March 07, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Many of us were already disgusted that Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., chose to axe health coverage for all spouses rather than include same-sex spouses, who as of this week can enter into civil marriage in the nation's capital. The move was gratuitous for any number of reasons, since the Catholic agency had no trouble covering the spouses of divorced and remarried employees, despite that flagrant violation of church teaching.
What's more, the D.C. chapter could have followed the example of the San Francisco archdiocese and replaced spousal coverage with an option for domestic partners, defined to include spouses or any other family member or significant other with whom the employee shared a residence.
Now comes word that there was an even easier option, one that wouldn't have required Catholic Charities to change current coverage at all. All the archdiocese had to do was "opt into ERISA," the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which allows private employers like Catholic Charities who self-insure to define "spouse" any why they want:
Catholic Charities of Maine Inc. opted into ERISA in July 2003 in response to a 2002 city of Portland ordinance requiring all employers that accept housing and community development funds from the county to provide domestic partner benefits.
The trade journal Business Insurance asked Catholic Charities of Washington, whose self-insured plan is administered by Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield, why it didn't opt into ERISA instead of discontinuing all future spousal coverage, regardless of gender. They declined to answer.
I'll answer for them: Because that administerial change wouldn't have carried the same political bang for the buck, and Catholic Charities of Washington is part of a growing rightward trend by the Roman Catholic Church to influence public policy in a way that is hostile to gay rights, abortion rights.
How bitterly ironic, then, that as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops claims to support universal health care, the archdiocese of Washington has prioritized scoring political points over the health care of the families of its own employees.(Photo of Archbishop Donald Wuerl (left) via Life Magazine)
March 02, 2010
Posted by: Chris
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has engaged in another round of shenanigans today in its continuing battle against recognizing the civil marriage of same-sex couples. Catholic Charities axed all spousal benefits for its employees rather than be forced to extend those same benefits to married gay workers.
Some complain the change is cynical, hypocritical and contrary to Catholic values. Let us count the ways:
- The "dilemma" faced by the Catholic Charities does not impinge on religious freedom, as anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage have charged. The Catholic church may refuse to marry -- or even refuse communion -- gay parishioners. It simply may not "suck at the teet" of District government -- to the tune of $22 million annually -- and simultaneously flout District law.
- Something other than a mere desire to conform to papal teaching on homosexuality is at work here, since Catholic Charities happily provided spousal benefits for years to employees who had divorced and remarried, a sin that is every bit as severe, if not more so, than same-sex love.
- Catholic Charities chose the cheap way out. The Washington Archdiocese could have followed the example of its San Francisco counterpart, which eliminated spousal benefits while expanding the definition of domestic partner to include a spouse, parent, sibling or anyone else who in the household.
- By eschewing the San Francisco example, D.C. Catholic charities missed an opportunity to set a Christian example that says to its employees, gay and straight, that whatever the church's teaching on gay marriage or divorce, the church as employer wants to assist each worker to provide health care for a member of its household.
February 26, 2010
Posted by: Chris
... Miss Beverly Hills, a title she gave herself while a resident of Pasadena, trying to "clarify" that she's not literally advocating the execution of gays by saying gays should abide by a passage in Leviticus that urges death to those who have sex with those of the same gender.
Confused? You've got company. Asked whether gays who find Jesus can stay gay, she resorts to the hair toss after an answer escapes her...
Posted by: Chris
Ryan Dobson, son of the anti-gay radiovangelist James Dobson of Focus on the Family, apparently didn't focus enough on his first marriage, which ended due to infidelity. And yet still he risks distraction from marriage No. 2 to defend the semi-sacred institution of serial monogamy from the gays.
The son did not inherit his father's gift of political rhetoric -- actually, Ryan is adopted -- so his answer makes some questionable, and revealing, connections. Consider how Dobson explains why it was wrong for Dr. George Tiller to be murdered for performing abortions by comparing Tiller's murderer to gays angered by opposition to gay marriage:
So what Doctor Tiller does, in my core, it goes against everything that I hold dear to me ... But you don't get to just go and assassinate people. Because then, you can do it to me, too. "I disagree with what Ryan says about homosexuality or about gay marriage. We're gonna go kill Ryan." Or anybody else ... People that disagree with me, that's OK. It doesn't equal hate. Most of it equals different political viewpoints, different theological viewpoints. It's all right.
Q. But then why do you think the perception of hate is there?
Because it's personal. I mean, if you're homosexual and you're trying to get married, and you fell madly in love with someone, and then you've got Ryan Dobson, Christian right-wing extremist, saying gay marriage is bad for America, then you feel it personally — and then you wanna lash out at someone because you've been wounded.
Besides what his father would no doubt call sloppy moral relativism, comparing the righteous anger felt by those who oppose abortion with the righteous anger of gay folks thwarted from marrying, there is the acknowledgment by Dobson that we want to marry after "falling madly in love with someone."
That's an admission about the universal nature of love, gay or straight, that you'd never ever hear Daddy Dobson make. (via)
February 25, 2010
Posted by: Chris
I am not one of those who believes opposition to gay rights is always, or even mostly, motivated by hate. The "No H8" campaign, while creative, is an example of caricature and bumper-stickering an issue that is way too complex for pretty celebrity pics.
But sometimes hate is the only explanation, and you can see it on the faces of those in Uganda who clamor for a new law that would execute sexually-active gay people and imprison those who fail to report them. In a country that already considers homosexuality a criminal offense, this new effort is an attempt at genocide, pure and simple, made all the more perverse since it's supposedly Bible-based.
A protest in favor of it captures the anger, the fear and the hate.
February 19, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Gay pop legend Elton John tells Parade magazine in an interview that he believes Jesus was "a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems." In the online interview, Elton also tells of meeting and falling in love with husband David Furnish, and his help in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Explaining his view on Jesus Christ, John said, "On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don't know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East -- you're as good as dead."
Elton said he was "attracted to David immediately. He was very well dressed, very shy. The next night we had dinner. After it, we consummated our relationship. We fell in love very quickly."
To keep the romance going, the couple has sent each other a card every Saturday for 16 years, "to say how much we love each other. We've never been jealous. We talk about the sexual side of things, things that normally would have frightened me before."
February 18, 2010
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: At the end of the post.
My favorite exchange of yesterday's Cato Institute forum on gay conservatives came in response to columnist Maggie Gallagher's claim that permitting same-sex couples to marry would invariably leads somehow to government intrusion into religion of the sort that all conservatives should abhor. In support, Gallagher, who is Roman Catholic, cited the requirement that Catholic Charities, for example, place children into households led by gay couples, despite their genuine faith-based belief this is against the child's best interest.
Let's leave aside for the moment the irony of conservatives resorting to the politics of victimization, previously the P.C. province of liberals, even as she claimed that 50-60% of Americans are on her side. Poor majority conservatives, oppressed by the 3-5% of us who are gay.
Let's even forgive Gallagher the obvious straw man here, as if a line can't be drawn in the law between opening up marriage to same-sex couples and requiring that religious institutions recognize those marriage in the provision of social services. Her example, as it turns out, comes straight out of the headlines, as the D.C. archdiocese just announced yesterday that it was shuttering its 80-year-old foster parent program for precisely this reason.
Gay Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan, his forehead marked from Ash Wednesday services that morning, drew a crucial distinction between laws that over-reach, prohibiting independently funded religious groups from discriminating in hiring or in the provision of services, and less troublesome regulation requiring those faith-based orgs that "suck at the teat of government," as he put it, to treat us taxpayers equally.
Catholic Charities receives some $20 million annually from the District of Columbia, so any "interference" in their pristine religious function occurred at the time the Catholics showed up with their hands held out, asking for our money.
Even more devastating was Sullivan's pointing out that the rest of us can be forgiven for suspecting "some animus" behind complaints of the type Gallagher raises when Catholic Charities has for years placed foster and adopted children into the homes of remarried couples, despite the church's very clear prohibition on divorce. Seen in that light, the Catholic threat to suspend its social services looks more like a cynical attempt to bully gay couples out of the civil marriage pulpit.
The Washington Post story on the archdiocese decision suggest as much, reporting without explaining that despite yesterday's decision on foster parenting, Catholic Charities "is optimistic that it will find a way to structure its benefits packages in other social service programs so that it can remain in partnership with the city without recognizing same-sex marriage."
Most telling of all, however, was Gallagher's final reply to Sullivan, acknowledging the church's inconsistent treatment of gay and remarried couples and cheerfully, if ominously, warning that the bishops would soon be "cleansing" that process further, likely meaning that remarried couples would find themselves out of favor as well.
There, my friends, is the slippery slope. Marriage equality between gay and straight couples does not necessarily lead to forcing faith based groups to act contrary to their beliefs in the provision of services, but the coming cleansing will prove very instructive to millions of heterosexuals Americans who would never imagine that their households could be refused foster and adoption placements funded by their government.
UPDATE: Video of the forum is now available here or view it after the jump to this post.
February 16, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker calls out U.S. evangelicals for their role in fanning the flames that resulted in legislation proposing the capital punishment and imprisonment for sexually active gay men:
Let's assume that these missionaries have only the purest of intentions and want only to help strengthen the traditional family. Dear Sirs: Uganda isn't Connecticut. A country where gays are routinely harassed, rounded up and incarcerated doesn't need stoking by American fundamentalists on a mission from God.
In an interview with Alan Colmes, [Scott] Lively said he was invited to the African nation because Ugandans were worried about American and European gays trying to export homosexuality to their nation. Given that Uganda was already rather unwelcoming to gays, it seems unlikely that they needed advice from American preachers. Instead, it seems more the case that Uganda has became a laboratory for zealots who have found a receptive audience for their personal cause.
The proposed law is a case study in the unintended consequences of moral colonialism.
Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who famously hosted the first joint appearance of presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama and enraged some activists when Obama invited him to say a prayer at his inauguration, does not escape, either. Parker points out that a video Warren made declaring the measure "unjust," "extreme" and "un-Christian" was motivated primarily by "accusations that he had helped create the bill" since his Saddleback Church has close ties with Ugandan religious leaders behind the legislation.
In a statement to Newsweek, Warren said: "The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations."
I'm not so sure about that. It may not be Warren's personal calling to comment on "political process." But is neutrality really an option for one of the world's most powerful Christian leaders when state genocide of a minority is proposed in the name of Christianity?
If we decide that genocide is too political for interference, then what good is moral leadership?
I'm of the school that religion should have no role in arguing for or against criminal prohibitions of any sort, but when your own faith is being perverted to justify imprisoning and even executing people, and your voice can be of influence, then there is absolutely a moral obligation to speak out.
February 12, 2010
Posted by: Chris
What is a university to do when one of its chaplains tells students in a calm and clear voice that he believes homosexuals should be executed? The question isn't just an academic one for my own alma mater, Vanderbilt University.
News of the depressing exchange came just weeks after I visited the Nashville campus for the first time in years, welcomed by a story about new chapter of the gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi plastered on the front page of the Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper. (Stop your snickering; when I was editor we printed T-shirts proclaiming "we had the name first" -- and we did, by some 75 years.)
But now the smiling faces of those groundbreaking gay frat boys has been supplanted by the hood-covered heads of two teenage boys brutally executed by Iran in 2005 for the crime of gay sex.
I first heard from Tony Varona, an American University law professor, about the matter of fact way in which Vanderbilt's Muslim chaplain told students he favored the murder of unrepentant homosexuals.
The outrageous remarks were delivered in deadpan fashion by Awadh Amir Binhazim during an on-campus presentation about Muslims serving in the U.S. military. The Kenyan native, educated in Saudi Arabia, was asked by a student about whether he agreed with Islamic teaching that unrepentant homosexuals should be killed.
Q. Under Islamic law, if a homosexual person began to actually engage in homosexual relations on an ongoing and permanent way, with no intention of quitting, then the punishment under Islamic law would be death, unless, you know, he agreed to quit. As a practicing Muslim do you accept or reject this particular teaching of Islam?
A. I don't have a choice as a Muslim to accept or reject a teaching of Islam. I go with what Islam teaches. … So, the punishment in Islam is certain rules that govern the determinatin [concerning the act and the number of witnesses]. It's a long story and I probably don't have the time to explain it. But you cannot prosecute someone just because you think they are homosexual. There has to be clear proof.
Q. Under Islamic law, is it punishable by death if you are a homosexual?
Video of the encounter (you can watch it after the jump) spread virally on YouTube, forcing the university to issue a statement distancing itself from its Muslim chaplain even as it defended the free exchange of ideas:
During the question-and-answer session that followed the presentation, a student asked Binhazim about Islamic law and homosexuality. Binhazim answered the question with his interpretation of an Islamic law.
For clarification, Vanderbilt strives to bring many points of view on the issues of the day to campus for examination and discussion. This is the purpose of Project Dialogue.
No view expressed at a Project Dialogue or similar campus forum should be construed as being endorsed by Vanderbilt. The university is dedicated to the free exchange of ideas. It is the belief of the university community that free discussion of ideas can lead to resolution and reconciliation.
Vanderbilt is committed to free speech. It is equally committed to a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin or sexuality.
There has been some confusion as to Binhazim's role at Vanderbilt. He is the Muslim chaplain at Vanderbilt, a volunteer position. He is not a professor of Islam and is not associated with Vanderbilt University Divinity School. He has adjunct associate professor status at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in pathology. This position, which carries no teaching or research responsibilities, is also unpaid.
Some have seen Vanderbilt's reaction as too tepid, and have called for some sort of punishment of Binhazim up to and including dismissal. Others acknowledge the need to preserve academic freedom, even as they argue that a Christian or Jewish chaplain advocating death to gays would undoubtedly be removed.
I stand four-square with those who defend the university for taking no action against Binzahim, even as I join those who are condemning this chaplain's cold-blooded endorsement of murder. If we agree that free speech is crucial to the academic setting, then it is only by protecting more extreme views at the margins that we ensure a free exchange of views by those within the mainstream.
That's why so-called "hate speech codes" ought to be anathema to any university, absent some direct incitement to violence. It's the difference between "Kill the gays in this room!" and "I accept Islamic teaching that the punishment for homosexuality is death."
That said, there is still plenty that is wrong, wrong, wrong with Vanderbilt's weak, if well-intentioned response. The attempt to minimize Binzahim's connection to the university comes off as cowardly as it is irrelevant: Is Vanderbilt saying that the same remarks made by a paid chaplain or religion professor would result in sanction or termination? If not, then let's dispense of the red herring. Either academic freedom extends to everyone in the university community or to no one at all.
Also disturbingly weak was the shrugged-shoulder reaction by Rev. Gary White, Vanderbilt's interim director of religious life and an ordained Unitarian Universalist, who told Out & About newspaper:
"Opinions are a dime a dozen. We as an institution are more about ideas. We believe in the power of those ideas and when we have places of rub and controversy, you’re not going to make much headway when you discuss opinions. You have to discuss ideas behind those opinions. What Binhazim expressed wasn’t an opinion, it was a theological ideal behind Islam."
How's that? What Binzahim was expressing was his opinion that he had no choice but to accept an Islamic teaching that gays should be executed. Where is the "idea" here, much less the "ideal"? Laughably, White even tries to reassure Vanderbilt's gay students that they have "no reason to be afraid or fear [Binzahim] at all." That's right, Delta Lambda Phi pledges. Your Muslim chaplain doesn't want to kill you himself; he favors his faith doing the dirty work.
Even still, asking us to imagine how the university would respond to a Christian or Jewish chaplain calling for death to gays is comparing crosses and crescents. It's not even clear to me that chaplains from a different faith would have been treated any differently, if we take Vandy at its word.
Assuming arguendo that's not the case, the differential treatment might well be justified. For one thing, the role of a campus chaplain is, in part, to explain the teachings of his faith, and a Christian or Jewish chaplain would be grossly misrepresenting those religions by publicly pushing the execution of gays. It would be the equivalent of a history professor grossly distorting basic facts or a Spanish professor teaching Portuguese.
In another way, the Judeo-Christian comparison is reminiscent of the oft-heard rejoinder that intolerance toward gays would result in swift and serious retribution if expressed about racial or ethnic minorities. It's a mistake to conflate the great controversy of our time about homosexuality with broadly accepted views about race and ethnicity (and religion). If we try to short-circuit the debate, we will likely succeed only in extending it. Just look at how the decision in Roe vs. Wade did anything but decide the issue of abortion in this country.
No, what's sorely needed in response to Binzahim's bigotry is not repression of speech, but more speech in response. For example, the notoriety surrounding his remarks represent an excellent opportunity to inform fair-minded folks about the medieval persecution of gays in most Muslim countries.
More speech would also call Binhazim to the carpet for trying to dodge a direct question with obfuscation. When the questioner pointed out that gays are summarily executed in Saudi Arabia and Iran, Binhazim zigged and zagged, claiming that no country follows Islamic sharia law completely. True or not, it's an irrelevant point considering the question concerned one particular teaching of Islam and whether it is incorporated into sharia law and enforced in many Muslim countries. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan under the Taliban are obvious examples.
For a supposed scholar of comparative religion, Binzahim also resorts to a simplistic distortion of how homosexuality is treated by other faiths, claiming they all reject this "alternative lifestyle." In fact, many mainstream Christian and Jewish faiths do exactly the opposite, and he ought to explain his ignorance on that point. More to the point -- the one that Binzahim inartfully dodges -- it has been centuries since any other major world religion has advocated the neanderthal punishment of death for gays.
That's not all more speech can do. The student who asked the question, Devin Saucier (pictured), was apparently a plant by a apparently a plant by a conservative student group called Youth for Western Civilization. (Do they cheer "Wes-tern Civ! Wes-tern Civ!" instead of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"?) Saucier's hope was to "expose the gullibility of leftists who grovel at the altars of tolerance and acceptance." Rather than focus on squelching Binzahim and his ilk, another response would be to call out these campus conservatives on the fact that many mainstream Christian faiths, and their advocates in politics right here in the United States, favor imprisoning homosexuals, even if they wouldn't go so far as executing us.
And isn't it conservative Christians who are so vocal these days about how religious freedom requires "tolerance and acceptance" of those who would fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to facilitate the adoption of children by avowed homosexuals? The very same Youth for Western Civilization complains that campus political correctness threatens their own religious freedom. Just how and where exactly do they draw the line here?
It's questions like these, and any number of others, that will generate real dialogue and expose extremism and hypocrisy in all its anti-gay varieties. Punishing speech, however repulsive, only drives it underground and misses a golden opportunity to make our own case. Let's have confidence enough in our own arguments that we don't resort to bullying into silence those with whom we disagree.
(Top: The execution of two Iranian youths for homosexual acts in July 2005, via Washington Post)
February 04, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Why is the issue of gay rights considered so divisive? I still remember four years ago how the prospect of a simple Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem accomplished what centuries of wars could not: unifying Jewish, Palestinian and even Christian leaders in Israel and the West Bank.
Now we're seeing a similar effect on weak-kneed members of Congress, who are predictably following up a year of delay on gay rights, by agreeing that an election year "in the midst of two wars" is not the time to debate the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell:
"I don't think it will be a campaign issue," House Republican Leader John Boehner told NBC. "In the middle of two wars, and in the middle of this giant security threat, why would we want to get into this debate?"
Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said nothing about the proposed policy change, which he personally opposes, despite having a perfect platform for doing so Wednesday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen testified before Skelton's committee, and they received only a smattering of questions or comments from lawmakers about the topic that dominated their testimony before senators a day earlier.
It's certainly possible that the gays and military subject will arise in some congressional campaigns this year. House Democratic leaders said they will quietly sound out their more moderate and politically vulnerable members before deciding when to seek a vote to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
That final, highlighted sentence ought to result in phone lines burning up between the Human Rights Campaign and other supposed political insiders. The time is now, like never before, with every indication there will be fewer favorable votes on DADT and other gay rights issues after the November midtern election.
There may be districts where the issue cuts against moderate and conservative Dems, but look at the polling data:
Pew Research polls found that support for gays serving openly in the military rose from just over half of all Americans in 1994 to nearly 60 percent in 2005 and later years. Opposition dropped from 45 percent to 32 percent, and the proportion of people "strongly opposed" dropped by half, to 13 percent.
A USA Today/Gallup poll from mid-2009 showed even stronger support for letting gays serve openly in the military: 69 percent in favor, 26 opposed and 6 percent unsure. Among Republicans and conservatives, the rate of support was 58 percent. Support ran lowest in the South and among older Americans, but it still easily exceeded 50 percent among those groups.
With the scene set so favorably, it ought to be a no-brainer to get DADT repeal included in the Defense Department budget bill now under consideration in Congress. If not, then Capitol Hill is not the only place where heads need to roll.
February 02, 2010
Posted by: Chris
"Sure there are those who are forced into prostitution, but I think most of them volunteer. Many, many children have been scared straight because of arrest. … Arrest is a valuable life-saving tool that must be used. We need to hire more cops to arrest the prostitutes."
— Sue Ella Deadwyler, publisher of a conservative Christian newsletter, speaking out in opposition to a Georgia bill that would treat as victims, not criminals, girls under the age of 16 pimped out as prostitutes, providing them care instead of prison terms.
The age of consent in Georgia is 16, so under current law these girls are simultaneously considered victims of rape and criminals guilty of prostitution.
Joining Deadwyler at a press conference opposing the bill were representatives from the Georgia Christian Alliance, the Georgia Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the Georgia Baptist Convention. Republican candidate for governor John Oxendine, who made his name as insurance commissioner blocking private companies from offering domestic partner benefits, also attended.
January 15, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Behind all the headlines the role American evangelicals played in bringing about proposed legislation in Uganda that would impose the death penalty for gays and imprison anyone not turning in a known homosexual lies this tidbit from the country's history:
In 1886, Ugandan King Mwanga ordered some two dozen male pages to have sex with him, and when they refused because of their Christian faith, he ordered that they be burned to death. Every year on June 3, Ugandans celebrate a national holiday honoring the Christian martyrs and deploring the pedophile king.
The anti-gay bill continues to treat any form of gay sex and rape and/or pedophilia, which at least goes part way toward explaining the draconian punishment it carries. That's not surprise:
"The gay movement is an evil institution," Scott Lively, an American evangelical and president of Defend The Family International, told Uganda's Family Life Network last March. "The goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.
"Male homosexuality has historically been, not adult to adult; it's been adult to teenager," he said. "It's called pederasty — adults sodomizing teenage boys."
It brings to mind what can happen when disturbed souls here in the U.S. take literally the vicious pro-life rhetoric claiming that abortion is "murder." In both cases, those responsible for such hateful rhetoric deserve the very public black eye they receive, even if they did not foresee the consequences of their campaigns.
Top: According to Ugandan history, St. Charles Lwanga was executed for trying to protect male pages from being forced to have sex with King Mwanga (below).
June 10, 2009
Posted by: Chris
I am not at all persuaded that so-called homosexuals are homosexuals because of biological problems. There may be a very few, but there are so many that have been made homosexuals because of a coach or a guidance counselor or some other male figure who has abused them and they think there's something wrong with their sexuality. … That's what I think. All right, what else? … You love him. Of course you love him. And you accept him. You love him, but at the same time, you can't let him just go, you know, he'll wind up -- well, I mean, if somebody's on their way to hell, they'll -- I mean, you've got to love them to rescue them.
Televangelist Pat Robertson, counseling tough love to a "700 Club" caller seeking advice on "how to handle" her gay son (Media Matters)
June 02, 2009
Posted by: Chris
... the more they actually do change sometimes. I posted last week about how my hometown county commission was debating an ordinance to add sexual orientation and gender identity to non-discrimination ordinances. Well, yesterday the measure passed 9-4, albeit in (further) watered-down form:
Gay rights activists whooped and applauded when the Shelby County Commission voted 9-4 Monday in favor of an ordinance that could protect gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people from employment discrimination, but the resolution that passed was weaker than they wanted -- its three paragraphs make no mention of sexual orientation. …
The resolution that passed says "discrimination against any Shelby County Government employee on the basis of non-merit factors shall be prohibited," and doesn't mention any protected groups.
It was introduced by Commissioner Sidney Chism, who along with James Harvey represented swing votes on the issue -- both abstained from voting when commissioners split on the matter 5-5 in a committee meeting last week.
The importance of the measure is largely symbolic anyway, showing that a measure that's called "gay rights" can actually be enacted here in the Deep South. Just as symbolic was the opposition, from local conservative religious leaders, of course -- proudly on the wrong side of yet one more civil rights movement that is inevitably moving toward victory.
How can someone vote against a measure that prohibits discrimination on the basis of "non-merit factors"? Only if they firmly believe even the government ought to hire and fire based on their personal religious beliefs, all while screaming that their cause is actually in defense of "religious freedom."
(Photo via Memphis Commercial Appeal/Brad Luttrell)
May 28, 2009
Posted by: Chris
One of the first stories I posted on Gay News Watch, back in February 2007, concerned reports that the Iraqi government was lending its official endorsement to Shiite militias responsible for killing gay men. After two more years of American occupation and a change in U.S. administrations, the story hasn't changed and the horrific killings continue:
Two gay men were killed in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, and police confirmed they found the bodies of four more men, all killed during a 10-day period after an unknown Shiite militia group urged a crackdown on homosexuals in the country.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs believes as many as 30 people have been killed during the last three months because they were -- or were perceived to be -- gay.
Homosexuality is prohibited almost everywhere in the Middle East, but conditions have become especially dangerous in recent years for gays and lesbians, as religious militias have become more powerful since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
But an Iraqi military source claimed the recent killings were linked to tribal violence, not militias, and his characterization of the killings hints at how deep homophobia runs in Iraqi society.
"Two young men were killed Thursday. They were sexual deviants. Their tribes killed them to restore their family honor," an Iraqi army member who did not want to give his name told ABC News.
The army source said the bodies of four gay men were unearthed in Sadr City March 25, each bearing signs reading "pervert" in Arabic on their chests. All the bodies found bore signs of torture and were found fixed to poles when they were killed. The Iraqi army source also said two of the men found dead were wearing diapers and women's lingerie.
Two gay men were found elsewhere in Sadr City, alive but bearing the scars of severe torture. They were beaten, their chests showed signs of cigarette burns, and when police found them they were rushed to the hospital. They had been sodomized with iron bars, sources said. Other men said they had had their chests slashed and their nipples cut off.
The Bush and Obama administrations have been justifiably proud about the improved status, safety and opportunity for women as a result of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. But where is the concerted action to put an end to these unspeakable acts of violence?
Posted by: Chris
Coming home to visit family in Memphis always offers a fresh reminder of how all those headlines about the forward march of marriage equality in some parts of the country bear little resemblance to the sad reality facing gay folk who live where I grew up. This trip home, I learned that the local county commission is embroiled in a debate about whether to adopt an ordinance banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
I listened (as long as I could force myself) to discussion of the proposal on the local AM conservative talk radio station, and opposition lined up mostly along the relatively new complaint we hear from anti-gay advocates that such laws discriminate against religious people. The ordinance carves out from its reach churches and other employers whose mission is faith-based, but the host and caller after caller complained that Christians who own their own businesses would nonetheless be forced to hire and not fire GLBT employees.
The sponsor of the ordinance, Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, was the guest on the program and did an excellent job of answering the criticisms. (In fact, rarely have I heard a politician offer such an effective defense of gay rights.) He pointed out that religion was offered in the past and rejected as a defense for discriminating in the workplace based on race, gender, and -- actually -- religion.
Yesterday the ordinance failed the first test of its support on the commission, and these defenders of "religious freedom" failed the test of seriousness along the way. That's because an amendment was adopted to limit the ordinance to Shelby County government employees, not those in the private sector. If objections to the ordinance were really about these "Christian businesses," then the amendment should have answered them.
But, of course, this debate isn't about religious freedom at all. Because even when the proposal was limited to the government itself, it was rejected. The reason is as obvious as the coalition of conservative clergy organized to fight the ordinance and the biblical references of almost all those who spoke out against it at the commission meeting.
This wasn't about protecting the rights of conservative Christian-owned business to fire gay workers, it was about protecting the ability of conservative Christians in positions of authority in the government to hire and fire based upon their personal biblical views. That, my friends, is a far more insidious form of religious discrimination.
(Photo of anti-gay Commissioner Wyatt Bunker -- any relation to Archie? -- and coalition of conservative pastors via Commercial Appeal.)
January 20, 2009
Posted by: Chris
With all the hoopla about the two-minute prayer that Rick Warren will offer during today's inauguration of Barack Obama, I am surprised to have heard nothing about (self-proclaimed) Bishop T.D. Jakes giving the sermon at this morning's inaugural church service.
Back in 2005, black gay activist Keith Boykin included Jakes among a series of black church pastors with anti-gay views who he believes are closet homosexuals:
Jakes is even more conservative than [George W.] Bush. Unlike Bush, who has hired gays and lesbians in the federal government, Jakes has called homosexuality a "brokenness" and said he would not hire a sexually active gay person.
And Jakes has also adopted another part of the presidential philosphy: his lifestyle. Jakes and his congregation refer to his wife Serita as "the first lady," and they live in a $1.7 million mansion on Dallas's scenic White Rock Lake next to a building once owned by oil magnate H.L. Hunt. As Time magazine explained, "He flies on charter planes or in first-class seats, sups with a coterie in a room known as 'the king's table,' sports a large diamond ring and dresses like the multimillionaire he is."
I don't believe that black preachers have a duty to be poor, but I do believe they should not make their millions off the backs of their struggling kin. It's one thing to create your wealth as a preacher. It's another thing to create your wealth with a message of sexism, heterosexism and homophobia directed against some of the hardest hit people in your own community.
Jakes has endorsed the so-called Truth for Youth campaign, which is distributing specially-made anti-gay Bibles to high school students all across the country.
"To date, I have not seen scriptural authority that allows me to stand on behalf of God and say I now pronounce you husband and husband, and wife and wife," Jakes told USA Today. "This is an issue the government is undecided about. The Bible is not," he said. But if Jakes still believes in the separation of church and state, it's not clear from his political activity. In fact, Jakes publicly endorsed the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have been the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution to legalize discrimination against a group of citizens.
As Time magazine put it, "gay Americans would have no reason at all to consider Jakes their preacher."
Ultimately Boykin's proof on Jakes' anti-gay past is much stronger than the rumors that Jakes may be a closet case. (A former male staffer went public with charges that Jakes repeatedly propositioned him for sex.) Regardless, it will be interesting to see whether activists take note of Jakes' high profile role.
My own view, of course, is that Obama is fulfilling his promise to unite the country -- and making a shrewd political move -- by including the likes of Jakes and Warren, along with openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, and pro-gay ministers Joseph Lowery and Sharon Watkins, in inauguration ceremonies.
Posted by: Chris
For all those who suspected some grand conspiracy between the Obama transition team and HBO to exclude openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson from the broadcast of the (ironically named) "We Are One" event, rest easy:
The cable network said that it had not been advised about what would go where in the two-hour live telecast. … The omission caused a pile of headaches for HBO and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which received an estimated $2 million to give HBO the exclusive rights to the concert.
Whew. And even double whew:
HBO said late Monday that it will include an opening prayer from an openly gay pastor in subsequent telecasts of the "We Are One" inaugural concert, whose original live telecast began after the pastor's invocation.
No doubt gay activists will be watching like hawks to make sure HBO follows through on its promise. Will they watch with the same level of scrutiny to make sure Obama and Congress move forwarrd on legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell, or enact federal civil unions?
January 19, 2009
Posted by: Chris
A transcript of the prayer by gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson at yesterday's opening inaugural event is now available, as is the video:
It's a challenging prayer, no doubt something of a downer for an event that is supposed to celebrate Barack Obama's historic election. Perhaps the event's producers excluded it from the HBO broadcast for that reason. Reverend Robinson's glass is not just half-empty; it's mostly evaporated.
Still, it will no doubt please its intended audience, the progressive left that revels so much in victimology that it is loathe to ever recognize the "progress" from which it gets its name.
Here's the Robinson transcript:
Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.
(Video h/t to our pal Jeremy at G.A.Y.)
Posted by: Chris
I was encouraged to read a piece by the Advocate's Sean Kennedy for New York Magazine that suggests that our activists are finally looking beyond the giant distraction of Warren-gate and on to the serious issues that lie ahead. (Unfortunately, HBO's failure to broadcast the inaugural event prayer yesterday by gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson will undoubtedly prolong the kvetching.)
But at least Kennedy's report suggests that the Human Rights Campaign hasn't forgotten to set their eyes on a prize bigger than who gives a two-minute prayer at the inauguration:
[T]here were those who believed it was a genuine act of inclusiveness, in keeping with the post-swearing-in benediction by the Reverend Joseph Lowery, who supports gay rights (but not marriage), and the Reverend Sharon Watkins's leading of the national prayer service Wednesday morning, the first woman to do so.
"Unless we believe it's pure political bull, Obama's been talking the whole time about bringing people together across the ideological spectrum," says gay-media veteran Chris Crain, adding: "Why is it a bad thing that someone who's anti-gay wants to support the most pro-gay president we've had?"
But Crain is an outlier; for the most part, the rancor is unabated: "The Warren choice was universally disappointing," says Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign's Religion and Faith program. "But both grayheads like me and young people are wise enough to see that we can't expect perfection from our leaders. We have to be vigilant about getting the work done that it will take to get this legislation passed."
He's referring to major policy items, like "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act, both of which Obama says he wants to repeal.
That's actually the first time I've seen anyone from HRC talk about being "vigilant" about "major policy items" like repeal of DADT and DOMA. Up till now, all they've talked about are low-hanging fruit like hate crime and employmnet non-discrimination laws, which while important are largely symbolic by comparison.
January 15, 2009
Posted by: Chris
A provocative eight-minute piece by the American News Project that provides some revelations about the extent of the Mormon Church holy war in favor of Proposition 8 and against gay marriage. The report raises some valid questions about the veil of secrecy with which churches are allowed to operate in politics while maintaining tax exempt status.
My reaction was how these internal Mormon documents and satellite transmissions offer up very clear evidence that the motivation of those opposing gay marriage in California was not the preservation of religious freedom but rather the contrary: imposing the theological views of the LDS Church and its conservative allies to deprive gay couples of the basic human freedom to marry.
The California Supreme Court need look no further for justifications for striking down Prop 8.
Posted by: Chris
There's nothing like the smell of gay cynicism in the morning. Take sex advice columnist cum pundit Dan Savage, who tells Rex Wockner that he believes Barack Obama's invitation to gay Bishop Gene Robinson was all about damage control:
Does anyone believe that Gene Robinson, per the Obama team, was part of their inauguration-day plans all along? It certainly didn't sound like Gene knew anything about it when Warren was selected and he was handing out the bitter quotes. And the Obama team's post-Warren talking points -- mocked here, there, and everywhere -- mentioned that big gay marching band... but not Robinson.
Hmmm. I'm thinking the talking points would've been a good time to bring up Robinson, had he been part of the plan all along, so it seems pretty clear he wasn't.
Air-tight logic from Savage, as always, and also wrong, as usual. Obama's relationships with Robinson stretches back much further than the Rick Warren flap. That's not all.
Weeks ago, when Robinson was "handing out the bitter quotes," he was always telling the congregation at Trinity Cathedral in Miami that not all of the details of all of the Inauguration-related events had been announced, and angry gays "should not be surprised" to find someone they'd be much happier about being named to deliver a prayer at a related high-profile event.
I'm as hard (actually much harder) on politicians than the next gay, but can we let Obama at least take the Oath of Office before we expect the worst of him? Bitter isn't pretty, even in politics.
January 12, 2009
Posted by: Chris
I came across an additional irony from all the misplaced upset over the selection of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation next week. Of course among those most harshly critical of President-elect Obama are quite a few Hillary Clinton backers who still can't let go of the Democratic presidential primaries of last year.
When I pointed out that Bill Clinton invited legendarily anti-gay evangelist Billy Graham to give the invocation at both of his inaugurations, a couple of commenters pointed to Warren's alleged support for Peter Akinola, the homophobic Anglican Bishop of Nigeria, as proof that his sins are worse than Grahams -- and hence Obama's worse than Clinton's.
It's certainly true that Warren has been generally supportive of Akinola, who has led the schism effort over Gene Robinson's selection as the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. (The single citation I've seen to Warren backing Akinola's views on legal mistreatment of gays is from the English-language publication the Kampala Monitor, which quotes him an awkward speaking style that is anything but convincing.)
But the Clinton version of Warren-gate doesn't end with Billy Graham. It turns out that Bill Clinton has his own Nigerian ties -- and these are to Sani Abacha, the now-deceased, notoriously anti-gay despotic ruler, himself:
It appears from the donor list of the Clinton Foundation that there is barely an oligarch, royal family, or special-interest group anywhere in the world that does not know how to get the former president's attention. Just in the days since the foundation agreed to some disclosure of its previously "confidential" clients—in other words, since this became a condition for Sen. Clinton's nomination to become secretary of state—we have additionally found former President Clinton in warm relationships with one very questionable businessman in Malaysia and with another, this time in Nigeria, who used to have close connections with that country's ultracorrupt military dictatorship.
The Nigerian example is an especially instructive one. Gilbert Chagoury is a major figure in land and construction in that country and has contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as arranged a huge speaking fee for President Clinton at a Caribbean event and kicked in a large sum to his 1996 re-election campaign. In return for this, he has been received at the Clinton White House and more recently at Clinton-sponsored social events in New York and Paris. This may have helped to alleviate the sting of Chagoury's difficulties in Nigeria itself. As a close friend of the country's uniformed despot Gen. Sani Abacha, he benefited from some extremely profitable business arrangements during the years of dictatorship. …
The point here isn't so much to compare Rick Warren to Bill Clinton, but to point out that the Clintons are involved in setting actual policy for the U.S. government, and yet we waste our attention on an ambitious evangelical who's saying a prayer. There is simply no comparison.
Posted by: Chris
President-elect Barack Obama has reached out yet again in an attempt to those who criticized his selection of mega-church evangelist Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Jan. 20 inauguration. The inaugural committee announced today that the kickoff event at the Lincoln Memorial on Monday, Jan. 18, will feature an invocation prayer by none other than Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire.
The selection of Robinson for the event, which will be broadcast on HBO, is a bit ironic for me because I used Robinson as an example several weeks ago in my gay press column when asking the hypothetical of how gay rights opponents and proponents would have reacted if John McCain had won the election and tapped Robinson as a "reach across the aisle" selection:
Imagine, in a conciliatory gesture toward Obama supporters, McCain selects Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, to give the invocation. In a nod to his own supporters, he chooses the evangelical leader Rick Warren to give the benediction.
We know what the response would be. The Republican right would be furious: What a kick in the teeth from McCain to choose a minister whose elevation was an indictment of their core religious beliefs, and who advocates the destruction of traditional marriage and the murder of millions of aborted fetuses!
Gay rights groups and bloggers, still reeling from Obama’s unexpected defeat, would be cheered by McCain’s unexpected and courageous attempt at reconciliation. Press releases from progressives would defend McCain against charges of betrayal, chastising conservatives for their intolerance and their insistence on dividing, not unifying. Besides, they would point out, the benediction will come from Rick Warren, who opposes gay marriage and supported Proposition 8 in California.
You see where I’m going here? We know that, happily for us, history unfolded in opposite fashion, and Barack Obama chose Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation, and civil rights hero Joseph Lowery, who supports full marriage equality, to say the benediction.
Yet the response from many gay bloggers and rights groups has been every bit as reactionary and intolerant as the Republican right would have been toward Robinson. Aren’t we better than that?
Apparently not, at least not some of us, judging by the ongoing bitterness on the blogosphere and among some gay rights groups. Hopefully the intolerant types will be mollified by the selection of Robinson, who is in fact a far more divisive religious figure than Warren, given that his selection as bishop has resulted in a schism in the ancient Anglican Communion.
December 30, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Throughout the outcry over Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, I have taken a lot of heat for defending the megachurch pastor against claims he considers gay relationships the "equivalent" of incest and pedophilia.
As I explained (here and here and here), it was flatly irrational to interpret Warren that way, given that he was making a "slippery slope" argument that depends logically on examples like incest and pedophilia as horrific consequences of recognizing relationships like ours that are much less objectionable. I also interpreted Warren as favoring some forms of recognition for gay relationships, which of course he would never support for incest and pedophila, both illegal.
Now there's confirmation from the horse's mouth, so to speak. In a video available for viewing on the website for Warren's church, the evangelical is ostensibly speaking to his own congregation, but of course he knew that whatever he said on the subject of gay marriage would enjoy a much larger audience.
Here are some highlights (transcribed by me):
I have been accused of equating gay partnerships and relationships with incest and pedophilia. Now of course, as members of Saddleback Church you know, I believe no such thing. I never have. You've never once heard me in 30 years talk that way about that. …
God created sex to be exclusively in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. But I've in no way ever taught that homosexuality is the same thing as a forced relationship between an adult and a child or, you know, between siblings, things like that. I've just never thought that in 30 years.
However, I understand how some people think that because of a recent Belief.net interview. ... In that interview I named several other relationships, in fact I've done it several times, named several other relationships such as living together, man with multiple wives, or brother-sister relationships or adults with children or common law partnerships -- all kinds of relationships -- I don't think any of them should be called marriage.
I was not saying those relationships are the same thing because I happen to not believe that and I've never taught it.
Just to reiterate my own view, I am not defending Warren's opposition to gay marriage, which is based on imposition of his own theological view in the law and "slippery slope" scare tactics that would fear-monger if they weren't so ridiculous.
I also could not help but laugh at Warren's hypocritical views on civility in public discourse. At one point in the video, he complains that gays treat all disagreement with them as some form of "hate speech," an accusation I think is unfortunately all too true:
Some people today believe if you disagree with them you either hate them or are afraid of them. I'm neither afraid of gays nor do I hate gays. In fact, I love them, but I do disagree with some of their beliefs and I have that constitutional right just as I would fight for their constitutional right, too.
Then, later in the video, when he answers questions from his congregation about how he plans to respond to the controversy over his role at the inauguration, Warren engages in the same demonization and demagoguery he earlier criticized, and without even a hint of irony:
You've asked, 'What about these hateful attacks? ... How are you going to respond to all these false accusations, attacks, outright lies, hateful slander and really a lot of hate speech -- it's what I would call Christ-aphobia -- people who are afraid of any Christian. You know how I'm going to respond. You already know the answer. ... We return good for evil, we return love for hate.
Just as progressives want Obama to unify the country without including the views of millions who disagree with them, Warren objects to demonization of his views while readily engaging in the same smear tactics. Warren will never gain credence as an advocate for civility as long as he uses such doubletalk.
But again, trying to focus on common ground, Warren does suggest without specifics in the video that he supports legal recognition in some form for gay couples, if not full marriage equality. Whether or not you believe, as I do, that Warren is clarifying his view, or is modifying his position in response to the controversy, he has very clearly left the door open to support for legal recognition for same-sex couples.
Given the proliferation of "bad cops" who have made hay out of this controversy, including gay leaders trying to change the subject from Prop 8, now is the time for "good cops" to reach out to Warren and see whether he would throw his specific support around some level of legal recognition, or perhaps even federal civil unions.
December 25, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It's worth remembering, as you consider the competing viewpoints over Warren-gate, that there was no outcry surrounding Bill Clinton selection of evangelist Billy Graham to give the prayer at his 1993 inauguration, and again four years later. Graham's views are far more conservative and damning than Warren's, whether on sexual morality, homosexualtiy and (most disturbingly) AIDS and other STDs.
In 1997, Clinton presented Graham with the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation's highest civilian honors. There's a certain irony, of course, to Clinton's choice given his own record of sexual morality and marital fidelity, and his presidency's record on gay issues isn't one we hope Barack Obama replicates.
But the broader point is the insidious way that ideological intolerance (liberal and conservative) has grown over the years, and the divisive effect it has, eschewing debate in favor of exclusionary demands. As we saw throughout the Republican and Democratic primaries, it's not enough that candidates agree with these ideologues, they must never associate themselves with anyone who fails the litmus test.
Just imagine if Rick Warren had said something similar to what Billy Graham preached on the subject of AIDS back in 1993, when the death toll from HIV was reaching its peak, especially among gay men:
"Is AIDS a judgment of God?" asked Graham before a record-breaking crowd in Columbus, Ohio. "I could not say for sure, but I think so." After seeing letters criticizing that comment, Graham contacted the Cleveland Plain Dealer to retract his statement. "I remember saying it, and I immediately regretted it and almost went back and clarified the statement," said Graham in a telephone interview. He said he never intended to make the remark, explaining that he was tired during the sermon and forgot to retract or clarify his statement. "I do believe God stands in judgment of all sins...but AIDS is a disease that affects people and is not part of that judgment," Graham told the newspaper. "To say God has judged people with AIDS would be very wrong and very cruel."
Don't take Graham's retraction too seriously. Later that year he repeated the same "cruel" condemnation in a syndicated newspaper column that is still available on his website under the heading "Homosexuality":
I believe the "explosion in sexual freedom" is one of the most disastrous things that has happened to our society in the last 50 years. Think, for example, of the devastating impact this "explosion" has had on our families. A family isn't just a nice idea; it is a God-ordained institution, given to us for our happiness and protection. But almost every day I get at least one letter from someone whose family has been torn apart by sexual immorality. …
The same could be said about another "explosion" today—the explosion in sexually transmitted diseases. Millions of people in many parts of the world are living under a sentence of death because of AIDS and other devastating sexual diseases. How can we possibly conclude that unbridled sexual expression is a good thing?
(Jump to the end of this post for some additional tidbits about homosexuality from Graham and his evangelical association.)
From Billy Graham's 1993 inauguration prayer:
Our God and our Father, we thank you for this historic occasion when we inaugurate our new President and Vice-President. We thank you for the moral and spiritual foundations which our forefathers gave us and which are rooted deeply in scripture. Those principles nourished and guided us as a nation in the past, but we cannot say that we are a righteous people. We've sinned against you. We've sown to the wind and are reaping the whirlwind of crime, drug abuse, racism, immorality, and social injustice. We need to repent of our sins and turn by faith to you.
His inaugural invocation four years later was longer and more subdued, at least when it came to sinful folk "reaping the whirlwind of immorality." (AIDS, anyone?) But Graham nonetheless admonished Americans that the government depends on God's grace ("Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it"), and he prayed that God would "teach us to follow Your instructions more closely."
Now, as promised, some additional pearls of wisdom and compassion from the page entitled "Homosexuality" on Billy Graham's website:
The realization that someone you love is gay can be a shattering experience. If you are trusting in Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord, you can be conscious of your Heavenly Father's great love for you and your loved one (Jeremiah 31:3). God is the One who is able to transform lives and heal the scars of painful memories. We want to assure you that any willing person can be liberated from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ; see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, especially verse 11. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association, with contact info for "ex-gay" ministries)
Q: Does the Bible approve of some homosexual relationships? A;The Bible provides God's blueprint for marriage and for His good gift of sex in Genesis 2:24. The gift is only to be enjoyed within a marriage between a man and a woman. There are no exceptions suggested, such as homosexual partnerships. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association)
If you engage in homosexual relations or lust (willful fantasizing about such relations) God is deeply grieved and sets about in a variety of ways to turn you from such a destructive course. … And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). You must discipline your mind as an athlete disciplines his body. … God not only wants to protect you from homosexual behavior, but He wants to begin to meet the deep needs at the root of your same-sex desires. Apart from an occasional miracle, this psychological and spiritual healing which leads toward sexual wholeness does not happen quickly. Usually, outside help is necessary. For this reason, we would suggest that you contact a Christian ministry which assists men and women who want to deal with homosexual issues in their lives. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association, with contact info for "ex-gay" ministries)
It must be emphasized that even if a biological predisposition to homosexuality in some people exists, it would not change God's opposition to the behavior. Neither would it change the fact that through the transforming power of Jesus Christ freedom from sinful behavior is always available. In addition, many strugglers discover growing heterosexual attractions as they address underlying problems with the help of competent Christian support and counseling. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association, with contact info for "ex-gay" ministries)
When a little boy desires to dress as a little girl and play with little girls and their toys exclusively, it can be very troubling to parents. However, your son is not a homosexual. While gender-confused children may develop homosexual attractions in teen years if not helped, that is not the issue at this point. The reasons why a child develops opposite sex characteristics and preferences to an extreme degree is complex. Whatever the causes, you would do well to emphasize that he should be exactly what God made him—a boy. (Billy Graham Evangelical Association)
December 21, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There is a deeply disturbing undercurrent to the arguments made by those who want Barack Obama to rescind the invocation invitation to Southern Baptist evangelist Rick Warren in favor of a minister with friendlier views on gay marriage or homosexuality. While you and I might view this campaign as well-intentioned, the 16 million members of Warren's denomination understandably feel otherwise, as do many millions who belong to faith traditions with similar views.
We gays are very accustomed to Southern Baptists and other evangelical and fundamentalist faiths attempting to have their beliefs about homosexuality enshrined into law, always at the expense of our freedom or civil rights. But now the shoe is on the other foot.
The angry blogosphere, D.C.-based gay groups and their progressive allies are basically demanding the president-elect remove one minister from his role in a major public ceremony because of his religious beliefs and replace him with one who is more acceptable. Their demand ought to trouble everyone, particularly LGBT Americans and anyone else who values the First Amendment separation between church and state.
The use of public ceremonies to show official government favor of one group over another runs directly afoul of the First Amendment's "establishment clause," which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion, or even from sending direct or indirect signals that some faith groups or views are preferred over others. The clear motivation for Obama showing favor for one set of beliefs over the other, as well as the obvious effect, is for the new president to signal that religious beliefs like Warren's are on the "outs," and religious beliefs approved by gays and progressives are on the "ins."
That same intent, and that same obvious effect, are why the First Amenment does not permit official prayers in public schools and high school football games, and why we no longer have manger scenes at Christmas time in front of city halls and state capitols. That's why Roy Moore was removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the courthouse rotunda.
In my public school here in the suburbs of Memphis, Tenn., we began each and every day with the Pledge of Allegiance ("under God" included) and the national anthem, but that wasn't all. We also sang along to Kate Smith on "God Bless America," and our principal led the students in reciting "The Lord's Prayer." Jewish students stayed quiet, obviously, and Jehovah's Witness adherents stepped out into the hallway for our morning intercom revelry.
The motivations behind these official displays of religious preference, and certainly their impact, are directly analogous to why gay folks are demanding that Warren be removed from the inauguration, and the obvious effect on the public if Obama ultimately caves.
To be fair, it is partly Obama and Warren's fault that church and state are entangled here. The president-elect's decision to include a religious invocation and benediction, while noncontroversial and in keeping with tradition, opens the door to these kinds of debates. What's more, marriage as an institution is a conflation of law and religion, "vesting power" in ministers to officiate at a religious ceremony that has legal effect.
Warren makes matters worse, of course, by basing his opposition to gay marriage and support for Proposition 8 on his religious beliefs about homosexuality. I've long believed that laws excluding gays from civil marriage are, in and of themselves, a violation of the First Amendment establishment clause, since the primary objections to marrying gay couples -- repeated in one form or another by conservative politicians and pastors alike -- are their personal religious views about "the sanctity of marriage." The government ought not to be choosing which denominational views about marriage by same-sex couples will be enshrined in the law.
So do we really want to jump into the Blblical battle over marriage, asking the president-elect to signal to the public that views held by Warren and millions of others are disfavored by the government? Shouldn't we be arguing that the Bible and religion are an illegitimate basis from excluding gays from a fundamental freedom and civil right?
Gay folk and progressives exorcised by the selection of Warren would be much better served focusing on winning the political debate over marriage, in part by arguing for the separation of church and state, than by trying to use the president-elect to show our religious beliefs are in favor. Not only is that fight an anathema to the First Amendment, it's a loser with the majority of church-going Americans today.
(Pictured is former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and a cake honoring the Ten Commandments memorial that federal courts had removed from the courthouse of the state supreme court.)
December 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I'll admit that my initial reaction late last night to the controversy over Barack Obama naming evangelist Rick Warren to give the inauguration invocation was a bit unfair in characterizing (err, disparaging) the motives of those offended by the decision. I still believe that political correctness and ideological purity underly most of the complaints, but I have heard from some who I would never characterize that way.
One thing they cite is how supposedly "compared" or "equated" gay marriage to incest and polygamy in explaining his support for Prop 8 in California:
I’m not opposed to [gay marriage] as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
This is neither "comparing," nor "equating." In fact, Warren specifically draws a distinction between that which he does not oppose -- gay marriage -- and the parade of horribles he thinks opening up redefinition of marriage will lead to -- incest, pedophilia and polygamy.
The proverbial "slippery slope" is used when the speaker knows his audience sees no real problem with the proposal at hand, and so must be jolted to attention by what would somehow inevitably follow:
If you raise taxes, it will slow the economy, put people out of work, throw us into a recession and require socialist bailouts to get us back on track.
Does that "equate" or "compare" raising taxes with socialism? No.
Recognizing Rick Warren's argument as slippery slope and not comparison does not make his claim any more reasonable, but it does make it less offensive -- although clearly offended is what we do best on our side, rather than meet arguments head to head, with confidence that ours is the stronger position.
Posted by: Chris
It hasn't taken the gays long to find fault in the still-transiting Obama administration. You can almost guess from the level of fury that what's at stake isn't something real, like a retreat on policy or foot-dragging on a campaign promise. That's because content- and consequence-free is exactly how the politically correct crowd likes their controversies.
Barack Obama's offense was to select Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical who opposes gay marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Never mind, for the moment, that Obama also opposes marriage equality, as did Hillary Clinton and every other viable presidential candidate.
Warren also spoke out in favor of Proposition 8, but never mind that support for a constitutional amendment overturning a historic gay marriage ruling puts Warren in smack dab the same spot as presidential candidate John Kerry, who nonetheless received heaped praise from the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups. And never mind that Warren was selected to deliver a prayer, not a political speech, and will no doubt say nothing at all relating to gays or marriage -- come to think of it, that kind of avoidance would have practically qualified Warren for a "strategery" role in the No on 8 campaign.
Never mind all of those things because they do not matters as much as ideological purity, as defined by those who somehow think of themselves as "progressive" despite their own naked intolerance. We must demand exclusion in the name of "unity"! Isn't that ironic, doncha think?
A number of critics trace Obama's supposed betrayal to this transition-team promise:
"The Presidential Inaugural Committee, at the direction of President-elect Obama...will organize an inclusive and accessible inauguration that...unites the nation around our shared values and ideals."
"Shared values and ideals?" huffs Leah McElrath Renna on HuffPo ("Rick Warren, Obama? Really?"). How dare Obama when we don't share Rick Warren's views on gay marriage!
Shared values and ideals, Leah. Do please try to focus, honey. You successfully honed in one of those un-shared values. Try to remember that the whole idea behind unity is finding areas of agreement, not disagreement, and focusing on common ground to bring us together as a nation.
Can you imagine what sort of "unity" party that HuffPo and the "progressive" left would have Obama throw? One in which only other progressives are invited, thereby completely missing the point. Yes, election night was magical, and as a long-time Obama supporter I too was moved and inspired. But recreating Grant Park (or the Denver acceptance speech) will not unify the country.
This twisted idea of unifying only among the like-minded reminds me of the joke about St. Peter giving a tour of Heaven. "Keep quiet as we pass this next doorway," he tells the new arrivals. "This is where we keep the fundamentalists, and they think they're the only ones here." I hate to break it to you P.C. stormtroopers, but your Obama-America Paradise includes more than gays and gay-friendlies.
Another predictably knee-jerk response was Queerty shrieking headline -- "Barack Obama's 'new pastor' is a slap in the face to the gay community":
Barack Obama's decision to allow a direct enemy of gays and lesbians to officiate at his inauguration isn't just alarming, it's outrageous and indefensible. We call on President-Elect Barack Obama to rescind his offer to Rev. Warren immediately.
I'm sure Obama is quaking in his boots, Queerty. So I best step up to your challenge. I am hereby defending what you call "indefensible" (and "alarming" and "outrageous," those rhetorical handmaidens to lazy left outrage). And I will do so as someone who has closely watched, cared about, cried over and covered the gay rights movement since you were in diapers -- and as someone whose life and livelihood depend far more than yours on Obama living up to his LGBT campaign promises.
Keep your eyes on the prize, boys. Obama's campaign to unify the country -- which last I checked includes millions of Warren's fellow travelers -- is in the service of an administration whose stated policy positions are the most supportive ever on LGBT civil rights. Winning over support for a pro-gay president from anti-gay leaders isn't just defensible, it's downright brilliant.
Ahh but the shiny bauble of a controversy will always distract the ideological purists among us, who are spoiling for a fight more than they are fighting for a cause. Still, how disappointing and sad that it is the gays who are first to break ranks and declare some other (much larger group) as untouchable. It's the kind of exclusionary politics we should expect from our enemies, not from ourselves.
(Photo of Barack Obama and Rick Warren via L.A. Times)
December 09, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
For as long as I can remember, the leading national gay rights organizations (and their statewide cousins, in terms of imperial attitude) have made a great deal of noise to indicate they were "working hard" to reach out to the African American community in the United States. This was often couched in the language of building political coalitions to advance gay rights legislation and policy, as it should be. We need to do it.
Well, the results are in. And to say that their efforts were an abject failure is being kind.
The 2008 election proved decisively in California, and hinted strongly in a national way, that all the flowery announcements by Human Rights Campaign directors past and present, as well as the multi-hue-drenched righteousness peppering speeches at NGLTF's Creating Change conferences, amounted to a lot of hot air in an echo chamber.
When you read the latest Gallup Poll on African American moral and political attitudes on homosexuality, you can't help but think of the bullshit events on "diversity" sponsored by your state's left-wing gay rights juggernaut, or the dumb multi-racial hack love-ins among left-wing Democrats under an HRC logo-banner over the last 15 or so years. In reality, any statement by HRC or NGLTF today boasting of their outreach to the African American community smacks of Kenneth Lay telling investors that Enron was solid bet, just before the truth was revealed that he knew it was a sinking ship. Enron's stockholders had bankruptcy, we have the lovely Proposition 8 - and whatever else awaits us.
This is not to say that building a strong political coalition with black Americans isn't absolutely necessary. It is. But what this Gallup poll says is that our current and past gay leadership did nothing effectively, and continues to be a total and complete failure at this.
Since Prop 8 and the key fact that 70% of a tidal wave of African American votes in California voted against us on it, the issue of race has resurfaced for good reason. The gay African American voices have run the gamut from pointing the finger where it belongs -- at those hypocritical gay organizations with money and clout who pay lip service to this hard work but never listen or apply themselves to do it right -- to the same old blaxploitation songs of "gay whitey" this and "gay whitey" that.
But what is so interesting about the Gallup poll to me is the headline: "Blacks as Conservative as Republicans on Some Moral Issues." In a white liberal context, that headline must be like the sound of hand grenades going off: "conservative" (boom!)..."Republicans" (bam!)....."Moral" (ka-BOOM!). Because left-wing political hacks don't let themselves hear, say or deal with those three words in any real way. And now we're all paying the price. Because just like the way HRC did its "building bridges" with "fair-minded Republicans" after the 1994 election basically forced them, the gay establishment's outreach to the black community has been a front. Not real.
I will never forget one moment at the 2000 Creating Change conference in Oakland, California. I think it was the only one I ever attended, basically because I was a speaker on a panel. But I sat in on a different panel on "people of color" issues, and behind me were two folks who I guess were local gays from Oakland. The panel was the usual suspects whose jobs it seemed (to me) were to blather endlessly in person and in print in talking point-ese about "POC issues" (I always cringe when I hear that term). The panel moderator beamed regally while a usual suspect gushed about some meeting in what sounded like the most marginal, way-left church-of-the-misfit-toys in some mid-sized city, where "we melded in song" about "the equality of peoples." One of the folks behind me said in a stage whisper to his friend: "What the hell are they talking about?" I chuckled to myself, in agreement. It was funny to see these left-wing hacks talk about religion and morals the way an alien might discuss life on Earth. Or the Republican Party.
And here's where a gay Republican with a lot of experience with this now-generalized brand of incompetence can give advice to any African American gay activist who wants to channel their anger effectively right now. First step is to wake up. This isn't about racism - it's about competence.
The reason they failed is because they didn't do their jobs. The reason they didn't do their jobs is because they have no fucking clue how to build political coalitions outside their extreme political comfort zone -- be they white, black or fuschia in skin tone. They know how to hire people with the right color skin to run around saying "look at me, I'm Mr. or Ms. (fill in the blank) Outreach!". And as circumstance would have it, they've never been pushed to the wall so blatantly the way the Prop 8 results have nailed them.
So, don't lobby for them to hire some token staff person or launch some bullshit "outreach campaign". You'll just be participating in the ongoing failure. Think of the gay movement like a business - someone isn't do their job, you fire them. Demand the heads of those responsible, and demand they be replaced by someone of any race, any gender, who has the political and intellectual and moral skill to do the job in the African American community that nobody has been doing in this movement for decades. Someone proven. Someone who would be honorable enough to look at Prop 8, and at the Gallup poll results, and resign in disgrace.
Right now, this movement is all about electing Democrats, with this as the only result worth any real investment of time and money and effort. You see what that has gotten us. So let's make it about advancing the gay cause again, and let's leave absolutely nothing to window dressing or lip service anymore. Let's be bold and courageous, and demand leaders who get the job done.
November 12, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It's been absolutely inspiring to watch the groundswell of daily -- sometimes hourly -- street protests throughout California since the passage of Proposition 8 last week. So much for the cynicism about Obama-mania on Election Night eclipsing the gay marriage defeats.
It's virtually impossible to know you're experiencing history in the making when you're right in the middle of it. But our present generation with their SMS texting and their Twittering (aka "tweeting") and their Facebooking are mad as hell over this, and it's lookin' to me like they're not going to take it anymore.
I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots.
For the sake of the movement, I hope Rex is right. The focus-group dominated, hide-the-gays, Democrat-coopted approach taken by the Human Rights Campaign has been proven bankrupt once again. And it's clear from the HRC's radio silence about the Prop 8 protests that they have no idea what to do with gays who are energized enough to take to the streets.
Our so-called "leaders" at HRC and the Task Force aren't alone in their blank-face reaction to the week-long "Second Stonewall" protests in California, which will culminate in a National Day of Protest this Saturday. It's easy enough to see why the Beltway Boys are confounded by it all:
- The protests are grassroots, from the ground up, and the HRC (Activism 3.0) model is top-down, controlled by strategists wedded to focus group data.
- Because the anger and emotion is real, it's often misdirected, and D.C.-types can't associate themselves with protests that don't toe the line of political correctness.
- The focus of the protests is marriage and relationship recognition, which is not on "the gay agenda" that HRC et al have already acquiesced to: hate crimes in '09, ENDA in '10, and maybe -- just maybe -- federal D.P. benefits and repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in '11-'12.
- Some of the protest anger is directed at HRC itself, and its top-down cohorts at Equality California, which ran a lackluster No on 8 campaign that refused to allow gay couples to be seen, much less make the case for their own equality.
To see just out of step the D.C. gay groups are with their supposed constituents, consider that the only real response so far to seven consecutive days of gay activism in the streets is to scold protesters about who they shouldn't be angry at.
Remarkably, the "Events" and "Take Action" links on HRC's website still list only the upcoming fund-raisers for the organization itself. It's unconscionable that a group that claims to be leading a movement is not at the very least leveraging its resources to get out the word for those who want to participate in the protests. Instead, HRC's only response to eight consecutive days of street protests has been to praise a memo from People For the American Way that calls activists to task for blaming minority voters.
In similar fashion, those on the crunchy Gay Left at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have been almost a caricature of themselves, ignoring the power of the protests to conclude what we really need is, you guessed it, to "get thee to an anti-racism training! Let’s learn how attending to our own internalized racism can bring new awareness to our work with colleagues of color." Yes, that's an actual quote. Could the Task Force be more calcified and paleo-liberal?
Those on the gay right, for their part, are warning the protesters not to blame the Mormon and Catholic Churches, despite their obvious leading role in funding the devious Yes on 8 campaign. Conservative gay law professor Dale Carpenter warned that it's bad politics -- and risks proving Yes on 8's claims about the threat to religious freedom -- to protest outside Mormon temples.
Carpenter's criticism is somewhat ironic, coming just weeks after he claimed he was quitting the gay rights movement. He's fundamentally wrong, in my view, to suggest that protesting the critical organizational role in Yes on 8 played by the church. In fact, he turns logic on its head to suggest the protests threaten religious freedom.
The First Amendment guarantees the Mormons' right to preach against gay marriage and refuse to perform them in their own churches. The real threat here is to the Establishment Clause, since the leadership of the Mormon, Catholic and conservative Jewish faiths have provided most of the muscle to enshrine into the California Constitution their own religious beliefs, at the expense of fundamental rights recognized by the state's highest court.
Carpenter argues that a better strategy for the protests would be to borrow a page from the black civil rights movement, and hold sit-ins in marriage license bureaus. Not only would such a strategy fail to make full use of the spectacular number of gays and allies energized to action, it's also misplaced. The government is not to blame here.
Clearly the judicial branch isn't to blame, having vindicated the marriage rights of gay and bisexual Californians. The California Legislature twice passed gay marriage laws, so their hands are clean. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills, but he opposed Prop 8 and since its passage has called on the state supreme court to once again declare gay marriage the law of the land.
No, the Mormon temples are as good a location to protest as any, in my book.
At some point, of course, these protests will die down and all these newly-minted activists will be looking for where to invest their energy. Neither HRC nor the Task Force has ever been about actual activism -- members are typically encouraged only to donate money and write emails and letters -- so it's my hope that the Join the Impact infrastructure will take on a life of its own.
Perhaps this new generation of gay activists can take the fight to Washington and demand the Democrats in control of Congress and the White House do more than the absolute minimum for GLBT Americans.
May 26, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Well, it's misleading and inaccurate. The article is about "30 conservative black Pentecostals from Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., dining with 30 activists from Soulforce, a pro-gay religious group."
So why are the conservatives labeled "Christians" in the headline and not the gays? Soulforce is non-denominational but much of its membership is Christian. The group's founder, Mel White, is a Christian minister himself and a former ghostwriter for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
An accurate headline would have been: "Conservative and gay Christians not of one accord."
Clearly there's a limit to what we can expect from the "new and improved" Washington Times, still the most homophobic big city newspaper in America.
March 25, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Kudos to MSNBC's Dan Abrams for calling out "Teflon John" even as the MSM otherwise obsesses over Wright:
On the one hand, John Hagee was not McCain's pastor for 20 years. On the other hand, there's every indication that his "controversial" utterances about Catholics and gays were, in fact, indicative of the hateful bile he has preached for years.
March 23, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Speaking of Rev. John Hagee, who is supporting John McCain's presidential bid, the controversial San Antonio minister told the New York Times that the GOP nominee sought his endorsement despite distancing himself since:
As a prominent evangelical pastor based in San Antonio, you were recently catapulted into national controversy when you endorsed Senator John McCain for president. Is it true that McCain actively sought your endorsement? It’s true that McCain’s campaign sought my endorsement.
Meanwhile, Hagee (unconvincingly) distances himself from his own apocalyptic anti-gay rhetoric:
Let’s talk about your much-quoted comment that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a gay rights parade in New Orleans. We’re not going down there. That’s so far off-base it would take us 33 pages to go through that, and it’s not worth going through.
I am not eager to rehash it either, although I wish that evangelicals were not so hard on gays. Our church is not hard against the gay people. Our church teaches what the Bible teaches, that it is not a righteous lifestyle. But of course we must love even sinners.
Do you have any gay friends? I don’t want to say that I have any friends, because when you say, “Who are they?” I don’t want them jumping off the balcony.
But wouldn't they just be fulfilling God's judgment upon them in Leviticus?
March 20, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Barack Obama and many other parishioners of the Trinity UCC in Chicago have said that Rev. Jeremiah Wright has been unfairly caricatured by the brief excerpts of sermons playing in endless loop on cable TV and YouTube.
It does seem that whatever ugly intolerance and divisiveness he spews on those videos, Wright has been more accepting of gay parishioners than many in the black church, especially those who preach "black liberation theology":
As a leader, Wright defied convention at every turn. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year, he recalled a time during the 1970s when the UCC decided to ordain gay and lesbian clergy. At its annual meeting, sensitive to the historic discomfort some blacks have with homosexuality, gay leaders reached out to black pastors.
At that session, Wright heard the testimony of a gay Christian and, he said, he had a conversion experience on gay rights. He started one of the first AIDS ministries on the South Side and a singles group for Trinity gays and lesbians—a subject that still rankles some of the more conservative Trinity members, says Dwight Hopkins, a theology professor at the University of Chicago and a church member.
None of that excuses Wright's hateful rhetoric in the pulpit, but it gives a fuller version of the man than we've been getting.
March 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Barack Obama's speech today in Philadelphia on the race-related controversy raised his pastor's remarks was, in the grand scheme of things, both brilliant and uplifting. He spoke about the racial anxieties of not just black Americans but whites and Latinos as well, and he recognized in a very rare way in politics that real grievances run in all directions.
Here's a video of the speech, in case you missed it:
In some ways the furor over the incendiary sermons by Rev. Jeremiah Wright played right to Obama's strengths -- a controversy he could address with a powerful speech, expertly delivered. Certainly anyone with an open mind who heard Obama speak so forcefully about his love for country and faith will accept that no part of Obama agrees with his pastor's outrageous statements.
For the immediate future, however, Obama did not do all that he could have to relieve legitimate doubts raised by the controversy. He has certainly used all the right words to condemn Reverend Wright's race-baiting and anti-Americanism in a way that will satisfy almost everyone. This primary season is already too consumed with Hillary's game of rejecting vs denouncing, etc., and it's downright ridiculous to see conservative pundits joining in now, since they generally abhor such silly semantics when practiced by the P.C. left.
Still, Obama would have dealt with his political problems more effectively if he responded to the utterances with specificity. He mentioned several in passing, including Wright's attempt to cast Israel as solely responsible for Middle East violence. But it would be reassuring, for example, to hear Obama directly refute Wright's exploitation of the urban myth that the U.S. government somehow infected African Americans with AIDS. That sort of ludicrous paranoia doesn't just sow distrust toward the government and white people, but is at a more fundamental level an attempt to deny the very existence of black gay and bisexual men. (President Ahmadinejad, anyone?)
But as a journalist I know that the key to settling a controversy is to give satisfactory answers to the lingering questions, the way Obama tried to with his three hours of meeting with Chicago journalists over the Mike Rezco matter. Yet on Wright, at least today, Obama may have succeeded in raising as many "nagging questions," as he called them, as he did settling others.
When it comes to specifics, Obama said:
Did I know [Reverend Wright] to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
It was a mistake to be so stingy with details, when the media will not let up until he is more forthcoming. What type of controversial statements did Obama here? On what topics? How frequently? Did he hear about other controversial statements from other parishioners? On what topics? How frequently? Did he ever raise with Wright directly his objections to any of these remarks? Did he and Michelle Obama consider leaving the congregation? You get the idea.
At the same time I recognize the political reality that Obama needs to answer these additional questions, I would also like to channel Hillary Clinton just long enough to complain that this whole line of questioning is being unfairly applied in practice.
As I've noted before, there is a real double standard in how the story has been covered. The second place candidate in the just-concluded Republican primaries was not just candidate with a pastor but a pastor himself -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. And yet Huckabee has refused help to release tapes or written copies of his own sermons. And what about Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is so poorly understood -- were we entitled to hear tapes of all the sermons from his church?
The videotapes of Wright's sermons made this an irresistible controversy, but the media should at the very least ask conservatives using Wright to tar Obama whether the sermons by Huckabee and by Romney's pastor are similarly fair game.
March 17, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There's been no shortage of opportunities to hear Barack Obama condemning the racially incendiary sermons of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and explaining their relationship. A quick list:
- Blog post by Obama on Huffington Post: Uses strong condemnatory language and clarifying that Obama wasn't in the pews when any of Wright's "greatest hits" were uttered.
- Interview with Anderson Cooper: By far the best interview in the bunch; Cooper presses Obama on whether he at least heard secondhand about Wright's post-9/11 sermon blaming the attacks on the U.S. and saying rather than "God Bless America," blacks should say "God Damn America." Obama makes the interesting point that Wright, like Geraldine Ferraro, is the product of a different time, and still harbors anger and frustration from that era. Obama sees himself part of a new generation that while benefiting from the efforts of Wright's, nonetheless moving beyond seeing the world through "a racial lens." Funny -- I can't imagine Hillary Clinton drawing the same kind of contrast with Ferraro, positioning her presidential candidacy as moving beyond gender victimization.
- Interview with Major Garrett on Fox News: The first third is a sophomoric set-up by Garrett that Obama handles well. Eventually Garrett moves on to the crux, whether Obama would have quit the church if he had been aware of the sermons.
- Interview with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC: I've linked to and commented on this one earlier.
- Obama's remarks yesterday in Plainfield, Ind.: Obama makes a powerful analogy to a speech by Robert F. Kennedy the night Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, and the choice we have to allow hate to divide us even further or to tread a common path that embraces commonalities.
- Interview with the Chicago Tribune: Second half of the interview focuses on Wright.
- Obama campaign posts YouTube video on Wright:
Some will no doubt never be satisfied that Obama has sufficiently denounced Wright's rhetoric, but that part is settled for me. I also accept his unequivocal statement that he was not present when the sermons were given and had not heard about them secondhand.
If you have been a regular churchgoer or have spent time around regular churchgoers -- I have both -- then you know it's common to hear someone say, "I just love Rev. Smith. He's so kind and his sermons or so powerful -- except when he starts talking about [subject x] and then he just goes off the deep end."
The lingering trouble I have is based on how fundamentally Wright's rhetoric conflicts with the core message of Obama's campaign. Maybe words really don't matter, as Hillary keeps claiming, if Wright could simultaneously preach such hate while providing someone with Obama's beliefs a happy church home.
What's more, Obama's appeal for so may is based upon his ability to heal divisions and bring people together. But will Obama really be effective in reaching the rest when he couldn't even reach his own pastor and (from the video it appears) many members of his own church?
That said, there is a very real double standard in how the story has been covered. The second place candidate in the just-concluded Republican primaries was not just candidate with a pastor but a pastor himself -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. And yet Huckabee has refused help to release tapes or written copies of his own sermons.
And what about Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith is so poorly understood -- are we entitled to hear tapes of all the sermons from his church?
This Wright story still has legs and deservedly so, but at this point I am cautiously optimistic that it will prove a "Sister Souljah moment" that establishes Obama's own principles in contrast to even some of his closest associates.
March 15, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Color me disappointed. The message of unity and "new politics" championed by Barack Obama is one that has resonated deeply for me, after years of watching in frustration while bitter partisanship and Rovian wedge politics undermined the common ground our system depends upon.
But it's hard to square Obama's message and rhetoric with the incredibly incendiary racism and anti-Americanism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of 20 years. You've no doubt seen the videos of Wright exhorting his congregation to replace "God Bless America" with "God Damn America"; or when he rails in support of Obama over Hillary Clinton because he knows black America is held down by "rich white people" and she's never been called the "N-word."
In one sense, Wright is only the latest in what appears an unending stream of supporters of each of the three remaining presidential candidates with outrageous views that must be denounced, rejected, repudiated, whatever. It's a game Obama tried to avoid last fall but now is fully a part of. But Wright's relationship to the candidate is of a different order than John McCain's John Hagee, Clinton's Geraldine Ferraro or Obama's Louis Farrakhan and Donnie McClurkin.
The Trinity UCC pastor has played a much more central and formative role in Obama's personal development, even providing the inspiration for the candidate's signature "audacity of hope." Only it's hate, not hope, that Wright is preaching in the videos making the rounds in the media, the internet and (of course) the right-wing talk shows.
I've waited to hear how Obama would respond to the specific sermons that have come to light, and late yesterday he took some important steps in a blog post on HuffPo and an interview with Keith Olbermann to put Wright's outrageousness in context.
First and foremost, Obama forcefully and unconditionally condemned Wright's rhetoric, which couldn't have been easy on a personal level:
I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.
He also confirmed that he hadn't been at the church when those sermons were delivered and insisted they weren't characteristic of the pulpit message he absorbed for 20 years:
The sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn. The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation.
That's the crux of the matter for me. If in 30 years of preaching Rev. Wright got (very) carried away a few times that have been cherry-picked by the media or oppo research, that's one thing. But if Obama sat through versions of that hateful message on more than very rare occasions over two decades, then it risks undermining the credibility that lies at the heart of his unique appeal.
Late yesterday, Wright dropped off the Obama campaign's African American Religious Leadership Committe, certainly the right decision for all concerned. But it will take more reporting about their relationship and more openness from Obama to sort through the contours of this story. Whatever effect it might have on his candidacy, short or long term, this isn't a two-day story to be swept under the rug. And better to air it now than in October.
March 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
THREE UPDATES: At the end of the post.
Remember the tape that surfaced of Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern railing that the "homosexual agenda" represented "a bigger threat" to America than terrorism and Islam and will be "the death knell of this country"? Well it's gone mega-viral, resulting in a cottage industry of rumor and half-rumor to sort through.
First there was the allegation first made in the comments section of a local news story about the controversy that Kern and her husband Steve, a Baptist minister, have a adult gay son named Jesse who they tried to "scrub" from her legislative profile. The Kerns denied their son is gay, according to Queerty:
Our son is not gay. We would still love him if he was, but that would not change the fact that homosexuality is a chosen life style and that we would pray for our son to have a change of heart. My heart goes out to the many parents who have lost sons to AIDs [sic] and other STDs. Those kinds of deaths are tragic because they could have been avoided.
There was no sourcing by Queerty for the Kerns' alleged denial, just as there was no sourcing on the original rumor.
Queerty nonetheless went on to report that a Jesse Jacob Kern, who may or may not be related to Sally and Steve Kern, was arrested for attempted oral sodomy in June 1989, a charge that was later dismissed. At least the charge and dismissal are sourced, although the connection between alleged son and parents is not.
Separately, on page 112 in the comments section to another local news story about the Kern flap, someone identifying herself as Elizabeth posted a letter to Kern she said was written by her teenage nephew Tucker, whose mother was killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The long letter (available in the jump to this post here), is incredibly powerful to come from a teen, chastising Kern for claiming gays represent a greater threat than the type of terrorism that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City:
Had I not had the chicken pox that day, the body count would've likely have included one more. Over 800 other Oklahomans were injured that day and many of those still suffer through their permanent wounds.
That terrorist was neither a homosexual or was he involved in Islam. He was an extremist Christian forcing his views through a body count. He held his beliefs and made those who didn't live up to them pay with their lives.
As you were not a resident of Oklahoma on that day, it could be explained why you so carelessly chose words saying that the homosexual agenda is worst than terrorism.
The letter was so powerful that it's been quickly posted on blogs like OMG, Pam's House Blend and Daily Kos, as well as the blogs for gay rights groups like the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign. Unfortunately, no one has any sort of evidence authenticating the letter, much less Tucker and his aunt Elizabeth. Both OMG and the Victory Fund told me in response to inquiries that they have no idea if the letter is legit, and I have a similar inquiry into Pam Spaulding.
To their credit, the Daily Kos diarist warned there was no verification and Pam's House Blend indicated the source was the comments section to the News 9 story. But more ought to be done to clear up whether the letter and these individuals are legit.
It's really unfortunate, of course, if the letter is a fake. The points about the comparative risks of terrorism and the "homosexual agenda," and even the domestic threat from Islamic extremism vs. Christian extremists, would be perfectly valid even if they weren't made by a teenager who lost his mother in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.
I'll update you if I learn more; in the meantime, all these good folks would be well served by a big fat disclaimer on the letter from "Tucker."
On the "Tucker" letter, Pam Spauling confirms that someone named "Dagon" posted the letter on her blog and I've sent an inquiry to that person, whoever he or she is. This is starting to really smell…
I've now heard back from "Dagon," who originally posted the letter from "Tucker" on Pam's House Blend. He indicated that he has no additional information that would validate the letter and in fact has "reservations" himself about whether it is legit.
I contacted HRC about reservations concerning the "Tucker" letter and the org's blogger posted this somewhat vague update to his Tucker post:
This week has seen an intense amount of coverage regarding Rep. Sally Kern's outrageous comments. Numerous sources have provided a wide array of information. As always, we've tried to keep focused on the very important facts and we're still trying to verify some reports. We're trying to track down the origins of this letter we linked to in this post...as are a number of other sources.
Do we think he's banned from using the "CC" word and linking here? :)
Posted by: Andoni
As a dual Amercan and Greek citizen, I was shocked to learn this morning that the the first same-sex civil marriage is being planned in homophobic Greece.
A lesbian group OLKE has found a loophole in the 1982 law that created civil marriage (marriage outside the church), which refers to "persons" rather than "man and woman." A lesbian couple has found a mayor of a district in Athens who sees no conflict with the 1982 civil marriage law to perform the ceremony.
A major reason Greece trails far behind the rest of Europe in gay rights is the very conservative and homophobic Greek Orthodox Church, which is in lockstep with the pope and the Roman Catholic Church on gay issues. Astonishingly, the new leader of the Greek Orthodox Church -- the old archbishop died last month -- seemed resigned to the idea when asked about heading off the proposed civil marriage. "There is a need to change with the time," he said.
In a sense Greece's hands are tied because European Union mandates have been pressuring member states to give lesbian and gay citizens full rights, including marriage or marriage equivalence. A number of states have begun to fall in line: the U.K. granted civil partnerships and Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium allowing full civil marriage. A number of other countries, including Sweden and Denmark, offer civil union equivalents. It is only a matter of time before all the members states are in sync with the E.U .mandates.
If Greece allows this same-sex civil marriage to proceed, it will jump from one of the most backward Western democracies on gay rights, to right up there with the U.K. I'm going to watch this one carefully.
March 09, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There's plenty I agree with in Nicholas Kristof's column in today's New York Times about the use of Muslim rumors as a "slur" against Barack Obama.
Kristof is surely right, for example, that "the most monstrous bigotry in this election isn’t about either race or sex. It’s about religion. The whispering campaigns allege that Mr. Obama is a secret Muslim planning to impose Islamic law on the country." Apparently there are even rumors that the Illinois senator is the Antichrist. How repugnant.
But Kristof commits the usual "multiculturist" error when he conflates intolerance toward intolerance as simply another form of bigotry; in this case, arguing that only a prejudiced voter would reject a candidate because he or she is Muslim:
Even if a prejudice is directed to a matter of choice, like religion or long hair, it’s still prejudice. It’s possible to believe that Catholics have every right to be president while opposing a particular Catholic candidate who would ban contraception; likewise, it’s possible to believe that Muslims have every right to hold office without necessarily embracing the candidacy of particular Muslims who advocate enveloping all women in burkas.
That's simplistic, at least as applied to Islam, when you remember that advocating burkhas is hardly the only example of Muslim bigotry. What if Islam were universally prejudiced toward particular groups? Is a voter bigoted or prejudiced for refusing to a vote for a candidate who is bigoted, simply because that prejudice is rooted in religion?
Prejudice is prejudice, even if it is dressed up as religion. In fact, when it comes to racism and sexism -- not to mention prejudice toward other religions and toward the non-religious -- bigotry is almost always dressed up as religion. And that's certainly the case with anti-gay bigotry.
After 9/11, I assigned reporters at the Washington Blade the task of finding out whether there existed a "moderate" branch of Islam that accepts gay people, gay relationships, and embraces individual sexual freedom. After research into Islam as practiced in the West and elsewhere, they located a very, very small number of individual Muslim thinkers willing to speak publicly in favor of fair and equal treatment of gays and respect sexual freedom. But there was nothing approaching a "reformed" or "moderate" or "progressive" branch of Islam that does so.
While there are Muslim politicians who believe in "the separation of mosque and state," I'm not aware of any whose secular views are separated far enough from their anti-gay faith that they support the fair and equal treatment of gay people and same-sex relationships.
If that analysis isn't accurate, or such a school of Muslim thought has since found favor with significant numbers, then I'd be pleased for someone direct me to it. Otherwise, it is fair to say that a Muslim candidate for public office has a much greater burden of proving that (a) he or she isn't prejudiced toward gays, and that (b) his or her (universally anti-gay) faith won't influence decisions of public policy.
If the test for Muslim bigotry were limited to support for burkhas, a belief by no means widespread among the world's Muslims, then Kristoff would be right that generalizations about faith would be grossly unfair and in and of themselves prejudiced. But he's wrong to insist that gays and those committed to fight against anti-gay prejudice are somehow bigots ourselves if we take note of the long and widespread history of anti-gay intolerance among Muslims -- not to mention the unwillingness of Muslim politicians to speak out against anti-gay bias, the way Obama has repeatedly done so among Christians. (Actually, how very un-Muslim of him!)
Western Europe is already paying the price for following a path of multiculturalism that goes so far as to tolerate everything, including intolerance, and for calling any sort of intolerance bigotry, even if it's intolerance of bigotry itself. Let's not repeat their error here.
March 03, 2008
Posted by: Chris
But unlike last week, when he made a general appeal to treating gays in a "Christian way," this time Obama argued that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount supported civil unions for same-sex couples. According to the anti-gay Christian News Service, Obama said this in Nelsonville, Ohio:
I will tell you that I don't believe in gay marriage, but I do believe that people who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and the state should not discriminate against them. So I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other.
I don't think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.
The segment is available in audio here.
Obama was never more specific about what in particular in the Sermon on the Mount justifies civil unions, but it is most likely that he had in mind passages like the Golden Rule ("Do to others as you would have them to do to you") or warning against judging ("Do not judge or you too will be judged.") The reference to Romans, of course, is to the specific admonitions against homosexual conduct contained in Paul's letters to Rome.
I generally agreed with Andrew Sullivan that Obama opened an important new front in the argument for gay rights by turning the religious opposition to our equality on its head. But I worry about this latest reference to specific passages in the Bible to justify a specific demand for equality. The danger is that doing so opens up the debate over civil unions into one of dueling of biblical passages, rather than the Constitution's purely secular guarantee of equality.
Or, as Marc Ambinder puts it, "Obama's reference was casual, and in referencing scripture he's committed the same (venial) sin that liberal religionists are always cataloguing as coming from conservatives: that they slip contextless biblical phrases into their political stump speeches and degrade the meaning of both."
March 01, 2008
Posted by: Chris
There's an excellent column out by gay author Bruce Bawer ("A Place at the Table," "While Europe Slept") about how the liberal multiculturalism has left Europe vulnerable to a rise in attacks by young Muslims against women and gays:
The reason for the rise in gay bashings in Europe is clear – and it’s the same reason for the rise in rape. As the number of Muslims in Europe grows, and as the proportion of those Muslims who were born and bred in Europe also grows, many Muslim men are more inclined to see Europe as a part of the umma (or Muslim world), to believe that they have the right and duty to enforce sharia law in the cities where they live, and to recognize that any aggression on their part will likely go unpunished. Such men need not be actively religious in order to feel that they have carte blanche to assault openly gay men and non-submissive women, whose freedom to live their lives as they wish is among the most conspicuous symbols of the West’s defiance of holy law.
Multiculturalists can’t face all this. So it is that even when there are brutal gay-bashings, few journalists write about them; of those who do, few mention that the perpetrators are Muslims; and those who do mention it take the line that these perpetrators are lashing out in desperate response to their own oppression. …
It’s very clear what’s going on here – and where it’s all headed. Europe is on its way down the road of Islamization, and it’s reached a point along that road at which gay people’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is being directly challenged, both by knife-wielding bullies on the street and by taxpayer-funded thugs whose organizations already enjoy quasi-governmental authority. Sharia law may still be an alien concept to some Westerners, but it’s staring gay Europeans right in the face – and pointing toward a chilling future for all free people.
Bawer references the attack on me and my boyfriend a few years back in Amsterdam for holding hands in the street. I think most gay Europeans have awakened to the fact that "tolerance" cannot be extended to the intolerance of others; it requires the kind of forceful push-back that Bawer offers.
But with the Archbishop of Canterbury, of all people, advocating a place for sharia within British law, there's no evidence that realization has reached Europe's liberal leadership.
February 28, 2008
Posted by: Chris
In the Cleveland debate earlier this week, Tim Russert pressed Barack Obama on whether he would reject the endorsement he recently received from Louis Farrakhan, who is of course famous for his anti-Semitic fulminations.
Obama tried simply denouncing the Nation of Islam founder for his anti-Semitism, but that didn't satisfy either Russert or Hillary Clinton. For her part, Clinton related how she actively "rejected" support from a New York political party controlled by anti-Semites and demanded Obama do the same. Obama ultimately caved to the impossible politics of the moment:
I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.
"Good. Good. Excellent," nodded Clinton.
Of course there is a difference between denouncing a view espoused by a supporter and rejecting all support from that source. Remember this is the same Barack Obama who refused to reject the support of Donnie McClurkin, a black gospel singer who claims to have been "cured" of his homosexuality? Back then, Obama saw the practical impossibility of combing the views of his supporters for those he finds objectionable:
One of the things that always comes up in presidential campaigns is, if you’ve got multiple supporters all over the place, should the candidate then be held responsible for the every single view of every one of his supporters? And obviously that’s not possible. And if I start playing that game, then it will be very difficult for me to do what I think I can do best, which is bring the country together.
That struck me as exactly right. Once a candidate starts "playing that game," then there's a slippery slope about which views among which supporters are so beyond the pale that denouncing the views isn't enough, and the supporter has to be "rejected."
But now Barack Obama is "playing that game," goaded or not, and the slippery slope between Farrakhan and McClurkin begs for some sort of explanation.
The same questions could be asked of Hillary Clinton, of course, who pushed Obama into not just "denouncing" but "rejecting" Farrakhan. Why, then, did Clinton accept the endorsements of African-American ministers like Bishop Eddie Long and Rev. Ralph Mayberry, who like McClurkin preach that homosexuality can be "cured"? And yet unlike Obama, Hillary has never "denounced" their anti-gay rhetoric or "rejected" their support.
Just last week, Hillary gave an interview to CBN News, the "news department" of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, even though Robertson has a long history of being virulently anti-gay, even blaming gay Americans for hurricanes in central Florida and the 9/11 attack. Does anyone doubt how the Clinton camp would have reacted if Obama had sat down for a chat with Farrakhan's Final Call newspaper?
Then today, when Clinton learned that prominent Dallas Hispanic supporter Adelfa Callejo had said some very intemperate things about why Hispanics won't support black politicians like Obama, Clinton's initial response sounded very much like Obama talking about McClurkin:
You know this is a free country. People get to express their opinions. … You can’t take any of that as anything other than an individual opinion.
Later, after confirming Callejo's remarks, the Clinton campaign issued a statement saying, "After confirming that they were accurately portrayed, Senator Clinton, of course, denounces and rejects them." Notice that, like Obama on Farrakhan before Hillary pushed him, Clinton has denounced and rejected the views she finds repugnant, not the endorsement or support from Callejo.
John McCain has his own denouncing and rejecting to do, according to Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo. The presumptive GOP nominee appeared on stage yesterday with Christian Zionist Pastor John Hagee, who Kleefeld said "considers the Catholic Church to be the Anti-Christ, and has said that Jews brought their own persecution upon themselves."
And last year, McCain famously gave the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, the same Falwell who joined Robertson in blaming 9/11 on gays. Liberty also treats students in gay relationships the way Bob Jones University treats interracial couples, expelling all involved. And unlike Obama (with McClurkin and Farrakhan) or Clinton (with Callejo), McCain hasn't done anything to distance himself from Hagee, Falwell or Liberty.
My point here is that this particular "political game" will ultimately sting anyone running a nationwide campaign, and Obama was right the first time that politics really ought to be about addition, not subtraction. It's ultimately pointless to pressure presidential candidates into "rejecting the support" of even their most extremist supporters. So long as the candidate denounces the offensive views, in clear and uncertain terms, then ultimately it's up to the supporter to decide whether to stick with the candidate.
Personally, I am tickled pink that unreconstructed types like Donnie McClurkin or Eddie Long are supporting presidential candidates like Obama and Clinton who are committed to a wide array of gay civil rights protections. I hope they do all they can to get them elected!
So long as the candidate doesn't waver from denouncing their bigotry, that ought to be enough.
Posted by: Chris
Politico's Ben Smith just posted about an energetic Barack Obama rally in Beaumont, Texas, that was largely attended by boisterous African Americans:
An interesting moment came when he was asked a question about LGBT rights and delivered an answer that seemed to suit the questioner, listing the various attributes — race, gender, etc. — that shouldn't trigger discrimination, to successive cheers. When he came to saying that gays and lesbians deserve equality, though, the crowd fell silent.
So he took a different tack:
"Now I’m a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday," he said, to a sudden wave of noisy applause and cheers.
"I hear people saying things that I don’t think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian," he said, and the crowd seemed to come along with him this time.
I won't just remark that Hillary Clinton would never attempt something so forceful before a largely black audience because the comparison's not entirely fair since she's white. But how about a largely white, working class audience, or if the issue had come up in her recent interview with the "news department" of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network?
(Photo of Barack Obama in Beaumont via Southeast Texas Record)
February 25, 2008
Posted by: Chris
Self magazine has published a poignant profile of a woman who learned, after a decade of marriage and pregnant with her fourth child, that her husband was gay. It's worth the read, but the take-away for me was this excerpt:
I was 30 years old when this happened, and Chris and I had been married for 11 years. We looked like the perfect family in our Christmas card portrait. Both of us grew up in the small-town South, and Chris was in the military. …
I was a 19-year-old college freshman in Kentucky when I met Chris. He was 22, a senior and a talented musician who could sing and play brass, keyboards and woodwinds. I'd never had a boyfriend before, and I felt incredibly flattered when this popular, good-looking guy asked me out. I was also pleased that we had a similar religious upbringing. I grew up going to a Methodist church, and I've always had a strong Christian faith. Chris's father was a Southern Baptist minister who preached fire and brimstone. …
It's not just her husband's (fake) name that makes this story ring true. Time and again, I have seen how the woman most vulnerable to marrying closeted gay men are those from the same sheltered conservative Christian background as the men who aren't equipped to come to grips with their sexual orientation.
These women (and the men who marry closeted lesbians) are the hidden victims of often-willful Christian ignorance about homosexuality. It's easy enough to see how gay men and lesbians can be tortured about their sexual orientation, worried about risking family, friends and even their eternal hereafter. But the roadkill in their torture are the heterosexual girlfriends and boyfriends they date and often marry.
The woman in the Self magazine profile actually had many more clues than most do. "Chris" told her at the end of their first date, out of the blue, not to believe all the rumors about him being gay. Most of those in the closet are a bit more adept at hiding who they are. But just as gays from small towns and conservative churches aren't informed enough about sexual orientation to come out, their girlfriends and wives aren't clued in as well about the signs to watch out for.
Still, let's be clear that responsibility for a sham marriage ultimately falls on the closeted homosexual, as well as on the pressuring family, church and society leaders insistent on making the case that sexual orientation is a "choice."
I remember all too well the relationships I had with women in college and law school. Whenever I felt like her feelings were becoming serious, I fell into a torment. On the one hand, the relationship held the hope of "saving" me from the feelings I tried so hard to stifle. On the other, I knew I would be risking her feelings and her future as much as my own. I would pull away, but I could just as easily see myself jumping in, with consequences I shudder to imagine today.
It's too much to ask of these "straight spouses," after all they've been put through, to stand up for us in public. But their stories bear powerful witness to the real human cost of anti-gay ignorance and religious-motivated bigotry.
January 24, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The Roman Catholic Bishop for Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands is now denying that he ever linked homosexuality with child sexual abuse, an issue which has of course crippled the Vatican's moral authority on issues of human sexuality (and more).
"I have not in any way compared, nor wanted to compare, nor do compare homosexuality with the abuse of minors," Tenerife bishop Bernardo Alvarez told a Canary Islands television station on Tuesday. "The abuse of minors is morally a very serious sin and judicially it is a crime," he explained.
Not only did Bishop Bernardo Alvarez in fact compare homosexuality to the sexual abuse of minors, he tried to dig himself out by blaming the victims of child sexual abuse for seducing their abusers. In the earlier interview, published last month in the newspaper La Opinión, Alvarez argued that homosexuality is actually a sort of sexual novelty like, according to him, sexual interest in minors.
When the reporter called him out on the obvious difference between a consensual gay relationship and child sexual abuse, the good bishop went on to make the outrageous claim that a good number of 13-year-olds clearly desire sexual relationships with adults and can, in fact, seduce them. How an institution with so fundamentally twisted ideas about sexuality can continue to stake a moral claim on any subject relating to human sexuality is beyond me.
Here's are the bishop's own words. Caveat: the translation from Spanish is my own, and they last sentence or two was especially tricky for me. The excerpt in original Spanish follows after the jump.
What do you think about homosexuality?
I think that the first thing to do is to distinguish people from the phenomenon. People are always worthy of the greatest respect. If a person, for some physiological reason chooses this way of life, they deserve my highest respect. Another issue is whether or not homosexuality is or is not a virtue. We must be very careful now because it cannot be said that homosexuality is suffering or suffers. It is not politically correct to say that homosexuality is a disease, malnutrition, or a distortion in the natural way of being. That was the reading in any dictionary psychiatric ten years ago, but today we cannot say it.
It is crystal clear that in this connection, my thinking is that of the Church: maximum respect for the person. But logically, I believe that the phenomenon of homosexuality is something that harms people and society. Eventually we will pay the consequences as they have been paid by other civilizations. I am not suggesting that homosexuality be repressed, but there is room between suppressing it and promoting it. I believe we must promote education. The values of femininity and masculinity must be inculcated in children. You can tell us these values are backward, but we believe that these values respect freedom but at the same time guide people.
Can sexuality be guided [by the church]?
People cannot be left to fend for themselves. Why not do the same with violence or with other impulses human beings have? Furthermore, only 6% of homosexuals are the result of biological issues. We must not confuse homosexuality as an existential need of a person, with that which is practiced as a vice. The person practices [homosexuality] like child abuse is practiced. He does it because he is attracted to the novelty, a different form of sexuality.
The difference between a homosexual relationship and abuse is clear.
Of course. But why is the abuser of children sick?
To begin with, an abusive relationship is not consensual.
But there can be minors who do consent, and in fact, such do exist. There are teenagers who are 13 years of age and are perfectly OK with it, and in fact wish it. Included are those who can provoke you if you're not careful. This thing of sexuality is more complex than it seems.
UPDATE: Rex Wockner, whose Spanish is definitely better than mine, offers what I'm sure is a better translation of the bishop's last answer:
There can be minors who consent to it and, in fact, there are. There are 13-year-old adolescents who are minors and are perfectly in agreement and, what's more, wanting it. Including, if you're not careful [if you let your guard down], they provoke you. This thing of sexuality is something more complex than it seems.
The original interview excerpt (in Spanish) follows after the jump.
January 22, 2008
Posted by: Chris
A new survey highlights just how skewed the evangelical view of gays is from that of other Americans, including even Christians who are "born again" but not fundamentalists -- believing the Bible is the inerrant word of God.
Asked which of a list of social issues were "major problems" for the country, those named most often by Americans generally were poverty (78%), the personal debt of individual Americans (78%), and HIV/AIDS (76%). Four other issues were named by about half the general population: illegal immigration (60%), global warming (57%), abortion (50%), and the content of television and movies (45%).
Only about one-third of Americans generally listed us gays as a "major problem," whether defined as "the political activities of homosexual activists" (35%) or "homosexual lifestyles" (35%).
Evangelicals, on the other hand, listed abortion (94%) most often as a "major problem" for America, followed by personal debt (81%), the content of television and movies (79%), and the gays -- activists (75%), and our "lifestyles" (75%). Doesn't that just about sum up the fundamentalist Christian worldview: an overarching concern that someone, somewhere is having too much fun?
The survey did reach a few additional interesting conclusions:
- party affiliation matters, even among evangelicals, confirming that there are very religious folk who nonetheless separate out their own theological beliefs from politics;
- the same holds true for born again Republicans, who are significantly more concerned than born again Democrats about homosexual activists (61% vs. 38%), and homosexual lifestyles (58% vs. 43%)
There's a caveat in how the Barna Group, an organization affiliated with evangelical causes, identified "born again Christians" and "evangelical Christians." Rather than allowing them to self-identify, respondents were asked if they agreed with a series of theological beliefs and the Barna Group decided if they qualified (how perfectly fundamendalist of them!).
Regardless, I can't help but ask which list looks more like the one by Jesus of the Gospels? The evangelical obsession with abortion, sex on TV and gays, or the average Americans' concerns about poverty, personal indebtedness and HIV/AIDS?
January 21, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The queens over at Queerty have their panties in a wad today because Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, a black minister known as one of President Bush's "spiritual advisers," has endorsed Barack Obama for president. Not surprisingly for an FOW, Pastor Caldwell is anti-gay and actively promotes a "cure" for homosexuality.
The insinuation here, just as it was during the overblown controversy over "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurckin, is that Obama should be stained because our culture war enemies are backing him. Lest we forget, Hillary Clinton had won endorsements from her own set of "Donnie McClurkin"-type anti-gay religious leaders.
Considering the whole point of election math is addition and not division, someone will need to explain to me why it's a bad thing if either Clinton or Obama manages to win the backing of anti-gay leaders. So long as the candidate does not flinch on his or her commitments to our issues, it can only be a good thing that their broader appeal as a candidate overcomes the gay issue.
Would we rather have Caldwell, McClurkin and the rest of them backing a Republican like Mike Huckabee?
January 01, 2008
Posted by: Chris
While the rest of us were celebrating the New Year and making resolutions, the leader of the world's largest Christian faith was declaring us a threat to not only the "traditional family" but "world peace" itself. According to Reuters:
Pope Benedict ushered in the third New Year of his pontificate on Tuesday with a call for the protection of the traditional family, which he said was vital for world peace.
The Pontiff, in an apparent swipe at gay marriage, criticized policies that undermine the traditional family unit based on a union between a man and a woman.
"I wanted to shed light on the direct relationship that exists between the family and peace in the world," the Pope said, in his first public address of 2008.
"The family is the primary agent of peace and the negation or even the restriction of rights of the family ... threatens the very foundations of peace."
Interesting that the pope can survey the world's conflicts, most of which boil down to religious zealotry and reaction to it, and somehow point the finger at secular states recognizing the legal rights of committed, long-term gay relationships. So Spain adopts gay marriage, and that's to blame for Al Qaeda and Middle East turmoil?
Back home in the States, our government is led by a president who's on the pope's side of the whole traditional family thing, and yet he's the one who launched a disastrous, elective war opposed by the Vatican. Similarly, the other side of President Bush's epic battle -- or the terrorists' War on Us as Rudy Giuliani likes to say -- is in agreement with the pope and the president on the gay relationship threat.
With real threats to world peace abounding, not to mention poverty and disease, Benedict has made demonization of gays and a focus on divisive social issues the central focus of his papacy. I certainly feel vindication in our decision at the Washington Blade to name him "Anti-Gay Person of the Year" for 2005 -- his first year as pope.
For related stories and the breaking news, click or bookmark: