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Posts for February, 2014

Maine Says No To Discrimination, Arizona (Naturally) Says Yes

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014

In a mostly party-line 89-52 vote, the Maine House defeated a bill that would have created a special exemption for those who wish to claim a right to discrimination based on religious beliefs.

While the exemption was supposedly aimed at allowing discrimination against LGBT people and same-sex couples, the bill itself did not provide such narrow grounds for claiming an exemption. Instead, the bill sought to exempt anyone from anti-discrimination laws or any other law or regulation if it would “Constrain or inhibit conduct or expression mandated by a person’s sincerely held religious tenet or belief.” That would include any kind of act, whether its discrimination against a gay couple or an African-American family or a single woman. Two Democrats, Rep Stan Short (Pittsfield) and Steve Stanley (Medway) voted for the measure. Five Republicans — Reps. Michael G. Beaulieu (Auburn), Richards Campbell (Orrington), Aaron Libby (Waterboro), Sharri MacDonald (Old Orchard Beach), Joyce Maker (Calais) — voted to kill the bill.

While Maine’s lawmakers showed their sanity in turning down the bill, Arizona’s lawmakers are working diligently to preserve their state’s reputation for being among the most hostile and retrograde in the nation. House Bill 2153 would provide a similarly broad exemption for religious people by allowing them to “act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” As Dan Savage describes it in a post titled “It Could Soon Be Legal For Satanists to Discriminate Against Christians in Arizona“:

That’s not the law’s intent, of course. Arizona’s proposed new law, like the ones in Kansas and Idaho, is about legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians. But in an effort to hide the anti-gay prejudice behind their “religious liberty” bill, Arizona lawmakers have worded it so vaguely that it empowers anyone of any faith to discriminate against anyone for any reason—provided, of course, that the person doing the discriminating remembers to cite their sincerely held religious beliefs as a justification.

It also adds a new element of discrimination into the law: atheists would have no grounds to claim protection for refusing to serve gay people in a restaurant or rent to Latinos or hire Jews. This law and others like it carve out a special privilege available to religious people only.

An identical bill sailed through Arizona’s Senate last Wednesday in a 17-13 party-line vote. And true to form, the Arizona House passed the measure in another 33-27 vote. Republicans Rep. Kate Broohy McGee (Phoenix), Heather Carter (Cave Creek), and Ethan Orr (Tucson) voted no.  It will now land on Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk by nightfall.

Mother Jones reports that these rash of bills are hitting state legislatures in rapid succession:

Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

The Arizona and Idaho bills were brought forward by state policy organizations associated with CitizenLink, a Focus On the Family affiliate. Others, like the Kansas bill, were crafted by the American Religious Freedom Program, which is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The sponsor of the Tennessee bill withdrew it yesterday, while lawmakers in Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota turned back measure in their states. This came on the same day that the Kansas Senate president announced that her chamber would not consider a discrimination exemption bill that had passed the House earlier. The Kansas version was perhaps the broadest bill of all, as it would have covered all government employees including first responders.

Professional heterosexual Jeff Johnston takes non-Biblical position on Facebook gender options

Daniel Gonzales

February 13th, 2014

Facebook has updated their site to allow users to select options for their gender beyond “male” and “female.”  In a surprise to no one Focus On The Family is worked up about this and trotted out their resident ex-gay-for-pay Jeff Johnston to provide quotes for an AP story:

“Of course Facebook is entitled to manage its wildly popular site as it sees fit, but here is the bottom line: It’s impossible to deny the biological reality that humanity is divided into two halves – male and female,” Johnston told the AP.

Except the Bible makes repeated reference to eunuchs* in both the Old and New Testaments.  Which gender box would Johnsnton force Heigai from the Book of Esther to choose? How about the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8? Or Ebed-melech who rescued Jeremiah from the well?  What box on Facebook would Johnston tell them to check?

Even Jesus spoke of eunuchs in Matthew 19:12

“For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

Johnston ignores a direct commandment from Jesus and Biblical record to falsely claim a two choice gender binary exists, when it clearly does not as recorded in his own holy book.  Focus seems to agree with Johnston’s position since their PR team tweeted a link to the article.   It’s unclear why Focus has adopted a non-Biblical position on the existence and dignity of transgender people.

 

*As modern medicine has given us hormones and surgery to supersede castration the term “eunuch” is rarely used today. The Biblical context of Matthew 19:12 makes it clear there are multiple reasons for a person being a eunuch beyond involuntary castration, I argue in Biblical times it is was an inclusive term much like “trans” is today. Also, one of the few continuing ancient transgender traditions are the Hijra of South Asia who still today often self identify as both eunuchs and transgender further supporting my assertion the terms are interchangeable.

Another Former Ex-Gay Leader Recants

Jim Burroway

April 18th, 2013

John Paulk, a former board chair at Exodus International and lead spokesperson for Focus On the Family on promoting the ex-gay movement, has renounced his ex-gay past in an interview with Portland’s PQ Monthly:

Paulk’s emailed response to PQ’s interview questions suggest that he might, in fact, be moving toward accepting who he is.

“Until recently, I have struggled all my life in feeling unloved and unaccepted,” Paulk said. “I have been on a journey during the last few years in trying to understand God, myself, and how I can best relate to others. During this journey I have made many mistakes and I have hurt many people including people who are close to me. I have also found a large number of people who accept me for who I am regardless of my past, any labels, or what I do.”

Paulk continued, “I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals — especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated. I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued. I have worked at giving generously to the gay community in Portland where I work and live. I am working hard to be authentic and genuine in all of my relationships.”

Misconstrued? Which words were misconstrued? Were they the messages he promoted when in 1995 he was first elected to the chairmanship of Exodus International? Or when, as an employee of Focus On the Family, he launched a traveling series of conferences called “Love Won Out” in 1998, which travelled to a half a dozen cities per year for the next decade and a half, convincing parents and teens that he and his cohorts knew how to make them straight? Was it in 1998, when Paulk and his wife, “ex-lesbian” Anne Paulk, appeared as a happy cover in a major newspaper and billboard advertising campaign to promote the ex-gay community, a campaign which culminated in them landing on the cover of Newsweek?

Or was it in 2000 when the Love Won Out  was making a stop in Washington, D.C., and LGBT activist Wayne Besen took Paulk’s photo as Paulk fled a gay bar near Dupont Circle, after Paulk was spotted flirting with patrons for more than an hour?

Anyway

Paulk lost his chairmanship at Exodus International, but remained on its board of directors. He also, after a probationary period, continued working as head of Focus On the Family’s Homosexuality and Gender division, and he remained the coordinator and a speaking for its ove Won Out conferences until 2003. Paulk left Focus On the Family and the couple moved to Portland, where John Paulk started a catering business, Mezzaluna, in 2005.

Paulk has more or less dropped off the map since then, although his wife continues to publish books and remain active in the ex-gay movement. In 2012, after Exodus International began acknowledging to that change in sexual orientation was not possible, Anne Paulk helped to form a break-away group comprised of former Exodus ministries. She now serves on the board of directors of that dissident group, Restored Hope Network. The Paulks are reportedly separated, and former employees of Paulk’s catering service alleged that Paulk had engaged in inappropriate conduct with his employees. Others however defend him:

“Chef John is an amazing person to work for,” said Jeremy Neel, Mezzaluna’s openly gay catering captain. “He is very compassionate, friendly, caring, encouraging, and supportive…. I love my job. It is sad that some people in the LGBT community are saying negative things about him yet have not given him a chance. One’s past should not define who they are.”

Kurt Granzow, aka “Sister Krissy Fiction” of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, has a background similar to Paulk’s. “I was in the ex-gay movement and a conservative Christian minister for over a decade before I moved to Portland and came out,” Granzow said. “I’ve been trying to support John in his process of leaving that stuff behind. I remember what it was like to look in the mirror with shame and self-loathing. The process of learning to be who you are is tough. I’ve just tried to be a compassionate friend.”

Paulk still has his detractors. Besen has issued a list of demands, including that Paulk denounces the Portland Fellowship, an former Exodus International ex-gay ministry that is now affiliated with Restored Hope Network; embark on a speaking tour with LGBT advocates, and supporting an Oregon bill that would ban Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) for minors. Roey Thorpe, former director of Basic Rights Oregon, told PQ Monthly:

John Paulk isn’t just a conflicted man who hasn’t been able to reconcile his sexuality with his faith — we are all sympathetic to that and many of us have had that struggle. This is different,” Thorpe said. “Thousands of young people have been forced into religious conversion programs, shamed into believing they are sinners. Families have been encouraged to reject their children, and queer kids end up on the streets or committing suicide. Others live silently, filled with shame. This is how the Paulk family has made their living. I have dear friends who have been through hell and are still exiled from their families because of John Paulk. It’s important for people to know who they are doing business with.”

 

Focus On the Family Promotes Breakaway Ex-Gay Group

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2012

Jeff Johnston, Focus on the Family’s “social policy analyst,” penned a post last Friday on FOTF’s CitizenLink endorsing the Restored Hope Network, which is made up of a collection of breakaway ministries from Exodus International following the latter’s shift in messaging and tone over the past year. Johnston doesn’t mention Exodus in his post, instead commending the new network for its “solid ministries and men and women who have years of ministry experience.” He then launched into some of a bulleted meditation — a sort of a PowerPoint theology — on what he calls “sexual brokenness”:

Sexually and relationally broken – just think about it for a minute:

  • Because of Adam’s sin, our whole self is impacted by sin – including our identity, our sexuality and our ability to connect and maintain healthy relationships
  • After they sinned, Adam and Eve feel ashamed, hide from God and begin blaming others; their eldest boy kills his brother; relational brokenness – inside families and between us and God
  • Our culture is saturated with broken sexuality, and we’re exposed to it and impacted by it from childhood on; sexual brokenness runs deep in our world; it’s so much a part of our background that we don’t always notice
  • Satan roams the earth like a lion, using sexual and relational brokenness to destroy individuals, families, churches, groups, businesses…. [Emphasis added, ellipses in the original]

I’ll let that last comment stand, along with this Facebook post from Robert Gagnon, who spoke at Restored Hope’s innauguran conference in Sacramento last weekend:

There were only 7 quiet protestors. Not much of a showing. San Francisco was having a “leather” event that no doubt was a more attractive event for those with a “gay” identity! Moral of the story: schedule the meeting during homosexual debauchery events.

Johnston and Gagnon seem to go very well together.

Candi Cushman responds to GLAAD with the MSU strategy

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2012

The new Commentator Accountability Project of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation was certainly expected to elicit reaction and some of it in objection. And there are reasonable and legitimate responses which some on the list could make.

For example, those who were included primarily due to statements of theological position could simply note that indeed they do disagree with GLAAD but that they think it unfair to be lumped in with folks like Lively or Donohue. Or some might object to specific quotes which they may have once said but no longer believe. And those are objections with which I could sympathize.

But one included party had a different response. Candi Cushman, the Education Analyst for Focus on the Family took what I call the “MSU” response. She just Made Sh!t Up.

Here’s how she opens her rant:

I found it fascinating to read the announcement yesterday that I had been included in a list of 36 dangerous radicals who should be banned from national television and print outlets.

Now no doubt that would be fascinating to read. But if Candi read that, it didn’t come from our community. How GLAAD described the individuals they included is as follows:

The GLAAD Commentator Accountability Project (CAP) aims to put critical information about frequent anti-gay interviewees into the hands of newsrooms, editors, hosts and reporters. Journalists or producers who are on deadline often don’t have the time to dig into the histories of a commentator. Audiences need to be aware that when they’re not talking to the mainstream media, these voices are comparing LGBT people to Nazi Germany, predicting that equal treatment of LGBT people will lead to the total collapse of society, and even making accusations of satanic influence.

The Commentator Accountability Project is bringing all of these statements to light, while calling attention to the sentiments behind them. We will show that the commentators who are most often asked to opine on issues like marriage equality or non-discrimination protections do not accurately represent the “other side” of those issues. They represent nothing but extreme animus towards the entire LGBT community.

Radical? Didn’t see it. Dangerous? Missed that too. And there’s no mention of “banning” at all.

Although, I suppose, if Candi were speaking not of what she has been called but was instead trying to accurately assess the individuals based on the standards that her faith professes, she might conclude that these people are, indeed, dangerous radicals and that any civilized religion would renounce such persons and reject them as representatives in national television and print outlets. I very much doubt that was her intent.

Candi Cushman just wants you to feel sorry for her and to be indignant towards GLAAD. So she engages in MSU.

GLAAD didn’t call her a dangerous radical. But if they had called her a dangerous radical then she would get sympathy and GLAAD would be seen as extremist and hostile to Christians. So she MSUs.

GLAAD didn’t call for banning anyone from anything. But if they had said that these individuals should be banned from national television and print outlets then she would get sympathy and GLAAD would be seen as extremist and hostile to Christians. So she does a little MSU.

And continuing down the theme of martyrdom and how gay activists are unreasonable hate-mongers imposing on poor Candi who only has good intentions, she posts a few comments that Focus has received in the past which were nasty.

I agree with Candi that those comments illustrate hateful attitudes – but no one is inviting those idiots to speak on television about issues. They don’t represent organizations or pretend to speak for anyone but themselves. And to suggest otherwise is just to MSU.

The ironic thing is that some of Candi’s worldview is not really all that objectionable.

While it is increasingly difficult to support or convince oneself, it is not inherently “hateful” to believe that gay people could become heterosexual if they tried. Nor is it “hateful” to think of sin as “spiritual brokenness” which can be healed through faith and to have compassion for those you imagine struggle with temptation. It might be condescending, but isn’t hate to think, “Oh, they would be so much happier if they just gave all that up and got married. A family is such a blessing and joy.”

Such thinking may offend us and may be based in willful ignorance, but it need not be the product of hatred or animus. Many people who see homosexuality by these terms are not motivated by malice, they just have difficulty conceptualizing that this isn’t a matter of being “tempted” to engage in certain forbidden sexual acts but an underlying subconscious difference in how our bodies, minds, emotions and perceptions respond to the two sexes.

But it’s what Candi does with it that places her on the list and excludes others.

Candi is not satisfied with simply saying that homosexuality, like pre-marital sex or remarriage or cursing or gossiping or working on Sunday, are contrary to her beliefs about divine mandates for appropriate behavior and therefore socially unacceptable. Instead Candi creates fictional attributes of gay people to attack. Gays are mentally ill or tools of Satan or infiltrating classrooms or trying to harm Christians or trying to destroy the family.

Unwilling to limit herself to “GLAAD is wrong about me”, Candi goes with

So more than revealing anything about the spokespeople it’s targeting, GLAAD’s “project” reveals the intolerant mindset driving it: The belief that only one perspective—that which is completely aligned with homosexual activist groups—is legitimate, and that all others should be censored and eradicated from the public realm.

Which is definitely MSUing.

What she doesn’t realize is that in her MSU approach, Cushman reveals much more of what she believes about her faith than it does of what she believes about gay people.

Those who have confidence in their position, state it. They believe that the truth, when heard, is compelling. Those who do so about matters of faith believe that their God will make evident the truth of their preaching and convince the listeners of its merit. Christians call it the moving of the Holy Spirit.

But Candi doesn’t believe that her arguments are convincing. She thinks that society would hear her moral code and reject it. She believes that her god is not capable of influencing society to adopt her beliefs or is unwilling to do so. Yet, for motivations that we may never fully know, Candi can neither give up her position or find the faith to let it stand on its own.

So Candi, lacking truth or a god to defend it, is left with her only option. Candi Cushman turns to the MSU strategy: when all else fails, just make sh1t up.

. . .
[presented with apologies to the students, staff and alumni of Michigan State University]

Focus launches “religious liberty” ballot amendment in Colorado

Daniel Gonzales

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 mans, 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.

Illegal license plates commonly used by sovereign citizens. Note the plate in the top right reads "sovereign, Christian Citizen"

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.”

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 19

Jim Burroway

November 19th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Transgender Day of Remembrance: Several locations. While tomorrow is officially the day set aside to remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia, some TDoR events are taking place today. TDoR began in reaction to the brutal murder of Rita Hester, who was killed on November 28, 1998. Her murder resulted in the creation of the Remembering Our Dead web site and a candlelight vigil in 1999. In the first nine months of 2011, 116 transgender people have been killed around the world, according to Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM). They also say that there have been at least 681 murders in 50 countries since 2008. Observances for the Transgender Day of Rememberance typically consist of the reading of the names of those who have died because of their gender identity, expression, presentation or perception of gender variance. Observances are being held in cities all around the world. Click here to find an observance near you.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Thanksgiving Family Forum: Des Moines, IA. The anti-gay Family Leader will host a Thanksgiving Family Forum with GOP presidential candidates Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, pizza magnate Herman Cain, and Rep. Michele Bachmann “sitting shoulder to shoulder around a ‘Thanksgiving table’.” That hokey piece of stagecraft is the brainchild of organizer Bob Vander Plaats, who has this as a dress code: “the audience attire will be ‘business casual,’ but the candidates were asked ‘to dress like they’re going to Thanksgiving dinner’.” Which means that one of them will be wearing a loud green sweater with a giant white snowflake.

Noticably absent from the banquet is Gov. Mitt Romney, which has Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats steamed at the snub. “Mitt Romney has dissed this base in Iowa and this diss will not stay in Iowa,” he told Fox News. “This has national tentacles. … This might prove that he is not smart enough to be president. …I think what will happen is what happened in 2008. He’s been in this position before. He’s been on top of polls only to find his campaign tanking and sucking air.” Tell us how you really feel, Bob.

Family Leader promises that “ALL the questions will be centered around issues relating to the family and are designed to gauge the constitutional and biblical worldviews of the candidates.” And to make sure none of the candidates move too far from an anti-gay agenda, two ten-minute segments of the two-hour forum will be headed by Focus On the Family’s Tom Minnery, and the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown. The remainder of the one hour and forty minutes will be moderated by Fox News’ Frank Lutz. It begins at 4:00 p.m. at the First Federated Church in Des Moines. While the event is open to the press, the latest word has it that no major network will be televising it. Thank God for small favors.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
American Council of Christian Churches Calls AIDS “God’s Wrath”: 1989. Peter Steinfels wrote in the New York Times about a gathering earlier in November of U.S. Catholic Bishops in Baltimore that had met to hammer out a document responding to the AIDS crisis. The bishops decided overwhelmingly to reject the theological proposition that AIDS was in any way a punishment from God, a position held by one in four Americans, according to a recent poll. J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, had published 68 statements on AIDS from 45 different religious groups in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, and found “a remarkable” across both liberal and conservative religious groups recognizing that AIDS was not just a gay problem, and “that special ministries should be established to serve AIDS victims, their families and friends, and that the civil rights of homosexuals or of those with the AIDS virus should be protected.” But, The Times learned, that consensus wasn’t unanimous:

The Bible repeatedly describes God as employing all kinds of terrors, natural and human, to punish those who disobey his commands. These biblical accounts naturally governed the reaction of the American Council of Christian Churches, a fundamentalist group that recently expressed dismay at the consensus discovered by Mr. Melton. The council, which claims to represent about two million ”Bible Christians,” promptly went on record upholding the idea that AIDS is God’s wrath visited on homosexuals and drug addicts, although for their ultimate benefit if they turn to Jesus.

If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Chik-Fil-A’s Anti-Gay Contributions

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2011

Chick-Fil-A’s charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, has received $7.8 million in funding from Chick-FilA, Inc. WinShape, which was founded by Chick-Fil-A’s founder and chairman S. Truett Cathy, turned around and gave more than $1.7 million to several anti-gay groups in 2009, including the Marriage and Family Legacy Fund ($994,199), Fellowship Of Christian Athletes ($480,000), National Christian Foundation ($240,000), Focus On The Family ($12,500) Eagle Forum ($5,000), Exodus International ($1,000), and Family “Research” Council ($1,000). Equality Matters has the details. Remember that the next time you’re hankering to “Eat Mor Chikin.”

Gays Are Evil

Jim Burroway

October 3rd, 2011

So says National Organization for Marriage’s new honcho John Eastman:

Those fighting for traditional marriage can feel beaten down by the culture at large. Do you feel that victory for traditional marriage is possible?

Evil will be with us always, and it requires constant vigilance to defeat. I look at it as a litigator and an educator. There will always be threats to institutions grounded in human nature by those who think human nature doesn’t define limits. We need to be involved in the immediate defense of threats against marriage, but also take a long-range view by educating the next generation about the importance of the issues we’re confronting.

And so does Focus On the Family’s Glenn Stanton:

All sexual sin is wrong because it fails to mirror the Trinitarian image, but homosexuality does more than fail. It’s a particularly evil lie of Satan because he knows that it overthrows the very image of the Trinitarian God in creation, revealed in the union of male and female.

And yet Focus On the Family’s Tim Daly complained to CNN that it’s unfair to say Focus hates gay people:

But do we, as Webster’s defines “hate,” feel “intense hostility and aversion” to gays and lesbians? Do we regard them with “extreme dislike or antipathy”? Unequivocally not.

Uh huh.

[via Good As You]

Elaine Donnelly Still Trying To Keep Her Day Job

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2011

It’s hard to know what the raison d’être for Elaine Donnelly’s Center for Military Effectiveness could possibly be except to hang around for a possible GOP president in 2013 who can reimpose “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” via executive order. Maybe that’s why she’s still pounding the pavement defending dead DADT. The American Family Association’s OneNewsNow commiserated with Donnelly on DADT’s passing this way:

“The law requires more than just PowerPoint presentations,” she tells OneNewsNow. “The administration is supposed to describe exactly what will happen under the new LGBT law. [But] they haven’t done that! They’re barreling ahead anyway. The president [is] just determined to impose LGBT law on the military, regardless of the concerns of Congress.”

The CMR leader predicts litigators for homosexual activists and the homosexual movement are going to have a field day. “Without the law on the books, they will go into court and challenge anything that stands in the way of what they perceive as a civil rights issue,” she warns.

Donnelly told Focus On the Family’s CitizenLink that people should “watch and report to Congress about the fallout from the repeal.”

Focus On the Family Continues to Downsize

Jim Burroway

September 17th, 2011

A much more empty nest.

Focus On the Family announced yet another round of layoffs yesterday, eliminating 49 jobs and bringing its workforce down to 650. Focus has announced a steady stream of layoffs over the past several years, cutting its employment level by more than half from a 2002 peak of 1,400 people.

The Writing On The Wall

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2011

Focus On the Family sees it, but is still in denial. This is from FoF’s CitizenLink:

The telephone survey of 3,000 Millennials, conducted between July 14 and 30, indicates 49 percent of those considering themselves Republicans favor same-sex marriage, compared to 19 percent of Republican seniors and 31 percent of all Republicans. Additionally, 44 percent of white evangelical Millennials favor same-sex marriage, compared to only 12 percent of evangelical seniors and 19 percent of evangelicals overall.

…“It’s important to make sure Christian Millennials understand the importance of a biblical worldview so they can think well about issues of marriage and sexuality,” [Dawn McBane] said. “Our desire is to encourage Millennials to think deeply about issues from a biblical worldview and then challenge them to live out their beliefs in every-day life.”

McBane is directer of Focus On the Family’s Rising Voice project to try to build millennial support for anti-gay positions. Good luck with that.

Matt Barber Says Gays Committing “Economic Terrorism” And Want To Jail Christians. Meanwhile, AFA Boycotts Home Depot And Wants To Jail Gays.

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2011

There is a fundraising group called the Charity Give Back Group (CGBG), whose innocuous sounding name hides its political activities. When customers shop with major name-brand companies through their virtual shopping mall, proceeds go to CGBG affiliated groups including the Family “Research” Council, Focus On the Family, Liberty Counsel and others. LGBT activists have pressured companies to cut ties with CGBG, and so far Apple, Microsoft, Delta Airlines and Wells Fargo are among the big names that have withdrawn from the program.

Anti-gay groups are now crying foul over “homo-fascist” tactics, despite their own well-established pattern of boycotting companies who don’t fall lockstep into their program of anti-gay politics. Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber calls the pressure against companies participating in CGBG “economic terrorism” with the ultimate goal of putting conservative Christians behind bars:

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it right now. The sexual anarchist lobby, this radical, militant lobby, wants three things in this order: they want to see those of us who hold traditional values and have a biblical view of sexual behavior and sexual morality; they want to see us behind bars. Absent that, if that doesn’t work, they want to see us discredited, our licenses, my law licenses revoked, unable to teach in schools and so forth. They want us completely discredited and marginalized to the fringes of society. Finally and included in that is the inability, they want to see people like us not able to make a living. And that’s why they’re going after these organizations and they’re using economic terrorism, for lack of a better phrase.

He might want to try to come up with a better phrase. In 2008, Barber joined with Peter “Porno Pete” LaBarbera and others for a bit of “economic terrorism” of their own when they announced a boycott of McDonalds and rallied in front of their headquarters. The American Family Association regularly launches acts of “economic terrorism” against such big name companies as Home Depot and Pepsi. And by the way, their jihad against Home Depot is on again, in case you’ve had difficulty keeping track.

And speaking of wanting to put people behind bars, AFA’s spokesman Bryan Fischer yesterday pined for the days when homosexuality was a felony in all fifty states and says, “There is no reason why it cannot be a criminal offense once again. Absolutely none.”

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Study Author Says Franken Is Right

Jim Burroway

July 21st, 2011

In response to yesterday’s takedown of Focus On the Family’s Tom Minnery by Sen. Al Franken over a study that Minnery misrepresented, Politico spoke to the study’s author to see who got it right:

“Sen. Franken is right,” the lead author of the study told POLITICO. The survey did not exclude same-sex couples, said Debra L. Blackwell, Ph.D., nor did it exclude them from the “nuclear family” category provided their family met the study’s definition.

The study’s definition of nuclear family is: “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents of all the children in the family.”

U.S. Health and Human Services study in 2010 found better health outcomes for children in “nuclear families,” which Minnery claimed included only children with heterosexually married parents.

Sen. Al Franken Is My New Favorite Senator

Jim Burroway

July 20th, 2011

During today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) eviscerated the testimony of Thomas Minnery, Senior Vice President for Public Policy at Focus on the Family. Minnery was caught red-handed what anti-gay activists reflexively do: they lie about the research:

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Franken: Mr Minnery, on page eight of your written testimony, you write, quote “Children living with… their own married, adoptive or biological mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to health care, were less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and almost never live in poverty compared to children in any other family form.”

You cite a Department of Health and Human Services Study, that I have right here, from December 2010, to support this conclusion. I checked this study out. (Laughter) And I would like to enter it into the record, if I may. And it actually doesn’t say what you said it says. It says that “nuclear families,” not “opposite sex married families” are associated with those positive outcomes. Isn’t it true, Mr Minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?

Minnery: I would think that the study, when it cites “nuclear families,” would mean a family headed by a husband and a wife.

Franken: It doesn’t. [Laughter] The study defines a nuclear family as “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family.” And I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) comes in at a photo-finish second in the race for my new favorite Senator:

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Leahy: Are those children benefited by saying that in that family, they will not have the same financial benefits that another family, a maried couple of opposite sex would have? Are those children not put at a disadvantaved by denying those same benefits to them, and I’m talking about now a legal marriage under the state laws of the state they live in?

Minnery: No. Without question, those children are certainly better off than having no parents. But…

Leahy: Wait a minute. I don’t understand.  They’d be better off if they had no parents?

Minnery: No, they’re certainly better of than if they had no home headed by parents. But same-sex marriage is a whole lot more than that, Senator.

Leahy: But I’m trying to go specifically to the financial. Are they not disadvantaged by not having the same financial benefits that in a…. an opposite sex family would have?

Minnery: Well, as I say, not knowing the details of which families you are speaking off, certainly those families are better off… children are better off with parents in the home. But what I’m saying…

Leahy: But, I’m talking about… Yes or no, it’s not a trick question. I’m just asking. [Laughter] Please. If you have parents legally married under the laws of the state. One set of parents are entitled to certain financial benefits for their children, the other set of parents are denied those same financial benefits for their children. Are not those children, at least in that aspect of finances, are not those  children of the second family, are they not at a disadvantage, yes or no?

Minnery: That would be yes, as you asked the question narrowly, Senator.

Leahy: Thank you. I was asking it narrowly. I used to have a career where I had to ask questions all the time.

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