBTQ-affirming churches. Until 2010, the organization supported the so-called Day of Truth, a nationwide event meant to counter the pro-LGBTQ Day of Silence.

Exodus International's approach to LGBTQ persons has come under scrutiny for a long time. Several high-profile controversies, including the defections of Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper and the downfall of John Paulk, have given LGBTQ activists plenty of fodder for questioning Exodus' efficacy. Former Exodus leaders Michael Bussee, Darlene Bogle, and Jeremy Marks have since issued a public apology for the harm they committed. .In 2011, Exodus' iPhone app was pulled by Apple after thousands of people signed a petition opposing the app.  Progressive blogs such as Right Wing Watch,  Truth Wins Out, Good As You, and Ex-Gay Watch have meticulously documented Exodus International's homophobia and inconsistencies. Survivors of ex-gay programs such as Peter Toscano have blasted Exodus for the destructive impact they have had on LGBTQ people's lives.

Exodus International has received attention from the media and blogosphere due to recent statements by Alan Chambers. According to a July 6th article in the New York Times, Alan Chambers contradicted several core beliefs of the ex-gay movement at the 2012 Exodus annual meeting. Chambers reportedly said that there was no cure for homosexuality, adding that reparative therapy could even cause harm. In a phone interview with the New York Times, Chambers reportedly said that almost every "ex-gay" person he had met still retains homosexual feelings, adding that gay Christians face a "lifelong spiritual battle" against sin. However, Chambers did not condone homosexuality, stressing that “I believe that any sexual expression outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful according to the Bible."

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

During a July 9th interview with MSNBC's Hardball, Chambers said that Exodus International's focus is changing. (Hat tip to Human Rights Campaign.) He cast doubt on the efficacy of conversion therapy in making people straight.
"So much of that type of technique and therapy is focused on changing attraction or changing temptation when I don't find that there's a  Biblical reality that says people will necessarily change their temptations or  change their struggles."
Chambers admitted that he still has "same-sex attractions" but insists that "I still hold to a Biblical sexual ethic where homosexuality and other forms of sexuality are concerned." When bluntly asked if people can "pray away the gay," he called the phrase a "lazy stereotype" that ignores the complexity of sexuality. He insisted that his chief attraction is to his wife, rejecting the idea that he is trapped in their marriage.
"I'm not trapped in that marriage. I married my wife fifteen years ago because I was in love with her. I remain in love with her today."
Last year, Our America with Lisa Ling on the OWN network explored the world of "ex-gay" therapy and featured an interview with Chambers. Lisa Ling conducted a follow-up interview with Chambers during the August 21st edition of Our America with Lisa Ling, during which he made similar statements (see above). Again, Chambers cast doubt on the efficacy of conversion therapy.
"The vast majority of people that I've met would say that there is some level of struggle or temptation or attraction that's resident there, whether it's a little or a lot, and I don't know whether someone can say that therapy changes that."
When Ling asked Chambers about his own sexuality, he replied, "Am I heterosexual? I don't know. I'm not gay. I have Leslie attractions." He admitted to feeling attracted to members of his own sex but stressed that he loved and desired his wife Leslie.
"I have to be honest and say of course I have temptations. Of course I have attractions related the same sex, but for over fifteen years since I've been in relationship with Leslie, my attraction has been towards her."
Chambers argued that Jesus does not promise to make Christians straight, and that the Christian community has a lot of work to do with regard to connecting with diverse populations.
"Jesus didn't say 'come to me and I'll make you straight.' He said, 'Come to me." We need to do a better job in the church of supporting people who might not fit with our religious worldview as Christians."
The Exodus International controversy has caused deep rifts in the so-called "ex-gay" community. Multiple "ex-gay" ministries have broken ties with Exodus over Chambers' new position, as documented by Ex-Gay Watch. The New York Times reports that Desert Stream Ministries abandoned their partnership with Exodus earlier this year. Desert Stream Ministry founder Andrew Comiskey was quoted as condemning Chambers for his "appeasement of practicing homosexuals who claim to be Christian." First Stone Ministry also terminated its partnership with Exodus, according to a statement on their website. (See www[dot]firststone[dot]org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=348&Itemid=604) Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) accused Exodus of "openly supporting sodomy rights in foreign countries which do not legally recognize sodomy," a reference to the forced resignation of Exodus board member Dennis Jernigan, a supporter of anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica. (See www[dot]pfox[dot]org/Has-Exodus-evolved-Obama.html)

Some LGBTQ activists remain doubtful of Chambers' intentions. For example, in a June 27th commentary, Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out warns observers not to take Chambers' change of heart at face value. He reminds readers that Chambers and Exodus International have a long history of homophobia.
"...[I]t is critical remember that Alan Chambers has traditionally been an oleaginous fellow who tends to pander to various audiences and tailors his shifty message to please the crowd or reporter he’s with. This has led to a career of wild inconsistency, semantic back flips, duplicitous double talk, and the widely held belief that Chambers’ word can’t be trusted ... Despite saying how much he loves LGBT people, Chambers has produced shameful and mean-spirited propaganda while at Exodus. The group’s cable television program repeatedly referred to gay LGBT individuals as sexually broken, perverse, and seemed to imply that homosexuality was of “the enemy.”"
Besen recognizes that Exodus' new rhetoric has come under fire from other "ex-gay" organizations because it undermines their facade.
"There are many “ex-gay” activists and reparative therapists who have a vested interest in keeping the scam alive. Some have profited handsomely by engaging in consumer fraud and promising a miracle cure that does not exist. Others have desperately held on to the lie that they have overcome homosexuality for ideological reasons. Exodus’ alleged new direction is a direct threat to these charlatans and zealots who now see Chambers as a heretic selling out their cause."
Chamber's change of heart, lukewarm as it might be, does not erase his long history of unhealthy messages about LGBTQ sexuality. Nor does it mean that Exodus International's ongoing message is any less homophobic. As I will demonstrate in upcoming posts, today's equipping event may have avoided claims that homosexuals can be turned straight, but its homophobic rhetoric was deeply problematic nonetheless.

Survivors of so-called "ex-gay" therapy can find help through Beyond Ex-Gay. For additional commentary, visit the following links.

RH Reality Check: Exodus International Won’t Practice Conversion Therapy Anymore but That Doesn’t Mean It’s Accepting of Same-Sex Relationships

Religion Dispatches: Is Change Possible? Shifting the Ex-Gay Question

Peterson Toscano's A Musings: Exodus sets the record straight–We don’t provide an ex-gay cure!

John Shore: As Exodus’s Alan “Pray Away the Gay” Chambers ties his tongue in a knot...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Religious Right Around the Globe: South Africa's Errol Naidoo

A recent article in Pink News focused on a South African Religious Right figure named Errol Naidoo, former pastor of His People Church in Tokai and the head of a right-wing think tank called Family Policy Institute. In an August 22nd essay at the FPI website, Naidoo ranted against abortion, LGBTQs, and "radical feminist activists," whom he blamed for a "culture of death" in South Africa. He hinted that this so-called culture of death was at the root of "callousness" toward human life in the "national psyche" that gave rise to the Marikana tragedy. Naidoo's bombastic column reminds us that American Religious Right voices are not the only ones who blame catastrophes on groups they dislike (see here, here, and here).

I did a little research on Naidoo and FPI, and I found that not only do his positions bear a remarkable resemblance to those of his American counterparts, but that he also networks with global Religious Right leaders.

First, Naidoo uses rhetoric that bears a remarkable resemblance to American Religious Right language. According to its website, FPI "promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society." It claims to represent the allegedly shared valies of South African Christians in government and media. Like its Religious Right counterparts in the U.S., FPI sees heterosexual marriage and the family as the "foundation of civilization" and the cornerstone of moral virtue. Its rhetoric about "upholding marriage" between a man and a woman, defending the "sanctity of human life", safeguarding "religious liberty," and battling "judicial activism" sound very similar to the rhetoric of the American Religious Right.

FPI makes no attempt to hide its homophobia. In the "Issues" section of its website, FPI condemns homosexuality as a sin and a "depraved agenda." It quotes Ephesians 6:12 -- “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers ..." -- arguing that homosexuality is a spiritual pathology. Despite FPI's insistence that Christians must "love the homosexual but hate the sin," Pink News quotes Naidoo as telling a Nigeria newspaper, "I hate gays. It runs against God’s wishes." To boot, Naidoo and FPI have a history of anti-LGBTQ activism. Mamba Online reports that in 2010, Naidoo initiated a campaign against Cape Town's support of gay tourism.

Naidoo is also a staunch anti-abortion activist. The FPI website laments the "abortion holocaust," condemning South Africa's Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act. FPI bluntly denies that women have a choice whether or not to terminate pregnancies.
"Before a life is conceived in a woman’s womb she has a choice – whether to have a baby or not. But once the baby is conceived, she no longer has a choice – she has a baby."
His disdain for women's self-determination was apparent in a Joy Magazine commentary entitled "Shattering the Mould: The Misconceptions of Women's Liberation." Naidoo's column calls the women's movement a "failed social experiment", claiming that it has done nothing to decrease women's sexual exploitation. (One wonders if Naidoo actually bothered to research the many feminist activists and organizations combating prostitution and sex trafficking.) The column conflates 1960s feminism and the sexual revolution, blaming them for everything from family disintegration to unwed mothers on welfare to rising STD rates. Sound familiar?

Like other right-wing voices on the African continent, FPI attributes at least some "immorality" to foreign influences. In a 2011 essay entitled "Stop the Flood of Filth from Foreign Sewers!", Errol Naidoo lambasted "foreign based immorality" such as a Beechies ad campaign, which he condemned as celebrating drinking and casual sex. He also condemned other foreign products such  Playboy and GQ magazines.

Naidoo still speaks at his old church, His People Church in Tokai, where he promotes messages about godly government. In a January 15th talk* on governance, Naidoo told listeners that they must respect the government and obey laws that do not conflict with God's laws. For instance, believers must pay taxes and respect traffic laws. However, Naidoo asserted that "when the authorities tell you to sin against God, you can disobey."

Naidoo celebrated the Christian church as the pillar of truth in society, claiming that the church is responsible for bringing governments under Christ's authority. At the 11:30 mark, he claimed that nations lacking a Christian foundation are doomed to weaken.
"The church teaches mankind the law of God. Its role is to uphold God's word and bring all institutions of earthly government under Christ's sovereign rule ... The church is the pillar of a nation and it's also the ground. It lays the foundation of truth on which these godly institutions can stand, like family and marriage and civil government. You need a strong foundation of God's law for any nation to have a strong and firm foundation. If they don't have a strong and firm foundation of God's truth and God's word, that nation is in trouble. That nation begins to weaken. That nation begins to break down."
At the 16:20 mark, he rejected the idea that South Africa is a secular country, insisting that Christians strive toward godly government.
"Any thought, any policy, any idea, any suggestion in this nation that is not in line with God's word and his sovereign will for his nation--any one that speaks that, our responsibility is to pull it down, is to abolish it. Every lie that goes out there, the church of Jesus Christ is responsible because we are the trustees of the truth of God. So when somebody goes out there and says, 'Well, you know, we don't have to have laws that obey God's word. We're not a Christian country. We're a secular country, and we can decide what laws are right for us and what's not right for us. And we can say that when women get pregnant or young girls get pregnant, they can kill the baby whenever they want to. They can just walk into a clinic and the taxpayer must pay for that abortion, that's our law, and that works for us.' You see, That's a lie from the devil, and that lie and that idea is there to destroy humanity ... There's only two kinds of government. It's either of God or it's of the devil."
As I've noted before, Religious Right groups around the globe do network, and Naidoo is no exception. In a 2007 interview with Joy Magazine, Naidoo says that he was inspired to create FPI while attending the 2006 Values Voters Summit. The Values Voters Summit is an annual conference in Washington D.C. hosted by Family Research Council. Naidoo claims that God spoke to him about creating a South African organization that would give the Christian community there a voice in the public square.

Naidoo's global networking did not end with the Values Voters Summit. In a June 7th commentary, Naidoo describes his visit to the Sixth World Congress of Families, a conference that draws prominent Religious Right figures from around the globe (see here and here). Naidoo writes of his conversations with Sharon Slater of Family Watch International and Benjamin Bull of the Alliance Defense Fund. He even states that he spoke with Bull about the possibility of creating a South African chapter of Alliance Defense Fund.

Naidoo's homophobia, anti-abortion stance, and theocratic rhetoric are not only troubling for South Africans, but all too familiar for Americans. Errol Naidoo and the Family Policy Institute promote many of the same messages endorsed by the American Religious Right. And, they network with their American cousins, thereby helping Religious Right ideas circulate to global audiences. Religious Right watchdogs, take note.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Sour Grapes: So Who Is Erroll Naidoo?

Synapses: Errol Naidoo: High priest of hysteria

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: South African pastor blames mine massacre on gays

* To download Naidoo's sermon on governance, click here.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Commentary Tidbits

Politicus USA: Rick Warren Cancels Candidate-less Candidate Forum and Lies About Why

The Atlantic: 3 Interesting Moments From Dan Savage's Debate With a Gay Marriage Opponent

Think Progress: Focus on the Family Accuses GLSEN of Promoting "Sexual Anarchy" and "Sexual Chaos"

Salon: Is Christianity Pro-Choice?

The American Prospect: The Misogynist Elephant in the Convention Room

News Tidbits

CNN: Mexico cult eyes 'evil' secular schools

CNN: Akin assessing candidacy with conservatives in Florida

Washington Post: Akin’s agenda wins loyalty of Christian groups

Washington Post: Conservative groups release survey on religious hostility

The Advocate: Rick Warren Cancels Presidential Forum, Says Religion Is Being Suppressed

Pink News: Pro-life group say marriage equality could lead to an increase in abortions

Philadelphia Gay News: Complaints filed against Philadelphia therapists

Gaystar News: New Zealand Bishops anti-gay marriage call rejected by other clergy

Washington Blade: Family Research Council remains in federal charity program

Huffington Post: FRC Suspect May Have Targeted Traditional Values Coalition, Group Says

Huffington Post: Megachurch 'High' May Explain Their Success

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Akin's Rape Comments Trigger Avalanche of Condemnation

U.S. Representative Todd Akin (R-Missouri), a candidate running against Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race, is at the center of a media firestorm. On the August 19th edition of The Jaco Report on Fox 2, Akin made a shocking statement about rape and pregnancy. At the 4:07 mark of the above video, he had this to say.
"People always want to try and make [pregnancy from rape] as one of those things--well, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question? It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down, but let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
Akin later backpedaled on his statement, claiming that he made a "mistake" in an August 20th statement on his website.
“This weekend I made a mistake. I used the wrong words in the wrong way. What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong and for that I apologize. I’m a dad of two daughters and I want tough justice for sexual predators and I’ve always had a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault."
Akin also apologized in an August 21st video, admitting that rape can lead to pregnancy. He discussed the controversy on the August 20th edition of The Mike Huckabee Show, during which Huckabee said, "Yet even from those horrible, horrible tragedies of rape, which are inexcusable and indefensible, life has come and sometimes, you know, those people are able to do extraordinary things.” Despite widespread criticism and calls for him to exit the race, Akin refuses to bow out of the Missouri Senate race.

Unfortunately, Akin is not the first political figure to make grossly inaccurate statements about rape and pregnancy. Figures such as Fay Boozman, Henry Aldridge, and Stephen Freind have made ridiculous claims that rape rarely if ever results in pregnancy, according to the New York Times. Research, however, says otherwise. Rape of adult women results in an average of 32,101 pregnancies each year. One study estimated that the national rate of pregnancy resulting from rape is 5% among victims ages 12-45. (1) Another study found that the per-incident rate of pregnancy resulting from rate was 6.42%, compared to 3.1% for consensual sex. (2) A 2005 study of women who sought protective orders revealed that 20% of respondents reported at least one rape-related pregnancy. (3) To boot, forcible impregnation of women during armed conflict is a well-documented strategy used by aggressors to demoralize conquered communities (see here, here, and here). Simply put, Akin and his ilk are wrong about rape-related pregnancy.

Akin's comments have drawn condemnation in the U.S. and abroad. Prominent leaders from the U.S. political scene have voiced their outrage. According to the Wall Street Journal, President Obama condemned the comments as "offensive," insisting that "rape is rape." The Washington Post reports that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Akin's comments "offensive and wrong," urging his fellow Republican to drop out of the Senate race. National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Sen. John Cornyn issued a statement urging Akin to carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service.” Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer called the comments "inappropriate" and urged Akin to remove himself from the race, reports ABC News. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) lambasted Akin's remarks as "outrageous, inappropriate and wrong." Finally, conservative PAC American Crossroads told ABC News that they will not spend money on Akin's Missouri campaign.

Even some voices from the anti-abortion movement have expressed disapproval of Akin's statement. In a press release posted at Christian Newswire, Christian Defense Coalition director Patrick Mahoney referred to Akin's use of the term "legitimate rape" as "offensive, repugnant and troubling." Mahoney pressed Akin to accept responsibility for his statements by exiting the Missouri Senate race. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

Progressive commentators have much to say about Akin's disgusting comments, speculating that his anti-abortion stance and Presbyterian theological background contributed to his views on rape. Others have discussed the controversy against the backdrop of right-wing attitudes about sex and reproduction. For instance, the Daily Beast profiled Dr. John Willke, the president of the anti-abortion Life Issues Institute whose 1999 essay claimed that rape-related pregnancy is rare (more on Willke here). At Love, Joy, Feminism, Libby Anne looked at Akin's remarks through the lens of conservative sexual ethics, arguing that such ethics ignore issues of consent.

In a commentary at the Washington Post, Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite of the Center for American Progress called Akin's apology "cheap grace," raising doubts about his sincerity. "Sorry doesn’t get it done when what you really mean is ‘please make this controversy go away," she wrote.

Feminist activist and Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler penned a hard-hitting open letter to Akin (trigger warning). Ensler wrote that Akin's comments left her "reeling" and claimed that they offered "a window into the psyche of the GOP."
"You used the expression "legitimate" rape as if to imply there were such a thing as "illegitimate" rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape ... Why don't you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction."
In a commentary published in the Guardian, Amanda Marcotte called Akin's rape comments a "witch doctor act," framing them in the context of right-wing pseudoscience about abortion and contraception.
"Anti-abortion Christians are well trained in the art of substituting wishful thinking for facts, and then aggressively promoting their made-up nonsense as if it were historical or biological truth. It starts with their rock solid belief that Jesus Christ wanted banning abortion to be a priority, despite never once even mentioning the issue. It shouldn't be surprising that those who make stuff up about their Lord and Savior would easily leap straight to spinning nonsense about the female reproductive system."
Blogger Ashley F. Miller sees Akin's comments as a reflection of right-wing Christian theodicy. Miller argues that Christians who believe in a good God cannot accept that their deity would allow unjust suffering (i.e., pregnancy from rape), so they quell their inner dissonance by blaming victims instead of God.
"The problem of evil in the world is nothing new, but it is much easier to ignore if you blame all bad things on bad actions on the part of victims rather than societal problems or true injustice.  It would be too cruel for someone to get pregnant from a rape, so she must have not been raped, not really raped, only kind of raped.  They aren’t saying these things to justify their positions, they genuinely believe them because not to would be so difficult to all of their other beliefs.

There can’t be systematic injustice — God wouldn’t allow it, so women and black people and poor people are all simply reaping what they’ve sewn or playing their appropriate role, not being hurt by unnecessary prejudice and cruelty.  Women can’t be raped, they are always asking for it.  People on welfare must be bad people, that’s why they deserve to be poor."
What Akin said was disgusting. His apology notwithstanding, Akin's comments were revealing about his attitudes toward women, abortion, and sexual violence. By making grossly inaccurate claims about rape-related pregnancy, Akin revealed his ignorance regarding medical science. By labeling some rapes as "legitimate," he implied that other rapes are "illegitimate" and therefore not worthy of the same consideration. By frowning on abortion in cases of rape, he revealed a strident anti-choice stance that ignores the realities women face.

I say, let the condemnation come fast and hard. We need to remind Akin and his ilk that these attitudes are vile.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Washington Post: ‘Legitimate rape’ remark fuels women’s increasing skepticism about religion

Time: Rape, Abortion and the Dark History of Qualifying Violence Against Women

Alternet: The 8 Worst Things Republicans Have Said About Rape, Sex and Women's Bodies

Infidel753: The Party of Akin

Brilliant at Breakfast: Where's Woman?

Reason Being: Akin and the GOP on Women: Todd Akin Is Not a "Lone Wolf"

Murrmurrs: Vulvarine!

Ward Gossip: Mormons Rush in to Help Mitt's Campaign

(1) Holmes, M., Resnick, H.S., Kilpatrick D.G., & Best, C.L. (1996). Rape-related pregnancy: Estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 175, 320-325.

(2) Gottschall, J. A., & Gottschall, T. A. (2003). Are per-incident rape-pregnancy rates higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates? Human Nature, 14, 1-20.

(3) McFarlane, J., & Malecha, A. (2005). Sexual assault among intimates: Frequency, consequences, and treatments. Final report submitted to the National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Cameroon's "World Day Against Homosexuality"

The Cameroonian Youth Rally (Rassemblement de la Jeunesse Camerounaise or RJC) chose August 21st as Cameroon's "World Day Against Homosexuality". According to Gaystar News and Identity Kenya, August 21st marks the anniversary of the murder of Narcisse Olivier Djomo Pokam, whom the RJC alleged was murdered by gays in 2006. Identity Kenya quotes the RJC as defending its anti-gay stance as a reflection of “the law of the Republic of Cameroon, the Holy Bible, the need to preserve the human species."

Cameroon's Catholic archbishop has recently added fuel to Cameroon's homophobic fires. According to Bikyamasr, Archbishop of Yaoundé Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot claimed that homosexuality is “opposed to the idea of human reproduction” and “shameful, a disrespectful criticism of God who has chosen to create man and woman.”

Fortunately, observers have frowned on RJC's efforts. For example, LGBTQ rights group AllOut has called on Cameroon president Paul Biya to condemn the event and decriminalize homosexuality, according to Pink News.

76 Crimes quotes Jules Eloundou, president of Humanity First Cameroon, as casting doubt on the RJC's Biblical pretensions. “I doubt very much that this group’s spokesman is familiar with the Bible that he brandished as he described his fight against homosexuality,” Eloundou said, adding that RJC spokesman Sismondi Barlev Bidjocka “knows little about African cultures, the laws of the Republic and even less about homosexuality”. 76 Crimes also quotes Marc Lambert Lamba, a Humanity First Cameroon supporter, as saying that religion promotes peace and love, "not hatred, barbarism and war."

Gaystar News quotes Alice N'Kom, a pro-LGBTQ Cameroonian attorney, as arguing that homophobia does not reflect African values. "These anti-gay proponents say they are protecting our “traditional values.” But we want to tell them that hate and homophobia are not African values," she said. N'Kom has spoken out before against homophobia in Cameroon, lamenting the violence and imprisonment endured by gays or those suspected of being gay.

Sadly, this is not the first time the Cameroonian Youth Rally has promoted homophobia. According to Human Rights Watch, a representative of the RJC arrived with a group of men at an human rights workshop in Yaoundé in April. The workshop, organized by three groups -- Adolescents against AIDS, Association pour la Défense de Homosexuel-le-s, and Collective des Familles des Enfants Homosexuel-le-s -- was scheduled to discuss LGBTQ human rights. Human Rights Watch reports that the RJC representative demanded that attendees leave the meeting, after which police and civilian authorities dispersed those in attendance. Activist Stéphane Koche was arrested, detained for several hours, and eventually released without charge. Furthermore, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) reports that a Yaoundé gathering on May 19th to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia was met with vicious beatings and robberies by local thugs.

The RJC's "World Day Against Homosexuality" comes against a backdrop of virulent homophobia in Cameroon. According to Gaystar News, section 347 of Cameroon's penal code criminalizes same-sex sexual activity with prison terms and fines. Amnesty International lists Cameroon among countries with particularly egregious treatment of LGBTQ persons, while a 2010 Human Rights Watch report describes Cameroon's homophobic violence and persecution. IGLA has monitored arrests of LGBTQ persons in Cameroon and legal developments that further disadvantage LGBTQs.

"World Day Against Homosexuality", undergirded by a toxic interpretation of the Bible, serves as another reminder of the dangers of religious homophobia. Bigotry, fueled by religious fundamentalism, has heaped suffering onto Cameroon's LGBTQ community. As the Cameroonian LGBTQ community and its allies struggle for their human rights, we must remember that nothing short of worldwide equality for LGBTQ persons will do.

Monday, August 20, 2012

In the Heart of the Bible Belt

I'm posting this ... breathtaking ... video without comment. (Hat tip to Brilliant at Breakfast.)

GSA Supporters Versus Fundamentalists in Newville, PA

One of the ways that young LGBTQ people and their allies are finding a place in society is through the creation of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in American schools. I'd like to focus on a GSA in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley region as an example of LGBTQ progress, as well as Religious Right homophobia.

Big Springs High School in Newville, PA has been at the center of a controversy over the creation of a new GSA. A group of pro-LGBTQ students organized the high school's first GSA, spreading the word through a Facebook page entitled Bulldog Pride: Be On the Right Side of History.

According to the Carlisle Sentinel, Big Spring superintendent Richard Fry admitted that GSA organizers met all of the school district's requirements for starting a club (i.e., establishing a budget, adopting by-laws). If the school board denied the GSA's application, it would legally require the district to ban all of the high school's clubs, Fry warned.

On Monday, July 23rd, the Big Spring School Board addressed the matter at a public meeting, where several attendees condemned the GSA. The Carlisle Sentinel quotes a woman named Linda Bowles as calling the proposed GSA "another broke in the demoralization of America."
“It was the plan and intent of our founding fathers for Godly people, and thereby Godly principles, to be intimately involved in the political, judicial and educational realms. The founders believed that only the Godly would understand the unalienable freedoms provided by God and thus protect them in our government. They never intended for Christian principles to be divorced from public affairs ... People now believe that they have the right to pursue whatever makes them happy without consideration of divine moral laws that for centuries have defined right from wrong.”
Also at the meeting was Pastor Kevin Dunlap of Plainfield Church of God, who received permission from the board to say a prayer at the podium during the meeting's public comment period. According to the Carlisle Sentinel, Dunlap called homosexuality as a sin, warning that those who engage in homosexual behavior will be punished with death and separation of God.

The Big Spring School Board held another meeting on August 6th to decide the fate of the proposed GSA. The Newville Valley Times-Star reports that almost 300 GSA supporters attended a rally before the meeting, organized by Big Spring alumna Garrett Cline. Leaders of other regional GSAs attended the rally, as did Rev. Jean Kuebler of Big Spring United Lutheran Church, who led a prayer around the high school flagpole. Inside the school board meeting, Garret Cline lamented the crisis of homophobic bullying and LGBTQ teen suicides across the country, stressing the importance of the GSA. Other Big Spring alumni traveled from as far as Pittsburgh, PA and Brooklyn, NY to voice their support the GSA.

Fortunately, pro-LGBTQ voices won the day. On August 6th, the Big Springs School Board voted 4-3 in favor of fulfilling the GSA's application to be a school organization, drawing praise from GSA supporters and condemnation from detractors. Predictably, Religious Right voices in the community were unhappy with the decision. For example, a man named Paul Reese decried governmental "rebellion" against God at the 1:55 mark of this CBS 21 video.
"The role of government is to punish wrongdoers, those who violate God's law, and when government goes contrary to God's law, that said government is in rebellion against God."
An unidentified woman criticized the supposed LGBTQ "lifestyle" at the 0:48 mark, saying "And [Jesus] said 'go and sin no more.' He didn't say go and keep doing a willful lifestyle."

The Big Spring High School GSA victory is one of many struggles for progress taking place across the country. Each day, proponents of equality face off against Religious Right supporters on issues such as LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, education, and church-state separation. Struggles like these remind us of the pervasive presence of the Religious Right in our society, as well as growing support for a different, better vision of our world. In cities and small towns everywhere, the struggle continues.

Kudos to the Big Spring GSA supporters for all their work toward LGBTQ equality!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cindy Jacobs on Raising Children from the Dead

Remember the video in which Becky Fischer of Jesus Camp fame told a group of children in Singapore that they could raise the dead? New Apostolic Reformation preacher Cindy Jacobs recently made a similar claim.

On the August 6th edition of God Knows, Mike and Cindy Jacobs of Generals International talked about the power of spiritual devotion. The episode featured the usual New Apostolic Reformation rhetoric about "powers and principalities," spiritual warfare against Satan, and God's power. Amusingly, at the 22:54 mark, Cindy Jacobs attempted to raise a dead child from afar.
"The Bible says the same power is in us that raised Christ Jesus from the death. I see someone, you literally have had a child that just died. And I speak to the spirit of death in that child in the name of Jesus, and I command you to leave that child. I speak to the spirit of infirmity that caused the child's death and I say, live in Jesus name! LIVE! And I see a child coughing, waking up, oh! We saw that in Pakistan. We saw a little boy raised from the dead just like that. God is on the move."
At this point, I've heard so much kooky rhetoric from New Apostolic Reformation leaders that nothing shocks me anymore. I don't know if this statement was intended to stir the emotions of vulnerable listeners who had lost loved ones, or was just another example of the delusional thinking characteristic of the New Apostolic Reformation. Either way, it's unhealthy.

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. To watch the episode in question, visit vimeo[dot]com/channels/godknows#/channels/godknows/47041074)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Voices on the Left and Right Respond to FRC Shooting

As mentioned in a prior post, a gunman opened fire at Family Research Council headquarters in Washington D.C. this morning, injuring a security guard. A suspect is in custody, and the injured guard is receiving medical care, according to news reports. Voices from both the left and right have offered support to the FRC in the wake of the shooting, but unfortunately, some figures have already politicized the incident.

First, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation posted a joint statement issued by leaders of dozens of LGBTQ organizations, including GLSEN, Log Cabin Republicans, Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG National, and the Trevor Project.

"We were saddened to hear news of the shooting this morning at the offices of the Family Research Council. Our hearts go out to the shooting victim, his family, and his co-workers.

The motivation and circumstances behind today’s tragedy are still unknown, but regardless of what emerges as the reason for this shooting, we utterly reject and condemn such violence.  We wish for a swift and complete recovery for the victim of this terrible incident."

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, condemned the shooting and offered support to the FRC.
"In America we settle political differences through robust debate in the public square, not with violence. If the shooting is found to be politically motivated, it is a detestable act of cruelty and cowardice and the perpetrator should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. We stand squarely with the Family Research Council today and  offer them our full support and prayers."
Members of the progressive blogosphere condemned the violence as well. For example, Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars had this to say about the incident.
"The FRC is a terrible organization. I’ve spent the last decade — more, actually — working actively against them and I will continue to do so as long as they exist. But violence is not the answer and it is never justified in such situations. If we are going to criticize those on the right who use violence in the service of their political agenda — and we damn well do, and should — we must do the same thing when it’s done against those we disagree with as well."
Rob Tisinai at Box Turtle Bulletin praised the FRC security guard for his heroism in a dangerous situation.
"Details are scarce, but all reports indicate that FRC’s security team acted heroically under fire. I wish a speedy recovery to the guard who was shot and I hope he gets the recognition he deserves. The struggle for equality is a battle for hearts and minds; bloodshed has no place in the fight."
Jeremy Hooper at Good As You extended sympathy to the guard who was injured in Wednesday's shooting.
"I deplore violence. I hate guns. Mr. Johnson and all who were scarred by the incident (physically or emotionally) are in my thoughts.

The people who are already politicizing this need to stop."
Unfortunately, some voices from the right are already using the shooting as an opportunity to lash out at the left, particularly at the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling the FRC a hate group. For example, a CBN commentary asks "Did 'Hate Group' Label Stir FRC Shooting?"

Matt Barber, vice president of Liberty Counsel Action, wasted no time in joining the scuffle. Barber's twitter account features jabs at the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling the FRC a hate group. (Hat tip to Good As You. See twitter[dot]com/jmattbarber)
""Gay" activists & liberal groups should demand @SPLCenter retract its reckless "hate group" smear of #FRC & others to halt further bloodshed"

"Hey, @SPLCenter, the DC police chief hailed the wounded @FRCdc security guard a "hero." How can a hero work for a "hate group"?"
In an August 15th post at the National Organization for Marriage blog, NOM president Brian Brown insisted that the attack "is the clearest sign we've seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as 'hateful' must end." Brown used the shooting to demand that pro-LGBTQ groups stop using so-called "incendiary rhetoric." (See www[dot]nomblog[dot]com/27069/)
"For too long national gay rights groups have intentionally marginalized and ostracized pro-marriage groups and individuals by labeling them as 'hateful' and 'bigoted' -- such harmful and dangerous labels deserve no place in our civil society and NOM renews its call today for gay rights groups and the Southern Poverty Law Center to withdraw such incendiary rhetoric from a debate that involves millions of good Americans."
In a commentary piece at Life Site News, Kathleen Gilbert praised LGBTQ organizations for their swift condemnation of the shooting. However, she also accused LGBTQ leaders of demonizing right-wing groups such as FRC as evil.
"Yet these leaders bear much of the shame for hammering the message that opposing the redefinition of marriage means you “hate” certain people, and pushing the Southern Poverty Law Center’s classification of FRC as a “hate” group to rubberstamp this concept. A quick look around Twitter during the Chick-Fil-A controversy showed prominent LGBT voices, including the groups noted above, attacking pro-family groups in the most hyperbolic terms as hateful, bigoted, and downright evil - for supporting what even President Obama professed a few months ago: that marriage should be between a man and a woman."
In a blog post at the Bound4Life website, Matt Lockett wrote that the FRC has been "maliciously mislabeled" in the past by liberal groups and the media. He incorrectly stated that progressive organizations have said nothing in response to the shooting. (See
"Leftist organizations have labeled the FRC a “hate group,” and yet many of them have remained silent in light of today’s events. I am personal friends with Tony Perkins and many of the staff there, and I can confidently say that they have been maliciously mislabeled by both liberal organizations and the main stream media."
I find these jabs not only inappropriate, but nonsensical. The shooting does NOT somehow invalidate the rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons. Nor is the validity of the Southern Poverty Law Center's hate group designations the important issue here.

Enough. Let's focus on showing support for those affected by the shooting instead.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Shooting at the Family Research Council - ALL violence (physical and spiritual) must be condemned

Politicus USA: Atheists Condemn Family Research Council Shooting

Commentary Tidbits

The Telegraph:
Parents who believe in miracles 'torturing' dying children, doctors warn

News Tidbits

Shooting at Family Research Council Headquarters (UPDATED)

A gunman opened fire at Family Research Council headquarters this morning. The Washington Post quotes Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier as saying that the gunman walked into the FRC lobby at 10:45 a.m., where he was confronted by a security guard. ABC 7 News reports that the man then shot the security guard with a gun, after which the guard and several other people disarmed and restrained the shooter. Fox News reports that the gunman posed as an intern, then shot the guard after voicing disagreement with FRC's policy positions. Both sources report that the guard was conscious after the shooting and is receiving medical attention. (Hat tip to Box Turtle Bulletin.)

In a press release at the Family Research Council website, FRC president Tony Perkins stated that "Our first concern is with our colleague who was shot today.  Our concern is for him and his family." (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/newsroom/incident-at-frc-headquarters)

Readers, please keep the injured security guard and his loved ones in your thoughts. I'll keep an eye on the news to provide further information as it becomes available.

What happened at the FRC offices today was inexcusable and frightening. While many of us disagree with the FRC's stance, they did NOT deserve to be targets of violence. In a civilized society, we do NOT settle political disputes with savagery. I dare not imagine the damage the gunman could have caused if he had not been stopped, and I applaud the quick thinking of those who restrained him. Let's loudly condemn this senseless violent.

At the same time, worry churns in my stomach. I worry that unscrupulous people will use this incident for political ends. I worry that people will use the shooting as another excuse to demonize groups they dislike. I hope I'm wrong.

UPDATE: NBC News states that two law enforcement officials have identified the suspect as 28 year-old Floyd Corkins. The article also states that the gunman was carrying additional rounds of ammunition when he entered FRC headquarters this morning.

UPDATE II: The New York Times reports that Corkins was a volunteer at the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, according to the center's executive director. I fear that anti-LGBTQ voices may use this to politicize the incident, something I will discuss in my next post.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Adultery" Versus "Abuse" in the Schaap Scandal

Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana (an Independent Fundamental Baptist congregation), is at the center of a sexual misconduct scandal. According to NBC 5 Chicago, Schaap admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a teenager when the girl was 16 years old. Upon discovery of the misconduct, Schaap was dismissed by the Board of Deacons on July 30th. The FBI is investigating Schapp because he allegedly took the minor across state lines into Illinois, where the age of consent is 17, according to NBC News. A former member of First Baptist Church claimed that the controversy began when a deacon saw a provocative image of Schaap and the girl on Schapp's cell phone, reports CBS 2 Chicago.

Given Schaap's history of vicious misogyny, I"m not surprised that he would feel entitled to have sexual relations with a teenage girl. Makings the rounds around the blogosphere is a video excerpt from one of Schaap's sermons, dripping with macho narcissism and hatred of women. (See above)
"ABC News called me this week and said, 'We heard that you believe that men should be in charge of their wives.' I said, 'No sir, no sir, I didn't say that.' I said, 'God said that.' He said husbands are the head of the wife.' I said, "You got a problem with [what] I said? I'm quoting the Bible. Maybe you ought to take it up with God.' He said, 'Do you think that's appropriate?' I said, 'Son,' I says, 'Anything God says is appropriate, and you better get that straight right now.' I never apologize for standing where God stands ... The other day asked me, this reporter, he said, 'I heard that ... it'd be a cold day in hell before you get your theology from a woman.' He said, 'Don't you kind of think that's kind of demeaning to the genders?' I said, 'Ask Adam what he thought about getting his theology from a woman.' I said, 'It damned the whole world.' I said, 'The reason your sorry soul is going to hell is because a woman told Adam what God thinks about things."
Females, in Schaap's eyes, are pathetic, inferior beings of little consequence. Why am I not surprised that such a vile man felt entitled to use a teenage girl? Why am I not surprised at his indifference to the girl's boundaries and well-being?
"I wouldn't get my theology from a woman. I don't mind if mamma teaches the kids. I don't mind if a strong lady and a wise woman and a gracious godly woman follows [and] takes the lesson from the pastor ... I still believe it'd be a cold day in hell before I get my theology from a woman. I'm a preacher. It wasn't mamma called. Papa sent. No woman ever got me involved in ministry. I didn't follow a woman in the ministry. A woman didn't write this book. Not one woman wrote the scriptures right here. A man wrote the Bible, got it from God. A man hung on the cross. His name was Jesus Christ, and God called a man to lead the church here. HEEEY! I'm proud I'm a man!"
To boot, Schaap's 1994 book, Dating with a Purpose, is full of antediluvian gender stereotypes and outright sexism (see here for examples).

The Schaap scandal is an important opportunity to discuss clergy sexual abuse. The scandal invites discussion about the dangers of narcissistic religious leaders and misogynist institutions, as well as the importance of institutional accountability, bystander intervention, and prevention.

Unfortunately, the language surrounding the Schaap scandal may be an impediment to meaningful discussion. I'm intrigued by the language being used in the media to describe Schapp's sexual misconduct. Rather than calling Schaap's actions "sexual abuse," several news sources and blogs have referred to his misconduct as "sin," "adultery," or an "affair."
  • A press release on the First Baptist Church website states that Schaap was dismissed due to "a sin that has caused him to forfeit his right to be our pastor."
  • An August 3rd article at the Christian Post said that Schaap was dismissed from his post for an "alleged adulterous affair," while the headline for an August 1st article at the WGN TV website describes Schaap's misconduct as an "affair."
  • The Chicago Sun-Times cites Eddie Wilson, First Baptist Church director of public relations, in an August 1st article on Schaap's dismissal. According to Wilson, "adultery" is grounds for dismissal in church bylaws.
  • Blogs such as Joe.My.God have described the Schaap scandal as an "adulterous affair."
In order to have a constructive discussion about Schaap's misconduct, we need to call it by its correct name. This was not "adultery" or an "affair," which suggests sexual activity between consenting adults of equal or near-equal status. This was sexual abuse. A grown man abused his pastoral authority and had sexual contact with a minor. Regardless of the age of consent in his state, regardless of what specific acts occurred, the power inbalance inherent in his misconduct falls under sexual abuse, in my opinion.

Other observers have lamented the language surrounding this controversy as well. In an hard-hitting commentary at the Christian Post, Ed Stetzer condemns the use of the word "adultery" to describe the Schapp scandal. Schapp's sexual misconduct with a teenage girl was sexual abuse, he insists, involving abuse of power between an adult man and a teenage girl. He slams hairsplitting over the age of consent laws in Schapp's particular state, arguing that Schapp still victimized a minor.
"She is a child.

This is sexual abuse.

Stop calling it adultery and call it abuse. Act like men and speak up, Independent Fundamental Baptists.

This morning, I talked to one young leader in the movement who said, "Why is no one speaking up?" I agree. Those who justify enable more such scandals and endanger more children.

IFB friends, your movement has had way too many scandals, and many of you have expressed concern about such-- so speak up now. (There are plenty of lists of such scandals already.) Secrecy and circling the wagons breeds this kind of behavior and is destroying children and your movement. Your young pastors are leaving and your children are in danger."
Let's recognize the Schaap scandal for what is it: a case of an adult man abusing his power as a pastor and sexually abusing a teenage girl. Instead of serving as a trustworthy guide for his church, Schaap breached his congregation's trust and the trust of a minor. Let's reflect that reality in our language.

For commentary on the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists movement, check out Bruce Gerencser's insights at The Way Forward.

For additional commentary on the Schaap scandal itself, visit the following links.

Friendly Atheist: Christian Pastor Who Wrote a Hilarious Book About Dating Just Lost His Job. Guess Why?

Conservative Babylon: Jack Schaap: She Was 17; Church Bets On No Charges, Yet Criminal Investigation Ongoing

No Longer Quivering: Jack Schaap: Villain or Victim?