May 12, 2007

Let Them Pray Or They'll Sue

The Liberty Counsel, with the full support of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, is determined that any religious expression (that agrees with theirs) be allowed as part of upcoming high school graduation ceremonies across the United States. Falwell warns that anyone who tries to stop it will get hauled into court. This is an excerpt from Falwell's message:

I’m proud to stand with Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law, and his wife Anita, president of Liberty Counsel, in the national “Friend or Foe” Graduation Prayer Campaign.

This program is designed to educate and, if necessary, litigate to ensure that prayer and religious views are not suppressed during graduation ceremonies across the nation.

As part of this year's campaign, Liberty Counsel has created red prayer wristbands which students can wear as a reminder to pray at graduation and all throughout the school year.
The wristbands are embossed with “I WILL PRAY” and “PRAY WITHOUT CEASING (THESS. 5:17).”

The wristbands serve as reminders to students that they have the constitutional right to wear religious jewelry and to pray during non-instructional times while at school. Liberty Counsel also has a free legal memo on graduation prayer which is available online at

Once again, the religious right seeks to force their will upon government officials (school boards that have jurisdiction over graduation ceremonies) under the guise of promoting "religious freedom."

Does that sound a bit harsh? Then consider this:

Back in Jesus' time, I'm sure there was something at least vaguely resembling today's commencement ceremonies. What if a school back then prohibited any religious expression during what served as their graduation. Can you picture Jesus approaching the decision makers and encouraging them to allow it? Perhaps. If His request was rejected, can you them imagine Him taking the issue to court? If you are even vaguely familiar with the Gospels in the Bible, I hope you can't.

Jesus didn't seek to shape civil laws in such a way that they encouraged, if not outright forced, people to acknowledge Him. He made it very clear that it was up to each individual to develop his or her own relationship with Him--that's what determined their destination for eternity. All of the civil laws, certainly the ones of the Phairasees in His time, wouldn't make any difference.

If Jesus had wanted to rule the government and establish a theocracy, He would have. He certainly could have, but it was not God's will. Jesus taught us humility and the importance of a one-on-one relationship with Him.

Try as they might, the religious right can't litigate or legislate that.

May 11, 2007

Right Wing Out of Step With Jesus

I can already feel James Dobson or Jerry Falwell calling me a heretic just for typing that title, but I am clearly not the only one who feels that way. This editorial from the Charleston, WV Gazette makes the case (which I strongly support) that Jesus and other key figures in the Bible were liberals.

Jesus was a liberal. Absolutely and totally a liberal. Not a conservative bone in his body. He broke the rules. On purpose. He flaunted them, in fact, eating with sinners, healing on the Sabbath, rescuing a fallen woman, criticizing the establishment. And the well-to-do. He was not crucified because he was too conservative. The Christian faith is not about rules. Jesus’ first public utterance shows his compassion for the poor. He never asks us to sing pretty songs, to build cathedrals, or wiggle our fingers in the air. He tells Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

The Hebrew Prophets were liberals. By definition. Social critics. Reformers. Nathan stood face to face with King David, shook his finger and told him he was a murderer. Amos was a liberal. He measured the corruption of Beth’el up against the plumb line of justice. Amaziah told him to go home, “you troubler of Israel.” “Let justice roll down like waters,” Amos replied. Check Micah, Hosea and Isaiah while you’re at it.

These were not the Republicans of Palestine. They were not trying to shore up the establishment or save the wealthy.

Jeremiah was a liberal. He wrote the book on public protest and nonviolent direct action. He trod the streets of Jerusalem naked as a jaybird to make his point.

The history of the church is the story of liberal versus conservative religion. It begins in Jerusalem, when Peter and Paul struggle over the issue of circumcision. The great St. Augustine tells us to “love God and do whatever you want.” Not conservative there! Was Martin Luther a conservative when he challenged orthodoxy on 95 points of theology? Was John Wesley a conservative when he took his Bible to the streets and the coal mines of England? Were the Methodists in America conservative when, in 1908, they adopted the “Social Creed,” supporting the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively? And is our church conservative in its continued struggle for social justice, for the rights of women and minorities, for equal opportunity for all, for ecological responsibility — through the Social Principles and Social Creed?

In today's society, we also need people to step up and challenge traditional, conservative thought and policies. This is not a war on Christianity as some of the right-wingers spew to try and position themselves as victims. This is a war FOR the Christianity of Jesus and the prophets who preceeded him on Earth.

Those of us who are taking God's word into the GLBT community and preaching the errors and/or bigoted intent of conservatives who have worked hard to make them feel incomplete, inferior parts of society who are unwelcome in God's Kingdom, WE are doing His work.

We're doing it just the way Jesus taught us--by challenging the status quo and challenging religious rules that do not adhere to the example He set.

" A Seperate Fountain"

That's the title of this article on The Huffington Post by Sara Whitman, who has been legally married to her same-sex spouse in Massachusetts for nearly three years.

Her state is facing a challenge to legal same-sex marriage as there is a move in the state legislature to put the right to marry of couples like hers up for a public referendum vote. She writes about how that vote could impact her and other same-sex couples:

More than 8,000 gays and lesbians married in the last three years in Massachusetts. Amazingly, not one plague of locusts has descended, nor a single drop of fiery rain fallen.

In the 13 years before being legally married, my wife and I wrote legal documents to avert any questions about what would happen if either of us died, which may or may not have stood up in court. Luckily, we're both still here.

We have three children. We pay taxes. We go to school meetings, Little League baseball games and pick up endless pairs of socks that seem to multiply in dusty corners of the house.

Unlike our straight counterparts, who I'm sure have socks lying around, too, we had to do second parent adoptions so our kids would have as much protection as possible. We had to buy one family health insurance policy and one individual, because we were not considered legally a family.

When we're all swooping out the door for a vacation, with everyone is assigned their bag, their seat number and marching orders about who is not to touch whom, I dare anyone to tell me we're not a family.

Until three years ago, though, we legally were not. We did not have access to the 1,000-plus benefits of marriage. We put together as much legal protection as possible only because we were fortunate enough to be able to afford to do so.

Recently, someone told me that civil unions were an equal institution but that marriage is about religion. His church - an institution by law that is to be separate from government - said gay marriage was wrong. It was an argument of separate but equal, made by an African-American man. I wondered if the colored-only water fountains ever felt equal. Still a water fountain, after all. Just a separate one, so the purity of the white fountain would not be sullied.

Just like the purity of his definition of marriage, in his church, would not be sullied.

He was asking me to drink from another fountain. If marriage had no legal relevance and was only a religious symbol, I could go with it. But it doesn't. It is woven into the legal system, government benefits, and tax codes. It is a civil right. The laws and understanding of it comes about from years and years of legal precedents. It can't be replicated in a meaningful way.

Civil unions, in other words, are still a separate fountain.

There's more in her article. She offers a lot to think about and will hopefully encourage others in her state to lobby their representatives to vote against having civil rights put up for a popular vote.

May 10, 2007

Look Who's Infiltrating Eastern Europe

This from the

Many prominent U.S. conservative groups are shifting their attention overseas this week, attending a conference in Poland that will decry Europe's liberal social policies and portray the host nation as a valiant holdout bucking those trends.

The World Congress of Families is expected to draw more than 2,500 people from dozens of countries to Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science from Friday through Sunday.

Cosponsors of the congress include the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation, and the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which promotes the ''intelligent design'' concept of the universe's origins. The U.S. groups are allied in opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and other policies they blame for weakening traditional families in Western Europe.

Boy, is that a rogues gallery of right-wingers or what?

The chief organizer is a Rockford, Ill.–based conservative think tank, the Howard Center. ''Europe is almost lost—to demographic winter and to the secularists,'' says a planning document for the congress. ''If Europe goes, much of the world will go with it. Almost alone, Poland has maintained strong faith and strong families.''

The congress, even in its planning stages, has been derided by liberal groups.

''It's a jamboree for people who very often find themselves outside the mainstream,'' said Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. ''They're living the fantasy for a couple of days of what the world would be like if their ideas prevailed.''

O'Brien, a native of Ireland now based in Washington, D.C., said Poland's conservative bent is at odds with most of the continent.

''American conservative groups don't find much succor in Europe,'' he said. ''It's moved on, toward tolerance and respect for how people live their lives, for people who are gay, single parents, different forms of family.''

GLBT people have generally fared better across the pond than their counterparts in the United States. Let's hope those who would spread their hate and bigotry across that continent meet with little or, preferably, no success.

May 09, 2007

A Republican Congressman Opens His Mind

From the Washington Blade:

As pro-gay legislation makes its way through the new Democratic-controlled Congress, gay rights advocates have found a staunch supporter from the Republican side of the aisle.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) has emerged as a reliable gay rights advocate and is a lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and a sponsor of the hate crimes bill.

It wasn’t always this way.

In 1996, Shays voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which establishes marriage as between a man and woman in federal law.

But in an interview with the Blade this week, Shays said he has reconsidered his stance on gay rights.

“Gays and lesbians don’t want special rights,” he said. “They want the same as other Americans: equal protection under the law. They deserve no less.”

He said he changed his mind after watching media coverage of same-sex marriage ceremonies.

“My views on gay marriage have evolved since I voted for the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said. “At the time I thought I would not support gay marriages. But after watching the coverage of marriages being performed in states like California and New York, I have started to feel differently.

“I look at these marriages and wonder how they impact in any way the marriage I have with my wife,” he told the Blade this week. “I don’t think they do. I don’t think people need to fear this type of union. I recognize two people of the same sex can be involved in a loving, long-term relationship and feel no less love for one another than partners in a heterosexual relationship. Our challenge is to find a way to recognize a legally binding contractual relationship between two consenting adults of the same sex.”

Although Congressman Shays stops short of advocating for same-sex marriage, he has come a long way and realizes he doesn't have to defend his marriage or mine from anyone. Hopefully more folks on his side of the isle will invest enough of themselves in considering the issues like the congressman did. If so, it seems inevitable that they will reach a similar conclusion.

Thanks to gay news blog for the tip.

Calgary Church "Comes Out"

In a post I wrote yesterday titled, "Where Should GLBT Christians Go To Worship," the author of the article I linked to made the statement that churches seldom issued "engraved invitations" to GLBT people to come and visit their church. Oddly enough, thanks to PageOneQ, I ran across a story where a church in Calgary, Canada is practically doing just that.

Knox United, one of Calgary's oldest religious institutions, has opened its doors to the city's gay community.

The church will hold a special service Sunday (actually last Sunday) marking its decision to become an "affirming ministry."

Don Smith, chairman of Knox's affirming committee, said the decision to welcome the gay community was approved by a 98 per cent majority at a membership meeting in February.

"We decided this was something we needed to do for our soul," Smith said. "We're naming who we are."

About 80 to 120 people of Knox United's membership of about 800 are gay or lesbian, according to the church.

After moving to Calgary from Toronto, Marlene Hielema said she spent years searching for a supportive spiritual home before discovering Knox United.

This ceremony means a lot to me. It's one thing to have an understated acceptance, but quite another to come out publicly and say, 'This is where we stand,' " Hielema said.

Hielema said it's been harder coming out to the gay community that she is a Christian than being a lesbian within the Knox United congregation.

"A lot of gay people have really been emotionally wounded by organized religion," she said.
"There's been this constant feedback that how you live is wrong, it's a sin, you're excommunicated ... you name it."

God bless these enlightened folks up north. Congratulations for being strong in who you are and how you are led to worship God.

May 08, 2007

How "Out" Are You?

That question came to my mind after reading this interesting article in the Washington Blade by Joey DiGuglielmo.

As much as the Blade encourages everyone to be out and be proud, I have to admit there are moments in my personal life where I choke a little. Or at least pause.

I was invited by Crystal Schelle, the features editor at the Journal, to submit a column for the paper’s 100th anniversary Monday. Crystal was my first editor and the Journal was the first paper I ever worked for. It’s the daily that covers my hometown, Martinsburg, W.Va., and the rest of the state’s Eastern Panhandle.

I also mentioned the Blade in my tagline at the end of the story: “Joey DiGuglielmo lives in Washington and is news editor of Washington Blade.”

So while it wasn’t even an explicit “I’m gay” proclamation, it still made me pause. There’s a difference between being out to some family, friends and acquaintances from my home town and announcing it in the newspaper there.

Don’t get me wrong — I certainly don’t think being gay is anything to be ashamed of, but I also don’t want to rub it in anyone’s face. I’ve never been a wear-it-on-your-sleeve kind of guy about being gay or anything else.

But baby steps are good to take. While mentioning I work at the Blade could hardly be considered a ballsy move, announcing it so my entire hometown, a small town in West Virginia, no less, was a good step to take.

I agree with many of the arguments voiced on this site that urge celebs like Anderson Cooper and Jodie Foster to come out if, in fact, they are gay. While I agree that such steps would be great for the gay community (you know — us “radical homosexuals!”), I have to also realize that little tinges I feel over small stuff like a tagline would be magnified a thousand times if I were as well known as Cooper or Foster.

I've dealt with that issue to a small extent myself. Although I am straight, I'm very selective who I tell about my GLBT advocacy and refer to this blog. Outside of my church and the GLBT community, there are a lot of people who know about my sportswriting but a mere handful who know about my "other life." I compartmentalize because, as I have written here numerous times, many people in the sports world don't exactly embrace GLBT people, and probably won't cozy up with their advocates either.

Perhaps, like Joey DiGuglielmo, I need to take some more baby steps myself.

Where Should GLBT Christians Go to Worship?

That's the question being asked in this essay from Whosoever Magazine:

Some of us seem to be waiting for an engraved invitation, while others won't leave until the congregation threatens to stone us. One way or the other, we don't seem to have a very good sense of where we belong and where we don't - or, to put it a better way, which churches deserve us and which don't.

Polls consistently show that to know us is to love us. Those who most hate and fear gays think they don't know any. We can't change hearts and minds from afar. My concern, in this essay, is those "borderline" congregations, in which we very likely would be welcome - if we made the effort to be.

I often wonder if GLBT Christians realize how welcome we'd be at many of the churches that do NOT send out engraved invitations. I wonder if they realize why, for some churches, rolling out a rainbow carpet might not be wise - not because they don't want us, but simply because they don't want the trouble they're afraid we will bring with us.

There are a whole lot of nuts out there. Is it worth getting picketed, vandalized, targeted in the wingnut media and possibly even disciplined by the denomination for the sake of issuing a call that might be heeded by no more than a handful of people? That's a question I must admit, if I were a pastor, I'd find hard to answer.

If you're gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and you want to go to church, the simple fact is that there are many more to choose from than you might think. Most won't hang out a rainbow flag, or take out advertisements. We have to learn to detect them.

How do you feel about that? Do you think there are ample worship opportunities available for you? Would you be willing to stake out a spot in a largely heterosexual congregation or do you need to be with mostly GLBT people to be comfortable and establish a sense of family?

May 07, 2007

Canadian Study Shows That Same-Sex Couples As Good, If Not Better, Than Straight Parents

From the report on

Parenting by same-sex families is just as good -- if not slightly advantageous -- for children when compared to heterosexual families, a Justice Department study has concluded.

The report says the strongest conclusion that can be drawn from empirical literature is that the vast majority of studies show that children living with two mothers and children living with a mother and father have the same levels and qualities of social competence.

"A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in traditional nuclear' families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences," says the 74-page study.

The article adds speculation that the study, completed in 2003, was witheld from the public because the results did not suit the conservative Canadian government leadership. Sounds like something that would happen in the Bush administration, doesn't it?

The site Good As You had an entertaining and dead-on take on this:

And why are these kids sometimes more well-adjusted socially, you ask? Well, isn't it obvious? While kids of heterosexual parents are forced to dedicate two days a year to celebrating their parents, kids o' gays are able to consolidate their parental celebrations into one Mothers/Fathers Day blowout. That extra day to focus on social competency gives them just a little bit of an edge over their reared-by-'rosexual peers. Obviously.

Or, it could just be that gays aren't the child destroying, society corrupting, evil demon spawn that so many have accused them of being, but are instead good people who are just as capable of proficient kid rearing as anyone else. We're open to both options; although we must admit we think the Mother/Fathers Day thing might really be something! Hell, just think of the vital social betterment time that you save on greeting cards alone...

The next time you hear opponents of same-sex adoption say their opposition is out of concern for the welfare of the children, you may want to ask them to either consider the facts or admit what their REAL reason is.

Amaechi: "I Underestimated America"

Former NBA player John Amachi, who recently came out as gay, says the reaction to that news has been "overwhelmingly supportive and positive."

"I underestimated America. I braced myself for the wrath of a nation under God," Amaechi said at the Log Cabin Republicans' annual convention. "I imagined that it would be a firestorm, that it would be some insane number of letters demanding my deportation or my death.

"And in fact, 95 percent of the correspondence I've had have been overwhelmingly supportive and positive," Amaechi said. "But I will say that the 5 percent that I've had have been unbelievably, viscerally, frighteningly negative."

Not surprisingly, the reaction of his former teammates and employers has been quite different:

"Probably 30 of my former [NBA] teammates have my e-mail and my telephone contacts and probably 16 or so of those I was in regular touch with and there are probably 10 people who I have [on instant messenger]. And zero -- nobody -- who's active in the NBA has been in touch with me since the day I came out, despite the fact that most of them knew I was gay in the first place," Amaechi said.

He also wondered why, the league's official Web site, has never mentioned his homosexuality when it was such a huge sports story everywhere else.

There is a lot more in the ESPN article about how Amaechi sees the sports world slowly, much more so than the balance of society, moving toward accepting GLBT people and his recent experience as a "gay sports ambassador" that is worth checking out.

May 06, 2007

"The Beginning of the End of the Religious Right?"

You see that headline and assume it's someone opposed to the religious right authoring it, don't you? Wrong. The writer of the column carrying that headline is Cal Thomas, a card-carrying member of the religious right and an outspoken advocate for their cause in his syndicated columns, radio shows, and Fox News.

The clumn was prompted by the closing of what Thomas referred to as "One of the major players in what came to be know as the 'Religious Right' in the 1980's," The Center for Reclaming America for Christ. This was a part of Dr. James Kennedy's (one of the more extreme of the right-wing preachers that has infiltrated politics) Coral Rigde Ministries.

Thomas uses this occasion to give a brief overview of where he believes the conservative Christian insertion into the national political process stands, and it's not pretty:

Nearly 30 years after religious conservatives decided to re-enter the political arena -- after abandoning it as "dirty" and leading to compromise -- what do they have to show for it? The country remains sharply divided and the reconciling message they used to preach has been obscured by the crass pursuit of the golden ring of political power. In the end, they got neither the power, nor the Kingdom; only the glory and even that is now fading, as these older leaders pass from the scene. (James Kennedy is 76 years old and recovering from a heart attack).

Too many conservative Christians have focused on the "seen" rather than the "unseen," thinking appearances at the White House, or on "Meet the Press," is evidence that they are making a difference. And too much attention has been paid to individual personalities, rather than to the One these preachers had originally been called to exalt.

To paraphrase a verse familiar to most Christians, what shall it profit a man if he gains the White House, but loses his own soul?

Christians are also fond of saying God never closes one door without opening another door. The "door" of the Center for Reclaiming America has closed. The new doors can produce a more effective politics, if what's on the other side is based on a message that has less to do with partisanship and more to do with the One who transcends all politics and Who lends His power only to those who will use it as He instructed.

These are some powerful and, I believe, inspired words from someone who generally sits on the other side of the isle from me when it comes down to the issues of the day. His points about religious leaders focusing on politics and losing their focus on God is dead on. If his perspective would be given serious consideration by men like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins, etc., we would see a much different and far less antagonistic and polarized political landscape, one which might actually focus on acceptance of ALL people and the care of those who are sick and/or poor.

Wayne Besen, Executive Director of the GLBT advocacy organization Truth Wins Out, wrote this about the closing of the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ:

Today we celebrate the demise of one of the most insidious anti-gay groups in America that incited intolerance by pumping out virulently anti-gay propaganda,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “The Center for Reclaiming America for Christ bet the bank on the ‘ex-gay’ message, and by doing so, bankrupted their credibility after their rising ‘ex-gay’ star crashed and burned.”

“This is a cautionary tale for right wing organizations that think jumping on the ‘ex-gay’ bandwagon is good politics,” said TWO’s Besen. “In the short term, it might cause some opponents to shudder, but in the end, it may lead to the shuttering of windows and doors with a sign that reads, ‘Out of Business.’”

Let's hope Besen is right and that, as people become more aware of reality, it becomes more difficult for organizations to gain anything by using the whole "ex-gay" myth and the people who allow themselves to be exploited by it.