Monday, April 27, 2015

News Tidbits

Washington Post: Supreme Court briefs reveal religious groups don’t agree on how to oppose same-sex marriage

Washington Post: Thousands on Mall voice support of state laws against same-sex marriage

International Business Times: March For Marriage 2015: Organizers Say 10,000 Turned Out For Anti-Gay-Marriage Demonstration

Edge Media Network: Ex-Gay Group to SCOTUS: Gays can Covert & Marry Opposite Sex

MSNBC: Tony Perkins: SCOTUS won’t have final say on gay marriage

Raw Story: CBS host introduces Tony Perkins as ‘anti-gay hate group’ leader: ‘You don’t speak for Christians'

Religion News Service: David Trobisch lends Green family’s Bible Museum a scholarly edge

New York Times: Republican Field Woos Iowa Evangelical Christians

Christian Post: Major Hispanic Evangelical Convention Expects 1,000 Attendees; Features Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee

Commentary Tidbits

Think Progress: What You Didn’t Miss At This Weekend’s Anti-Gay March For Marriage 

Wall of Separation: Whine Festival: Second-Tier Religious Right Leaders Still Don’t Like Marriage Equality

Raw Story: Revolution! Anti-gay activists threaten uprising if Supreme Court approves marriage equality

Relevant: What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Been Hurt By Church

I Prefer Captain: Physical Healing vs. Marital Healing

Religion News Service: GOP candidates dial up evangelical fears at Iowa forum

The Advocate: How the religious right is conspiring to put discrimination back into law

Scott Lively Calls for Torches and Pitchforks ("Metaphorically", He Says)

Anti-LGBTQ activist Scott Lively is a notorious anti-LGBTQ activist, having promoted homophobia in the U.S. and abroad for years. His participation in a homophobic conference in Uganda shortly before the introduction of a draconian anti-gay bill earned him the ire of global LGBTQ advocates, not to mention a lawsuit from Sexual Minorities Uganda. Lively's bigotry earned him a nomination for Human Rights Watch's Homophobia Hall of Shame and an entry in the 2014 Human Rights Campaign report, Export of Hate. Lively's vitriol has always been offensive, but a recent commentary piece has revealed new depths to his hatred.

Right Wing Watch recently brought attention to a commentary piece by Scott Lively, which both BarbWire and WorldNetDaily published. In the commentary piece, Lively claims that the LGBTQ rights movement, corporate domination, and environmental threats are all machinations of evil "elites" who must be challenged through a popular uprising.

Lively begins by warning readers about President Obama's "imperial presidency" and America's alleged descent into "neo-feudalism". America's elites, he warns, have distracted citizens with polarizing social issues to distract them from their servitude. "What the elites most fear is authentic populism," he explained, lamenting that neither the Tea Party nor Occupy Wall Street grew into populist forces to be reckoned with.

With Lively, everything comes back to the supposed menace of LGBTQ rights. His bizarre rant accused the LGBTQ rights movement of being one of the elite's weapons against the "natural family".
"... For every knucklehead conservative who defends planet-killer Monsanto Corporation solely because conservatives are supposed to be "pro-business," there are two or three looney-lefties supporting the dismantling of the natural family because liberals are supposed to favor so-called "gay rights."

Hey Conservatives!  Can’t you see the difference between healthy capitalism and crony corporatism?

Hey Liberals!  Can’t you see that the elites wouldn’t so zealously implement anti-family Cultural Marxism if it didn’t serve THEIR interests and not yours?  Don’t you remember that Lenin called people like you "useful idiots?"
In a particularly bizarre passage of the commentary piece, Lively likened the struggle for LGBTQ equality with agro-business' affront to nature and public health. Environmental dangers and same-sex marriage both endanger our ecology, he insisted.
"The battle today is for marriage, the core of the natural family. Every human being on this planet will be harmed if the elites are allowed to destroy it by mutation. It is no different than Monsanto destroying natural foods or seeds by mutating their DNA, or Big Pharma destroying bodies by flooding the health industry with artificial, often poisonous "remedies." Our common paradigm in the grassroots for guiding society should be natural vs artificial across the board, including natural marriage and family: rejecting the counterfeit alternatives to the self-evident design of our ecology — and our physiology."
How does Lively propose that liberals and conservatives take back their biology and family life? Through a mass uprising, complete with torches and pitchforks. "The only way to deter the elites is with the threat of the mob. They need to see the pitchforks and torches to know they’ve gone too far and need to back down," he claimed.
"The natural family is the ecosystem of humanity! It must be preserved at all costs.

How?  By a populist uprising! The elites need to see the angry mob — liberals and conservatives together — surging through the streets, pitchforks and torches held aloft, ready to tear down Frankenstein’s castle with their bare hands if need be. For Christians it’s Jesus and the money-changers time! Making a whip of cords like He did with His own hands, and letting these arrogant puppet masters know we mean to use it (metaphorically speaking)."
Unless the populace rises up against the "elite" agenda of LGBTQ rights, America will descend into a dystopian Brave New World nightmare, Lively warned.
"That’s where we are today in America.  The elites want to eliminate the natural family to create a better class of serfs: state-bred children for the factories and the battlefield — easier to control, dulled by drugs and sexual promiscuity ... and bread and circuses."
As he struggled to make his intolerance appealing to both left-wing and right-wing readers, Lively was practically frothing with anger. In his anger, he failed to realize that his commentary piece would repulse more people than it would convert.

The language of his rant was revealing. According to Lively, sexual and gender diversity are existential threats to nature itself, engineered by elite overlords. In Lively's mind, the LGBTQ rights movement is a monster in "Frankenstein's castle" that must be destroyed with torches, pitchforks, and whips (!). In his imagination, LGBTQ persons are not everyday citizens struggling against oppression, but tools of "arrogant puppet masters" who must be humbled. By casting LGBTQ rights as the machinations of some scheming, nebulous "elite", Lively dehumanizes LGBTQ people as "other" and delegitimizes their calls for dignity.

This kind of hatred is dangerous. I don't care if Lively was speaking "metaphorically"; his violent metaphors suggest a visceral hatred of LGBTQs and a desire to scapegoat the LGBTQ community. When anti-LGBTQ activists claim that they "love" LGBTQ people, remember Lively's commentary piece, and the absence of love in it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kevin Swanson Calls Hillary Clinton "Anti-Christ"; Compares Female Leaders to Measles

Kevin Swanson, host of Generations with Vision, devoted the April 20th edition of his radio show to whether or not Christians should vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Swanson's rant offered a taste of the anti-Clinton vitriol that will continue to come from the far right as the election draws near.

Swanson began his show by asserting that Christ is supreme ruler over the rulers of earth, reminding listeners that they should trust in God instead of government. At the 8:53 mark, he insisted that the government had become a messiah to some Americans.
"Politics is not the savior. Christ is ... That's a huge affront to the average socialist ... Government is an aspect of life that needs to bow the knee to Jesus Christ, but it's not the savior. It's not the messiah, and the messiah complex that's been imposed upon our educational systems and other things have effectively brought these systems to ruin. So, hey, don't trust in government. Don't trust in princes. Don't trust in horses. We will trust in the Lord our God."
Having declared that God must be the foundation of political life, Swanson asked if true believers could endorse Hillary Clinton. "If you vote for Hillary Clinton, can you be a Christian, or are you anti-Christ?" he asked rhetorically. At the 21:16 mark, he told listeners that voting must be an act of submission to Christ.
"What are the fundamental reasons to vote for or not for some candidate or other? The word of God, of course, bears out who you are to vote for. You are to submit yourselves to the rule of Jesus Christ in the voting booth. Everybody is. At least those who are Christians first and foremost ought to submit themselves to Jesus Christ."
One of the chief requirements of a sound political leader is fear of God, Swanson insisted. After fuming about Hillary Clinton's support for reproductive rights, her alleged "socialist" and her supposed ambitions for "redistribution of wealth", Swanson concluded that she does not fear God. At the 31:00 mark, he blasted her as unrighteous and "anti-Christ".
"This is Hilary Clinton, friends. No, she doesn't fear God. No, she doesn't want to preserve human life. She's demonstrated this. She is anti-Christ. She is against the commandments of God. She opposes righteousness on just about every opportunity she has to vote."
"Any "Christian" who would vote for Hillary Clinton seems to be would be anti-Christ in placing that vote," he fumed. Swanson also seemed ill at ease with the idea of a woman president, likening female leadership to measles at the 25:11 mark.
"When women lead in a civil magistrate, it's considered to be a negative, much like the measles is negative. Now, having measles is not a sin. I don't consider a woman leading in the civil magistrate as being sinful. Deborah would be an example in the Book of Judges, but friend, be careful, be careful."
Swanson represents one example of the right-wing hatred for Hillary Clinton that has erupted since the launch of her presidential campaign. The Religious Right is aghast at her record on reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality, and I suspect they're also uncomfortable with the possibility of a moderate female president. Right-wing Christians will continue to depict Hillary Clinton as ungodly in an attempt to dissuade believers from voting for her, and if that fails, they will likely resort to misogyny. As the election approaches and more Religious Right voices opine on candidates, we can expect bombastic rhetoric similar to that of Kevin Swanson.

Commentary Tidbits

Micah Moore at Airborne, Anchored: Who the hell joins a cult?

The Stranger: I Sat In on My Son’s Sex-Ed Class, and I Was Shocked by What I Heard

The American Prospect: How the Decline of Southern White Evangelicals Fuels the Passage of 'Religious Freedom' Laws

Salon: “This man knows as much about Jesus as I do about fixing cars”: Homophobic repair shop gets destroyed by Yelp reviewers

The New Civil Rights Movement: Claiming Trans People Are Sex Offenders, Pastors' Spokesperson Turns Out To Be Serial Rapist

Vice: Why Gay Mormon Men Married to Women Are Fighting Gay Marriage

Faithfully LGBT: Ex-gay stories flourish when bisexuality is ignored

The Daily Beast: The Fundamentalist Witch Hunt’s New Prey

Lady Atheist: The Most Dangerous Christian Denominations: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist

Lady Atheist: Most Dangerous Christian Denominations: Pentecostalism

News Tidbits

Fox 17: Massive backlash after Grandville business owner says he won’t serve gay people

Autoblog: Cummins asks anti-gay repair shop to stop using its logo 

Religion News Service: Charles Stanley declines award after Jews question his views on gays

Washington Examiner: Evangelicals investigating GOP candidates on gay marriage, abortion 

12 News: Woman declares disbelief in God after extreme bullying

Huffington Post: Atheist Mom Gets Threats After School Cancels 'Bible Man' Visits

The Royal Gazette: Bermuda: ‘Ex-gay’ group forced to cancel meeting

CNN: Businesswoman stands by her man-only view of presidency 

Metro Weekly: Jeb Bush to speak at Liberty University

Charisma Weighs in on Pine Ridge Youth Suicides

As readers know, Charisma News and Charisma Magazine are a wellspring of bizarre and often offensive commentary. The online magazine has posted troubling commentary pieces on the LGBTQ community, government policies, school shootings, clergy abuse, Muslims, and trauma survivors. Some of Charisma's authors also have an unhealthy fixation on demons, blaming demonic activity for everything from household odors to sexual inclinations. Once again, one of Charisma's writers has demonstrated superstitious thinking.

In an April 23rd commentary piece entitled "Wave of 200 Teen Suicides Reveals Spiritual Warfare in South Dakota", Katey Hearth discusses youth suicides at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The commentary piece comes in the wake of a spate of adolescent suicides among the Oglala Sioux since December 2014. Hearth quotes Ron Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, who insists that the suicides are rooted in "a spiritual battle with spiritual forces".

To her credit, Hearth's acknowledges the historical and modern traumas that have impacted Pine Ridge, placing the youth suicides in context. The legacy of white conquest and violence, high rates of infant morality, and poverty continue to afflict Pine Ridge communities, she observes. Unfortunately, the commentary piece uses tragedy as a backdrop for superstition. Hearth quotes Hutchcraft, who attributes the suicides to demons.
"They call them the shadow people or the dark people ... There are spirit beings—demonic beings—that are stalking the reservation and convincing young people that they are worth nothing ... and [that have] started this 'cloud of death' over the reservation."
According to the article, Ron Hutchcraft Ministries will send 20 Native American youth to Pine Ridge "to share the hope of Christ" as part of its annual Summer of Hope outreach.

Charisma wasted no time blaming tragedies on demons, demonstrating its usual tastelessness and insensitivity. However, the root of Native youth suicides are much more complex. Research shows that suicidal ideation among Native youth is correlated with a host of problems facing Native American communities. Many Native communities experience elevated rates of interpersonal violence, which is correlated with drug and alcohol abuse, depression, suicidality, and other negative outcomes. Native women and girls are at disproportionate risk for domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. Colonization and racism intersect with other forms of oppression for some Native Americans. Poverty remains a very real problem for some Native communities. Surrounded by these harrowing realities, is it any wonder that some Native youth sink into despair? Native youth suicides have nothing to do with demons and everything to do with real-life problems that require sophisticated solutions.

I have much more confidence in service providers who are trying to help Native youth than in proselytizing. I have more faith in evidence-based suicide prevention programs than in superstition. We must all have faith in the resilience of Native youth and in the compassion of their communities.

So Charisma, spare us the demon talk.

Friday, April 17, 2015

News Tidbits

The Tennessean: Senate kills bill to make Bible official Tennessee book

The Guardian: 'Gay conversion therapy' conference: speakers claim religious freedom is under attack

LGBTQ Nation: Christian auto shop owner in Michigan vows to deny service to gay customers

NPR: Vatican Ends Scrutiny Of U.S. Nuns

Pink News: Louisiana Governor wants tougher ‘Religious Freedom’ bill

Dallas Morning News: Police: Pastor starved 2-year-old, led failed resurrection rite

Commentary Tidbits

Cracked: 5 Insane Realities At My Fundamentalist Christian College

Stuff Fundies Like: 10 Signs You’re Still A Fundamentalist (Even If You’ve Left the IFB) 

Political Research Associates: Promoting Anti-LGBTQ Bullying in Schools: Focus on the Family’s “Day of Dialogue” 

The Age: The fight continues against male-sanctioned female submission

Media Matters for America: Hate Group Will Bring Fox News, GOP Hopefuls On A Trip To Israel 

The Independent: I tried to 'pray the gay away', and ended up in a hospital bed

The Atlantic: How Christians Turned Against Gay Conversion Therapy

Human Rights Campaign: HRC Hosts Educational “Conversion Therapy” Panel in Minnesota

Equality Matters: How An Extreme Anti-LGBT Legal Powerhouse Is Working To Enact "Religious Freedom" Laws

Liberal America: 28 Reasons I’m Done Talking To Most Of My Conservative Friends And Family Members

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The White House Condemns Conversion Therapy

On December 27th, 2014, transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide. According to her suicide note, when Alcorn revealed that she was transgender, her parents took her to Christian therapists who berated her for being "selfish and wrong", insisting that she "should look to God for help." Her death drew national attention to the plight of transgender youth and the harms of so-called conversion therapy, which seeks to alter the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ persons.

In honor of Alcorn, LGBTQ rights activists launched an online petition calling for a national ban on conversion therapy. The petition to enact Leelah's Law has gathered nearly 121,000 signatures at the White House website and almost 150,000 at

On April 8th, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett issued a response to the petition, announcing that the Obama Administration supports efforts to ban conversion therapy for minors. "While a national ban would require congressional action, we are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the actions taken by these states will lead to broader action that this Administration would support," Jarrett wrote.

The White House statement emphasized that mental health and medical professionals reject conversion therapy as harmful and unsound. "The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm," Jarrett argued.

Shortly thereafter, the White House released a video calling for an end to conversion therapy for minors. The video features leaders from the U.S. government calling for acceptance of LGBTQ youth and rejection of conversion therapy.

The White House statement comes at a time when conversion therapy faces unprecedented challenges. For instance, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) has introduced a resolution calling on states to ban conversion therapy for minors. Lawmakers have proposed bans in multiple states, and New Jersey's ban on conversion therapy for minors was recently upheld by a federal appeals court.

LGBTQ rights and civil liberties organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, Truth Wins Out, Lambda Legal, GLSEN, were delighted with the White House statement. Alan Chambers, former president of ex-gay ministry Exodus International (which shut down in 2013 following Chambers' apology to those harmed by the organization), applauded the statement in an April 9th commentary piece.
"...I stand with President Obama in calling for a ban on this practice for minors and for greater measures to protect adults seeking this niche therapeutic intervention.

This ban is in no way an attempt to strip parents of their ability to be good parents or to keep them from helping their child to navigate the complexities of sex and sexuality. Nor is it an infringement on religious liberties.

Regardless of a person’s opinions on sexual morality, efforts to change someone’s primary sexual orientation are dangerous and always unsuccessful. Every adult should have the right to choose his or her own path. And if someone has a religious or moral objection to a particular sexual expression, then who are we to tell that person he or she must embrace a specific act or identity?"
Ex-gay organizations, on the other hand, were livid. In an April 10th press release, the Restored Hope Network, a coalition of ministries that endorse conversion therapy, blasted the White House statement. Anne Paulk, director of the Restored Hope Network, condemned what she called "a growing intolerance of Christian sexual ethics" and worried that a moratorium on therapy based in "a biblical worldview" was imminent. She suggested that conversion therapy was actually intended to help sexually traumatized youth, despite the fact that sexual abuse does not make people LGBTQ.
"It is tragic that children who have been exposed to unwanted sexual advances or abuse by same-sex adults can no longer seek therapeutic help for resolving their sexual confusion ... By withholding therapy to those in confusion we provoke suicidal ideation."
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) also issued a press release in the wake of the White House statement. Regina Griggs, executive director of PFOX, claimed that "homosexual activists" were trying to outlaw "talk therapy" for youth who want to overcome unwanted sexual feelings and "gender confusion".
"The term ‘conversion therapy’ is misleading ... and is used by homosexual activists to paint sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) in a negative light and sway public opinion against this therapy. The truth is that this is simply ‘talk therapy’, and those who oppose it have the intent to outlaw this therapy for minors who voluntarily seek counseling from a licensed professional therapist or counselor to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion.

The White House’s position on banning talk therapy would take away the legal rights of minors and make it illegal for parents to support their child if he or she seeks mental and spiritual care to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion. Parents have a legal right to be involved in the raising of their sons and daughters."
These statements from ex-gay organizations ignore the failures and bad reputation of conversion therapy. For example, a 2009 report by the American Psychological Association concluded that efforts to change people's sexual orientation are not only unlikely to be successful, but involve risks of harm as well. The Pan American Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and other health groups have criticized conversion therapy, while research has shown sexual orientation change efforts to be highly dubious. Defenders of conversion therapy such as NARTH have been accused of promoting dangerous junk science, misrepresenting other professionals' research, and fueling homophobia. Survivors of conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries have spoken out through websites such as Beyond Ex-Gay, Truth Wins Out, Box Turtle Bulletin, and personal blogs.

The White House was right to condemn conversion therapy. In doing so, it joins a chorus of enlightened voices calling for an end to this quackery masquerading as therapy.

Conversion therapy is rooted in the belief that anything other than a heterosexual, cisgender identity is wrong and must be changed. Nothing spiritually redemptive or emotionally nourishing can come from efforts to change people's sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ youth are not "confused" and do not need adults inundating them with homophobia and transphobia. Despite all the rhetoric from ex-gay groups about "helping" minors, conversion therapy was never about helping youth -- it was always about pressuring LGBTQ people to conform. Conversion therapy proponents and ex-gay ministries that ignore these truth are quickly finding themselves on the wrong side of history.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Guardian: 'Praying the gay away': Trauma survivors crusade to ban conversion therapy 

Salon: Leelah Alcorn’s legacy: The White House moves against conversion therapy

RH Reality Check: White House Takes Stance Against ‘Reparative Therapy’

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Colorado Rules that Azucar Bakery Did Not Discriminate Against Bill Jack

As discussed in a prior post, Worldview Academy founder Bill Jack filed a religious discrimination complaint against Azucar Bakery in Denver, Colorado, after bakery owner Marjorie Silva refused to write an anti-gay message on a Bible-shaped cake for him. Azucar Bakery was not Bill Jack's only target. KUSA 9 News reports that Jack has filed complaints against Bakery Sensual and Hateaux Pastries for refusing similar requests. Jack, who served as interim host of Kevin Swanson's Generations with Vision radio show several months ago, has made outrageous statements about LGBTQ rights, atheism, and Planned Parenthood.

Azucar Bakery now has reason to celebrate. According to the Washington Post, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies ruled on April 3rd that Azucar Bakery was within its rights when Silva refused to put an anti-gay message on Jack's cake.

Jack was not amused. According to KUSA 9, Jack issued a statement claiming that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) is being used to "censor" and "coerce" Christians.
"CADA is being used to censor Christian business owners' free speech and is being used to coerce them to participate in events that violate their consciences. This is hypocrisy and unequal treatment before the law. At this most holy time on the Christian calendar, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, it is reprehensible and demeaning that the Bible is considered an immoral, illegal book to be censored from the public arena. Therefore, I am in the process of filing an appeal with the CCRD."
Bill, this was never about your faith or your scripture. No one was condemning the Bible here. Azucar Bakery is not anti-Christian, as it bakes cakes with Christian themes for events such as christenings. Your complaint fizzled because you demanded an anti-gay cake. It is your homophobia, not your Christianity, that enlightened people took issue with. Azucar Bakery was within its rights to handle your anti-gay cake request in the manner it did.

Bill, just stop. Stop launching these publicity stunts. Stop nursing the Religious Right's collective persecution complex. Stop annoying bakers with discrimination complaints. Stop conflating faith with homophobia. Find a more Christ-like way to spend your time.

(Hat tip to Friendly Atheist.)

News Tidbits

OregonLive: Mormon church remains voice against gay marriage, "counterfeit and alternative lifestyles," leaders tell conference

The Guardian: Santorum cites Westboro Baptist Church in debate over Indiana law

Associated Press: Cakes bake tension between gay rights, religious objections

Pink News: Californians counter proposed ‘Biblical’ anti-gay law with ‘Shellfish Suppression Act’

Gay Star News: Christian pastor’s open letter to Mike Huckabee: Please end this war against LGBT people

WFTV 9: Casselberry business owner threatened after refusing to bake anti-gay marriage cake

WMGT 41: Parent complains after Dublin teacher talks politics in classroom

Commentary Tidbits

The Church of the Fridge: Empty Promises 

Vyckie Garrison: How I spent 16 years in an abusive, conservative Christian cult — and finally escaped

The Atlantic: Southern Baptists and the Sin of Racism

Cosmopolitan: "Save the Mother, Save the Baby": An Inside Look at a Pregnancy Center Conference

New York Times: Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana

Raw Story: Georgia florist’s religious hypocrisy: She’ll serve adulterers, but gay couples are ‘a different kind of sin’

Center for Constitutional Rights: Anti-Gay Ugandan Extremist Martin Ssempa is U.S. Citizen; Testimony Sought in U.S. Court Case

The Dust Settles After Indiana's RFRA Controversy

So-called religious freedom laws, which critics claim would legalize discrimination on the grounds of religion, have been a source of controversy in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Recent upheavals in the wake of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act serve as both a warning and a source of hope for those who oppose such laws.

Back in March, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed his state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. Pence signed the bill while surrounded by Religious Right activists, an inauspicious sign for pro-LGBTQ observers. Backlash from LGBTQ rights advocates, high-powered business interests, and enlightened political leaders was swift.

However, several Religious Right figures, including media voices and political candidates, celebrated the first iteration of Indiana's RFRA as a victory for religious freedom. For example, in a March 29th press release, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins commended Indiana for adopting RFRA. "What is unfolding in Indiana reveals the source of true intolerance; those who want the government to punish people for freely living according to their beliefs," he wrote.

Other Religious Right figures sneered at opposition to Indiana's RFRA. In a commentary piece for Charisma News , Michael Brown was disgusted by the "histrionics" and "shrill outcry" from RFRA opponents. Brown likened LGBTQ rights activists to bullies and warned that "any legislature that stands up for our essential freedoms can expect a similar firestorm."
"Now is the time to make it clear that we're not about to back down or cave in to the pressure and bad press, declaring once again that the bullying will back fire.

As I've said many times before, the unspoken mantra of gay activism is, "We will intimidate and we will manipulate until you capitulate."

The response of millions of freedom-loving Americans remains the same: We're not going to capitulate.

We will love our LGBT friends and neighbors and coworkers and family members, but we will not surrender our freedoms."
Religious Right applause notwithstanding, public outrage persisted, and Pence went on the defensive. In a transcript of his March 31st speech posted at Slate, Gov. Pence defended signing Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, denying that the law sanctioned discrimination. "I abhor discrimination", Pence insisted, calling criticism of Indiana's RFRA "mischaracterization and confusion".
"Let me say first and foremost I was proud to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week ... the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is about religious liberty, not about discrimination. As I said last week, had this law been about legalizing discrimination I would have vetoed it. This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana does not give anyone the right to deny services to anyone in this state. It is simply a balancing test used by our federal courts and jurisdictions across the country for more than two decades."
However, Pence asked for legislation stating that "this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone."
"After much reflection and in consultation with leadership of the general assembly, I've come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses the right to deny service to anyone. Let me say that again. I think it would be helpful, and I'd like to see on my desk before the end of this week, legislation that is added to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone. We want to make it clear that Indiana's open for business. We want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan, it's our way of life."
Indiana's RFRA would later undergo changes. New language was added to Indiana's RFRA forbidding discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc., reports Fox 59. Reactions to the changes were mixed, with some observers praising the changes and other complaining that the changes did not go far enough.

Pence's speech and the eventual changes to RFRA ignited a firestorm among the far right. The Religious Right quickly responded, with some insisting that Indiana's original RFRA did not sanction discrimination, and others blasting the left and the LGBTQ community. For example, Concerned Women for America posted a series of talking points, defending state RFRAs against alleged assaults on religious liberty. Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance penned a commentary piece for the Blaze in which she demonized the "radical left" as an enemy of truth. "The far left and it’s cronies of Silicon Valley, most of whom don’t even know people who are religious, see the need to force people of faith to not just tolerate but to participate in the rituals of “gay marriage," she wrote.
"The loss of our religious freedom signals the loss of freedom for everyone, period. That is why we must stand now. This day. We must sound the alarm with a sense of urgency, for the time is running out.

I know the political power is against religious liberty right now. When we see business giants like Apple, who is close to becoming the first company worth a trillion dollars, using their power to bully states into submission against religious liberty, you know we are truly overmatched in economic terms.

This means that if we are to win, we must win against all odds. And if we are going to win against the odds, we can’t play the odds, as some “conservatives” are suggesting we do. We must stand boldly and speak Biblical truth. That means that with much grace and mercy we decline to participate in ANY commerce or activity that is in direct violation of God’s laws. We are the new conscientious objectors to our culture. If we bow now, what will be next?"
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins issues a press release insisting that Indiana's RFRA did not sanction discrimination.
"The governor addressed the complete falsehood that RFRA is about denying people a seat in a restaurant or a room at a hotel. Christians would never deny people these services but being forced to participate in a ceremony that violates religious beliefs is completely un-American and uncivil. We must ensure that religious business owners are not forced by the government to participate in a same-sex ceremony."
During the April 1st edition of Focal Point, Bryan Fischer warned that concessions to the "homosexual lobby" would compel people to serve customers against their will and thus perform "involuntary servitude". (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"I'm afraid Governor Pence is dangerously close to allowing the homosexual lobby to get the state of Indiana to compel people ... to provide labor against their will. What do we call it when people are compelled to provide labor against their will? Involuntary labor. What do we call that, ladies and gentlemen? That is involuntary servitude. That is slavery. That is something that is forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment."
During the April 2nd edition of Generations with Vision, Kevin Swanson was stunned by the "pushback" against "religious liberty". At the 7:21 mark, he had this to say.
"Religious freedoms is the issue of the day if you are one of 35 million evangelical Americans. You need to be aware that the battle for religious freedom is heating up in Indiana and all over America, but wow! The pushback to any possibility of religious liberty in Indiana has been unprecedented. I'm just amazed."
The progress of Indiana's original RFRA law, and controversies over similar laws in other states, should serve as warnings that the Religious Right's crusade for "religious liberty" should not be ignored. The Religious Right will not relent in its demands for special treatment and license to discriminate. However, the public outcry against the original form of RFRA, as well as the new anti-discrimination language added to the bill, reminds us that activism pays. When concerned citizens, business leaders, and politicians took a stand against Indiana's RFRA, it brought about positive changes and sent a clear message to RFRA's defenders. If supporters of equality can remain this organized, focused, and passionate, we can make great strides.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

News Tidbits

Al Jazeera America: Southern Baptists grapple with racist history

Seattle Pi: Mark Driscoll Ministries arrives in time for Easter 

Texas Observer: House Votes to Defund HIV Prevention to Pay for Abstinence Education

9 News: Rep. Klingenschmitt gets support, no more 9NEWS interviews

KOAA 5: Focus on the Family speaks out in support of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts

The Daily Signal: Christian Groups Call for Boycott of Company That Opposes Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Louisiana legislator will introduce bill to enhance 'religious freedom'

New York Times: Bills on ‘Religious Freedom’ Upset Capitols in Arkansas and Indiana

 NPR: What The 2016 Hopefuls Are Saying About Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' Law

Gay Star News: Australia: Christian group asks for right to discriminate against same-sex parents

Washington Post: Robert H. Schuller, ‘Hour of Power’ televangelist, dies at 88

Commentary Tidbits

Falls Church News-Press: Indiana: A Funeral for the Anti-Gay Movement

MSNBC: How religious refusals could go far beyond LGBT weddings

Huffington Post: Hobby Lobby Comes Home to Roost as States Consider 'Religious Freedom' Legislation

Infidel753: Time to play hardball

Spiritual Sounding Board: Did Former Vision Forum President Doug Phillips Play Hide-and-Seek with Process Server?

Salon: Mike Huckabee discovers secret gay conspiracy to close all churches

Musical Interlude: "Hinunter bis auf eins" by Unheilig