Why bullies are a good thing
April 16th, 2011
It can perplex us at times why strident anti-gay activists would oppose programs designed to reduce bullying. We see the destruction and death that result and think that surely any decent moral person would want to change that dynamic.
But Robert Knight provides us with insight as to why anti-gays not only refuse to join the campaign against bullying but actively oppose it.
Confronting bullies helps build character.
It isn’t often that one sentence can be lifted from an essay and, on its own without any context, provide understanding into a worldview. But I believe this to be just such a sentence.
Bullies are good for kids. And as for those gay kids who were tormented to death… I guess they just didn’t build character.
Jackson County, MI, turns human resources over to Crystal Dixon
March 30th, 2011
On April 4, 2008, Michael Miller, the editor of the Toledo Free Press, wrote an editorial in which he declared his affiliation with and affection for the community of gay people in his life. He expressed his difficulty in understanding anti-gay prejudice and the motivations behind those who advocate for discrimination.
Because I have such intense love and respect for the people in my life who are gay, it never makes sense to me when I hear someone preaching anti-gay rights propaganda. I can never understand why they care.
It’s basic Golden Rule territory: don’t judge people for the color of their skin or their physical challenges, and don’t judge them for their sexuality. I know that is a simplified and naïve statement, but for me, the issue really is that simple.
Miller lamented that his home state of Ohio was behind the curve in recognizing the equality of its gay residents. As an illustration on how gay Ohioans can be subjected to casual and careless inequality and indignity, he discussed a local situation.
The frequent denial of health care benefits leads to horror stories. According to the panelists, UT has offered domestic partner benefits since then-president Dan Johnson signed them into effect. The Medical University of Ohio did not offer those benefits. When the institutions merged, UT employees retained the domestic-partner benefits, but MUO employees were not offered them. So, people working for the same employer do not have access to the same benefits. According to the panel, it may be 18 months before the situation is addressed. Eighteen months is a very long time to live (and work at a medical facility) without health benefits.
Miller’s criticism did not sit well with Crystal Dixon, associate vice president for Human Resources at the University of Toledo. So on April 18, the Free Press printed Dixon’s rebuttal and allowed her to set the record straight.
But the Free Press’ implied criticism of the administration was not her concern. No, Dixon was furious that Miller dared to suggest that the struggle for equality for gay people had anything in common with the struggle for equality endured by African-Americans. How dare he compare her to one of them.
As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are “civil rights victims.” Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and Exodus International just to name a few.
Her letter went on to express her belief that Jesus Christ hates homosexuality, to accuse gay people of violating God’s divine order, to complain that “economic data” proved that gay men who have degrees make more money than a non-college educated black male, and to declare that it was “misleading” to note that gay employees were categorically denied benefits when ALL employees of the two schools have “different benefit plans.”
To say that this was an embarrassment for the University of Toledo would be an understatement. Not only did her actions threaten her department’s employment negotiation possibilities, but it put the entire university in a disadvantage. When considering their options, few prospective college students consider anti-gay advocacy to be a selling point.
So on May 2, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo, wrote an op-ed to assure the public that the school does not engage in anti-gay hiring practices, that Dixon’s comments “do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo”, and that he had personally lobbied the legislature in favor of domestic-partner recognition. He also corrected the impression that Dixon gave about the university’s position on the denial of benefits.
As regards the continued asymmetry of benefits packages across the campuses of this university, do understand that we are fully aware that asymmetry that Michael S. Miller spoke of does exist and are working as rapidly as we can to correct this asymmetry. When this asymmetry is corrected, the solution will be reflective of the university value statements above.
And with a cryptic reference to taking action to “more fully align our utterances and actions” with the values he expressed, Dr. Jacobs hinted that Dixon might best update her resume. And, indeed, on the 8th, noting that “personnel actions or decisions taken in your capacity as associate vice president for human resources could be challenged or placed at risk”, the University notified her that she had been terminated.
Naturally, letters flooded in to the editor. Those offended by Dixon’s views tended towards relatively polite exclamations of consternation and little lectures on equality and civil rights. Those angry at Dixon’s discontinued employment included accusations of fascism combined with a healthy dose of religious entitlement and no small amount of homophobia.
Dixon retained the Catholic advocacy law firm, Thomas Moore Law Center, and announced her intention to sue the university for violating her First Amendment rights. And World Net Daily, never one to let a loon go unchampioned, took up her causeRush Limbaugh and Focus on the Family presented Dixon as a martyr, a victim of liberal godlessness
and soon Crystal Dixon was the darling of the anti-gay industry.
Even wackadoodlery’s favorite theologian, Dr. Robert Gagnon, rushed to get a little attention from the controversy. In an open letter to the university full of axiomatic declarations about the obviousness of heterosexuality and amusing assumptions about gay relationships (lesbians have “markedly shorter durations of sexual unions on average, even relative to homosexual males”), he declared that “the closest parallels to adult-committed homosexual relations is not ethnicity or gender but rather adult-committed incestuous unions and adult-committed polysexual unions”.
Gagnon decried the school’s “full affirmation of homosexual activity” and bemoaned the “environment that provides increased opportunities for and fewer negative sanctions against same-gender sexuality”. To not sing Dixon’s praises for her honesty and her courage of conviction was, Gagnon declared, a sign of their intolerance. (One thing you have to say about Robert Gagnon, he never lets logic or consistency dissuade him from the certainty of his presumptions.)
In December 2008, Dixon made good on her threat to sue. But after that her trail goes a bit cold. Thomas Moore Law Center waved her flag a bit in their rundraising efforts, but I’m not sure whether her case was heard or if the school settled.
But, meanwhile, Crystal made good use of her down time. She wrote a book, Destiny’s Time, which is either “A New Novel!” or a guide to turning your “God-given talents and passions” into “viable businesses as well as enhancing job readiness skills!” Or perhaps both.
And she also started a company to sell shoe laces (with the catchy slogan “keeps shoes tied”) and a consulting frim which offers not only business advice but opportunities such as
$$ THREE GREAT WAYS FOR YOU TO EARN EXTRA INCOME! $$
1.You pre-buy paper-back books directly from the author at a discounted rate of $7.50 each and then you sell each book for $11 (includes tax) to your customers. And/or you can pre-buy audio books on CD at the discounted rate of $12.50 each and then you sell each audio book for $20. YOU KEEP all monies from books you sell and you have books to sell on the spot! (Minimum of 5 books for consultant purchases).
2. With your sales, you automatically recoup your $7.50 investment and also earn a 47% ($3.50) profit on each paper-back book you sell! For audio books, you earn at 66% ($7.50) profit on each book you sell. Share the books at your convenience!
(The third great way to earn extra income appears to be a secret.)
However, it looks like Ms. Dixon may now be returning from private enterprise to the governmental sector work force. The county and city of Jackson, Michigan, have decided to consolidate their human relations departments and place them under one director’s control. And they have decided that Crystal Dixon, at a salary of $87,030, is the right person for this role.
Noting that Dixon has spent the past three years “working as a human resources and business consultant”, the Interim County Administrator praised her ability to “wear many hats and switch her leadership style based on where she is.” (Mlive.com)
Interim county Administrator Adam Brown said Dixon’s level of experience and professionalism put her “head and shoulders” above other candidates.
It’s tempting to think that if the County representatives are that stupid then they deserve what they get. But there is a bigger issue at stake; Crystal Dixon has been given authority over the livelihood of any gay people that work for the county and city of Jackson.
And while Dixon is certainly entitled to her views about matters of faith, homosexuality, choice, and civil rights, if she is incapable or unwilling to set aside those views, this will undoubtedly result in a culture – and perhaps even policy – of anti-gay discrimination.
And, even before three years of receiving accolades for her anti-gay advocacy, Dixon left little doubt as to whether she considers employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be objectionable. She does not. She considers it a divine mandate.
Looking back to where it started, before Dixon was the champion of God, family, and decency, she was a woman responding to a newspaper editor’s call for equal compensation for gay employees. And it was in the context of this right that Dixon countered:
There is a divine order. God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27). God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for each of our choices, including those who violate God’s divine order. It is base human nature to revolt and become indignant when the world or even God Himself, disagrees with our choice that violates His divine order. Jesus Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin (John 8:1-11.) Daily, Jesus Christ is radically transforming the lives of both straight and gay folks and bringing them into a life of wholeness: spiritually, psychologically, physically and even economically. That is the ultimate right.
In April 2008, Crystal Dixon endorsed anti-gay discrimination, saying, “one’s personal choices lead to outcomes either positive or negative.” Having now been confirmed in her beliefs by the city and county of Jackson, there is little doubt that she will see this as God anointing her to mete out those outcomes.
Masturbating phobe apologizes for anti-gay rants
March 2nd, 2011
There’s something about being caught engaged in sexual improprieties that brings about remorse. Perhaps it is true regret or perhaps it is a desire to look less hypocritical, but it does seem to happen.
And Grant Storms, the New Orleans opponent to Southern Decadence who was caught watching kiddies with his hands in his pants, is no exception. (BeliefNet)
Storms, a self-described “Christian patriot” who has protested New Orleans’ annual Southern Decadence gay pride festival, also apologized to those he had maligned, saying, “I was very mean-spirited at times and I apologize.”
Storms also expressed remorse for his protests at the gay festival, which he has said turns the French Quarter into Sodom and Gomorrah.
“When I look back, there’s a lot of things I would have done differently. I was so proudful. I was very arrogant,” he said, adding later, “I’ll fess up to my shortcomings, and whatever they say against me, they can say it. They have every right now to say it.”
Well, I guess it is a step in the right direction.
Texas school supervisor would rather kick off Christian athletes than allow gay students to meet
February 26th, 2011
The Equal Access Act is pretty clear: if you allow student groups to meet on campus you can’t exclude groups because of the content of their position. Originally intended to force school districts to allow Bible Study clubs the same access as the Chess Club, this law has been the legal foundation behind Gay-Straight Alliances being allowed on campus.
But some school districts – and some supervisors – are so anti-gay that they would rather have no clubs than allow gay people to meet and provide emotional support for each other. One such district is Flour Bluff Independent School District, near Corpus Christi, TX, where Supervisor Julie Carbajal is determined that gay kids will continue to feel excluded from school life. So committed is Carbajal to her anti-gay agenda that she is willing to kick other groups off campus.
Superintendent Julie Carbajal said she has asked the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to meet off campus while the district studies the legality of allowing the club while disallowing a club supporting homosexual students. She said there is no chance the district will approve the proposed Gay-Straight Alliance, but she will make sure all other school clubs are following the district’s policy.
Now the school had already decided back in 2005 – in a move to preemptively exclude gay-inclusive organizations – that it would allow no non-curricular clubs on campus. But that was not enforced when it came to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. So now they have to go.
Carbajal would rather have a school with no student support, no organization, no community, no spirit, rather than have one that didn’t tell gay kids that they are worthless. She thinks that this is the moral position, one “fair and equitable to all students.”
What a tool.
Catholics really don’t want to be thought of as bigots
February 25th, 2011
More and more I find myself running across angsty protests against describing actions that exclude gay people from civil inclusion as “discriminatory.” Often these come from Catholic Bishops who have become accustomed to thinking of their church as the defender of the downtrodden and panic when downtrodden gay folk start pointing fingers.
Take, for example, this Catholic News Agency response to the President’s recent DOMA decision:
Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., the top legal counsel for the U.S. bishops, called the administration’s decision a “grave affront” to Americans who reject unjust discrimination but also affirm “the unique and inestimable value of marriage as between one man and one woman.”
“Support for actual marriage is not bigotry, but instead an eminently reasonable, common judgment affirming the foundational institution of civil society,” Picarello said.
Any government suggestion that this belief is discriminatory is a “serious threat” to religious liberty, he added.
Note Picarello’s greatest concern: that the official Catholic teaching is seen as discriminatory, that the church’s anti-gay political activism be viewed as based in bigotry. And anti-gay activism’s number one marriage theorist, Robert George, explains why.
“He treats that belief as if it were a mere prejudice, as though it is motivated by a desire to cause harm to people,” George told CNA Feb. 24. “Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. It is a legitimate moral belief that has informed our law throughout history.”
The statement suggests to George the possibility that the Justice Department will “abuse its authority to suppress the religious liberty of people who dissent.”
“It raises the concern that the Justice Department will treat believing Christians, Jews, Muslims and others as though they are the equivalent of racists,” he warned.
And if there is anything that the Catholic Church wishes to avoid, it’s facing society equating their dogma with racism or other animus-based bias. That doesn’t bode well for evangelism or donations.
Scott Lively endorses anti-gay violence in Uganda
February 3rd, 2011
It is not by coincidence that the three organizations with which anti-gay activist Scott Lively is associated are all deemed by the Southern Poverty Law Center to be Hate Groups. Lively has earned that well-deserved designation. And his latest commentary is not an exception. (RyanSorba)
Having accused gays of orchestrating Hitler’s Nazi regime and being responsible for genocide in Rwanda, it certainly isn’t beyond him to take the opportunity of David Kato’s horrific murder to declare that it is “lavender Marxists” that are murdering Uganda.
Uganda is being murdered. The nation once called “The Pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, a lush and beautiful country as fertile as the Nile Delta.
It is the nation that retained its self-rule through centuries of African colonialism, the society that survived even the atrocities of the cannibal cultist Idi Amin, the culture that has been thriving in Christian revival for over a dozen years.
This great and honorable nation, alone in Africa to have all but conquered the scourge of AIDS through abstinence – and whose First Lady led a holy gathering of thousands of believers on the eve of the millennium, dedicating her homeland “to Jesus Christ for a thousand years” – this Uganda, a shining light in the Dark Continent, is being murdered.
But while this nonsensical rhetoric is troubling, even more so is Lively’s endorsement of anti-gay violence in Uganda:
It is as if the militant ranks of “Code Pink” were transported back to 1890s America to agitate for “sexual freedom.” Our great grandparents would not have countenanced this. There would have been violence, as there has now been in Uganda. [emphasis added]
Lively claims that it is the gays themselves, “agents provocateur”, who deliberately goad naive innocents to murder them so as to “poison the gullible against the Ugandans.” It’s all a George Soros sponsored plot.
So violence is justified. Murder is justified. Pogroms are justified. Such things aren’t evil, just “reactions” to the murderous gays.
There is indeed evil in Uganda today, but it is not the reaction of Christian and Moslem citizens to the rape of their culture. It is the pink-gloved hand of western powers that are cutting the throat of Africa’s most God-fearing country, and one of the world‘s most promising Christian democracies.
Maggie Gallagher opposes anal sex
January 28th, 2011
“Defenders of traditional marriage” like to pretend that their objections to marriage equality are based in procreation or what’s best for children or religious freedom or culture or something, anything, other that bias, animus, or a desire to harm gay people. But sometimes their real motivates leak through the front they present to the world.
Take, for example, this portion of an essay by the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher:
Anal sex is painful, unsanitary, unsatisfying for women, and creates unique risks for serious physical diseases (if you doubt me, go read the Wikipedia entry on the subject) because the anus is not designed for sexual intercourse, increasing the risk of torn flesh and the intermingling of bodily fluids — blood, semen, fecal matter — that can spread an astonishing variety of diseases. The female partner is far more at risk than the man in these encounters. This should be a feminist issue.
Now, of course, Maggie is directing this rant to women. So it has nothing, no nothing at all, nope not whatsoever, to do with her views about homosexuality. And as some gay men don’t engage in anal sex and few lesbians as well, well then obviously this say nothing, no nothing at all, about Maggie’s perspectives of gay people in general. Right?
Except that Maggie isn’t just condemning heterosexual anal sex. In fact, that isn’t her target at all.
In the minds of anti-gay activists and others to whom Maggie directs her essays, homosexuality is inextricably linked with anal sex (lesbians exist as an after-thought). When a preacher rants, “it’s not natural,” and you know he’s thinking anal sex. Hear a politician declare, “that’s not how the body was created,” and it’s anal sex he’s discussion. See an erudite talking head with crisply parted hair and wire-frame glasses espousing his views on “complimentarity” and guess what he means? Anal sex.
So when Maggie attacks anal sex with imagery of “torn flesh” and blood and fecal matter and “astonishing variety of diseases,” it really isn’t about young women at all. Sure, she’d rather they engage only in vaginal intercourse with their lawfully married husband, but that isn’t her point. Rather, Maggie sees this as “dirty” and “icky” and, let’s be real, a homosexual practice that godly heterosexuals should have nothing to do with.
Maggie is generally pretty good at hiding her personal contempt for gay people. But sometimes, like this time, it seeps around the edges.
A Change at Courage
December 31st, 2010
Along with the passage of Father John Harvey, Catholic ex-gay group Courage is taking a new direction. They are moving from their home in Manhattan to Norwalk, CT, and are leaving behind their staff, volunteers, directors, and even their legal identity. The new non-profit corporation will have a Board of Directors will consist of:
Father Paul Scalia – son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – tends to discuss “homosexual activities” using language such as “depravity” and his writings focus as much on the miseries that he just knows are experienced by those who choose the homosexual lifestyle as they do on Catholic teaching about sexuality.
Father James Knapp – has long been a leader in Courage, but seems to have written or spoken publicly little on the subject.
Dr. Tim Lock – a psychologist, was a presenter at NARTH’s 2010 conference with, of all people, Gerald Schoenewolf whose “other way of looking at” slavery led a number of evangelicals to question their association with NARTH. Lock is a true NARTHy who, in a conference in Australia, “exposed nine gay myths, citing scientific research” in a manner reminiscent of John Diggs or Paul Cameron.
Mrs. Marylee MacDougall – is less well known, but in a letter to the editor of The Cowl, Brown’s student newspaper, seems to endorse anti-gay political activism:
Matt Rand (in the Apr. 2 issue) is saying gay marriage is a religious issue, but the history of this topic is that even without religion more than 2000 years of civilization has had a position opposing this lifestyle and valuing family life-which starts with marriage between a man and a woman. Pending legislation and recent court decisions indicate a frontal assault on the traditional and widely accepted understanding of the essence and purpose of marriage.
Father Paul Check (ex-officio) – is the new executive director of the newly revised organization.
In addition to the Directors, there will be “a Body of Members, who provide governance and impart ecclesial authority,” consisting of:
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan – a conservative Catholic who has made his campaign against marriage equality in New York a significant priority. However, Dolan – who sees homosexuality as a compulsion – is not perceived to be harshly anti-gay and uses more nuanced language.
Bridgeport, CT, Bishop William Lori – will be the host to Courage. A conservative, he’s best known for successfully fighting against an attempt by the State of Connecticut to require the Catholic Church to turn over control of the diocese to its membership rather than its hierarchy.
New Ulm, MN, Bishop John LeVoir – gave $250 to the campaign to defeat marriage equality in Maine.
Oakland, CA, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone – is the father of Proposition 8. It was his organization and advocacy that initiated the writing and signature collection of the proposition (remember the early funding was almost entirely Catholic and only after it got on the ballot did the Mormon Church dump in some 20 million dollars).
Father Paul Check (ex-officio)
Considering the number of politically motivated anti-gay activists now involved, what do you want to bet that the ‘new and improved’ Courage has more on its plate than ministry to those with same-sex attractions?
Barber finds the outer edge of wackadoodle, and leaps off
November 19th, 2010
One of the saddest indignities that gay couples suffer is when hospitals deny them the comfort of love amidst serious illness. Using definitions of “family” that elevate an estranged third-cousin above a decades-long partner, “rules and procedures” can actually result in emotional torture to a sick person who is forced to die alone while administrators lock their spouses and children away from them as though they were nosy interloping strangers.
Fortunately, most people aren’t cruel. And even many of the most stalwart “defenders of the family” will concede that people should be able to be with their partners in the hospital. In fact, when President Obama required that those hospitals that receive Medicare funding revisit their policies to allow patients, not pencil-pushers, to define their family, few complained about “the homosexual agenda.”
I say “few” and not “none” because some folk can be counted on to react negatively, even to the most benign of ideas. Anything whatsoever that might possibly be considered to benefit a gay person will evoke a Pavlovian response. Gay marriage – hate it. Gay military service – fight it. Gay apparel – won’t don it. Gay ol’ Time – not for a minute.
One such pillar of predictability is Matt Barber, the Associate Dean of Liberty University School of Law. Yes, Matt can be counted on to scoop up a big steaming pile of nastiness and throw it at our community. And the issue of having your loved ones in the hospital with you is no exception.
Now Matt, who just isn’t all that bright (no, I’m sorry, it’s not just his opinions – the guy really is stupid) makes the following argument:
* You can have any visitors you like
* So no one is discriminating against gay people
* But allowing gay people to have their partners visit is unfair to Catholic and Baptist hospitals who don’t want to allow gay visitors
Yes, Barber literally makes an argument for denying gay sick people to have their partners visit. He thinks – and I kid you not – that hospitals should have the “liberty of conscience” to emotionally torture their patients.
“Certainly there are Catholic hospitals and Baptist hospitals that recognize homosexual behavior as sinful behavior,” he points, “and they do not want to take part in affirming homosexual sin under the strong arm of the government.”
Some religious hospitals may have to make a decision as to whether to conform to the rules or not accept Medicare patients. Barber says what the Obama administration is doing is casting liberty of conscience aside and forcing acceptance of homosexuality.
It’s no wonder that when I read Matt Barber’s name, I find myself whistling:
The real reason some oppose lifting DADT
November 19th, 2010
Those who oppose the repeal of the Military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy often couch their objections to open service in terms of ‘what is best for the Military.’ And, to be fair, that may be a primary concern of our Curmudgeon in Chief or other legislators who just can’t fathom that young soldiers are just not as scared of Homosexuals!! in the Showers!! as they are.
But achieving the best Military is of no consequence to those who are leading the public opposition to open service. If irrefutable proof were offered that open service by gay personnel would increase unit cohesion and military effectiveness by 25%, they would still be opposed. Because their chief objection has nothing to do with the military, the fears of other soldiers, or even sensitivity to the religious teachings of chaplains.
No. Their objection is based on the fear that open service would remove the stigma and hostility that is institutionalized by the DADT policy. They don’t care about military policy nearly as much as they do about condemning homosexuality and gay people.
Take, for example, the objections made by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) when asked what his response would be if the military survey showed that soldiers do not have a problem with open service:
I would still have a problem with it because there’s no question to mainstream homosexuality within active duty military would have an impact on unit cohesion would have an impact on recruitment, an impact on readiness, that’s been established and written about and chronicled for many many years and I believe we need to continue to keep the focus of our military on the mission of the military. Don’t ask don’t tell was a compromise back in the early 90s, it’s been a successful compromise we ought to leave it like it is and and not run the risk of impacting the readiness of our military or recruitment for our military because of an effort to advance some liberal domestic social agenda.
Lots of talk about unit cohesion, recruitment, readiness, etc., but that is just cover.
As Pence indicates, he doesn’t care what the report says. He doesn’t care what soldiers think, or whether open service would improve unit cohesion, recruitment, and readiness. All of that is irrelevant to Pence’s position.
Pence’s real opposition is “to mainstream homosexuality.” The rest is mere justifications offered to bolster his real objection, “mainstreaming” homosexuality.
This fear of “mainstreaming” raises its head in the objections that Focus on the Family makes to anti-bullying campaigns. It’s present in debates over insurance for city employees. It shows up when a theme park has a gay day or when a television show creates a lesbian character or when a library includes a book with a plotline that speaks to the life of a gay youth.
Really, Mike Pence isn’t that worried that the military will not be ready for combat if gay people serve. The military isn’t his concern or why he ran for Congress. In fact, this isn’t even because Pence “hates gays” or opposes “the liberal social agenda”, per se.
Rather, Pence is afraid that Americans are rejecting his religion’s views including those about homosexuality and that it is – or soon will be – no longer mainstream thinking to engage in blanket condemnation of others based on their sexual orientation. He is afraid that his religion will further slip in its “moral authority” to declare what is acceptable social conduct and he is seeking to use his power as an elected official to give governmental sanction to his church’s beliefs.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan added this additional thought:
I think many under-estimate the symbolic importance of this to those who believe homosexuality is a sickness or a sin. What we are asking of them is not simply to tolerate reluctantly the fact that some gay people refuse to be ashamed or closeted, but to conflate the symbol of the American soldier with a homosexual. There are very few emblems in American life that carry the weight, power and symbolism of the American soldier, the veteran, the men and women in uniform.
To say that open gay men and women are serving their country in uniform is to say that they are fully citizens. It is this equal citizenship that simply cannot compute with the idea of homosexuality in the minds of a minority of the older generation.
Newsweek runs offensive puff piece on Brian Brown
November 15th, 2010
Lately it seems that the only time I take notice of Newsweek is when they have run yet another biased article which paints gay people in a bad light and our opponents favorably. While I would not go so far as to label the magazine as being homophobic – I doubt that they are aware of the extent to which they write pejorative about gay people – clearly editorial staff suffer under heterosexist presumptions.
Their latest is a puff piece on Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, by Eve Conant. Brown is a legitimate topic for discussion, but Conant’s portrayal of him – and even moreso of us – serves as little more than an appeal to sympathy for Brian Brown and validation of his anti-gay efforts. Brown’s talking points are repeated as though objective data and those of us who oppose his efforts are characterized as irrational or violent.
Conant opens her piece by casting Brown as a martyr and implying that those who oppose his anti-gay advocacy are a dangerous threat. Even before telling her audience what Brown does, the tone is set: “Brian Brown’s hate mail is divided into two categories: messages that go straight to the police and those he dumps into a growing computer file labeled OPPOSITION.”
Conant’s second error is to parrot Brown’s declarations of success.
A big reason for their frustration is that Brown is succeeding. His National Organization for Marriage played a key role in financing the Nov. 2 ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled to legalize same-sex marriage there in 2009.
As gays and lesbians battle in the courts and legislatures for marriage rights, Brown is on a mission to match their determination and dollars. Using direct-mail campaigns, donor outreach, and bus tours around the country, he spreads NOM’s message that preserving “traditional marriage” is necessary to protect families and ensure religious freedom. “We believe the marriage issue is the last frontier in the fight,” he says. “We have to hold the line there.” Although NOM operates with a skeleton staff, its budget has ballooned from $500,000 in 2007, when Brown cofounded the group, to more than $13 million today. With that war chest, it was able to pour some $5 million into 100 races in the recent elections.
In a display of shockingly naive journalism, Canant accepts Brown’s stated accomplishments – which may as well have been gleaned from one of his many “look what I’ve done, send me money’ emails. She provides no evaluation of the success of those high-profile races in which NOM intervened (all, other than the judge, failed), the bus tours (laughably incompetent), or whether NOM’s message is resonating.
While it is true that three judges were not confirmed – due in part to NOM’s efforts – to declare that “Brown is succeeding” requires that one ignore the total picture and focus only on one incident. And in pronounceing that “the jury is out” on whether marriage equality in an eventuality, Conant used but the scantest of thought:
Though both sides like to claim they’re winning this fight, the jury is out. This year New Hampshire and Washington, D.C., joined Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont in legalizing gay marriage. And polling shows support for it is on the rise, up from 27 percent of Americans in 1996 to 44 percent today, according to Gallup. But in the 31 states where gay marriage has been put to a vote, it’s lost every time.
There is a thoughtful argument for the uncertainty of future outcomes, but this isn’t it. Discussing state DOMA amendments without discussing timelines and geography is simplistic to the point of meaninglessness. So too are discussion of states which have marriage equality without an analysis of possible repeal.
But the most offensive part of Connant’s article is that it serves not only as a “feel good” piece on Brown, but it positions those who disagree with him in a negative light. They are not supporters of equality, rather they are enemies of this good man. This is, indeed, the underlying theme and is present in nearly every paragraph:
Paragraph 1: OPPONENTS of Brown send hate mail, tell him on the phone that they want to burn him while his children watch, and threaten to send a pipe bomb. Even the least threatening are “frustrated”.
Paragraph 2: Repeats that they are frustrated
Paragraph 4: “Critics like to paint Brown as…” The structure of this phrase assumes that anything which follows is a false portrayal. Evan Wolfson, who comments on the likelihood of NOM’s efforts as a “last hurrah” is set up to be dismissed as a falsely painting critic and then Connant presents a counter to the “like to paint” position which is competely irrelevant to the point.
Paragraph 5: Here we have a good guy v. bad guy comparison. Brown “mostly tries to avoid demonizing gays and lesbians” while a marriage supporter “tapes Brown’s events and posts them online as fuel for gay activists.” Look again at “fuel for gay activists.” That is not, under any circumstances, a neutral statement.
Paragraph 6: Here we see two “he said, they said” presentations of the views of those who oppose NOM. It’s subtle, but the comparison leads the reader to one conclusion:
First, “gay-rights advocates say the group is a carefully orchestrated front for…” But Connant’s response is “In fact, it’s almost impossible to characterize Brown’s supporters.” This isn’t even presented as Brown’s position, it’s presented as fact and thus the gay-rights activists are either deluded, paranoid, or liars.
The second is trickier. It’s the presentation of two accusations. First Brown accuses those who are demanding that NOM follow election laws: “his donors could be targeted and harassed by gays and their supporters.” Note that these are specific allegations and cast “gays and their supporters” as harassers and dangerous. Note also that the opening words of this piece assign validity to Brown’s claim.
Then the opposite side’s position is misstated: “gay advocates say he’s simply flouting campaign-finance laws.” No, we don’t think his purpose has anything to do with the anarchistic notion of “simply flouting laws.” We have specific concerns but they are not presented. Rather, you see the vague and slightly paranoid (and probably truncated): “You have to look at why they are fighting tooth and nail to not disclose their donors.” There is no mention as to the reason why we think NOM wants hide the identities of major donors: to allow them to seek to change law in secret, without any fear of public criticism or reprisal.
Fear of secret political machinations of wealthy organizations, churches, or individuals may resonate with Newsweek’s readers. They may share our concerns that the Mormon Church or Catholic Church some other entity or individual almost single-handedly funded a state-wide campaign – and did so in secret and without the voter’s knowledge. One has to wonder why Connant did not articulate this concern.
Paragraph 7: Brown’s “detractors” are baffled. His efforts are a “mystery.” And Brown presents his case to quickly slap down the strawman of confusion that Connant presented. His explanation is – and we aren’t mystified, we’ve heard it over and over – accepted as fact. Gay folk aren’t too befuddled to point out the hollowness of Brown’s statements, Connant simply chose not to report it.
Paragraph 8: This is perhaps the most insidious of Connant’s insinuations. Characterization by anecdote is not new to yellow journalism; those who wish to present good guy v. bad guy imagery find it a most useful tool. While Susan, Brown’s wife, is a sympathetic character who “understands” the “frustration” of the people who so badly abuse her, gay folk are presented less charitably:
At an event in Providence, R.I., she says, “they walked up to my kids and asked them, ‘Is Mommy raising you to be a good little bigot?’?”
Paragraph 9: This last paragraph, indeed the final words, remind the reader about who is the hero and who is the villain of this article:
Until that day—and perhaps long after—Brown is prepared to keep getting hate mail.
I understand that human interest stories are not in the same vein as hard-hitting journalism. But this goes beyond being a puff piece and instead is a smear on those who support marriage equality. Yet again, “Gays are a threat to be feared” is the theme of a Newsweek article.
Straight Pride = Death
November 10th, 2010
I’m all for straight pride. I think that straight folk are pretty amazing, over all, and that there’s an awful lot of good that can be celebrated in the history, culture and contributions of straight people. I even think that taking a moment to acknowledge one’s orientation can make one respectful for the orientation of others. When you look closely at your own attractions and how that impacts the way you interact with others, it not only makes you a better person but more appreciative of the way that others interact.
But that’s not really what those who trumpet the slogan “straight pride” usually mean. They aren’t really proud or appreciative or contemplative or even much aware of heterosexuality. No, they just want to demonstrate their animus towards gay folk.
Take, for example, three students at St. Charles North High School in St. Charles, IL: (mysuburbanlife.com)
While this week is ally week at St. Charles North and East High Schools, a week meant to put an end to anti-gay and anti-lesbian bullying and harassment, a group of three students from St. Charles North High School wanted to express their own views.
Michael Fairbanks, president of the St. Charles East Gay-Straight Alliance, sent out an e-mail to the media last night saying a group of St. Charles North boys came to school yesterday with shirts that read “STRAIGHT PRIDE” on the front and “If a man lay with a male as those who lay with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and shall surely be put to DEATH,” a Bible verse from Leviticus 20:13.
I guess that they put “death” in capitals for some purpose and I can’t imagine that it was charitable. Taken in the context of the week, I guess they were trying to say, “No, gay students shouldn’t be defended from bullying, they should be killed instead.”
The school handled the situation intelligently.
St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 spokesman Jim Blaney said once the building administrators became aware of the shirts, the three students wearing them were called into the deans’ office to discuss the matter. They were sent back to class and later were called back for a second discussion.
Blaney said the administration wanted to explain to students that they have a right to express their point of view, but they also wanted to make the students aware that their message could be seen as hurtful by other students.
The kids agreed to cover up the death threat and not to wear the shirts again. They said that they didn’t really mean to harm anyone. Which, of course, isn’t true.
They probably didn’t mean for physical harm to come to any specific person, but they fully intended to harm what their parents (“good Christians”, no doubt) would call “the radical militant homosexual agenda” but which is, in reality, the message that gay kids should not be bullied.
But they did make a good illustration to prove the point of the gay-straight alliance, so it wasn’t all bad.
My existence is not a violation of your rights
November 3rd, 2010
I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the notion of “balance” that some in the anti-gay industry are espousing.
I support the right of those who believe that homosexual acts are sinful and wish to encourage abstinence to have their voices heard. And those who think that the social acceptance of same-sex couples in society reduces public morality and will lead to social ills should be given the space to present their case.
But the false equivalencies that have been presented lately do not speak to an exchange of ideas, but rather to the assumptions of entitlement to which anti-gay activists think they are due.
The counterbalance to “I wish to advocate for gay rights” is not “you must be kept silent.” And there is no moral equivalency between “I wish to live unharmed” and “I wish to beat you to submission.” Yet these are not greatly exaggerated from that which we see presented.
Take, for example, Russian gay rights protesters who sued their country in the European Court after being denied the right to assemble. The court found last month that their rights had been violated and ordered that Russia allow for future gay rights demonstrations and assigned compensation.
The response to this decision by the Russian Orthodox Church is astonishing. (Interfax Religion)
“The decision made in Strasbourg essentially constitutes violence against the feelings and morals of the majority of [Russian] society. That will hardly help achieve the stated purpose to cultivate tolerance and achieve accord, mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence,” Father Filaret said in an interview with Interfax-Religion.
Peaceful assembly is depicted by the church as “violence against the morals and feelings of society.” The real violence enacted against the physical bodies of gay people in Russia was given less concern by the church than the “violence” against anti-gays feelings.
Or take note of the equivalencies assigned by the school board in Howell, Michigan. (Livingston Daily)
- On October 20, Jay McDowell wore a purple shirt to class to express solidarity with students who are bullied for being (or being perceived as) gay or lesbian. This led to a discussion about bullying and why it should be opposed.
- One student, who had come to class with a Confederate Flag belt buckle was asked by McDowell to remove the item (she did).
- In response, a male student declared that he opposes rainbow flags because, “I don’t accept Gays. It is against my religion. I am Catholic.”
- McDowell attempted to explain how “I don’t accept” followed by any group was disruptive and when the student refused to back down, suspended him and another student from the class for the day.
As the Michigan Messenger describes it:
That student … and another student, were kicked out of McDowell’s Economic class after debating with the teacher about a third student’s Confederate flag belt buckle. The student questioned why it was OK for students to wear clothing to support LGBT issues, but not for a student to wear a Confederate flag.
In other words, why isn’t “I support” equivalent to “I don’t accept”? Shouldn’t both positions be given the same prominence and legal and moral weight?
No. Perhaps in some settings, but not this one.
Because the context of the debate was over the bullying of children. And in that context, “I don’t accept gays” is an implicit endorsement of bullying of school children. When speaking of bullying, “I don’t accept” is a justification for bullying.
Yet the school board found that McDowell violated the rights of these two boys to their free expression and reprimanded him. And in doing so, they made the following comparison:
You also state you routinely do not allow [the Confederate Flag] in your classroom because it offends you, and you personally connect this symbol to a list of oppressions and atrocities. You do, however, allow the display of the rainbow flag, to which some of your students have voiced opposition.
McDowell actually does not display the rainbow flag. (And, indeed, if McDowell did use his class space to advocate for specific (or even general) political positions to the exclusion of other positions, I would agree that this was unfair.) But irrespective of that inaccuracy, consider what it means that the school board administration compared the two:
On one hand the Confederate Flag has a traceable history and an identifiable connection with acts of violence and advocacy of discrimination and intolerance towards people based on their racial and religious identity. In fact, in this particular high school it was linked to a Facebook Hate Group which, in 2009, used the flag as its profile picture and students have been required to remove the symbol from their cars. The Confederate Flag at Howell High was directly connected to a threat against some students.
On the other hand, the rainbow flag is linked with a set of social positions with which some students disagree. At most, it exists as a challenge to the beliefs of some students. But in the minds of this school board administration, a challenge to their beliefs is equivalent to – or worse than – a physical threat against others.
And so they accused McDowell of bullying the students, of denying their right to “not accept” their fellow students. In response to his defense of gay students from being bullied (or “not accepted”), they order him to “cease from engaging in the promotion of your personal social issues.”
For refusing to accept statements of intolerance in his classroom, the board accused McDowell of being intolerant.
Nonsense. Contrary to what anti-gay activists claim, tolerance is not defined by the extent to which it allows intolerance to prevail.
But perhaps most troubling is this instruction to McDowell: “Where controversial issues arise, be sure all sides of the controversial issue be explored without emotion and bias.” Think back to the originating situation, the reason for McDowell’s decision to wear purple: the suicide deaths of a number of gay and presumed-gay children.
What, I wonder, are “all sides” of the “controversial issue” that gay students should not be bullied to death?
Guess who inspired Walter Schumm’s bogus “research”?
October 28th, 2010
MetroCatholic has written up an article about the controversy resulting from the AOL News story about Kansas State University professor Walter Schumm and his “study” finding that the “children of homosexuals are more likely to be homosexuals.”
In what is either a poorly contrived effort at preemptive damage control or a case of absurd irony, Schumm discusses the motivations for his study:
“Most scholars actually agree with the concept that gay people ought to be more likely to have gay children,” he told CNA in an Oct. 19 interview. “Even people on the liberal side of things actually pretty much agree with the idea that there are going to be social influences.”
He noted that prominent gay activist Jim Burroway has criticized proponents of the “parental influence” theory but has also said that such findings would not be surprising. In a column published on a gay and lesbian website in 2006, Burroway noted that virtually every theory about the origin of homosexuality would likely predict a higher incidence in children of gay parents.
Schumm wanted to test that prediction, and to improve on previous research he said was too limited and not sufficiently rigorous. He analyzed data obtained from 26 studies of gay parents and their children.
I was unable to identify – among the many many articles discussing the contributing factors that play into the development of sexual orientation – one that directly fits Schumm’s description. But I did find that in December 2006, Jim said this:
If we are ever able to tease out all of the possible factors that influence sexuality, we will probably learn that there are many different “types” of homosexuality. For some, it may be genetic. For others, maybe their later birth order after a string of brothers. For others still, it may be the same thing that made them left-handed. For others, their left-handedness may be a red herring and the real cause was their distant father. And for others, maybe their absent father had nothing to do with it; prenatal hormones made it inevitable. And for most — maybe all — it is more likely to be the unique combination of any and all of these factors (and others that we haven’t discovered yet) which forms the basis for who we are.
Ultimately, the issue is not whether the “parental influence” theory – or any of the other theories – will be found to be the most accurate. This issue is whether Schumm or his “study” has credibility to contribute to the conversation. And having reviewed his methods, we have determined that he has none.
Mormon leader addresses the Great Conundrum
October 8th, 2010
Boyd Packer is the president and the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). On Sunday, speaking to the 180th Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City (which was broadcast around the world), he preached a sermon which was dedicated to anti-gay doctrine and political activism.
Coming on the tail of a series of news reports about anti-gay bullying resulting in child suicide, this shocked and angered those who seek to protect vulnerable children from a culture of contempt. Last night, thousands of protesters surrounded the Mormon Temple in symbolic illustration of the deaths that result from such incautious words.
Public outrage over the comments included demands that the church retract and denounce the sermon. In a most peculiar decision, the church decided instead to sanitize the sermon to make it less obviously objectionable when media came looking for quotes, and released a statement that Packer’s statements were “based on principles of truth, respect and love for all of God’s children.”
I do not fault a religious leader for espousing their religious beliefs, even those which I find to be contrary to everything I think is moral and true. However, as Packer’s talk was laden with terms such as “evil” and “wickedness” and “perversion” and as Packer declared that civil equality for gay couples would lead to the end of civilization, his entire sermon is foul and objectionable.
But amidst the animus and condescension, Boyd did illustrate what I call the Great Conundrum. In May I wrote about this paradox:
For millenia, church teaching has been that God is good and applying his rules leads to happiness. God has said that homosexuality is forbidden and abomination to him. This is evident in Scripture and it is abundantly clear that homosexuality is not to be tolerated. Those who are homosexual are vile and willful sinners who choose to defy God.
However, we currently know the homosexuality is a naturally occurring attribute of a person. One’s attractions are not selected and are based in part on genetics. Other contributors may include other biological or perhaps even social factors, but conscious choice is seldom involved at all and no manner of effort seems effective in changing homosexuality into heterosexuality.
Therefore, God has – through genetics and other factors under the control of his divine hand – created a group of humans which he condemns for being the way He created them. He rejects and punishes them (and endorses the human punishment of them) for the sin of existing, a sin over which they had no free will.
This is not conceivable to modern Christians. This is contrary to how they view the nature of God. And so, Christians are faced with the following options: Either
- The writers of the Scripture got it wrong, or
- Your understanding of Scripture is incorrect, or
- Modern understanding about homosexuality is wrong, or
- God is a bully.
And I discussed the various ways in which a conservative Christian can resolve such a puzzle. Boyd Packer chose what I called “Response 3: Denying evidence.”
Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father.
Paul promised that “God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church.
Boyd’s logic goes like this: Inborn tendencies come from God. God is good. Homosexuality is bad. Therefore, homosexuality did not come from God and is not inborn. Science, research, personal witness, and any evidence that contradicts this formula must be ignored.
No doubt this conclusions-based logic will continue for some time to satisfy faithful Mormons who are seeking justification for their anti-gay attitudes or activism. It will provide cover for the church’s continuing attack on the civil liberties of gay people.
But in time, denying empirical evidence will only serve to weaken Packer’s influence and image and come to harm his church.