Saturday, February 25, 2017

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

Associated Press: DHS report disputes threat from banned nations

ABC News: White House chief of staff urged FBI to dispute Trump-Russia report

Washington Post: Trump administration sought to enlist intelligence officials, key lawmakers to counter Russia stories 

Washington Post: In first month of Trump presidency, State Department has been sidelined

New York Times: Rex Tillerson Arrives in Mexico Facing Twin Threats to Relations

The Hill: Trump: FBI ‘totally unable’ to stop leaks 

CNN: White House blocks news organizations from press briefing

Resistance to the Trump administration remains strong.

Reuters: One month in, anti-Trump movement shows signs of sustained momentum

Huffington Post: There’s About To Be A Dance Protest At The White House To Celebrate Trans Youth

Haaretz: Palestinians Hurl Shoes 'At Trump's Face' as They Protest Symbol of Israeli Occupation 

Esquire: A Conversation with the CPAC Protester Waving That TRUMP Russian Flag

The Oregonian: Counter-protest planned for Lake Oswego 'March 4 Trump'

Soulforce Organizing Direct Action During Proclaim 17 Convention in Orlando

Proclaim 17, the International Christian Media Convention, will take place from February 27th to March 2nd at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida. The Proclaim convention is the annual gathering of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), a network of conservative Christian media professionals. Judging by its homophobic code of ethics, the recipients of its awards and its positions on Trump administration policies, Israel, the Johnson Amendment, and "religious freedom", the NRB is very much part of the Religious Right.

Proclaim 17 offers Christian media professionals an opportunity to network and develop new strategies for engaging with audiences. While much of the convention's content focuses on technology, outreach, and industry trends, some of its workshops have a decidedly right-leaning flavor.

  • Is Transformation Really Possible for Persons with Same Sex Attraction? (presented by Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network, an "ex-gay" ministry)

  • The Fight for Religious Freedom and the Future of the Courts (presented by Ryan T. Anderson and Roger Severino of the Heritage Foundation)

  • Personal Attacks on First Amendment Freedoms and What May Lie Ahead (presented by Todd Starnes of Fox News and the Benham brothers)

  • Pastors Lunch: Shall We Talk About Islam? (featuring no Muslim speakers, oddly enough)

  • The Human Cost of the Attack on Religious Freedom

  • What Does the Trump Presidency Mean for Christian Radio?

Let's not ignore the convention's speakers, who include right-wing figures such as Alliance Defending Freedom founder Alan Sears, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, anti-abortion activist Alveda King, David and Jason Benham, and homophobic ex-Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran.

Writing at the Advocate, L. Cole Parke observes that both NRB and many of the organizations participating in Proclaim 17 are opposed to LGBTQ equality. The fact that Proclaim 17 will take place in Orlando, the location of last year's devastating Pulse massacre, makes the participants' homophobia even more painful to behold.

Fortunately, Soulforce is organizing a direct action during the convention under the hashtags #StopKillingUs and #KeepPulseAlive. According to their website, Soulforce will be honor Pulse victims with a Living Altar of paper doves while "bringing healing, witness, joy, and resistance to the leading Christian Right Wing communicators who are killing our people."
"The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a Right-Wing communications network with 1400+ member stations broadcasting around the world. Their annual meeting will be hosted this year in Orlando, FL during which thousands of members and supporters will convene to strategize, network, and gain skills to further their aggressive anti-LGBTQI and anti-Muslim agenda that broadcasts to the world.

Soulforce invites all those who are willing and able, both in Florida and everywhere, to hold vigil over this Living Altar with us in Orlando as we honor our dead and challenge the power of this communications hub to harm our bodies and spirits with death-dealing rhetoric.

Soulforce, in partnership with local and regional organizations, is collecting doves from around the world to join our Living Altar. These doves symbolize those who were made ancestors at the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in Orlando in June 2016."
As the Religious Right explores ways to promote its agenda through broadcasting in Orlando, people of conscience will be holding them accountable for their bigotry. Soulforce's direct action will serve as another reminder that the Religious Right will encounter resistance to its intolerance.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

News Tidbits

Washington Post: CPAC organizer denounces ‘alt-right’ as ‘left-wing fascist group’

Politico: White nationalist leader kicked out of CPAC

New York Times: Milo Yiannopoulos’s Pedophilia Comments Cost Him CPAC Role and Book Deal

NPR: Lack Of Education Leads To Lost Dreams And Low Income For Many Jehovah's Witnesses 

Associated Press: Kentucky ark attraction adding biblical truth exhibit

Associated Press: Rhode Island lawmakers propose banning anti-gay therapy

Gay Star News: North Carolina: Burglar broke into gay-friendly church to graffiti Bible verses condemning 'wrong-doers'

CBC News: Local Christian leaders don't want evangelist Franklin Graham speaking in Vancouver

CBC: Trinity Western law school fight heading to Supreme Court of Canada

Pink News: Australia: Anti-LGBT activist invited the whole internet to his rally and it didn’t end well

The Guardian: 'The exorcism was over in 15 minutes but nothing changed': LGBT life in Nigeria

Commentary Tidbits

Politico: CPAC’s Identity Crisis

Right Wing Watch: It’s Not Just Milo: Five Of The Wildest CPAC Speakers

Bilerico Report: In Trump’s America, Christian proselytizing is another form of oppression

CBS News: Milo Yiannopoulos and the conservative implosion 

The Atlantic: The Christian Retreat From Public Life

The Advocate: Resisting the Christian Right in Orlando

Media Matters for America: The Biggest Myth About Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Debunked

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

Newsweek: Amnesty International Calls Out Trump's 'Poisonous' Rhetoric

The Advocate: Education Department's LGBT Employees Make Plea to DeVos

PRI: Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel ‘regrets’ Holocaust-related slur

CBS News: Amid growing calls for action, Trump addresses JCC threats, anti-Semitism

Washington Post: Anne Frank Center slams Trump: ‘Do not make us Jews settle for crumbs of condescension’

Washington Post: Thousands of emails detail EPA head’s close ties to fossil fuel industry

CNN: British MP on Trump: My daughter deserves better

Associated Press: Pence tries to reassure European leaders shaken by Trump

Reuters: Trump to reverse Obama-era environmental rules in executive orders: report

NBC News: DHS Outlines Crackdown on Illegal Immigration

Positive news stories continue to give us hope.

Fox 5 New York: New Yorkers rally at Stonewall for transgender rights

Reuters: Norway pledges $10 million to counter Trump's global anti-abortion move

Business Insider: Ginsburg says public reaction to Trump gives her 'hope' 

Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Transgender Students' Restroom Use

To support transgender youth, it is important that institutions acknowledge their gender identity and allow them to safely navigate public spaces, including restrooms. Allowing transgender youth to use the restroom that matches their gender identity is an important way to affirm their identity. Unfortunately, the Trump administration does not agree.

According to Reuters and UPI, the Trump administration announced on February 22nd that it had rolled back Obama administration guidelines allowing transgender students the right to use public school restrooms that matched their gender identity. In a February 22nd statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained that the Department of Justice and Department of Education withdrew guidance issued in 2015-2016 regarding transgender student restroom use. "The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.  The Department of Education and the Department of Justice therefore have withdrawn the guidance," he wrote. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos also issued a statement insisting that the restroom issue is "best solved at the state and local level".

The decision drew immediate criticism and dissent. Several city and state officials announced that they would continue to protect transgender restroom rights, according to Buzzfeed. A joint statement issued by 19 education, mental health, and youth-oriented organizations criticized with the administration's decision to rescind the federal guidance. LGBTQ rights groups were also unhappy with the decision, calling it "a mean-spirited attack""a blind and cruel attack on young children", "a new low" that could "endanger the well-being and safety of children across the country". Pro-LGBTQ demonstrators convened at Stonewall Inn in New York on February 23rd to protest the Trump administration's decision.

On the other hand, right-wing figures applauded the decision. News of the decision drew cheers from CPAC attendees, according to Talking Points Memo. White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the decision, calling transgender restroom access a states' rights issue.

Religious Right organizations praised the decision as well, resorting to ugly stereotypes and about transgender youth in their defense of the move. In a February 23rd Washington Update, Family Research Council staff resorted to scare tactics about government "coercion" and boys invading girls' showers to justify the decision.
"The administration's posture isn't anti-LGBT. It's pro-democracy. States and local districts are in the best position to decide what serves their students best. If it's letting teenage boys shower with the girls, then by all means, pursue that. Just don't be surprised when families rise up -- as they have all across this nation -- and demand better. When pressed, the persistence of parents will always be stronger than the government's coercion."

In a February 22nd statement, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins called the Obama administration's guidance on Title IX a "coercive policy" that would "force boys and girls to shower together, stay together on school trips, and use the same locker rooms and bathrooms." He demonized transgender youth as a danger to children, claiming that " Parents refused to allow their child's innocence to be sacrificed on the altar of government imposed political correctness."
"Today’s announcement fulfills President Trump’s campaign promise to get the federal government out of the business of dictating school shower and bathroom policies.   The federal government has absolutely no right to strip parents and local schools of their rights to provide a safe learning environment for children."
Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation penned a commentary piece for the Daily Signal, in which he called the Title IX guidance "unlawful" and characterized it as an affront to students' dignity and safety.
"While we must be sensitive to the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of people who identify as transgender, that is not a reason to ignore the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of everyone else.

Unfortunately, the Obama-era policies were entirely one-sided. They favored the concerns of people who identify as transgender while entirely discounting the concerns of others."
Andrew T. Walker, director of policy students at the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote a commentary piece in defense of the Trump administration's move. He called gender identity an "amorphous and subjective" concept, described transgender women as "biological males who think of themselves as female" and who are "gender-confused", and called the Obama administration's guidance "lawless". Sickeningly, he claimed that allowing transgender women in women's restrooms would put women at risk of sexual assault, thereby promoting the ugly stereotype of transgender persons as predators.
"Christian parents with kids in public schools should be thankful for the Trump administration’s actions because it bars the federal government from treating citizens with a different belief on debated issues over human anthropology as outside the mainstream.

There are ways to resolve this dispute at the local level without bringing the heavy hand of government coercion into the equation and in the process, penalizing different beliefs about how men and women are made.

Restroom and locker room policies separate men and women based on privacy concerns. Individuals of the same biological sex share the same anatomy. Sharing the restroom with those who are of the same sex and who have the same anatomy enhances the possibility of embarrassment or vulnerability from viewing the opposite sex in a state of undress. For the sake of protecting women against sexual assault by those who would take advantage of these laws or preventing biological men from viewing women in a private situation, restroom, or locker room, it is prudent to base access on biological sex distinction."
The Trump administration's decision has dealt a cruel blow to transgender youth across the country. Transgender students must continue their struggle for the basic right of restroom access while coping with damaging stereotypes of transgender people as predators, threats, and male interlopers in women's spaces. By throwing red meat to transphobic members of the Religious Right, the Trump administration has created heartache for transgender youth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

News Tidbits

Christian Post: Public Decries Christian Men's Conference for Featuring Speakers Accused of Rape, Sexual Abuse Cover-Up

Washington Blade: Anti-LGBT legal organization designated a hate group

The Hill: Washington court rules against florist who refused flowers for gay wedding

ABC 33/40: Alabama: Briarwood Presbyterian Church seeks lawmakers’ approval to establish police force

Huffington Post: Creationist Ken Ham’s Giant ‘Noah’s Ark’ To Feature Dinosaurs vs. Giants Diorama

Gay Star News: New Mexico Senate votes to ban anti-LGBT conversion therapy

Pink News: Christian radio host Bryan Fischer says homosexuals are ‘literally’ Nazi stormtroopers

Washington Post: Influential conservative group: Trump, DeVos should dismantle Education Department and bring God into classrooms

The Independent: UK: Children at faith school 'ordered by teachers to ignore classmate because her parent is transgender'

Commentary Tidbits

Broadly: I Went to a Pro-Islamophobia Rally Hosted by Canada's Breitbart in My Hijab

Daylight Atheism: Some Right-Wing Christians Enthusiastically Promoting a Form of Genocide

The Guardian: Trump's 'global gag rule' could endanger millions of women and children, ​Bill and Melinda Gates​ warn

Mic: 5 times white students invoked Trump to taunt minority students

The Inquisitr: Ark Encounter: City Warned, Drops Trip Plans for Controversial Religious Site

BBC News: Anna LeBaron: How I escaped my father's murderous polygamous cult

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lou Engle: Shut Up and Stop Complaining

New Apostolic Reformation preacher Lou Engle took to Twitter to comment on the recent surge in protesting and political dissent. In a February 9th tweet, Engle wrote that "To protest is an American privilege. Yet to protest with a bitter spirit defiles many." In another Tweet that day, Engle claimed that "If people would pray for their leaders instead of complaining about them the kingdom would more speedily advance." Engle's tweets are problematic for several reasons.

First, protest is an American right, not a privilege. The rights of citizens to exercise freedom of speech, to assemble in a peaceful manner, and to petition the government for redress of grievances are protected by the Bill of Rights. Furthermore, democracy thrives when citizens hold leaders accountable and communicate their will to all levels of government. It is not only the right but the duty of Americans to offer dissent when leaders propose unsound policies. Contrary to what Engle writes, protest is an important American tradition, not a privilege.

For citizens to hold their government accountable, they must speak. They must identify what is wrong with a leader's decisions and make their thoughts known. Engle frowns on this as "complaining", but in reality, it is an expression of free speech that is essential to healthy democracy. Speech and action, not prayer, bring about results in the real world.

Engle's comment about protesting with a "bitter spirit" is revealing. First, it suggests that Engle sees rancor in the protests of the past few weeks, instead of righteous anger, courage, humor, and solidarity with the marginalized. Second, "bitter" is a epithet that some Christian fundamentalists hurl at those who criticize persons in power or demand justice for wrongdoers. Is it easier for Engle to dismiss the anti-Trump protests as outpourings of "bitterness" than to listen to the grievances of the protesters?

With Donald Trump in the White House, unsuitable figures rising to cabinet positions, alarming executive orders flying off the president's desk, and so much at stake, Americans can't afford to be passive. We can't afford to stay silent for fear of appearing "bitter", and we can't wait for a cosmic white knight to fix our problems. Now is the time for constructive action, not passivity.

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

PBS News Hour: Draft DHS guidelines seek to aggressively detain immigrants

The Hill: Trump signs repeal of transparency rule for oil companies

Politico: Panetta warns Trump's National Security Council is 'dysfunctional'

Associated Press: Religious freedom could top Sessions civil rights priorities

BBC News: Sweden to Trump: What happened last night?

Washington Post: DeVos: Critics want to ‘make my life a living hell’

UPI: Senate confirms McMahon to lead Small Business Administration

CNN: GOP Senate Intel Member: Exhaustive investigation into Trump-Russia connections needed following Flynn resignation

New York Times: Michael Flynn Resigns as National Security Adviser 

New York Times: Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

New York Times: Trump Chooses H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser

Other events from the past week will lift your spirits!

Washington Post: Thousands of demonstrators across US say ‘Not My President’

The Independent: Thousands of protesters across the UK demonstrate against US President as MPs debate state visit

Boston Globe: Photos from Boston’s ‘Stand Up for Science’ rally

Huffington Post: The Resistance Calendar lists upcoming rallies across the country

2017 CPAC Will Take Place February 22-25

The 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of right-wing politicians and activists, will take place on February 22-25 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD. Sponsored by Heritage Foundation, Liberty Health Share, and the National Rifle Association, this year's CPAC will feature multiple members of the Trump administration as speakers, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Stephen Bannon, and Reince Priebus. To everyone's relief, the gathering will not feature Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

I always find amusement in the workshop listings of right-wing conferences, which blatantly give away a conference's agenda. This year's CPAC will feature the following workshops and panel discussions:

  • If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can't America?

  • Trigger Warnings & Safe Spaces: Campus Activism in a PC Age

  • Facts, Not Feelings: Snowflakes, Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings

  • When Did WWIII Begin? Threats At Home

  • Is BDS BS? The Left's Attack on Israel

  • Implications of the Energy Renaissance Given to Us by Hydraulic Fracturing in America

  • Hush: Abortion's Effects on Women the Pro-Choice Lobby Doesn't Want You To Know

  • How Did the Left Capture Education and How Do We Get It Back?

Let's not ignore the book signings! The titles alone are good for a snicker.

  • Book Signing: Burgess Owens, Liberalism or How to Turn Good Men Into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps

  • Book Signing: Michael Medved, The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic

  • Book Signing: Ashley McGuire, Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female

  • Book Signing: Matt Margolis, The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama

I was surprised to see a workshop on the agenda entitled "The Alt Right Ain't Right at All", hosted by Dan Schneider of the American Conservative Union. Given that the former chairman of Breitbart News is scheduled to speak at CPAC, and the conference agenda features multiple Breitbart contributors, isn't such a workshop incongruent with the rest of the conference's content? Does the presence of this workshop indicate internal division among right-wing leaders over the increased visibility of the alt-right in their movement? Is it an attempt by some conservatives to distance themselves from the alt-right? Until we know more about its content, it's difficult to say.

On one hand, the content of 2017 CPAC matches that of previous CPACs, in that its workshops and books reflect the usual anti-liberal, anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ themes. With Trump and company headlining the conference, and with deep political divisions growing deeper in America, what fresh ugliness can we expect from this week's event?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

Associated Press: Justice warned White House about Flynn contacts

New York Times: Trump Drops Defense of Obama Guidelines on Transgender Students

New York Times: Turmoil at the National Security Council, From the Top Down

Washington Post: As Flynn falls under growing pressure over Russia contacts, Trump remains silent

Washington Post: Trump undertakes most ambitious regulatory rollback since Reagan

Reuters: Labor nominee Puzder faces uncertainty as confirmation hearing looms

Today brought good news as well. Stay hopeful.

WTSP 10 News: Anti-Trump protesters spell out "RESIST!!" on San Francisco beach

Associated Press: Massive North Carolina crowd protests Trump, anti-LGBT law

Deutsche Welle: Mexico protesters call for respect from US President Trump 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: 'Day Without Latinos' protesters march to Milwaukee County Courthouse

CBS St. Louis: Some 200 Protesters Demonstrate Outside Former Hardee’s Headquarters in Downtown St. Louis

News Tidbits

New York Times: For Religious Conservatives, Success and Access at the Trump White House

Pink News: UK: Former barrister accused of telling teenager boy to self harm to rid himself of gay ‘sin’

LGBTQ Nation: Judge rules Orlando bakery didn’t discriminate against anti-gay customer

The Guardian: Australia: LGBTI groups condemn homophobic comments at far-right Q Society meeting

Commentary Tidbits

The Conversation: Trump’s vow to ‘destroy’ Johnson Amendment could wreak havoc on charitable world

The Atlantic: These Conservative Christians Are Opposed to Trump—and Suffering the Consequences

Washington Post: A blueprint for resistance to Trump has emerged. Here’s what it looks like.

New York Times: Taboo Italian Thinker Is Enigma to Many, but Not to Bannon

HIV Plus: How Long Before the Muslim Ban Becomes a Brown Ban?

Huffington Post: Betsy DeVos Poses Immediate Danger To LGBT Students

Huffington Post: Frank Worthen, the ‘Father’ of Ex-gay Ministry Love in Action, Dies at Age 87

Santa Fe New Mexican: Conversion therapy created self-hatred, self-destruction

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Pro-Choice Demonstrators Stand Up to Anti-Planned Parenthood Protests

As I discussed in an earlier post, anti-abortion protesters staged protests outside of Planned Parenthood clinics across the U.S. on February 11th, calling for the federal government to defund the reproductive health service provider.

Pro-choice people were having none of it.

At many clinic locations, both anti-abortion and pro-choice demonstrators were present in healthy numbers. For your viewing pleasure, here are tweets from pro-choice protesters at Saturday's events.

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

New York Times: Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss

BBC News: Trump travel ban: Policy adviser attacks US federal appeals court

Washington Post: National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say

The Guardian: Democrats call for Michael Flynn's dismissal after reported Russia talks

Christian Science Monitor: Is the FBI taking the Russian dossier about Trump more seriously?

Politico: Senate confirms Obamacare opponent Price to lead health department

Politico: CIA Freezes Out Top Flynn Aide

USA Today: Bannon, Flynn and Sessions: How Trump's top advisers view Muslims, in their own words

Human Rights Watch: Arizona Mother’s Arrest May Signal Start of Trump’s Deportation Machine

NPR: EPA Halves Staff Attending Environmental Conference In Alaska

Here are a few headlines to hearten you!

Chicago Tribune: 'We fight back!': Protesters in DC rally outside DeVos's first public school visit

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Eight countries sign up to counter Trump's global anti-abortion move

Newsday: Hundreds rally in NYC to protest against immigration raids

CBS New York: Protest Held Outside ICE Headquarters Over Trump’s Immigration Policies

Scenes from Saturday's Anti-Abortion Protests

On February 11th, anti-abortion activists staged protests near Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. Sponsored by Pro-Life League, Created Equal, and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, the #ProtestPP effort called for the federal government to defund Planned Parenthood, which the ProtestPP website called "he nation’s largest abortion chain with a long record of unethical activity".
"The time has come to defund America’s abortion giant! Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion chain, killing over 300,000 babies each year, and nearly half of their billion dollar budget comes from our tax dollars.

But now the new 115th Congress is moving to strip Planned Parenthood of that money! On February 11, pro-lifers like you will take to the streets to demand our government stops funding an organization that specializes in killing children."
Both anti-abortion and pro-choice demonstrators were out in force on Saturday, reminding us that abortion remains a divisive issue in the U.S. Below are some photos and videos of the protests shared by anti-abortion activists on Twitter.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

UPI: Trump signs three executive orders to 'restore safety in America'

Washington Post: Federal appeals court maintains suspension of Trump’s immigration order

Associated Press: Dem senator: Court pick calls Trump's words 'demoralizing'

The Guardian: Trump lashes out again at judges over travel ban and calls hearing 'disgraceful'

Politico: Trump lashes out at Blumenthal for relaying Gorsuch’s 'disheartening' comments 

Associated Press: GOP, Dem Senators Want Congressional Say on Russia Sanctions

The Hill: Bipartisan senators demand briefing on Yemen raid

The Hill: Spicer: I 'clearly meant Orlando' when I talked about Atlanta attack

New York Magazine: Kellyanne Conway Says to ‘Go Buy Ivanka’s Stuff’

Yahoo News: Chuck Cooper emerges as Trump’s likely choice for solicitor general

Take comfort in these glimmers of hope.

The Jewish News of Northern California: Local synagogues, Lehrhaus join HIAS protest of refugee ban

Kentucky Kernel: University of Kentucky march protests immigration ban

WCNC: UNCC students stage immigration protest

Fox 6 Now: “It is affecting our life:” UWM students, faculty protest Pres. Trump’s executive order on immigration

AZ Central: ASU students, faculty rally against Trump's travel ban

WDBJ: Virginia Tech students, faculty protest President Trump's views on immigration

News Tidbits

PRRI: Most American Religious Groups Support Same-sex Marriage, Oppose Religiously Based Service Refusals

LGBTQ Nation: Conservative Christian organizations are getting impatient with Trump

The Guardian: Catholic church’s ‘pontifical secret’ stops disclosure of sex abuse allegations, expert says

CNN: Arkansas: New law lets husbands sue to stop wives having abortion

Washington Blade: Trump supporters assault D.C. gay man: report

CBS New York: ‘This Is An Act Of Cowardice': Connecticut Residents Find White Supremacist "Make America White Again" Fliers Near Homes

Commentary Tidbits

Media Matters for America: One Type Of Terrorism Really Is Underreported: Right-Wing Terrorism

Huffington Post: Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable

Religion News Service: Politicize our charities and churches? No thanks. 

Right Wing Watch: David Barton Is Organizing A WallBuilders ‘Teachers Conference’

Gizmodo: Science Teachers on Why Betsy DeVos Is a 'Monstrous Mistake'

Think Progress: The racist history of incarceration that Donald Trump is threatening to repeat

Salon: Most Americans don’t want “religious freedom” laws that allow anti-LGBT discrimination

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

No, Lady Gaga Was Not Celebrating Satan at the Super Bowl

Lady Gaga delivered an electrifying performance at the Super Bowl LI halftime show, complete with hit songs and up-tempo dancing. As we all know, some Religious Right figures see demons and Lucifer in even the most innocuous places, so it should surprise no one that some fundamentalists accused Lady Gaga of worshiping Satan during the Super Bowl.

First, in a February 7th commentary piece at Charisma News, Jessilyn Justice shared a Facebook post from "ex-new age expert" Steven Bancarz. She quotes Bancarz as speculating that the Super Bowl halftime show had Satanic elements.
"Pentagrams lining the stage at the Superbowl halftime show. Cross-dressing men with makeup dancing on stage. Flames, black clothing, 666 hand signs over the eyes. Typical halftime show."
Second, Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones had his own wacky theories about the role of Satan in the Super Bowl halftime show. In a February 5th video, Jones described Lady Gaga and others like her as "sick, chicken-necked filthy little people who have it out for us and our families". At the 1:01 mark, he claimed that Lady Gaga's performance would exalt her as a "goddess of Satan".
"But now we hear about Lady Gaga who admittedly was part of the whole Pizzagate situation with the spirit cooking lady, the Aleister Crowley events, she admits she has someone sleep in her room with her at night because she believes a demon's going to attack her ... The organizers of the Super Bowl are deciding to defile America and break our will by having us bow down to this, and she's reportedly going to be ... on top of the stadium ruling over everyone with drones everywhere, surveilling them in a big swarm to just condition them that, 'I am the goddess of Satan, ruling over you with the rise of the robots' ritual of lesser magic."
At the 5:27 mark, Jones demonized Gaga as a poisonous woman that "they" are forcing on the public to compel them into moral disintegration.
"Lady Gaga's a joke, and anybody that worships a fallen, twisted pile of crap like her has a real problem. Look at her! But again, it's them force-feeding you. They know she's weak. They know she's bad. She's poison! They're forcing you, the Golden Child, the future of humanity, the poison so they can make you fall."
Third, during the February 7th edition of Pass the Salt Live, Dave Daubenmire accused Lady Gaga of celebrating Satan during her Super Bowl halftime show. At the 2:02 mark, he claimed that the god she was honoring was Lucifer. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"The scriptures tells us that Satan comes as an angel of light, so Lady Gaga, she disarmed everybody when the first thing she started to do the other night at halftime was sing 'God Bless America', and from that point on, she went into ‘This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land’ and we were all hooked. Oh ... she’s honoring God. We didn’t ask which god, did we? We didn’t ask which god. See, that name, God, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. There’s a lot of gods. He said he’d have no other gods before him, so Lucifer could be a god. Do you understand that, folks? Do you understand that, how they lured us into the celebration of Satan right in front of us?"
At the 2:50 mark, he blasted Lady Gaga's song "Judas" as anti-Christian.
"Lady Gaga, during that performance, sang a song called 'I Love Judas'. We know who Judas is, right? Judas is the one who betrayed Jesus, right?"
Daubenmire claimed that Lady Gaga performed a "demonic service" at the Super Bowl as part of a bait-and-switch gambit at the 8:44 mark.
"I think it was a classic bait-and-switch, and by that, I mean this. They told us all week that she was going to come out, and she was going to go against Trump, and she was going to stand up against the deplorables, and so everybody's wait to see how she's going to do this, come out against Trump, and she did the bait-and-switch and went strictly to a demonic service right there in the middle of the Super Bowl."
Lady Gaga is in good company. Accusations of Satan worship against musicians are nothing new. Even Madonna and Katy Perry have been the targets of similar accusations by fundamentalists.

I get the impression that the Religious Right does not like bold women performers who push the envelope. These fundamentalists see such women as the embodiment of all their fears about independent women, female sexuality, and unbridled fun. Rather than accept these performers' stage acts as harmless reflections of changing values, they demonize them so that they do not have to wrestle with changing ideas about what is acceptable for women. And the rest of the world laughs at their superstitious nonsense.

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

Washington Post: Senate confirms Jeff Sessions as attorney general

Washington Post: Department of Defense looks to rent space in Trump Tower

Associated Press: Warren violates arcane rule, sparking Senate dustup

Huffington Post: Leaks Suggest Trump’s Own Team Is Alarmed By His Conduct 

Here are some hopeful articles to shine some light in the darkness.

CNN: 100 evangelical leaders sign ad denouncing Trump's refugee ban

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh students protest DeVos confirmation; press Toomey on vote

New York Times: A Third New England Patriot Says He Will Skip a White House Visit 

Baltimore Sun: The Wire creator David Simon to host Baltimore fundraiser to protest Trump immigration order

Super Bowl Commercials Annoy the Family Research Council

Super Bowl commercials always make for good entertainment. Perhaps in response to the political events preceding Super Bowl LI, several of the ads that ran this year had pro-diversity, pro-immigrant, and pro-environment themes. From the 84 Lumber commercial depicting a border wall, to the Airbnb commercial encouraging racial and religious acceptance, to a Budweiser commercial telling the story of an immigrant who endures bigotry, to the Kia commercial featuring Melissa McCarthy as an eco-warrior, this year's ads stood in contrast to the policies and attitudes promoted by Trump and his supporters

Naturally, some members of the Religious Right were unhappy with these progressive messages. In a February 7th Washington Update, senior Family Research Council writers complained that "a surprising number of companies chose to inflame instead of entertain". The commentary on the "parade of liberal businesses" included observations on "subliminal messages" in Google's ad and the low likelihood of 84 Lumber winning over conservatives with its "attack on Trump's immigration crackdown in its commercial bashing a Mexican border wall".
"Just as in football, there are winners and losers from Sunday's corporate blitz. Like me, most people tuning into the Super Bowl were probably hoping for a break from Washington. Instead, they got a front-row seat to an all-out political assault from some of America's best known brands. As most experts will tell you, these companies took a huge risk using one of the world's largest stages to throw their lot in with the liberal crowd ...

While a lot of executives are busier than a laundry machine spinning the reviews of Sunday's crusade, the results weren't nearly as positive as they'd like you to believe. As Fox News pointed out yesterday, the YouTube version of some of these commercials had more thumbs downs than thumbs up. Either these executives haven't learned their lesson or they're willing to tank their revenue to make a political point (which isn't exactly a popular option with shareholders). They underestimated the power of the consumer before the election -- and even now, after watching the stocks of outspoken CEOs freefall, they're stubbornly plowing ahead with a business model destined to alienate half of their customers. If CEOs want to enter the culture wars, that's their prerogative. But they shouldn't be surprised when shoppers settle the score."
I checked the official YouTube videos for several commercials, and almost all of them had more "thumbs ups" than "thumbs down", so I don't know where the FRC writers are getting their information.

Also, the companies mentioned above are making sound business decisions by appealing to progressive values rather than right-wing values. Large swaths of the American public are concerned about the environment, welcoming of diversity, and offended by Trump's rhetoric and policies. A smart corporation will air commercials that appeal to this growing demographic so as to win their business. Why on earth would they choose to alienate millions of consumers with right-wing ads instead?

Once again, the world is changing, and the Religious Right cannot accept it. Business have noticed that many consumers have enlightened values and have targeted their advertising accordingly. Xenophobia, intolerance, and disregard for the environment aren't cool anymore, and organizations such as the FRC must come to terms with that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Nothing to Offer But Name-Calling

With regard to last month's Women's March in Washington and its sister marches, Religious Right figures have condemned the marches loudly, but few have had anything substantive to say about it. Rather than dissect the values and strategies of the marches in order to have a constructive conversation, Religious Right commentators have instead clung to anti-feminist stereotypes, spouted superstitious nonsense , and mocked the participant. Two recent examples of this behavior stood out to me.

First, in a January 31st column at World Net Daily, Linda Harvey contrasted the March for Life to the Women's March, accusing feminist participants of "hat[ing] their own fathers, brothers and ex-husbands, and sometimes their mothers."
"They hate authentic marriage, law enforcement, capitalism, Republicans, American patriotism, Western civilization and, of course, Donald Trump and his family.

These females hate modesty, humility, sacrifice. They claim to be "survivors of sexual assault" and desperate for "dignity." So what better way to express dignity than to flaunt vulgar nicknames for female genitalia, via hats?"
Harvey spewed even more venom at the Women's March participants, accusing them of loving hedonism, big government, and anti-Christian attacks.
"There are things they love. They love Marxism and Islam ... These women love sexual excess, lawless borders, people who label themselves “LGBTQIA,” big-government funding, racism politics, neopaganism and attacks on Christians."
Hyperbolically, Harvey accused feminists (as represented by the Women's March) of exalting "unrestrained womanhood" that is mutating into "Christ-hating blood lust", claiming that they would happily transform America into a nation that worships "a goddess who requires child sacrifice".

Harvey wasn't the only right-wing figure who resorted to childish jabs. Josh Bernstein, spokesperson for the right-wing Association of Mature American Citizens, put his immaturity and sexism on full display during the January 25th edition of Focus Today. At the 3:46 mark, he called the event the "Million Skank March" and refused to even acknowledge the march's relevance to women's issues. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"This was nothing, and had absolutely nothing to do with women's rights. It had everything to do with bashing Trump. These women should be ashamed of themselves ... I’ve been renaming it the Million Skank March for a reason, because these women were absolutely horrendous, dressing up in women’s private parts costumes and running around. What did they think that they were going to accomplish by doing any of these things? ... I’ve talked to lots of women on both sides of the aisle and they are disgusted with the behavior of these Hollywood elite idiots."
At the 5:22 mark, Bernstein denigrated Women's March participants as "post-menopausal skanks", "deplorable", and "disgusting", seemingly oblivious to how childish his name-calling sounded.
"This is what feminism and the feminazi movement has devolved into in the year 2017. You know, a real feminist is someone like an Ivanka Trump, a family woman, a business woman, a jack of all trades, a renaissance woman, beautiful, bright, articulate. That should be the type of woman that women should look up to, not these old post-menopausal skanks from Hollywood that are really just deplorable and disgusting in every fashion."
These Religious Right figures won't articulate intelligent responses to the Women's Marches because they can't. They have no reasonable arguments to offer against the Women's Marches, whose calls for women's equality make logical and moral sense. Still, they find feminist activism alarming because it threatens to throw their assumptions about religion, sex, gender, and society into question. Thus, they demonize the marchers, literally and figuratively. They paint the marchers as monsters and libertines so that they do not have to take the marchers' calls for equality seriously. They ridicule them using the language of immature 12 year-old boys. They close their eyes and cover their ears when confronted with all the injustices that women endure.

And while they retreat into their ideological bubbles, the world moves on without them.

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

Boston Globe: Betsy DeVos confirmed as Education secretary, thanks to VP

NPR: Reaction To DeVos Vote Is Swift, And Divided

New York Times: How Senators Voted on Betsy DeVos

The Hill: Senate Dems plan all-nighter to protest Sessions

Washington Post: Cabinet nominees are getting more ‘no’ votes than ever

NBC News: Trump Immigration Executive Order Fight Goes to Appeals Court

BBC News: US justice department defends 'lawful' Trump travel ban

Politico: White House rattled by McCarthy's spoof of Spicer

Don't lose heart. We need hope more than ever.

Christian Science Monitor: Tens of thousands of protest calls didn't stop DeVos. But they're not in vain.

Reuters: U.S. EPA employees protest Trump's pick to run agency 

New York Times: About 20 Rabbis Arrested During Protest Over Trump Travel Ban

Gothamist: Hundreds Of NYC Students Walk Out Of Class To Protest Trump & DeVos

Science: Biotech bosses protest Trump’s travel ban

WFMJ: Former teachers protest in Greenville over new U.S. Education Secretary

Pennlive: 'We won't forget': Pa. protesters say Toomey's DeVos vote ignored will of constituents 

News Tidbits

Pennlive: Should religious beliefs come before children's health in Pennsylvania?

The Advocate: NOM Pushes Anti-LGBT "Religious Freedom" Order

Buzzfeed: A Leading US Social Conservative Just Launched A Mission To Moscow For The Trump Era

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin fines 22 hospitals over not offering emergency contraception to rape victims

Associated Press: 7 percent of Australian Catholic priests accused of abuse 

Huffington Post: Trump-Era Political Violence Begins As Liberal Activists Are Beaten, Hospitalized (Trigger warning)

Commentary Tidbits

The Lancet: The Trump global gag rule: an attack on US family planning and global health aid

Baltimore Sun: Ordinary Americans carried out inhumane acts for Trump   (Hat tip to Progressive Eruptions)

Washington Post: Sharia law may be coming to America. But it’s Christians who are bringing it.

Tell Me Why the World Is Weird: Runaway Radical: The Stories You Can't Tell In Church

Friendly Atheist: Creationist Ken Ham Will Permanently Illuminate Ark Encounter in Rainbow Colors. Because God.

Religion Dispatches: The Deafening Silence of "Religious Freedom" Defenders on Trump’s Muslim Ban

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Demons Were Behind the Women's March?

When millions of women demonstrate in marches around the world, what really drives them? A thirst for equality and justice? Disgust over misogyny? A pressing need to have their voices heard by political leaders? According to several commentators from the Religious Right, it's demons!

In a January 23rd video shared at Facebook, Wallnau shared a clip of a flaming vehicle that he claimed was set on fire on Inauguration Day. "This is your brain on liberal, progressive campus and community organizing," he told listeners. At the -21.11 mark, he claimed that inauguration unrest was a "spiritual manifestation" of "the spirit of witchcraft", which was allegedly at work through the Women's March on Washington. He then mocked Women's March protesters as divided and hypocritical, ignoring the actual motivations behind the Women's March. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"This is a spiritual manifestation on the inauguration, and notice, this never happened during the Obama administration, not because of the problem with Trump, but because it's the unmasking of the nature of the progressive spirit and its anarchy and its desire to control and intimidate and manipulate.

By the way, any manipulation, intimidation, and control -- those three words are the spirit of witchcraft. Witchcraft is the spirit of Jezebel, so it makes sense to me that there'd be half a million women that would show up the next day, and they don't even know what they're there for. I mean, some of them cried one thing, some of them cried another, but the only thing that they were agreed on was Madonna's goofball statement on blowing up the White House. And some women, of course, were incensed over a comment Trump made a decade ago before he got married. But what's weird is they weren't incensed about Hillary covering up her husband or going on the assault with women that her husband had been involved with and how she destroyed them. So, there's an element of hypocrisy that reveals a root of lawlessness that is the essence of what I'm talking about."
Rick Joyner, co-founder of MorningStar Ministries, was also aghast at the Women's March, blaming it on infernal forces. In a January 23rd video shared on Facebook, Rick Joyner called the Women's March "one of the most blatant manifestations of the Jezebel spirit ever". He called the participants' rage "unattractive" and recoiled at their brazen language, insisting that the marches were not a representation of American women. At the -7:00 mark, he attributed the march to the Jezebel demon, who feels threatened by President Trump. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"Why was there such a rage? I think it's because that Jezebel spirit is about to be thrown down in America, and I think much of the world, and it knows its time is short ... I think Trump is a real serious threat to the general Jezebel spirit, I mean, just the way he's attacked the political correct spirit."
The Jezebel demon has been a recurring theme among New Apostolic Reformation commentators with regard to the march. In a commentary piece at Charisma News, Landon Schott was so horrified that the Women's March featured profanity, pro-choice messages, and "anti-purity" content that he concluded the demon Jezebel was at work.
"Then I witnessed celebrities cursing our government and nation, promoting abortion institutions. They carried signs that read, "If Mary (Magdalene) had had an abortion, we wouldn't be in this mess!" I continued to see an anti-God, anti-purity, anti-Christ spirit emerge from the heart of this march. I watched a celebrity curse profanity over our nation and demand the right to have abortions. This wasn't about equal pay; this was about the advancement of an anti-Christ spirit. As I watched, I was grieved, and up in my spirit came, "This is the Jezebel spirit!""
Televangelist and dehydrated bucket food enthusiast Jim Bakker also claimed that infernal forces were present during the march. During the January 30th edition of The Jim Bakker Show, Bakker described his time at the Trump inauguration in glowing terms, calling it "supernatural". By contrast, during the January 31st edition, Bakker's guest Billye Brim described the women at Women's March as "driven by demons". At the 3:52 mark, Bakker described an evil spirit in the lobby of his hotel, allegedly brought to town by the marchers. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
BAKKER: We went downstairs, and there in that lobby that a few hours before was presence of God was suddenly the most evil spirit I have ever felt. On the big screen -- and I'm not saying Fox News is anointed -- but Fox News was no longer on. They might come for me if I tell you who was on. Somebody else.

BRIM: Liberal media.

BAKKER: One of the other sides was on, and all the places where all the generals of God had been sitting was women, women, women in pink, women with ... cat ears. I studied a little bit of that, and I couldn't tell you what all that means 'cause it's dirty. It's filthy dirty.

Oh, the irony. Bakker and his friends were less offended by Trump's "grab them by the p***y" comment than by pussy hats used to express outrage over said comments.

Even E. W. Jackson brought up demons in the same breath as the Women's March. During the January 23rd edition of Urban Family Talk, Jackson denied that the Women's March on Washington and its sister marches represented American women. He then went on to attribute the D.C. march to demons using the "powers and principalities" language of Ephesians 6:12. At the 6:59 mark, he told listeners that America was the site of a spiritual battle with demons. (Hat tip Right Wing Watch.)
"Our country is really now divided, not as the leftists would have you think, divided [by] gender identity versus those who don't recognize it, and you know, the LGBT movement versus those who don't want same-sex marriage, and the women who want freedom versus those who are engaged in a war on women. That's not what's going on. Folks, America is in the middle of a pitched spiritual battle ... We are in the middle of the equivalent of a spiritual civil war. That’s what’s happening in America right now, and the people represented by those who went to Washington, D.C. to protest are on the godless side in this war. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, so what we’ve got to do now is put on the whole armor of God to be able to stand against the wiles, the stratagems, the strategies, the tricks of the devil."
Do these commentators honestly believe that demons were at work at the Women's Marches, or are they merely trying to convince their followers? Either way, attributing the marches to demons shuts down any possibility of rational thought or conversation. If Religious Right followers believe that the marches were the handiwork of infernal forces, they'll be too fearful to think about the issues discussed at those marches. If fundamentalists believe marchers to be angry, lewd harpies who serve the Jezebel spirit, they won't listen to what the marchers have to say. Once again, fear and superstition prevent members of the Religious Right from cultivating reason or empathy.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Feministe: Quick hit: The Women’s March on Washington was driven by demons.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Wingnut: Women’s March was ‘ Driven by Demons’