Saturday, April 30, 2016

Take nothing for granted

Appreciate the wonders of this era in history. Appreciate the many comforts that you enjoy. Appreciate each other. Never take them for granted.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tennessee Governor Signs Counseling Bill Into Law

For opponents of the Religious Right, it's been a rocky few weeks in Tennessee. A bill that would have made the Bible Tennessee's state book was mercifully vetoed earlier this month. Liberty Counsel and MassResistance undermined attempts to create a gay-straight alliance club at a high school in Franklin County, Tennessee. Now, a new bill will make it legal for counselors to discriminate against LGBTQ clients.

On April 27th, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 1556 into law, according to MSNBC. The bill states that "No counselor or therapist providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist; provided, that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy."

In effect, the bill allows counselors to refuse service to LGBTQ clients on the basis of their religious beliefs. To boot, the law could plausibly allow counselors to refuse service to anyone whose identity of behavior, no matter how harmless, run afoul of their religious sensibilities. Will we now see fundamentalist counselors in Tennessee denying care to LGBTQ people, people who engage in premarital sex, or non-Christians? Will people who don't fit the fundamentalist mold now be bounced around from therapist to therapist when they need mental health treatment?

Like other bigoted bills coming forward across the U.S., SB 1556 should anger us. SB 1556 would permit actions that contradict the very ethical foundations of the counseling profession. Discriminating against clients due to religious beliefs runs counter to the counselor's responsibility to promote social justice, enhance human development, and foster client autonomy.

The new law has been poorly-received by mental health professionals. Art Terrazas, director of government relations at the American Counseling Association, told LGBT Weekly that the "dangerous" law "codifies discrimination", adding that the ACA would continue to fight such legislation. According to the Tennessean, the ACA was scheduled to hold its annual conference at Music City Center in Nashville in 2017. Now that Governor Haslam has signed SB 1556 into law, the organization may move the event.

On April 28th, the Tennessee Counseling Association posted a statement expressing disappointment in the passage of SB 1556. TCA president Audrey A. Elion and advocacy chair Lisa Henderson encouraged all Tennessee counselors to engage in organizations that shape decision-making regarding the counseling profession, so as to " reduce the likelihood that issues related to counseling become politicized".
"We are very disappointed to see a bill that allows counselors the ability to deny services to potential clients, which is in direct conflict with ACA’s nondiscrimination statement, go into effect for licensed mental health practitioners in the state of Tennessee."
Other mental health professionals stand in opposition to the recent wave of bigoted legislation. A few days before SB 1556 was signed into law, the American Psychological Association posted a press release condemning anti-LGBTQ legislation.
"The American Psychological Association is committed to promoting the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are therefore seriously concerned about the recent wave of state-level legislation discriminating against these individuals. Our association has a long history of supporting protections for LGBT people, including in those areas currently under attack — most notably employment, marriage and public accommodations.
APA is calling for passage of the federal Equality Act to provide protections for LGBT people against such unfair and harmful treatment. The adoption of such legal protections offers one way to reduce this undue burden of discrimination faced by LGBT people."
By contrast, Religious Right figures are praising the bill. In an April 28th Washington Update, the Family Research Council loudly praised Governor Haslam as a protector of supposedly persecuted Christian counselors.
"Under the bill he just signed into law, counselors don't have to make the choice between their practice and their principles. H.B. 1840 is just one in a long line of state defenses to the sexual bullying of the Left. Although Tennessee's bill is the first of its kind, the ongoing battle between religious liberty and LGBT activists guarantee it won't be the last. After the American Counseling Association stripped counselors' rights to act according to their beliefs, Tennessee leaders stepped in to give them the protection they deserve. As part of H.B. 1840, no private practice therapist can be forced to take on a client who has "goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with [the counselor's] sincerely-held principles."

That used to be common sense. Not anymore! Americans are being punished at an alarming rate for daring to live out their beliefs in the workplace. And Christian counselors are one of the growing targets. "As a professional," Governor Haslam argued, "I should have the right to decide if my clients' end goals don't match with my beliefs -- I should have the right to say somebody else can better serve them. Lawyers can do that. Doctors can do that. Why would we take this one class of professionals and say you can't?"

Unfortunately, that's exactly the kind of ideological coercion the Left is trying to make official U.S. policy. In their intolerance, liberals are demanding a new system of involuntary servitude -- and they want the state to enforce it. Tolerance isn't a one-way street -- and laws like Tennessee's make sure of it. Our thanks to Governor Haslam for doing the right thing -- not just for counselors, but for liberty."
In an online statement, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins had the audacity to claim that SB 1556 represented "tolerance and understanding."
"Tennessee lawmakers are right in acting to protect the ability of therapists and counselors to continue serving in their helping profession in a manner that does not conflict with their religious beliefs. America has a long and storied history of respecting Americans’ freedom to believe and actually live their lives according to those beliefs. It was this tolerance and understanding that led the first Congress and the American people to enshrine religious freedom in our Constitution.

Senate Bill 1556 is an important first step in preserving this fundamental freedom for those who do not agree with the Left’s radical ideology. Tennessee joins North Carolina and Mississippi in the growing list of states refusing to criminalize people whose beliefs about sexuality and marriage are at odds with President Obama’s extreme political and social agenda."
Other Religious Right voices are defending SB 1556 as well. David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) was a vocal lobbyist in favor of the bill, according to NPR. In an April 29th post, FACT called opponents of the bill "hypocrites" who are "coming unglued" over a bill that is "no big deal".

Legislation such as SB 1556 is unacceptable. Discrimination is morally wrong, whether it involves marriage licenses, bathrooms, or mental health services. LGBTQ persons deserve access to the same amenities and services as anyone else. Counseling should be available to everyone, not just people who fit a Christian fundamentalist mold.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Atlantic: A Controversial Therapy Law in Tennessee

ACLU of Tennessee: Governor Signs Bill Allowing Counselors to Discriminate

Wonkette: Bigot Tennessee Therapists Can’t Wait To Screw The Gays For Jesus

News Tidbits

The Guardian: Tennessee continues anti-LGBT legal onslaught with 'therapist bill'

NBC Local 15: Alabama: Justice Moore addresses complaints filed against his marriage orders

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 'Religious freedom' measure defeated in Missouri House committee

Lexington Herald Leader: State awards $18 million tax break to Noah’s Ark theme park

Washington Blade: Booker, Murray introduce legislation against ‘ex-gay’ therapy

Scientific American: Many More Republicans Now Believe in Climate Change

USA Today: When religion and the LGBT collegiate athlete collide

Pink News: University awards honorary degree to director of listed anti-LGBT hate groups

Pink News: NOM declares another funding emergency as donations dry up

Gay Star News: Singapore pastor does not believe gay Christians deserve to be happy with who they are

Commentary Tidbits

The Atlantic: Religious-Liberty Laws That Have No Meaning

Great Falls Tribune: Dinosaurs, the Bible and a Glendive museum

Jezebel: King Doofus Kirk Cameron: 'Wives Are to Honor and Respect and Follow Their Husband's Lead'

Feminist Majority Foundation: Is Robert Dear a Lone Wolf? FMF Demands House Select Panel Investigate Anti-Abortion Violence

The Advocate: The Ghost Children of Mormon Country

Washington Post: Prince helped me overcome a religious upbringing that shunned secular music

Gawker: Satanists to Boehner: Please Don't Associate Us With Ted Cruz

Religion News Service: Why Trump’s rise does not spell the end for the Christian right

Huffington Post: How Rape and “Pro-Life” Politics Are Intimately Connected

Rosa Rubicondior: Pope Francis And The Predatory Priest

Think Progress: Anti-Gay Counseling Student Sues University Over His Refusal To Follow Professional Ethics

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

World Congress of Families X Taking Place This May in Tbilisi, Georgia

The World Congress of Families hosts regular conferences around the globe, and their next gathering is coming up fast. The World Congress of Families X Conference will take place on May 15-18 at the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel in Tbilisi, Georgia.

This year's gathering is supported by Religious Right organizations such as the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society, the National Organization for Marriage, and Alliance Defending Freedom. Among WCF X's organizers is the Georgian Demographic Society XXI, a right-wing group created to address the "extremely grave demographic situation" in Georgia. The organization seeks to increase Georgia's population by encouraging "traditional marriage and strong family propaganda" through the promotion of "a large family and anti-abortion agenda."

The Georgian Demographic Society's founder, Levan Vasadze, has a history of right-wing activism. Vasadze's name appeared on a 2013 open letter decrying homosexuality as "depravity" that flies in the face of "Christian morality". In a 2013 commentary piece, Tabula Magazine accused Vasadze of anti-western sentiment. (Hat tip to Bartholomew's Notes on Religion.)

Prior WCF conferences have shown us exactly what to expect from these gatherings: anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminist rhetoric. Attendees can look forward to retrograde workshops and speeches such as these:

  • Gender theory and sexuality education and how they undermine the family and parental authority
  • Anti-family indoctrination in education
  • Civilization at the Crossroads: The Natural Family as The Bulwark of Freedom and Human Values
  • Culture of Live vs. Culture of Death: Family and Marriage Issues; The role of religion
  • Culture of Live vs. Culture of Death: Demographic Winter; Abortion, euthanasia, surrogacy and other life issues
  • Parental rights to guide children's education: Homeschooling

Workshops will focus on topics such as "marriage deconstruction in the name of equality", "demographic winter", and "the sexual revolution and cultural Marxism".

The American Religious Right continues to network with its international counterparts to challenge LGBTQ equality, reproductive freedom, and gender equality. The Tbilisi conference will also allow Georgia’s right-wing voices to make global allies and draw international supporters to its cause. Will enlightened Georgians stand for these messages at WCF X?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Noah Conference Will Bring Together Ken Ham, Kevin Swanson, and the Benhams

Noah Conference Official Trailer from Kevin Swanson on Vimeo.

Ken Ham, creator of the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter theme park, will be taking part in a conference that likens modern "ungodliness" to the Great Flood.

The Noah Conference will take place on August 19-20 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Registration includes admission into the Ark Encounter theme park nearby. The Noah Conference website describes the event as an opportunity to disciple children in the midst of an "enticing me-centered, entertainment-saturated, and peer-dominated culture".

"You, like Noah, are competing against a thousand corrupt voices," the website tells visitors. "Like Noah’s sons, your children must also follow you into an ark to be saved – the ark that is Jesus Christ."
"You and your family might feel like you’re swimming upstream. But have you ever tried swimming against a flood?

4,000 years ago, the earth was covered by the greatest flood of all time. Every man, woman and child was swept away...except for one man and his family. But that wasn’t all. Another flood was raging which posed even greater danger to Noah and his family - a worldwide flood of ungodliness.

What did Noah do?

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Heb 11:7)

What can you do?

Join families from across the country for the Noah Conference in Cincinnati on August 19 & 20 - just minutes away from the new life-size Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. Based on lessons from the life of Noah, the Noah Conference will prepare you to engage your kids, disciple them in an ungodly generation, and launch them into life as ambassadors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The all-white, all-male list of conference speakers includes Ken Ham, the Benham Brothers, anti-abortion activist Flip Benham, and the ever-colorful Kevin Swanson. (Let's hope that Swanson refrains from screaming, gesticulating, and making references to manure and pus-filled sores this time.) The workshop schedule features the typical right-wing fare about how the Christian family is supposedly under attack from a wicked world, and how families must batten down the hatches under male headship.

  • Lot vs. Noah: Combating the Influence of the World on Your Home
  • Children, Obey Your Parents

  • Why Every Family Needs an Ark

  • Discipleship 101: Bringing Your Children into the Ark

  • It’s Time to Build an Ark in the Secular Age

  • Living Among Lions: How to Thrive like Daniel in Today's Babylon

  • Getting Your Kids on Board: How Dad Passes a Vision to His Children

The Noah Conference brims with Christian myths, and not just the Great Flood myth. Fundamentalist Christians are not living in an era of incomparable evil. Some monolithic, wicked "world" is not out to taint their families and persecute them for their faith. Adopting a siege mentality and shunning the outside world will not keep them safe or sanctified. Heaven's floodgates have not opened, and there is no need for a metaphorical ark.

News Tidbits

New York Times: At Brigham Young, a Cost in Reporting a Rape

Pink News: Texas sheriff hopeful threatens to beat trans women unconscious if he finds them in public bathrooms 

Associated Press: Religious leaders object to religious objections law

Associated Press: Pressure builds ahead of Missouri religious exemptions vote

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Laid off Catholic worker finds surprise at unemployment office

Keystone Crossroads: Pennsylvania's Catholic churches consolidate and close as population declines

Gay Star News: Colorado Supreme Court denies appeal from anti-gay baker who refused to make wedding cake

Commentary Tidbits

The Clarion-Ledger: Methodist ministers pen open letter on Mississippi religious freedom law

Slate: A Day With Ken Ham

Raw Story: Creationist Ken Ham faces wrath of Twitter over rant about ‘secularists’ making fun of his ‘stupid’ ark

Progressive Eruptions: See that grumpy old man scowling in the banner above this post?

North Carolina's Transphobic Bathroom Bill, Part II

As discussed in an earlier post, North Carolina recently passed House Bill 2, which prevents transgender persons from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity and leaves LGBTQ people out of anti-discrimination protections. Several Religious Right figures have defended the legislation, claiming that it protects women and children from transgender "predators" in bathroom.


The Religious Right's rhetoric about protecting women and children isn't fooling many people, especially not professionals who make their living protecting women and children. Women's rights groups and anti-sexual violence advocates have condemned bathroom bills and the laughable arguments that such bills protect anyone.

For example, the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault posted a March 24th statement that advocated for anti-discrimination policies for LGBTQ people and argued against claims that transgender people in public restrooms would pose a public safety menace. "What will actually prevent and end sexual violence is for us to create a culture in which respect for the identities and bodily autonomy of others is a deeply held value," the statement says.

In a March 19th statement, North Carolina Women United president Tara Romano lamented the epidemic of sexual violence in society but added that, "stoking fears based on inaccurate stereotypes and myths — such as the belief that transgender women can easily be impersonated by heterosexual men, or that all men are rapists just waiting for an opportunity to attack to women — isn’t doing anything to curb this epidemic." In another statement, Romano called HB2 "reprehensible" and "discriminatory".

Other advocacy groups across the nation have taken the same stance. On April 21st, hundreds of anti-sexual violence and anti-domestic violence organizations released a joint statement condemning transphobic bathroom bills. The list of signatories -- including the National Center for Victims of Crime, YWCA, Stop It Now, FaithTrust Institute, Just Detention International, Hollaback, and multiple state anti-violence coalitions -- is a nigh-exhaustive who's who of anti-violence organizations in the U.S. The document, National Consensus Statement of Anti-Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Organizations in Support of Full and Equal Access for the Transgender Community, expresses solidarity with transgender persons and argues that bathroom bills do not keep women and children safe.
"We, the undersigned sexual assault and domestic violence organizations, oppose anti-transgender initiatives.  These initiatives utilize and perpetuate the myth that protecting transgender people’s access to restrooms and locker rooms endangers the safety or privacy of others. As organizations that care about reducing assault and violence, we favor laws and policies that protect transgender people from discrimination, including in accessing facilities that match the gender they live every day.

States across the country have introduced harmful legislation or initiatives that seek to repeal non-discrimination protections or restrict transgender people’s access to gender-specific facilities like restrooms. Those who are pushing these proposals have claimed that these proposals are necessary for public safety and to prevent sexual violence against women and children. As rape crisis centers, shelters, and other service providers who work each and every day to meet the needs of all survivors and reduce sexual assault and domestic violence throughout society, we speak from experience and expertise when we state that these claims are false."
The document observes that nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender persons have not compromised public safety.
"Nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people have existed for a long time. Over 200 municipalities and 18 states have nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people’s access to facilities consistent with the gender they live every day. In some cases, these protections have been in place for decades. These laws have protected people from discrimination without creating harm. None of those jurisdictions have seen a rise in sexual violence or other public safety issues due to nondiscrimination laws. Assaulting another person in a restroom or changing room remains against the law in every single state. We operate and advocate for rape crisis centers and shelters all over the country, including in cities and states with non-discrimination protections for transgender people. Those protections have not weakened public safety or criminal laws, nor have they compromised their enforcement."
The statement reminds readers that transgender people experience violence at much greater rates than the general population, and that discriminatory legislation undermines their safety.
"The efforts to ban transgender people from using public restrooms obscures the fact that all of us, including transgender people, are deeply concerned about safety and privacy in restrooms. Transgender people already experience unconscionably high rates of sexual assault—and forcing them out of facilities consistent with the gender they live every day makes them vulnerable to assault. As advocates committed to ending sexual assault and domestic violence of every kind, we will never support any law or policy that could put anyone at greater risk for assault or harassment.  That is why we are able to strongly support transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections—and why we oppose any law that would jeopardize the safety of transgender people by forcing them into restrooms that do not align with the gender they live every day."
If proponents of bathroom bills were serious about protecting the public from sexual predators, they would invest in domestic violence and sexual assault victim service agencies. They would invest in evidence-based prevention programs. They would press for timely testing of rape kits, so that forensic evidence could be processed in time to catch predators before they offend again. They would focus on actual predators instead of demonizing and scapegoating the transgender community. Bathroom bills are little more than transphobic discrimination measures that endanger transgender persons and leave no one safer.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person: Get your own house in order

Love, Joy, Feminism: The Sexual Predators in Evangelicals’ Backyard

The Nation: North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law Is Not the Way to Keep Women Safe

Huffington Post: Sexual Abuse Survivors Want Conservative Politicians To Knock It Off With ‘Bathroom Predator’ Myth

Monday, April 25, 2016

News Tidbits

Cincinnati*com: Ark Encounter has right to only hire Christians

Associated Press: Rallies over N. Carolina LGBT law begin as lawmakers return

Edge Media Network: 'Ex-Gay' Activist Calls LGBT Lobby 'A Kid in a Candy Store', 'High on Sugar'

Pink News: Ted Cruz: We need anti-LGBT laws so Trump ‘can’t dress up as Hillary’ to get into girls’ bathroom

Hollywood Life: New Victim Steps Forward To Accuse Josh Duggar Of Molestation

Christian Science Monitor: What Brazil's impeachment process says about its Christian faiths

Sydney Morning Herald: Treasurer Scott Morrison defends anti-gay commentator at Australian Christian Lobby event

Washington Blade: Report: Anti-LGBT persecution increased under Uganda law

Commentary Tidbits

Indyweek: Onward Christian Soldiers: Inside a Religious Right Conference Aimed at Taking America Back 

Wall of Separation: Phyllis Schlafly Faces Coup At Organization She Founded

Slate: These young women enrolled in an influential Christian counseling center for help. That's not what they found.

Right Wing Watch: Anti-LGBT Lawyer 'Taking A Glock .45 To The Ladies Room' To Defend Against Trans Women

Think Progress: The Push To Deny LGBT Americans Their Basic Rights, Explained

Political Research Associates: Trump, Cruz, & Dominionism: Some Christian Right Leaders Fear a Crack-Up

North Carolina's Transphobic Bathroom Bill, Part I

Last month, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2 into law, according to the New York Times. The new law requires people to use bathrooms of the sex listed on their birth certificates, effectively preventing transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. The law also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from a list of categories protected from housing and public accommodations discrimination.

The bill was met with public condemnation, petitions, ongoing protests, and legislative resistance. North Carolina's attorney general, Roy Cooper, called HB2 a "national embarrassment" and refused to defend the law, according to ABC 11. North Carolina's Democratic lawmakers seek to repeal House Bill 2 through a bill submitted earlier today, according to ABC 11.

The economic impact of House Bill 2 will no doubt be immense and negative. Businesses have slammed House Bill 2 as discriminatory and/or abandoned business endeavors in North Carolina to show their disapproval. Musicians, studios, and sports leaders have refused to perform in North Carolina or warned that they will take events elsewhere until the legislation is lifted. House Bill 2 won't make North Carolina safer, but it will make the state poor and boring.

House Bill 2 as well as similar bills proposed in South Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee, Illinois, and Kansas have triggered outrage from the LGBTQ community and its allies, who argue that such "bathroom bills" are a form of transphobic discrimination. Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina have filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation.

Some voices from the Religious Right are defending bathroom bills as a means of protecting women and children from supposedly predatory transgender people. Over and over, their rhetoric reinforces the same ugly stereotypes of transgender people as predators, deviants, and men-in-drag. According to ABC News, presidential candidate Ted Cruz claimed that without bathroom bills, "you're opening the door for predators." The Washington Blade reports that Cruz recently released a video ad warning that "a grown man pretending to be a woman" in women's restrooms would jeopardize the safety of women and girls.

More transphobic language in praise of bathroom bills comes from the Family Research Council. In an April 12th press release, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins scoffed at opponents of North Carolina's House Bill 2. "The Left’s response to Governor McCrory’s executive order shows it has no interest in a ‘live and let live’ policy, and could care less about the commonsense privacy concerns of parents and families throughout North Carolina, even when it comes to the question of letting grown men use women’s bathrooms and locker rooms," he wrote.

In an April 15th commentary piece at the Blaze, Mario Diaz, legal counsel for Concerned Women for America, insisted that bathroom bills were not discriminatory. "Any reasonable person can see that there is nothing discriminatory about asking men to use the men’s room and women to use the lady’s room," he wrote. "A policy that allows men to decide what facilities to use based on how they feel in their minds opens the door for easy abuse by vicious predators," he claimed, demonizing transgender people as sexual deviants.

North Carolina Family Policy Council (an affiliate of Focus on the Family's CitizenLink, according to Political Research Associates) disparaged critics of HB2 as people who want to "impose a radical social policy of unbridled sexual license" in an April 19th blog post.
"Opponents of House Bill 2 are mad that the Charlotte City Council was rebuked for its overreach of legal authority. They are mad that HB 2 preempts their efforts to open public bathrooms and showers to individuals of either sex. And they are mad that House Bill 2 curtailed their efforts to impose a radical social policy of unbridled sexual license on our state. The hateful rhetoric is simply a temper tantrum gone mad. Unfortunately, the media is propagating the smear campaign, and many levelheaded citizens have been confused and misled by it."
House Bill 2 and other bathroom bills were likely intended to instill fear of transgender persons in ordinary citizens, and thereby unite right-wing voters against a common enemy. However, people are increasingly rejecting the ugly stereotypes about transgender people that drive these fears, as it becomes clear that transgender persons are not deviant monsters. Right-wing lawmakers and activists did not expect a backlash of this magnitude, and will have intense fights ahead of them as businesses, entertainers, advocates, and level-headed citizens challenge their bathroom bills.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Mother Jones: We Tracked Down the Lawyers Behind the Recent Wave of Anti-Trans Bathroom Bills

Political Research Associates: The Christian Right's Favorite New Target: North Carolina Isn't Alone

Think Progress: The Newest Opponents Of North Carolina’s Anti-Transgender Law: Faith Groups