Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Retrospective

2013 was an active year for Republic of Gilead! As the year comes to a close, let's look back on news stories and events involving the Religious Right.

First, 2013 saw several major events impacting the American Religious Right:

  • Doug Phillips, a prominent leader in the Christian homeschooling and Christian Patriarchy movements, resigned from Vision Forum Ministries following his admission of an inappropriate romantic relationship. Shortly thereafter, Vision Forum Ministries announced that it was shutting down.
  • Ugandan parliament passed a draconian anti-gay bill in December that awaits President Museveni's signature. Progressive commentators have slammed the American Religious Right for promoting homophobia in Uganda before and after the introduction of the bill.

Throughout 2013, I observed several Religious Right events for Republic of Gilead:

  • In November, I observed the Truth Matters Apologetics Conference (featuring Sean McDowell) at Manheim Brethren in Christ Church in Manheim, PA. I plan to post commentary on the experience in early January 2014.

Fortunately, I also had the opportunity to attend some refreshing conferences devoted to social justice:

  • This spring, I attended the 2013 NFPRHA Conference in Alexandria, VA, where speakers and exhibitors championed reproductive rights.
 As a new year approaches, here's to keeping a wary eye on the Religious Right and applauding those who champion a better vision.

Commentary Tidbits

Typical Pastor's Kid: Someone Like Me

Liter 8: Reviewing Kevin Swanson’s Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West

Good As You: Duck Dynasty Takeaway: Stop Letting Anti-Gay Far-Right Set Up False Stakes, False 'Victims'

Warren Throckmorton: What Does The International Healing Foundation Do?

News Tidbits

Pew Research on Religion & Public Life: Public’s Views on Human Evolution

Mediaite: Franklin Graham: Pope Francis ‘Is Not the Judge’ on Homosexuality

Huffington Post: Alan Robertson Says Family Is 'Emboldened' By Duck Dynasty Supporters

Pink News: Ugandan central London High Commission to face protest over anti-gay law

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Observers Praise Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill

As discussed in an earlier post, Ugandan parliament announced on December 20th that it had passed a draconian anti-gay bill. The bill drew widespread criticism from Ugandan LGBTQ rights advocates, human rights organizations, and world leaders. However, the bill is also drawing praise from anti-gay observers, as well as some religious leaders inside Uganda.

In a recent news report by NTV Uganda (see above), several Christian religious leaders commended Ugandan parliament for approving the anti-gay bill. (Hat tip to Joe. My. God) After a holiday service at St. Paul's Cathedral in Namirembe, Bishop Wilberforce Luwalira told the media that he was pleased with the progress of the bill. At the 1:12 mark of the video, he had this to say.
"I add my voice to the rest of Ugandans who heard that the members of parliament--we are so firm on this bill and we are glad that they have done what we have been waiting for."
At the 1:46 mark, Pastor Raymond Ssekyanz hoped that Ugandan President Museveni would sign the anti-gay bill.
"We are resisting the homosexual [inaudible]. We are resisting all the evil things people want to do, and we are asking the president at least to sign that bill."
Former Ugandan prime minister Apolo Nsibambi expressed his disapproval of homosexuality and his approval of Bishop Luwalira's sentiments at the 2:08 mark.
"Homosexuality is a major problem, not only in this country but elsewhere, and consequences of homosexuality are grave. Many of our children are in terrible shape, so I support the bishop's position."

Other media sources reported on more Ugandan religious leaders praising the bill. Rev. Stanley Ntagalo, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, praised parliament for approving the anti-gay bill during a service at All Saints Church in Kampala. "I want to thank Parliament for passing the anti-homosexuality bill," he said, according to the Daily Monitor. He resisted the claim that the church rejects LGBTQ people, insisting that the church loves gays and wants them to find salvation.
"Can you imagine your son brings another man at home for introduction? ... The church preaches forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation. I do not want people to look at us and say the church is against the homosexuals. We love everybody. The homosexuals, and lesbians are all children of God but we want them to repent and have eternal life."
The Daily Monitor also reports that Bishop Andrew Mutengu, a pentecostal leader in Mbale, praised parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga for a "Christmas gift" in the form of the anti-gay bill. Kadaga, a supporter of the anti-gay bill, hoped to see the bill pass in late 2012 as a "Christmas gift" to the Ugandan people.
“She has given it to us by passing the homosexuality and pornography bills. We should now refocus our fight towards the rampant corruption, political intolerance, child sacrifice and abuse of human rights."
Stateside, several websites have posted a commentary piece in favor of the bill. LifeSite News and Catholic Online reprinted a commentary piece from Culture of Life Africa by Obianuju Ekeocha, in which she wrote warmly of legislation "that will protect traditional family values in their country". Even though the bill has upset many global observers ("some real powers and principalities in the developed world"), she applauded parliament for honoring "Christian values".
"The courageous Ugandan MP's have chosen to please God instead of men (or women!). And they have chosen to protect their citizens from the corrosive effects of moral decadence and unrestrained sexual lisence. They have voted their Christian values ... And on a day like this when a strong statement is made in Africa, their predictable response is always to tag Africans as "primitive", "hateful" and "homophobic" simply because we refuse to bow before the rainbow flag.

The colonial era is clearly behind us, and so our African leaders are free to decide how best to establish a civilisation of love and life where the African people can flourish. Just like everyone else, our leaders can see the bitter fruits of the ongoing sexual revolution in the West- death (through abortion), depopulation (through contraception), disease (sexually transmitted ones), divorce, depression and deconstruction of the family- all poisonous fruits that abound in Europe and America precisely as a result of a voracious sexual revolution which is growing out of control to accommodate every sexual perversion, whim and craving. Yes, our leaders have a right and even a duty to protect Africans from all that can hurt or destroy us and it is not "odious" to do so, neither is it apartheid!"
The commentary piece flaunted the dangerous stereotype of LGBTQ people as sexual predators. Ekeocha argued that Ugandan leaders are trying to protect children from pedophiles, praising the anti-gay bill as "a concrete step today to protect [children] from the clammy hands of sexual predators."

Like many other anti-LGBTQ activists, Ekeocha sneered at the alleged "homosexual agenda" which is supposedly riding roughshod over traditional values.
"Indeed, these Ugandan MP's have decidedly hoisted high the flags of virtue and values today even though they will surely come under unspeakable pressure in the days ahead. The "modern" world that we live in today is one of totalitarian commitment to the hegemonic homosexual agenda and in this hegemony, there is zero tolerance for anyone who believes in traditional moral values. The social engineers of this world are ready and willing to cut off, knock down or completely demolish the virtues that stand against their vision for their new world where sexual morality, marriage, motherhood, faith and family life are becoming redefined to embrace a more amorphous, fluid and "free" design. And everyone is expected to blend in, those who cannot blend in must bend, and those who cannot bend will surely be broken and burnt for good measure. In this way they have already broken so many. They have shut down businesses, closed down religious adoption services, terminated work contracts, sued dissidents, sacked workers, suspended movie stars, attacked churches, harassed Christian preachers, expelled students, threatened small businesses, punished big businesses , stifled free speech, taken away conscience rights and violated religious liberty. Yes, those who will not blend will bend , those who will not bend will be broken. "
Finally, not everyone praising the anti-gay bill heralds from Africa. According to Pink News and Gazeta, Polish MP Stanisław Pięta tweeted that the Ugandans are a "wild people" (dzicy ludzie) who "know they should not insult the laws of nature" (wiedzą,że nie należy obrażać praw natury).

These statements from supporters of the anti-gay bill floored me. The bill protects no one, upholds no virtue, and certainly doesn't represent love for gays and lesbians. How many more observers will defend the discriminatory bill with such doublethink?

Arguments in favor of the bill rest on the false assumptions that homosexuality is pathological, LGBTQ persons are predators, and the LGBTQ community is somehow a threat to social order. Enlightened people around the globe must combat such false assumptions if they are to prevent measures such as the one in Uganda.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Conversation: Homophobic bill a festive gift for Uganda’s Pentecostal churches

Right Wing Watch: Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill Cheered By US Conservatives

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Uganda Passes Harsh Anti-Gay Law

Time: Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill a Christmas Alarm for Christians 

Commentary Tidbits

The Guardian: For human rights to flourish, religious rights have to come second

Joe. My. God: Phil Robertson In 2009: Men Should Marry Girls When They are 15 Or 16 Years Old

Political Research Associates: Uganda Passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Foreign Policy: Angels and Demons

Rosa Rubicondior: Alan Turing, A Victim of Religious Bigots

Infidel753: Duck dye nasty

Religion Dispatches: Frank Schaefer, Phil Robertson and the Myth of Christian Unity

Business Insider: There Are Two Americas, And One Is Better Than The Other

News Tidbits

UN News Centre: UN human rights office urges Uganda to scrap anti-homosexuality bill

Huffington Post: Texas Pastor John Hagee Tells Atheists To Get On A Plane, 'Leave The Country' 

CNN: Radio preacher who predicted doomsday dies

Pink News: Malta: Catholic bishop says Pope Francis urged him to ‘speak out’ against same-sex adoption laws

Gay Star News: Spanish bishop: Gay marriage leads to ‘destruction of the family’

International Voices Condemn Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill

Earlier this month, Ugandan parliament approved a draconian anti-gay bill that would mandate imprisonment for same-sex sexual activity. The bill has yet to be signed into law by Ugandan President Museveni, who said that he would read the legislation before signing it. The bill was first introduced in 2009 as American Religious Right figures promoted homophobic attitudes in Uganda.

World leaders, human rights organizations, and LGBTQ activists have criticized the bill, urging President Museveni to reject it. Global opponents of the bill argue that if signed into law, the anti-gay bill would deal a serious blow to human rights, privacy, free speech, and public health in Uganda.

First, in a December 24th press statement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki expressed concern over the bill, emphasizing the importance of human rights.
"We are deeply concerned by the Ugandan Parliament’s passage of anti-homosexuality legislation. As Americans, we believe that people everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality – and that no one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or whom they love. We join those in Uganda and around the world who appeal for respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and of all persons."
The United Kingdom is concerned about the bill as well. In a December 20th press release, Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson warned that the anti-gay legislation would fuel persecution.
"The UK is concerned about the potential impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill approved today by the Ugandan Parliament on the country’s human rights. Whilst recognising Uganda’s sovereignty, we believe that this Bill is incompatible with the defence of minority rights and would increase persecution and discrimination of ordinary people across Uganda. We have and will continue to raise our concerns."
Hivos, an international development organization, was "appalled" when Ugandan parliament approved the bill. "Not only does this law violate numerous rights, namely the right to privacy, to equality and to respect for private and family life, it also infringes on the right to freedom of association and assembly and the right to freedom of expression," Hivos said in a December 22nd statement. Hivos, Human Rights Watch, Sexual Minorities Uganda, and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project issued a joint press release urging Presiden Museveni to veto the bill.

Alistair Stewart, assistant director of Kaleidoscope Trust, decried the development as part of "a terrible fortnight in the struggle for LGBT rights".
"The passage of the bill is a terrible set back to the LGBT community in Uganda and is a direct assault on their dignity and human rights. It is a bleak day for Uganda and for the international LGBT movement.

Following on from the Indian Supreme Court ruling recriminalising homosexuality, the passage through the Nigerian Senate of a bill outlawing LGBT organisations and the removal of equal marriage laws in Australia's ACT, this has been a terrible fortnight in the struggle for LGBT rights."
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) slammed the legislation as an affront to human rights. Ross Murray, GLAAD Director of News, called the bill a "travesty" created by American Religious Right leaders.
"Uganda's anti-LGBT law specifically targets LGBT people with brutal persecution and is one of the worst human rights violations of our time ... The Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, Scott Lively, and Lou Engle in our own country created this travesty of justice, and it is now up to fair-minded Americans to speak out for the very lives of LGBT people in Uganda."
From a public health standpoint, Uganda's anti-gay bill could undermine anti-HIV efforts by driving vulnerable populations underground. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance warned that the bill, if signed into law, would have a disastrous impact on anti-HIV efforts in Uganda.
"The passing of the bill is likely to lead to even more HIV infections in marginalised populations, especially among men who have sex with men and transgender people.  They will be prevented from having access to essential public health information, such as how to protect themselves from HIV and how to access life saving treatment and support services that are stigma-free. The Alliance calls on the HIV community to mobilise to express their opposition to the bill becoming law."
The global outcry against Uganda's anti-gay bill is a stark reminder that LGBTQ rights are more than a "culture war" issue. Legislative attacks on the LGBTQ community have devastating consequences for human rights and health. When countries such as Uganda propose anti-gay legislation, people's human rights, well-being, and lives hang in the balance.

Ugandan Parliament Approves Draconian Anti-Gay Bill

On December 20th, the Ugandan Parliament approved a controversial anti-gay bill mandating lengthly prison sentences for those who engage in same-sex sexual relations, according to the New York Times. Uganda's New Vision reports that President Museveni plans to read the bill before signing it. “I will first go through it. If I find that it is right I will sign but if I find that it is not right I will send it back to Parliament”, he said.

According to the Ugandan Parliament website*, the bill mandates a 14-year prison sentence for "the offence of homosexuality" and life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuality". While less harsh than an earlier version mandating capital punishment for "aggravated homosexuality", the current bill is still draconian.

The bill triggered international outrage when it was introduced after American Religious Right figures engaged in anti-gay activism in Uganda. In 2009, several American Religious Right activists, including Scott Lively and a board member of the now-defunct Exodus International, spoke at a homophobic conference in Kampala. Later, Lou Engle praised Uganda's "righteousness" regarding the bill at TheCall Uganda rally, according to the New York Times, although his ministry issued a statement stressing that it would not promote the bill. The role of American Religious Right figures in fomenting homophobia in Uganda has been well-documented Jeff Sharlet's "Dangerous Liaisons" article, Box Turtle Bulletin's "Slouching Toward Kampala" series, and documentaries such as Missionaries of Hate, Gospel of Intolerance, and God Loves Uganda.

The language surrounding the bill should sound familiar to anyone who has been observing global anti-LGBTQ activism. The parliament website states that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill seeks to prohibit recognition of same-sex sexual relations by NGOs and public institutions, so as to "protect the traditional family by prohibiting any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex". The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs described the bill as an effort at "strengthening the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family." The Committee framed the bill as a means of protecting Ugandan children from sexual abuse (an assumption rooted in toxic stereotypes of LGBTQ persons as predators).

Ugandan MP Benson Obua Ogwal spoke warmly of the bill as it progressed through parliament. “Ugandans have been anxiously waiting for this Bill. This day will be good day for all Ugandans,” he said, according to the parliament website.

Thankfully, some Ugandan MPs have criticized the bill. In a minority report, MPs Sam Otada and Fox Odoi rejected the bill as invasive. "What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom should not be the business of this Parliament. It is not right to have the state allowed in the bedrooms of people," they said, according to the parliament website.

Horrified LGBTQ rights supporters in Uganda quickly spoke out. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an Ugandan LGBTQ rights organization, was appalled at the parliament's decision. In a statement shared at Box Turtle Bulletin, SMUG condemned the bill and the "haphazard manner" in which the Ugandan parliament passed it. The SMUG statement warned that should President Yoweri Museveni sign the bill into law, the bill would be a severe blow to LGBTQ human rights, HIV/AIDS treatment efforts, and the family unit.

“Today will go down in history as the worst day for LGBTI identifying persons and human rights in general. The passing of the bill has caused significant panic even before its assented," said SMUG Legal/Human Rights Officer Mr. Mawadri.

Pink News reports that Edwin Sesange of the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group has called on President Museveni to reject the anti-gay bill as well.
"We know that President Museveni has always championed good causes like the fight against HIV and AIDS, the struggle for women equality, regional peace, and has always endeavored to protect the rights of the minorities like the squatters.

The president accepts that LGBTI people exist in Uganda and have always existed; therefore legislating against their existence will only incite violence towards them.

President Museveni prides himself as a liberator and a protector of all Ugandans. This bill however is not liberating and neither protects any individual.

We are calling on the President of Uganda not to sign this bill into law.”

Christopher Ssenyonjo, a former Anglican bishop in Uganda, told Religion News Service that Ugandans' support for the anti-gay bill is rooted in misunderstandings about LGBTQ people. “People here don’t understand what homosexuality is,” Ssenyonjo said. “If they did, I don’t think they would have allowed this law.”

The world now waits to see what President Museveni will do. If he signs the bill into law, it will be a catastrophe for LGBTQ rights in Uganda. The country finds itself in a similar situation as Nigeria, where another anti-gay bill has been approved by parliament and awaits President Jonathan's signature. Uganda and Nigeria have come to represent the precarious state of LGBTQ people in Africa, where multiple countries have anti-LGBTQ laws and the struggle for LGBTQ rights continues.

If Uganda's anti-gay bill becomes law, the global community must demand accountability not only from Uganda's lawmakers, but from the American Religious Right figures who helped foment homophobia there. The anti-gay bill is but one example of what is at stake in the struggle against fundamentalism, both here and across the globe.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

What Would J.T. Do?: Uganda Passes Massive Anti-Gay Bill

Mother Jones: The Love That Dares

Warren Throckmorton: Uganda’s President May Not Sign Anti-Homosexuality Bill; Ssempa Involved in Stealth Plan to Pass Bill

Gay Star News: Ugandan activist ‘worried for supporters’ facing life in jail in gay crackdown

Right-Wing Defends Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson

As mentioned in an earlier post, Phil Robertson of A&E's Duck Dynasty is in hot water due to his comments about African-Americans and gays in a GQ interview. As LGBTQ and racial justice advocates condemned his remarks, right-wing voices have rushed to defend him. When A&E suspended Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty amidst the firestorm, Religious Right voices celebrated Robertson as a champion of free speech and Christian values.

First, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) launched an online petition demanding that A&E reinstate Robertson and apologize for his suspension. NOM accused "gay lobby bullies" of attacking "one of the most popular Christians in America", and their petition slams A&E for allegedly silencing Robertson.
"As a Christian, Phil has simply stated his belief in the truth of the Bible, which considers homosexual acts to be sinful. A&E's executives may not believe in the Bible, and that is your right. But you have no right to silence the millions of Christians like Phil Robertson who uphold the word of God. You have succumbed to the demands of bullies like the HRC and GLAAD, which is disgraceful for an entity whose very existence depends on the free exchange of ideas."
Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin defended Robertson as well. According to Pink News, Palin claimed on her Facebook page that "Free speech is an endangered species. Those "intolerants" hatin' and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinions are taking on all of us." However, Palin later admitted that she hadn't read the GQ article in question.

Political leaders also defended Robertson. In a December 19th statement at the Office of the Louisiana Governor website, Gov. Bobby Jindal praised Robertson and his kin as "great citizens of the State of Louisiana" while looking askance at the "politically correct crowd".
“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV.  In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.  In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended "
According to the Daily Home and CNN, Alabama State Senator Jerry Fielding plans to introduce a Senate resolution supporting Phil Robertson during the upcoming legislative session. Robertson's comments were "supported by the biblical scriptures", Fielding told CNN. "We just don't want people running over people that believe in the Bible and standing up for Jesus and God and doing those things the Scriptures teaches us to do," Fielding insisted.

Buzzfeed reports that Illinois congressional candidate Ian Bayne sent out an e-mail to supporters praising Rosa Parks and Phil Robertson in the same breath. "What Parks did was courageous," Bayne said. "What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too."

The Duck Dynasty controversy even drew a popular restaurant into the fray. The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain initially removed Duck Dynasty merchandise from its stores, then placed the merchandise back in its stores when customers complained. According to WYFF 4, Cracker Barrel issued a statement to customers in which it apologized for offending them, adding that the company "respects all individuals right to express their beliefs."

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Phil Roberson's suspension was short-lived. In a statement published at the Hollywood Reporter website on December 27th, A&E indicated that Duck Dynasty filming would include Phil Robertson. A&E expressed its disappointment in Robertson's comments but celebrated Duck Dynasty as "a show about family".  
"[Duck Dynasty] resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family ... a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.

So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company and the values found in Duck Dynasty. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio."
It would seem that A&E is trying to pacify angry voices from both sides of the controversy, reinstating Phil Robertson while making public statements about tolerance. A&E's damage control, however well-meaning, does not erase Robertson's disturbing statements.

In the wake of the firestorm, Phil Robertson was unapologetic about his GQ comments. According to the Daily Mail, Robertson told his local Bible study group "I am a lover of humanity, not a hater," but concluded the gathering with an unrepentant prayer. "I will not give or back off from my path because you conquered death, Father, so we are not worried about all the repercussions," he asserted.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The right's response to Robertson's comments is revealing. First, voices from the right have defended Robertson's comments about homosexuality while saying little about his assertions about world religions and African-Americans.What does this say about the religious and racial politics of the Religious Right? What does it mean his homophobic comments are defended, but his rose-tinted memories of the pre-civil rights era and contempt for world religions are left unaddressed?

Second, by celebrating Robertson's comments as demonstrations of Christian values, his defenders champion a right-wing version of Christianity. This interpretation of Christianity is defined in part by opposition to the other (gays, liberals, etc.) rather than values such as love, acceptance, and solidarity with the marginalized.

Finally, some of Robertson's defenders paint the controversy as a free speech issue, ignoring its deeper implications. No one is restricting Robertson's freedom of speech. The more pressing issue is how Robertson's comments reflect and reinforce bigotry, which is a real and pernicious force in society.

The Duck Dynasty controversy remind us that intolerance still exists in society, but it also says a great deal about Robertson's defenders. To enlighten minds on the right, we need to share a new narrative about why LGBTQ rights, religion, and race are vital issues.

To read additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

The Republican: Anti-gay Massachusetts minister Scott Lively defends 'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson's likening of homosexuality to bestiality

Forward Progressives: Duck Commander, Fundamentalism, and the Missionary Position

Religion Dispatches: Duck Dynasty Patriarch, Hero of Christian Right

Time: Duck Dynasty Controversy: 5 Things You Need to Know

Huffington Post: Is the Duck Dynasty Outrage Really About Christian Values?

Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson Condemned After GQ Interview

Duck Dynasty, A&E's hit reality show about a family of Louisiana outdoorsmen who run the Duck Commander business, is at the center of a controversy. In an interview with Drew Magary published in GQ Magazine, Duck Commander founder Phil Robertson made several homophobic comments, as well as other jarring comments about African-Americans, world religions, and Christianity.

On the topic of Christianity and other world religions, Robertson claimed that societies that do not revere Jesus descend into bloodshed and horror.
“All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”
With regard to African-Americans, Robertson claimed that black people were content during the "pre-entitlement, pre-welfare" era before civil rights.
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field ... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Finally, Robertson's comments about sexuality hit a nerve with many readers. He brazenly claimed that women's intimate parts were more desirable than men's, branding attraction between men "not logical" and "sin".
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
Robertson spoke of homosexuality in the same breath as bestiality, stressing its allegedly sinful nature.
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men ... Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” 
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Phil Robertson has made offensive comments about LGBTQ persons, as Raw Story and Good As You observe. The GQ interview triggered a firestorm in which public figures blasted and defended Robertson's offensive comments.

LGBTQ rights groups were rightly disgusted. Wilson Cruz, spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), condemned Robertson's comments as "vile" and unchristian.
"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe ... He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans - who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) voiced its outrage as well. HRC president Chad Griffin called out Robertson, reminding him of his responsibility as a role model.
"Phil Robertson’s remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations. We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule – treating others with the respect and dignity you’d wish to be treated with. As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans – not shame and ridicule them because of who they are."
Rev. Jesse Jackson called Robertson's comments "hurtful and painful", adding that Robertson seemed "unrepentant" amidst the public outcry, according to Pink News. “When people make mistakes, and people do make mistakes, you should be repentant and contrite and then seek forgiveness," Jackson said on the Steve Malzberg Show.

While most of the controversy over Robertson's statements has focused on his homophobia, several observers have condemned his race-related comments as well. In a December 20th commentary for the Southern Poverty Law Center, attorney Morris Dees laments that the black people of Robertson's youth endured poverty, injustice, and the threat of racist violence. He urged readers to condemn historical revisionism that falsely claims black Americans lived well during the Jim Crow era.
"I don’t know anything about Robertson’s experiences. But I grew up on a small cotton farm in Alabama and also worked in the fields alongside African Americans. It shouldn’t even be necessary to say that they were treated as second-class citizens, most of them mired in abject poverty and with very little opportunity for anything more. There was no such thing as equality in any sense of the word.

And of course black folks didn’t go around saying anything about “these doggone white people.” The threat of racist violence was ever present, and there was virtually no chance any white person who harmed a black person would face anything close to justice. I wonder what Robertson would say about the four little black girls who were killed in the Klan bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church – or the many, many others who were lynched over the decades? What would he say about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was murdered for supposedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi? Were they happy about their situation, too?"

In a commentary at the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates took Robertson to task for his comments about black people. She reminded readers that the black people Robertson knew were besieged by racism and violence. "This is not just ignorance; it is a willful retreat into myth," Coates maintained.
"The black people who Phil Robertson knew were warred upon. If they valued their lives, and the lives of their families, the last thing they would have done was voiced a complaint about "white people" to a man like Robertson. Ignorance is no great sin and one can forgive the good-natured white person for not knowing how all that cannibal sausage was truly made. But having been presented with a set of facts, Robertson's response is to cite "welfare" and "entitlement" as the true culprits.

The belief that black people were at their best when they were being hunted down like dogs for the sin of insisting on citizenship is a persistent strain of thought in this country. This belief reflects the inability to cope with an America that is, at least rhetorically, committed to equality."
Jonathan Merritt, also writing at the Atlantic, discussed the limitations of Robertson's recollection of the past, arguing that other people have told very different stories about the era.
"His recollection is oddly reminiscent of the Song of the South vision of the past, long since abandoned by even fringe historians ... Contrary to Robertson’s assumption, his single experience in Louisiana—however true it may be—doesn't tell us anything about the realities of the Jim Crow South. For that, we (and he) need to hear many stories. And not just stories of statutes and signs that specified “whites only” or overlooked public beatings or slogans that reiterated black inferiority or the crushing poverty inflicted upon an entire race that was almost as bad as death at the hand of a lynch mob. We also need to hear the stories that comprise what Howard Thurman called the “anatomy of segregation” in his famous 1965 book The Luminous Darkness."
Phil Robertson's retrograde comments (and the right-wing's defense of them) remind us that the struggle for racial, religious, and LGBTQ equality is far from over. While enlightened voices condemn Robertson's remarks, other voices defend his vitriolic remarks as a free speech issue, as I will discuss in an upcoming post. Even in 21st century America, a stubborn segment of the population resists the lessons of history and the voices of marginalized groups calling for rights. This, as always, is what enlightened people must struggle to change.

Commentary Tidbits

Exploring Our Matrix: Five Awful Reasons to Teach Creationism in Schools

The New Civil Rights Movement: Different Countries, Common Threads: Connecting The Dots In The Global Surge Of Anti-LGBTQ Attacks

A Voice from the Foothills: Exactly How DO You Manage to Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?

Joe. My. God: Scott Lively Denounces Homocons

RH Reality Check: Why We Should Fear the Rise of America’s Latest ‘Bro Pastor’

News Tidbits

Raw Story: Christian activists show their love by covering Chicago atheist display and berating onlookers

Gay Star News: Bob Newhart cancels gig at annual conference for anti-gay Catholic group Letagus

Washington Post: In embrace of Duck Dynasty star, 2016 hopefuls make bid for evangelicals

MSNBC: Religious right pushes Huckabee to run in 2016

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Quotes from "Family Policy Lessons from Other Lands"

As mentioned in a prior post, several American Religious Right voices came together in Washington D.C. last month to discuss so-called pro-family across the globe. The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society hosted a symposium entitled "Family Policy Lessons from Other Lands: What Should America Learn?", featuring speakers from various Religious Right organizations. As nations around the world seek "reaffirmation of the natural family" through elections and policies, organizers of the symposium hoped to learn from international initiatives.

Concerned Women for America has posted videos of the event on Vimeo, in which speakers celebrate international anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion efforts while downplaying frightening anti-gay developments in Russia.

Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, introduced the symposium with a warning about "a great fear" sweeping over the U.S. government. At the 0:58 mark, he claimed that ideas were allegedly being suppressed in America, likening the U.S. to the fascist regimes of 20th century Europe.
"A great fear seems to be descending over what has been called the world's greatest deliberative body. In the domain of the Senate, it appears, ideas are being suppressed, debate is being shut off, minds are being closed. By training, I'm a historian of modern Europe. The parallel that I see here is what happened in Italy, Germany, and other lands in the 1920s and the 1930s as fascism began to impose its fear-driven grip on debate, on conversation, and on policy-making."
Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, spoke about the spread of LGBTQ rights, as well as opposition to same-sex marriage in different parts of the world. Like other attendees, Crouse was unhappy that the symposium's original room reservation had been cancelled. At the 7:30 mark, she blamed the cancellation on "radicals" who did not like their presence in the Senate building.
"You know as well as I do that in spite of all of these efforts, things like having your months-long planning just go out the window because some group of radicals say how dare you have a group like us being in the Senate building, and we get shifted and have to work around the clock last night to find another place to hold the meeting."
Crouse lamented the global progress of LGBTQ rights at the 7:54 mark, adding that public opinion is moving toward acceptance of LGBTQ equality.
"So when it comes to pro-family policies, not just here in the United States but in Europe and around the world, you know better than I do that things don't look so good. Ten European nations have legalized so-called gay marriage. Close to half a dozen nations are considering civil unions, and others are considering registered partnerships and legalizing cohabitation policies in some kind of formal way. There's no question that public opinion in all nations is shifting more toward ... LGBT rights than they have in previous times, so we are looking at a steep uphill climb and fierce opposition."
She approvingly reminded listeners that several nations have resisted LGBTQ rights, specifically on the issue of same-sex marriage. At the 8:53 mark, she had this to say.
"Ten nations have voted to outlaw gay marriage. Ten nations have outlawed gay marriage specifically. And throughout the world, there are grassroots movements, incredibly dedicated individuals, and small groups of very thoughtful, committed citizens who are, with the help of God, changing the world."

Crouse praised anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ activists worldwide, including Ignacio Arsuaga (head of the Spanish anti-abortion group Hazte Oir) and Theresa Okafor (director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage; more on the organization here). She talked at length about anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage activism in Europe, specifically in France and Spain. She argued that anti-abortion and anti-gay marches in Europe sprang from "the firm believe that every child, in order to fully thrive, should have a mother and father who are committed and married to each other and committed to that child's well-being."

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, shared a statement from groups defending Russia's anti-gay law. The Statement by Worldwide Organizations in Support of the Russian Federal Law On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development defends Russia's anti-gay law by arguing that it "protects the innocence of children". At the 3:51 mark, he insisted that the statement represents "grassroots" sentiments rather than Putin's biases.
"This statement was signed by a hundred pro-life, pro-family, and human rights groups around the world on all continents. There is widespread support for the current Russian law in Russia, widespread support. This did not spring from the fevered imagination of Putin. This actually came from the grassroots."
Ruse cited a column he wrote for the Daily Caller earlier in 2013 entitled "Putin is not the gay bogeyman", in which he watched a foppishly dressed "post-op transexual, obviously a man" walk down the street unharassed during his time in Russia. The implication, it seemed, was that claims of homophobia and transphobia in Russia are exaggerated (despite ample evidence to the contrary). In the column, Ruse claimed that "false, overhearted and even panicked rhetoric" has been flying around regarding the treatment of LGBTQ persons in Russia, impeding dialogue.

Meetings such as this indicate that the Religious Right is very much aware of anti-LGBTQ activism worldwide, and is promoting a narrative of such developments that downplay their inherent unfairness and dangers. Just as the American Religious Right watches anti-LGBTQ developments closely, so too should those of us who support LGBTQ rights.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Using the Law to Fight Persecution Against LGBTI Persons: The Case of Scott Lively

Washington Post: There is no difference in religious fundamentalism between American Muslims and Christians

Media Matters: Fox's Favorite Right-Wing Legal Group Applauds India's Ban On Gay Sex

Alternet: Why the Christian Right Is Obsessed With the Collapse of Civilization

Huffington Post: The Perils of Religious Politicking

Slate: The Evangelical Celebrity Machine

Warren Throckmorton: John Piper Calls Out Mark Driscoll On Ghostwriting

News Tidbits

The Republican: Anti-gay minister Scott Lively running for Mass. governor

Edge Boston: Right Wing Coalition Targeting Trans Youth Protections

MPR: University of Minnesota Students Draft Ban on 'Gay Conversion Therapy'

Buzzfeed: U.S., U.K. Activists Urge Jamaicans To Keep Same-Sex Intercourse Illegal

The Telegraph: Book on 'submissive wives' becomes hit in Spain

Ghana Web: Gays destroying Ghana, says, Pastor Opambour

Merry Christmas from Republic of Gilead!

Merry Christmas to all my readers! I'm taking a short blogging break, but I'll return soon with posts on recent Religious Right happenings. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

In the meantime, enjoy this selection from Unheilig's Frohes Fest, my favorite holiday album.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Naked Pastor: 10 reasons why abusive churches succeed

New York Times: The Bible as Bludgeon

Baltimore Sun: Unholy religious exemptions

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: Anti-gay Scott Lively again denied attempt to avoid crimes against humanity lawsuit

Salon: Catholic schools’ hateful pattern: Firing teachers for coming out

Lady Atheist: Breaking the Faith: Chilling New Series

Infidel753: Secularism strong

Friendly Atheist: This Christian Group’s List of ‘Ingredients’ For Marriage Equality is Outrageous

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How Not to Share the Gospel

Huffington Post: The Salvation Army's History of Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Think Progress: ‘Family’ Group Defends Blood Donation Ban By Implying All Gay Men Have HIV

Think Progress: Rick Santorum: Government-Provided Health Care Is A Plot To Kill People Who Don’t Vote The Right Way

News Tidbits

The Advocate: Kidnapped for Christ to Premiere at Slamdance

BBC News: Child 'training' book triggers backlash

Gay Star News: Pastor Rick Warren can't imagine a time when he'll support gay marriage

Pink News: Rick Warren compares the ‘redefinition of marriage’ to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Washington Post: Virginia pastor: US custody case had no Vermont connection

The Telegraph: We can’t dissent against 'new gay orthodoxy’, says UK Christian charity

Raw Story: Anti-LGBT baker tells Fox News that Jesus ‘wants me’ to deny cakes to gay couples

Raw Story: Rhode Island bishop marks Mandela’s death by slamming his abortion policies

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sen. Kirk Cancels Space for Anti-Gay Meeting; Religious Right Incensed

Earlier this year, the Russian government passed a controversial anti-gay law banning dissemination of "propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships" to minors. The law, which came into effect amidst an increasingly homophobic cultural climate in Russia, has been widely slammed as an affront to free speech and LGBTQ rights. Voices from the American Religious Right have not only applauded the legislation, but sought to learn from it.

In a November 11th press release, the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society announced its November 15th symposium in Washington D.C. entitled "Family Policy Lessons from Other Lands: What Should America Learn?” Scheduled speakers at the symposium heralded from right-wing organizations such as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), the Beverly LaHaye Institute, and the Population Research Institute.

According to the press release, the symposium would be a setting where American legislators and activists could learn from international initiatives, including Russia's anti-gay law, mean to affirm the "natural family".
"While the current U.S. administration persists in its efforts to redefine marriage and family, other nations are seeking a reaffirmation of the natural family. Australia has just elected a conservative government and given the largest budget area to Kevin Andrews, long-time defender of the family and World Congress of Families supporter; Russia recently banned the propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors; and across Europe and Africa, nations are concerned with life issues, shrinking populations, and the disintegration of the natural family. Here in America, what can our pro-family legislators learn—positively and negatively—by studying our colleagues’ actions abroad?"

The implications of the meeting spurred LGBTQ rights activists into action. On November 14th, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) condemned the meeting on its website, appalled that "top American supporters of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws will come to Capitol Hill to argue that these hateful policies should serve as a model for the United States." HRC president Chad Griffin called the planned meeting an "outrage".
“These shameful individuals represent the worst of America, and it’s an outrage that they will now bring their vitriol to the United States Capitol. After spending years exporting their hate to other regions of the world and contributing to a culture of anti-LGBT violence in Russia, these zealots should be condemned by all Americans and especially by our elected leaders.”
Soon thereafter, the symposium was denied its original meeting space. Right Wing Watch reports that the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society was forced to relocate its symposium after Sen. Mark Kirk canceled their meeting room reservation at the U.S. Senate office building.
Buzzfeed reported that House Speaker John Boehner secured space for the meeting after their original space reservation was canceled.

Cue Religious Right outrage!

Incensed, several participating groups accused Sen. Kirk of discrimination and lambasted HRC for its actions. For instance, in a press release posted at Christian News Wire, the World Congress of Families expressed its disgust with HRC's actions. Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress of Families, had this to say.
"It is shocking that a United States Senator would bow to pressure from these militants and refuse to facilitate the discussion of vital issues affecting children, family, life, and the economy.  Groups like HRC have set themselves up as arbiters of what may or may not be discussed at public forums. Instead of meeting us in the marketplace of ideas, they take the low road of smears and intimidation, seeking to foreclose the healthy debate that’s vital to a democracy."

Jacobs insisted that the meeting was about more than Russia's "widely misunderstood" law, explaining that it was intended to cover policy initiatives on "promotion of marriage and large families, parent's rights, the promotion of home-schooling, the encouragement of family-owned businesses, the benefits of religious faith, the protection of women and children from human trafficking, and the legal protection of life from conception to natural death..."

Allan Carlson, president of World Congress of Families, expressed frustration with attempts to thwart the meeting. "A great fear seems to be descending over what has been called the world’s greatest deliberative body … ideas are being suppressed, debate is being shut off, and minds are being closed," he said, according to Buzzfeed.

Additionally, Family Research Council was also offended that Sen. Kirk canceled their space reservation after "homosexual activists" criticized the event. In a November 19th press release, FRC president Tony Perkins demanded an apology from Sen. Kirk.
"Sen. Kirk's decision is true discrimination, silencing anyone who doesn't adhere to a politically correct view of sexuality.

"We welcome open debate about policy differences on social issues. However, Sen. Kirk's decision to cancel the event signals that he wants to silence those who disagree with him.  We are encouraged by the many Illinois residents who have stood up in support of the Howard Center and its right to free speech and freedom of assembly.

"Holding a different view of marriage and sexuality is not discriminatory - especially when all the social science research demonstrates the benefits of the natural family."
Illinois Family Institute cultural analyst Laurie Higgins blasted Sen. Kirk in a hyperbolic commentary. Higgins fumed at Sen. Kirk's alleged "obamaniacal act of hubris" in allying himself with "homosexual activists". She defended the homophobia of the groups scheduled to meet in Senate space, accusing Sen. Kirk of abusing his position "to normalize sexual deviance".
"If Kirk considers these scholars hate-promoters, then logically he must call all orthodox Christian theologians hate-promoters for every contemporary orthodox theologian and every theologian in the history of Christendom has held the same views on the nature of marriage and the nature and morality of homosexuality as these panel participants ... Sen. Kirk thinks that it’s hateful to believe that marriage is inherently sexually complementary, but not hateful to kill the unborn. To Kirk, cross-dressing and perverse sexual acts are moral goods and fighting for the rights of children to survive the womb and be raised by a mother and father are moral evils. What kind of man thinks like this? C.S. Lewis calls men like this “men without chests,” and Isaiah warns, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”
The controversy surrounding this meeting (and its space cancellation) serves as a reminder that American Religious Right voices still hold fast to homophobia. LGBTQ rights supporters should also take note of the Religious Right's desire to learn from anti-gay legislation in other countries. If the Religious Right is paying close attention to anti-gay initiatives around the globe, so should we.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Bartholomew's Notes on Religion: Tyndale House Doubles Down on Support for Mark Driscoll

Warren Throckmorton: Janet Mefferd Removes Evidence Relating To Charges Of Plagiarism Against Mark Driscoll; Apologizes To Audience

The Anxious Bench: Plagiarism, Personality-Driven Leadership, and the Problem With Evangelicalism

SPLC Hatewatch: Hate Group Ties Become Issue for Tony Perkins in Possible Run for Congress

Religion Dispatches: Will IRS Crack Down on Church Politicking?

The Guardian: Why I won't be going back to Bristol's creationist zoo

Salon: Civil war in the church!: Catholics tell bishops to stop playing doctor

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: Anti-gay Scott Lively again tries to avoid crimes against humanity trial 

The New Civil Rights Movement: The Religious Right Has ‘Lost The War’ Says Glenn Beck

Anthony B. Susan: Setting the Boundaries

Defeating the Dragons: Victims and abusers, and why church is not safe

Heresy in the Heartland: Mandatory Motherhood

Salon: Christian conservatives have perfected playing the victim card

News Tidbits

Religion News Service: Mefferd producer reportedly resigns over Mark Driscoll controversy

Christian Post: Mars Hill Church to Host Undergraduate, Graduate Level University and Seminary Programs

Politico: Rick Santorum ties Obamacare, Nelson Mandela

Washington Post: Pentecostal pastors in Africa push prayer, not drugs, for people with HIV

BBC News: Vatican rebuffs United Nations sex abuse inquiries

CNN: Vatican setting up commission against sexual abuse of minors

Bluestem Prairie: Bachmann and Associates counseling clinic rebranded self as Counseling Care

The Advocate: Bill O'Reilly Lauds Antigay Group's Work in 'War on Christmas'

The Guardian: Catholic school fires gay teacher who applied for marriage license

Pink News: UK: Trans Christians express disappointment over Church report and reiterate calls for inclusion

ABC 7 News: Court hears discrimination case over wedding cake for gay couple

Saturday, December 7, 2013

EQUAL Prepares for Annual Protest at IHOP's OneThing Conference

Every December, the International House of Prayer (IHOP) hosts OneThing, a large-scale worship conference in Kansas City, MO.* However, one youth organization is taking IHOP to task for its messages about LGBTQ people.

Empowering Queer Activists and Leaders (EQUAL) is an LGBTQ youth organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality in the Kansas City area. Camp Kansas City reports that EQUAL is finalizing plans to protest at this year's OneThing conference, as it has done for several years. According to Camp Kansas City, EQUAL president Wick Thomas explained that the OneThing protest is intended to raise awareness of homophobic ministries and engage conference attendees on LGBTQ issues.

EQUAL's annual protest stems from IHOP's troubling stance on LGBTQ issues. Camp Kansas City states that IHOP has ties to Desert Stream Ministries, which promotes so-called conversion therapy intended to change participants' sexual orientation. Lou Engle, the founder of TheCall and a longtime supporter of IHOP, has a long history of homophobic comments. Several years ago, Engle made scathing comments about the "homosexual agenda" at a religious rally in Uganda, shortly before Ugandan parliament began consideration of a draconian anti-gay bill. LGBTQ rights groups such as Soulforce and Human Rights Campaign have publicly criticized Engle for his homophobic activism in Uganda. **

I applaud EQUAL for holding IHOP and Lou Engle accountable, and for working diligently toward LGBTQ equality. My hope is that EQUAL's demonstration at the 2012 OneThing gathering will open minds about LGBTQ issues and raise awareness of IHOP's history.

* Republic of Gilead has posted commentary on OneThing gatherings from 2010, 2011, and 2012.

**  For an in-depth look at the relationship between American evangelical leaders and the proposed "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda, check out documentaries such as Missionaries of Hate and God Loves Uganda.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

The Way of Improvement Leads Home: White Guys Talking About Christian Hip-Hop and "Reformed Rap"

Uncommon God, Common Good: Ayn Rand, Christians and Altruism

Right Wing Watch: Why It's Best Not To Cite The Pilgrims While Defending Hobby Lobby

Washington Post: Catholic hospitals are growing. What will that mean for reproductive health?

Think Progress: The American Family Association’s Naughty Or Nice List And The Vapidity Of The ‘War On Christmas’

Mother Jones: Why Climate Change Skeptics and Evolution Deniers Joined Forces

Political Research Associates: How the Right's State-Based Think Tanks Are Transforming U.S. Politics

Spiritual Sounding Board: Doug Phillips: “Disowns” Former Vision Forum Executive Assistant to President, Peter Bradrick, Calls Him “Destroyer” When Confronted about Sins

This Ain't Livin': I Don't Need Faith to Have Ethics

News Tidbits

Associated Press: Notre Dame Sues Over Birth Control Mandate

Washington Post: ACLU sues US bishops over Catholic hospital ethics

Raw Story: Rafael Cruz: God told me to wake up the pastors so they will warn the people

Raw Story: Catholic hospital sent home woman enduring dangerous, prolonged miscarriage, suit claims

City Pages: Minnesota: Rep. Karen Clark plans to introduce bill banning ex-gay therapy

Christian Post: Tony Perkins, Congressmen Meet With Netanyahu in Israel

Los Angeles Times: For Roger Mahony, clergy abuse cases were a threat to agenda

Pink News: Gay ‘cure’ conference to be staged by Anglican Mainstream in London

Gay Star News: Maltese bishop Charles Scicluna says gay sex has no role in society

Gay Christian Network Talks to Straight Christians

The Gay Christian Network recently posted a video about its study of straight Christians' attitudes toward gays. What they found was unfortunate but not surprising. We still have a lot of work to do.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Right-Wing Groups Sneer at Global Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Climate Change Conference recently took place in Warsaw, Poland from November 11-23. The recurring conference provides an opportunity for global leaders to cooperatively address climate change and its impact across multiple sectors of society. An array of workshops discussed the relationship between climate change and urbanization, agriculture, gender issues, and multilateral environmental agreements. Stakeholders, including religious groups observed the conference with great interest, according to Religion News Service.

The conference was not without controversy. On November 21st, humanitarian and environmental groups walked out of the conference in protest of its insufficient agenda, according to the Guardian. In a collective statement, thirteen organizations (including ActionAid, Greenpeace, Oxfam International, and WWF) accused wealthy countries at the conference of "directly undermining the UNFCCC itself". The statement accused conference participants of valuing energy company interests over the needs of global citizens, criticizing Japan, Australia, and Canada by name for their environmental policies.  Representatives from Christian Aid and SCIAF lamented missed opportunities for progress, according to Christianity Today.

After a long deadlock, delegates paved the way for a global climate treaty in Paris in 2015, reported BBC News. According to a November 23rd press release, the conference decided to create an international mechanism to protect vulnerable populations from climate change impacts, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events. The conference also arrived at decisions to address greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.

While the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw was flawed, such gatherings are necessary if the world is to confront climate change. Climate change is very real, and it continues to have a significant impact on public health, food security, and migration. Vulnerable populations such as people in poverty, females, and children are disproportionately affected and deserve special attention. Even if global gatherings such as the Warsaw conference experience problems, climate change is still an urgent problem, and global conversations are still vital.

Unfortunately, some observers think otherwise. Voices from the Eagle Forum and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow blasted the Warsaw conference for its alleged attacks on developed nations and favoritism toward poor countries. In their caricatures of the conference, eco-imperialists spouted junk science, delegates urged rich countries to give hand-outs to poor ones, and women were relegated to poverty.

In a November 20th commentary, Schlafly blasts the conference with her usual venom. Schlafly claims that the UN climate change conference is a ploy to get more money from the U.S. She insists that the idea that Americans are part of a global economy is "a deceitful message to con us into a plan to add the poor countries around the earth to our list of welfare handout recipients."

Schlafly accuses the UN of piling blame on the U.S. and other developed nations for the state of the environment. She caricatures arguments made by environmentalists and development voices, claiming that the UN is scapegoating developed nations for benefiting from industrialization.

"The UN talks are about blame. The UN has made the case that developed nations (i.e., the United States) are to blame because we enjoy the fruits of the industrial revolution in our lifestyles by polluting a finite atmosphere and that causes global warming.

Our standard of living is supposed to be cheating developing nations from achieving lifestyles like ours. The UN calls it our “historical responsibility” to pay reparations in money and technology."
Instead of acknowledging the reality of global warming and the need for global conclaves (no matter how imperfect), Schlafly dismisses global warning outright.
"These talks started with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. These pompous globalists have convinced themselves, and now want to convince the world, they can both predict and control the weather.

The UN persists in its goal to convince the world that human activity causes global warming, and that global warming will devastate the earth. Even though the earth has not warmed since 1998, UN agencies continue to issue reports claiming that global warming not only exists but is getting worse.

Their claims are based on pseudoscience and unreliable computer models used to predict weather patterns. China and India are two of the biggest carbon emitters but they refuse to contribute to the poor nations."

Other voices at Eagle Forum were hostile to the Warsaw conference as well. In a November 24th piece, Eagle Forum's Cathie Adams accuses the conference of adopting futile anti-poverty measures and favoring poor countries over rich ones. Adams expresses disappointment that the U.S. "caved" on the loss-and-damages strategy and the Green Climate Fund.
"The UNFCCC is following the model of the American “war on poverty” that did nothing to lift people out of poverty, but did great damage to families by making them dependent upon the government. Likewise, starve 1.3 billion people around the globe of their ability to produce energy and they will be forever beholden to handouts from the UN.

Poor countries are always the winners and the rich countries are always the losers, yet radical environmentalists never let up on their goal to globally redistribute wealth. And it is heart-wrenching to watch the U.S. agree to its agenda ... The radical environmentalists, like Marxists throughout history, refuse to recognize that economic utopia, absolute equality, is a pipe dream."

Eagle Forum was not the only right-wing group lambasting the Warsaw conference. The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) devoted several blog posts to ridiculing the Warsaw conference. It should be noted that CFACT's board of advisors includes E. Calvin Beisner (spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance).

In a November 24th CFACT commentary, Craig Rucker warned that "age of eco-imperialism is upon us". Rucker made no attempt to hide his disdain for the "warning-left pressure groups" of the "radical enviro-left" who walked out of the conference. He warned that environmental NGOs are still "in control of the game" and will work diligently toward their agenda.
"The outcome of the Warsaw climate summit is too tepid to satisfy the radical enviro-left. Their complaints will be shrill and many.

Realists who disagree with the UN’s take on global-warming science and policy will take comfort from the outcome’s lack of firm commitments, weasel words, and delays. If they let down their guard, they will demonstrate the true meaning of global-warming denial.

While the UN’s global-warming mandarins and profiteers may have liked more, they jet out of Warsaw still in control of the game. They leave Poland with the U.S. finally inside the global-warming tent, no nettlesome procedural reforms, and their road to a Paris global-warming treaty difficult but still in sight. They will immediately resume their endless series of backroom deals at quiet subsidiary meetings. Bureaucracy may be inefficient, but it is persistent. When UN global-warming bureaucrats are persistent, you pay."
In a November 22nd CFACT piece, Christina Wilson accused the UN of "exploiting gender issues to hustle its new climate treaty." Wilson championed coal, oil, and nuclear power, insisting that combating poverty through "affordable energy" would help women more than climate change initiatives. In making this assertion, she ignores the considerable environmental risks of such energy sources, as well as evidence that climate change is a significant issue for women and girls worldwide.
"They are just distracting from the real issues here. If the climate crowd truly cared about women’s issues, they would focus on the link between poverty and affordable energy instead of wasting time, money, and resources on policies based on junk science.

A new climate treaty would do nothing meaningful to alter global temperature and would do even less for gender issues. The real reason women and men are affected adversely by natural disasters is due to inadequate resources and access to energy.

The developed world has less gender inequality than those in developing nations. This is because wealthier nations have developed using affordable, reliable resources like coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear power. To deny developing nations access to these same resources would be morally wrong."
Right-wing voices can ignore climate change and mock efforts to confront it, but they will find themselves increasingly on the fringe. Climate change is too pressing to ignore, with too much evidence to dismiss. Instead of caricaturing climate change talks, right-wing groups should look at them with nuanced eyes. Instead of sneering at the idea of climate change, right-wing figures should take constructive action to combat it.

The road to a more environmentally conscious world will be a bumpy one, as evidenced by the difficulties of the Warsaw conference. However, global conversations are still vital for confronting environmental issues, and global treaties can still do good. Future climate change talks should seek to avoid the problems that plagued the Warsaw conference and develop collaborative strategies and policies.