Friday, May 31, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Christian Piatt: The Dangers of Christian “Marriage Worship”

Roy Speckhardt: The Christian Right Misses Badly with Jefferson Bible Attacks

SPLC Intelligence Report: As Tolerance of LGBT People Grows, Anti-Gay Groups Ratchet Up Smears

Defeating the Dragons: Learning the words: Brainwashing

Metro Times: 10 Most Absurd Sex Tips from the Christian Right

Right Wing Watch: Fischer: Women Were Designed To Be Ruled Over and Focus Their Energy on Making a Home for Their Children & Husband

God Discussion: America is not just a Christian nation; it is a diverse nation

The Wild Hunt: Continued Controversy Over Russia’s “Anti-Blasphemy” Laws

News Tidbits

Gallup: Most Americans Say Religion Is Losing Influence in U.S.

BBC News: Michele Bachmann will not seek re-election to Congress

WBRC Fox 6: Pastor says Boy Scouts can no longer meet at his church

NBC 10 Philadelphia: Faith-Healing Churches Linked to 2 Dozen Child Deaths

The Tennessean: Hillsboro High sex talk from group is questioned

Pennlive: Defending success and fame: Joel Osteen says he is keeping the faith

Pink News: Catholics told to fast and pray ahead of Supreme Court equal marriage rulings

Gay Star News: Christians who refused to work with gays lose final court case

New York Times: Gay Marriage Protested in France

New Straits Times: Evangelicals protest gay marriage in Brazil

Radio Free Europe: Orthodox Churches Fight Back As Eastern Europe Pushes To Modernize, Secularize

The Herald: Zimbabwe: President Mugabe saluted for stance against homosexuality

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Boy Scouts Allow Gay Youth in Their Organization; Religious Right Fumes

On May 23rd, The Boy Scouts of America ended its policy of banning openly gay boys from participation. During a meeting of over 1,400 volunteer leaders, more than 60% approved a measure that forbid membership discrimination based on sexual orientation, reports the New York Times. However, the Boy Scouts have yet to take action on a longstanding policy that prevents openly gay adults from serving as leaders in the organization.

The decision has been greeted with approval from LGBTQ rights voices who see the decision as good for youth, while still decrying the ban on LGBTQ leaders. GLSEN, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, and other pro-equality organizations issued statements to this effect shortly after the Boy Scouts of America announced their decision.

Homophobes are unhappy, of course. Some conservative churches have rejected the Boy Scouts over the decision, according to ABC News and WBRC. Predictably, voices from the Religious Right have denounced the decision, resorting to old, ugly stereotypes about gays.

In a May 24th press release, the Brian Brown of the National organization for Marriage (NOM) lamented the "beginning of the end" for the Boy Scouts. He accused the Boy Scouts of America of succumbing to political pressure in an attempt to "appease" LGBTQ advocates and donors. Brown painted LGBTQ rights activists as a wrathful force that seeks to "punish" anyone who does not accept them. (See www[dot]nomblog[dot]com/35300)

"Today is a sad day for the Boy Scouts of America. They have succumbed to political pressure and abandoned their historic roots in what will prove to be a failed attempt to appease gay activists and corporate donors. Unfortunately, what they have done is said to the world that their oath no longer means much. Their decision to admit openly gay scouts will end up sexualizing the organization. I am certain that having changed their policy on homosexuality, it's only a matter of time before courts order them to admit homosexual scout leaders. Meanwhile, countless thousands of churches will very likely pull their sponsorship rather than endorse homosexuality, and the entire organization will begin to collapse. All of this is happening not because of a true grassroots demand of gay youth to be part of the organization but by an orchestrated political effort by gay activists who want to punish any group or organization that does not embrace homosexuality. It's the beginning of the end for what once was one of America's noblest organizations."

Concerned Women for America wasted no time in lambasting the decision. In a May 23rd press release, CWA CEO Penny Nance accused the Boy Scouts of straying from their purpose and injecting unnecessary sexuality into scouting. (See www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=22284)

"Sex and politics do not belong in the Boy Scouts. Any sort of sexual activity has always been barred from within the Boy Scouts, and now our children are forced to be subject to topics and actions that have nothing to do with scouting. This was a political move at the expense of our children, not born out of the Boy Scouts membership, but out of the desire of a few radicals in leadership who knowingly joined the institution, supposedly agreeing to its core principles, only to turn around and push their own agendas onto a 103-year-old institution. Christian parents have no other choice but to reassess their involvement in the Boy Scouts, who have officially strayed from their original purpose. It is a sad day for children and families."

Scott Lively, ever bombastic in his homophobia, penned a May 24th commentary entitled "Satan Wins Back the Scouts." Demonizing LGBTQ activists as "homo-fascists" and "perverts", Lively raged against a "homosexualized scouting movement" in the wake of the decision. (See www[dot]defendthefamily[dot]com/pfrc/newsarchives.php?id=5310985)

"Sadly, the Boy Scouts of America has gone the opposite direction and officially voted to abandon Biblical values and must now begin to experience the consequences of its cowardice and stupidity. One consequence should be the complete and immediate withdrawal of all support by all of us who still hold to those values."

Outrageously, Lively claimed that allowing gay and bisexual scouts would delight child abusers in the ranks. He described at length all sorts of salacious accusations against youth scouting and hiking organizations.

"There are no doubt many hidden and very cautious pederasts already lurking in the Boy Scout leadership who are now salivating over the prospect of having in their care self-declared “gay” boys whom they can approach sexually with far less fear of exposure. “Gay” boys who can also help to recruit their peers into intergenerational “gay” relationships. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that pederasts naturally gravitate to all-male societies."

John Stemberger, president of On My Honor, penned a May 23rd commentary piece for CNN on the decision. On My Honor is an anti-LGBTQ organization that opposes "open homosexuality" in the Boy Scouts. (See www[dot]onmyhonor[dot]net) In his CNN piece, Stemberger insists that the Boy Scouts has never discriminated agains gays, ignoring claims to the contrary. Hen bemoans how "open homosexuality" will now be tolerated in the organization, without defining what exactly "open homosexuality" is.

"Sex and politics have no place in the Boy Scouts, and allowing open homosexuality will lead to myriad bad consequences," he writes. Stemberger adds that he has removed his children from Boy Scout organizations for their "safety" and "security", suggesting that he may see gay and bisexual youth as a sexual threat.

Predictably, Stemberger claims that respecting gay and bisexual scouts constitutes an affront to religious freedom.

"Further, the new policy forces every chartered Scouting unit, irrespective of religious convictions, to facilitate open homosexuality among boys in their program. The policy fails to respect or revere the religious beliefs, values and theology of the vast majority of Christian churches, which charter more than 70% of all Scouting units."

I fail to see how religious homophobia trumps the right of gay and bisexual boys to be treated as human beings. If someone's religious beliefs compel them to treat LGBTQ youth poorly, the problem lies with them, not the LGBTQ youth.

Stemberger has been depicting gay scouts as potentially predatory for some time. According to Right Wing Watch, Stemberger appeared on The Janet Mefferd Show and claimed that gay activists with "ill motives" and an interest in the others boys could "destroy the program".

"What they’re thinking of is a little boy saying, ‘oh I think I’m attracted to guys, I think I’m gay,’ well that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the sixteen, seventeen-year-old openly gay activist from the local campus that is there for ill-motives. There as a plaintiff, there as a person to either have interest in the other boys or to promote their agenda. That is going to be the problem, not the boys. We have those boys already, scoutmasters take them in and we deal with them, we talk with them, we work with them. It’s the activists that we’re concerned with and that’s why we think sex and politics have absolutely no place in scouting. It will utterly destroy the program."

Frankly, these Religious Right responses disgust me. Lifting a discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual youth is NOT going to sexualize the Boy Scouts, and LGBTQ persons are NOT automatically predators. As usual, homophobes have resorted to salacious scare-tactics in their battle against LGBTQ equality, oblivious to how their rhetoric harms real people.

The Boy Scouts of America has a long way to go before it can be considered an equality-minded organization. Its decision to retain the ban on gay and bisexual adult leaders is unethical and discriminator, and it needs to be rejected. However, the decision to allow gay and bisexual youth is a step in the right direction. Let's hope that the Religious Right's ugly rhetoric fails to discourage gay and bisexual Boy Scouts, who should feel very proud.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Truth Wins Out: Hate Group Leaders React To The Boy Scouts Decision

Americablog: Boy Scouts lift ban on gay scouts, still consider us pedophiles when we hit 18

Policy Mic: Boy Scouts Gay Ban Policy: Don't Forget the Gay Adults Who Are Still Banned From Scouting Forever

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"The Thaw" Leaves Me Cold

Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism recently posted commentary on a Christian youth outreach organization called Reach America. Reach America posted a video entitled "The Thaw", which laments alleged "persecution" of Christians in the U.S. The young people in the video regurgitate tired fundamentalists claims about mainstream culture, insisting that sex education is "pornography", complaining that students can't pray in school, and lamenting that Christians are criticizes for promoting "marriage the way God designed it." "We are in a war for the hearts and souls of our generation," the video claims, framing the matter as combat between Christian youth and non-Christian forces.

EssenceOfThought posted a hard-hitting response to "The Thaw". (Hat tip to Better Off Damned)

Libby Anne speculates that the creators of the video are experiencing "privilege distress" at having to share American society with those who are different from them.

"I think to some extent what these teens are experiencing is what I’ve seen called “privilege distress.” They’re convinced that they’re entitled to privilege—entitled to seeing their religion officially endorsed and enforced in the public square, or the very least in the public school—and they’re upset because they’re losing their grasp on that privilege. But what they don’t see is how it feels to be in another group—a group without their traditional privilege. They don’t know what it felt to be a Jewish kid sitting through a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in the 1950s, or an atheist kid sitting through official prayers at school sports events or graduation ceremonies today. They don’t understand that the removal of their privilege—the removal of things like Bible reading and official Christian prayers—is not about persecuting them but rather about ending discrimination against those who don’t share their same beliefs."

The comments at Love, Joy, Feminism are all spot-on, but I was so amused by one particular comment that I had to share it. Richter_DL provides a stellar translation of fundamentalist code.
"Well, they say one thing and mean another. They live in a closed subculture, and speak in a code. A few translations:

"Christianity is being completely frozen out of America." - Nonchristians claim equal rights, and persecution is prohibited.

"Why can’t I pray in school?" - why can't there be mandatory evangelical school prayers?

"Why do I have to check my religion at the door?" - why can't I force my faith onto my fellow students and have them all live by the rules of my god?

"Why can’t I write about God in my school papers?" - Why aren't tracts about faith automatically given good grades, and why is putting forward positions of my faith about homosexuals and nonchristians "hateful"?

"Why do I have to tolerate people cursing my God, but I am not allowed to talk about God and my faith?" - Why can't I smite the unbelievers for being what they are?

"Why are they taking God out of my history books?" - Why isn't my history book written to make my people shine?

"Why do they teach every other theory in science except creation?" - Why can't they use lies in what little scientific education there is in America's public schools?

"Why am i called names because I believe in marriage the way got designed it? Some even call us hateful. Hypocrites. Unloving. Closed-minded. Bigots." - I am right by default and you have no right to make me feel bad about forcing my god-given right to judge and punish on sodomites, whores, and sinners.

"In public school, people are rude and disrespectful towards Christians." - I am not treated like I am their better by other students, despite me knowing I am because I am more Christian than they are. Filty sinners, the lot of them.

"Bullying is common." - People sometimes don't obay and fight back, just because we exact god's punishment on a faggot or whore!

"What we see in our health classes—“sex education” - FOURTH grade and up—is pornography." - I SEE NAKED PEOPLE IT SEARS MY SOUL AND GIVES ME IMPURE THOUGHTS OH GOD SAVE ME!

"People make fun of me because I don’t believe in abortion." - I wish people would make fun of me for supporting an abortion ban, but they actually try and make me feel bad about it.

"In public school, people believe Christians are goody goods and boring." - so many students don't want to join our bible readings and instead do fun stuff. Fun stuff should be forbidden. Like Pop Music! And girls and boys mingling in school!>

"Dirty jokes fill the hallways between classes." - I feel soiled by dirty words. I wish people would be spanked for saying them in public, like I am."

In all seriousness, it troubles me when fundamentalist adults recruit children for their political and social agendas. As the young people in this video experience more of life and discover new viewpoints, I hope that they will rethink the distorted assumptions in "The Thaw".

For more information about Reach America, visit letsreachamerica[dot]org

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Are Women Human: Do public schools hate Christian kids? No.

The Guardian: Christians aren't being persecuted in American schools

Policy Mic: 'The Thaw' Video: Christian Teens Call For “A War For the Hearts and Souls Of Our Generation”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: Federal Appeals Case Brings Contraception Coverage Mandate Back Into Spotlight

Center for American Progress: People of Faith Should Oppose Official Prayer at Public-School Graduation Ceremonies

Washington Post: Natural disasters, climate change, and the ‘burn it all downers’

Hausdorff's Bible Blog: Five Reasons Christian Parents “Lose” Their Children

Friendly Atheist: A California State Senator’s Luncheon to Honor Students Begins with Christian Prayer

Think Progress: Conservatives Reticent To Condemn Anti-Gay Hate Crime

Bartholomew's Notes on Religion: BBC Doc Highlights Continuing Abuse of Children Accused ofWitchcraft in Congo


News Tidbits

Washington Post: Some business owners resist providing employees with contraceptive coverage

Washington Blade: D.C. paid anti-gay gospel singer $80,000

Raw Story: ‘Family’ group: Obama’s order to ‘embrace homosexuality’ drove rise in military sexual assaults

Raw Story: Virginia Lt. Governor Nominee: Not sorry for hate speech ‘because I’m a Christian’

Mail Online: English Defence League supporters clash with police near scene of horrific killing

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Far-Right French Historian Commits Suicide over Same-Sex Marriage

On May 21st, far-right French historian Dominique Venner shot himself near the altar of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, reports the Independent. According to BBC News, Venner left a note on the altar explaining his suicide as an act "in defense of the traditional family" and part of the "fight against illegal immigration". Venner had been a critic of same-sex marriage in France, which was recently signed into law.

According to Raw Story and BBC News, roughly one hundred Venner supporters gathered near Notre Dame Cathedral on May 21st to mourn his death. Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right Front National, mourned for Venner on Twitter. "“All respect to Dominique Venner whose final, eminently political act was to try to wake up the people of France," she wrote, reports Pink News.

Venner, like other voices among France's far-right, disapproved of same-sex marriage and spoke of an impending "French Spring". In his May 14th blog post, "Les mystères du printemps français" ("The Mysteries of the French Spring"), he disparaged same-sex marriage by arguing that marriage is not about love, but about raising children with a mother and father.
"Il faut rappeler que le mariage n’est pas qu’une question d’amour. Ce n’est pas un simple contrat, c’est une institution en vue des enfants à venir. Il garanti à l’enfant son identité représentée par un vrai père et une vraie mère. C’est ce qu’a voulu annuler la loi Taubira qui remplace le droit des enfants par le droit accordé à des adultes gay de s’offrir des enfants selon les critères de la société de consommation."

("We must remember that marriage is not a matter of love. This is not a simple contract. It is an institution for children to come. It guarantees the child's identity represented by a real father and a real mother. This is [why some] wanted to cancel the Taubira law that replaces the right of children with gay rights granted to adults to provide for children within a consumer society.")

Venner also warned that alleged mafia-like communists and Trotskyists in positions of power put France at risk for civil war.
"Il faut encore se souvenir que la France est le dernier pays au monde (avec la Corée du Nord) où subsiste un parti communiste contrôlant une organisation syndicale puissante fonctionnant comme une mafia usant de violences. Ce parti communiste est l’allié électoral du parti socialiste au pouvoir. Il faut se souvenir aussi que beaucoup de cadres de l’actuel parti socialiste sont d’anciens trotskistes qui disposent d’une influence considérable dans l’Éducation nationale, la Justice et les médias. Cela signifie qu’à la différence de l’Allemagne par exemple, subsiste toujours en France un potentiel de guerre civile qui n’attend qu’une occasion pour s’éveiller."

("It should also be remembered that France is the only country in the world (along with North Korea) where there is still a communist party that controls a powerful union organization operating as a mafia using violence. The Communist Party is the electoral ally of the ruling Socialist Party. It should also be remembered that many executives of the current Socialist Party are former Trotskyists who have considerable influence in the Education, Justice and the media. This means that unlike Germany, for example, still exists in France a potential civil war just waiting for an opportunity to awaken.")

In his final blog post, "La manif du 26 mai et Heidegger" ("The May 26th demonstration and Heidegger"), Venner warned readers about the rise of Islam in Europe. He urged anti-gay protesters set to gather on May 26th to take notice of Islam and launch a "reconquest" of French identity.

"Les manifestants du 26 mai ne peuvent ignorer cette réalité. Leur combat ne peut se limiter au refus du mariage gay. Le « grand remplacement » de population de la France et de l’Europe, dénoncé par l’écrivain Renaud Camus, est un péril autrement catastrophique pour l’avenir.

Il ne suffira pas d’organiser de gentilles manifestations de rue pour l’empêcher. C’est à une véritable « réforme intellectuelle et morale », comme disait Renan, qu’il faudrait d’abord procéder. Elle devrait permettre une reconquête de la mémoire identitaire française et européenne, dont le besoin n’est pas encore nettement perçu.

Il faudra certainement des gestes nouveaux, spectaculaires et symboliques pour ébranler les somnolences, secouer les consciences anesthésiées et réveiller la mémoire de nos origines. Nous entrons dans un temps où les paroles doivent être authentifiées par des actes."

("May 26th protesters cannot ignore this reality. Their struggle cannot be limited to refusal of gay marriage. The "great replacement" population of France and Europe, denounced by the writer Renaud Camus, is another disastrous risk for the future.

It is not enough to organize street protests to prevent it. This is a real "intellectual and moral reform" ... It should allow for a reconquest of the French and European identity and memory, [but] the need [for this] is not yet clearly perceived.

It certainly will require new, spectacular and symbolic gestures to shake the sleepiness, shake anesthetized consciousness, and awaken the memory of our origins. We are entering a time when words must be authenticated by acts.")

The late Venner's writings are unpleasant enough, in that he rejected same-sex marriage, championed a retrograde view of marriage, and framed LGBTQ rights and Islam as inimical to French identity. However, it is Venner's decision to inflict violence upon himself, as well as his inflammatory rhetoric, that worries me. Will Venner's suicide encourage other right-wing French to perform rash acts? Will talk of "French spring" and civil war precede an ugly backlash? I hope not.

I want to believe that such language is bombastic and hyperbolic, as it often is with the American Religious Right. In their frustration over LGBTQ gains, the French far-right may simply be venting their anger through over-the-top language. Only time will tell how LGBTQ progress -- and right-wing antipathy -- will shape France's political landscape.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

BBC News: France reacts to Dominique Venner's shock 'gesture'

Freak Out Nation: Sore Loser: Right-Wing Writer Shoots Himself In The Head After Marriage Equality Passes In France

Truth Wins Out: Anti-Gay Author Dies In Public Suicide to Protest Marriage Equality In France

Commentary Tidbits Will the Catholic Bishops Decide How You Die?

Politicus USA: The Constitution Is Under Attack as the Right Tries to Establish A State Religion

Homeschoolers Anonymous: Growing Up Gay Is Like Growing Up In A Warzone

The Advocate: Religion Shouldn't Be an Excuse for Discrimination

Truth Wins Out: What Is The Endgame Of The Anti-Gay Movement?

Think Progress: Ex-Gay Group NARTH Encourages Boy Scouts To Continue Anti-Gay Discrimination

RH Reality Check: Anti-Choice Protestors Bringing ‘In Your Face’ Tactics to a Family Event Near You

News Tidbits

Ms. Magazine: Lawmakers Introduce CPC Truth in Advertising Bill

Gay Star News: Gay marriage will create another 'stolen generation', says Australian Christian Lobby

New York Times: Church Whistle-Blowers Join Forces on Abuse

RTV 6 ABC: Freedom From Religion Foundation claims Ball State professor is teaching creationism, not science

The Spokesman-Review: Abortion protest prompts Bloomsday complaints

Monday, May 20, 2013

France Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage; French Religious Right Horrified

On May 18th, French President Francois Hollande signed a law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt, reports the Los Angeles Times. The news comes after France's Constitutional Council approved same-sex marriage legislation passed by French parliament in April, according to France 24. Same-sex marriage has finally become legal after months of heated debate and demonstrations.

LGBTQ rights advocates across the globe have reason to be delighted, as France has become the 9th nation in Europe and the 14th nation worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage. Not surprisingly, anti-LGBTQ voices are disappointed at this turn of events. According to the Los Angeles Times, anti-LGBTQ activist Frigide Barjot complained that France had "changed civilization", calling the law "provocation".

L'institut Civitas, an anti-LGBTQ Catholic organization, was profoundly unhappy about the decision. In a May 17th statement, Civitas lamented that the law would "disfigure" the family, upset the balance of society, and deprive children of "the fundamental freedom and right to have a father and a mother". Legalization of same-sex marriage would contribute to a "culture of death" in France, Civitas claimed. The statement assured readers that a "French Spring" would rise up to defend the family.  
"Un printemps français est en marche qui au lieu de s'essoufler doit se transformer en un profond sursaut puis en un tsunami contre-révolutionnaire.

Dans ces heures les plus sombres de notre histoire, nous prions Notre Dame de France et sainte Jeanne D'arc d'accorder à notre pays de se redresser et de donner à tous les patriotes et catholiques Français le courage de défendre la famille sans défaillir et sans se résigner."

("A French Spring is on that instead of slowing down, must be transformed into a profound burst against a counter-revolutionary tsunami."

In the darkest hours of our history, we pray Our Lady of France and St. Jeanne D'arc to grant our country the means to recover and give all patriots and French Catholics the courage to defend the family, without fail, without resigning.")
Civitas is promoting a May 26th gathering to oppose same-sex marriage via a statement by former senator Bernard Sellier. Outrageously, Sellier's statement called legalization of same-sex marriage an "abuse of power" that would be punished "as in all tyrannies". He insisted that "there can be no true freedom outside the love of God, the Church, the country and the respect for the family founded on the sanctity of marriage."  
"France, le moment est venu de répondre à cette question et d’entreprendre la rénovation des promesses de ton baptême !

Car l’ennemi t’a déclaré la guerre en prétendant supprimer la nature sacrée du mariage. Et cet attentat vient de l’autorité la plus haute de l’Etat dont la mission est en vérité de protéger les fondements de la société au lieu de la détruire ! 

Le pouvoir politique, qu’il soit présidentiel, parlementaire ou populaire ne dispose d’aucune autorité pour modifier la nature même du mariage qui est absolument indisponible. Prétendre le contraire est un mensonge. Le faire est un abus de pouvoir caractérisé qui sera sanctionné comme le sont tôt ou tard toutes les tyrannies. L’annonce publique de ses intentions préalablement à son élection, comme l’avait fait François HOLLANDE avec la mesure 31 de son programme : «J’ouvrirai le droit au mariage et à l’adoption aux couples homosexuels » ne légitime pas plus cette action que n’avait pu le faire pour la politique antisémite d’Hitler la publication de Mein Kampf avant son succès électoral de 1933."

("France, the time has come to address this issue and to undertake the promises of your baptism!

For the enemy has declared war on you, claiming to have taken away the sacred nature of marriage. And this attack has the highest state [on its side] whose mission is indeed to protect the foundations of society, instead of to destroy authority!

Political power, whether presidential, parliamentary or popular has no authority to change the very nature of marriage. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Doing so is an abuse of power that will be characterized as [such] and punished sooner or later as in all tyrannies. The public announcement of his intentions prior to his election and Francois Hollande's [statement]... "I ​​will open the right to marriage and adoption to homosexual couples" does not legitimize the action any more than the anti-Semitic policies in Hitler's publication of Mein Kampf before his election success in 1933.")

Finally, political leaders from France's Union Pour Un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) have voiced their unhappiness. UMP president Jean-François Copé said that the UMP would rewrite laws once it returned to power. Copé planned to attend the May 26th rally against same-sex marriage.  
"Je serai présent le 26 mai. Cette journée sera une occasion de défendre la famille et plus globalement de manifester notre opposition à la politique de François Hollande, qui porte des valeurs à l’opposé des nôtres. Après les manifestations, le rendez-vous suivant sera dans les urnes lors desmunicipales. Quand nous serons revenus au pouvoir, il faudra réécrire ce texte pour protéger la filiation et les droits de l’enfant. Peut-être avec le recours au référendum. J’invite les centaines de milliers de Français qui ont manifesté contre ce texte et les millions de Français qui s’y sont opposés dans leur coeur àtransformer cet engagement sociétal en un engagement politique."

("I will be present on May 26. This day will be an opportunity to defend the family and more generally to show our opposition to the policy of Francois Hollande, who has values ​​opposite to ours. After the demonstrations, the next appointment will be at the polls in the municipalities. When we returned to power, we will rewrite the legislation to protect the rights and parentage of the child. Perhaps with a referendum. I invite hundreds of thousands of French who protested against the legislation and the millions of French who opposed it in their hearts to transform this societal commitment to a political commitment.")

France's Religious Right may be unhappy, but its LGBTQ community has reason to celebrate. May this legislation herald a new era of equality for France's LGBTQ citizens and set a positive example for other countries.

Commentary Tidbits

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: Bigots Stalk, Video and Harass at Boston Youth Pride

The Bilerico Project: Failed Florida Mayoral Candidate: Voters Chose Lucifer Over Jesus

Think Progress: Congressmembers Work To Prevent Anti-Choice ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ From Misleading Women

Jezebel: Pregnant Teen Photos Banned From Yearbook Because 'Abstinence'

Truth Wins Out: Campus Crusade For Christ ‘Pamoja 3′ Conference Incites Hatred Against LGBT Community In Africa

News Tidbits

Raw Story: Supreme Court to rule on Christian prayers at government meetings

Raw Story: Chick-fil-A donates gift cards to Ohio ‘Biblical Marriage’ event

CNN: Virginia GOP nominee compared Planned Parenthood to KKK

Los Angeles Times: Defector from anti-gay church struggles with her past

The Telegraph: Gay marriage could stop Christians becoming teachers or doctors, say UK church leaders

Pink News: UK MPs reject legal protection for religious anti-gay equality beliefs

Interfax: Orthodox Church, NGO of Moldova ask Chisinau mayor to cancel gay parade

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Georgia: Anti-Gay Orthodox Protesters Attack Gay Rights Rally

May 17th was International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), celebrated around the world with LGBTQ rights rallies. IDAHO was a day of supportive remarks by leaders such as UN Ambassador Susan Rice and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and of pro-LGBTQ gatherings across the globe. Unfortunately, IDAHO gatherings met with resistance from the authorities in China and Kenya, as well as outright violence in Russia. Georgia, sadly, also experienced homophobic violence on IDAHO, with Orthodox anti-gay sentiments as an alleged driving force behind it.

According to RT, thousands of anti-gay activists attacked a gay rights gathering in Tbilisi, Georgia on May 17th, leaving at least 28 people injured. At the time, Orthodox Christians were marching in a counter-demonstration as the gay rights gathering took place. Anti-gay agitators reportedly threw stones and beat demonstrators, forcing police to evacuate demonstrators in minibuses. Unrelenting anti-gay protesters then attacked the minibuses.

Even more disturbing are reports that Orthodox priests took part in the anti-gay demonstration, as the New York TimesBBC News and AFP indicate. After the gay rights rally dispersed, anti-gay activists holding Orthodox icons hovered near Georgia's former parliament building, chanting homophobic chants, according to AFP.

Before the rally took place, Orthodox leaders reportedly made homophobic comments. Orthodox Georgia Patriarch Ilya II said that an IDAHO gathering in Tbilisi would be an "insult" to Georgia, calling homosexuality an "anomaly and illness". Ilya II called for the pro-gay gathering to be banned, according to Radio Free Europe. After Friday's attacks, Ilya II distanced himself from the violence, but reaffirmed that gay rights "should not be propagandized", according to Eurasia View. Additionally, RT reports that the day before the gathering, Orthodox priest Father Ioanne told AFP that demonstrations were a problem and "The people do not want propaganda from minorities".

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishili condemned the violence, arguing that the right to peaceful assembly and free expression were seminal to Georgian democracy, reports Pink News.

Observers are criticizing Georgian authorities and the Orthodox church for failing to extinguish violent homophobia. John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, called Georgian authorities to account after the incident.
“Ironically this shameful violence marred a day that is meant to mark solidarity in the face of homophobic violence around the world, and it shows that the Georgian authorities have a long way to go to promote tolerance and protect LGBTI people and their human rights. The authorities must investigate this violence and bring to justice those responsible for committing acts punishable by law.”
Dalhuisen condemned religious justifications for homophobic violence, arguing that Orthodox faith is no excuse for savagery.
“It is becoming a dangerous trend in Georgia to condone and leave unpunished the acts of violence against  religious and sexual minorities if they are perpetrated by the Orthodox religious clergy or their followers. It is simply unacceptable for the authorities to continue to allow attacks in the name of religion or on the basis of anyone's real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."
Paul Rimple, a journalist stationed in Tbilisi, voiced his disgust at the homophobic violence in a May 19th commentary in the Moscow Times. Rimple warned that Georgian leaders were facing a test from a "dangerous theocratic movement" seeped in Old Testament language. He also admonished Georgian authorities for their failure to prevent homophobic violence.
"[Prime Minister] Ivanishvili issued the routine condemnation of violence and vowed that perpetrators will be punished, but nobody in Georgia is going to lay a hand on the Georgian Orthodox clergy responsible for Friday's bestiality because they fear the church's influence. There is truly something amiss when a government is impotent to a religious institution whose merciless leaders incite intolerance, hatred and murder against its fellow countrymen ... Ivanishvili is facing his first real test as a leader against a dangerous theocratic movement that speaks in Old Testament language of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. The authorities' utter failure to prevent the violence means these extremists will become more emboldened.

The government talks of European integration, but Georgia will remain isolated in the Dark Ages of irrelevance until its leaders have the guts to stand up for the equal rights of all its citizens and confront the dark forces of evil masquerading as Georgian Orthodox Christians."
In yet another part of the world, we see homophobic religious sentiments giving rise to violence. Friday's shocking attack is a reminder that the struggle for LGBTQ rights continues and that religious extremism is very much alive. The fact that Orthodox clergy openly took part suggests that they did not fear consequences from Orthodox church leaders. In the wake of such savagery, calming words are not enough. Georgian political leaders and law enforcement officials must take concrete steps to protect free expression and LGBTQ rights. Moreover, the Georgian Orthodox Church must hold its priests accountable for their role in promoting homophobia.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Daily Kos: Terrifying video of rioters attacking gay pride participants in Tbilisi

Americablog: Horrific video of 1000s of (former Soviet) Georgians rioting against gays

Towleroad: Gay Parade Marchers, Buses Come Under Attack by Violent Mob in Tblisi, Georgia

Commentary Tidbits

Alternet: 10 Ridiculous Christian Right Prophesies

Bitchspot: Catholic Schools Struggle to Survive

The Guardian: 'Purity' culture: bad for women, worse for survivors of sexual assault

Prairie Nymph: Confessions of a Billy Graham Crusade Phone Operator

The Way Forward: Domestic Violence in the IFB Church Movement

RH Reality Check: Adoption Imperialism: A Q&A With The Child Catchers Author Kathryn Joyce

Think Progress: Conservatives Warn Of AARP’s Support For ‘Homosexual Agenda’

Think Progress: The Losing Arguments Of Anti-LGBT ‘Alliance Defending Freedom’

News Tidbits

Edge Boston: Religious Groups Say They Were Scrutinized by IRS

BBC News: The Quiverfull: The evangelical Christians opposed to contraception

Chicago Heights Patch: Megachurch Preacher Jack Schaap Convicted of Sex With Minor Sued in Will County

Raw Story: Humanists threaten to sue Missouri school officials over teacher-led prayer meetings

Pink News: Christian Post contributor Ken Hutcherson: Homosexuality ‘has destroyed every civilization it has touched’

Deadline Hollywood: Uma Thurman Playing Super Prude Anita Bryant

God Loves Uganda: Christian Reviewers Criticize, Defend Documentary

God Loves Uganda, a documentary film that screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, explores the role of American Religious Right leaders in fomenting homophobia in Uganda (more here). Given that a draconian anti-gay bill is currently under consideration in Uganda, attitudes toward LGBTQ persons in Uganda will have long-lasting consequences for sexual minorities there. While progressives have had a largely positive response to the film, one Christian commentator has harsh words for God Loves Uganda.

In a May 15th commentary at Christianity Today, John G. Stackhouse delivers a hard-hitting review of the documentary. For starters, he claims that the film blurs the distinctions between American preachers who have visited Uganda, such as Scott Lively and Lou Engle, and American evangelicals as a whole. Additionally, he accuses the film of failing to frame "a conservative Christian understanding of sexual ethics" in context, as well as demonizing charismatic Christians.
"The film in fact largely fails to give us a proper explanation for why these evangelicals do what they do. There is no attempt to explain to the audience the Biblical basis for a conservative Christian understanding of sexual ethics, and only a few statements of their more general missionary mandate. What we do get is lots of footage of their worship, especially in its more extreme modes. There is something unsettling, even creepy, about a black filmmaker depicting white (and black) charismatic Christians speaking in tongues, writhing on the floor, and otherwise acting in strange ways with no explanation at all. If a white filmmaker had shown scenes of black Africans in similar modes but dressed in native costumes, we might well accuse him of racism, or at least of failing in the primary job of the documentary filmmaker: to make his subjects intelligible, let alone sympathetic.

In fact, these people seem unfathomable—even actually mad. To depict them thus is the functional equivalent of demonizing them … but "demonizing" is precisely the crime of which they are repeatedly accused in this film in regard to homosexuals."
To be fair, Stackhouse's review acknowledges that homophobia is wrong and that Christians should reject the extremism of Lively, Engle, and their ilk. His review also raises an important question: how much of Uganda's homophobia is a western import, and how much springs from Ugandan culture itself? Stackhouse argues that depicting Ugandan homophobia as an exclusively Western import is simplistic, as it ignores anti-gay sentiments that may have already existed in Uganda.
"From first to last, the anti-homosexuality campaign in Uganda is attributed to the imposition of Western values. But anti-homosexuality is clearly not a distinctive Western value. It is rife in tribal cultures in Africa and already in the outlook of Ugandans when the recent wave of American evangelical extremists arrived."
Rev. Canon Albert Ogle penned a response to Stackhouse's review of God Loves Uganda, arguing that Stackhouse missed the point of the documentary. In a May 17th commentary at the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Ogle reminds viewers of the dark evangelical politics on display in God Loves Uganda, arguing that anti-gay rhetoric is having devastating consequences for Africa.
"The film portrays a shadowy side of the Christian faith, reduced to a kind of simplistic consumerism (saving souls for Jesus, one at a time in ungodly Africa). Throughout the film we are confronted with America’s lack of respect for other cultures and religions embodied in the naive young missionaries from Kansas sent forth by Lou Engle and his International House of Prayer.

Although the film presents caricatures of militant fundamentalism that most Americans would be appalled by if this was, say, an Islamic movement, we are blind to its destructive influence because it is seen as a form of Christianity and pro-American (Western and morally superior).

Stackhouse misses the point of the film that is designed to promote serious discussion, particularly among the Christian evangelical movement as to what they are hoping to achieve by missionary campaigns that see anti-gay messaging as a central tenet of their political and cultural agenda and platform of support. Is turning Africans against Africans, parents against children something Jesus really wants us to do? "
Ogle reminds readers that anti-gay Christian activism in Uganda is only the tip of the iceberg with regards to global Religious Right outreach.
"The film, however limited in its perspective, only begins to open us up to the complexity of American/African evangelical messaging and its powerful economic base in a continent still plundered by the West and more recently by the East.

Williams does not even begin to deal with the effects of larger Christian organizations who receive oodles of American public funding, way beyond the paltry budget of the International House of Prayer. Maybe this will be the subject of his follow-up film, but it is more difficult to access multi-national religious and development companies whose role in the propaganda war against LGBT people remains carefully veiled.

There has been little public criticism from more moderate evangelical leaders and organizations towards the Evangelical lunatic fringe in places like Uganda. Why the conspiracy of silence? What roles do powerful Washington networks like “the Family” have with western Christian business interests that must be quite lucrative for so much money to be pumped into these anti-gay campaigns in Africa?"
Both reviews offer food for thought. To read Stackhouse's commentary, click here. To read Ogle's response, click here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What IS It with Conservative Bishops and Anti-Violence Measures?

I've noticed a pattern among conservative Catholic bishops in the west. When legislation or a human rights convention related to violence against women is up for consideration, some conservative bishops will loudly oppose it on the grounds that it will undermine stereotypical gender roles and support LGBTQ persons.

Lithuania, which is deliberating on whether or not to sign a human rights document on violence against women, is one example. According to Catholic World News, Lithuania's Catholic bishops have discouraged the Lithuanian government from becoming a signatory to the Council of Europe's Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women.

According to a May 9th statement from the Lithuanian Bishops Conference (Lietuvos Vyskupu Konferencija), the convention frames gender as a "social construct", which allegedly ignores human biology. The bishops argue that the conventions definition of gender identity is so broad that it could have problematic ramifications for Lithuanian law.
"Konvencija Lietuvos teisėje įtvirtintų naujus draudimo diskriminuoti dėl „socialinės lyties“ ir „socialinės lyties tapatybės“ (Konvencijos 4 straipsnis) pagrindus, kurie gali būti interpretuojami plačiai ir nevienareikšmiškai. Nebuvo paaiškinta, kaip šios nuostatos būtų taikomos praktikoje ir kokias naujas pareigas bei problemas sukurtų valstybės institucijoms, švietimo įstaigoms, verslui ir visai visuomenei."

("Enshrined in the Convention is the prohibition of discrimination due to the new "social sex" and "gender identity" (article 4 of the Convention), which can be interpreted in a broad manner. It did not explain how these provisions are to be applied in practice and what new duties and challenges they will create for public institutions, educational institutions, businesses, and society as a whole.")
The bishops' statement lambastes the Convention's calls for social change to eliminate customs and practices rooted in misogyny, claiming that Lithuania's cultural and religious traditions would be deemed threats to women. The statement warns that schools could be obliged to teach "homosexuality and transgenderism" if Lithuania becomes a signatory. The bishops discourage the Lithuanian government from signing the convention because the documents goals are allegedly "contrary to the nation's identity."
"Ypatingą susirūpinimą kelia Konvencijos 14 straipsnio nuostatos ją pasirašiusioms šalims uždedančios pareigą įtraukti į visų formaliojo švietimo lygių ugdymo programas mokymo medžiagą apie „nestereotipinius lyčių vaidmenis“, nes pastarieji, be kita ko, gali reikšti ir homoseksualumą bei transseksualumą ... tiek daugelio tėvų moralinėms vertybėms, diegimu sukuria precedentą, keliantį pagrįstą nerimą."

("Of particular concern is the provisions of Article 14 of the Convention, which places an unfair obligation on signatory countries to include in all levels of formal education curricula teaching material for non-stereotyped gender roles; because this, among other things, can also mean homosexuality and transgenderism ...For many parents' moral values, the installation creates a precedent, causing reasonable concern.")
Sadly, this is nothing new. In 2012, after opposition from Poland's Catholic leaders, the Polish government initially refused to sign the Council of Europe's Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women, according to Polskie Radio/Dla Zagranicy. However, Poland eventually signed the document in December 2012, according to the Warsaw Voice. Poland's Catholic bishops were outraged, insisting that the document would force the Polish government to “promote non-stereotypical gender roles such as homosexuality and transsexualism.”

Even in the U.S., conservative bishops have resisted anti-violence measures on the grounds that they would promote LGBTQ rights. In March 2013, when President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized VAWA for its pro-LGBTQ content.

Such conservative bishops have shown how skewed their priorities are. The Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women could be an important tool for addressing gender-based violence, but some bishops have let their homophobia, transphobia, and sexism blind them to its merits. If preserving antiquated notions of gender and keeping LGBTQ persons invisible is more important to bishops than ending gender-based violence, something is very wrong.

(Hat tip to Pink News)

Commentary Tidbits

The Guardian: The Dark Side of Homeschooling: America's Christian Right Tried to Train Up 'Culture Warriors'

Friendly Atheist: Pennsylvania Legislators Propose ‘American Religious History Week’… Which is All About Christianity

Ex-Gay Watch: Hard-Line ‘Ex-Gay’ Alliance Reveals Desire for Political Power

Huffington Post: Christian Masculinity, the WWF and Unbelonging

Think Progress: Seven Outlandish Things The Heritage Foundation’s Remaining Employees Believe

RH Reality Check: Will Live Action Threaten the Provider-Patient Relationship in Abortion Care?

News Tidbits

Huffington Post: Uproar In Muldrow, Oklahoma, After Classroom Ten Commandments Displays Prompt Lawsuit Threat

The Advocate: Bachmann Link Gay Rights to 9/11 in 'Pray Day' Push

Bikya News: Singapore Christians continue anti-LGBT push

The Namibian: Namibia: Gays offended by sermon

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saturday at the Hilltop Conference: Faytene Grasseschi and Benjamín Núñez on Abortion

To read an introduction to the Hilltop Conference, click here. To read about George Otis Jr.'s talk on societal decline, click here. To read about Lou Engle at the conference, click here.

On Saturday, April 13th, I observed the Hilltop Conference at the Holiday Inn Rosslyn in Arlington, Virginia. The event was hosted by the anti-abortion group Bound 4 Life and the Justice House of Prayer D.C., combining ecstatic prayer and worship music with talks by religious leaders. In this post, I'd like to share what I heard on Saturday morning, when Faytene Grasseschi of TheCry and Benjamín Núñez of VENPRONTO took the stage.

The man introducing the session noted that D.C. is an oppressive spiritual environment, and that the conference was taking place near embassies where every principality has a representative. His comment was a reference to to Ephesians 6:12, in which believers contend against demonic forces or "powers and principalities".

After blue collection buckets circulated through the audience, Faytene Grasseschi of TheCry spoke at length about collective prayer and abortion in her native Canada. She shared a story about a woman who allegedly died at a Women on the Frontline conference in Canada. A volunteer at the conference went to the restroom "on word of knowledge", she claimed, and found an attendee dying. Some of the conference-goers prayed, while a nurse prepared the unfortunate woman for CPR. Grasseschi claimed that someone commanded the dying woman to live, and she gasped back to life at that very moment. When the ambulance arrived, its presence broke up the spirit of the gathering, and the ill woman succumbed to death again, she claimed, but when the entire Women on the Frontline conference was called to collectively pray as part of a "rumble", the woman allegedly returned from legal death. I'm not entirely sure why Grasseschi shared this story, but it's not the first time I've heard New Apostolic Reformation enthusiasts claim that believers can resurrect the dead (see here, here, and here).

Next, Grasseschi's talk turned to abortion and global politics. Grasseschi shared the story of how God allegedly spoke to her during a trip to Liberia, telling her that she could help orphans one at a time, or "touch the heart of a king". God commanded her to honor Israel, she claimed and to thank Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for allowing a "free vote on issues of moral conscience". Thus, she took a delegation to Israel to receive an award that she would later give to Prime Minister Harper. Grasseschi told listeners of how she secured a meeting with Harper on St. Patrick's Day and gave him the award for his support of Israel, thanking him for the "free vote" he respected.

Canada was hosting the 2010 G8 and G12 Summits, with maternal health as a topic of focus, Grasseschi said. She referred to calls to include abortion in the summits' agendas an "Elijah/Jezebel* confrontation", prompting a 3-day Esther fast by believers. Prime Minister Harper was reluctant to intervene on the issue, she claimed, but called an emergency caucus meeting on the matter. "But since I am committed to a free vote on issues of moral conscience," he wanted to hear the caucus attendees' input. Other members of Canadian parliament opposed inserting abortion into the summits' agendas, she claimed, and a vote soon took place.

Grassechi claimed that the "spirit of confusion" overwhelmed those who supported adding abortion to the summit agendas, and they unwittingly voted for the anti-abortion position. A pro-choice MP was stricken with an eye problem and couldn't attend the vote, she told listeners. The implication, it seems, was that God had a hand in these supposed obstacles. Ultimately, politicians voted against adding abortion to the agenda, and Grassechi was happy that "babies" were saved.

I'd like to offer some context for Grassechi's story. According to a 2010 CBC News article, Canada decided against funding abortion in its G8 child and maternal health care initiative for developing countries. Several aid organizations blasted the decision or worried that the abortion debate surrounding the G8 plan could derail an important global initiative, according to the Lancet and the Globe and Mail. Given the astronomical numbers of unsafe abortions worldwide -- the majority of which take place in developing countries and contribute significantly to maternal death rates -- the outrage surrounding the decision was warranted. Grassechi waxed poetic about "saving babies", but she had little to say about the dangers of unsafe abortions, infections, maternal deaths, and inadequate access to contraception in developing countries.

The decision reminded me of the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, a U.S. policy that forbid aid organizations receiving U.S. funds from educating audiences on abortion or providing legal abortion services. President Obama repealed the Global Gag Rule in 2009, but reproductive rights advocates worry that a future president could reinstate it.

Anti-abortion enthusiasm crackled among the listeners, especially when VENPRONTO's Benjamín "Benjy" Núñez took the stage. Núñez, who heralds from Mexico, spoke of the controversy over whether the Mexican constitution should legalize abortion. Initially, he claims, public opinion supported abortion rights. Anti-abortion believers fasted and prayed against abortion, and God heard them, he claimed. When the abortion issue came to a vote, a key pro-choice supporter got drunk and signed the wrong bill, he claimed, drawing raucous laughter and applause from the audience. God was mocking pro-choice voices, he insisted. The abortion effort failed, and now even mentioning abortion in a hospital could result in a fine or prison time, he beamed, as the audience bellowed in delight.

Again, I'd like to put Núñez's talk into context. According to a 2011 article in Aljazeera, Mexico's Supreme Court upheld an amendment to the state of Baja's constitution which banned abortion, which is what Núñez might have been referring to. Mexico's legislation on abortion is a patchwork, with some states banning the procedure and other jurisdictions, such as Mexico City, permitting first-trimester abortion on demand.

As the audience laughed and clapped, I fumed. The pride, the utter lack of empathy for women with unwanted or dangerous pregnancies made my blood boil. These people genuinely believed that their anti-abortion crusade was sanctioned by God, and that only good could come out of opposing abortion. The fact that their crusade would interfere with women's lives, encourage unsafe abortions to proliferate, and have a negative impact on women's health never crossed their minds.

When the Hilltop Conference speakers spoke of demonic "powers and principalities", raising the dead, and bringing down a "spirit of confusion" upon their opponents, I knew I wasn't observing a very grounded bunch. However, Grassechi's and Núñez's talks showed me how little grasp they had of the messy complexities of abortion and the importance of reproductive rights. Blind to the harm caused by barriers to safe abortion, the speakers genuinely believed that they were doing God's work by opposing abortion worldwide. And that's what makes them scary.

Stay tuned for more dispatched from the Hilltop Conference! For more information on the 2013 Hilltop Conference, click here

* For an explanation of Elijah/Jezebel language used by New Apostolic Reformation preachers, see my summary of The Call of the Elijah Revolution here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

People for the American Way: Polygamy, Mass Murder, and the End of Capitalism: The Top Ten Religious Right Claims on the Consequences of Marriage Equality

Colorlines: The Missionary Movement to ‘Save’ Black Babies

The Ramblings of Sheldon: Exposing Extremism: Illinois Family Institute

Faith Forward: “Burn it all down” isn’t Christian: A Response to Mark Driscoll

Bilerico Project: Cardinal Dolan to LGBTs: Wash Your Hands Before Entering My Church

The New Civil Rights Movement: Gay Catholic Leaders Weigh In On Use Of NYPD To Bar Gay Catholics From St. Pat’s Cathedral

Alternet: My Big Virginity Mistake

Huffington Post: Gays and the Myth of the Christian Minority

Salon: Is the Catholic Church even trying to make sense on marriage equality?

Right Wing Watch: Religious Right Panelists at Awakening 2013: Gay Rights Activists are Christ-Hating Fascists

Bartholomew's Notes on Religion: Third Wave “Apostle” Calls For Homosexuality to Remain Criminalized in Singapore

RH Reality Check: Bishops Tap Veteran of Islamophobic, Homophobic Legal Shop as Top Flack

News Tidbits Opponents of gay 'conversion therapy' bill invoke Jerry Sandusky's name

Raw Story: Minnesota lawmaker and minister: Marriage equality foes always cite the Bible

Gay Star News: Singapore pastor calls LGBT rights movement the 'onslaught of the evil one'

Hagerstown Herald-Mail: School board cancels trips to Antietam Recreation after parental complaints about 'spiritual' message

KAIT 8: Grade school graduation canceled following prayer controversy

Friday, May 10, 2013

The 2013 CHAP Convention and the Christian Homeschool Movement

With the debut of Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling's Invisible Children, as well as recent attention that blogs such as Love, Joy, Feminism and No Longer Quivering have given to homeschooling, a post on a Christian homeschooling convention seemed timely. The Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP) is holding its annual conference on May 10-11 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA. I infiltrated the CHAP convention for Republic of Gilead in 2011 and found that patriarchy, distrust of "the world", and a burning drive to keep children in the Christian fold were prominent themes.*

The annual CHAP convention is geared toward Christian homeschooling parents with a decidedly conservative worldview. Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham and Vision Forum founder Doug Philips spoke in 2011, and other past speakers delivered talks on creationism, purity culture, and homeschool legislation.

CHAP encourages parents to bring their teenage children, having creating a teen track geared toward young people. "We applaud parents who are striving to give their children a vision of being adults rather than the cultural norm of prolonged irresponsibility," the website states, a common stereotype that fundamentalist homeschoolers have about mainstream culture.

This year's schedule includes workshops on the alleged errors of skeptics, male "headship", purity, and generational continuity.

- The Walls of Jericho: The Skeptics Come Tumblin' Down

- Keeping Your Kids Pure in Mind and Body

- Dating or Courtship: Choose God's Best!

- Teaching Your Children With Your Grandchildren in Mind

- Boys to Men: Growing our boys to be leaders in the home

- Follow Jesus and Lead Your Family: How to be the Spiritual Leader God Wants You to be

CHAP, however, is about more that education and home life. A workshop by Mike Donnelly entitled "International Homeschooling: Why Should American Homeschoolers Care what Happens over There?" suggests that the Christian homeschool movement is paying attention to the global scene. Mike Donnelly is director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a Christian homeschooling organization with its own political action committee. HSLDA's international page suggests that the global homeschooling movement is clearly on its radar.

Fundamentalist homeschoolers in many ways the Religious Right's vanguard. The messages that fundamentalist homeschoolers instill in children -- problematic messages about sexuality, stereotypical gender roles, pseudoscience, ugly caricatures of the outside world -- say volumes about their vision for future generations. If what we teach children reflects our values, then the values of fundamentalist homeschoolers are very retrograde.

While I have faith that many homeschooled youth will question the messages of their upbringing upon exposure to real life, the fact remains that their parents still embrace these values. Those parents vote. Those parents lobby. And, if Donnelly's workshop is any indication, those parents and their support organizations network globally. If we are concerned about the Religious Right, we must pay attention to the Christian homeschool movement.

For more information about CHAP, click here.  

* I intended to infiltrate this year's CHAP convention, until an unfortunate accident occurred. A tanker truck fire damaged an exit ramp off of I-81, and parts of the highway have been shut down for repairs. (No fatalities, thank goodness.) My usual routes to the Farm Show complex are inaccessible, and nearby roads are congested from diverted traffic. To reach the Farm Show Complex, I'd need to drive through parts of Harrisburg I'd rather avoid, so I decided to scrap my CHAP plans this year.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Right Wing Watch: The Myth of American Christians as Persecuted Minority, part 256

GLAAD: Peter Sprigg Claims Christians Are 'Hated Minority' and CNN Lets Him Get Away with It

Box Turtle Bulletin: Joe Dallas Splits from Exodus International

Huffington Post: My Wife Is Not a Rotisserie Chicken or Leaky Faucet

Gay Star News: Christian right is losing on marriage but taking the gay hate battle to Africa

Elizabeth Esther: The New Misogyny: “bro-culture” pastors, sexist Christian comedians and abuse apologetics disguised as female empowerment

No Longer Quivering: Silencing Techniques

News Tidbits

The Tennessean: 'Christianity not for sissies,' evangelist Angus Buchan says at Mighty Men Conference in Murfreesboro

Christian Science Monitor: Elizabeth Smart speaks on human trafficking

Air Force Times: Freedom of Religion Vs. Freedom from Religion in the Military

Huffington Post: Rick Santorum Praises NRA as Constitution "Warriors"

News One: Lesbian Couple Told To Divorce Or Son Will Be Removed From Christian School

Edge Boston: Josh Ritter Protests Messiah College’s Gay Policy

The Advocate: Catholic Leaders Denounce Rhode Island Marriage Equality Law

Pink News: Rhode Island Bishop warns Catholics against attending gay weddings because it may ‘harm their relationship with God’

Pink News: Supporters of ‘gay cure’ therapy call for new hearing on New Jersey bill to ban it