November 03, 2007

Should Christians Vote for Non-Christians?

Here is one opinion that they should not from the AFA's One News Now:

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the endorsement Monday of Senator Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire). New Hampshire is a key primary state where Romney is currently leading. Romney has also garnered the endorsements of several high-profile evangelical Christians, including Dr. Bob Jones III, Mark DeMoss and Jay Sekulow.
Former Republican National Committee official John Lofton is co-host of The American View, a weekly radio show syndicated by Radio America. He contends Romney and other non-Christian candidates fail to meet scriptural requirements for men who occupy God-ordained civil government offices.

"This is ridiculous on its face to say that Christians can vote for non-Christians. It's Christ denial, its something that's very serious," he argues. "And in fact, in a way things have gotten even worse by saying that religion doesn't matter. Well, that's the same as saying, whether they know it or not, that Christ doesn't matter. He is the King of kings, he is the Lord of lords -- which means Lord over politics, and no Christian can be complicit in having an unbeliever, who God calls wicked, rule over us."

He says by voting for a candidate like Romney, whose faith teaches that Jesus is the spiritual brother of Lucifer, Christians are in effect putting their desire to win an election and defeat Hillary Clinton above their commitment to God's Word. Lofton also recently criticized National Right to Life founder Dr. Jack Willke for endorsing Romney even though the Mormon church teaches that "some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion," including rape, incest, fetal deformities, and threats to "the life or health of the mother."

If I am voting for a pastor at my church, I want to have strong assurances that the individual is a Christian, but why does it matter so much in politics?

Beyond the insipid implication from this person that all Christians should be Republicans, there are recent examples that professing Christians don't make good presidents.

Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush were both very open about stating their beliefs in God, and by most objective accounts both men were incompetent presidents. Unquestionably, the United States was worse off when he left office than when he entered, and it seems certain the same situation will prevail when Bush mercifully completes his second term.

While a person's faith is critical in establishing their value system and, by extension, how they will approach issues of public policy, don't we essentially have to take them at their word regarding their Christianity? Just because someone professes to be a Christian doesn't mean they actually are one. Ultimately, only God knows with absolute certainty the status of a person's salvation. Voters can get a good inkling when a politician stands by their body of work and what they say, but there are also plenty of examples where those changed without warning once someone got elected.

Since we can't truly be sure what a politician stands for, especially in these days of focus groups and sound bites, the idea of making a candidate pass some type of Christian litums test seems quite shaky at best, outright foolish at worst.

Here's a thought--why don't we vote for candidates who show leadersihp and the possibility of being competent legislators.

You know, let's break the mold and try something different.

November 02, 2007

Study Shows That Equality In the Workplace is a "Win-Win"

This results of this study just released by the Rockway Institute confirms what common sense should tell us--fear of discrimination in the workplace is bad while affirmation and equality is good:

A questionnaire study of more than 500 gay, lesbian and bisexual employees across the U.S. has found that “fears about disclosing a gay identity at work had an overwhelmingly negative relationship with their career and workplace experiences and with their psychological well-being.”

For those working in what they perceived as a non-supportive environment, the costs of non-disclosure were significant. “Those who feared more negative consequences to disclosure reported less job satisfaction, organizational commitment, satisfaction with opportunities for promotion, career commitment, and organization-based self-esteem and greater turnover intentions than those who feared less negative consequences,” wrote the researchers. “Those who feared more negative consequences reported more (job) role ambiguity, more (job) role conflict, and less workplace participation than those who feared less negative consequences,” the report continued. “LGB employees who feared more negative consequences also reported greater psychological strain than those who feared less negative consequences.” Psychological strain was described as stress-related symptoms experienced on the job, work-related depression, and work-related irritation.

“These findings fit with other research showing that more accepting work environments are associated with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees being healthier and more productive. The research also provides some additional facts concerning the need for public policies protecting against job discrimination,” said Robert-Jay Green, executive director of the Rockway Institute, a national center for LGBT research and public policy affiliated with Alliant International University. “Employees who are not afraid of being fired or held back from promotion because of their same-sex orientations are psychologically freer to put their full creative energies into work. This, in turn, saves employers’ time and money. It a win-win for all concerned.”

This should be a "duh" issue, but given the intensity of right-wing opposition to ENDA (the Employer Non-Discrimination Act currently before Congress), some hard data affirming these points is most welcome.

Should We Engage in Debate or Try to Silence Opponents

Here's a convincing arguement for engagement.


Such engagement would have two potential benefits. First, it might help convince the opponents themselves—even if slowly and gradually. Second, it might help convince the fence-sitters who are watching, since they would receive “the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error” (in the words of the great liberal theorist John Stuart Mill). The more we confront the opposition head-on, the more obvious their fallacies become. That’s why I’m willing to travel the country with someone from Focus on the Family addressing the same bad arguments over and over again.

It was the hope for such engagement that led me to interrupt the Q&A in Baton Rouge to plead for some audience opposition. “Any critical questions for me? Please?” I asked no fewer than three times. It felt like announcing “last call” at the bar: “Last call…last call for traditionalists…” Finally, a woman took me up on my challenge—sort of:

“I’m a religious conservative,” she began gently. “And I appreciate your kindness to Glenn and to us. But I haven’t spoken up because I feel a lot of hostility from the audience. I think more of us would show up and speak up if we didn’t feel like we would automatically be shouted down.” She didn’t offer any question—just that observation.

I was both impressed and surprised—impressed by her courage in speaking against the (immediate) tide, and surprised that she found the audience hostile. I could recall no anger or viciousness from the various questioners. But since they were on my side, perhaps I simply failed to notice.

Her remarks spotlighted an important distinction: it’s one thing to silence your opponents; it’s quite another to convince them. And sometimes—perhaps often—silencing is done at the expense of convincing.

The social pressure that makes certain views “taboo” has its uses. But political reality indicates that it’s not yet time to halt the conversation over same-sex marriage—certainly not in Rhinelander or Baton Rouge. Strange as it sounds, we may sometimes need to work at making people more comfortable—not less—in voicing their opposition to us.

November 01, 2007

Methodists Allow Transgender Minister to Stay in Pulpit

From the Christian Post:

A transgender minister is allowed to remain pastor of a Baltimore congregation, the United Methodist Church's highest council announced Tuesday.

The Judicial Council's ruling affirmed a decision by Baltimore-Washington Bishop John R. Schol last spring who reappointed the Rev. Drew Phoenix to St. John's of Baltimore City after the transgender minister underwent surgery and hormone therapy to become a male. Phoenix was formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon who had led the church for five years.

Local clergy in the Baltimore-Washington Conference had appealed Schol's decision to the United Methodist Judicial Council amid opposition. While the United Methodist Church bars self-avowed practicing clergy from ordination and does not support gay unions, according to the denomination's Book of Discipline, it says nothing about transgender clergy.

After considering whether to remove Phoenix from leadership, the Judicial Council decided to allow the transgender minister to stay on the job, referring to a church policy stating that a clergyperson in good standing can't be terminated without administrative or judicial action.

"The adjective placed in front of the noun 'clergyperson' does not matter," the council ruled. "What matters is that clergypersons, once ordained and admitted to membership in full connection, cannot have that standing changed without being accorded fair process."

"We at St. John’s UMC have a long history of supporting people through various life transitions," said the congregation, which boasts "inclusion" and "diversity," in a statement. "We love and support our pastor. Rev. Phoenix is an effective, professional pastor who has our deep and abiding respect."

God's anointing does not discriminate, that's something people do. Good job by the United Methodist Church!

African-American Leaders Step Up Against Homophobia In Maryland

More encouraging news from Baltimore, via the Baltimore Sun:

Elbridge James wasn't surprised when many of his fraternity brothers ridiculed him for supporting same-sex marriage.

But what James didn't expect was for a handful of his old college buddies to rise to his defense. They, too, believed that gays' and lesbians' battle for marriage is a matter of civil rights.

"We're talking about a black fraternity that has had issues with homophobia," he said. "But I think when you get the message out, and people start to listen, they realize the question is about respecting others' rights."

The experience gave James, former political action chairman for the Maryland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, hope that more blacks are willing to support gay rights than conventional wisdom might indicate.

In an effort to raise the issue of gay unions within black communities around the state, James and other activists have formed the Maryland Black Family Alliance, a group of predominantly heterosexual African-American leaders pledging their support for same-sex marriage.

"There's a scarcity of information on this issue in the black community," said James, the group's director. "The black press doesn't cover it; talk radio doesn't cover it. ... We have this sort of 'don't ask, don't tell policy' in our community."

When I first saw the headline about a group focused on black support for gay marriage, I had mixed feelings. I was concerned that this might be an effort to splinter off the African-American GLBT community and for them to do their own thing, but I was relieved to see that this is apparently not their goal. Subdividing GLBT activists, already a small number, into racial groupings would only further dilute the strength of their message. On the other hand, a concerted effort to draw more African-Americans into the conversation could be a very positive thing, and I applaud these leaders for stepping out and initiating this group.

Here is a press release from the ACLU regarding the launch.

This blog post from BET points out that the leaders are mostly heterosexual. The comments below it point out the uphill struggle they have ahead of them.

October 31, 2007

Who Said You Can't Find Justice These Days?

Fred Phelps and his church (mostly relatives) of right-wing extremists lost a lawsuit in Baltimore, Maryland today and now owe the father of a serviceman who's funeral they picketed $10.9 million. From

A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals in the belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania, sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted the size of the award for compensating damages "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court.

Here's the part that really gets me:

Earlier, church members staged a demonstration outside the federal courthouse.

Church founder Fred Phelps held a sign reading "God is your enemy," while Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag and carried a sign that read "God hates fag enablers."

Members of the group sang "God Hates America" to the tune of "God Bless America."

Hopefully pretty soon they won't have a pot left to pee in. Even if they don't learn any lesson from this, at least it will be more difficult for them to inflict pain on people like Albert Snyder.

Right Wing Nut Blames Gays for California Wildfires

I suppose it was only a matter of time. From Ethics Daily:

A controversial anti-abortion activist says California wildfires are God's judgment on a new anti-discrimination law that some conservative Christians say promotes homosexuality in public schools.

"Last week I groaned when I read how Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law in California which foisted homosexuality upon the children of that state through the state school system," Matt Trewhella of Missionaries to the Preborn wrote in an e-mail quoted on liberal Web sites Hot Flash Report and Talk2Action.

Trewhella said the bill,
SB777--also called the California Student Civil Rights Act--signed into law Oct. 13 "clearly redefines (perverts) what sexuality is, as well as promotes the legitimacy of homosexuality upon children starting from kindergarten on up."

"Seven days later, on October 20th, wildfires broke out across California in several places," Trewhella continued, describing widespread damages that prompted President Bush to declare a state of emergency.

"Do you think they will see it as a warning from the Lord for their calling evil good?" he asked. "Do you think they will be able to connect the dots? I won't be holding my breath."

I've got a better idea pal--go ahead and hold your breath.

Trewhella, a pastor from Milwaukee, is no stranger to controversy. In 1993 the FBI investigated him for making a statement that authorities took as a veiled threat to assassinate doctors who perform abortions.

Not long after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, he made
headlines when members of his Mercy Seat Christian Church distributed a bullet-shaped, pro-gun flier at Milwaukee schools.

In addition to his belief that the Bible supports gun ownership, Trewhella also has written that Christians should not obtain a state marriage license, because in doing so they place themselves under jurisdiction of unbiblical laws, and that property taxes are immoral.

Clowns like this wouldn't bother me except for the way they warp scripture and claim God's name when they spew their hate. People who don't know any better, in this case especially gay people, actually think this represents what Christianity is all about.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and those of us who DO know better need to make sure we let as many people know that as possible.

October 30, 2007

Acceptance Growing Among Families of GLBT Kids In Catholic Church

From Deb Price's syndicated column (via the Washington Blade):

A groundbreaking report by Fortunate Families, based on its survey of 229 Catholic parents with gay children, concludes: "Parents love their (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) children, and they love their church. But they do not see their love, or God's unconditional love, reflected in how the institutional church relates to their LGBT sons and daughters." (Go to:

Catholic parents now learning their child is gay report higher initial levels of comfort than parents who learned five or more years ago. And Catholic parents who know another parent with a gay son or daughter are "significantly more comfortable" with their child's orientation than are isolated parents.

The parents are far more likely to call gay-friendly P-FLAG, New Ways Ministry and Fortunate Families "very helpful" than to say that about their parishes.

One mom with a gay son lamented, "I do not feel the Catholic Church offers any support with our children. I remain a Catholic only because of the Mass and the Eucharist."

At the recent PFLAG national convention, I had the opportunity to chat with the co-founders of Fortunate Families, Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata from Rochester, NY. Mary Ellen wrote a book titled "Fortunate Families," which their organization was spun off from. In the book, she write about their family's nine-year struggle to reconcile their son's gayness with their church.

From the same perspective I've asked the question here how someone could be gay and republican, I asked them how they could have a gay child and still be Catholic. The answer did not come easily, but it was very similar to the mom quoted above. They love their church, they love their son, and instead of losing their relationship with either one, they decided to work toward bringing them together.

The Lopatas also stressed how helpful they found it when they realized they weren't the only family in the church with a gay child. Not feeling isolated was an important step toward accepting their new reality when their son came out to them. That led them to start Fortunate Families and help other Catholic families avoid that type of isolation.

God bless them for their efforts, and I hope they bear fruit.

October 29, 2007

Obama and the "Ex-Gay' Gospel Singer

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has taken a lot of heat for including "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurkin in the South Carolina performance of his campaign's "Embrace the Change" gospel series.

Rightly so.

Here is an excerpt from McClurkin's comments at the concert from CNN:

McClurkin has said that homosexuality is a choice and that he overcame homosexual desires through prayer, comments that drew fire from gay and lesbian activists and caught the Obama campaign, which has been using faith to reach out to African-American voters, off guard.

The Grammy-winning singer said Sunday his words had been "twisted."

"Don't call me a bigot or anti-gay, when I have been touched by the same feelings," McClurkin went on. "When I have suffered with the same feelings. Don't call me a homophobe, when I love everybody … Don't tell me that I stand up and I say vile words against the gay community because I don't. I don't speak against the homosexual. I tell you that God delivered me from homosexuality."

McCurkin also took time to say that homosexuality was a sin, least there be any doubt where he stood on that point.

Why did Obama stick with McClurkin's participation in this event even after GLBT activists raised such a stink about it? Also from the CNN report:

A September poll conducted by Winthrop University and ETV showed that 74 percent of South Carolina African-Americans believe homosexuality is "unacceptable."

In my opinion, that's all you need to know. While Obama publicly restated his support for the GLBT community, he sold them down the river to the South Carolina African-American community and round up some votes in a critical primary state.

This is just the latest example of a politician pandering to people's faith in order to get their votes. I guess Obama is overcoming his inexperience and learning how to play the game.

Too bad.

October 28, 2007

Sexual Orientation as an Issue in a Political Race

A candidate's sexual orientation does not determine whether he or she will make an effective council member. Nor does a candidate's political party affiliation.

It always good to see that in a major newspaper, but especially good to find it in the Fort-Worth (TX) Star-Telegram. Since Texas is not known as a particularly progressive state (after all, it gave us President George W. Bush and I, for one, can hardly wait to give him back), it speaks to the fact that even in the so-called "Bible Belt" of the south and southwest, attitudes are changing and acceptance of GLBT people is growing.

The quote was in an editorial that slammed Fort Worth City Councilman Chuck Silcox, who made an issue out of the fact that one of his opponents in an upcoming election is gay. From the Star-Telegram:

"We have two people of opposite partisan politics, opposite philosophical persuasions and opposite sexual orientations."

"I didn't tell you which one was homosexual," Silcox said as the crowd laughed. Pointing to Turner, Silcox continued: "He's married to a female, and the other's married to a male. You make your own mind up."

Silcox later said he raised the issue because he believes that the Star-Telegram's coverage of the race has not mentioned that Burns is gay.

"The Star-Telegram doesn't talk about it. They don't put the negative out there," he said.

"Every damn article that was written about Louis McBee mentioned that he was gay. I'm just [angry] about the way that the Star-Telegram has treated this."

McBee has been quoted or featured in 21 articles, according to Star-Telegram archives. One report in May 2006, when McBee was running for the City Council District 4 seat, mentioned his sexual orientation. Danny Scarth won the election.

Do all Texas republicans so blatantly ignore facts and make up their own? I hope it's just the President and this guy.

Kudos to the Star-Telegram for bringing forward facts and for slapping Councilman Silcox down for trying to make his opponent's homosexuality into a liability.