Euro Court: Religious Beliefs Don’t Justify Discrimination
January 15th, 2013
In four cases brought by people who say their Christian beliefs prohibit them from providing services to same-sex couples, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today that their beliefs do not justify discrimination. The ruling upheld British laws which ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. According to a press release from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights:
In the first case, Lillian Ladele was a civil registrar in London. She was dismissed because she refused officiating at civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after it became legal in 2005. She claimed she was discriminated because of her faith.
The Court ruled there had been no discrimination, and that British courts—who upheld her dismissal—had struck the right balance between her right to freedom of religion, and same-sex couples’ right not to be discriminated.
In the second case, Gary McFarlane was a counsellor providing psycho-sexual therapy to couples. He was dismissed for refusing to work with same-sex couples, arguing this was incompatible with his beliefs. The Court ruled unanimously that there had been no violation of his right to freedom of belief.
The ruling may be appealed within the next three months.
Update: Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is mentioned in the official ruling (PDF: 515KB/53 pages) as a third party intervener.
ADF Attorney Arrested on Child Pornography Charges
November 18th, 2012
This is Lisa Biron, a Manchester, New Hampshire lawyer who was arrested and charged by the FBI for possession of child pornography. She was arrested by the FBI while she was in Manchester’s district courtroom answering district level charges of child porn. The feds charged her with transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, possession of child pornography and five counts of sexual exploitation of children. She allegedly took an underage teenage girl to Canada, and convinced her to be filmed while participating in sexual activity. After she was arrested by Manchester police, she was released on bail under several conditions, and she promptly broke nearly all of them — including placing another ad on Craigslist, and sending threatening text messages to the person who had informed the police on her. Police have learned that there are other teens who have been given drugs and encouraged to engage in sexual activity.
Biron is associated with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group of lawyers who, according to their website, are committed to keeping “the door open for the spread of the Gospel” by advocating for “religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” In Concord, she worked with the ADF in defending a Pentecostal Church on Mountain Road in its tax fight against the city.
She recently served on the board of directors at Mount Zion Christian Schools in Manchester, according to the school’s headmaster.
On Biron’s Facebook page, which was taken down in recent weeks, she had listed the Bible as her favorite book.
Alliance Defending Freedom is the new name for the Alliance Defense Fund, the outfit that is defending California’s Proposition 8 in Federal Court. The ADF sent out a celebratory message last December when Nigeria’s Senate passed a draconian anti-gay measure to impose a fourteen year prison sentence on anyone entering a same-sex marriage and a ten year sentence for pro-LGBT advocacy.
$325K gift to Minnesota’s marriage efforts
August 7th, 2012
From Pioneer Press:
A Michigan philanthropist has donated $325,000 to a group opposing a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage in Minnesota.
Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo, Mich., gave the money to Freedom to Marry Minnesota’s political action committee on Tuesday, Aug. 7. according to state campaign finance records.
The numbers are starting to get big. I think that reflects an awareness that this time, we have a good chance at success.
Anti-Gay Groups Conspire to Add Anti-Gay Measures To Defense Authorization Bill
May 8th, 2012
Chris Geidner is reporting that Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) will introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act before the House Armed Services Committee tomorrow to weaken the implementation of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The amendment would, in effect, create a “conscience protection clause” for military chaplains, giving them free reign to denounce LGBT servicemembers as shameful and sinful. Another measure, which would prohibit chaplains from performing same-sex marriages under the guise of enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act on military bases, would ironically have the effect of violating the consciences of chaplains who support marriage equality.
Both measures are currently part of the same amendment, but they may instead be broken up into two separate amendments in order to “(give) us the strongest hand going into conference with the Senate,” according to an email sent to amendment supporters form Justin Johnson, Akin’s legislative director. Similar measures were included in the House version of the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, but were dropped during conference negotiations with the Senate, which did not include similar measures in their version of the act.
The email had a interesting list of names in the address line:
Among the advocates included in the planning for the amendments being offered and from whom Johnson was seeking input were Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness; Brian Duggan, a lobbyist for the National Organization for Marriage; Austin Nimocks and Daniel Blomberg, lawyers with the Alliance Defense Fund; Arthur Schulcz, a Virginia lawyer who brought a lawsuit on behalf of chaplains claiming religious discrimination even prior to the repeal of DADT; Tom McClusky from the Family Research Council; Doug Lee and Ron Crews from the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty; members of the Archdiocese for the Military Services; Nathaniel Bennett, the director of government affairs for the American Center for Law and Justice; and the president of the Associated Gospel Churches, which has highlighted on its main page a link to the organization’s “Resolution on Homosexuality and the Military.” FRC has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Focus launches “religious liberty” ballot amendment in Colorado
March 16th, 2012
Somehow both OutFront Colorado and I missed not one but two articles last week announcing Focus On The Family with the help of Alliance Defense Fund, intends on creating a coalition to pass a ballot amendment in 2012 to “protect” the religious freedoms of individuals and religious groups.
Here’s the proposed wording: (source withheld)
(1) The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.
(2) A burden includes indirect burdens such as a withholding of one or more benefits, assessing one or more penalties, exclusion from one or more government programs, and/or exclusion from one or more government facility.
This is a seemingly new strategy and we don’t have any other states to look to for precedent where such things have been enacted. However North Dakota will vote on a similar amendment in June of this year. (The proposed Colorado amendment would be voted on in November).
As of recently Focus’ CitizenLink has had a bee in their bonnet about so called religious liberty as it pertains to reproductive freedom and health care reform here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, this week alone. In my opinion contraception mandates is merely the political flavor of the month, animus towards LGBT people is in season year round with Focus and friends. Joe.My.God has an eloquent take on the proposed amendment:
Focus On The Family has launched a ballot petition drive that, if successful, will ask Colorado voters to make it legal to deny housing, employment, and services to any person on the basis of religious objections. (Gosh, who COULD they be talking about?)
State equality org One Colorado is already responding by forming a coalition with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. One Colorado posted an official statement this morning which reads in part:
The initiative’s language, which focuses on “religious liberty” is incredibly deceptive. It doesn’t make clear the widespread implications of enacting this law. Implications that don”t just impact LGBT people, but all Coloradans.
Imagine a law that allows a pharmacist to refuse to fill a birth control prescription. A law that permits an employer to refuse to hire people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. A law that gives protection to teachers who refuse to teach sex education or evolution. All for the sake of so-called religious freedom.
At One Colorado, we believe that everyone has a right to their own religious beliefs. But no one should be above the law. And we shouldn’t create a two-tiered society where the law applies only to some and not others.
One Colorado also announced they will be mounting a legal challenge to the proposed amendment, that will occur when the final wording comes before the Secretary of State’s Title Board which has the power to reject proposed ballot items. If you wish to donate to the legal fund click here, One Colorado has set a goal of collecting the $5,000 needed by Monday.
Nobody has much to say from a legal perspective yet. OutFront’s article included comment from the GLBT Community Center of Colorado’s legal director:
Mindy Barton also noted text of the measure is very broad and the potential applications are unclear.
“We are unsure of what the proposed ballot initiative means, and we are interested to hear if Focus on the Family, whose Senior Vice President is listed as one of the proponents, will explain the intent behind it,” Barton said.
As a lay-person let’s have a look at the amendment’s wording. If allowed to actually take effect, it seems the amendment would allow someone with a “sincerely held religious belief” to disobey any law they see fit based on those beliefs. Sometimes a person breaks the law by doing something, an example of this would be a Rastafari using marijana (a Schedule I narcotic) in a religious ceremony. Other times a person would break the law by not doing something, an example of this would be “sovereign citizens” who sincerely believe they are exempt from paying taxes. Virtually any law it appears could be challenged, and the government would be obligated to justify they have a “compelling governmental interest” in enforcing it. It could be decades of legal chaos as our courts subject thousand of laws to the compelling interest test to determine if they are trumped by “religious liberty.”
But ultimately that could work to our advantage. When the public views ballot measures as vague or creating chaos, voters tend to error on the side of rejecting them.
The Friendly Atheist blogged about the proposed North Dakota amendment back in 2010 noting how blatantly unconstitutional its implications are, citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which was stuck down in Boerne v. Flores. He also has a fabulous quote from an opinion by Antonin Scalia in Employment Division v. Smith in which a Oregon man was denied unemployment benefits after using peyote in a religious ritual Wrote Scalia:
We rejected the claim (in Reynolds v. United States) that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. “Laws,” we said,
are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.
That sums it up perfectly, Focus’ “religious liberty” amendment would allow “every citizen to become a law unto himself.”
Alliance Defense Fund Celebrates Pending Criminalization of Consensual Relationships and LGBT Advocacy in Nigeria
December 2nd, 2011
Phoenix-based Alliance Defense Fund, which is the legal team defending California’s Proposition 8 in Federal Court, posted this alert on their web site :
Nigeria: Citizens Celebrate Ban of Same-Sex Marriage
All Africa Global Media: Nigerians have continued to celebrate the banning of same-sex marriage by the Senate, commending senators for outlawing what they regard as abnormality and a licence for immorality.
The bill which ADF is so keen on celebrating criminalizes all LGBT advocacy by organizations or individuals with ten years imprisonment. It also demands ten years in a Nigerian prison for anyone caught in a “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly.” That’s in addition to the provisions for fourteen years’ imprisonment for entering into a same-sex marriage or ten years for witnessing, performing, or “aiding/abetting” one.
Remember, these are the same guys who are fighting with everything they have to strip Californians of their right to marry.
[via Alvin McEwen]
The militant homosexual savage attack on the religious freedom of little old lady affidavit signers
August 12th, 2011
Anti-gay activists have a sense of entitlement that seems to know no bounds. They are entitled, they believe, to live their life without even acknowledging the existence of gay people. And furthermore, they are entitled to be free of the offense of knowing that you exist even when they have to hunt you down (like The Peter sneaking into a Leatherman event) in order to be offended.
When marriage equality was proposed in New York, victims abounded.
First there were the children, oh the children, same-sex marriage would harm the children. But after years of marriage in other states, they haven’t been able to identify any children who were in any way harmed.
So on they went to Society and the sacred institute of the marriage registry. But the harm to Society is intangible and it’s hard to pity a computer file, so it was religious freedom that they built their claim. The poor preachers and priests who would be forced to sanctify sin.
But most gay people (and all elected officials) are sympathetic to the indignity of a minister being forced to go against her beliefs, so exceptions were made for religious marriage. Even church halls are exempt.
The anti-gay ran individual business owners up the flagpole, but that one didn’t resonate. In this economy, there were probably more business owners secretly thinking “I hope my pastor doesn’t find out that I ran an ad in the gay newspaper” than were wanting to alienate any potential customers. And they’ve learned that when someone tells a news reporter, “I don’t want to sell to that kind of person” that it’s not a winning situation.
But the anti-gays didn’t have anything other options, so they stuck with their “religious freedom” guns. Surely there were victims if they looked hard enough. If gay people marry then someone will… well, be less religiously free in some way and we’ll get back to you on the details.
Then they found their victims, the town clerks who are forced to put their signature – their very own personal signature – on homosexual “marriage” licenses. And a clerk promptly came forward to sacrifice her job, to live by her values rather than cooperate with sin. Laura L. Fotusky, the Town Clerk of Barker, resigned:
“I believe that there is a higher law than the law of the land. It is the law of God in the Bible. In Acts 5:29, it states, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.'”
“I would be compromising my moral conscience if I participated in the licensing procedure. Therefore, I will be resigning as of July 21. I wanted you to know my position as I understand the marriage law goes into effect on July 24.”
Now, I am one who completely supports Ms. Fotusky’s decision to obey God rather than man. Provided, of course, that God is signing her paycheck. Otherwise, taxpayers are taxpayers.
Actually, I do pity poor Laura. It’s not likely that she would have given it a second thought, if the anti-gay activists hadn’t told her what her moral conscience has to say. After all, it didn’t seem to be troubled by divorced people, mixed faith couples, those who were clearly incompatible, or those who were not financial prepared for marriage. And unless her Bishop has hired her as church secretary, he really owe her an apology.
But much as I sympathize for poor Laura’s plight, I may be alone in that. Her story got lost in the celebrations. With couples beaming through their tears, mayors toasting champagne, churches hanging out banners, and people dancing in the streets, Laura’s tale of woe got lost. And martyr’s aren’t much use if no hears about them.
So another approach had to be crafted. What they need is a martyr whose story can drag on a while, someone who gets enough attention that their lost cause has a name attached.
So the Alliance Defense Fund decided that there was an extra-special exemption in state law that allows government employees to not do anything they don’t want to do, provided that they could put it in religious terms. By their reasoning, if a bureaucrat felt that they couldn’t “participate in the licensing procedure” unless the spouses-to-be passed their personal religious test, then the city was obligated to make special accommodations.
The law said nothing of the kind, of course, but going to court would surely get some attention. Someone would feel badly for the poor civic servant. So they cobbled together a memorandum and set out to find a sympathetic character.
If they could.
But that isn’t as easy as it might seem. The funny thing about town clerks is that they get into that job because they like marriage, they enjoy seeing people in love, they believe commitment makes society better. And, based on what I’ve seen over the years, even in conservative communities the marriage clerks tend to support marriage equality. And in New York, rather than boycott, they opened on the weekend, some even opening at midnight.
But now their efforts have paid off. The town clerk in Ledyard in Cayuga County decided to let ADF crucify her for the cause. (Auburnpub.com)
Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti submitted a letter to the Ledyard Town Board saying that her religious beliefs prevented her from signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples and the board discussed Belforti’s letter at Monday’s meeting, according to John Binns, a member of the town board.
When reached for comment Thursday, Belforti said “that’s not your business” before hanging up the phone.
Okay, well she may not be the most sympathetic character, perhaps, but you use what you’ve got.
Now if the town council is smart they’ll just say, “let’s deal with that when it comes up”. With a population of less than 2,000 residents, it might be a long long time before Rose Marie’s religious liberties are put to the test.
But, whatever they do, I think it’s important to keep in mind exactly what Rose Marie’s role is in the licensing procedure. Rose Marie doesn’t conduct the marriage. She doesn’t bless the marriage. She doesn’t attend the marriage. She doesn’t offer approval of the marriage. She doesn’t validate the information on the marriage license. She doesn’t even confirm that the marriage took place.
Rose Marie looks at identification to prove that the spouses are old enough to marry and that they are who they are, she watches them sign the marriage license, she has them swear that the information on the form is true, and she signs the affidavit: “Subscribed and sworn to/affirmed before me”.
Rose Marie’s role is nothing but a notary. I’m not putting down the importance of a notary in recognizing which documents are legally valid, but they don’t exactly participate in the negotiation or agreement that they are notarizing. They don’t object to the terms of the agreement – they don’t pay attention to them.
And according to notarywise.com,
“The only circumstances in which the notary may refuse to serve you is if the Notary is uncertain of a signer’s identity, willingness, mental awareness, or has cause to suspect fraud. Notaries may not refuse service on the basis of race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, or because the person is not a client or customer.
So Rose Marie essentially wants to do the job of a notary, on the taxpayer’s dollar, but unlike other notaries she wants to get veto power over the documents she signs.
Yeah…. I’m not feeling much sympathy.
The Alliance Defense Fund Lies to its Base
August 4th, 2011
This week I came across an article so very lame there seemed no point in in debunking it. Then I saw it was from the Alliance Defense Fund.
These folks are co-counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, the group defending Prop 8 in Federal court. I’ve already written about their ridiculous notion that Christian state employees in New York state don’t have to abide by the law. Basically, they’re the country’s chief anti-gay legal group, and while it pains me to take them seriously, they are a genuine threat.
The new article is called, Games the left plays with polls about same-sex ‘marriage.’ It’s egregious because the author, Brian Raum, claims to tell the truth about a gay-positive poll when in fact he merely lies about it.
Brian is complaining about a survey from Harris Interactive (HI) that shows strong support for marriage equality. He thinks HI stacked the deck:
Harris Interactive purposely oversampled those who engage in homosexual behavior, thus guaranteeing the results would not represent the overall American sentiment, but rather would be skewed to reflect the views of those seeking to further the homosexual agenda. (To the credit of Harris Interactive, they admitted the oversampling in the fine print at the bottom of their survey results, albeit in a place few will see, and even fewer will care to search for.)
How significant was the oversampling? Consider this: those who identify as homosexual only constitute 1.4 to 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the Harris Interactive poll, they constituted a sample of well over 14 percent. With this distortion understood, it’s no wonder the poll showed that “‘49% of all U.S. adults…support the right for same-sex couples to marry,’ [vs.] 41% who oppose the right, and 10% who are not at all sure.”
In other words, Oh my gosh, no wonder the survey’s so gay-friendly — it has 10 times as many homosexuals as it should!
So much wrong here.
Sampling and weights
Brian doesn’t understand the difference between sampling and analysis. A sample might have too many or too few gays, straights, Protestants, Catholics or whatever. Pollsters compensate by weighting their data to get the right proportions when they do their analysis.
In fact, by applying some basic algebra to HI’s results, you’ll find they weighted LGBTs as about 7.7% of the adult US population. A bit high? Perhaps. But nowhere near the 14% Brian wants us to believe.
Brian ought to understand this difference between sampling and analysis — certainly if he’s going to earn money writing about this stuff. That brings up the usual question: incompetence or rank dishonesty? Hard to know.
What’s the right weight?
Brian wants us to think 1.4 -1.7% would be an appropriate LGBT weight, based on CDC figures. But he’s, er, mistaken. Those numbers just cover the Ls and the Gs (1.3% of all women for lesbians and 2.3% for gay men). What about the Bs? Bisexuals add another 2.8% for women and 1.8% for men. Now we’re looking at 4.1% for LGB.
But there’s more.
The CDC also lists “Something else” and “Did not report.” No way of knowing exactly what that means, but I can tell you this: 9.7% of women declined to say they were straight, along with 9.8% of all men.
In other words, according to Raum’s own source, HI’s LGBT weight should be at least 4.1%, and possibly a good bit higher. Once again, incompetence or rank dishonesty? Hard to know.
Oh, and one more delicious bit: Antigays love to say there are no homosexuals, just homosexual behavior. You see that in Brian’s wording: “Harris Interactive purposely oversampled those who engage in homosexual behavior…” But the CDC measures that, too. 3.2% of those self-identified straight men have engaged in homosexual behavior, along with 9.0% of straight women. Using Brian’s criteria actually bumps up our numbers even further.
I truly hate this no-homosexuals-just-homosexual-behavior meme, so I love watching it turn around and bite Brian in the ass.
What if we only weighted LGBTs at 4.1%?
Brian’s implying Harris Interactive counted ten times as many LGBTs as it should have. What a conspiracy! The truth is not so ominous. Let’s go to the lowest possible extreme and assume HI should have used a 4.1% weight. How much difference does that make?
A bit more algebra says instead of 49 – 41 result favoring marriage equality (plus 10% undecided), we’ll get a 48 – 43 victory, (total percentage not equal to 100 due to rounding). That difference is basically insignificant in the world of statistics.
Poor Brian. All that work debunking the poll, and it amounts to nothing. Incompetence or rank dishonesty?
Does Brian care?
Brian is just wrong, wrong, wrong in this article. The irony is that he’s trying to expose “games the left plays with polls about same-sex ‘marriage.” Combine all his falsehoods with his ballsy assertion of setting the record straight, and you have to wonder if the truth really matters to him. Is it paranoid to think he’s happy lying to his own base as long as it fires them up? Could a strategy like that even work?
A hint appears in the comments section of his article at TownHall.com. One fellow, Lon, pointed out Brian’s confusion over sampling and analysis. Here are the two responses Lon got back:
And you are not up-to-speed on research rules.
Lon the fraking loon of TH grunts again………………………
Another commenter, Jeremy, explained, “Over-sampling gays doesn’t guarantee results skewed in their favor. He probably thinks it means over-representing.” Simple, direct, civil, and true. Jeremy got one response:
We needed input from an intellectually-challenged gay.
Now we have it.
They don’t care. Lying to your base, it seems, works just fine for anti-gay activists. As long as anti-gay is your only moral value.
The Alliance Defense Fund and Special Rights
July 21st, 2011
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is an anti-gay legal group disguised as protectors religious liberty. They believe government employees should be able to pick and choose which laws to follow based on their religious beliefs (as long as those beliefs are Christian).
Naturally, they think it’s perfectly reasonable for Town Clerks in New York to hold on to their jobs while refusing marriage licenses to qualified, law-abiding citizens (as long as those citizens are gay).
The ADF even offers up a legal rationale for this, based on New York state law.
Thus, as explained below, municipal clerks who have a sincerely held belief that prevents them from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples have the right to request an accommodation from their governing bodies.
New York law requires an employer to accommodate an employee’s religious observance or practice, “unless, after engaging in a bona fide effort, the employer demonstrates that it is unable to reasonably accommodate the employee’s or prospective employee’s sincerely held religious observance or practice…without undue hardship.” Executive Law § 296(10)(a). This law “represents a legislative expression of the high value that our State places on supporting and protecting [religious diversity] and in prohibiting invidious discrimination based on religious choice The statute ensures that no citizen will be required to choose between piety and gainful employment, unless the pragmatic realities of the work place accommodation impossible.” New York City Transit Auth. v. State, Exec. Dept., Div. of Human Rights , 89 N.Y.2d 79, 88 (N.Y. 1996).
Well, the law’s the law. Except…is that the law? Or a reasonable interpretation of it?
ADF’s new “survey” is ignored
June 17th, 2011
A survey with +/- 0% margin of error has found that the best ice-cream is rocky-road. Yeah, probably Haagen-Dazs.
That’s all fine and good, but its useless unless you know that the survey consisted of asking myself what ice-cream I would like at the moment.
Although… maybe strawberry… hmmmm
Well back to my point.
The Alliance Defense Fund has released a new Surprising and Shocking Survey that pretends to report that Americans really-o truly-o don’t want Teh Gheys to marry:
Contrary to recently released studies that suggest increasing support for homosexual “marriage,” an extensive national survey reveals just the opposite.
Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) commissioned the study through Public Opinion Strategies. It reveals that 62 percent of Americans believe “marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.” Fifty-three percent of Americans participating in the study “strongly” agreed.
Well, gosh, that should shake things up. Right?
Except, of course, that the reputation of Alliance Defense Fund is so abysmal that everyone assumes that they are just lying. That’s what liars do, after all.
So no media has even blinked. None.
Well, the Christian Post, Charisma News, and the ever-wacky Dakota Voice all trotted it out as though it were legit (when will Christian media tire of being patsies of political operatives pretending to be religious?). And several alternative media sources have reported the story about ADF’s bogus polling and how it is nothing more than propaganda. And the Sacramento Bee ran the press release in their “unedited press release” section.
But no mainstream press, not even very conservative mainstream press, ran with this story. It simply isn’t credible. As the Colorado Independent noted:
The group says 53 percent of Americans strongly agreed with the statement and only 35 percent disagreed.
But CitizenLink provides little other data on methodology. There is no list of questions asked, no tabs breaking down how various constituencies were chosen or how they answered and in what percentages.
The poll was reportedly commissioned last month by the conservative Alliance Defense Fund. The firm that conducted the survey, Polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, is tied to Republican Party causes and has been linked to unethical election campaign strategies in the past. According to Raw Story, the firm was charged with violating Virginia polling disclosure laws and was accused of using push polls to influence elections in favor of Republican candidates.
You know, it must be embarrassing to realize that everyone knows that you are lying. Everyone.
About those “21 religious groups” and their chaplain letter…
May 25th, 2011
A news article has been circling about the response of “Leaders of 21 religious groups that provide chaplains to the U.S. military” to the tentative (and subsequently reversed) announcement that chaplains could exercise their religious beliefs in regards to same-sex marriage.
Chaplains and service members who believe gay marriage and homosexuality are immoral might fear reprisal if they express their views openly once the military’s lifts the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, said the retired chaplains, who sent a letter Monday to the chiefs of chaplains of the Navy, Army, and Air Force.
“This is already an assault and a challenge on individual conscience and some soldiers may think it’s forcing them to abandon their religious beliefs or being marginalized for holding to those beliefs,” said Douglas E. Lee, a retired Army brigadier general and chaplain, whose signature was the first on the letter.
Conservative Christian press expressed the letter in even more indignant terms. (Christian Post)
They want to ensure that chaplains and service members won’t be punished if they preach on or discuss homosexuality as a sin.
Considering that the temporarily announced policy was the result of questions from real chaplains about their own rights and abilities, I thought that I would review just what this letter said and who signed it.
Well, it turns out that the complaints really didn’t have to do with real fears by real chaplains. Rather, this is a document written by the Alliance Defense Fund complaining about how allowing chaplains to have religious freedom would hurt their own political campaigns against the rights and freedoms of gay Americans.
Of equally grave concern is the fact that chaplains are instructors of conscience. Chaplains have a tremendous moral responsibility to insure that when they preach, teach or counsel, they do so in accordance with their conscience and in harmony with the faith group by which they are endorsed. When guidance, however, is forthcoming from senior leadership that implies protected status for those who engage in homosexual behavior and normalizes same-sex unions in base chapels, any outside observer would conclude that both homosexuality and homosexual unions officiated as marriages in base chapels are normative. This creates an environment that is increasingly hostile to the many chaplains—and the service members they serve—whose faith groups and personal consciences recognize homosexual behavior as immoral and unsafe and do not permit same-sex unions.
In plain English: if military leadership treats same-sex unions like opposite-sex unions, then those who are anti-gay will no longer have official support for their doctrine. And those who seek to cultivate a culture of rejection and hostility towards gay people will be viewed askance once the military treats all people equally.
And in response they demand that all soldiers should not “be marginalized” for holding and espousing anti-gay views. They should be free to dole out homophobic slurs, to denounce fellow gay soldiers, to mock, berate, and demean gay people in general, provided that all of these behaviors are an expression of conscience based on their religious beliefs.
Which is, of course, nonsense. Anti-Semitism, anti-Catholic, or racist statements do not receive protection from marginalization even when an expression of conscience based on their religious beliefs. Why, then, should homophobes receive special treatment, special exceptions, that others do not receive?
And, as a matter of credibility, let’s review exactly to what extent this letter represents the faith community. Let’s look to see who did – and who did NOT – sign this letter.
As it turns out, the signatories are all from anti-gay denominations. Some, like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod are denominations of significant size and presence in the chaplaincy. But most of these “21 religious groups” are miniscule and filler designed to give the letter a greater representation than it deserves. And some, like the Anglican Church in North America, owe their entire existence, their very reason for being, to the anti-gay attitudes of a handful of malcontents who broke away from their religious affiliation solely because it rejected anti-gay animus.
Who is not there? No mainline or moderate denominations, and not even the reliably anti-gay Catholic Church (which sent a separate letter) or Mormon Church. No Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, or other non-Christian affiliating bodies. This is not a broad spectrum of “religious groups that provide chaplains to the U.S. military.” It is simply a collection of far-right anti-gay denominations pretending to be so.
And this is not about chaplains being denied religious freedom. This is not about an assault and a challenge on individual conscience of conservative soldiers.
This is about one segment of Christendom seeking to impose its will over society, over the military, and especially over those segments of Christendom that do submit to their demands for ‘orthodoxy’. This letter is an assault on the civil and social freedoms of gay people and on the religious freedoms of gay-supportive people of faith.
Focus on the Family picks up “Day of Truth”
November 11th, 2010
The Day of Truth, conservative Christianity’s response to the Day of Silence, is moving to it’s third home in two years. While the Day of Silence has always been about recognizing the way in which gay students are silenced by culture, bullying and misunderstanding, the Day of Truth has had trouble identifying its message, meaning or audience.
The Day of Truth was originally started by Alliance Defense Fund as a tool to provoke confrontation between conservative Christian kids and their public school administrators. In 2004, Tyler Chase Harper wore a t-shirt to Poway High School on the Day of Silence which expressed his disagreement with recognizing the concerns of gay students. The front read “Be Ashamed” and “Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned,” and on the back, “Homosexuality is Shameful” and “Romans 1:27.”
When Harper was required to remove his message of condemnation, the ADF picked up his case claiming that his rights to freedom of religion and expression were being violated. The following year they rolled out the Day of Truth (“the truth cannot be silenced”) to encourage more students to protest the Day of Silence, but on the following day. A handy referral number to attorneys-standing-by was included, giving a none-to-subtle hint of the purpose of the event.
The first year was not particularly successful. And litigation on the Harper case was revealing that courts were not finding that he had a right to disparage fellow student in the public schools, so ADF decided to take a different approach.
In 2006, ADF shifted focus slightly. While their efforts continued to “counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective” they also began guiding gay students towards ex-gay efforts. Softening the message of being anti-gay with a flavoring of “help for those struggling with homosexuality”, there was hope that Christian students would feel adequately justified in encouraging the culture of condemnation of homosexuality.
But “there’s hope for them” messages don’t really inspire teens. It takes stronger emotions, like compassion or contempt, to really get through. So while Day of Silence continued to spread with it’s “don’t bully” message, the Day of Truth’s vaguer “we disagree but don’t call us bigots” campaign struggled.
Contributing to DoT’s difficulties was an onslaught of competing messages from other conservative Christians. As early as 2006, those who wanted a stronger, militant, and more hostile message proposed alternative responses. That year PFOX (a sort of PFLAG for parents who refused to accept that their kids are gay) and Liberty Counsel (ADF’s wackier cousin anti-gay law firm) proposed a “Change is Possible Campaign“.
That didn’t really fly, but other alternatives were proposed. In 2008, Pastor Ken Hutchinson in Washington led a campaign to encourage students to stay home on the Day of Silence. Now “stay home from school” was a message that kids could take to heart and nearly a third of Mt Si High students played hookie. So in 2009, a number of the more extreme anti-gay activists attempted to take the stay-home protest nationwide. It failed.
But Day of Truth was hit with another challenge, one they likely did not expect. Dr. Warren Throckmorton challenged the premise that the Christian obligation was to defend bullies. He proposed that the way Christian kids should respond to the plight of anti-gay bullying is not with protest but with compassion and support. His Golden Rule Pledge allowed Christian kids to keep their religious code of sexual ethics but to pledge to treat gay kids the way they would want to be treated.
Bracketed by contrasting calls for more condemnation and more compassion, the Day of Truth was confronted by its worst enemy: a lack of interest. Secular newspapers found them slightly distasteful, but not enough to be shocking and newsworthy. And even religious news sources couldn’t find anything new or interesting to say about their efforts. So, after four years, Alliance Defense Fund had had enough.
In January 2009, ADF gifted Exodus International with the Day of Truth.
This was a bit of an awkward fit. Exodus, the umbrella ex-gay organization, was at this time going through a reevaluation of their interaction with the gay community. Although they had in the past become quite involved in anti-gay political efforts, they were recommitting their focus to those who “struggle with unwanted homosexuality” and stepping back from activism. So instead of a day dedicated to “countering the homosexual agenda”, the Day of Truth now morphed into a lukewarm ex-gay appeal. (Baptist Press)
As part of Monday’s Day of Truth students will pass out cards during non-class time with a message, which says in part, “It’s time for an honest conversation about homosexuality. There’s freedom to change if you want to.”
The 2010 Day of Truth was somewhat uneventful. Years of squabbling over the message and ownership of the opposition to the Day of Silence had worn everyone out and it may also be that by this time Exodus’ heart just wasn’t in it.
And Exodus’ continued introspection and evolution had them backing away from talk about “change”. The Jones and Yarhouse Study update had come out and it was pretty clear that “freedom to change if you want to” was no longer a viable claim. So, yet again, the message shifted – this time to mutual respect and conversation about sexual ethics.
This year’s theme for the Day of Truth is “Get the Conservation Started.” Students can wear T-shirts and pass out cards with the message: “People with differing, even opposing, viewpoints can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It’s time for an honest conversation about the biblical truth for sexuality. Let’s get the conversation started!”
And then came September 2010 and report after report of teens committing suicide after experiencing anti-gay bullying. It was, no doubt, extremely troubling to Exodus. Many of the leaders in Exodus have over the year expressed how they were bullied in school and I’m sure they found it easy to see themselves in these kids. And while the nation was shocked by the string of incidents, it is without doubt that Exodus found the news to be horrifyingly personal.
In October 2010, Alan Chambers, president of Exodus, jettisoned the event.
“All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they’d like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, the group that sponsored the event this year.
With neither ADF or Exodus wanting to continue, it was uncertain whether they would be a seventh Day of Truth or, if so, who would lead it and what the message would be. But now it appears that the Day of Truth will be picked up by Focus on the Family and renamed and repackaged. (CNN)
A major Christian group will take over an annual event that challenges homosexuality, weeks after the event’s main Christian sponsor pulled support for the student-focused program, saying it had become too divisive and confrontational.
Focus on the Family, an influential evangelical organization, will begin sponsoring the event known as the Day of Truth but will change the name of the happening to the Day of Dialogue, the group is set to announce Thursday.
And it appears that yet again, the Day’s message will change. If statements by FotF’s Candi Cushman are indicative, the Day of Dialogue will readopt strident anti-gay messaging and take a more aggressive political stance.
“We’re trying to raise awareness that more than one side needs to be heard on the issue of homosexuality, and we’re helping to ensure Christian students have the chance to express their viewpoint,” said Candi Cushman, a Focus on the Family education analyst, in the release. “What is freedom of speech, after all, but a guarantee of the right to have dialogue?”
Focus on the Family in general and Candi Cushman in particular have a long history of expressing the “Christian viewpoint on homosexuality” and it has never been in terms that were sympathetic of bullied children or tolerant of others. It is highly doubtful that respect for differing viewpoints will be the theme of the Day of Dialogue – Focus doesn’t “diologue” that way.
I hope that I’m wrong. Early press releases on their sponsorship emphasize “love” as much as they do “truth”.
As these verses demonstrate, the model Christ gave us is one of sacrificial love that lays down one’s own life to rescue others. So Day of Dialogue activities should always reflect that spirit. Any verbal and written expressions used by students participating in this event should be loving and compassionate—and never be expressed in a condemning or antagonistic way to others. Even when we disagree with others, we should always demonstrate the utmost compassion and respect for them.
But far too often, Focus’ perspective of what is “loving” and that of the target of their “love” can be diametrically opposed. And if their new Day of Dialogue is an extension of their “True Tolerance” program, we can expect a rather obvious absence of truth, tolerance and love, sacrificial or otherwise, and in their place a call to reverse and remove the anti-bullying programs that are trying to provide support to LGBT youth. While Exodus found empathy for bullied kids, Focus identifies with the bullies.
In fact, we already know pretty much what Focus has in mind – confrontation and stereotypes:
It’s very politically incorrect these days to talk about male-female differences. If you want to see a good argument develop, just ask a group of students if there even are any differences. The unique and wonderful complementary qualities of masculinity and femininity have been blurred so that many see men and women as virtually interchangeable. Or the differences get exaggerated into over-the-top caricatures. But despite these distortions, we still see God’s separation of humanity into male and female, different but complementary, and equally of great value.
That, and fun things like the assertion that no one is really gay, or that “homosexual and “transgender” rights activists continue to do everything in their power to radically deconstruct the traditional and biblical understanding of sexuality, gender and marriage across all arenas of culture.”
So it seems that the Day of Truth has come full circle, back to a day of confrontation and condemnation. I doubt that it will be well received.
Prop 8 Plaintiffs May Seek Reimbursement of Legal Fees
August 19th, 2010
When a plaintiff brings a lawsuit before a court and wins, the plaintiff may ask the court to demand that the defendant pay the plaintiff’s legal fees. So toward that end, Ted Olson and David Boies, who led the legal team that successfully argued in Federal District Court that California’s Prop 8 was unconstitutional, have filed papers indicating that they intend to ask that Alliance Defense Fund be ordered to cover their legal fees if the Ninth Circuit Court upholds the District Court’s decision. Estimates have those fees and costs running in the millions.
Imagine that. All of those people who donated to ADF to “protect marriage” may find that their money will actually go towards protecting marriage for everyone.
Schadenfreude Alert: Liberty Counsel STILL Blames ADF For Prop 8 Decision
August 18th, 2010
Almost immediately after U.S. Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker handed down his decision declaring California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional, Matt Staver’s Liberty Counsel, which is closely aligned with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, blamed the Alliance Defense Fund for losing the case. As I said earlier, you can tell Staver was furious because they didn’t get around to blaming it on judicial activism until the final paragraph of their statement. Now, they’ve taken their cat fight to the Canadian Catholic LifeSiteNews:
According to Staver, the ADF “basically gave away the essence of the case, because they wanted to shy away from homosexuality and really were not willing to take the issue directly head on.”
The ADF wished to stipulate, he said, that counseling some homosexuals to change could be harmful, that homosexual partners form long and lasting relationships, and that homosexuality does not impair any area of life. Liberty Counsel was not willing to do so.
Regardless of the reason that the ADF opposed Liberty Counsel’s entrance, the attitude that the ADF wished to project towards the court was reflected in the witnesses they planned on calling: at least three seemed to think that homosexuality, in itself, was perfectly fine.
Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson had been slated to testify before the court for the proponents of Proposition 8, but they were both withdrawn before they did so. Advocates of same-sex “marriage,” however, used Young’s and Nathanson’s videotaped depositions to help bolster their own arguments.
That last point actually bolsters ADF’s objections to having Liberty Counsel as co-defendants for Prop 8. Given that the plaintiffs were so successful in citing the Liberty Counsel’s own favored tactic so well to bolster their arguments against Prop 8, it’s almost a shame that Liberty Counsel was not allowed to intervene.
American Bar Association endorses marriage equality
August 10th, 2010
Today the American Bar Association, the nation’s leading legal organization, voted at their annual meeting to endorse marriage equality. (SF Sentinel)
RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges state, territorial, and tribal governments to eliminate all of their legal barriers to civil marriage between two persons of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry.
Predictably, the Alliance Defense Fund chimed in with a declaration that the voice of the legal profession doesn’t speak for them. (Christian Post)
“The fact that ADF and other lawyers disagree with ABA on a number of controversial issues demonstrates the gross inaccuracy of ABA’s claim that it speaks for the U.S. legal profession,” remarked ADF Senior Legal Counsel Doug Napier, who resigned from the ABA because of its stance on controversial political issues.