June 02, 2007

More Examples of Religion and Politics Mixing--Poorly

Two items came to my e-mail over the last couple of days that reminded me how the intertwining of politics and religion is often to the detriment of both.

First, this item from Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

Americans United asserts that Bill Keller Ministries seems to have violated federal tax law when its online division, Liveprayer.com, ran articles warning readers that a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan.

“If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for satan!” asserted the ministry in the May 11 “devotional” posted on Liveprayer.com. “This message today is not about Mitt Romney. Romney is an unashamed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. The teachings of the Mormon cult are doctrinally and theologically in complete opposition to the Absolute Truth of God’s Word….This message is about the top Christian leaders in our nation who are supporting this cult members [sic] quest to become the next President of the United States.”

Keller apparently saw this report, writing this under the heading of devotional (what?!) dated June 2:

A real tool of satan, Barry Lynn who runs a group called the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has called on the IRS to investigate Liveprayer for my comments about Mitt Romney. Since I highly doubt Lynn even knows who I am, it would be interesting to know if it was the Mormons who put him up to this.

Nice. Another reminder that when someone uses the phrase "Absolute Truth of God's Word" or anything akin to that they usually mean "The Truth According to Me Using Scripture to Justify It." These folks generally don't take criticism very well either. For what it's worth, I LOVE Rev. Lynn. I have seen him speak several times on television and have a great respect for his views and the effectiveness with which he presents them.

Personally, I don't think there's much chance I would vote for Mitt Romney for President, but it has nothing to do with the fact that he's a mormon. I'm not voting for Chief Pastor, I'm voting for Chief Executive. I wish anyone who makes a decision whether or not to vote for a political candidate based on their faith and not their political record and views could have their vote taken away from them.

Then this disturbing notice arrived in my e-mail from Wayne Besen's advocacy organization, Truth Wins Out:

Truth Wins Out announced its strong and committed opposition today to President George W. Bush’s nomination for U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. James W. Holsinger, after it was revealed that he started a church in Lexington, Kentucky that has a ministry to “cure” gay people.

“Holsinger is an ideologue whose medical views on gay and lesbian people resemble sorcery more than sound science,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “The last thing America needed was another deplorable nominee who isn’t up to the job, but this is exactly what Bush delivered.”

Holsinger’s nomination will go before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) Presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) sit on this committee.

I'm way past the "you must be freakin' kidding me" reactions when Bush pulls something like this, jabbing a sharp stick in the eye of the GLBT and scientific communities yet again.

What I find particularly interesting here is the makeup of the Senate committee that will vote on this nomination. Senators Obama and Clinton have been making some ovetures to the GLBT community fishing for votes, but now it's their votes that will speak volumes about how much support they will actually give the gay and lesbian people they want to support them.

Lesbian Moms Taking Pride in Mormon Country

This is one of the best explainations of why the GLBT community celebrates in the annual Pride festivals.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Their household includes two parents and two sons, but they're rarely considered a family.

When Kim and Ruth Hackford-Peer visited a public recreation center, they were not allowed to buy a family pass. When they take their sons to pose for a family photo or visit the doctor's office, people call them sisters. And when they hold hands walking down the street, strangers stare in disapproval.

"There's just not an acknowledgement that we're a family," says Kim, who's been with Ruth for 10 years.

But once a year, Kim and Ruth look forward to their "favorite holiday" - the Utah Pride Festival, an annual four-day event better known in the gay community as Pride.

Here, Kim and Ruth don't have to be prepared to defend their family from adults who mumble rude comments. They don't have to tell people that they are lesbians and not best friends. They don't have to worry about their sons - 5-year-old Riley and 1-year-old Casey - being ridiculed for having two mommies.

If for only a few days during Pride, they are recognized as a family.

"It's celebrating our relationship, our family, our existence," Kim says, playing with her boys in their east side Salt Lake County home.

Ruth, a 33 year-old educator, describes Pride as an event where gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (GLBT) people can be "open" and don't have to feel ashamed of their lifestyle.

"It's about loving myself and who I am," she says. "It's about GLBT people celebrating the joys of being a queer person."

Pride is also turning into an annual tradition for gay families as the event organizes more kid-friendly activities, say gay parents.

Pride started in 1969 as a protest against discrimination and violence against gays in New York City, and today there are Pride festivals in cities worldwide.

That's what I learned at my first Pride event two years ago. It's about people celebrating who they are, especially since there are still a lot of people around who want GLBT people to hide in shame and not express their God given gift of homosexuality.

I strongly encourage members of the GLBT community to support their local Pride activities. I also highly recommend these events, especially the street festivals, to straight folks like me. If you've never been, I suspect it will be eye opening.

My church, Believers Covenenant Fellowship, will have a booth at Capital Pride in Washington DC on Sunday, June 10, just a few blocks down from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. If you're in the area, please stop by and say hello.

Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip on the article.

June 01, 2007

Groups Intensifying Efforts to "Redeem" Homosexuals

The efforts to "change" GLBT people to straight people are racheting up with new pushes by two organizations.

First, the Christian Post reports on expanded efforts by "ex-gay" group Exodus International:

In the past three decades, Exodus has challenged churches and the wider public who respond to homosexuals with ignorance and fear as well as those who uphold homosexuality as a valid orientation. And over the last five years since Alan Chambers stepped into presidency, the ex-gay organization has increased its number of member ministries to over 130 as well as its involvement in public policy issues and has become a prominent voice on gender issues, particularly in the wake of the Ted Haggard sex-and-drugs scandal.

Last summer, Exodus launched the Exodus Church Network, declaring itself a ministry of the church. Currently with 40 churches aligned to its network, Exodus helps churches to stand boldly on the truth of Scripture with regard to homosexuality, to minister to individuals struggling with unwanted homosexuality, and to create a nationwide referral list of churches for those searching for a church that will walk alongside them in their journey.

This report only prints one side of the issue and fails to mention how organizations like Exodus, by spreading the "ex-gay" myth, have destroyed lives and helped drive people to suicide.

The Southern Baptist Convention is also beginning a new initiative to "redeem" gay people. From Ethics Daily:

The Southern Baptist Convention is hiring a minister specializing in "gender issues" to help churches reach out and minister to homosexuals, without condoning same-sex relationships.
On Friday, Bob Stith, after retiring as pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas, becomes director of Southern Baptists' Ministry to Homosexuals Task Force.

Thirteen years ago Stith began to feel guilty about negative attitudes toward homosexuals coming across in his own preaching. He got involved in
Exodus International, a Christian ministry that leads people out of homosexuality, and Living Hope, a non-denominational Exodus referral agency in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

In 2001 Stith made a motion at the SBC annual meeting to establish a task force "to inform, educate, and encourage our people to be proactive and redemptive in reaching out to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions."
(The SBC didn't exactly rush into this did they?)

Stith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that no one in his church or family had struggled with homosexuality. (No, they're probably tucked away in the closet)

"In all honesty, my preaching about it had been negative, focusing on biblical passages about sin but not redemption," he said. "Those who heard me preach would never have come to me for help. When I realized that, it broke my heart. This ministry is just something God put on my heart."

Stith's softer rhetoric
contrasts with earlier statements by Southern Baptists denouncing homosexuality--such as the 1996 Disney boycott that targeted the company for providing domestic-partner benefits to gays--but it doesn't sway gay-rights groups like Soulforce and the Human Rights Campaign, who believe "ex-gay" outreach ministries do more harm than good.

I point these items out because it just makes it more impairative that GLBT Christians and their allies stand up and speak out, allowing THEIR message of God's love and redemption to carry the day. We needs to minimize the damage Exodus, the SBC, and any other groups that want people to deny who they are to conform to their limited understanding can do.

Transgender Minister Reappointed to Baltimore Methodist Church

A transgender United Methodist minister will be reappointed to lead his Baltimore congregation, church officials announced Thursday at a regional convocation.

The Rev. Drew Phoenix was greeted with applause after telling 1,600 members of the church's Baltimore-Washington conference that he had gone through "spiritual transformation" in the past year, since changing his name from Ann Gordon and receiving medical treatment to become a man.

"It is my intention and hope that by sharing my story that we commit ourselves as Christians and as United Methodists to become educated about the complexity of gender," Phoenix said. "Each of us is a beloved child of God - no exceptions."

Click here to read the entire report. You'll see that the opposition is just starting to warm up.

May 31, 2007

Religious Conservatives Overwhelm "Liberal Media"

Media Matters for America, a media watchdog organization, conducted a study to determine how the so-called "liberal media" balanced coverage of conservative and progressive religious news and views:

In order to begin to assess how the news media paint the picture of religion in America today, this study measured the extent to which religious leaders, both conservative and progressive, are quoted, mentioned, and interviewed in the news media.
Among the study's key findings:

o Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.

o On television news -- the three major television networks, the three major cable new channels, and PBS -- conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.

o In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.

o Despite the fact most religious Americans are moderate or progressive, in the news media it is overwhelmingly conservative leaders who are presented as the voice of religion. This represents a particularly meaningful distortion since progressive religious leaders tend to focus on different issues and offer an entirely different perspective than their conservative counterparts.

Reactions to these findings were presented at EthicsDaily.com:

"I have long felt the media have given Americans a distorted view of what people of faith believe," said Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. "This research from Media Matters proves that."

"This important report makes a compelling case that Americans may be getting an incomplete story," said Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for Common Good. "It's a story that too often features strident commentary from the usual suspects, divisive culture warriors with a message that fails to speak to the fullness of our rich faith traditions."

But Robert Knight of the conservative Media Research Council found fault with the study.

"Religious liberals march in lockstep with the liberal, secular media, so they have to go to conservatives to get controversy, because that's what makes news," he said.

Knight said it isn't enough to say there are more conservatives cited in the media.

"It's what did they let them say," he maintained. "Often they'll let the liberal give a heartfelt argument for that point of view, and then they'll allow the conservative one of the weakest points a conservative made.

"Having been in journalism and seeing that side of it, and having been on the other side of the camera and the notepad, I can tell you often the most powerful points are just thrown into a wastebasket if you're the conservative."

People, at least book buyers, seem to be tuning out. According to this report from the Christian Post, sales of religious books dropped 10.2% in 2006 from the previous year.

Unfortunately, due to the judgemental rhetoric often offered by religious conservatives, I suspect they have soured people on reading books that actually could be a spiritual blessing to them, which also ties in to the rise of books on athiesim.

GLBT People in India Hope "QueerFest" Opens Minds

India is not an easy place to be gay, in no small part because it is illegal. Gay rights activists are hoping to change some minds this week with the 10-day festival "Queerfest 07." Sounding similar to the Gay Pride events we are so used to in the United States, this is a revolutionary event in India. From the Washington Post article:

Homosexuality is a crime in India and can result in a jail term of at least 10 years.

While the British colonial-era law has rarely been enforced, activists say it has become a tool for police to harass gay and lesbian couples in order to get bribes.

If couples refuse or are unable to pay a bribe, they are often put in dingy cells, brutally beaten and humiliated.

The anti-gay law, which dates back to the 19th century, is now being questioned by gay rights groups who argue that not only is it an abuse of human rights but also acts as an impediment in the fight against HIV/AIDS in India.

However, the government says Indian society is not ready to legalize homosexuality. A court judgment is pending.

Activists say the festival -- which will include talks, photo exhibitions, films, performances and a candlelight vigil -- is an attempt to use culture to help society recognize the rights of India's homosexuals.

Hopefully this festival will make a difference. It's unfortunate that right-wing Christians are not the only group who can aggressively discriminate against GLBT people.

The battle for equal rights is being fought on many fronts in many nations across the globe.

May 30, 2007

Is the Same-Sex Marriage "Battle" Equivalent to World War II?

The title is, of course, a ridiculous question. Unfortunately, it is the premise for a letter sent out by MassResistance, the lobbying group that is trying to push same-sex marriage, legal in Massachusetts, onto a ballot referendum. Here is an excerpt, the entire letter is printed on Pam's House Blend:

This Memorial day, here in Massachusetts in 2007, the homosexual lobby dominates our State House, and is filing bills to push their agenda further than ever. They have homosexual clubs in high schools across the state. They use state money to bring kids downtown to mingle with adult cross-dressers and other hard-core activists. A federal judge ruled that schools can show picture books to elementary school children about homosexual romance. And our political leaders help raise money for their movement.

Sixty-five years from today, what will people remember about what you did to stop them? Will you dedicate yourself to this fight?

World War Two was won with guns and bullets and bombs. This war will be won with truth and fearlessness. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we can and will prevail completely. Our adversary's movement has the illusion of indomitable strength, but at is really a house of cards, held up by threats and intimidation and a dysfunctional ideology. If you are willing to fight - to tell the truth and not be afraid - it will fall.

There is one difference from 1942. Today, one of the biggest obstacles in this battle is the mainstream conservative movement itself - our side. They value "dignity" and "polite behavior" over speaking the harsh and uncomfortable truth. They preach prayer as a way to avoid taking action. They seek to compromise as a way to avoid conflict. They talk about differences of opinion as a way to avoid facing good versus evil. It subverts our efforts and causes terrible results.

Did people in 1942 talk about respecting the Nazis "choice" of political philosophy? Or that we ought to consider letting Japan have Korea and the Solomon Islands if they'd let us have the Philippines - because that's what the "experts" say we could work out?

Don't listen to them. It's a false promise. It's extremely tempting but it's the road to hell.

Just when you think the right wing can't stoop any lower, they manage to pull it off. How dare this organization insult the brave men who risked, and often lost, their lives to defend the United States from a true threat of tyrany. How dare they diminish the sacrifices the people on the home front had to make to support this effort, from long separations from loved ones to rationing of gas, nylon, and other basic staples needed for the war effort. How dare they compare people who merely want the right to marry without in any way, shape, or form infringing on the rights of anyone else, to the freakin' Nazis!

If anyone is on the road to hell, it is the person or people who wrote this abomination of a letter.

Leave Tinky Winky Alone!

I have a confession to make.....

I love the Telletubbies (Po is my favorite).

There, that's a weight off my shoulders. My late wife Bette (La La was her favorite) and I just thought they were adorable. I ask you, how can you NOT love the Telletubbies?

Sadly, not everyone does. I thought the last hater was gone when Jerry Falwell recently passed away, but once again Tinky Winky (the purple one with the purse for those keeping score at home) is under attack.

From the BBC:

A senior Polish official has ordered psychologists to investigate whether the popular BBC TV show Teletubbies promotes a homosexual lifestyle.

The spokesperson for children's rights in Poland, Ewa Sowinska, singled out Tinky Winky, the purple character with a triangular aerial on his head.

"I noticed he was carrying a woman's handbag," she told a magazine. "At first, I didn't realise he was a boy."

EU officials have criticised Polish government policy towards homosexuals.

Ms Sowinska wants the psychologists to make a recommendation about whether the children's show should be broadcast on public television.

Poland's authorities have recently initiated a series of moves to outlaw the promotion of homosexuality among the nation's children.

Tinky Winky's psychological evaluation is being treated fairly light-heartedly by many people here.

One radio station asked its listeners to vote for the most suspicious children's show. Some e-mailed in, saying that Winnie the Pooh had only male friends.

Even Ms Sowinska has backtracked a little, insisting that she does not believe the Teletubbies is a threat to the nation's children. But the evaluation is still going ahead and her office can recommend that the show should be taken off the air.

Poland was criticised recently after its education ministry announced plans to sack teachers who promote homosexuality.

Last month the European Union singled out Poland for criticism in its resolution condemning homophobia in the 27-member bloc.

It's hard to take this very seriously, but I ask everyone to please refrain from leaving any Polish jokes in the comments. Your discretion is appreciated.

Save Tinky Winky!

May 29, 2007

Book Review: "Bashing Back"

Wayne Besen, a syndicated columnist and Executive Director of Truth Wins Out, a GLBT advocacy organization, has released a new book titled, “Bashing Back” (Harrington Park Press, 207 pages, $14.95). The cover features Besen wearing boxing shorts and gloves, and the collection of his syndicated columns chosen for this volume live up to that image.

Besen’s was one of the first GLBT oriented websites I was linked up with when I started this blog, and it didn’t take very long to discover the creativity, biting wit, and insight that are featured in his writing. All of those qualities come through in “Bashing Back.”

Although his career has featured a lengthy stint as a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign and the establishment of Truth Wins Out (an organization that “counters right wing disinformation campaigns, debunks the ‘ex-gay’ myth, and provides accurate information about the lives of GLBT people.”), Besen has also worked for news organizations and goes beyond GLBT issues in his writing. “Bashing Back” features numerous columns on issues in culture and politics that affect the general population.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his columns. There were plenty of quality ones to chose from:

On Civil Unions:

…..gay people are a small minority and can’t afford to be obstinate and reject civil unions as a last resort. Our families need protections today, and idealism won’t get them hospital visitations rights. However, fair-minded people should always push forward and be wed to the idea that America should never settle for a system that doles out different rights to different people simply for who they are.

On Republican Attitudes Toward GLBT People:

(President) Bush and his sophisticated Republican cronies have enough gay friends, colleagues, and family members to know their red-meat rhetoric is pure nonsense. Sadly, gay people are considered expendable and collateral damage in Bush’s unprincipled war for reelection.

On “Modern Conservatism”:

Modern Conservatism is a fraud. It is the province of hypocrites who stand for no core principles except amassing political power. Nowhere is hollowness of conservatism more evident than in cynical election year attempts by Congress to ban same-sex marriage.

I have to admit, I sometimes envy right-wingers. They can be as creative with reality as they wish, and their bamboozled base of boobs rewards their audacity with membership and money.

On Dating in Cyberspace:

In cyberspace, however, if you ask for Don Juan, you’re likely to get Don Knotts. Recently, I was flirting with a guy on the Internet who said he was a great catch. He wasn’t kidding. When I eventually met him in person he looked like a salmon. (What a great line!)

On Religion in the GLBT Community:

Unless we win the battle of heaven, the right wing will continue to make our lives hell. To win the hearts and minds of most Americans, powerful alliances with religious organizations must be forged, and GLBT people of faith must be respected. (Amen!)

On Evangelistic Response to AIDS in the GLBT Community:

AIDS has killed millions of people while evangelicals have been, at best, indifferent. It is great that they want to get in the compassion game a quarter of a century after the fact. However, if evangelicals want a truly loving marriage with the gay community, they need to treat us with respect in both sickness and in health. If they are going to condemn our loving relationships in the bedroom, there is no place for them at our bedsides.

I really enjoyed this book, which is organized alphabetically by the subject of the column. This makes it easy to pick and choose columns that are near and dear to your heart, but I recommend taking the time to read each one—you could miss something interesting and entertaining.

This book alternately made me nod my head in agreement (I read many excerpts to Pastor Brenda), laugh out loud, or wince at the edginess. Agree or disagree with Besen (I largely agreed), his writing will hold your interest, his information is well researched, and his conclusions/suggestions show creativity and a passion for doing the right thing, two qualities often lacking in today’s public discourse.

Besen is much more in-your-face and confrontational than I am, but I find his voice to be a very important one in leading the fight for GLBT equality. I highly recommend “Bashing Back,” and you can purchase it at Amazon.com or buy an autographed copy at Wayne Besen’s website.

Opening of the "Creation Museum"

The Creation Museum opened Monday in Petersburg, Kentucky, not too far outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. From the article in the Washington Post,

Despite the showmanship behind the $27 million museum opening here Monday, the evangelists who put it together contend that none of the gleaming exhibits are allegorical. God did create the universe in six days, they say, and the Earth is about 6,000 years old.

But in this latest demonization of Darwinian evolution, there is a sticking point: For the biblical account to be accurate and the world to be so young, several hundred years of research in geology, physics, biology, paleontology, and astronomy would need to be very, very wrong.

"This may be fascinating, but this is nonsense," said Lawrence M. Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Case Western Reserve University and a vocal defender of evolutionary science. "It's fine for people to believe whatever they want. What's inappropriate is to then essentially lie and say science supports these notions."

Eugenie C. Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, calls the sparkling facility "the creationist Disneyland."

I post this story here because (1) people behind this are some of those who demonize GLBT people and (2) I just needed to vent about it.

The mentality of taking the bible as the "literal and inerrant Word of God" was a driving force behind the construction of this museum. That is the same mentality that harps on specific translations and interpretations of the Bible (like the GLBT "clobber verses") and calls someone like me a heretic if I disagree. According to them, if you can't refute the staggeringly overwhelming evidence to the contrary and say without a doubt that the Earth was formed in six calendar days by God 6,000 years ago, well, you just don't belive enough if at all.

"When you're talking about origins, you're not talking about science," (Ken)Ham (an evangelist) said as charter members snapped photographs in an early walk-through. "You're talking about belief."

As for myself, I don't think it is really the big deal some conservatives are working hard to turn this issue into. I don't care if the seven days mentioned in Genesis were literal calendar days or something esle. My faith is not caught up in defending any specific timeline in the Bible. I focus on what the Holy Spirit does in my life and how He wants me to minister to others in a way that can make a positive difference in their lives.

How much difference do you think $27 million could have made in peoples lives? How many could it have fed and clothed. How many young single mothers the right wingers fought so hard to prevent from having abortions could some of those funds have helped? How many churches could have used that money for outreach ministry?

Jesus didn't build a museum for His Father, he focused his energy and the resources of his followers on helping people and saving their souls.

Aren't we supposed to be following his example?

P.S. My gifted, spiritual wife Pastor Brenda pointed this out when I read this post to her:

Genesis 1:1 (NIV) In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. God saw that the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day and the darkness light. And there was evening and there was morning the first day.

So then, what was God looking at as the "first day" began? How long had that been there, with solid ground, water, and gravity already in place?

Maybe a few billion years? The Bible does not tell us, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

May 28, 2007

Watch Out for Gay Terrorists in Alabama

At least that's what the Alabama Department of Homeland (In)Security was thinking when they included gay rights organizations on a list of groups that they alegedly felt could include terrorists.

Since the list reportedly included anti-war organizations, environmentalists, animal rights advocates, it's easy to think that instead of spawning terrorists, they included every group that was likely to skew Democratic when they voted.

This list has been dropped from the department's web site after, imagine this, people complained about the UTTER STUPIDITY OF IT.

The only thing they appeared to get right was also listing anti-abortion groups, since they actually do have a documented history of violently attacking abortion clinics.

While the Alabama Department of Homeland (In)Security was watching these groups, who was watching people who might have actually been planning on engaging in terrorist activity? After all, they couldn't let their own prejudice get in the way of protecting the citizens of their state, now could they?

GLBT Activists Have Rough Time In Moscow

From CNN.com

Russian police detained gay protesters calling for the right to hold a Gay Pride parade in central Moscow on Sunday while nationalists shouting "death to homosexuals" punched and kicked the demonstrators.

Riot police detained gay rights activists as they tried to present a petition asking Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has called gay marches satanic acts, to lift a ban on the parade.

Nationalists and extreme Russian Orthodox believers held icons and denounced homosexuality as "evil" while a group of thick-set young men turned up with surgeon's masks, which they said would protect them from the "gay disease." (Watch angry opponents punch protesters)

"We are defending our rights," said a young gay man named Alexey, with blood pouring out of his nose after he was beaten up by a man screaming "homosexuals are perverts" opposite the mayor's office. His attacker was detained.

"This is terrible but I am not scared. This is a pretty scary place, a pretty scary country if you are gay. But we won't give up until they allow us our rights," he said.

In an understatement that I assume was not ment to be humorous, the report said:

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 but tolerance is not widespread.

No kidding! The report continued:

"We believe these perverts should not be allowed to march on the streets of Moscow, the third Rome, a holy city for all Russians," said Igor Miroshnichenko, who said he was an Orthodox believer who had come to support the riot police.

"It (homosexuality) is satanic," he told Reuters. One man holding a crucifix threatened to beat-up any gay person he saw.

A couple of things really strike me here. First, Russia didn't decriminalize homosexuality until 1993! Talk about a hostle environment for GLBT people. Second, despite being the ones getting physically attacked, it was the gay protesters who were arrested. There was this comment on that:

"It is very conspicuous when people are arrested in front of the mayor's office when they were doing nothing other than trying to present a peaceful petition," said Scott Long, a rights activist with Human Rights Watch who observed the events.

"There was no real attempt to separate the two sides and that led to people being beaten up," he said. "I would call on the Russian authorities to protect freedom of assembly, protect freedom of expression and protect demonstrators."

The Cold War may be over, but there are still some serious battles being fought on Russian soil for human rights, and GLBT people are really struggling in theirs.

May 27, 2007

GLBT Cirriculum Passed--And Needed--In California

From the Christian Post:

The California Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would prohibit all classes, textbooks, and teachers from any instruction that "reflects or promotes bias against GLBT people.

Not everyone is happy:

"SB 777 is designed to transform our public schools into institutions that disregard all notions of the traditional family unit," said Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute (CRI), in a statement. "This reverse discrimination is an outright attack on the religious and moral beliefs of California citizens."

Fine. The CRI would probably prefer keeping this status quo:

From the Boston Edge newspaper:

A new study shows that anti-gay prejudice is rampant in America’s middle schools, making bias the norm, rather than the exception, and adding urgency to what has become recognized as a need to educate children about bullying and to enforce zero-tolerance anti-bullying policies.

The study, titled A Voice from the Middle, was released by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Phi Delta Kappa International. The report reveals that 77 percent of middle schoolers believe that their classmates have a negative attitude toward people they think are gays or lesbians; 26 percent of middle schoolers went so far as to say that their classmates have a "very negative" attitude.

"This survey, like so many before it, illustrates the difficulties lesbian, gay and bisexual students experience in school," said Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. "

The Christian Post article mentions the fear of "normalizing homosexuality." Obviously the right wing benefits from GLBT people being considered "abnormal" and want to bring up the next generation with only negative impressions of homosexuality.

As a youngster, I went through some of the early teaching of African-American culture and, not coincidentally, gained a better understanding of their issues and learned acceptance at an early age. Civil rights for African-Americans just seemed to make sense since they were people like me.

The same truth applies to the GLBT community, but social conservatives don't want people to learn that. It would diminish their political power and reduce the number of people willing to financially support their bigotry and hatred.

Fortunately, legislatures across the nation have taken action similar to what California has done, mandating teaching acceptance of ALL people.

Athiest's Books Selling Big-Time

From the Christian Post:

The time for polite debate is over. Militant, atheist writers are making an all-out assault on religious faith and reaching the top of the best-seller list, a sign of widespread resentment over the influence of religion in the world among nonbelievers.

Christopher Hitchens' book, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," has sold briskly ever since it was published last month, and his debates with clergy are drawing crowds at every stop.

Sam Harris was a little-known graduate student until he wrote the phenomenally successful "The End of Faith" and its follow-up, "Letter to a Christian Nation." Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" struck similar themes — and sold.

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif., said the books' success reflect a new vehemence in the atheist critique.

"I don't believe in conspiracy theories," Mouw said, "but it's almost like they all had a meeting and said, 'Let's counterattack.'"

Is this really a surprise? Not to me. I wonder just how many people the religious right has pushed away by their desire to establish a theocracy and write hatred and discrimination into the U. S. Constitution, not to mention all of the states.

With power-hungry bigots acting that way in the name of God, no wonder people are turning to alternatives. If you are an athiest with a message, there has been no better time to put a book out on the market because people are hungry to hear anything but the bluster and Old Testament judgementalism of the religious right.

That's why it is so important for Christians with a different message to get it out there in the public forum. There are other paths to God besides what the religious right spews.

We just need to tell people before they settle into a path further away from God.