July 08, 2006

The Top Ten Religious Right Power Brokers

If you visit this blog regularly (thanks if you do), you notice I don't go very long without writing about one of what I think of as the "unholy trinity," Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell. There are times I wonder if I actually do focus on these men and their organizations too much, but then I see something like this, a listing of the top Religious Right power brokers.

Those three men account for six positions on the top ten as ranked by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network is #1 and his American Center for Law and Justice is #6. Dobson's Focus on the Family is #2 and his Family Research Council is #7. He was also one of the founders of the #4 ranked Alliance Defense Fund. Falwell's ministry is ranked #8 and one of my other favorite targets, the American Family Association, is ranked #5.

It strikes me that the top ten organizations, which were ranked according to reported 2005 income, accounted for nearly $450 million combined. That kind of money will buy a lot of broadcast time, print a lot of books and pamphlets, and hold a lot of conferences.
There is a good summary of each organization in the report I link to, including James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries (#3), Concerned Women for America (#9), and the Traditional Values Coalition (#10).
Tim and Beverly LaHaye founded the CWA, but LaHaye is probably better know for his "Left Behind" series of novels and the growing media empire based on them. Tim LaHaye used to be an associate pastor at a church I belonged to in the late 1980's--Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland. He was a dynamic preacher, but needless to say my view of life and Christ have grown since then. LaHaye's bank account has grown dramatically during that time too.
BTW, did you know that all you homosexual activists have Mao Tse Tung as your hero? The Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, does. Can he really believe all of the crap he says?

Typical Religious Right Rhetoric

Dr. Jerry Falwell was celebrating the ruling against same-sex marriage in New York in his most recent weekly e-mail message. To sum things up, he wrote this:

"But I have a question: if “every couple in a loving and committed relationship” should be afforded the right to marry, then do we not need to also allow bigamists, polygamists, Man-Boy Love Association members and all others in “alternative” relationships to marry? And if we do not afford them the same right, who are we to bar their inclusion into a diverse society? Of course, this is a nonsensical argument, but no more so than the attempt by homosexuals to gain the right to marry"

Isn't that typical. When you can't win a logical or intellectual arguement, you try to reach into the raw, base instincts of people. You try to promulgate fear, even if the assertions you use to do so are not based in fact. It doesn't matter if that is actually the nonsensical arguement itself as long as it makes people afraid and, out of that fear, they act the way you want them to. That is often the policy of the Republican Party in this country just as it is the Religious Right (often the standard bearers for the Republicans; or is the other way around? It's hard to tell anymore).

As effective as this approach is, just imagine if that's how Jesus had presented the gospel to people. Think how many more people would have accepted Him.

Think of how that would have diminished Christianity.

Look at how these modern day fearmongers diminish Christianity. Fortunately, they can't diminish Jesus.

A Very Personal Struggle

My fellow blogger Peterson Toscano is sharing the struggle his friend Marvin is going through with his sexuality. Marvin has reached the point where he is moving to Memphis so he can attend Love In Action, one of the more notorious ex-gay groups.

Marvin has contriubted a number of audio blog posts giving some insight to what is going on in his heart and mind as he moves toward this crossroads in his life. Peterson wrote what I felt is a warm, loving letter of encouragement to him, sharing his own experneices in an ex-gay camp.

I share this with you because, if you are interested in what leads someone to submit themselves to the ex-gay treatment, this series of posts will certainly shed some light on it.

July 06, 2006

NY Court Rules Against Gay Marriage

The supporters of equal rights for the GLBT coummunity lost a round in that ongoing battle today when the New York Court of Appeals ruled that same-sex marriage is not allowed under state law. The opinion was written by Judge Robert Smith. In it, he wrote "We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives."

I can't help but wonder if all the rhetoric put out in the public domain by right-wing opponents of same-sex marriage about "activist judges" may have affected one or two of the votes on the court, which voted 4-2 on this ruling. In dissenting, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye wrote, "I am confident that future generations will look back on today’s decision as an unfortunate misstep.”

Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director of Empire State Pride Agenda, responded to the ruling with this challenge, "Today's decision is far from the end of the battle for New York's lesbian and gay families. The Court has had its say, and now it is time for our elected officials to stand against discrimination and support marriage equality. Today, the Pride Agenda begins a campaign to press Albany to pass a marriage bill in 2007. For two years, legislators have waited for the Court to rule on this issue. It's now time for Albany to lead."

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese was resolute, "“Every couple in a loving and committed relationship should be able to obtain the legal protections that only come with marriage. We know that the struggle for equality is never quick or easy, but history has taught us that with determination, debate and devotion — the side of progress ultimately prevails. We will continue to move forward.”

Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, lashed out at the court, “Today’s tortured and intellectually strained decision is beyond disappointing. It is insulting to gay and lesbian people and our families. It is an egregious departure from the New York Court of Appeals’ long and proud tradition of advancing liberty and dismantling discrimination. It is a disgrace to the constitution and the people of New York.'

The Family Research Council's Vice President for Policy, Peter Sprigg, on the other hand, was feeling rather chipper, "The New York court reasonably concluded that the legislature has a legitimate interest in promoting responsible procreation and can 'rationally' believe that children need both a mother and a father. The court's well-reasoned ruling is a shining example for other courts across the nation. As we await rulings in several other states, we can only hope that other courts will exercise similar judicial restraint and avoid substituting their own social policy preferences for those of the legislatures and the people."

American Family Association Center for Law and Policy chief counsel Steve Crampton sees the decision as a "major blow” to the “radical homosexual effort to reconstitute the moral framework of our nation.” He added, "“For years the homosexuals have used the courts to get what they could never get through the democratic process; in New York, at least, they will have to seek change the old-fashioned way.”

Remember, courts that agree with the right wing are good, those who disagree are radical activists. Or are the radical activists on the right wing side and courts who disagree with them concerned about equality and fairness? Sadly, I could probably quote the response to that question from each of the officials I quoted here nearly verbatim.

July 04, 2006

"Vote for Jesus"

Given that today is Independence Day in the United States (for those of you who saw the movie, it's always a bit of a relief when another one goes by without alien attack) I thought linking to this column was appropriate.

The writer, a Baptist pastor in Alabama whom I have linked to before, talks about how Jesus and faith are now tools to be used by politicians, especially when their poll numbers need a bump.

Mr. Evans writes:

"With the Marriage Protection amendment to the Alabama state constitution, marriages in our state are now secure from the ravages of the so-called "gay agenda." We haven't figured out yet how to save marriage from what actually threatens marriage—I guess that will require yet another amendment in some future campaign."

"I wish more candidates in political races would invoke the name of Jesus by championing the causes he cared about most."

".....there is a danger, from all segments of the political spectrum, of so politicizing Jesus that we empty him of his true significance in our lives."

There is wisdom here for candidates and voters regardless of political party affiliation.

July 03, 2006

Sports: Times are a Changing

I ran across this interesting feature in the New York Daily News that chronicles several items regarding the place of homosexuality in the sports world.

The article was motivated by the passive denial by New York Giants' defensive end Michael Strachan to accusations by his soon-to-be ex-wife that he was having a romantic relationship with another man. They compared this to New York Mets' star cather Mike Piazza calling a press conference to deny that he was gay.

The piece also talks about the head lacrosse coach at the University of Missouri. He recently came out, and the school responded by offering to extend his contract. His players, at least initially, weren't too thrilled with it and the coach, Kyle Hawkins, is still considering whether he will stay at the school.

There is also a summary of the history of "the gay issue" in sports.

The piece also references a site called Out Sports, which is the best site I have found covering gays and sports. If that is something you might be interested in, I recommend you check it out.

July 02, 2006

"Progress on gay rights leaves politicians in the dust"

That's the title of this essay by Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign. He points out that for the first time, a majority of Fortune 500 companies are now offering domestic partner health insurance benefits to their employees. Here are some excerpts:
"The private sector continues to be far ahead of the political debate. While elected officials continue to dwell on the "politics" of equal protections and rights, business leaders are encouraging fairness for their employees."
"America's workplaces and schools are a microcosm of the country. They are places where people from different walks of life -- all religions, races, income levels, sexual orientations and gender identities -- are thrown together and told to make it work. They're doing just that and these policies and benefits are helping employers and employees succeed."
"Unfortunately, many political leaders are far behind business leaders in promoting and implementing fair and equitable policies for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Sadly, we see some politicians attacking our families and exploiting anti-gay prejudice for political purposes -- which results in fueling that prejudice and dividing our country."
The comments posted on this piece are also worth reading and span a wide range of viewpoints.