Saturday, February 18, 2012
Evangelical Lutheran Church leaders in Minneapolis have decided they will not endorse a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota. One out of every four Minnesotans belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
700 voting members of the Minneapolis synod, representing 160 churches, gathered at Shepard of the Lake Church in Prior Lake Friday night to decide what their collective opinion should be about gay marriage. According to one member, Pastor Justin Lind-Ayres of Bethany Lutheran Church, "I see the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community as those people who are being pushed to the margins, particularly through this marriage amendment."
In part, the resolution states, "Resolved, that the Minneapolis Area Synod meeting in assembly oppose the Minnesota state constitutional amendment on marriage proposed for the 2012 general ballot that would prevent one group of committed couples and their families from pursuing ordinary legislative or legal means to gain the support and protections afforded to all other(s)."
In the end, the resolution overwhelmingly passed. Members of Minnesota's five other Evangelical Lutheran Church synods are expected to vote on similar gay marriage amendment resolutions this spring.
But what does it all mean? The voting members of the synod say their decision has no political implications. They simply want to spread the word to all the members of all their congregations, and to the general public, that the synod's official stance is to oppose the amendment.
Pastor Brad Froslee of Calvary Lutheran Church explained, "We are encouraging the civil rights of all citizens of the state and are against people being signaled out or targeted by a particular constitutional amendment or legislative action."
What a contrast from the Roman Catholic Church which seeks to deprive LGBT citizens of equality under the civil laws and to inflict its supposed dogma on all citizens of Minnesota. It is encouraging to see that some of the "good Christians" are finally beginning to find their voice.
As the GOP moves relentlessly off the far right cliff, the country is edging relentlessly toward accepting the humanity of gay couples and our marriages and relationships. But Chris Christie's veto - after New Jersey's legislature backed equality - and Maryland's upcoming referendum - after its legislature and governor passed a marriage equality law - form a sad last ditch.
To give some perspective, when we first started this push for marriage equality twenty three years ago or so . . . the opposition was adamant about one thing: the courts had nothing whatever to do with ensuring minority rights, if that minority were gay. . . . . I thought that public education and state legislative debate was the right way forward. If in the end, the courts reacted to a shift in public opinion, and we won the constitutional and legal arguments, great. But I thought state legislatures were the main way to go.
So we did. And guess what? They moved the goalposts on us. When we actually began to win in state legislatures, such as California (twice!), or New Hampshire, or now Maryland and New Jersey and Washington State, that process became suddenly unacceptable - and undemocratic! - as well. Even on an issue many hold to be a core civil right, we were told the courts were irrelevant and now that the legislatures were irrelevant. This was particularly odd coming from conservatives who at one point in time were strong believers in restraints on majority tyranny.
The polls are now increasingly on our side. But the way in which a tiny 2- 3 percent minority seeking basic civil equality has been forced now to be subject to state referendums, even after winning legislative victories, strikes me as revealing. It's basically an attack on representative government, a resort to the forms of decision-making which maximize the potential for anonymous bigotry and minimize the importance of representative government, a core achievement of Anglo-American democracy, that can help enhance reason of the accountable against the sometimes raw prejudice of the majority.
[Christie's veto] was an act of cowardice and unfairness and a misguided disregard for representative democracy. How many other duly enacted laws must now be sent to the referendum process for final judgment. Why have a legislature at all? And this from the party that claims to defend the Constitution.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu — who became the face of Arizona border security nationally after he started stridently opposing illegal immigration — threatened his Mexican ex-lover with deportation when the man refused to promise never to disclose their years-long relationship, the former boyfriend and his lawyer tell New Times.
The latest of the alleged threats were made through Babeu's personal attorney, who's also running the sheriff's campaign for Congress in District 4, the ex-lover says.
He says lawyer Chris DeRose demanded he sign an agreement that he would never breathe a word about the affair. But Jose (New Times is withholding his last name because Babeu and his attorney have challenged his legal status) refused.
Melissa Weiss-Riner, Jose's attorney, confirms her client's account. She says she spoke directly to the sheriff's lawyer, DeRose, about the Babeu camp's threats that Jose could be deported if he "revealed the relationship." She says DeRose falsely claimed that Jose's visa had expired. "Jose came to our firm because he felt he was being intimidated, and he was in fear for his life," Weiss-Riner says. "He wanted his legal rights protected."
"If what [Babeu's attorney] says is correct [about Jose's being illegal], either the sheriff had a long relationship with someone he knew was undocumented, while all the time being Mr. Bluster about the border and using it for political gain," or he threatened to deport someone he just broke up with, Merritt says. "That's just the worst kind of hypocrisy." She adds that federal immigration-enforcement agents have better things to do than "take care of Babeu's boyfriends."
Antonio Bustamante, a criminal defense attorney and immigration activist, tells New Times that if the allegations against Babeu are true, "To use a position of authority . . . and make legal threats opens a Pandora's box of ethics issues for any law enforcement person or any elected person. In this case, he's both."
On October 23, Babeu announced that he was considering a run to represent Arizona's newly formed 4th Congressional District, which includes parts of La Paz, Yavapai, Mohave, and Pinal counties. (Heinz announced recently that he's also running for Congress — to fill Gabrielle Giffords' vacated seat.)
Babeu has since confirmed that he's running, and polls of voters in the extremely conservative congressional district show him with a strong lead over Republican opponents Paul Gosar and Ron Gould — the latter of whom is campaigning on a strong family-values ticket.
There's much more in the New Times story. And, meanwhile on Babeu's congressional campaign website the main title is: "It’s time to send a true conservative to Washington, DC." The website also states: "The assault on our country, our constitution and our freedom coming from Washington, DC is unacceptable."
Somehow I suspect that Babeu's political prospects just took a major hit.
“Where,” Rick Santorum rhetorically asks, “do you think this concept of equality comes from? It doesn’t come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions. It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”That smug ‘question’ is the exemplar for what is so irritating about Santorum; it betrays ignorance of his religion’s teachings, ignorance of his religion’s history, that he is a man who repeats whatever self-aggrandizing nonsense he is told by the Holy Men without any interruption for mental processing.According to the Inerrant Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a sociopath who favors genocide (Numbers), child sacrifice (Judges), summary execution of homosexuals (Leviticus), summary execution of adulterers (Leviticus), slavery (Genesis to Revelation), and theft and other dishonesties against those who aren’t your co-religionists (Genesis).The concept of equality did not come from the Bible. Christian piety ruled the West for more than 1000-years and nobody ever heard a word about equality — except for clergy, I mean, who were more equal than everybody else.Equality, as we use the word nowadays, is descended from the Enlightenment idea of natural rights, and that was a reaction against the miseries inflicted by Christian governance.
Make no mistake. Santorum is dangerous and is George W. Bush multiplied ten fold.
Dictators, who tend not to die peacefully in their beds, are among the few on this planet who can claim a job for life. And then there’s the pope.
No challenge to his authority, no Catholic Spring, no curia putsch allowed there; can’t be dislodged for reasons of poor health, psychological trauma or colossally bad judgment in ministering to the world’s nearly 2 billion faithful.
Faith, however, has never in modern memory been so fragile, so at risk, as under Benedict XVI, with alarming numbers abandoning the Church, at least in the West.
Benedict may be indubitably pious and unmatched as a scholar-pope but, on his watch, the Catholic Church has sunk into a morass of unprecedented scandal. The latest crisis — explosive documents obtained by an Italian investigative TV show in what’s been dubbed “Vatileaks’’ — arises from a three-way private correspondence, which included the pope, with an archbishop who blew the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the Vatican, an alert that got the poor man transferred . . .
At its most suspect core, however, the Vatican has been unable to contain or adequately address the ever-expanding grotesquerie of predator priests and lay practitioners sexually abusing children.
To be fair, most of the tawdry abuse that has come to light in recent years occurred during the papacy of Pope John Paul II. For all his charisma and political courage, John Paul never confronted the pedophilia rot among his clergy, the Church more concerned with protecting its reputation than protecting children. But, in his quarter-century as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — disciplinarian-in-chief — Benedict, or Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as he then was — was directly responsible for dealing with priests who violated their oaths. Instead, known perpetrators were quietly moved around parishes and, on too many occasions, continued to commit sordid crimes.
As Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Ratzinger approved the transfer of a priest, Rev. Peter Hullerman, who’d sexually abused boys. Hullerman received psychiatric treatment, returned quickly to pastoral work with children and continued ministering to youth even after being convicted of molesting boys in 1982. Not until 2010, after new accusations of sexual abuse emerged, was Hullerman suspended from his priestly duties. Pope Benedict’s hands are dirty.
Grand juries, district attorneys and government commissions (as in Ireland) have done all the heavy lifting for the Church, . . . . Left to its own devices, the Vatican would probably have dithered for, oh, another couple of centuries.
Last week, the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome hosted a landmark international symposium on clerical sex abuse, with attendance by representatives of 110 bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders. . . . . But canon law has not been changed to reflect the scourge of abuse by clergy, and there’s no indication it will be. And only one actual victim was invited to speak at the symposium.
I’ll say it again: Benedict’s hands are dirty. Can’t even slide him out of the picture gracefully as a pope emeritus, no matter how doddering he gets, no matter how complicit he might be proven to have been in the concealing of predator priests. Benedict turns 85 in April. He’ll die a pope. But, for many of us, he will have been predeceased by his church.
Yet despite all of this, the filth that is the Catholic hierarchy is still treated with deference and even allowed to testify before Congress. One has to wonder when the KKK and neo-Nazi groups will be afforded this privilege - they certainly are no less morally bankrupt than the Catholic Church leadership.
Security camera footage from a well-known gay bar has played a key role in a hit-and-run investigation of a former Houston City Councilman, who is now a conservative talk show host, Local 2 Investigates reported on Wednesday. A Houston man reported to police that KTRH talk show host Michael Berryplowed his SUV into another car outside T.C.'s Show Baron Converse near Fairview in the Montrose area about 11 p.m. on January 31st.I'm not saying that there aren't liberal hypocrites, but the far right and Christianist crowd do seem to have a disproportionate number of them.
Tuderia Bennett, of Galena Park, told Houston police that he was working as a bouncer at the front door during a popular cross-dressing 'drag show' that was going on inside the club. He watched the crash happen and told police he rushed up to the car after impact and got a good look at Berry behind the wheel. "I said, 'That's definitely the guy.' For sure, 100 percent," said Bennett.
Bennett wrote down the license number from the car that he said caused more than $1,500 in damage to his car. Then, when HPD officers traced that license tag to Berry, the victim said he had no doubt it was him.
Managers of the bar then turned over security camera video from inside the club to HPD investigators, and they write in an e-mail to Local 2 Investigates that their video confirms that Berry was in their establishment that night. The e-mail reads, "Mr. Berry is one of those customers who has been to our establishment. The video in question that shows Mr. Berry in our establishment is in our possession. The local authorities have requested this same video and they are in possession to assist with their investigation."
The victim told Local 2 Investigates he believes the conservative activist is trying to avoid the issue entirely because of his public stances involving gay people.
"If you're going to stand up and say anti-gay things and be conservative and be Mr. Good Guy, and then when something happens that points you out and puts you in a place with the exact business that you aim to shut down, it kind of makes it seem like I need this to go away and I need it to go away quickly," said Bennett.
A full moon, a high tide and a brief downpour can be disastrous for many residents in Norfolk's East Ocean View. Rising water from Pretty Lake, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, often overwhelms the storm sewer system and overflows the inlet's banks, flooding streets, homes and cars.
Much the same is true in Ghent, where the Hague often spills into the neighborhood.
The cost to fix flooding problems in those two neighborhoods, by installing floodgates and berms and relocating streets, is pegged by city officials at as much as $135 million. Add the Mason Creek and Spartan Village areas and it's more than $200 million - and that doesn't begin to address Larchmont, Colonial Place, downtown and many other flood-prone neighborhoods.
"We don't have that kind of money," Mayor Paul Fraim said. As sea levels rise, the problems will become more acute. So the city has asked the General Assembly to pay for a study that would recommend strategies on how best to deal with it.
The study would not be limited to Norfolk. The bills call for a comprehensive study of flooding in all of "Tidewater," including Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore, as well as the Northern Neck.
The problem throughout Hampton Roads is twofold - not only is the sea slowly rising, much of the land is slowly sinking.
According to measurements taken at Sewells Point in Norfolk, sea level has risen 14.5 inches since 1930. It isn't known why local cities are sinking, but Bob Matthias, an assistant in the Virginia Beach city manager's office, said the theory is that the huge amount of water being drawn from wells may be the cause.
Some say the global warming that's led to sea-level rise is being caused by man-made pollution. Others say it's a naturally occurring progress. Regardless, Stolle said, "Now is the time for us to see what we need to do.
"We have the Norfolk naval base here," Fraim said. "We have the ports facilities here. From a national security standpoint, the federal government should be very interested in protecting those facilities." According to the governor's commission on climate change, Hampton Roads ranks 10th in the world in the value of assets threatened by sea-level rise.
Vetting a running mate, as Sarah Palin’s run for VP showed in 2008, is a critical ordeal for a party’s presidential nominee. But already two of Mitt Romney’s top choices for the bottom half of the ticket are embroiled in emotional social issues in their states that could spill over onto the national stage if they are picked for the GOP ticket.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gay marriage bill passed Thursday by the state assembly. And in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell might be forced to approve or dismiss a bill that defines life as beginning at conception, not birth.
In both cases, the potential running mates’ predicaments underline the dilemma of being governor of a state while under consideration for the VP spot on the presidential ticket.
In recent years, more Americans have said they are comfortable with gay marriage. In May, for the first time, a majority of Americans approved of it, according to the Gallup poll. Christie, a conservative who was courted by the right wing of his party to run for president this year, has staked himself to the right of the mainstream by vetoing New Jersey’s gay marriage bill, but at the same time has won cheers in the conservative camp for his position.
McDonnell’s situation in Virginia is murkier. The state’s House of Delegates passed a bill that gives a fetus the same rights as a grown person, defining conception as the beginning of life, a key distinction for opponents of abortion rights. If the State Senate approves it, the bill goes to McDonnell. McDonnell’s office said he hasn’t made up his mind on what he would do yet.
Signing the bill would surely please conservatives while possibly diminishing McDonnell’s appeal among independents on a ticket with Romney.
Time will tell whether McDonald places his own ambition ahead of following the orders of the most hate-filled and bigoted elements in Virginia today. If he does veto the personhood bill, it will be most entertaining to watch the flying spittle and conniptions among the Kool-Aid drinkers of the far right.
Friday, February 17, 2012
The Obama Justice Department has concluded that legislation banning same-sex couples from receiving military and veterans benefits violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment and will no longer defend the statute in court, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders on Friday.
“The legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans,” Holder wrote. “Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently from Section 3 of DOMA.”
Holder said DOJ would no longer defend the provisions in Title 38 which prevent same-sex couples who are legally married from obtaining benefits. He said that Congress would be provided a “full and fair opportunity” to defend the statues in the McLaughlin v. Panetta case if they wished to do so.
As Holder writes, the benefits in question “include medical and dental benefits, basic housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, family separation benefits, military identification cards, visitation rights in military hospitals, survivor benefits, and the right to be buried together in military cemetaries.”
Yes, indeed, the Christianists and their groveling political whores in the Republican Party are going to go berserk. Here's Attorney General Holder's letter (click the images to enlarge):
Rick Santorum coyly promised a group of Detroit business leaders Thursday that his plan to restore manufacturing and revive the economy was “just a little different” than those of the other candidates. The plan he then described was nothing more than a rehash of tired Republican ideas stretching back decades. Name a tax, and he proposed to cut it . . .
Then, of course, come the spending cuts: $1 trillion a year for five years. He didn’t bother to list the hundreds of vital programs that would be devastated in the process. He had one easy prescription for any given safety-net program for the poor: “Cap it, cut it, freeze it, and block-grant it to the states.” And inevitably there was the call for far more domestic oil drilling.
But perhaps his most jarring assertion — especially in Michigan, which has suffered more than most from devastating unemployment — was that many people are deliberately staying out of the work force in order to luxuriate in their unemployment benefits.
That is not only out of touch with reality; it is deeply insulting to millions of struggling Americans.
It’s true that some companies are looking for well-educated workers, or those with specialized training. But Mr. Santorum’s wild spending cuts would ravage the nation’s education system and the skills programs those employers need. He has repeatedly made clear his contempt for what he calls “government-run schools” (more commonly known as public schools), and has expressed a strong preference for home schooling.
And of course he believes government entitlements replace America’s moral foundation with soul-killing dependency. He says the nation’s civil laws must comport with God’s laws. But not the laws of all religions. “Where do you think this concept of equality comes from?” he asked in South Carolina last month. “It doesn’t come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions. It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Unlike his main rivals for the nomination, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Mr. Santorum has held these kinds of views for many years, and is a far more authentic representative of the Republican Party’s angry base. But he does not represent the American mainstream, or its tradition of confronting big problems with big ideas.
The article provides a taste of Santorum's extremism, but Santorum's own past statements and speeches underscore his religious extremism and open contempt for the religious freedoms of other citizens. Right Wing Watch reports on a speech that Santorum gave in August 2008 at the ultra-far right Ave Marie University where he contends that Satan - and liberalism - is destroying America. Santorums views ought to make the blood of every moderate and every religious minority run cold with fear. Here are some highlights as well as a video clip:
Back in 2008, Rick Santorum traveled to Ave Maria University in Florida to deliver an address to students attending the Catholic university founded by Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan which he moved from Michigan as part of his effort to build his own personal theocracy in Naples.
Santorum told the students at Ave Maria how lucky they were to be living in a time when God's Army is more needed than ever because all of the major institutions in society were under attack by Satan.
The audio of Santorum's remarks is still posted on the Ave Maria website and the bulk of his speech was dedicated to explaining how God had used him, his political career, and even the death of his son Gabriel in the fight to outlaw abortion in America.But Santorum began his remarks by explaining to the students in attendance how every institution in America has been destroyed by Satan; from academia to politics with even the church having fallen under His sway - not the Catholic church, of course, but "mainline Protestantism" which is in such "shambles" that it is not even Christian any longer
Don't believe me? Here's what Santorum said:
This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country - the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost two hundred years, once America's preeminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers.
And Satan has done so by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that have so deeply rooted in the American tradition.
The place where he was, in my mind, the most successful and first successful was in academia. . . . . Pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it because they're smart. And so academia, a long time ago, fell.
And so what we saw this domino effect, once the colleges fell and those who were being education in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. . . . we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. So they attacked mainline Protestantism, they attacked the Church, and what better way to go after smart people who also believe they’re pious to use both vanity and pride to also go after the Church.
After that, you start destroying the Church and you start destroying academia, the culture is where their next success was and I need not even go into the state of the popular culture today.
The man is down right scary and, in my opinion, belongs in a mental institution. I would also venture that given his extreme homophobia, he has some serious issues with his own sexuality. What better way to try to convince one's self that they are straight than to father all those children. It goes without saying that in Santorum's bizarre world view, gays are the tools of Satan.
One can only hope that the main stream media begins to truly focus on Santorum's insanity and extremism.
Tempers flared on Capitol Hill on Thursday as lawmakers waded into an increasingly heated debate over the mandated coverage of contraceptives under the nation’s new health-care law.
Several Democrats walked out of a House hearing on the provision, accusing Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) of blocking testimony from a female witness who supports the mandate.
The stormy hearing — and a comment from a key supporter of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum that quickly drew fury — provided further evidence of how the issue remains political dynamite despite the Obama administration’s efforts to reach a compromise.
Foster Friess, the Santorum backer, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday that he favors an “inexpensive” form of birth control — abstinence. “You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception,” he said. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
Women’s groups denounced Friess’s remarks. “Birth control is basic health care and used almost universally by women,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. “It is not something to belittle on national TV.”
“The issue here is forcing the church to provide [contraceptives] directly or indirectly in contravention of the Church’s teachings,” said William E. Lori, who chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. “That’s what we don't want to do. It’s one thing when tax dollars pay for it; it’s another when church dollars do.”
Of course, it's not "church dollars" that would be paying for coverage at Catholic hospitals and universities few of which are funded by the Church and all of which operate as businesses in competition with other universities and hospitals. Andrew Sullivan remains dumbfounded by the insanity of both the GOP and the Catholic bishops who are swimming against the will of the majority. Here are some highlights:
It's hard to believe that the GOP has become so isolated from the American mainstream that they could not find and would not allow a single woman to testify in the Issa hearings today on contraception and religious freedom for Catholic bishops and the small minority of American Catholics who don't agree with birth control on grounds of conscience. I know the GOP doesn't want the debate to be about birth control, even though it obviously is at least in part, but seriously. They couldn't even find a Catholic woman to make the case that this isn't about abortion? Or do any actually exist? And they excluded a Catholic woman representing the majority Catholic view that Obama's compromise was acceptable as a reasonable balance? Whatever else this is, it is not good p.r.
And then to hand the Democrats an opportunity for a walk-out that would only make the issue - especially in TV soundbites - more about contraception than religious liberty? It's political and p.r. malpractice. My view that this is the wedge issue that will finally hurt the GOP has not been disproven today, has it?
Added to Santorum's chief financial backer's simply staggering and disgustingly sexist recommendation that the only birth control a woman should have is crossing her legs - with the implication that straight men have no responsibility for the matter - and we have really returned to the 1950s, . . .
Hence in part, perhaps, Obama's growing popularity among single women, as Greg Sargent notes: After unmarried women dropped off for Dems in 2010 and were slow to return to the Dem fold in 2011, Obama is now approaching the 70 percent he won among them in 2008. He beats Romney now among single women by 65 -30. Only two months ago, it was 54 - 37. Now imagine what the margin would be if Santorum were the nominee.
I continue to hope that the Christianist base of the GOP is about to run the Party off a cliff.
The legislation limits all sexually related instruction to "natural human reproduction science" in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Opponents of the measure said it's too broad and fear it would prevent teachers and others from speaking out against the bullying of gay teens.
The parents of one of two gay teenagers who committed suicide in Tennessee recently have said constant bullying over being gay led their son to kill himself.
"This is such a shame that we have ... a Legislature that doesn't care about us," said 21-year-old Eric Patton, one of a number of protesters that attended the meeting. "When we have more kids committing suicide because of this bill, the blood will be on their hands."
Hate, bigotry and cruelty toward others - the principal hallmarks of today's conservative Christians - are the bill's main characteristics. Meanwhile, The Nashville Scene looks at the recent gay teen suicides in Tennessee and rightfully asks the question of whether it will ever get better in that state. Here are highlights from that article:
In the midst of statewide, even nationwide concern over the impact of bullying, LGBT advocates and activists point to a spate of well-publicized bills in Tennessee's Republican-dominated legislature. These bills, they say, contribute to a culture of hostility toward gays and transgendered citizens — undermining their rights, restricting their restroom use, refusing to acknowledge their existence in the classroom.
By the most recent statistics, Tennessee has the 17th highest age-adjusted suicide rate in the U.S. These findings arrive among a list of other grim stats.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's 2009 National School Climate Survey found that LGBT students in Tennessee report levels of verbal abuse higher than the national average. Ninety-eight percent of Tennessee high schoolers have heard a peer use the word "gay" in a derogatory fashion, compared with a national rate of 89 percent. Likewise, 68 percent of Tennessee students did not report bullying to school faculty, and 65 percent kept instances of bullying from their families.
Compounding matters, fewer than one in 10 Tennessee students attends a school with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy. In addition, only one in seven could access LGBT information via school computers — the subject of a 2009 ACLU lawsuit against Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and Knoxville Public Schools that was ultimately successful in overturning the policy.
Unfortunately, it takes time for things to reach Tennessee," Sanders says. "It's not to say it won't get better at some point, but right now, 2011-2012 — or you could say the time that coincides with the 107th General Assembly — it's the worst it's been since the marriage amendment went through the legislature. We're back really to — I think the worst point in history for Tennessee's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in years."
The irony, noted by Sanders and others, is that while conservative lawmakers dismiss equal rights legislation for gays on grounds that no group should be singled out for special treatment, they have had no compunctions whatsoever about punitive bills that specifically target LGBT citizens.
The most notorious example is HB600 — the blanket nullification of municipal anti-discrimination laws crafted by state Rep. Glen Casada, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last year, and lobbied for in secret by powerful Christian conservative interests.
That was the first salvo in what has become a culture-war blitzkrieg. There is state Rep. Joey Hensley's HB 0229, the House version of Knoxville Sen. Stacey Campfield's "Don't Say Gay Bill," which bans any mention of sexuality other than the hetero-variety in K-8 sex education classes. There is HB 1153, which critics say codifies First Amendment protection for the very bullies who tormented Jacob Rogers and Phillip Parker. Most controversial — and LGBT advocates argue, most appalling — is HB 2279, which would make it a crime for a transgender person to use the restroom that best coincides with their gender identity.
"Comments like that, they really build a sort of hate, you know?" Crowder explains. "They sort of isolate people in a negative way, and that leads me to think that of course politicians play a major part in the forming of ideas that other people have. When they're sitting around trying to pass bills trying to protect bullies, it doesn't move society forward in being more accepting. If anything, it winds up hurting people."
As it turns out, science agrees with Crowder. A study published last year by Columbia University researcher Mark Hatzenbuehler found that in the state of Oregon, suicide rates among gay and straight teenagers alike are higher in politically conservative counties than their liberal counterparts, due in large part to a lack of school programs supporting LGBT youth.
There's much more in the article worth a read. What I'm left with is the conviction that one of the foulest forces in American society today is Christian conservatives. They make a mockery of the Gospel message and make me - and it seems many in the younger generations based on the growing "none: religious category - want to have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Genesis seems to affirm many things that the contemporary scientific consensus would disagree with, including but not limited to the following: the cause and source of creation (God versus Big Bang and random and/or natural processes), the length of time for creation (billions of years versus six days), the place of earth in reference to other celestial entities (earth is at the center according to a plain reading of Gen 1:14-17, which places the sun, moon, and starts ‘in’ the firmament, which is a solid dome, while scientists universally affirm that the earth goes around the sun.), the order of creation (day and night and vegetation come before the sun was created, according to Gen. 1:4-5, while current scientific theories would state that without light from the sun, there would be no day and no vegetation on earth), and whether or not there is or was a solid dome somewhere above the earth which is holding back the primal waters.
But, what if we read this passage of scripture differently? That is, what if think of Genesis 1 as something similar to a parable or an allegory, for instance? I do not mean to suggest that Genesis 1 is exactly a parable or allegory, but that there might be similarities between them, and that considering these similarities can help us move forward to reconsider how this passage might be read together with contemporary scientific consensus.
Parables and allegories, as we know, are stories told to convey deep and powerful truths. It is not the literal correspondence between each detail in a parable and actual reality that matters, but the central message and meaning of the parable.
And there are good reasons to take such an allegoric and contextual reading to Genesis 1. Indeed, we find many Ancient Near Eastern cultures to have held similar creation stories. . . . . This is to say that the peoples of the ancient world who were neighbors of the ancient Hebrews all believed that the world was created by divine beings who had separated and pushed back primal chaotic forces to create an orderly cosmos. Many also believed that the sky was a solid dome which held back water, which would have explained, for instance, the source of rain.
Now, just as it makes sense for God to have revealed himself in ways that first century Jews, Greeks, and Romans could understand, it also makes sense that God would have revealed himself in the time of ancient Israel in the ways that they and their neighbors could understand—that is, through the basic cosmological worldview that they would already understand. Looked at in this way, we may then begin to ask the question of what we can find that is different between the scripture and these heathen cosmogonies, and we begin, I think, to get a sense of what is truly at the heart of the biblical story of creation.
If we allow ourselves the room to see Genesis 1 as something similar to a parable or allegory, rich in symbolism and metaphor, spoken in a language and assuming a worldview that ancient Near Eastern people could understand, we are freed from having to defend the Bible against what otherwise appear to be disagreements with current scientific consensus…about the current structure of our solar system, about how the universe came into being, and even about how human beings came into the world
Nor do Christians, using scientific tools, need to buy into Satan’s lie that a universe that appears to function in an orderly, natural way came into being and functions as it does all by itself. We Christians know better. We believe and scripture affirms that God created this good world, that God created its laws, principles, and elements. We need not, therefore, fear science. It is a gift from God given to the church to understand God’s handiwork in the world, to worship God for God’s majesty and wonder as its creator, and to serve God’s purposes as caretakers for the people and the creation that God loves.
I'm sorry, but these attempts do not save the Bible from being false in the final analysis and less than authoritative on myriad issues. Indeed, if the Bible is parable or allegory, then nothing in it can be taken literally - including the supposed condemnations of homosexuality. And the result is that the Old testament of the Bible is nothing more than a competing creation myth (and subsequent tribal myths) with everything else in it built upon sand. As more people grasp this reality, expect the hysterics of the professional Christian set to increase as the make a last effort to hold on to the power and control that they have wrongfully wielded for far too long.
The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages, setting the stage for an expected veto by Gov. Chris Christie.
The 42-33 vote sends the bill to Christie, who won't take immediate action. The Republican governor who opposes gay marriage had promised "very swift action" if the bill passed both houses of the Legislature, but the Assembly isn't required to send the bill to his desk until the close of business Friday. The Senate approved the bill Monday.
"Without question this is a historic day in the state of New Jersey," Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said after the vote. She said she had never been more proud of the Democratic caucus for doing "what citizens sent us here to do: to deliberate, to use the legislative process to represent the interests of all New Jerseyans."
The bill would need several Republican votes in each house to override the governor; Christie himself essentially guaranteed that that won't happen.
With that in mind, Democrats who identified same-sex marriage as their No. 1 priority for the two-year legislative session that began in January have adopted a longer view. They say there's no rush for an override vote, especially because the Legislature has been unsuccessful in every prior attempt to override Christie, most notably to reinstate a surcharge on millionaires.
Instead, they plan to bide their time in hopes that support for gay marriage — currently 52-42 percent in New Jersey, according to one recent voter poll — will continue to grow.
The risk for Christie if he vetoes the bill is that he himself is up for re-election in 2013 and in a close race, the veto could come back to bite him in his very ample ass. But if he doesn't veto the bill, the Christofascists may desert him and otherwise make his life Hell. Personally, I have little sympathy for Christie's dilemma. Yes, doing the right thing will not sit well with the hate merchants in the GOP base. But often doing the right thing doesn't win one short term popularity. Especially with bigots. Here are highlights from Salon on Christie's catch 22 situation:
There are two elections on the horizon that Chris Christie has a particular interest in. The first is in New Jersey next year, when he’ll seek a second term as governor. The second is in 2016, when he’ll make a logical presidential candidate — if he wins reelection in ’13 and if the Republican nomination is open.
On the one hand, support for gay marriage among New Jersey voters is solid — 52 percent favored it and 42 percent opposed it in one recent poll, while another pegged the margin at 48-37. Among independents, support is even higher. And the trajectory seems clear: Just five years ago, those overall numbers were reversed when the topic was polled. Given how rare Republican victories in New Jersey are (Christie’s 2009 win marked just the fifth statewide triumph for the GOP in 37 years, and only the second that was won by more than a point), Christie has to be very careful as he approaches his reelection race. He doesn’t have much margin for error when it comes to alienating swing voters . . . . and swing voters in New Jersey are generally fine with gay marriage.
But Republican voters nationally are not, and it will be a long time before they are (if they ever are). So if he wants to preserve his viability for ’16, Christie cannot be known as the New Jersey governor who enacted same-sex marriage. But he also can’t position himself as a hard-line, stop-at-nothing-to-derail-it opponent of it; to do so would reek of the cultural conservatism that has made most national Republicans unmarketable in New Jersey and endanger Christie’s reelection prospects. And if he gets the boot in ’13, it could sink whatever ’16 ambitions he has.
Christie’s workaround has been to oppose gay marriage while calling for a public referendum. . . . .Democrats in the Legislature have the votes to make sure one never takes place.
But yesterday’s state Senate vote offered another potential way out for Christie: a legislative override. . . . . This presents a Machiavellian possibility for Christie: Wink at them, continue voicing his opposition, then throw up his hands as the Legislature overrides him and takes the issue off the table.
[D]on’t expect an override any time soon. But if popular support keeps growing and Christie finds himself staring at a difficult reelection race in ’13, it might start to make sense.
The cynic in me hopes that Christie vetoes the bill, the legislature overrides the veto and Christie is voted out in 2013. It would be the best of all worlds and Christie would receive a well deserved punishment for caving into the forces of hate and bigotry in the GOP.
Virginia leads the nation in the percentage of marriages between blacks and whites, a new study by the Pew Research Center shows, barely four decades after state laws criminalizing interracial marriage were struck down by the Supreme Court. And one in five new married couples in the District crossed racial and ethnic lines.
The prevalence of intermarriage in and around the Washington area reflects demographic changes that are pushing interracial marriage rates to an all-time high in the United States while toppling historical taboos among younger people.
According to the Pew study, about 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 crossed racial or ethnic lines, double the rate from three decades ago. Intermarriages comprise 8 percent of all marriages now, up from just 3 percent in 1980. And most Americans tell pollsters they are untroubled at the prospect of intermarriage in their own family.
“In the past half century, intermarriage has evolved from being illegal, to being taboo, to being merely unusual,” said Paul Taylor, director of the Pew Research Center. “With each passing year, it becomes less unusual. . . . The face of the country is changing, and behaviors are changing with it.”
The share of whites who marry “out” of their race has more than doubled since 1980, to 9 percent. The percentage of blacks who marry non-blacks has more than tripled, to 17 percent. Asians and Hispanics have the highest rates of intermarriage, with more than a quarter of all Asian newlyweds marrying a non-Asian.
As intermarriage rates have grown, attitudes have changed dramatically. In a 1986 Roper Poll, two-thirds of the people said they could never imagine themselves marrying someone from a different race. In a 2009 Pew poll, just 6 percent of whites and 3 percent of blacks said they would not accept an interracial marriage in their family.
“Different racial and ethnic minorities are increasingly sharing the same social space, in their neighborhoods, their job settings and schools,” Lichter said. “It’s a reflection of declining inequality on a lot of fronts, including income and education.” But a postracial society remains a long way off, he added.
One can imagine the angst and horror this data creates at Family Research Council, the American Family Association and, of course, among the extremists at The Family Foundation here in Virginia.
Despite the deep divide between some religious leaders and government officials over contraceptives, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll found most voters support the new federal directive that health insurance plans provide coverage for birth control.
In addition, most voters said they favored some type of legal recognition for same-sex couples, at a time when the New Jersey Legislature is set to vote on gay marriage and after a federal appellate court ruled that Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage in California was unconstitutional.
While same-sex marriage and coverage for contraceptives have generated significant debate this month, the poll suggests that voters do not place social issues high on their agenda. When asked to name one issue that presidential candidates should discuss, most voters, including Republicans who described themselves as primary voters, mentioned an economic problem, like unemployment or the budget deficit. Few said they wanted to hear the candidates talk about abortion or gay marriage, for example.
On contraceptive coverage, 65 percent of voters in the poll said they supported the Obama administration’s requirement that health insurance plans cover the cost of birth control, and 59 percent, said the health insurance plans of religiously affiliated employers should cover the cost of birth control. . . . . A majority of Catholic voters in the poll were at odds with the church’s official stance, . . .
Gay marriage is another debate in which the Catholic laity disagrees with church doctrine. More than two-thirds of Catholic voters supported some sort of legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships: 44 percent favored marriage, and 25 percent preferred civil unions. Twenty-four percent said gay couples should receive no legal recognition.
Let's hope the GOP remains totally deaf to what most of the voters want and keep on drinking the Christianist Kool-Aid.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) hopes to put the politically delicate question of same-sex marriage behind him and is prepared to swiftly veto a bill extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians, even if it means ignoring the arguments of proponents.Rather than considering equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians, however, Christie has largely dismissed his critics and called for a state referendum on the issue. During a press conference yesterday, the New Jersey governor referred to the senate’s passage of same-sex marriage bill as “a good bunch of theater” and told lawmakers, “it’s not going to happen.”
Christie is a fool if he believe the issue of inequality can be so easily avoided. I hope it comes back to bite him in his fat ass.