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Posts for January, 2013

Russia Pushes Anti-gay Law

Jim Burroway

January 22nd, 2013

Russia’s Duma is expected to consider a proposed bill which would outlaw all public demonstrations, publications, broadcasts and other activity which it terms “propaganda” for gay rights. The Associated Press has a very good write-up:

Lawmakers have accused gays of decreasing Russia’s already low birth rates and said they should be barred from government jobs, undergo forced medical treatment or be exiled. Orthodox activists criticized U.S. company PepsiCo for using a “gay” rainbow on cartons of its dairy products. An executive with a government-run television network said in a nationally televised talk show that gays should be prohibited from donating blood, sperm and organs for transplants, while after death their hearts should be burned or buried.

The anti-gay sentiment was seen Sunday in Voronezh, a city south of Moscow, where a handful of gay activists protesting against the parliament bill were attacked by a much larger group of anti-gay activists who hit them with snowballs.

The gay rights protest that won Samburov a fine took place in December. Seconds after Samburov and his boyfriend kissed, militant activists with the Orthodox Church pelted them with eggs. Police intervened, rounding up the gay activists and keeping them for 30 hours first in a frozen van and then in an unheated detention center. The Orthodox activists were also rounded up, but were released much earlier.

Similar laws have been passed in St. Petersburg and a couple of Russia’s regions. Last October, thugs attacked patrons at a gay bar in Moscow. The Associated Press has this quote from an Orthodox priest after that attack:

On the next day, an Orthodox priest said he regretted that his religious role had not allowed him to participate in the beating.

“Until this scum gets off of Russian land, I fully share the views of those who are trying to purge our motherland of it,” Rev. Sergiy Rybko was quoted as saying by the Orthodoxy and World online magazine. “We either become a tolerant Western state where everything is allowed — and lose our Christianity and moral foundations — or we will be a Christian people who live in our God-protected land in purity and godliness.”

Ugandan Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox Bishops Call for Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s Revival

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2012

Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, reported this worrisome call on Sunday:

Top religious leaders from across the country have asked Parliament to speed-up the process of enacting the Anti-Homosexuality law to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage”.

Speaking after their recent annual conference organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches, the bishops resolved that the parliamentary committee on Gender should be tasked to engage the House on the Bill which is now at committee level.

“We also ask the Education committee to engage the Ministry of Education on the issue of incorporating a topic on human sexuality in the curricula of our schools and institutions of learning,” the resolutions signed by archbishops Henry Luke Orombi, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, indicated.

This is a worrying development. Roman Catholic Archbishop Lwanga’s Christmas message of 2009 included his opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He reiterated that message the following January. He was also a signatory to a multi-faith letter in 2010 which criticized the bill. More than a year later, we learned that prior to the Archbishop’s statements, the Vatican had intervened with its opposition to the bill. This statement now appears to be an about-face on the part of Lwanga.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, M.P. David Bahati, continues to lie about the bill’s provisions:

Among some of the propositions in the Bill was one of death and life sentence for those for those caught engaging in homosexuality for a second time.

However, Mr Bahati said these penalties had since been removed from the Bill.

This is as untrue now as it has been every time Bahati has repeated this lie since the bill’s first introduction in 2009. It was referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, where it languished until 2011. When the committee finally reported the bill back onto the House floor in May, 2011 they suggested removing some clauses of the bill while adding of a new clause criminalizing the conduct of same-sex marriages. As for the death penalty provision, the committee recommended a sly change to the bill, removing the explicit language of “suffer(ing) death,” and replacing it with a reference to the penalties provided in an unrelated already existing law. That law however specifies the death penalty. Which means that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended that the death penalty be retained through stealth. Bahati then went on to claim that the death penalty was removed even though it was still a part of the bill. The Eighth Parliament ended before it could act on the committee’s recommendation.

On February 7, 2012, the original version of the bill, unchanged from when it was first introduced in 2009, was reintroduced into the Ninth Parliament. The bill was again sent to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Despite reports to the contrary, the original language specifying the death penalty is still in the bill, and will remain there unless the committee recommends its actual removal and Parliament adopts that recommendation in a floor vote.

Orthodox Priest Says Post-DADT Military Entered “New Dark Age”

Jim Burroway

September 23rd, 2011

Orthodox priest Alexander F.C. Webster, a retired Army Reserve chaplain, wrote this op-ed in Stars and Stripes::

On Sept. 20, 2011, a date that will live in infamy, the U.S. armed forces were deliberately and successfully attacked by advocates of the scourge of homosexuality. The elimination of the last vestige of moral restraint on sexual perversion in the U.S. military, commonly known as the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, ushers in a new Orwellian era in which the military leadership of our nation will proclaim the unnatural as natural, the unhealthy as healthy and the immoral as moral.

…As an Orthodox priest who still loves all of the troops I served as a chaplain for a quarter of a century, I pray that God the Holy Trinity will preserve and protect the U.S. armed forces — especially in this new Dark Age.

Anti-gay activists, still classy and keeping their heads about them…

My existence is not a violation of your rights

Timothy Kincaid

November 3rd, 2010

I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the notion of “balance” that some in the anti-gay industry are espousing.

I support the right of those who believe that homosexual acts are sinful and wish to encourage abstinence to have their voices heard. And those who think that the social acceptance of same-sex couples in society reduces public morality and will lead to social ills should be given the space to present their case.

But the false equivalencies that have been presented lately do not speak to an exchange of ideas, but rather to the assumptions of entitlement to which anti-gay activists think they are due.

The counterbalance to “I wish to advocate for gay rights” is not “you must be kept silent.” And there is no moral equivalency between “I wish to live unharmed” and “I wish to beat you to submission.” Yet these are not greatly exaggerated from that which we see presented.

Take, for example, Russian gay rights protesters who sued their country in the European Court after being denied the right to assemble. The court found last month that their rights had been violated and ordered that Russia allow for future gay rights demonstrations and assigned compensation.

The response to this decision by the Russian Orthodox Church is astonishing. (Interfax Religion)

“The decision made in Strasbourg essentially constitutes violence against the feelings and morals of the majority of [Russian] society. That will hardly help achieve the stated purpose to cultivate tolerance and achieve accord, mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence,” Father Filaret said in an interview with Interfax-Religion.

Peaceful assembly is depicted by the church as “violence against the morals and feelings of society.” The real violence enacted against the physical bodies of gay people in Russia was given less concern by the church than the “violence” against anti-gays feelings.

Howell Superintendent Ron Wilson

Or take note of the equivalencies assigned by the school board in Howell, Michigan. (Livingston Daily)

  • On October 20, Jay McDowell wore a purple shirt to class to express solidarity with students who are bullied for being (or being perceived as) gay or lesbian. This led to a discussion about bullying and why it should be opposed.
  • One student, who had come to class with a Confederate Flag belt buckle was asked by McDowell to remove the item (she did).
  • In response, a male student declared that he opposes rainbow flags because, “I don’t accept Gays. It is against my religion. I am Catholic.”
  • McDowell attempted to explain how “I don’t accept” followed by any group was disruptive and when the student refused to back down, suspended him and another student from the class for the day.

As the Michigan Messenger describes it:

That student … and another student, were kicked out of McDowell’s Economic class after debating with the teacher about a third student’s Confederate flag belt buckle. The student questioned why it was OK for students to wear clothing to support LGBT issues, but not for a student to wear a Confederate flag.

In other words, why isn’t “I support” equivalent to “I don’t accept”? Shouldn’t both positions be given the same prominence and legal and moral weight?

No. Perhaps in some settings, but not this one.

Because the context of the debate was over the bullying of children. And in that context, “I don’t accept gays” is an implicit endorsement of bullying of school children. When speaking of bullying, “I don’t accept” is a justification for bullying.

Yet the school board found that McDowell violated the rights of these two boys to their free expression and reprimanded him. And in doing so, they made the following comparison:

You also state you routinely do not allow [the Confederate Flag] in your classroom because it offends you, and you personally connect this symbol to a list of oppressions and atrocities. You do, however, allow the display of the rainbow flag, to which some of your students have voiced opposition.

McDowell actually does not display the rainbow flag. (And, indeed, if McDowell did use his class space to advocate for specific (or even general) political positions to the exclusion of other positions, I would agree that this was unfair.) But irrespective of that inaccuracy, consider what it means that the school board administration compared the two:

On one hand the Confederate Flag has a traceable history and an identifiable connection with acts of violence and advocacy of discrimination and intolerance towards people based on their racial and religious identity. In fact, in this particular high school it was linked to a Facebook Hate Group which, in 2009, used the flag as its profile picture and students have been required to remove the symbol from their cars. The Confederate Flag at Howell High was directly connected to a threat against some students.

On the other hand, the rainbow flag is linked with a set of social positions with which some students disagree. At most, it exists as a challenge to the beliefs of some students. But in the minds of this school board administration, a challenge to their beliefs is equivalent to – or worse than – a physical threat against others.

And so they accused McDowell of bullying the students, of denying their right to “not accept” their fellow students. In response to his defense of gay students from being bullied (or “not accepted”), they order him to “cease from engaging in the promotion of your personal social issues.”

For refusing to accept statements of intolerance in his classroom, the board accused McDowell of being intolerant.

Nonsense. Contrary to what anti-gay activists claim, tolerance is not defined by the extent to which it allows intolerance to prevail.

But perhaps most troubling is this instruction to McDowell: “Where controversial issues arise, be sure all sides of the controversial issue be explored without emotion and bias.” Think back to the originating situation, the reason for McDowell’s decision to wear purple: the suicide deaths of a number of gay and presumed-gay children.

What, I wonder, are “all sides” of the “controversial issue” that gay students should not be bullied to death?

Serbian Gays Ask Church To Condemn Anti-Gay Violence

Jim Burroway

July 16th, 2010

According to the AP:

Serbian gay group has asked to meet with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, to seek his help in curbing anti-gay violence. The Gay-Lesbian Info Center says in a statement posted on the group’s website that gay people “are suffering violence on a daily basis” and that many assailants justify attacks with religious beliefs.

The church has not responded to the request. Serbia is predominantly Orthodox, and the church holds considerable influence in the country. Last year’s planned Pride was canceled over threats from extremists.

Russian Orthodox leader opposes discrimination

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2009

PatriarchKirillGay people in Russia are subject to significant discrimination via both social and governmental oppression. Thinking of their country as a “Christian nation”, Russian leaders pride themselves in their opposition to the “satanic” practice of homosexuality.

But an important voice has now spoken out against discrimination. (Ria Novosti)

The Russian Orthodox Church condemns discrimination against sexual minorities, but treats homosexuality as a sin, Patriarch Kirill said on Wednesday.

Meeting with the secretary general of the Council of Europe, a pan-European human rights body, in his office in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in central Moscow, the Russian church leader said: “We respect the person’s free choice, including in sex relations.”

But Kirill said “the religious tradition of almost all nations has treated homosexuality as a sin.”

“Those who commit a sin must not be punished… And we have repeatedly spoken out against discriminating people for their nontraditional sexual orientation,” Patriarch Kirill told Thorbjorn Jagland.

The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant religion in Russia. And even non-believers defer to her as a cultural voice of the nation.

It would have been greatly surprising had the Patriarch discussed sexual orientation as other than sinful. However, his call against criminalization or discrimination is helpful and encouraging.

But Kirill’s announcement should be seen in a greater context than just the plight of gay Russians. The Orthodox Church, of which Russian Orthodox is a branch, is influential in much of Eastern Europe and even Africa.

For example, the Uganda Orthodox Church, as part of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, is influential in Ugandan politics. And while Russia is a part of Europe, the voice of the Patriarch may be seen less in term of being the “decadent West”.

Ugandan Church Leaders Back “Kill Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2009

The independent Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor reports on a meeting of 200 religious leaders held in Entebbe this week in which participants encouraged the government to cut diplomatic ties to all countries demanding withdrawal of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that is now before Parliament.

The meeting brought together church leaders representing Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist churches as well as Muslim kadhis. Participants pledged to actively campaign for the bill in their houses of worship. According to the Monitor:

At their three-day meeting in Entebbe this week, the spiritual leaders came up with several recommendations that are opposed to homosexuals. “Government should cut ties with donor communities and other groups which support ungodly values such as homosexuality and abortion,” one of the resolutions reads.

…The Secretary General of the Inter-religious Council of Uganda, Mr Joshua Kitakule, told Daily Monitor yesterday that development partners should not  interfere in the process of legislation in Uganda.

“Those countries should respect our spiritual values. They shouldn’t interfere,” he said. “All senior religious leaders have been given copies of the Bill to read and educate people in the churches and mosques,” he added. Mr Kitakule said the Bill, which was tabled last month by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, has not been understood by human rights activists and homosexuals. “The Bill is ok. But it has been misunderstood. We need to educate people on this proposed law,” he said.

Member of Parliament David Bahati, who introduced the bill into Parliament, was also at the conference and spoke in favor of the legislation. Echoing Richard CohenDon Schmierer, Scott Lively and other American ex-gay advocates, Bahati said:

“It is a learned behaviour and can be unlearned. You can’t tell me that people are born gays.   It is foreign influence that is on work,” he said.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.