Thursday, January 31, 2013

Women in Combat Have the Religious Right Acting Combatative

On January 24th, Reuters reported that the Pentagon lifted a ban on women serving in front-line combat positions. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey signed an order rescinding the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definitions and Assignment Rule, which barred women from small combat units and allowed the military to restrict certain positions to men.

This decision will open new positions and advancement opportunities to female military personnel. Women in the armed services have proven themselves to be skilled, focused, and brave, and it is only fair that the old policy be rescinded. To boot, other modern militaries worldwide allow women to serve in combat roles. While the percentages of females in combat roles vary from country to country, the fact remains that women honorably and effectively serve in combat postions across the globe.

One could argue that the old ban on women in combat was not only unfair, but outdated. Before the ban was lifted, female soldiers were already exposed to combat situations because of the changing nature of warfare. For instance, according to a 2011 Pew Research report on women in the military, 24% of post-1990 female veterans had combat exposure. To ban women from combat when many find combat thrust upon them during deployment seems absurd.

The Religious Right seems oblivious to these facts, with several right-wing figures expressing everything from disapproval to outrage over the policy chance. Despite female soldiers' many contributions to the military, some right-wing voices are uncomfortable with women in combat. For example, in a January 24th state, CWA president Penny Nance accused the Obama Administration of ignoring issues that women care about. Nance suggested that allowing women to serve in combat constituted "social experimentation" that could impair combat readiness. (See www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=21856)
"News of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's intent to lift the long-standing ban on women serving in direct combat is further proof that this administration simply does not care about the issues about which the majority of women care. Once again, their interest on women issues is driven by special interest groups. The point of the military is to protect our country. Anything that distracts from that is detrimental. Our military cannot continue to choose social experimentation and political correctness over combat readiness. While this decision is not unexpected from this administration, it is still disappointing. Concerned Women for America (CWA) and its more than half-a-million members around the country will continue to do all we can to see that our men and women in uniform are governed with the respect and resources needed to do the hard task of fighting for and protecting our freedoms."
In a January 29th commentary at the Washington Times, Family Research Council vice president Jerry Boykin acknowledged that female servicemembers have already found themselves in combat because of the changing nature of warfare. He noted that female soldiers have fought bravely, as the number of women injured in combat clearly demonstrates. However, he argued that mixing of the sexes would not be appropriate for all military units. The reason? Privacy for hygiene and bodily functions.
"Some units, like infantry, Special Forces, SEALs and others, are not suitable for combining men and women. It has nothing to do with the courage or even capabilities of women. It is all about two things: the burden on small unit leaders, and the lack of privacy in these units ... Leaders of these units must be focused like a laser on keeping their soldiers alive and defeating the enemy. It is unreasonable to encumber them with the additional burden of worrying about how they provide privacy for the few women under their command during stressful and very dangerous operations. It is not the same as being a combat pilot who returns to an operating base or an aircraft carrier after the fight, where separate facilities are available."
Next, former Congressman Allen West tweeted his disapproval of women in combat, calling it "Another misconceived lib vision of fairness and equality." (Hat tip to Politico. See mobile[dot]twitter[dot]com/AllenWest/status/294440396925329410) On Facebook, West lambasted the decision as potentially harmful to the U.S. military. (See www[dot]facebook[dot]com/ElectAllenWest/posts/10151677536876729)
"Unless the Obama administration has not noticed we are fighting against a brutal enemy and now is not the time to play a social experiment with our ground combat forces. President Obama, as Commander-in-Chief, should be focused on sequestration and the failure of his policies in the Middle East. This is the misconceived liberal progressive vision of fairness and equality which could potentially lead to the demise of our military."
Finally, in a January 25th column at Blog & Mablog, Christian author Douglas Wilson called the new policy an "abomination" and a "monstrosity". Wilson argued that women in combat (and therefore, combat uniform) violate a passage in Deuteronomy banning people from wearing the apparel of the opposite sex. In other words, Wilson argues that combat uniforms are men's apparel because combat is allegedly a male activity. The idea that women have been involved in modern militaries for decades, as well as warfare in various ancient cultures, escapes him. (Hat tip to Love, Joy, Feminism. See www[dot]dougwils[dot]com/Sex-and-Culture/is-your-god-scary.html)
"[Deuteronomy 22:5] is a prohibition for cross-dressing when it comes to men. But the restriction placed on women here is not simply the reverse of that. When a man is getting kinky in the way described here, it is a straightforward transvesite problem. But going the other way, we should notice a different problem. Notice the odd construction -- "that which pertains to a man." The Hebrew underneath is keli geber, and should be read as the "gear of a warrior." Whether we are talking about a man in fishnet stockings, or a woman decked out in full battle regalia, we need to recognize that God finds it loathsome. So should we."
Wilson also resorts to essentialist arguments against women in combat. He insists that because women are created to give life, it is inappropriate for them to kill like men. "Women were created and exquisitely fashioned by God to be life-imparters, and so they must not be transformed into death-dealers," he writes.

Finally, Wilson urges Christian fathers to prevent their daughters from being "seduced" into military life. The idea that a woman might have the autonomy to make career decisions for herself, or that women have identities beyond that of daughter, is conveniently ignored.
"... [T]his egalitarian move, putting women into combat roles as standard operating procedure, is an abomination. We believe further that Christian fathers have a moral and biblical obligation to prevent their daughters from being seduced, such that they sign up for such a thing voluntarily, or coerced, such that they have no option. Both her family and her communion must stand against this terrible thing."
Wake up, right-wingers! Women's role in society has evolved, and women in combat serve as another example of that evolution. Women assuming more roles in society is not "social experimentation", "political correctness", or "loathsome" -- it's a sign that women are making progress in an otherwise male-dominated institution. As usual, the Religious Right watches in horror as the world around them evolves.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Right Wing Watch: Perkins Warns Allowing Women In Combat Will Lead to Reinstatement of the Draft

Love, Joy, Feminism: The Biblical Case against Women in Combat?

Buzzfeed: 13 Countries That Already Allow Women in Combat

Commentary Tidbits

Infidel753: The fires of fanaticism

Alternet: 5 Shocking Ways the Christian Right Has Forced the Bible Into America's Schools

Wall of Separation: Public School Proselytizing Prohibited: Federal Appeals Court Rejects New Prayer Scheme

Bartholomew's Notes on Religion: Judith Raisman Hits Croatia

News Tidbits

Public Religion Research Institute: Survey: Nearly 3-in-10 Americans Say God Plays a Role in Outcomes of Sports Events

The Daily Beast: Calvary Chapel’s Tangled Web

Washington Post: Virginia panel OKs measure to allow prayer, religious activities in all public places

Edge Boston: Evangelical Churches Refine Message on Gay Issues

Pink News: Scott Lively says Oxford Union ‘botched’ plans for him to appear at gay parenting debate

Pink News: Lynette Burrows: Children should be with straight ‘sluts and drug addicts’ rather than ‘sodomites’

New York Times: Catholics Mobilize to Defeat Philippine Politicians Who Backed Reproductive Law

Gay Star News: UK parliament opens its doors for gay cure debates

Yahoo News: Man claiming to be pastor leaves waiter note: ‘I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?’

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Boy Scouts May Reconsider Ban on Gays; Religious Right Horrified

The Associated Press reports that the Boy Scouts of America may empower sponsors of troops to decide whether or not to accept gays as leaders and scouts. In a press statement on the Boy Scouts of America website, BSA director of public relations Deron Smith revealed that the organizations is reconsidering its ban on gays.
"Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs."
The Boy Scouts current excludes gays from units, a long-standing policy that has frustrated LGBTQ advocates. If the Boy Scouts changes its policy, it would free troops to accept members of different sexual orientations.

The news comes after several corporate donors (including Merck, UPS, and Intel) have refused to contribute money to the Boy Scouts because of its ban on gays. It also follows several high-profile cases of discrimination, including a teenage boy who was denied Eagle Scout rank for being gay and a troop leader who was removed from her post for being lesbian.

Predictably, the Religious Right is revolted by the idea. First, in a January 28th press release, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins urged Boy Scouts of America to resist pressure from "the bullying of homosexual activists". He correlated the ban on gay members with "moral integrity". (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/newsroom/frc-boy-scouts-should-stand-firm-in-its-moral-values-resist-pressure-to-change-homosexuality-policy)
"The Boy Scouts of America board would be making a serious mistake to bow to the strong-arm tactics of LGBT activists and open the organization to homosexuality. What has changed in terms of the Boy Scouts' concern for the well-being of the boys under their care? Or is this not about the well-being of the Scouts, but the funding for the organization?

The Boy Scouts has for decades been a force for moral integrity and leadership in the United States. Sadly, their principled stances have marked them as a target for harassment by homosexual activists and corporations such as UPS which are working to pressure the Boy Scouts into abandoning their historic values.

The mission of the Boy Scouts is 'to instill values in young people' and 'prepare them to make ethical choices,' and the Scout's oath includes a pledge 'to do my duty to God' and keep himself 'morally straight.' It is entirely reasonable and not at all unusual for those passages to be interpreted as requiring abstinence from homosexual conduct."
Also, in a January 28th alert, the Family Research Council urged supporters to contact Boy Scouts of America before its upcoming board meeting and support its ban on gays. (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/alert/breaking-news-will-the-boy-scouts-stand-up-to-bullies)

In a January 29th commentary at his website, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler lamented that the Boy Scouts might "surrender to massive public pressure". He called the increasing acceptance of LGBTQ people "the reversal in one generation of a moral consensus that had endured for thousands of years". (See www[dot]albertmohler[dot]com/2013/01/29/morally-straight-the-transformation-of-the-boy-scouts-of-america/)
"The Boy Scouts will soon face the same challenge seen in much of the United States military. The conservative segments of the population most opposed to the normalization of homosexuality are also the segments that have historically provided the vast majority of those who volunteer to serve in the military. The Boy Scouts of America is prepared to surrender to massive public pressure and to set itself against the majority of its own members. Remember that just six months ago the B.S.A. chief executive said that the current policy was supported by “the vast majority of the parents of the youth we serve.”

Those parents and sponsoring organizations, including thousands of churches, were no match for the political clout of the gay rights movement. This should serve as a sobering indication of the cultural momentum behind the current moral revolution — the reversal in one generation of a moral consensus that had endured for thousands of years ... Faithful Christians are left in the excruciatingly difficult position of maintaining fidelity to moral judgments revealed in the Bible while the culture around us races in the opposite direction. While the Boy Scouts use language like “morally straight,” the church uses its own language of sin, grace, and obedience."
In a January 28th post at the American Family Association's Rightly Concerned blog, Bryan Fischer warned the Boy Scouts against "capitulation to the forces of sexual deviancy". He claimed that gays sexually abuse children at higher rates, ignoring research to the contrary. (See www[dot]afa[dot]net/Blogs/BlogPost.aspx?id=2147531729)
"If the Scouts do not reverse themselves, we will soon be reading the kind of horror stories about Scouting that we have read about in the Catholic Church. Homosexual pedophiles already seek to infiltrate scouting because it provides a target rich environment for their twisted desires. Abolishing the sexual orientation standard will turn every Boy Scout in America into vulnerable prey for the sexually deviant."
Finally, in a January 29th article at American Thinker entitled "The Boy Scouts: A Deal with Gay Activists?", Dan Nagasaki and Glenn Doi oppose the idea of gay scout leaders but insist it has nothing to do with homophobia. Rather, they claim that placing someone in a leadership position overseeing "impressionable, and sometimes troubled or sexually-confused boys or girls" where sexual tension might exist is inappropriate. (See www[dot]americanthinker[dot]com/blog/2013/01/the_boy_scotus_dealing_with_gay_activists.html)

A common theme runs through many of these statements: the incorrect claim that gay men are more likely to perpetrate abuse. Whether the language is subtle ("concern for the well-being of the boys under their care") or brazen ("homosexual pedophiles" seeking victims for their "twisted desires"), the ugly stereotype of gays as predators is unmistakable. This kind of hateful rhetoric demonizes gays, ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of LGBTQ persons are not predators. Moreover, such rhetoric ignores the real correlates of sexual abuse -- abuse that the Boy Scout's policy of excluding gays did not prevent. If Religious Right figures were genuinely concerned about abuse in the Boy Scouts, they would focus on real abuse prevention instead of scapegoating gays.

Whether the Boy Scouts retains or drops its no-gays policy, the fact that it is publicly reconsidering the policy is progress. The world is evolving on LGBTQ issues, to the Religious Right's dismay. I expect the Religious Right to fume like this every time a major organization abandons an unfair policy or adopts an LGBTQ-affirming stance. And, I expect more and more people to see through their homophobic rhetoric.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Right Wing Watch: Bryan Fischer Explodes: 'Not One Loving Father' Should Entrust Son to the Boy Scouts if Gays Are Included

Christian Science Monitor: Will Change on Gays Allow Boy Scouts to Recapture Role in Society?

The Atlantic: The Real Story Behind the Boy Scouts' Gay-Ban Reversal Is a Human Story

Commentary Tidbits

Wall of Separation: Creationism Commotion: Five States Have Anti-Evolution Bills In Play 

Ward Gossip: Abbottsville Sisters Struggle to Define Rights

Box Turtle Bulletin: NOM plans dramatic revelation of their irrelevancy

News Tidbits

Kansas City Star: Megan Phelps-Roper of Westboro Baptist Church: An heir to hate

Mail Online: 'I had to pray for people to die': Woman who escaped 'hate cult' Westboro Baptist Church finds peace with new life full of freedom

Hawaii News Now: Gay community outraged by Honolulu Ethics Board appointee's comments

Raw Story: San Francisco archbishop: Marriage equality ‘is like legalizing male breastfeeding’

Gay Star News: French right calls for polygamy, incest to be added to gay marriage bill

Monday, January 28, 2013

Smelly Demons and Gender-Bending Ghosts

Charisma Magazine, having alerted readers to the pressing threat of demon nookie, has posted another commentary on demons. In a January 25th column at the Charisma Magazine website, Mark A. Pearson warns readers about demons occupying houses. In "Can Your House Be Haunted?" Pearson speculates that demons can sometimes be the culprits behind unusual household phenomena, such as strange sounds or odors. Apparently they move furniture too (so remind me to recruit some demon helpers when I move to a new home).
"It could be that demons are present and misbehaving. Sometimes they propel objects at people, move furniture about or make various noises. At other times they create extreme temperatures—generally cold—or nauseating odors, or they may impede one's ability to pray. Satan can come at us physically, emotionally and spiritually."
That's right, folks. Don't blame poor insulation or old windows for those cold drafts. That strange smell in the kitchen isn't from a rotten potato in that bag of Idaho russets on the counter. And those noises you hear at night aren't from your house expanding or contracting due to nighttime temperature changes. Nope! It's Satan!

Pearson argues that demons occupy homes for several reasons, such as revenge for "spiritual warfare" or enticement by curses, tarot cards, or Ouija boards.
"The demons may have taken up residence for several reasons. One is because they were invited, either deliberately by someone who called on them to come or naively through games such as a Ouija board or tarot cards ... Another reason evil spirits may take up residence is because of a curse. Sometimes a curse is placed on a home or other building as revenge for something the occupants have done or as spiritual warfare against believers."
He also theorizes that supernatural disturbances may result from "the presence of the souls of unsaved people who died without being commended to the Lord." Everything from war to abortion (!) can supposedly disorient spirits of the dead.
"... [T]heir souls are trapped here until someone tells them to go to God for their eternal fate. They're not demons trying to harm us or spirits trying to enter into a relationship with us, but souls seeking our help to be freed from being trapped on earth.

In my years in the inner-healing ministry I have worked with numerous women who were troubled with psychological and spiritual ailments. In some cases they had delivered a stillborn child or committed abortion.

Often the remains of their children had been discarded without their naming the child or commending him or her to God. In such cases, when we've named the child and commended him or her to God using the same prayers I use for deceased adults, significant healing has taken place. (In the case of abortion the sin also has to be acknowledged and repented of and God's forgiveness has to be asked.)"
Apparently, such disoriented ghosts can even make people transgender!
"British missionary surgeon Dr. Kenneth McAll was once asked to minister to a man hospitalized with incurable cross-dressing, gender-confusion issues. He researched the family history and discovered the man had a twin sister who was stillborn.

The family never thought a funeral would be necessary for one who was born dead, and the surviving brother was never told of her existence. After the discovery, McAll had a funeral performed for the sister. Some days later the mental hospital called saying the man had suddenly changed and was ready to be taken home."
Superstitions like this are nonsense. Demons and ghosts are the stuff of comic books, not real life. Such superstitions are the products of fearful minds and overactive imaginations, and have no place in the 21st century.

Pearson's column is alarming for another reason. By linking abortion and gender diversity to supernatural hauntings, it makes reasonable discussion of those issues impossible. Abortion and gender diversity cease to be social issues deserving of rational discussion and become just another symptom of spiritual malaise. Sadly, Pearson is not the first person to associate abortion and LGBTQ status with otherworldly influences, as observers of the more colorful voices of the Religious Right know well.

As I've asked so many time before . . . how do you reason with people like this?

Commentary Tidbits

The Advocate: Why Alabama Needs to Update Its Sex Education

Vero News: Reinhard Bonnke: From saving souls in Africa to living large in Vero

Chicago Phoenix: Africa pays for LGBT victories in US

Elizabeth Esther: Where The Right Went Wrong (And How the GOP Can Become Grand Again)

News Tidbits

BBC News: Director seeks answers with Bible Quiz documentary

Los Angeles Times: Chick-fil-A tax forms show no donations to anti-gay groups

New York Times: In Fight Over Life, a New Call by Catholics

Gay Star News: UK: Catholics deliver one million anti-gay marriage postcards

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Documentary: After Tiller

Last week, Republic of Gilead discussed God Loves Uganda, a new documentary currently showing at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Another equally intriguing film is also being screened at Sundance this year, After Tiller. With the recent 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and waves of anti-choice legislation moving through state governments, After Tiller couldn't be more timely.

Directed and produced by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, After Tiller shares the stories of the four remaining doctors who perform third-trimester abortions in the U.S.: Dr. LeRoy Carhart, Dr. Warren Hern, Dr. Susan Robinson, and Dr. Shelley Sella. After the murder of late-term abortion provider George Tiller in 2009, the task of providing late-term abortions in the U.S. fell to these four former colleagues of Dr. Tiller.

The documentary shares the professional and personal challenges of each physician as they help their patients. The doctors provide abortion services amidst fierce opposition from anti-abortion activists who demonize them as killers. We learn the story of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who began performing late-term abortions in Germantown, MD after anti-abortion activists resisted his efforts to open a practice in Nebraska. We learn of Dr. Warren Hern, who struggles to balance his family life with the stresses of working as an abortion provider in Colorado. We learn of Dr. Susan Robinson and Dr. Shelly Sella, who doctors who worked alongside Dr. Tiller in Kansas before his murder. All four doctors navigate the difficult terrain of abortion-restricting legislation, personal struggles, and the risk of violence.

In a director's statement, Martha Shane and Lana Wilson discussed their reasons for making After Tiller.
"We chose to explicitly frame our film as being from the point of view of these four doctors. Given the amount of violence directed towards abortion providers since the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973, the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009 being only the most recent example, these doctors have frequently been forced to live in the shadows. As filmmakers, our goal was to give these doctors a voice. One of the most interesting things we discovered through interviewing the doctors is that they recognized the moral and ethical complexity in doing this work better than anyone—in fact, they struggle with the issues at the heart of this debate every day."
Shane and Wilson also explained why they shared the stories of women seeking late-term abortions in the film. The humanized the women, pointing out that the came from diverse backgrounds and had a wide range of feelings about their decisions to terminate pregnancies.
"Likewise, the patients who came to these doctors for late abortions were not pro-­choice political zealots. They were women from a huge variety of socio-­economic and religious backgrounds, and they were racked with guilt, sadness, anger, and even ambivalence about their decisions. The reason so many patients agreed to participate in the film is because they never thought they would end up in such a desperate situation, and saw sharing their stories as the only way anyone could possibly understand. This is a refrain echoed by the doctors in the film, and was also part of the reason they decided to participate. They thought that if more Americans could meet them, and hear where they were coming from—even if they still disagreed with the work that they did—they at least might not want to kill them."
Wilson found Dr. Tiller's devotion to reproductive rights intriguing. The idea for making the documentary came to her after Tiller's 2009 murder, as she pondered his motivations for providing abortion.
"I had the idea for the film in 2009, after Dr. Tiller was assassinated. The news coverage said that Dr. Tiller was killed in a church he had attended with his family for over twenty years, and I remember being surprised that this man could be both the greatest villain of the pro-­life movement and a deeply religious Christian. The news also reported that Dr. Tiller had been shot before, but had returned to work the day after, which made me wonder—what kind of person would keep going to work after an experience like that? Who would ever want to do a job where they were hated by so many, and literally under attack every day, with what seemed like so little reward?"
To learn more about After Tiller, visit the film's official website.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Los Angeles Times: After Tiller about abortion doctors, patients

Indiewire: Lana Wilson, Martha Shane Challenge Assumptions About Third-Trimester Abortions in After Tiller

The Daily Beast: After Tiller Profiles Last Four U.S. Doctors Who Do Late-Term Abortions

Paris Rally Against Same-Sex Marriage Supported by French & American Religious Right

France's Religious Right and Far Right supporters recently vocalized their opposition to same-sex marriage in a massive Paris rally. CNN reports that on January 13, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched through Paris to protest French President François Hollande's support for same-sex marriage and adoption. The march comes after the Cabinet approved an LGBTQ right bill that is due to go before the National Assembly and Senate. Among the rally's supporters was the far-right National Front, according to France 24. While Catholics and evangelicals figured prominently, French Muslims also took part in the rally, encouraged by groups such as the Union of French Islamic Organizations, reports Reuters.

The crowd gathered at the Champs-de-Mars near the Eiffel Tower. Comedian Frigide Barjot challenged President Hollande in a speech before the assembled protesters. “You, president of the republic, will you be the one decreeing that one can be born without a man or a woman?” she said, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Photos at France 24 show protesters marching with signs and banners that read Tous nés d'un homme et d'une femme (“All are born from a man and a woman”), Zéro maman c'est déprimant (“Zero moms is depressing”), and La différence est la clé de l'existence (“The difference [between the sexes] is the key to existence.”).

Not everyone was happy about the rally's impact on the area. According to the Local, Paris mayor Bertrand Delanöe has demanded €100,000 to cover the cost of restoring grass around the Champs-de-Mars following the demonstration.

The rally has been loudly trumpeted by both French and American Religious Right voices. For example, French anti-LGBTQ group L'institut Civitas enthusiastically supported the rally. In a January 2nd message at the L'Institut Civitas website, Civitas president Alain Escada promoted the January 13th rally. He called French president Holland's pro-LGBTQ efforts "real secularist totalitarianism" (un véritable totalitarisme laïciste), insisting that "irreligious fanaticism" (fanatisme d’irréligion) would be destructive to the family unit.

In a blog post at the Civitas website, I'ACIM president  Jean-Pierre Dickes encouraged supporters to join the January 13th rally. He argued that gays have high rates of HIV infection and domestic violence, making them unsuitable parents for adopted children. He selectively quoted research (ignoring research that says otherwise) and caricatured pro-LGBTQ feminists.  
"C'est cette situation que le mariage des homosexuels va aggraver. Un père et une mère sont nécessaires pour élever et épanouir un enfant. Tout le monde le sait. Certains féministes arguent que la violence conjugale existe dans des couples mariés ; ceci pour justifier le mariage et l'adoption des enfants par les gays. Bien sûr de tels débordements sont insoutenables. Mais faut-il pour autant oublier la violence au sein des couples homosexuels eux-mêmes?
L'homosexualité serait-elle un vaccin contre la violence ? Alors que selon l'INSERM les homosexuels se suicident treize fois plus que le reste de la population. Une étude canadienne établit que les violences conjugales sont le double au sein de ce type de populations. Sans compter que 18 % des gays ... ont contracté le sida. Ce sera dans de telles ambiances que demain nos enfants seront placés par l'adoption, voire conçus par la procréation médicalement assistée." 

("A mother and a father are required to raise and develop a child. All the world knows this. Some feminists argue that domestic violence exists with married couples; this to justify the marriage and the adoption of children by gays. Of course such excesses are intolerable. But do I need to bear in mind the violence within same-sex couples? 

Would homosexuality be a vaccine against the violence? According to the INSERM homosexuals commit suicide 13 times more than the rest of the population. A Canadian study establishes that domestic violence are twice within this type of people. Not to mention that 18% of gays ... have contracted AIDS. It will be in such atmospheres that our children will be adopted into tomorrow, or even designed by medically assisted procreation.")
Groups from the American Religious Right have also commended the anti-LGBTQ rally. In a January 11th message at the National Organization for Marriage website, NOM president Brian Brown revealed that he was in France to attend the January 13th rally. He brimmed with excitement over France's "massive poplar rebellion" against President Hollande's efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
"To read the news accounts in the U.S., you would think gay marriage is inevitable here. Like everywhere.

That's what they always say, right? Recognize that argument for what it is: a tactic to make you feel helpless and impotent and therefore submissive. To get you to give up and just submit to whatever they have planned.

There are only two things we know for sure about the future: it hasn't happened yet. And for those of us who are people of faith—we know that God is in charge.

But to be here is to recognize something extraordinary is happening, something totally unpredicted when French President Francois Hollande set out to pass gay marriage: a massive popular rebellion."
Amusingly, in its coverage of France's anti-LGBTQ movement, NOM made a point of arguing that LGBTQ persons supposedly don't want marriage. The blog quoted LGBTQ persons who allegedly disapproved of same-sex marriage, ignoring the many LGBTQ persons and their allies who want to see same-sex marriage legalized.

The connections between NOM and France's anti-LGBTQ activists go beyond moral support. Good As You reports that the French Laissez-Nous Voter ("Let Us Vote") website went online shortly before January 13th, urging a referendum on same-sex marriage rights. According to Good As You, the website was created by Colton Brugger of OPUSFidelis, who also performs work for the NOM website.

Other right-wing groups have weighed in as well. Christian News Wire reports that Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress of Families, praised the January 13th rally.
"Yesterday's march, supported by the French Catholic hierarchy, was an impassioned outpouring in defense of marriage, children, and the natural family.  It demonstrates, once again, that the push for 'same-sex marriage' is driven by elites and rejected by the overwhelming majority of families worldwide."
The January 13th rally raises important questions for LGBTQ rights supporters worldwide. Was the rally representative of anti-LGBTQ sentiment in France? If such sentiment is powerful, how can LGBTQ rights activists change minds and bring about policy change? Does the Muslim presence at the rally suggest collaboration between France's conservative Christians and conservative Muslims? To what degree are Religious Right forces in France and the United States collaborating? Finally, if the American Religious Right is forming relationships with its French counterparts, how can LGBTQ rights supporters do the same?

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Good As You: As I Predicted, NOM's President Brian Brown Is In France

French Anti-Gay Marriage Movement Is The Toast Of American Culture Warriors

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: Hundreds of Thousands of French Catholics, Evangelicals and Muslims Protest at Eiffel Tower Against Gay Marriage

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Slate: Evangelizing Hatred

The American Prospect: Freedom to Choose, Freedom to Marry

Truth Wins Out: Bob Jones University Fails to Extend GRACE to Victims of Sexual Abuse

Right Wing Watch: Religious Right Angry over 'Dangerous' Decision to End Ban on Women in Combat

National Center for Science Education: "Intelligent design" bill in Missouri

News Tidbits

Washington Post: Abortion foes debate best PR approach

Vancouver Sun: Pope tweets shout-out for DC anti-abortion rally, urges politicians to protect unborn

Stanford News: White Republicans and Southern evangelicals most likely to claim reverse discrimination, Stanford research finds

The Advocate: Gary Bauer Says Minorities Are Leaving His 'Coalition for Normal Marriage'

American Medical News: Legal showdown over gay conversion therapy waged in 2 states

Edge Boston: Pastor Won’t Testify in Same-Sex Custody Dispute

The Telegraph: UK: Catholic adoption agency faces punishment for gay discrimination

Washington Blade: Anti-gay groups file Prop 8, DOMA briefs

Log Cabin Democrat: Religious visitors barred from school lunch visits

Pennlive: East Shore church to pay $10,000 fine for fake terrorism raid

Speaking in Tongues

While observing the Religious Right, I've come across a few Charismatic and Apostolic events in which speaking in tongues (glossolalia) is a cherished spiritual practice. For instance, this scene from the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp shows glossolalia at a children's ministry gathering.

However, neurobiology is shedding light on the the origins of glossolalia.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Right Wing Watch: 'Non-Political' Prayer Breakfast Welcomes Pastor Who Prays for Obama's Death

Think Progress: Illinois ‘Family’ Group: Gays Are ‘Perfectly Free’ To Marry The Opposite Sex

Friendly Atheist: 1Flesh Plays Fast and Loose with Abortion Facts

Stuff Fundies Like: Hymn Book Holding

News Tidbits

Colorado Independent: In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people   (Hat tip to The Way Forward)

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll: Obama “likely does not know” God

Washington Blade: ‘God hates f*gs’ signs displayed on inaugural route

Reuters: Controversial Kansas abortion clinic to reopen this spring

Pink News: Anti-gay evangelist Scott Lively: ‘Gays will crush religion and persecute Christians’

NPR: Sundance Subsidy Stirs Conservative Pushback

The Advocate: Georgia: Public Funds Support Scholarships at Antigay Private Schools

Out: God Loves Uganda director was outed while making the film

Courthouse News: Fired Worker Doubts That God Did It

Gay Star News: Singapore Christians rally for battle against repeal of anti-gay law

Punch: Nigeria: Same-sex marriage will wipe out humanity, says Pastor Enoch Adeboye

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Diversity and Tolerance Triumph at Presidential Inauguration

On Monday, President Obama was sworn in for the second term of his presidency. His inauguration fell on the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and his inaugural address reflected a spirit of equality, justice, and obligations to future generations that would have likely appeal to the late Dr. King. President Obama's inaugural address touched upon the need for equality across race, sex, and sexual orientation.
"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall ... For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."
The choice of speakers for the inauguration also reflected a spirit of equality. Rev. Louie Giglio was originally scheduled to deliver the benediction at the inaugural ceremony, but these plans were jettisoned when a past homophobic sermon by Giglio surfaced (more below). In Giglio's place, the Presidential Inaugural Committee invited Episcopal priest Luis Leon to deliver the inaugural benediction. Leon, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington D.C., was a member of the steering committee for D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality, according to the Washington Blade.

Rev. Leon's benediction stressed the common humanity that diverse people share, asking God to dispel fear of those who are different. Gays were included in Leon's vision of a common humanity.
"We pray for your blessing because without it suspicion, despair, and fear of those different from us will be our rule of life. But with your blessing, we can see each other created in your image, a unit of God's grace, unprecedented, irrepeatable and irreplaceable.

We pray for your blessing because without it, we will see only what the eye can see. But with the blessing of your blessing we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor."
Moreover, poet Richard Blanco delivered a poet entitled "One Today" during the swearing-in ceremony, in which he celebrated America's rich diversity. The 2013 presidential inauguration was indeed a time to celebrate diversity, to acknowledge the many groups that make up the American tapestry.

This inauguration was a meaningful moment for America. The choice of speakers and the messages they conveyed suggest an America where diversity is increasingly celebrated, where more people recognize the humanity of their LGBTQ brethren. Symbolically and concretely, America is making progress toward greater unity.

Of course, the Religious Right is not happy about this. For instance, in a January 22nd commentary at the Family Research Council website, the FRC accused President Obama of using a "combative tone" and fomenting division by defending "special rights based on sexual behavior". The fact that an organization opposed to LGBTQ rights could accuse anyone else of divisiveness blows my mind. (See www[dot]frc[dot]org/washingtonupdate/a-vision-of-division)
"With every reinvention of the Founder's ideals, President Obama made it clear that he is committed to continuing his push for big, centralized, and expensive government. And paramount to that push is a highly controversial vision that includes everything from unlimited entitlements and gun bans to illegal immigration to special rights based on sexual behavior. "Our journey is not complete," the President said, "until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law--for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." In these instances, a speech that could have built bridges only widened the gaps."
The Religious Right's anger over inauguration details had ignited long before inauguration day. As mentioned above, Rev. Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, had been selected to deliver the benediction at President Obama's inaugural ceremony. According to the Washington Post, Giglio had been chosen because of his extensive work in raising awareness of human trafficking.

Controversy erupted when Think Progress unearthed a 1990s sermon by Giglio which contained homophobic remarks and endorsement of so-called conversion therapy. In  the sermon "In Search of a Standard -- Christian Response to Homosexuality", Giglio spoke of homosexuality as a sin, an addiction, and a threat to morality. For instance, at the 31:45 mark, Giglio urged listeners to resist the "aggressive agenda" of the LGBTQ community, warning that gays are not a "benevolent" force.
"We must lovingly yet  firmly respond to the aggressive agenda of not all, but many in the homosexual community ... Underneath this issue is a very powerful and aggressive moment. That movement is not a benevolent movement, but it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle, as it relates to family."
At the 40:25 mark, Giglio suggested that faith in Jesus Christ could lift people out of the "homosexual lifestyle". (Sound familiar?)
"As the church of Jesus Christ, we cannot sit on the sidelines. We cannot sit back inside our churches, but we must reach out and we must aggressively move toward the homosexual community because we have a message. We’ve got something to say ... Our message is we know Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is powerful enough to do anything and to do everything. And the only way out of a homosexual lifestyle, the only way out of a relationship that has been engrained over years of time, is through the healing power of Jesus."
These comments soon caught up with Giglio. In a January 10th blog post at the Passion City Church website, Giglio explained to readers that he would not be praying at the presidential inauguration. In a statement he submitted to the White House, Giglio worried that his participation in the inauguration would be overshadowed by people with an "agenda". (See www[dot]passioncitychurch[dot]com/blog/?p=1436)
"Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ."
Naturally, the Religious Right was outraged. In a January 10th press release posted at the Family Research Council website, FRC president Tony Perkins called the Giglio affair an example of the Obama Administration's "intolerance", condemning the value it has placed on "forced acceptance of homosexuality." Perkins argues that the major Christian denominations sanction sexual behavior only in opposite-sex marriages, oblivious to the fact that not all Christians embrace homophobia, and that not all Americans are conservative Christians. (See frcblog[dot]com/2013/01/pastor-giglio-disinvitation-signals-inauguration-new-era-religious-intolerance/)
"This is another example of intolerance from the Obama administration toward those who hold to biblical views on sexuality. Why is the president surprised that an evangelical pastor would teach from Scripture on homosexuality? One would be hard pressed to find an Evangelical pastor who hasn’t preached on what the Bible teaches about human sexuality.

Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox churches all actively proclaim that sexual intimacy within the marriage of one man and one woman is the only biblically-sanctioned human sexual behavior. Are the scores of millions of Americans who affirm these teachings no longer welcome at the inauguration of our president?

What is shocking is the intolerance of the Obama team that put such a high priority on forced acceptance of homosexuality that they totally disregard Pastor Giglio’s life work combating human trafficking. What we are seeing is the inauguration of a new era of religious intolerance in America."
In a January 11th post at the National Organization For Marriage blog, NOM president Brian Brown defended Giglio's view as "the standard view of sexual morality" in the world's major religions. He also accused the Obama administration of excluding "traditional Christianity" and thereby sacrificing the principles of unity and tolerance. The sheer irony of an anti-LGBTQ organization accusing the White House of neglecting national unity and tolerance is mind-boggling. (See www[dot]nomblog[dot]com/32322/)
"Nonetheless, Pastor Giglio's view is the standard view of sexual morality in orthodox Christianity (and Judaism, and Hinduism, and Islam, and Buddhism) for thousands of years.

His withdrawal under political pressure demonstrates the New World Order at the White House: traditional Christianity must be excluded; the wrath of gay advocates is more important than national unity or the principle of tolerance and inclusiveness."
In a January 10th commentary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler called the Giglio affair "evidence of the new Moral McCarthyism of our sexually "tolerant" age". He claimed that Giglio had been disinvited "because he believes and teaches Christian truth", complaining that anyone who condemns homosexuality now risks being ostracized. (See www[dot]albertmohler[dot]com/2013/01/10/the-giglio-imbroglio-the-public-inauguration-of-a-new-moral-mccarthyism/)
"Louie Giglio was cast out of the circle of the acceptable simply because a liberal watchdog group found one sermon he preached almost twenty years ago. If a preacher has ever taken a stand on biblical conviction, he risks being exposed decades after the fact. Anyone who teaches at any time, to any degree, that homosexual behavior is a sin is now to be cast out."
Similarly, Janice Shaw Crouse sees Giglio as a victim of religious discrimination. In a January 15th column at the Washington Times, Crouse argued that the Obama administration is ostracizing those who embrace "Christian teaching" and that Christians must defend their religious freedom. (See www[dot]washingtontimes[dot]com/news/2013/jan/15/obama-committees-slap-in-the-face-of-religious-lib/#disqus_thread)
"The Obama administration has thrown down a gauntlet, declaring that anyone who espouses historic, biblical Christian teaching will be prohibited from participation in events in the public square, just as nativity scenes, Christmas trees, depictions of the Ten Commandments and other symbols of Christianity have previously been banned ... As Christians, we cannot back down from our religious freedoms, nor can we betray our faith by watering down scripturally based Gospel. The path forward in the moral morass of today will require our discernment and total reliance on God’s guidance and grace."
Let them fume. As much as I respect Giglio's anti-trafficking efforts, his past homophobia troubles me. Giglio could have used the controversy as an opportunity to reject his past homophobia and make amends to the LGBTQ community, but this did not occur.

The Giglio controversy, as well as the inclusive inaugural speeches delivered on Monday, are a sign that America is slowly rejecting homophobia and evolving into a more tolerant country. Homophobia is by no means dead, as the above Religious Right comments demonstrate. However, if homophobic comments can draw public disapproval, and pro-equality voices can take center stage at the presidential inauguration, America is evolving toward a more just society.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Religion Dispatches: Unpacking the Giglio Imbroglio

Huffington Post: Louie Giglio's Missed Opportunity

The Bilerico Project: Louie Giglio's Strange Logic

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Documentary: God Loves Uganda

The Sundance Film Festival is currently taking place in Park City, Utah from January 17-27. I'd like to highlight one of the documentaries being screened at this year's Sundance, God Loves Uganda. Directed by Roger Ross Williams and produced by Julie Goldman, God Loves Uganda highlights the missionary efforts of American evangelical leaders in Uganda.

In an interview with Indiewire, Roger Ross Williams voiced concern over the homophobia and right-wing worldview that American fundamentalists are exporting to Uganda. "Africa should not be a dumping ground for American conservative ideology," he insisted. "And when you unleash a message of hate and intolerance, no one is safe." Williams painted an ominous picture of the American fundamentalists proselytizing in Uganda.
"The film is really about one of the fastest growing religious movements in the world, evangelicals, who believe in Old Testament biblical law. Born in America, but with a global reach, this evangelical movement has been barely noticed by the mainstream media; yet it has over 400 million followers worldwide and huge followings in sub-Saharan Africa, Korea, and South America.

Well organized and well funded, they are committed to the global domination by Christian fundamentalists of all aspects of society - government, media, religion, and culture – in short, nothing less than a Christian theocracy. Theologically, they believe that they must convert and purify the earth. They are particularly concerned with 'sexual immorality' – that is, pornography, any kind of sex outside of marriage, and homosexuality. They believe that their opponents are often possessed by demons. And they believe that one of the first places God wants them to purify is Uganda."
In a press statement, Williams acknowledged that some of the American missionaries in Uganda were kindly and committed. Still, he emphasized that American evangelical forces also helped produce the "noxious flower" of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
"I began meeting in Uganda – and in America – some of the missionaries who have helped create Ugandaʼs evangelical movement. They were often large hearted. They were passionate and committed. Many of them were kids from Americaʼs heartland. And they were, I began to discover, part of a larger Christian evangelical movement that believed that Biblical law should reign supreme – not just in peopleʼs hearts – but in the halls of government. This movement, fueled by American money and idealism, had produced a noxious flower – Ugandaʼs Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which made death as one of the penalties for homosexuality."
The documentary sheds light on how American preachers such as Lou Engle have prayed against "sexual sin" in Uganda, and how some Ugandan ministers have promoted homophobia in their own congregations. We learn of the anti-gay activism of American preacher Scott Lively, The Pink Swastika author who appeared at an anti-gay conference in Kampala in 2009, shortly before a draconian anti-gay law was proposed in Uganda. The documentary gives special attention to the International House of Prayer (IHOP), a New Apostolic Reformation organization based in Kansas City, Missouri and closely affiliated with Lou Engle. God Loves Uganda explores IHOP's missionary efforts in Uganda, featuring IHOP missionaries such as Rev. Joanna Watson, Jesse Digges, and Rachelle Digges.

Viewers are also introduced to Ugandan religious leaders who have cooperated with American evangelicals. God Loves Uganda shows us Robert Kayanja, the founder of Miracle Centre Cathedral in Kampala who has hosted prominent U.S. religious figures. We also meet pastor Martin Ssempa, the fiercely anti-gay pastor of Makerere Community Church whose controversial tactics have stirred controversy.

God Loves Uganda also shares heartbreaking stories of intolerance toward LGBTQ activists and their allies. The documentary features an interview with Ugandan LGBTQ activist David Kato, shortly before he was murdered in January 2011. We learn the story of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, an Ugandan religious leader who was excommunicated and shunned for his support of the LGBTQ community.

I'm overjoyed that this documentary is being released. The world must be made aware of how the American Religious Right is exporting its agenda overseas. Homophobia is a very real problem in Uganda, especially now that a draconian anti-gay bill is under consideration there, and the Religious Right's homophobic activism is having dire consequences for Uganda's LGBTQ community. God Loves Uganda can help keep American evangelicals' work overseas in the public consciousness so that concerned citizens can hold the Religious Right accountable.

For more information about God Loves Uganda, visit the official website.

For additional background on the activities of American evangelical leaders in Uganda, check out the following resources.

Current TV's Vanguard: Missionaries of Hate

Political Research Associates: Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa

Political Research Associates: Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia

Box Turtle Bulletin: Slouching Toward Kampala

The Advocate: Dangerous Liaisons

Commentary Tidbits

Texas Freedom Network Insider: Texas Public School Bible Classes Teach Races Come from Noah’s Sons, Biblical Literalism, 6000-year-old Earth

Washington Post: Why pro-life Catholics and evangelicals part ways on guns

SPLC Hatewatch: Religious-Right Radicals Join NRA Side in Gun Battle

The Pitch: Crashing IHOP's Annual OneThing

Right Wing Watch: Santorum Colleges 'Indoctrinating' Students in 'Sea of Antagonism Toward Christianity'

Think Progress: Seattle Megachurch Moves To Gayborhood To Minister To Those ‘Infected With AIDS’

The Guardian: Violent and homophobic, Scott Lively should never have been let into the UK

The Advocate: Dear Conservative Christians: It's OK to Evolve on LGBT Equality

News Tidbits

CNN: Survey: Few religious groups want Roe v. Wade overturned despite belief abortion morally wrong

Gay Star News: Vatican slams pro-gay European Court of Human Rights ruling

Kansas City Star: Not guilty plea entered for suspect in death of Bethany Ann Deaton (background on the case here)

Kansas City Star: Operation Rescue files complaint about new abortion clinic

Chicago Phoenix: LGBT activists to demonstrate against Cardinal George

Peoria Journal Star: Anti-abortion speaker Sharon Slater targets Girl Scouts

NPR: As Social Issues Drive Young From Church, Leaders Try To Keep Them

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Singapore Pastor Warns of "Looming Threat" of LGBTQ Activism

On January 13th, Singapore's Faith Community Baptist Church welcomed former Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong to a Sunday worship service at the TOUCHCENTRE. Lawrence Khong, senior pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church, used Goh's visit as an opportunity to condemn LGBTQ activism and voice his disapproval of efforts to repeal Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code. Like his counterparts in the U.S., New Apostolic Reformation preacher Khong warned of social breakdown and eroded rights if LGBTQ rights made headway.

Section 377A outlaws sexual acts between males, making such acts punishable by up to two years in prison. According to AFP, Singapore's Court of Appeal allowed for constitutional challenges to Section 377A in August 2012, striking down a High Court decision blocking a challenge to the law. A trial to determine the constitutionality of Section 377A is set for February 14th, the Star Online reports.

Lawrence Khong founded Faith Community Baptist Church in 1986, according to the church's website. Khong was commissioned as an apostle by Dr. C. Peter Wagner of the International Coalition of Apostles in 2000, indicative of New Apostolic Reformation influences on Khong's ministry. (See www[dot]fcbc[dot]org[dot]sg/about/milestones)

A transcript of Lawrence Khong's speech was posted earlier this week at the Faith Community Baptist Church website. In his statement, Khong painted LGBTQ activism as a "looming threat" to Singapore's families. Using rhetoric remarkably similar to U.S. anti-gay activists, Khong argued that LGBTQ rights advances have allegedly led to "the breakdown of the family" and the disintegration of parental rights worldwide. (See www[dot]fcbc[dot]org[dot]sg/about/news/sp-lawrence-khongs-statement-esm-goh-chok-tongs-visit-tc)
"We affirm that the family unit comprises a man as Father, a woman as Mother, and Children. This is the basic building block of society, a value foundational for a secure future, a premise fundamental to nation-building.

We see a looming threat to this basic building block by homosexual activists seeking to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Examples from around the world have shown that the repeal of similar laws have led to negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of the society. It takes away the rights of parents over what their children are taught in schools, especially sex education. It attacks religious freedom and eventually denies free speech to those who, because of their moral convictions, uphold a different view from that championed by increasingly aggressive homosexual activists."
Like his American Religious Right counterparts, Khong waxed poetic about "free speech" and "religious liberty" as he urged Singapore's government to demonstrate "moral leadership."
"We love our nation. We sincerely pray for and look to the Government to provide moral leadership in preserving this basic building block and foundation of our society. And with that, to robustly protect our constitutional rights to free speech and religious liberty; so as to ensure that social cohesion and religious harmony are maintained in Singapore."
Khong failed to explain how decriminalizing consensual sex between men will supposedly corrode family life or prevent people from worshipping freely. His words seem intended to inspire fear in listeners that repealing Section 377A will threaten their freedom, faith, and families. In such a worldview, LGBTQ issues become a zero sum game in which gains for the LGBTQ community must somehow mean losses for Christians. Let's hope Singapore's people understand that this is not the case.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Sparrows and Sandcastles: Evangelical Homophobia

Jianlin Chen: Singapore's Culture War Over Section 377A

(Hat tip to Pink News)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Is the Internet Undermining Fundamentalism?

In a January 12th commentary at Alternet, Valerie Tarico argues that the free flow of information granted by the Internet threatens traditional religion. In "Does the Internet Spell Doom for Organized Religion?" ,Tarico points to supportive online communities for apostates, online science videos and articles, collections of silly beliefs, and catalogues of religious horrors as some of the online forces challenging traditional religion.

One particular passage impressed me so much that I wanted to share it. Fundamentalism has to block out information and outside influences in order to thrive.
"A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Bible-believing Christians  are forbidden to marry nonbelievers. It is why  Quiverfull moms home-school their kids with carefully screened textbooks. It is why, when you get sucked into conversations with your fundamentalist Uncle George from Florida, you sometimes wonder if he has some superpower that allows him to magically close down all avenues into his mind. (He does!)

Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing  distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.

Tech-savvy mega-churches may have Twitter missionaries, and Calvinist cuties may make viral videos about how Jesus worship isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship, but that doesn’t change the facts: the free flow of information is really, really bad for the product they are selling."
In other words, fundamentalism feeds on ignorance and insularity. Fortunately, the Internet is undermining both.

The internet's threat to fundamentalism came up previously in a 2011 talk by Christian apologist Josh McDowell. Addressing an audience in Asheville, NC, McDowell lamented that the information available through the internet has led to widespread skepticism, having leveled the playing field for different belief systems. McDowell's strategy for confronting this new reality was for parents to model their Christian faith and prepare themselves to answer their children's questions about religion. Still, what if the ocean of online information about science, history, and alternative faiths provides more satisfying and sound answers?

The wealth of online information will not undermine all people's fundamentalism, however. Fundamentalists are adept at screening out information and viewpoints that they disapprove of, so it is a simple matter for them to avoid Internet content that would challenge their beliefs. Willful ignorance persists, even in the computer age.

Fortunately, there will always be fundamentalists whose curiosity exceeds their insularity, and fundamentalists' students and children who do not share their willful ignorance. For these people, the internet offers enough information to make them reexamine their assumptions. That may bode well for the future.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Religious Right Around the Globe: South African Christian School Claims it Can Cure Gays

So-called "conversion therapy" has been making its way around the globe. Now, a South African Christian school is among the latest proponent of this dubious "therapy". Creare Training Center, a faith-based arts school in Bloemfontein, South Africa, is in hot water for claiming that it can help students change from gay to straight.

According to Times Live, the center prospectus claimed that it could allegedly change gay students into heterosexuals. Cornelius can Heyningen, founder of Creare Training Centre, insisted that the school is merely catering to the wishes of its students. "We are catering for those who say 'I want to change as a homosexual'. That's not saying no homosexuals are allowed," he said, according to Times Live.

Supporters of LGBTQ rights are outraged. Dawie Nel, director of OUT, called Creare Training Centre's stance unconstitutional and warmed that such homophobia fuels an atmosphere of discrimination, corrective rape, and other hate crimes.
"Their comments fuel violent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, such as the rape of gays and lesbians to 'cure' them; or even murders being committed."
In a January 13th post at O-blog-dee-o-blog-da, Melanie Nathan accused the school of unlawful discrimination.
"Not only is this blatant discrimination under the South African Law but worse is Heyningen’s assertion that Gays can be cured. It is a myth and quackery to assert such claims, whether done in the name of a Bible, God or therapy."
Meanwhile, Creare Training Center has gone into damage control mode. In a "Statement Regarding Media Attention Surrounding Gay Issues", the organization claims that "all people are precious to God" and "no-one has the right to judge another person or to harm another person in any way." However, the statement also defends the "human right" to change one's sexual orientation. (See www[dot]
"Just as the human rights of people allow them to position themselves as homosexual (either through religion or the belief that they were born that way), SO, ALSO, can people exercise their human rights to choose if they want to change their sexual orientation or not ... We, therefore, believe that we must be able to facilitate the human rights of the person who wants to change their sexual orientation, because such a person's rights are often undervalued and overlooked.

The facilitation of such a person's human rights must take place in an environment that supports such a process of change.

The freedom of religion protected by the constitution of this country thus gives us the right to exercise a specific Christian world perspective regarding this point of view, taking into account the respect God gives to every person."
Despite its outward rejection of homophobic discrimination, Creare's 2013 student prospectus states that students who pursue the gay "lifestyle" will be forbidden from studying at the center. (See www[dot]crearedream[dot]com/pdf/2013%20Prospectus%20(1)[dot]pdf)
"According to the Statement of Faith in the Constitution of Creare training Centre, we believe in the principle of relationship fundamental to personal sexual orientation being founded on that of heterosexuality. Therefore any person wanting to pursue a lifestyle contrary and is not willing to be discipled in this regard, will not be permitted to continue further studies or lecture. We offer ministry to help people that want to change their sexual orientation A.E Homosexuality & Lesbianism to heterosexuality."
Perhaps Creare should do some research on so-called conversion therapy. A 2010 statement by the American Psychological Association expresses concern over "ongoing efforts to mischaracterize homosexuality and promote the notion that sexual orientation can be changed and about the resurgence of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE)." The statement reminded mental health professionals that insufficient evidence exists to demonstrate the efficacy of SOCEs. The APA affirmed its position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, adding that "same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality regardless of sexual orientation identity." Moreover, a 2008 APA publication endorsed entitled Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth frowns on efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy, warning that such efforts have "serious potential to harm young people". In short, attempts to change people from gay to straight are not only ineffective, but unhealthy. If Creare had the best interests of its students in mind, it would reject so-called conversion therapy outright.

Creare's promotion of dubious, homophobic "therapy" is worrisome, as is the nagging deja vu of their language. Branding homosexuality a "lifestyle", framing conversion therapy as "help", defending conversion therapy as a supposed "human right", and refusing to accept sexual orientation as innate should all sound familiar to observers of the American Religious Right. "Ex-gay" rhetoric, like "ex-gay" therapy, travels around the world quickly.

1/18/13 UPDATE: South Africa's Justice Ministry is urging the Human Rights Commission to investigate claims of discrimination at Crearer Training Center, according to IOL News.

(Hat tip to Gay Star News)

Commentary Tidbits

Truth Wins Out: G. Craige Lewis: The Most Dangerous Preacher in the Black Church

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: Hatemonger Scott Lively Invited to Debate Gay Rights at Prestigious Oxford Union

God Discussion: New legal services site launched to protect religious organizations from 'dark legal clouds gathering across our nation'

Buzzfeed: Are Young Evangelicals Sick Of Sexual Politics?

Esquire: A Gentle Reminder About Rick Santorum

Buzzfeed: French Anti-Gay Marriage Movement Is The Toast Of American Culture Warriors

Washington Post: Jim DeMint: Conservative ideas need a new message