June 16, 2007

Pastors Continue to Lobby for the Right to Preach Hate

There was a report in Friday's USA Today about another organized attempt by church pastors to block passage of the Matthew Shepard Bill (the hate crime legislation already passed by the House of Representative) by the U. S. Senate, claiming that their rights to preach against homosexuality would be jeopardized.

Today, (Minister Harry)Jackson, pastor of the Hope Christian Church in Lanham, Md., leads a movement against what gay activists say is their civil rights act: the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007.

Jackson and more than 30 ministers say the law could prevent clergy from doing what their civil rights forebears did: preach against immoral acts. "We believe there is an anti-Christian muzzle-the-pastor kind of feeling behind this kind of law," Jackson says. "I need to be able to preach that adultery, fornication, straying from the way of the Lord is wrong."

Proponents of the bill, which would increase penalties for attacks on gays motivated by the person's sexual orientation, say Jackson's position is nonsense.

"They cannot be more protected than they are … to do that because (the bill) reiterates their right to say what they want to say," says Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group in Washington that is pushing for the law. Jackson's argument "is a lie, and it should not be told in the name of the Gospel," he said.

Jackson says the number of incidents involving gays "don't rise to the level of murder and lynchings that happened to black people."

"I'm outraged by the fact that they get to ride on and hijack the civil rights movement," Jackson says. "I believe that much of the gay movement is a matter of choice vs. what my father went through. He couldn't change the color of his skin."

(Mark) Potok (of the Southern Poverty Law Center) says the issue is not an "either/or" choice between blacks and gays.

"Homosexuals in this country have been badly treated for hundreds of years," he says. "Nothing about that fact takes anything away from African-Americans in this country."

Jackson's comments reek of ignorance and, in my opinion, jealousy. He represents a feeling I've heard from other African-Americans that GLBT activists are drawing paralells to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, upset that "their turf" is being stepped on, as if they were the only minority that could mount a campaign for equal rights. This is defended by the supposed difference that African-Americans were born with dark skin while homosexuals made a "lifestyle choice." Que the ignorance.

It continues to grieve me as a Christian that men of the cloth are aggressively campaigning against legislation that would put GLBT people under the same umbrella that helps protect their churches and, for the African-Americans, doubly because of their skin color. I abhor violent acts committed against people or groups because of their religion (isn't that a choice?) or their skin color, or their sexual orientation.

I also abhor misinformation being preached in God's name and receiving national media attention, which if course the whole idea. Jesus never misrepresented Himself or anything about His Father while on Earth, so I can't imagine He finds this and other initiatives that push hate and bigotry in His name very pleasing.

June 15, 2007

"Why We Have Pride"

As I spoke to a few of my heterosexual friends about my participation in the recent Capital Pride festival, those who weren't fixated on the parade (the images of exhibitionists they usually see on television) would ask me something like, "Why do they have to have a special day just because their gay?" They were not mean spirited questions, just ones showing a lack of understanding.

This essay by Dan Furmansky, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, explains it in detail with facts, different perspectives, and most of all passion.

.....speaking to religious groups the past few weeks and contemplating why we hold Pride festivities has reminded me what a deeply meaningful, deeply spiritual event in our lives Pride can be.

Pride is a day for LGBT people and those who care about social justice to recall where we've been as a people. Many of us know of the origins of Pride at Stonewall in NYC in the late 1960s, when drag queens and gay men fought back against police harassment and brutality and said, resoundingly, E-N-O-U-G-H. With this rebellion as its backdrop, Pride has emerged as a holiday of liberation, redemption, salvation, starvation, pain, celebration, progress and resolve. It's a holiday where we as a people celebrate where we have been and where we hope to go.

This is why we have Pride

LGBT people being labeled insane by the psychiatric community until the 1970s. Gay men and lesbians could be institutionalized and subjected to "therapies." These ranged from the comparatively less invasive – such as psychotherapy and hypnosis – to the more severe, such as aversion therapy, castration, hysterectomies, lobotomies, electroshock treatment, and the administration of untested drugs.

Just take a moment to digest this information: They cut our brains.

This is why we have Pride.

There is plenty more in Furmansky's piece. If you really want to know what Pride is about, read his entire essay.

June 14, 2007

Challenge to Same-Sex Marriage in Mass. Defeated

From the Boston Globe:

A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was defeated today by a joint session of the Legislature by a vote of 45 to 151, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. The measure needed at least 50 votes to advance.

The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the group that spearheaded the court case that led to the Supreme Judicial Court's 2003 decision to legalize same-sex marriage, issued a statement praising the vote.

"We’re proud of our state today, and we applaud the legislature for showing that Massachusetts is strongly behind fairness," said Lee Swislow, executive director Advocates & Defenders. "The vote today was the triumph of time, experience, and understanding over fear and prejudice."

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute that backed the amendment, pledged to continue fighting, but wouldn't commit to presenting another proposed amendment.

"I don't believe it's dead because the people have not had the opportunity to have their vote," Mineau told the Associated Press. "This will not go away until the citizens have their opportunity to decide what the definition of marriage is."

Here's an excerpt of an editorial from the Globe:

Legislators deserve to be proud of their votes, and residents can be proud of Massachusetts.
After three years of experience with gay marriage that has harmed exactly no one, the state's gay and lesbian couples can now get back to their ordinary lives, enduring the mundane tasks and rituals of daily life alongside their neighbors and co-workers. But now they do so secure in the knowledge that they are full citizens in a Commonwealth of inclusion.

Here is a link to some reactions gathered by the Globe:

Senator Edward Kennedy: "The nation’s eyes were on Massachusetts today, and they saw a triumph for civil rights and fundamental fairness. Today's historic vote will have a national impact on civil rights for years to come. Massachusetts has led the nation in education, in health care and in biotechnology, and today Massachusetts renewed its commitment as a proud leader in civil rights."

Former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney: "Today's vote by the State Legislature is a regrettable setback in our efforts to defend traditional marriage. Unfortunately, our elected representatives decided that the voice of the people did not need to be heard in this debate. It is now even more important that we pass a Constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage. Marriage is an institution that goes to the heart of our society, and our leaders can no longer abdicate their responsibility."

Of course, I disagree with every single thing Romney said, but none more so than that last statement. Marc Solomon, campaign director for MassEquality, said, "This is about individual courage and leadership."

I completely agree with Solomon. The results in Massachusetts were all about courage and leadership. Legislators were willing to take a stand for what they felt was right, an increasingly rare occurrence in America's political system on both sides of the isle.

Politicians like Romney fall back on "the voice of the people" line because they think the voice of the people will support their agenda. That is abdicating leadership, not demonstrating it.

The right-wing likes to talk about "our founding fathers" a lot, so let me share something I learned about them in school that I believe a lot of people, including many current office holders, have forgotten (or choose to ignore).

The United States was not established as a direct democracy, where people voted on everything. It is a representative democracy, where the people elect representatives to govern for them. These representative are not supposed to serve the best interests of their constituents as determined by the latest poll. Their responsibility is to serve the greater good of society, even if it goes against the will of the majority. Simply put, it is to do what is right, not what is popular. Unfortunately, many legislators are much more concerned with losing financial support and votes in the next election than serving the greater good.

Just imagine if the abolition of slavery was left up to "the will of of the people" in the South. How long would it have taken public opinion to swing against slavery? At least a couple of generations, perhaps?

How many people would ever vote in favor of a tax increase? Probably just the same ones who reminded the teacher in school that she forgot to assign some homework. What if people voted in favor of a tax decrease that left the nation unable to properly equip its armed forces?

So please don't bore me with this "will of the people" crap. Is the civil right of marriage under the United States Constitution (not the beliefs of any particular religion) limited to one male and one female, or is it applicable to two men or two women? That's the core issue and the only truly important one that courts and legislative bodies need to consider.

The vast majority of legislators in Massachusetts voted today that marriage is a civil right open to any two adults regardless of gender. Their opponents will not go away, but at least on this day the political leaders of the Bay State stood strong for equality.


June 13, 2007

Montgomery County, MD Adds Teaching About Homosexuality to School Cirriculum

From the Washington Post and Washington Times:

The Montgomery County school board yesterday approved new lessons on sexual orientation for use in every middle and high school, introducing homosexuality and gender identity in health classes where they have not been discussed except in response to a question from a student.

Two lessons, totaling 90 minutes, will be added to health courses in grades 8 and 10 in the fall, along with a 10th-grade lesson and instructional DVD on the correct use of a condom. The curriculum revisions, while short, place Montgomery in the forefront of a movement toward more candor in teaching about homosexuality in public schools.

"I know that these issues are not without emotion," said Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, speaking yesterday in a televised meeting. "But I do think this is the right thing to do. And I also think it needs to be done in the right way."

An advisory committee of parents and educators recommended in a memo to Mr. Weast Thursday that five statements be added to the lessons: that fleeting, same-sex attraction does not determine sexual orientation; that homosexuality is neither a disease nor a mental illness; that homosexuality is not a choice; that homosexuals can live "happy, successful lives"; and that children raised by same-sex couples "do just as well" as those raised by heterosexuals.

Mr. Weast said he deferred to staff recommendations after March test runs in six schools and declined to implement the advisory committee's requests. He denied that outside pressure forced the change.

Board member Patricia O'Neill, who voted for the curriculum, acknowledged that there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue and described tactics by some opponents as "incredibly hostile" and "bigoted."

Congratulations to the Montgomery County School Board and the organization Teach The Facts,
which worked very hard to educate people and rally support for this progressive cirriculum.

Ultimately, the real winners here are the students that will receive an education beyond the hatred and bigotry of some fundamentalist churches. This will only help boys and girls gain an early understanding of the sexuality and help those who are truly gay or lesbian come out earlier and learn to build a life as they really are instead of going through adolesence as a straight person, then relearning social skills when they later understand who they are.

June 12, 2007

Placing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" In Historic Perspective

From the Chicago Tribune:

At a time when our military is desperate to recruit qualified men and women, when more than 80 percent of Americans oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and when our national security depends on our credibility as a nation dedicated to the values of religious liberty, individual dignity and equal justice, it is deplorable that candidates for the White House still embrace and defend a policy that excludes tens of thousands of qualified Americans from military service and denies patriotic gays and lesbians the right to serve their nation unless they deny who they are, lie about their identity and return to the closet.

That sorrowful moment in the debate called to mind an earlier generation of American "leaders": the generation of Orval Faubus, Ross Barnett and Strom Thurmond. Exactly half a century ago, Gov. Faubus expressed his concept of "American values" by calling out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African-American children from entering Little Rock's Central High School.

Several years later, Gov. Barnett rose to power in Mississippi by proclaiming that "the Negro is different because God made him different to punish him." A fierce defender of American values, Barnett ferociously opposed James Meredith's 1962 admission to the University of Mississippi, promising that Mississippi would never "surrender to the evil ... forces of tyranny."

While I would not place the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" discrimination at the level of the Little Rock situation, the similarity of excluding people based solely on how God made them is striking.

June 11, 2007

A Nice Writeup on Capital Pride

The Washington Post, although they buried the story in page 8 of the Metro section, had a nice writeup about Sunday's Capital Pride. I hope a few of the folks I met there and introduced to this blog enjoyed themselves and, if you're reading this, thanks for dropping by and checking it out.

Anyway, an interesting perspective presented in the Post article was from a number of people who had driven hours to get there just to have the opportunity to hold their partner's hand in public and fellowship with other GLBT people. Folks like me who live in an urban metro area take for granted the fact that there is an active GLBT community. Just to have one day among others like them was enough motivation for people to come hundreds of miles out of their way.

When people ask why have Pride festivals, there's one good reason.

Click here to read the Post article.

"Outing the Out of Touch"

Maureen Dowd laid it out very clearly in an op/ed piece in the New York Times on Sunday:

Be honest. Who would you rather share a foxhole with: a gay soldier or Mitt Romney?

A gay soldier, of course. In a dicey situation like that, you need someone steadfast who knows who he is and what he believes, even if he’s not allowed to say it out loud.

Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue, as the gloriously gay Oscar Wilde said. And gays are the sacrifice that hypocritical Republican candidates offer to placate “values” voters — even though some candidates are not so finicky about morals regarding their own affairs and divorces.

They may coo over the photo of Dick Cheney, whose re-election campaign demonized gays, proudly smiling with his new grandson, the first baby of his lesbian daughter, Mary.

But they’ll hold the line, by jiminy, against gay Americans who are willing to die or be horribly disfigured in the cursed Bush/Cheney war in Iraq.

Hypocrisy is not something unique to the Republican Party, they've just taken it to levels previously unseen in our nation.

Click here to read the rest of Dowd's piece, although Republicans will probably just brush it off as another attack by the so-called "liberal media," which is what they call any media outlet that doesn't bless right-wing policy.

June 10, 2007

Announcing the Affirming Christian Network

At today's Capital Pride Festival, Pastor Brenda and I rolled out a new ministry effort we are developing under the sponsorship of our home church, Believers Covenant Fellowship.

Titled the Affirming Christian Network, we are seeking to gather teachings, sermons, special music, and other types of ministry from GLBT affirming churches and other sources. We want to have a wide range of different voices to speak to the GLBT faith community and others who have been pushed away by "the church."

We are not seeking to be an organization ourselves. Instead, we hope to be more of a clearing house for other affirming ministries, pooling resources together to become an effective and helpful Christian resource for the GLBT community. We will be providing information and, for those seeking a home church, we are working on developing the most comprehensive list available of accepting and affirming churches.

So far we have three other churches who have signed on as affiliates, meaning they will be contributing matierial to the site. If your church would be interested in doing so, please contact us at affirmingchristiannetwork@gmail.com.

Here's the kind of information we will be providing:

About Us – Who we are and what we are doing.
Affirming Ministries – Ministries and individuals who are GLBT supportive but are not contributing content to ACN.
Praise & Worship – Audio and video of affiliate worship services and special music.
Teachings – Sermons, workshops and seminars on a wide range of topics.
Insightful discussion – Group, panel, radio discussions on relevant topics of interest.
Interviews – Ministers and leaders in the Christian GLBT community share their views on topics of interest.
Affiliates – Ministries and individuals that contribute content to ACN.
Links – Other GLBT affirming organizations not necessarily of a religious nature.
Resources – Books, Music, Manuscripts, Lists, etc. available for use.

There's not much material up yet, but there will be. You can take an early peek now and I hope you will check it out regularly in the future. Again, that's www.affirmingchristiannetwork.org

I'll be contributing some essays to the site myself and occassionally will link there here.

Baptist Pastors Disagree on the "Literal, Infalible" Word of God

I've posted on this before, but I believe my points bear repeating since more information has come to light.

From EthicsDaily.com:

Half of Southern Baptist pastors believe God gifts some people with a "private prayer language," according to poll results released Friday by LifeWay Christian Resources, fueling a minor controversy ongoing on Baptist blogs for a year and a half.

The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board approved a policy in November 2005 to no longer appoint missionaries who make a practice of privately praying in unintelligible tongues. The act is usually associated with neo-Pentecostal, charismatic or "Third Wave" Christians, but some Baptists, including IMB President Jerry Rankin, acknowledge having a private prayer language.

"Southern Baptists, at least half of them, have become more open to a practice that was not mainstream a hundred years ago," prior to the modern Pentecostal/charismatic movement...

Could some Baptists be gaining a further revelation of God's word? Does that mean that there are still points made or inferred in the Bible that have been beyond their understanding that has gradually come to light? Is the Bible, in truth, not just infailble but not quite so easily broken down into black-and-white as the SBC has worked so hard to do over the last generation?

If as many as half of their leadership, the pastors, are wrong about speaking in tounges (some have to be right, which makes the others wrong by my math), how can they take such a hard-line stance on what they perceive as the evils on homosexuality, especially in light of how little is written about it in the Bible? If they can't get on the same page about speaking in tounges, how can they be so absolutely certain about their stance toward GLBT people?

Enough questions. My answer is, of course, THEY CAN'T and that the leadership is pursuing an agenda based more on tradition and their own prejudices than anything written in the word of God.

One ranking member of the SBC even tried to discredit the study, which was conducted by Lifeway Research, a department of the SBC publishing house Lifeway. They're trying to discredit their own study because they didn't like the results.

One SBC theologian, Malcolm Yarnell of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, questioned both the methodology of the study and its timing, just before the SBC annual meeting later this month, where the issue of private prayer languages is expected to surface.

In my opinion, this issue of speaking in tounges in clearly not a heaven-or-hell matter. Personally, I'm convinced that I was going to heaven before I received that gift from the Holy Spirit, and I still am after receiving it.

My point is that there is a LOT more that God wants to teach us beyond the written word of the Bible. He will never teach us anything to contradict it, but there is much to learn beyond the events and lessons taught over 2,000 years ago.

There is much he wants to teach us. We simply have to open our hearts and minds and listen to what the Holy Spirit has to say.

Domestic Violence Among Gay Couples Is a "Hidden Menace"

That was the conclusion arrived at during a conference in Manchester, England on Friday. This from the (London) Times:

Violent domestic abuse is as common and as severe among gay and lesbian couples as among heterosexuals, a conference in Manchester was told yesterday.

Same-sex abuse has largely been a hidden menace because many homosexual men and women are fearful of reporting incidents to police or mainstream support organisations.

But research suggests that a greater percentage of gays and lesbians are living in fear of an abusive and dominant partner than previously thought.

Greater Manchester Police urged those suffering abuse in same-sex relationships to report their abusers to the authorities and made a public pledge to deal seriously and swiftly with complaints.

The conference, organised by the Greater Manchester Police Lesbian and Gay Staff Affiliation, and staged a stone’s throw from the city’s famous canal-side gay village, was opened by Michael Todd, the force’s Chief Constable.

There is no reason I can think of to conclude that the problem is any less serious on our side of the pond, but there are many parts of the United States where a victim of same-sex domestic abuse would only invite more trouble by seeking legal assistance.

As equal rights for the GLBT community becomes the standard instead of the exception, hopefully that will change for the better.

Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip.