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Posts for June, 2014

Supreme Court Declines to Review California’s Conversion Therapy Ban

Jim Burroway

June 30th, 2014

In other less-talked about Supreme Court news today, the high court declined to hear an appeal challenging California’s ban on sexual orientation change therapy for minors. This leaves in place a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stating that the state of California had a legitimate interest in banning professional treatments that were considered harmful. As is customary, the Supreme Court didn’t give a reason for declining the appeal.

While California’s converstion therapy ban prohibits licensed professionals from providing change orientation therapy to minors, it does not apply to unlicensed religious-based ex-gay ministries, nor does it prohibit licensed professionals from providing sexual orientation change therapy to adults. Nevertheless, it’s likely to have a serious financial effect on licensed providers. In 2012, Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) which bills itself as the professional arm of the ex-gay movement, admitted that about half of all NARTH clients are teens. NARTH, which had appealed the case to the Supreme Court with the help of Liberty Counsel, has not yet issued a statement responding to the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear their case. Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver issued a statement however that is about as nasty as it gets:

I am deeply saddened for the families we represent and for the thousands of children that our professional clients counsel, many of whom developed these unwanted attractions because of abuse of a pedophile. …These children have been victimized twice –  first by the likes of Jerry Sandusky, and second by legislators and judges who have essentially barged into their private therapy rooms and told them that they must pursue their unwanted and dangerous same-sex sexual attractions and behavior.

Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver: Recognizing People’s Marriages Is Just Like Slavery, Eugenics and the Japanese Internment

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2013

They’re still chattering. Via Right Wing Watch:

I’m very dissapointed in this decision. I think this decision represents a line that the court has crossed into illegitimacy. We’ve seen this before in its history, where it decided the Dred Scott decision, which was an illigitimate decision; the Korematsu decision which was the Japanese interment decision; the Buck v. Bell decision that says its okay to force people to be sterilized, an illegitimate decision. All of which we say were dark spots in the Court’s history. I think today’s decision falls into that same category. This decision is by five justices that cut the tether between themselves and the Constitution. They are in their own fantasy world that there is somehow an equal protection right to mame-sex marriage.

Speaking of illegitimate: Mat Staver founder of Liberty Counsel. He’s also a vice president at Liberty university and the dean of its law school, which teaches his law students should ignore the law counsel their clients to break the law in favor of “God’s Law.” And according to a RICO lawsuit filed last year connecting his law school to the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, his law school practices what he teaches.

Pastor Sentenced in Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping Conspiracy

Jim Burroway

March 5th, 2013

Kenneth Miller

Mennonite pastor Kenneth Miller was sentenced to 27 months in prison for helping Lisa Miller violate a court custody order requiring that she turn over then- seven-year-old Isabella Miller-Jenkins to the child’s other mother, Janet Jenkins. Instead of complying with the 20o9 court order, Miller fled to central America and went into hiding. According to an FBI investigation, her flight across international borders was aided by several pastors and personnel from Liberty Council and Liberty University.

Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa Miller) was found guilty last August. The pastor of the Beachy Amish-Mennonite sect in Stuart’s Draft, Va, who is also one of many defendants in a RICO lawsuit, was defiant in yesterday’s hearing:

During a two-hour sentencing hearing, Miller told U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III he couldn’t promise he would not commit again aid in international parental kidnapping…. “I give myself unto you to do with me as you see fit,” an obviously emotional Miller told the judge in a courtroom packed with the same supporters who later sang with him outside.

Sessions said he admired Miller for the depth of his convictions, but he could not allow him to choose God’s law over his country’s, saying the pastor had helped deprive Isabella of Jenkins’ love.

Kenneth Miller’s sentence will likely be put on hold while the case is appealed, a process which could take years.

Liberty University’s law school, which is also named the RICO lawsuit, teaches its students to advise their future clients to disregard civil law if it conflicts with “God’s law.” Lisa Miller’s attorneys, Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, are both professors at Liberty University’s Law School. Staver is also the school’s dean and head of Liberty Counsel.

In last August’s trial, prosecutors showed that Kenneth Miller arranged the purchase of airline tickets to Nicaragua for Lisa Miller and Isabella, dressed them in traditional Mennonite clothing for their trip to the Toronto airport, and arranged for Mennonites in Nicaragua to meet them and take them into hiding.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins turns eleven next month.

Second Judge Denies Request for Injunction Against California’s Ex-Gay Therapy Bill

Jim Burroway

December 4th, 2012

In a second, separate case filed in Federal District Court seeking to block California’s ban on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) for minors from taking effect, Judge Kimberly K. Mueller denied (via Scribd) Liberty Counsel’s request to issue a preliminary  injunction against the state of California. In Judge Mueller’s 44-page ruling denying the request, she reviewed the state legislature’s methodology for modifying the proposed law in consultation with the state’s licensing mental health organizations which are ultimately responsible for enforcing the ban. She concluded that “the court finds plaintiffs are not likely to prevail on the merits so as to prevail at this stage of the litigation.”

This case is David Pickup v Edmund G Brown, which is NARTH and Liberty Counsel’s challenge to California’s S.B. 1172, which  prohibits California’s licensed professionals from providing SOCE for minors. Therapists who violate the ban will be subject to discipline by the professional organization responsible for their licensing. The bill does not prohibit therapists from providing SOCE to adults, nor does it affect unlicensed counsellors, pastors, and other ex-gay therapy providers such as religious-based ex-gay ministries.

David Pickup, who say s he is ex-gay and is now a therapist with NARTH,  has emerged as NARTH’s chief spokesman against the new law. Pickup was particularly critical of Exodus International when the evangelical ex-gay organization distanced itself earlier this year from Reparative Therapy, a particular form of SOCE which is rooted in a specific set of unproven theories of sexual orientation. (A particularly cringe-worthy video featuring Pickup explaining his approach to “increasing manhood” can be seen here.)

Earlier today, a different Federal District Judge issued a preliminary injunction (via Scribd) which prevents the state of California from enforcing S.B. 1172 against three plaintiffs who are also seeking to overturn the ban. That injunction however is limited to those three plaintiffs only. Judge William Shubb found that the plaintiffs “are likely to succeed on the merits of their 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims based on violations of their rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.”

Mat Staver Reacts

Jim Burroway

November 8th, 2012

The Deaon of Liberty University Law School says elections don’t matter:

The event we have just witnessed was far more than a general election – it was a referendum on the soul of America. We grieve today like we have lost a friend or a close relative. Millions of Americans looked evil in the eye and adopted it. Some Christian observers called the Democratic Party platform for 2012 a “Romans 1 Platform,” and they were right. Abortion, same-sex marriage, and immorality carried the day.

God is not through with our nation! God calls us to remain faithful, no matter the consequences. We might be a Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany who never lived to see the fruit of his faithful labor. We might be a Wilberforce in England who saw the fruit of his labor (the abolition of slavery and reformation of morals), but died soon after, never getting the chance to enjoy the results. We might even be a David who stood up against popular opinion and defeated a giant who blasphemed God Almighty.

We have a higher calling than the world. Our calling and our values do not depend on a survey or an election. Whether we are on the verge of revival or are soon to face the death chamber makes no difference in how we respond or how we act. Our obedience is to Christ and to Christ alone!

Not a surprising stand for him to take. His law school teaches his law students to ignore the law — and even counsel clients to break the law — in favor of “God’s Law.” And according to a RICO lawsuit filed in August connecting his law school to the Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, his law school practices what he preaches.

NARTH, Liberty Counsel to Challenge California’s Ex-Gay Ban for Minors in Court

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2012

The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has just sent an email blast by president Christopher Rosik, announcing that they fight California’s new ban on licensed therapists providing Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors:

NARTH is saddened but not surprised by this unprecedented legislative intrusion and will lend its full support to the legal efforts to overturn it. California citizens and especially parents should know the indifference that supporters of this bill have toward their freedom of choice, as reflected in Senator Lieu’s recent acknowledgement that, “The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill…” The Senator went on to equate the harms to minors of smoking and alcohol abuse, which have been documented over decades of research, with the reported harms of sexual orientation change efforts, the prevalence of which the American Psychological Association admits we have no way of knowing.
 
Anecdotal stories of harm are no basis from which to ban an entire form of psychological care. If they were, the psychological professions would be completely out of business. We fully anticipate that activist groups like Equality California will be back next year to see what further erosions of parental rights and professional judgment politicians and mental health associations will authorize in California and other states. Counselors adhering to traditional values cannot be blamed for wondering what other practices disliked by these activists are going to be targeted as “unprofessional conduct” in the future, particularly in states that have legalized same-sex marriage.

The non-sequiter about same-sex marriage is puzzling. California currently prohibits same-sex marraige. NARTH will join forces with Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel in challenging the California law in court.

“We are filing on behalf of mental health professionals who find themselves in a catch-22,” Staver said.  Therapists have an ethical obligation to help clients deal with conflict. If a client is experiencing conflict between religious beliefs and same-sex attractions and wants to prioritize those beliefs over such attractions, the counselor is ethically obligated to directly help or refer for help. Under this law, the counselor will be forced to disregard the client’s religious beliefs or change them. “This bill and the ethical codes of all of the licensing boards in California are on an inevitable collision course,” Staver said. “The licenses of countless mental health professionals hang in the balance.”

Therapists also have an ethical obligation to provide effective treatment. There is, to date, no evidence (PDF: 816KB/138 pages) that SOCE is or has been effective in changing sexual orientation, making it, essentially, the Laetrile of the social sciences.

RICO Suit Filed Against Liberty University and Others Over Isabella Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2012

Yesterday, Mennonite minister Kenneth Miller was convicted of aiding and abetting the abduction of Isabella Miller-Jenkins by her mother, Lisa Miller, who fled to Nicaragua with Isabella in violation of a court order transferring custody of Isabella to her former partner Janet Jenkins. (Kenneth Miller is reportedly not related to Lisa Miller.) During the trial, jurors heard testimony which revealed a wide-ranging conspiracy to illegally transport Lisa Miller and Isabella to Nicaragua, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. That conspiracy included several people, including those with ties to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University

While the jury was deliberating, Janet Jenkins filed a lawsuit (PDF: 415KB/17 pages) with the U.S. District Court in Vermont under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), naming the following as defendants in an alleged international conspiracy to facilitate the kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins:

  • Kenneth L. Miller (No relation to Lisa Miller)
  • Lisa Ann Miller f/k/a Lisa Miller Jenkins
  • Timothy D. Miller (No relation to Lisa Miller)
  • Andrew Yoder, individually and as an agent for Christian AID Ministries, Inc.
  • Christian AID Ministries Inc.
  • Response Unlimited, Inc.
  • Philip Zodhiates, individually and as an agent for Response Unlimited, Inc.
  • Victoria Hyden f/k/a/ Victoria Zodhiates, individually and as an agent for both Repsonse Unlimited, Inc and Liberty University School of Law and its related ministry, Thomas Road Baptist Church
  • Liberty University School of Law and its related ministry, Thomas Road Baptist Church
  • Linda M Wall, individually and as an agent for Thomas Road Baptist Church.
  • Douglas Wright

The filing ties these names together in a remarkably detailed timeline in its charge against the defendants. Some of the info in this document have been reported before, and some of it appears to have come from the FBI’s original criminal complaint against Timithy Miller. The lawsuit alleges that by late summer of 2009, Lisa Miller, who had moved to Virginia with the assistance of Thomas Road Baptist Church:

35. On September 19, 2009, two days before her departure for Nicaragua, Lisa Miller and Isabella travelled back to Winchester, VA. During this trip, Lisa arranged to meet Defendant Wright in a parking lot so that she and Isabella could say “good-bye” to him. Defendant Wright testified under oath that by good-bye, he understood that Lisa and Isabella were leaving and he would not be seeing them again. At this meeting, Lisa Miller also asked Defendant Wright to help her dispose of some personal items. Pastor Wright understood that Lisa Miller would be taking Isabella away, and he did nothing to notify law enforcement of the situation

36. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Janet Jenkins, on September 21,2009, Lisa Miller and Isabella were transported, in disguise as Amish-Mennonites, to the Canadian border by Philip Zodhiates and at least one other Response Unlimited, Inc. employee. Lisa Miller and Isabella crossed the border at the Rainbow Bridge in a taxi in the early morning hours of September 22, 2009, just days prior to the contact ordered by the Rutland Family Court in its September 2009 Interim Order.

37. In the days prior to September 22, 2009, Lisa Miller and Philip Zodhiates conspired with Kenneth Miller, a member of the Virginia Beachy Amish-Mennonite Brotherhood with whom both Victoria and Philip Zodhiates were acquainted, to arrange the purchase of plane tickets from Canada to Nicaragua for Lisa Miller and Isabella Miller-Jenkins. Kenneth Miller also arranged for a Canadian member of the Brotherhood to transport Lisa Miller from an Ontario Hotel to the Toronto airport. Lisa Miller and Isabella Miller-Jenkins flew to Mexico, then El Salvador, and then met Timothy Miller in Nicaragua. Timothy Miller was instructed by Kenneth Miller to purchase plane tickets for Lisa Miller and Isabella, and used his mother-in-law’s credit card to do so. Several days later, Kenneth Miller used cash to send a money order to reimburse Timothy Miller’s mother-in-law. This was done anonymously, and in such a way as to avoid detection in a clear effort to avoid the September visit, and the anticipated transfer of custody.

Timothy Miller was arrested in April, 2011 and charged with aiding in the removal of a child from the U.S. and retaining a child with intent to obstruct parental rights. Charges were later dropped in exchange for Timothy Miller’s cooperation, but it was during his arrest that the FBI’s criminal complaint detailed a wider network of conspirators in the kidnapping saga. Some of the information revealed in that criminal complaint makes its appearance in this lawsuit, but with a few additional details tying it all together:

38. Kenneth Miller was a pastor at the Pilgrim Christian Fellowship in Stuart’s Draft, VA and a leader within the Beachy Amish-Mennonite Community. He was also employed at his family’s garden center, Millmont Greenhouses, Inc., in Stuart’s Draft, VA.

39. Starting in September 2009, Lisa Miller and Isabella lived near or among the Beachy Amish-Mennonite Community in Nicaragua, hereinafter the (“Nicaragua Brethren”). This was all done in secret and in such a way as to avoid detection by United States authorities and Janet Jenkins. Lisa Miller would eventually go into “hiding” with Isabella among the Nicaragua Brethren, but would continue to communicate with members of Thomas Road Baptist Church with the assistance of Mr. Zodhiates, Kenneth Miller and members of the Nicaragua Brethren. Lisa Miller went by the name “Sarah” and Isabella was called “Lydia” while in Nicaragua.

41. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Janet Jenkins, in 2009 Victoria Zodhiates (now Hyden) was an employee of Response Unlimited, Inc., and also a “student worker” at Liberty University School of Law. On information and belief, Victoria Zodhiates sent an email during this time period to her co-workers at the law school requesting donations for supplies to send to Lisa Miller to enable her to remain outside the country. Lisa Miller’s attorney, Matthew Staver was the Dean of the Law School and Ms. Zodhiates’s boss. Matthew Staver and Philip Zodhiates were also personal acquaintances at this time. On September 20, 2009, both Philip Zodhiates and Victoria Hyden called Lisa Miller’s father, Terry Miller in Tennessee to assist in arranging her and Isabella’s transportation from a Walmart parking lot in Lynchburg, Virginia, to Waynesboro, Virginia, from whence they would depart for Canada and Nicaragua the next day.

New to this lawsuit is the allegation which, if proven true, would directly implicate Thomas Road Baptist Church as part of the conspiracy:

42. In early November, 2009, elders of the Thomas Road Baptist Church packed up the personal belongings of Lisa Miller in two bags. These bags were picked up from Lynchburg, Virginia by Philip Zodhiates who arranged to have the bags transported to Nicaragua by sending them with his son’s school teacher who was taking some children on a mission trip to Managua. Philip Zodhiates arranged for the teacher, John Collmus, to deliver the bags at the airport to Timothy Miller. The bags also contained some supplies for Lisa Miller, such as peanut butter.

The lawsuit also includes the incident which we reported in December, 2009, when Deborah Thurman,  the facilitator of an apparently defunct ex-gay ministry in Lynchburg, VA, called The Formers, posted a threat of civil violence on her web site. The complaint also includes the revelation that Lisa Miller’s attorneys, Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, both professors at Liberty University’s Law School, provided a case history nearly identical to the Miller-Jenkins case and instructed their students that the proper course of action would be to engage in “civil disobedience” and defy the court order.

The problem with conspiracies is that the more people who are involved, the greater the chance is that one of them will have a bit too big of a mouth and draw attention to the operation. In addition to Thurman’s reckless blog post, another member of the conspiracy felt compelled to brag as well. In 2008, Linda Wall and other members of Thomas Road Baptist Church, had formed the Protect Isabella Coalition (PIC), when it became clear to them that Virginia law would not prevent Janet Jenkins from gaining custody of Isabella. PIC allegedly was the nucleus of the movement that morphed into the larger conspiracy. According to the lawsuit, Linda Wall essentially admitted that there was an active kidnapping conspiracy and that she as a part of it.

51. In January 2010, Linda Wall appeared on television with several members of the PIC and TRBC [Thomas Road Baptist Church], including TRBC’s Pastor for Outreach and Assimilation Tipton Killingsworth, to endorse the kidnapping. In discussing her role, Wall compared herself to Harriet Tubman, and suggested she would take similar actions with regard to more children from same-sex families. Pastor Killingsworth also publically supported Lisa Miller’s actions and threatened ongoing kidnapping activity. He wrote in an internet chat on February 22, 2010:

“No one has been “kidnapped. “It may come to that as when the Pharoah tried to do the same thing to the Israelites in Egypt. Just as it was necessary for Moses to be in the basket, that might be necessary for Izzy but time will tell. As you’ve said, Lisa is certainly Izzy’s refuge from the VT law. “

52. Defendant Wall also wrote on Facebook that if anyone knew of Lisa and Isabella’s whereabouts, they should not tell anyone. She also made several phone calls to law enforcement to instruct them that they should not look for Lisa and Isabella.

This just carries us to 2010. There is so much more, including allegations of money laundering, Liberty University Law School employees who were fired, and Law School employees (the same ones perhaps?) who were “too intimidated to come forward to law enforcement for fear of angering Dean Staver and losing their jobs.” If Janet Jenkins’s lawyer has the proof to back up these allegations — and it appears that much of it is already available from various criminal complaints and Kenneth Miller’s trial testimony — then the trial promises to be an exceptionally enlightening affair. I can hardly wait.

Minister Found Guilty of Aiding Miller-Jenkins Kidnapping

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2012

Kenneth Miller

A jury in Burlington, Vermont has found Kenneth Miller guilty of aiding and abetting international kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins, now ten years old, whose mother, Lisa Miller, fled to Nicaragua after losing a custody fight with her former civil union partner Janet Jenkins. Miller is believed to have fled to Nicaragua shortly before a Vermont court awarded primary custody to Jenkins over Miller’s refusal to cooperate with Jenkins’s visitation rights.

The jury deliberated for only a few hours before finding Kenneth Miller guilty:

Federal prosecutors say Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, helped orchestrate Lisa Miller’s flight to Canada and Nicaragua in 2009 with her daughter out of Christian solidarity with her decision to reject homosexuality and her former partner. The two Millers are not related.

…Joshua Autrey, a lawyer for Kenneth Miller, did not dispute evidence about his client’s role in organizing Lisa Miller’s secretive flight days before a court-ordered visitation with Jenkins.

Instead, the defense attorney offered a nuanced legal argument that his client did not know about her intent to violate Jenkins’ visitation rights. The attorney said Kenneth Miller helped her leave the country ahead of an anticipated Vermont family court ruling granting full custody to Jenkins.

While the jury was deliberating, Janet Jenkins filed a lawsuit against both Millers and others associated with the case.

Kenneth Miller, who is a pastor of the Beachy Amish-Mennonite sect, contacted other Mennonite pastors to drive Lisa Miller and Isabelle to Canada where they caught a flight to Central America. According to court testimony, Kenneth Miller was careful to ensure that the Canadian fight did not touch down on American soil, undermining his claim that he didn’t know that Lisa Miller was under a court order. His claims were further undermined when the Canadian Mennonite pastor, Ervin Horst, testified that he refused to cross into the United States to drive the pair across the border into Canada. Miller and Miller-Jenkins arrived in Canada in a taxi while wearing Mennonite clothing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and her fugitive mother Lisa Miller

Other Mennonites in Nicaragua picked them up at the airport there and made living arrangements for the pair. Prosecutors say that Lisa and Isabella have changed their names in Nicaragua to Sarah and Lydia. In addition to the Mennonite accomplices, jurors also heard about a collaboration from a Virginia businessman by the name of Philip Zodhiates:

Telephone records suggest that Mr. Zodhiates was in touch with Ms. Miller for months and drove her and her daughter to the Canadian border for their escape.

Mr. Zodhiates has not been indicted, and declined to comment.

Telephone records also indicated that as he drove home from the border, Mr. Zodhiates tried to call a cellphone number registered to Liberty Counsel, an evangelical legal group.

That cellphone number has sometimes been used by Mathew D. Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, dean of the Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg, Va., and a leader of Ms. Miller’s defense team.

In an e-mail Tuesday, Mr. Staver said that the phone number in question had been widely circulated as a contact number for Liberty Counsel’s public relations office and that he had no knowledge of Ms. Miller’s flight and had never discussed her case with Mr. Zodhiates.

Zodhiates has been identified as a prominent financial backer for Liberty University who, according to an FBI report, owns a beach house in Nicaragua where Lisa and Isabella had been staying. The FBI report held that Zodhiates had requested that his daughter, Victoria Hyden, “disseminate a request to get Lisa Miller supplies.” Hyden just happens to be an administrative assistant for Liberty University’s School of Law’s financial aid department.

Kenneth Miller faces up to three years imprisonment.

NARTH and Liberty Counsel Pledge To Fight California Ex-Gay Therapy Ban In Court

Jim Burroway

July 5th, 2012

With the California Assembly poised to consider S.B. 1172, which would bar licensed therapists in California from offering therapies identified as Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to minors, the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and Liberty Counsel pledged in an email blast to NARTH supporters to seek to have the law blocked in court if it becomes law:

NARTH to officially work with Liberty Council to pursue an injunction and all other necessary court action against SB 1172
While we are doing everything possible to defeat SB 1172 in the California Assembly NARTH is also working with Liberty Council to stop this destructive legislation if it is passed and signed into law by the Governor. As we have said from the beginning, NARTH will continue to oppose these efforts to limit client rights by taking whatever action is legally open to us as an organization. 

The proposed legislation has been scaled back since it was first introduced in the Senate in April. The provisions requiring that adult clients seeking SOCE sign a mandated informed consent statement has been dropped, along with provisions allowing SOCE clients to sue their therapists if they feel they were harmed by such therapies. The Senate approved S.B. 1172 on a 23-13 vote in May. Because the proposed law would only apply to licensed therapists, religious ex-gay ministries are exempt. In  a statement on SOCE issued in June, Exodus International declined to oppose the bill.

Anti-Gay Extremists Have A Cow Over Obama’s Foreign Policy Memorandum

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2011

"You have the right to be jailed."

Any day our opponents are driven to fits of apoplexy is a good day if you ask me. Family “Research” Council’s Peter Sprigg is positively sputtering over the Obama Administration’s memorandum directing American international agencies to take action in countries where LGBT abuses are taking place. Sprigg’s sputtering, but unfortunately he’s not speechless:

It is startling that President Obama is prepared to throw the full weight and reputation of the United States behind the promotion overseas of the radical ideology of the sexual revolution. If he did the same on other issues, his own liberal allies would undoubtedly accuse him of cultural imperialism. Threats to withhold foreign aid from poor countries unless they conform their laws to the views of Western radicals are unconscionable.

The United Nations, like the United States, remains sharply divided on the issue of whether special rights should be granted on the basis of sexual conduct, sexual orientation or gender identity. No treaty or widely accepted international agreement has established homosexual conduct as a human right, yet the Obama administration’s actions seem guided by this fiction.

Right. Obama shouldn’t be listening to “Western radicals” who think gay people shouldn’t be jailed. And we already know Sprigg’s opinion on that topic, and given the Family “Research” Council’s lobbying Congress against resolutions condemning Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, it’s safe to say that the rest of FRC shares Sprigg’s position.

Knows a thing or two about foreign intrigue.

Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber chimes in with his own outrage:

The announced policy, according to Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel Action, “displays the arrogance of the Obama administration.”

It is “frankly offensive,” says the attorney, that President Obama “feels compelled to export American culture’s decline in morality, and export that immorality to other nations that are trying to adhere to traditional principles relative to human sexuality.”

Barber also notes that the administration is apparently ignoring the fact that foreign nations — like the United States — are sovereign countries. He adds that the U.S. is “using essentially blackmail and the purse strings” of the nation to force countries to change their moral principles.

Speaking of exporting immorality, has anyone seen Lisa Miller lately?

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, October 29

Jim Burroway

October 29th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Go-Go Dancer Appreciation Day: West Hollywood. So declareth the WeHo City Council. “From the Whisky to Micky’s, from Voyeur to Club Eleven – Go-Go dancers perform all year long for the delight of both locals and tourists in West Hollywood,” said West Hollywood Mayor John J. Duran. “We have more Go-Go dancers per square mile than any other city in America and it’s time we celebrated their efforts and hard work!” continued Mayor Duran. We usually don’t feature photos of scantily clad men, but we’ll do it today in observance of this auspicious occasion.

The Care of Souls: Sexual Diversity, Celibacy, and Ministry in the Catholic Church: Fairfield, CT. The final event of the four-part series entitled “More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church” will address the roles and responsibilities of LGBT Catholics in the Church’s ministries. The focus of today’s daylong conference at Fairfield University will be on both lay and ordained Catholics. Speakers include Mark Jordan, Harvard Divinity School and author of The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism; Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry and author of Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church; and Rev. Donald Cozzens, writer-in-residence at John Carroll University and author of Freeing Celibacy. The conference takes place today at Fairfield University, Dolan School of Business, 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT, and will be streamed live here.

Silent Vigil for Aeryn Gillern: Vienna, Austria. In 2006, Aeryn was Mr. Gay Austria and 1st  runner up in the International Mr. Gay competition. He was also happily employed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). At 6:00 PM, on October 29, 2007, Aeryn signed out at UNIDO and headed to the world-famous, centuries old Kaiserbruendl Sauna. He was never seen again. This evening, his mother will hold her annual silent vigil outside the Franciscan Church across the street from the Kaiserbruendl. It will be the fourth anniversary of Aeryn’s disappearance. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to meet her by the side doorway of the Franciscan Church on Weihburggasse facing the Kaiserbrubdl from 6:50pm  until 8:20pm.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Washington, D.C.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Shanghai, China.

Also This Weekend: Diversity Weekend, Eureka Springs, AR; Hellfest 2011 Rugby Tournament, Dallas, TX; Out In Africa Film Festival, Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; and Glasgay!, Glasgow, UK.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Georgia Awake!: Augusta, GA. It’s like Groundhog Day, isn’t it? There was a Georgia Awake conference yesterday outside of Augusta, and today the carnival repeats itself again in Cumming, northeast of Atlanta, where Liberty Counsel is continuing its series of “Awake!” conferences this morning at First redeemer Church. They’re doing this because, in case you missed it, “There’s a war waging:”

Christianity is under attack in our schools, workplaces, and governments. Silence is a decision to stand with the enemy. Inaction is a deathblow to the God-honoring principles our country was created to allow each citizen to enjoy.

Speaking at tonight’s conference will be Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver (who teaches his law students to ignore the law in favor of “God’s Law”), and fake “historian” David Barton. It all begins this evening at 10:00 a.m. and runs until noon.

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).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 28

Jim Burroway

October 28th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM): Perth, Australia. Leaders of the 53 Commonwealth nations will begin their biennial meeting today, as human rights advocates call on Commonwealth members to scrap their colonial-era anti-gay laws. Forty-one Commonwealth nations, including Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana, currently have laws which provide criminal penalties for homosexuality. Those laws, advocates warn, hamper AIDS prevention efforts and deprive millions of citizens around the world of economic, political and social equality. Former Botswana President Festus Mogae has joined the call for worldwide decriminalization, and Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai broke with President Robert Mugabe in what the BBC described as a “U-turn” and declared that gay rights, “to me, it’s a human right.” Tzvamgirai has been weathering blistering condemnations from Mugabe’s allies since then. Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma also backs the proposals. Meanwhile, Uganda has begun efforts to revive its proposal to kill gay people.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Washington, D.C.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Shanghai, China.

Also This Weekend: Diversity Weekend, Eureka Springs, AR; Hellfest 2011 Rugby Tournament, Dallas, TX; Out In Africa Film Festival, Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; and Glasgay!, Glasgow, UK.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Exodus International North Central Regional Conference: Green Lake, WI. Unlike prior conferences, Exodus hasn’t published a list of speakers for this three-day conference that begins today at the Green Lake Conference Center. They do however highlight Christopher Yuan as a guest speaker. Yuan tells the tale of being a gay man with a drug problem who was arrested for possessing”9.1 tons” and served a six year prison. A sad life, but what do any of those destructive decisions have to do with being gay? Well, I’m sure he has an explanation and will tell anyone who forks over from $110 (Saturday only, no meals) to $210 (Standard three-day registration, single adult, including meals and lodging). It begins today at 7:00 p.m. and continues through Sunday morning.

Georgia Awake!: Augusta, GA. The Liberty Counsel is continuing its series of “Awake!” conferences with a meeting this evening at Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA, because, of course, “There’s a war waging:”

Christianity is under attack in our schools, workplaces, and governments. Silence is a decision to stand with the enemy. Inaction is a deathblow to the God-honoring principles our country was created to allow each citizen to enjoy.

Speaking at tonight’s conference will be Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver (who teaches his law students to ignore the law in favor of “God’s Law”), and fake “historian” David Barton. It all begins this evening at 7:00 p.m.

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).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Mat Staver: Gays Threaten Survival of Western Civilization

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2011

Mat Staver, head of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University’s law school, appeared on an American Family Association radio program this morning just before introducing GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum at the Values Voter Summit. Staver told AFA Radio that “the sexual anarchy with the agenda of the homosexual movement” threatens the survival of Western Civilization:

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Staver: We are facing the survival of western values, western civilization. And I think those survival, whether they win or lose, what will the future of America be will be determined in our lifetime…. One of the most significant threats to our freedom is in the area of sexual anarchy with the agenda of the homosexual movement, the so-called LGBT movement. It does several things, first of all it undermines family and the very first building block of our society, but secondly, it’s a zero sum game as well and it’s a direct assault on our religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Do you really want to know what threatens the survival of Western Civilization? Well, if one of the great pillars of Western Civilization is the rule of law, then Staver’s Liberty Counsel and law school pose a far greater threat to Western Civilization than treating all people equally. Members of Staver’s organizations have been implicated in facilitating the kidnapping of then- seven-year-old Isabella Miller-Jenkins, in defiance of a court order ordering Isabella’s mother, Lisa Miller, to turn custody of the child over to her other mother from a civil union, Janet Jenkins, after Miller refused to follow to previous court orders granting visitation rights. There is considerable evidence that Miller may be following the advice of legal counsel in defying the courts’ rulings. Teachers at Staver’s law school presented a case study that was remarkably similar to the Miller-Jenkins case, and taught students that, as future lawyers, they should encourage their clients to chose “God’s law” over “man’s law” and defy the legal system. Students who responded on an exam that the client should follow the court order were given bad grades, while students who responded that the client should be urged to break the law got A’s.

If there is a threat to Western Civilization, it’s posed by those who would impose legal anarchy to further their narrow religious agenda in open defiance of the law.

Gay Teacher Cleared of Allegations of Unfairly Punishing Anti-Gay Student

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2011

When earlier news reports a week ago mentioned that a Ft. Worth high school student had been suspended for telling a classmate that he believed that homosexuality was wrong. On September 22, Fox News reported it this way:

Holly Pope said she was “absolutely stunned” when she received a telephone call from an assistant principal at Western Hills High School informing her that her son, Dakota Ary, had been sent to in-school suspension.

“Dakota is a very well-grounded 14-year-old,” she told Fox News Radio noting that her son is an honors student, plays on the football team and is active in his church youth group. “He’s been in church his whole life and he’s been taught to stand up for what he believes.”

And that’s what got him in trouble.

Ary’s German teacher, Kristopher Franks, was put on paid administrative leave on the following Monday. An offiicial with the teacher’s union says that the leave was unrelated to the incident with Ary, and after a week-long investigation by the Fort Worth Independent School District, Franks was cleared of any wrongdoing and he returned to work Friday. Meanwhile, Ary and his mother called on Liberty Counsel to fight Ary’s in-school suspension on the grounds that Franks had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech. And it turns out that the story that Ary’s mother had been telling to every media outlet who would listen was likely exaggerated:

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks reportedly has been the target of anti-gay comments for at least two years, and that Franks’s car was vandalized in one incident. Meanwhile, Liberty Counsel, members of whom have been implicated in the kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins and who teach law students at Liberty University to choose “God’s law” over “man’s law,”  is trying to turn Ary’s anti-gay harassment into its newest cause célèbre.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, September 1

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Civil Partnerships Go Into Effect: Liechtenstein. Last June, voters in the alpine principality between Switzerland and Austria voted overwhelmingly to allow civil partnerships for same-sex couples. The new law stops short of marriage equality — registered same-sex unions are still barred from adopting children and from access to reproductive services through the country’s health plan — but it does provide for inheritance, social security, pensions, immigration and naturalization, and tax law recognition for same-sex couples on par with married heterosexual couples. That law goes into effect beginning today.

Federal DADT Court Case Resumes: Pasadena, CA. Lawyers for Log Cabin Republicans return to court today to present oral arguments in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell case before three judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The argument is over whether the federal law banning gay men and women from serving openly in the military is (or was) unconstitutional. A lower court said it wasn’t, but the Justice Department appealed. DADT is slated to officially become history on September 20, and so you might wonder why they are still fighting in court. The problem is that while Congress has repealed the law, the repeal did not include an anti-discrimination provision preventing a future president from re-imposing the ban via Executive Order. And with most of the GOP line-up contending for the party’s nomination for 2012 promising to “repeal the repeal,” DADT’s demise may end up being a mere hiatus. Oral arguments begin this morning at 9:00 a.m. PDT at the 9th Circuit Court House in Pasadena.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Atlanta, Ga (Black Pride); Calgary, AB; Cardiff, Wales; Duluth, MN; Essex, UK; Québec City, QC; Leicester, UK; Oakland, CA; Reading, UK and Scarborough, UK.

Also This Weekend: Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, NV and Southern Decadence, New Orleans, LA.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
North Carolina Awake!: Gastonia, NC.
The Liberty Counsel is continuing its series of “Awake!” conferences with a meeting this evening at Bethlehem Church in Gastonia, NC because, of course, “There’s a war waging:”

Christianity is under attack in our schools, workplaces, and governments. Silence is a decision to stand with the enemy. Inaction is a deathblow to the God-honoring principles our country was created to allow each citizen to enjoy.

Speaking at tonight’s conference will be Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver, along with Rick Green, who is a member of fake-historian David Barton’s WallBuilders. The North Carolina legislature is expected to take up a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality in this session.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Lily Tomlin: 1939. She began her comedy career as a stand-up comedian in the 1960s when she quickly landed a spot on NBC’s Laugh-In. Her many memorable characters quickly became the stuff of pop culture: Earnestine, the nasal, nosy, and obnoxious telephone operator who epitomized the bureaucratic condescension of the old Ma Bell monopoly (“We don’t care, we don’t have to…we’re the phone company.”); Edith Ann, the five year old girl sitting in an oversized rocker with her observations of the crazy crap the adults around her were pulling (and always ending her monologues with “…and that’s the truth. Phhhht!”); And Mrs. Judith Beasley, the prim and proper “tasteful lady.” In 1977, she became the first woman to appear solo on Broadway with Appearing Nitely, and in 1985, she starred in another one-woman Broadway show, The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, written by her long-time partner, writer-producer Jane Wagner. In 1980, Tomlin appeared in the hit movie Nine to Five, with Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman, and she hit movie pay dirt again in All of Me with Steve Martin.

Tomlin and Wagner have been together since 1971, and while their relationship was never much of a secret, the press remained pretty mum. When Tomlin officially came out in 2001, it hardly seemed necessary. “Everybody in the industry was certainly aware of my sexuality and of Jane… In interviews I always reference Jane and talk about Jane, but they don’t always write about it.”

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

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