August 17, 2007

Christian Leaders as Political Operatives

That continues to be a concern, and some (including me) believe a violation of IRS regulations.

Recently, Wiley Drake, the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, California and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, endorsed republican candidate Mike Huckabee for president. He did so in a press release made on church stationary and referenced his title with the SBC.


"Federal tax law is clear," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

"Churches and other nonprofits may not endorse candidates if they want to keep their tax exemption. I am confident that the vast majority of Americans do not want to see their houses of worship politicized."

I hope Rev. Lynn is right, he usually is. I know I agree with him.

Drake responded on Tuesday. "In light of the recent attack from the enemies of God I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer, especially against Americans United for Separation of Church and State."

I had to look up what an imprecatory prayer was, figuring is wasn't good. I was right. After checking several sources, the consensus is that an imprecatory prayer is akin to a curse, wishing misfortune on others, seeking some twisted form of what they perceive to be appropriate judgement from God for their offenses.

Yeah, this is the kind of guy I want to endorse my favorite presidential candidate (if I had one yet). Well, while he's busy praying against a legitimate non-profit organization, Drake is breaking the law with his political endorsement. I'm sure he will have a way to justify it, these kind of people always seem to, but it speaks poorly of his church for supporting him and the Southern Baptist Convention for having him in a position of leadership.

Maybe the IRS can lead him into paying taxes like other political operatives are required to do.

Detail on the Arlington High Point Church Gay Funeral Controversy

Everything you could possibly want to know about this situation can be found at Bene Diction Blogs On, he did a wonderful and very thorough job of researching both sides of this story, and there are clearly two sides to it.

Here is a brief summary:

46 year old Cecil Sinclair died Monday August 6, 2007 from a surgical infection. He was Fort Worth native, graduated from Sam Houston High School in Arlington in 1979 and from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. He was a Navy veteran of Desert Storm. An Arlington High Point unnamed staff member arrives at the hospital after he dies and offers to hold his memorial service at the church. Cecil’s brother Lee is a janitor at the church, which had been praying for Cecil since he became ill six years ago. Eva Bowers, Cecil’s mother, a nurse, moved in to care for Cecil a year prior to his death. The family accepts the church offer and preparations begin for a video, food, and the memorial. The memorial was scheduled for Thursday, August 9, 2007.

Tuesday August 7, 2007, Cecil’s sister Kathleen Wright, works with two church AV staff to prepare the photos. Paul Wagner’s statement says 83 pictures were submitted, and there was one photo which could be considered offensive. It was removed, and at no time did the family ask it be included.The two AV church staff did not say anything to the family about any other photos. Paul Wagner says the AV director received a written note from Cecil’s mother Eva Bowers giving her permission to “use his judgement” if he had a problem with any of them.He said he could edit or crop the photos, so there wouldn’t be a problem.

Wednesday August 8, 2007 Cecil Howard Sinclair’s obituary was published.Wednesday August 8, 2007 Arlington High Point Church pulled it’s invitation to hold the service.

That's when the proverbial poo-poo hit the fan. Faced with public criticism about retracting it's offer to host the funeral, the church went into full spin mode and very effectively turned public opinion back in its favor. One example of that is this article from The Christian Post titled "Texas Megachurch Harassed for Refusing to Host Pro-Gay Memorial."

As Bene Diction writes, the family reports that the church was not truthful about its reason for recanting the offer to hold the funeral and apparently greatly exaggerated the "inappropriate" content to be presented during the funeral. This information greatly degrades the postion of the church "taking a stand on principle." According to the information Bene Diction gathered, the church tried to simply weasel out of holding the service, then when faced with some backlash turn it into a PR situation.

Sort of easy to forget that a family lost a loved one here, isn't it? It's bad enough they had to mourn, they also had to cope with a public campaign to smear the deceased.

So tell me again why some GLBT people are predisposed to mistrust the church?

Montgomery County Could Be Isolated in Teaching on Homosexuality

That's the well-supported conclusion reached in this article in the New York Times.

Montgomery is a mostly well-educated, politically liberal enclave. But opponents of the new curriculum, portrayed as a vocal minority by school officials, may be more in sync with the mood of parents nationally.

According to a 2004 national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and National Public Radio, roughly three out of four parents say it is appropriate for high schools to teach about homosexuality, but about half say it is appropriate in middle school.

When asked about the issue in greater detail, more than 50 percent of high school and middle school parents supported teaching what homosexuality is about “without discussing whether it is wrong or acceptable.” Only 8 percent of high school parents and 4 percent of middle school parents said schools should teach “that homosexuality is acceptable.” The survey had a margin of error of 6 percentage points.

Montgomery County may be ahead of the country on sex education, but it may also just be out there, stranded on its own.

I've written about this before, but for those of you who don't know, the Montgomery County I'm referring to is in Washington, DC suburbs of Maryland, and I also happen to live there. If you want some background on the limited cirriculum that is scheduled to be taught this coming school year, check out the NY Times article.

Thanks to Teach The Facts, the advocacy organization that helped get this cirriculum put in place, for the link.

August 16, 2007

"Sometimes, a writer is called to stand up for something"

That's a quote from Andrew Sullivan, who called out Washington Post writer and LOGO/HRC Presidential Forum questioner Jonathan Capehart for not advocating for same-sex marriage in his writing. In fact, in this column from Monday's Post, Capehart gave the candidates a pass on not supporting it themselves:

I don't fault Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama or former senator John Edwards for their opposition to gay marriage, even if their explanations leave me scratching my head. Clinton's mantra that this is a states' rights issue, while logical, makes this descendant of slaves just a bit uncomfortable. Edwards backed off using his Southern Baptist upbringing to justify his opposition. But I still find it hard to believe his opposition is real since his no-nonsense wife, Elizabeth, and daughter Cate are in favor of gay marriage. And I can't even point to a reason Obama is against it, other than his oft-stated belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But that's okay. Look, they've all committed to snagging for the gay community as many as possible of the more than 1,100 federal rights and responsibilities that come with civil marriage that are now denied to committed same-sex couples. Isn't that what everyone's fighting for in the first place? Like it or not, it's a good start, and if one of these Democrats succeeds in winning the White House, he or she should be pushed to fulfill that promise.

And here's something else to think about before some of y'all fill my e-mail inbox with petty putdowns: Republican pursuers of the White House rejected their invitations to talk to the gay community about the issues important to it. Chances are that if they're not interested in talking to you during the campaign, they will be even less inclined to do so if they win.

Isn't the fact that writers like Capehart excuse candidates for coming up short on supporting GLBT equality make it easier for them to do so? The media does influence public opinion--not always a good thing but true nonetheless. Obviously not all journalists, even GLBT ones, are in position to wave the rainbow flag to support same-sex marriage and all other civil rights currently denied to members of the GLBT community, but Capehart clearly had an opportunity here and instead punted.

Sullivan's take was:

Sigh. Capehart's one of the good guys, he's an excellent journalist, and he played a role in getting Bloomberg to back marriage equality. But sometimes movements are too pragmatic for their own good. Sometimes, a writer is called to stand up for something, rather than defend those who cannot stand for what's right. Too many gay activists in Washington have flunked that test. If we are not passionate about our own equality, how do we expect straight politicians to be?

In today's America, most politicians are not leaders, they are followers, servants to opinion polls. The needles move on those polls when advocates have the opportunity to get their voices heard by large numbers of people. If those voices aren't strong and stand up for principles, then voters won't either. If voters don't demand change, today's politicians certainly aren't going to initiate it themselves.

August 14, 2007

Ethnic Cleansing In Europe--One Politician Wants It

Just when you think civilization has come so far, we get people like this:


A call by the deputy mayor of Treviso for the ethnic cleansing of gays from the region, in the north of Italy, has sparked a mass demonstration.

Nearly a thousand people turned out in front of the city hall on the weekend to demand the resignation of Giancarlo Gentilini.

Last week the rightwing politician told a local television station that he would order police to put an end to gay cruising which he claimed was out of control.

"I will immediately give orders to my forces so that they can carry out an ethnic cleansing of faggots," Gentilini told the station in an interview.

"The faggots must go to other [places] where they are welcome. Here in Treviso there is no chance for faggots or the like."

The politician's remarks brought back memories of the Mussolini dictatorship where Jews, gays and other minorities were rounded up and sent to concentration camps - mostly in Axis-controlled countries where many died during World War Two.

Nothing like the good old days, is there? Yes, there are still people in positions of power (though fortunately this politician didn't weild a whole lot of it) who just ooze hatred toward people different than them. I'm glad to see the people there wasted little time in demonstrating and showing him that those views would not be tolerated.

How many think like that but keep their mounts shut? I fear is it more than we would ever like to admit.

Lutherans End Punishment for Pastors in Same-Sex Relationship

From Reuters:

Homosexual Lutheran clergy who are in sexual relationships will be able to serve as pastors, the largest U.S. Lutheran body said on Saturday.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed a resolution at its annual assembly urging bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in "faithful committed same-gender relationships. "

The resolution passed by a vote of 538-431.

"The Church ... has just said 'Do not do punishments' ," said Phil Soucy, spokesman for Lutherans Concerned, a gay-lesbian rights group within the church. "That is huge."

The ELCA, which has 4.8 million members, had previously allowed gays to serve as pastors so long as they abstained from sexual relations.

The conference also instructed a committee that is developing a social statement on sexuality to further investigate the issue. The committee is scheduled to release its report in 2009.

Since the ELCA was founded in 1988, the group has ordered three pastors in gay relationships to be removed from their ministries. The most recent case was decided in July when the ELCA's committee on appeals voted to remove an openly gay pastor from St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta.

This is obviously encouraging, but the Lutherans are hardly overwhelmingly embracing this situation. A 538-431 vote means there is still quite a split in the church, and as the Christian Post reports, the day before the delegation had voted down a measure that would have ended the ban. That means that a ban still exists, but it is not enforceable with punishment.

That is not a situation that will lead to peace within the denomination and bears watching as time goes forward.

August 13, 2007

Giving the Right More Ammunition

I posted yesterday on the subject of not giving opponents of GLBT equality the opportunity to play themselves as victims. Here is another story that gives the right-wing more ammunition to damage the credibility of the GLBT community.

You've probably heard by now about four San Diego firefighters who were allegedly ordered to ride a fire engine as representatives of the department in the San Diego pride event last month. It was a common occurence for the SDFD to be represented in the parade, and the lesbian fire chief assigned four apparently straight and unwilling men to participate in this year's activities.

So of course they are now preparing to sue the city for having to endure "three hours of vulgar sexual harassment." No doubt the Thomas Moore Law Center, who is the legal representation of the firemen, latched onto this and, dare I say, fanned the flames for all it's worth.

From the Christian Post:

“‘Participation’ should be a voluntary act,” argued Brian Rooney, an attorney and director of communications at TMLC, in a released statement. “[T]hese four firefighters had no choice in the matter and that is wrong no matter what one’s sexual orientation.”

Unfortunately, he has a point.

"Even the homosexual community should be outraged and ashamed of the sexual harassment these firemen were forced to endure,” Rooney added.

“To say that this parade was sexually charged is an understatement,” commented Matt Barber, Concerned Women for America (CWA)’s policy director for cultural issues, in a statement.

Although most local papers reporting on the parade made no mention of the lewd and offensive behavior that characterized the parade, Barber noted that the event and other events like it “are simply pagan celebrations of hedonism and sexual deviancy.”

Although I have no doubt they are exaggerating, from what I've learned about pride parades, they're probably not totally making the story up either.

Two critical issues come up here that will allow the right to gain a lot of propaganda mileage out of what is, really, a very minor issue.

First, it seems to me that the fire chief should have tried to find four firemen who wouldn't have a problem participating in the event. If these men are telling the truth, they made it known that they did not want to do this and forcing them to do so was begging for trouble.

Second is the general nature of the pride parades. I do have some understanding of people wanting to express themselves in a manner that neither I or others find comfortable or appropriate. It seems to me, however, that the exhibitionists I believe can be found at every big city pride parade need to think a little less about themselves and more about others in the GLBT community. Their behavior only gives bigots and homophobes more ammunition to preach hatred and discrimination, and does so in a very public setting.

Can people just take a look at the big picture here? Obviously the right wing won't, instead making this issue, as they do so well, into a major event to galvanize support against perceived hedonistic GLBT people and get their fellow homophobes to dig deeper into their wallets to support the cause.

Knowing that, participants in events celebrating the pride of the GLBT community need to take some ownership of their own destiny. If you want equality, you need to be saavy enough not to give you opponents something to use against you. If you don't care about equal rights for yourself and others like you, then you don't have enough pride to warrant participating in these events. Save the drama and theater for the clubs.

Focus on the Family Supporting AIDS Benefit Race

I don't get a chance very often to say something positive about the folks at Focus on the Family within the context of this blog, but I have that chance now and I'm happy to jump on it.

Focus on the Family is supporting a local bike race in it's home base of Colorado Springs that is raising money for AIDS relief.

"We are all thrilled to death," said Linda Boedeker, executive director of the AIDS project. "We were also a little bit surprised."

I bet they were.

There seems to be the perception that (because) AIDS is seen as typically associated with the gay community, that Focus on the Family wouldn't care for these people," said Devin Knuckles, a spokesman for Focus on the Family.

"It's kind of hurtful," Knuckles said. "It's our mission to help people who need help."
Boedeker said that Focus on the Family's participation belies its local reputation for not supporting the gay community or many local events.

"We have had some complaints," Boedeker said. "There are a lot of people (who) think that Focus on Family must have an agenda. ... I think they are trying to do what's right in their community."

Ryan Acker, executive director of the Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said Focus on the Family's involvement in the race raised some serious questions.

"There's no doubt that Focus on Family has harmed many individuals and families in the community with their anti-gay rhetoric," Acker said. "There are many who feel they don't have a role here.

"I think that Focus on the Family's stepping up to the plate to help is the right thing to do," Acker said.

"They're only friendly to certain kinds of families," Citizens Project interim executive director Barb Van Hoy said of Focus.

"They are often a divisive force here," Van Hoy said. "But I think any participation that is going to help people who are hurting is a good thing.

Obviously one small step forward by Focus on the Family won't heal the deep hurt they have inflicted upon the GLBT community, but I'm glad to see the Colorado Spring activists, while acknowledging that, taking the high road and accepting their involvement in this event.

When it comes to helping people, it's time to look beyond grievances, no matter how justified they are, and focus on bringing the greatest benefit possible.

August 12, 2007

Don't Create Right-Wing "Victims"

People who display right-wing bigotry just LOVE to play the victim. I found another example of it in this column by Sandy Rios, a host on WYLL, a Christian talk radio station in Chicago. She had condemned the San Diego Padres allowing the San Diego Pride organization to have a block of tickets on the same night as a family event, "Floppy Hat NIght," was scheduled. It was not billed as a "Gay Pride" event like Ms. Rios erroneously stated in her column.

Anyway, she received some negative comments.....and relished every word of them.

Please do us all a favor … get raped and then killed. You rancid, filthy ___.” That’s a direct quote from an e-mail I received after appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

“You are a shameful disgrace and hate monger,” penned another in response to my statement that homosexuality is an unhealthy, life-shortening lifestyle that should not be promoted by the Padres to children.

This woman appears to be a pure homophobe, subscribing to the narrow-minded view that acknowledging the existence of gays and lesbians in "promoting them to the children." Homophobes love being able to portray themselves as victims of those supporting, wait for it, "the homosexual agenda."

Ms. Rios' received further attention for her remarks and went into full martyr mode:

For such “hate” I was named runner up for the “Worst Person in the World” by MSNBC’s Keith Olberman. This kind of vulgarity, exaggeration and the not-so-veiled threats are nothing new to those of us who dare speak the truth to a world turned upside down. Homosexual activists have propagated their deceptive message so effectively that their own community tragically believes they cannot change, they have no choice—and that people who oppose their “choice” hate them.

While I will never enjoy death threats and vulgar accusations, I know they can, at times, be the natural response of evil to truth. Committed Christ-followers for centuries gave their lives rather than be silenced. Can we not bear these comparatively little consequences in our own lost generation? Yes, we can.

You see, responding to these people with hate is like throwing gasoline on a fire. It energizes them and gives them an excuse to claim to the moral high ground. As you can see from Ms. Rios' comments, she spins the situation into her just trying to help save people, but some ingrates were very mean to her.

She also writes:

What does God hate? Religious phonies … liars … deceivers. Jesus drove them from the temple with a whip. He reserved his harshest comments for false teachers … calling them “blind guides … hypocrites … open-throated graves.”

She wrote this about Fred Phelps, but in my opinion it clearly applies to those who preach the type of judgement and condemnation toward the GLBT community that she spews herself.

Please don't e-mail her and tell her that though. It will just encourage her.

Instead, tell GLBT people you know or their friends and/or families who don't accept them as they are that those hateful, bigoted words are not of God, they are from people. God has a place for the GLBT person in His kingdom, and they don't have to stop being GLBT to get there.

Pastor Brenda has taught me that you will not win an arguement with someone like Sandy Rios. Her mind appears to be shut tight on that issue. Don't waste your time with her--save it for someone who needs to hear the true message of God's love and would benefit by receiving it.