Saturday, March 10, 2012

Click on the images to enlarge.

The Catholic News agency - and perennial blow hard William Donohue who makes a plush living off of manufacturing evidence of supposed anti-Catholic persecution - is big time pissed off at the New York Times for running a full page ad (shown above) asking the very relevant question to Catholics as to when they are going to open their eyes and walk away for the increasingly foul church hierarchy. Among the things the Catholic News Agency got its panties in a wad over are these:

The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation ad “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church” ran on March 9 and billed itself as an “open letter to 'liberal' and 'nominal' Catholics.”

“Will it be reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark Ages?” it asks. “Do you choose women and their rights, or Bishops and their wrongs? Whose side are you on?”

The ad claims that the church is “an avowedly antidemocratic Old Boys club” and derides Catholic teaching that contraception use is sinful. It also blames the Church for causing misery, poverty, unwanted pregnancies and deaths and attacks Catholic teaching on the ordination of women, parochial schools, and the Church’s response to sex abuse.

The ad, which includes an unflattering political cartoon of a Catholic bishop, claims that the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference has made a “declaration of war against women's right to contraception.”

Meanwhile, of course the statements made by the Freedom from Religion Foundation are right on target and true. And to prove the Church's hypocrisy, Pope Benedict XVI just announced another round of anti-gay hatred when he addressed American bishops and stated this:

Pope Benedict XVI on Friday condemned gay marriage in a speech to bishops from the United States after Maryland last week became the eighth US state to legalise same-sex unions.

"Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage," the pope said, warning against "the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage".

"Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature."

He also said bishops could not overlook "the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation".

"The contemporary crisis of marriage and the family... has led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost," he added.

Once again, the sexual abuse and molestation of children and youths seems to be no problem to the Pope except for when media focus ratchets up too high. Then he sheds crocodile tears.

Catholic Church Ends Homeless Shelter Funding Because Director Supports Marriage Equalityand Planned Parenthood

Proving yet again that the Catholic Church hierarchy cares more about continuing its anti gay jihad than following the Gospel message of feeding the poor and caring for the homeless, the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento announced that it was ending its funding for Francis House, a nonprofit agency that serves homeless people, because the new director supports gay marriage. And the homeless people who will suffer from the funding cut? Apparently they aren't of any consequence to the modern day Pharisees who inhabit bishopric across the world and certainly the one in Sacramento inhabited by Bishop Soto (pictured at left - and looking very well fed, of course). Not that such an attitude should be surprising coming from a group of foul, hypocrites who have proven time and time again that other than keeping this hushed up, they cared nothing about the sexual abuse of children and youths. Cooks and Liars looks at this travesty. Here are some highlights:

What a crock. And what a cynical misuse of their church non-profit status, trying to push out this director on the basic of her religious and political beliefs -- all the while screaming about "religious freedom" for whatever universal restriction they want to push that week. When will American Catholics finally get fed up enough to break off with Rome?

The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento no longer will fund programs at Francis House, a nonprofit agency that serves homeless people, because of its new director's views supporting abortion rights and gay marriage.

In a letter last month, the diocese's director of social services said the Rev. Faith Whitmore's public statements on the issues clash with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Therefore, said the Rev. Michael Kiernan, the social services director, it is "impossible for the diocese to continue funding Francis House" as part of its annual Catholic Appeal.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Really? What part of that clashes with what Francis House does?

Each morning, dozens of poor people line up at Francis House, in Sacramento's homeless services epicenter on C and 14th streets, for help with basic services such as housing and transportation. Now in its 42nd year, the organization is one of the largest homeless services agencies in the Sacramento region, serving upward of 25,000 people. It has an annual budget of about $500,000.

For at least two decades, Francis House has received annual donations from the diocese ranging from $7,500 to $10,000, said Michael Miller, a member of the agency's corporate advisory board.

The good news is that, as the Sacramento Bee is reporting, donors have stepped up to replace the funds from the diocese which are likely going to fund anti-gay and anti-women activities of the Church. To make a donation, go here. Here are some details from the Sacramento Bee:

The first of hundreds of online donations to Francis House came in early Thursday, just after midnight, as news broke that the Catholic Church was cutting off funding to the homeless services agency because of its new director's support of Planned Parenthood and gay marriage.

By Friday morning, people from Sacramento and across the country had contributed roughly $8,000 to the nonprofit group, and the checks and telephone calls continued throughout the day.

In addition to donations from $20 to $1,500, the group has received offers of volunteer help and pledges of support from ordinary people and power brokers, including state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Roger Dickinson, both Democrats.

The cash and pledges will fill the gap created in January, when the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento decided to discontinue funding Francis House as part of its annual appeal, Miiller said.

As news spread about the diocese's decision to stop funding Francis House, its website lit up with donations. Supporters began arriving at the C Street agency when it opened a few hours later, and phoned and streamed in throughout the day.

Some expressed their unhappiness with the diocese's decision, Miiller said. Others "just wanted to make sure that we were able to backfill the lost donations" from the church.

"We really don't want to engage in politics," Miiller said. "We just say, 'Thank you so much for helping us help the poor.' Our hope is that the support continues. The need is great."

Candidly, I would feel literally dirty if I were still a Catholic. The institutional Church is rapidly turning into something horrible. OK - make that something even more horrible. The sex abuse cover ups have gone on for decades if not centuries.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Kentucky Christianists Demand Special Right to Ignore Laws


Apparently taking a cue from the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy that has long seen itself above the civil and criminal laws - especially laws criminalizing the sexual abuse of children and youths and laws mandating the reporting of sexual abuse of minors - Christianists in Kentucky are pushing for a "religious freedom" law that would allow them to basically ignore any laws they don't like on "religious grounds." What's frightening is that a Kentucky Senate panel has approved the proposal. The irony. of course, is that far right Christians claim that gays want "special rights" but it is they themselves who seek - no, demand - special rights above all other members of society. And their extremism and brazenness seems to be only increasing with the help of the Republican Party which has become a de facto Christianist party. Here are highlights from the Miami Herald on this latest lunacy:

Kentuckians may get to vote this November on a proposed change to the state Constitution that its backers call "the Religious Freedom Act." The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the constitutional amendment Wednesday on a vote of 6-0, with Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, passing. The sponsor of Senate Bill 158, Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said it is designed to protect the free exercise of religion from unnecessary restriction by government.

The bill would "prohibit any human authority from burdening actions that are based on religious beliefs, except in support of a compelling governmental interest using the least restrictive means to further that interest." The government would have to prove it has a "compelling interest" before it could restrict someone's religious freedom, Higdon said.

Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation of Kentucky, said the measure is needed because the U.S. Supreme Court has diluted freedom of religion protections already offered by federal and state constitutions

He said his group favors adopting a constitutional amendment rather than a statute "to make it more permanent." The Catholic Conference of Kentucky also supports the measure.

If the legislature approves SB 158, Kentuckians would vote on it in November at the polls.

These people truly want a theocracy where they are the privileged set who are above the law. It's more than a little frightening.

A GOP War on Women?

At times it seems as if the Republican Party is striving to alienate all but the most insane Kool-Aid drinking religious extremists and the most greedy of the 1%. Why else support the Christianist anti-contraception campign and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while seeking to slash spending on everything then benefits the 99%. Obviously, these policies and the resulting uproar are a gift to Democrats that keeps on giving and deserves to be utilized against the GOP to the maximum extent possible. Especially when it comes to exposing just how extreme and anti-freedom of religion the GOP has become. Kathleen Parker, one of the few thinking conservatives not yet tarred and feathered and ridden out on a rail by Republicans has a good column in the Washington Post that looks at the GOP's self-created PR disaster. Here are some highlights:

Introducing her husband on Super Tuesday night, Ann Romney said that women this election season are interested in jobs, the economy and the debt. Translation: So could we shut up already about contraception?

Republicans might wish nothing more than to stuff birth control pills back into the bottle, but Democrats aren’t about to let them. The narrative already has a title: “The Republican War on Women.” Cue theme from “Psycho.”

One can hardly blame Democrats for taking advantage of a perfect storm of stupefying proportions. The only thing Republicans failed to do was put a bow on this mess. Consider the headline-grabbing events that came together almost at once:

Virginia’s pre-abortion sonogram law that could have required women to undergo a transvaginal probe; the debate over religious liberty vs. contraception mandate, prompted by health-care reform; Rush Limbaugh’s commentary about a female law student in which he called her a slut and a prostitute and, in a final flourish, suggested she provide him sex tapes so he could watch her in the activities precipitating the need for birth control.

[C]ombined their effect on female voters is that of a Tyrannosaurus rex approaching a Gallimimus herd. (Picture the stampede scene in “Jurassic Park.”)

War has been declared, and there’s hardly any way to change the impression among a growing percentage of women that the GOP is the party of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. It’s a smart move for Democrats to keep replaying the message . . .

[C]ontrary to what the White House insists, Rush Limbaugh is not the leader of the GOP. Even so, he does have a large audience and it is disconcerting that so many seem to share his obvious hostility toward women. Several of his cohorts in discourtesy are snorting and grunting in my inbox even now.

One who wrote in defense of Limbaugh informed me of my place in God’s hierarchy, slightly above goats, and gave me a tutorial . . . . “Pagan women like yourself,” he patiently averred, “have no regard for the natural order of God’s plan and shamelessly promulgate the ‘we are goddesses’ bile that has infected the entire country and pretty much stopped it in its tracks from incurring God’s blessing.” I’m leaving out the best parts.

Unfortunately, the conservative governing principles that traditionally attracted level heads to the right side of the aisle have been incrementally subsumed by social issues — a bull’s-eye for Democrats and a black eye for Republicans. Inasmuch as women are the ones who most urgently require access to family planning, any opposition can be conflated to be anti-woman. Hence, Ann Romney’s well-placed remarks.

She is right, of course, but the problem she was implicitly trying to address is not short-term. The GOP long ago made its bed with social conservatives, a large percentage of them Southern evangelicals, and now must sleep with them. After marriage, of course. In Laurens County, S.C., where the local GOP recently tried to create a purity tribunal to screen and monitor aspiring Republican candidates, this is more than a punch line.

Although the state party ruled the county initiative inconsistent with state law, the Laurens mind-set burbles just beneath the surface of the once-Grand Old Party. And that is a problem only Democrats could love.

The GOP leadership knowingly made a pact with the Devil - i.e., lunatic Christianists - and they deserve to pay the price that has brought with it. Many, like myself, can never consider a return to the GOP until the Christianists extremists and greed driven people like the Koch brothers are driven out. And I don't see that happening any time soon. The result will be that the GOP continues its downward spiral into insanity and, hopefully, electoral defeats.

Faith Baptist Church - Another Member of the Hate Group Roster

I noted yesterday that Southern Poverty Law Center had inducted ten additional organizations to its roster of anti-gay hate groups. I also noted that merely stating "deeply felt religious belief" wasn't what landed an organization in the hate group category. A good example of the deliberate lies and falsehoods that a group must be peddling comes from Faith Baptist in Primrose, Georgia, which also describes itself as "Sons of Thundr." Yes, that IS how they spell the word "thunder" which probably tells us a lot about the intellectual level of church adherents. Adding to the batshitery is this statement on their hate-filled website: "Preaching the Book that changed the world ! 1611 KJB." As many regular readers know, the King James Bible was organized under the direction of King James I of England (a/k/a James VI of Scotland) who was gay as a goose. Yes, he did his duty and fathered children but he's buried in Westminster Abbey with one of his male lovers - and there were quite a few of them - buried nearby. The image above is from the hate group's webpage. Here's some of the "loving" statements about LGBT individuals disseminated by "Sons of Thundr":

Effects on the Lifespan

Smokers and drug addicts don't live as long as non-smokers or non-addicts, so we consider smoking and narcotics abuse harmful. The typical life-span of homosexuals suggests that their activities are more destructive than smoking and as dangerous as drugs.Two and eight-tenths percent (2.8%) of gays died violently. They were 116 times more apt to be murdered; 24 times more apt to commit suicide; and had a traffic-accident death-rate 18 times the rate of comparably-aged white males. Heart attacks, cancer and liver failure were exceptionally common. Twenty percent of lesbians died of murder, suicide, or accident--a rate 487 times higher than that of white females aged 25-44. The age distribution of samples of homosexuals in the scientific literature from 1989 to 1992 suggests a similarly shortened life-span.

The Biological Swapmeet

The typical sexual practices of homosexuals are a medical horror story --imagine exchanging saliva, feces, semen and/or blood with dozens of different men each year. Imagine drinking urine, ingesting feces and experiencing rectal trauma on a regular basis. Often these encounters occur while the participants are drunk, high, and/or in an orgy setting. Further, many of them occur in extremely unsanitary places (bathrooms, dirty peep shows), or, because homosexuals travel so frequently, in other parts of the world.

Can you feel the "Christian love" yet? Obviously, the "facts" published are either directly from Paul Cameron's thoroughly discredited "research" or simply made up and pulled out of the pastor's ass. As I have noted before, NO ONE lies like "godly Christians" who apparently believe that there are only nine Commandments and have the same level of truth and veracity as did the Nazi propagandists when disseminating "facts" against Jews.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Today's GOP: Ignorance is Strength

I frequently bemoan the lobotomy like process that seems to be sweeping the GOP and driving thinking individuals - at least those not motivated most by personal greed - out of the party. The result is a party base that is increasingly ignorant and delusional - something the base seems to even revel in. And, in my view, it's not a coincidence that this exultation of ignorance has coincided with the rise of the so-called Christian Right - a group synonymous with ignorance in my view - within the GOP. In keeping with this almost worship of ignorance and superstition, the GOP is increasingly hostile to both public education and higher education which are viewed as places for "indoctrination" and where the falsity of the beliefs held dear by the Christianists is exposed. Paul Krugman looks at this sad state of affairs in a column in the New York Times. Here are highlights:

One way in which Americans have always been exceptional has been in our support for education. First we took the lead in universal primary education; then the “high school movement” made us the first nation to embrace widespread secondary education. And after World War II, public support, including the G.I. Bill and a huge expansion of public universities, helped large numbers of Americans to get college degrees.

But now one of our two major political parties has taken a hard right turn against education, or at least against education that working Americans can afford. Remarkably, this new hostility to education is shared by the social conservative and economic conservative wings of the Republican coalition, now embodied in the persons of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

About that hostility: Mr. Santorum made headlines by declaring that President Obama wants to expand college enrollment because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that destroy religious faith. But Mr. Romney’s response to a high school senior worried about college costs is arguably even more significant . . . Here’s what the candidate told the student: “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And, hopefully, you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

For the past couple of generations, choosing a less expensive school has generally meant going to a public university rather than a private university. But these days, public higher education is very much under siege, facing even harsher budget cuts than the rest of the public sector. Adjusted for inflation, state support for higher education has fallen 12 percent over the past five years, even as the number of students has continued to rise; in California, support is down by 20 percent.

One result has been soaring fees. Inflation-adjusted tuition at public four-year colleges has risen by more than 70 percent over the past decade. So good luck on finding that college “that has a little lower price.”

Another result is that cash-strapped educational institutions have been cutting back in areas that are expensive to teach — which also happen to be precisely the areas the economy needs. For example, public colleges in a number of states, including Florida and Texas, have eliminated entire departments in engineering and computer science.

The damage these changes will inflict — both to our nation’s economic prospects and to the fading American dream of equal opportunity — should be obvious. So why are Republicans so eager to trash higher education?

[Mr. Santorum is] right to feel that our higher education system isn’t friendly ground for current conservative ideology. And it’s not just liberal-arts professors: among scientists, self-identified Democrats outnumber self-identified Republicans nine to one. I guess Mr. Santorum would see this as evidence of a liberal conspiracy. Others might suggest that scientists find it hard to support a party in which denial of climate change has become a political litmus test, and denial of the theory of evolution is well on its way to similar status.

But what about people like Mr. Romney? Don’t they have a stake in America’s future economic success, which is endangered by the crusade against education? Maybe not as much as you think.

After all, over the past 30 years, there has been a stunning disconnect between huge income gains at the top and the struggles of ordinary workers. You can make the case that the self-interest of America’s elite is best served by making sure that this disconnect continues, which means keeping taxes on high incomes low at all costs, never mind the consequences in terms of poor infrastructure and an undertrained work force.

And if underfunding public education leaves many children of the less affluent shut out from upward mobility, well, did you really believe that stuff about creating equality of opportunity?

So whenever you hear Republicans say that they are the party of traditional values, bear in mind that they have actually made a radical break with America’s tradition of valuing education.

It's a depressing picture and one that the "greatest generation" would find troubling I suspect. But not so if one doesn't want an increasingly archaic religious ideology challenged.

New Faces of Hate


I noted yesterday that the number of hate groups has been on the rise, with ten (10) new anti-gay hate groups being registered by the Southern Poverty Law Center which also tracks the KKK, neo-Nazi groups and white supremacy groups. The entire list is here and it includes some names we've seen before who are finally being properly recognized for the anti-gay virulence. It's important to remember that mere statement of religious belief doesn't land one on this list. No, it takes persistent dissemination of lies, knowing using of discredited junk science and the deliberate distribution of anti-gay falsehoods to make the list. Joe Jervis has this to say about these nasty organizations at Joe.My.God:

Among the ten groups added today to the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of 27 anti-gay hate groups are three names that are very familiar to us here on JMG. Eugene Delgaudio (Public Advocate), Randy Thomasson (Save California), and Linda Harvey (Mission America). We can only hope that our relentless coverage of these evil, horrible people had some tiny role in their elevation to the most ignominious list in American culture. Congratulations you three pigs, you're now in the history books alongside the Ku Klux Klan.

Why Are Only Humans Homophobic? My Vote is Religion

While the Christianists rant, rave and spray spittle when confronted with the reality that homosexuality is seen across the animal kingdom - something that under cuts their efforts to blame gays on bad parenting and other invented psychobabble - the fact is that hundreds of species exhibit homosexual behavior. More importantly, only in humans does one find homophobia and mistreatment of individuals who are attracted to those of the same sex. Thus, the argument that homosexuality is "unnatural" and against the laws of nature quickly falls apart. So what cause humans to be unique in this mistreatment of other individuals? In my opinion, it's summed up in one word: religion. And if one knows accurate and true history, the development of religion and religious dogma often had little with supposed divine inspiration but instead involved uneducated and superstitious peoples (a) trying to explain the world, (ii) defining their own tribe(s) and differentiating themselves from the "other," and (c) providing a basis for the insecure to feel superior to others. Nature and so-called natural law often had little involvement and primitive social structure and circumstances were instead controlling. An article in Slate looks at the homophobia free nature of the rest of the animal kingdom. Here are highlights:

In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan on Sunday, former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron called homosexuality “unnatural,” and a behavior that is “ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.” We’ve heard that many species of nonhuman animals engage in gay sex, which calls into question the first part of Cameron’s statement. But what about the practice of shunning gays—can animals be homophobic too?

Not as far as we know.
Homosexual behavior has been documented in hundreds of animal species, but the same does not hold for gay-bashing. For starters, few animals are exclusively gay. Two female Japanese macaques might have playful sex with each other on Tuesday, then mate with males on Wednesday. Pairs of male elephants sometimes form years-long companionships that include sexual activity, while their heterosexual couplings tend to be one-night stands. For these and many other species, sexual preferences seem to be fluid rather than binary: Gay sex doesn’t make them gay, and straight sex doesn’t make them straight. In these cases, the concept of homophobia simply doesn’t apply.

Still, it’s possible that a social grouping of animals would ostracize a member for engaging in even a single act of gay sex. Indeed, members of nonhuman species have been known to shun members of their social groups on account of certain specific behaviors. A 1995 study described a young adult chimpanzee that refused to grunt submissively and seemed to bully females; eight other males assaulted him and exiled him from the group for three months. It’s not inconceivable that unwanted sexual advances, homosexual or otherwise, might warrant the same harsh treatment; it simply hasn’t been documented.

What evidence we do have suggests that no such policing of sexual behavior exists. . . . . Researchers believe that gay sex is even rewarded in certain species. For bonobos, sexual activity serves as an instrument of social harmony: It reinforces bonds and keeps the peace. For instance, when a female bonobo migrates into a new group, she often ingratiates herself to the clan’s other ladies by having a lot of sex with them. Far from being shunned, this homosexual behavior is welcomed. And former Stanford researcher Joan Roughgarden has argued that among male bighorn sheep bisexuality may be the norm; those that don’t participate end up as outcasts.

Mankind likes to view itself as superior to the rest of the animal kingdom, but perhaps we've got it backwards. If anything is "unnatural" it would seem to be the Christofascists and anti-gay Islamic fundamentalist who are unnatural. Sadly, they allow ignorance and superstition to continue to control their lives and provide a salve to their fragile egos. Not to mention allowing them to avoid having to think for themselves - perhaps the most frightening issue of all to most of the Christianists.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Virginia Beach Sunset

A friend posted this photo on Facebook. I don't get to ocean front too often anymore living in Hampton, but I remember many evenings surfing with sunsets like this.

More Thursday Male Beauty

Rick Santorum’s Dead End: Evangelical Voters

Since the majority of Catholics seem repulsed by Rick "Frothy Mix" Santorum's extreme version of Catholicism (a majority of Catholics support same sex marriage and a vast majority support the use of contraception), Santorum has been forced by default to seek the support of Kool-Aid drinking Protestant evangelical voters. The trouble is that (i) there are not enough of these loonies to elect him and (ii) the Christian Right is viewed negatively by the vast majority of non-Kool-Aid drinkers. Thus, Santorum has huge obstacles to overcome. Once again, I surprisingly find something to agree with in a new column by far right Michael Medved in The Daily Beast that notes the toxicity of evangelical Christians to most Americans. Here are some highlights:

As the GOP contenders try to recalibrate their campaigns in the wake of Super Tuesday, it ought to be obvious that Mitt Romney’s undeniable “Southern Problem” represents a far less serious challenge to his ultimate success than Rick Santorum’s deep difficulties with the 74 percent of the country that rejects the label “white, evangelical Christian.”

[I]f Senator Santorum somehow defied the odds and led the GOP ticket in the fall, he’d only amplify his current failure to build support in any electorate not dominated by born-again voters.

Ed Kilgore of the New Republic points out that five Southern states have voted so far, selecting a total of 258 delegates to the national convention, and Romney has won at least 115 of them, giving the lie to the notion that he enjoys no support in Dixie.

Moreover, none of the Southern states where Romney lost to Santorum or Gingrich represents a significant battleground for the fall campaign; any Republican should easily prevail against Barack Obama in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

The crucial Southern swing states are those that McCain actually lost (Virginia and North Carolina) and nearly lost (Missouri)—and all three battlegrounds abound in the well-educated big city and suburban voters that connect most reliably with Romney and present profound problems for Rick Santorum.

The biggest obstacle to Rick Santorum’s general election success would be his consistent inability to gain traction in any electoral struggle not dominated by self-described “White evangelical/born-again Christians.” These voters represented 56 percent of the total caucus participants in Iowa, 74 percent in the Oklahoma primary, and 72 percent in Tennessee—the sites of Santorum’s three most significant victories to date. In Iowa, typically, he beat Romney by more than 2 to 1 among this majority of deeply committed Christians, but lost everyone else by nearly 3 to 1—producing a virtual tie with Romney. . . . On the far more significant issues of “the economy” and “the budget deficit” (selected by a combined 76 percent as top issues), Romney won decisively.

The point is that in major upcoming primaries (Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California) Santorum will face a far less evangelical electorate than in the states in which he previously prevailed, and in the general election Democrats and independents will naturally flood the polling places, diluting the influence of Christian conservatives still further. With three quarters of overall voters telling exit pollsters they don’t consider themselves white born-again Christians, Santorum would somehow need to build support with religious groups he’s lost badly in the campaign so far. Even among his fellow Catholics, the former senator loses repeatedly to Romney (and to Gingrich), and with growing numbers of unaffiliated secularists (now estimated as 15 percent of the overall population) he fares much worse.

Santorum may attempt to emphasize economic issues over cultural concerns in a conscious effort to broaden his base, but it’s too late to change the distinctly religious nature of his campaign. . . . when the battle moves to less religiously committed corners of the country (especially in the fall campaign) his drive for the presidency will hit a wall—if not the traditional barrier separating church and state that he so energetically despises, then at least an impassable road block dividing his dreams of power from obvious political reality.

I believe that Medved's analysis is on target- even if he and I disagree on pretty much everything else - and that Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum's religious extremism will ultimately be the death of his campaign.

Mitt Romney's National Finance Co-Chairman

Photo via AP

I've spent a good deal of time looking at Rick Santorum's far right religious extremism and his animus towards LGBT citizens. But Mitt Romney has some pretty nasty baggage himself as he panders to the foulest elements in the Republican Party base. One of those pieces of baggage, in my opinion, is Frank VanderSloot (pictured above left) who serves as Romney's National Finance co-chair. While Santorum would have an Opus Dei mindset run his administration, Romney seems only too happy to involve anti-gay Mormon extremists into his camp. VanderSloot - who reportedly contributed generously to support the Proposition 8 anti-gay campaign - would appear to be a case in point. Slate has an article by Glenn Greenwald on VanderSloot which is anything from flattering. It seems, in my opinion, that none of the GOP presidential nominee candidates have ever heard of the concept of "live and let live" or grasps the concept that the right to freedom of religion applies to those other than far right Catholics, Mormons and Christianist minded Evangelicals. Here are some highlights from the Slate article (read the entire article):

Frank VanderSloot is an Idaho billionaire and the CEO of Melaleuca, Inc., a controversial billion-dollar-a-year company which peddles dietary supplements and cleaning products; back in 2004, Forbes, echoing complaints to government agencies, described the company as “a pyramid selling organization, built along the lines of Herbalife and Amway.” VanderSloot has long used his wealth to advance numerous right-wing political causes. Currently, he is the national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, and his company has become one of the largest donors ($1 million) to the ostensibly “independent” pro-Romney SuperPAC, Restore Our Future.

But it is VanderSloot’s chronic bullying threats to bring patently frivolous lawsuits against his political critics — magazines, journalists, and bloggers — that makes him particularly pernicious and worthy of more attention. In the last month alone, VanderSloot, using threats of expensive defamation actions, has successfully forced Forbes, Mother Jones and at least one local gay blogger in Idaho to remove articles that critically focused on his political and business practices (Mother Jones subsequently re-posted the article with revisions a week after first removing it). He has been using this abusive tactic in Idaho for years: suppressing legitimate political speech by threatening or even commencing lawsuits against even the most obscure critics . . . .

Numerous journalists and bloggers in Idaho — who want to write critically about VanderSloot’s vast funding of right-wing political causes — are petrified even to mention his name for fear of these threats. As his work on the Romney campaign brings him national notoriety, he is now aiming these tactics beyond Idaho. To allow this scheme to continue — whereby billionaires can use their bottomless wealth to intimidate ordinary citizens and media outlets out of writing about them — is to permit the wealthiest in America to thuggishly shield themselves from legitimate criticism and scrutiny.

VanderSloot is a devout Mormon and has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) since 1965. . . . He has a history of virulent anti-gay activism, including the spearheading of a despicable billboard campaign condemning Idaho Public Television for a documentary, entitled It’s Elementary, that was designed to provide “a window into what really happens when teachers address lesbian and gay issues with their students in age-appropriate ways”. . . . In 2008, VanderSloot’s wife, Belinda, donated $100,000 to California’s anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 campaign.

VanderSloot has become the Romney campaign’s national finance co-chairman; four companies he controls gave a total of $1 million to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney SuperPAC; he “has held Romney fund-raisers at his Idaho Falls ranch in both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns”; and Romney lavishly praised him this way: “Frank’s vision and sense of social responsibility is second to none and he never ceases to amaze me.”

But now, VanderSloot may have picked the wrong person to bully. Jody May-Chang is an independent journalist and an LGBT spokesperson in Boise. By coincidence, she was one of the local reporters who interviewed me last weekend when I spoke to the annual Bill of Rights dinner of the ACLU in Idaho. At the end of the interview, she mentioned to me the series of threats issued to local LGBT journalists and bloggers by VanderSloot. Unbeknownst to May-Chang at the time, she, too, had been targeted for the crime of speaking critically of the Idaho CEO.

May-Chang is determined not to succumb to this bullying or to relinquish her right to opine and report on the conduct of a very significant political figure in her state. Though she did remove the photograph of VanderSloot, she refuses to relinquish her right criticize his political activism. As she put it to me: “his legal team insists that neither VanderSloot nor his company have an anti-gay position, but when placed up against his actions that assertion is laughable.” She added: I think the real issue here is about promoting a religious social agenda that fits in with the LDS belief system . . . .

Threatening journalists and bloggers with baseless lawsuits and trying to suppress free debate is a recognized menace. Close to 30 states in the U.S. have adopted so-called anti-SLAPP statutes — designed to punish “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPP). Those statutes create causes of action against those who abuse the legal system not to vindicate legal rights, but to intimidate and silence critics. Organizations such as The Public Participation Project now exist exclusively to defend those victimized by SLAPP suits or the threat of them.

And lawyers — whether working in-house for a corporation or a private law firm — have an independent duty not to threaten frivolous lawsuits for improper ends.

Anyone who is the national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign deserves probing, substantial scrutiny.

As I note frequently, I find it most instructive that those who most love to wrap themselves in the mantle of religiosity are the ones who least practice what they claim to preach - especially when it comes to obeying the Commandment against bearing false witness and following the so-called "Golden Rule." As I noted before, the best argument for fleeing from religion is its "devoted" and "pious" followers.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Number of U.S. Hate Groups Is Rising

In yet another example of the poison flowing from the far right and "godly Christians" a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center ("SPLC") finds that the number of hate groups in America is rising (in some ways one might soon include today's GOP in the hate group category given the party's agenda of denigrating minorities and disseminating known untruths about targeted groups). The SPLC finds that most of these hate groups have a racial, religious, sexual basis for their targeting, and the number of anti-gay hate groups has gone from 17 in 2010 to 27 in 2011. It's a sad testimony on American society when hating and marginalizing others is a prerequisite to feeling good about one's self. Here are highlights from the New York Times on this disturbing report which can be found here):

Fed by antagonism toward President Obama, resentment toward changing racial demographics and the economic rift between rich and poor, the number of so-called hate groups and antigovernment organizations in the nation has continued to grow, according to a report released Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The center, which has kept track of such groups for 30 years, recorded 1,018 hate groups operating last year.

The number of groups whose ideology is organized against specific racial, religious, sexual or other characteristics has risen steadily since 2000, when 602 were identified, the center said. Antigay groups, for example, have risen to 27 from 17 in 2010.

The report also described a “stunning” rise in the number of groups it identifies as part of the so-called patriot and militia movements, whose ideologies include deep distrust of the federal government.

The center, based in Montgomery, Ala., records only groups that are active, meaning that the groups are registering members, passing out fliers, protesting or showing other signs of activity beyond maintaining a Web site.

One of the groups that was moved from the “patriot” list to the hate group list this year is the Georgia Militia, some of whose members were indicted last year in a failed plot to blow up government buildings and spread poison along Atlanta freeways. They were reclassified because their speech includes anti-Semitism.

The Justice Department does not comment on the center’s annual report, but a spokeswoman said the agency had increased prosecution of hate crimes by 35 percent during the first three years of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Information on the anti-gay hate groups can be found here. As noted before, both the American Family Association and Family Research Council are registered anti-gay hate groups. One has to wonder at what point The Family Foundation - which is the puppet master for the Virginia GOP - will move into this classification.

Another Look at the Religion Fueled Homelessness of LGBT Youth

ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS: I know several LGBT individuals who were thrown out by their families while they were in their teens simply because of their sexual orientation. Some eventually found reconciliation with family members, others sadly never have had that luck and have been left to assemble substitute families of their own making. Either way, the emotional and psychological scars last forever to varying degrees. In addition, many such teens never have the chance to finish their education and their potential contributions to society are stunted if not lost. All because their parents and other family members preferred to cling to the writings of ignorant, uneducated peoples from more than two millennium ago.


Here in Virginia, the state laws treat LGBT citizens as little better than vermin - we can be openly discriminated against in employment, housing and adoption referrals and our committed relationships receive zero legal recognition. Indeed, even state agencies and departments are free to fire LGBT employees should their sexual orientation be discovered by homophobic Christianist employers or supervisors. We are far less than even second class citizens. And if given their way, Gov. Taliban Bob McDonnell, the Christofascists at The Family Foundation and many in the Virginia GOP would make our legal status even more inferior. Thus, as noted before on this blog, there are reportedly hundreds of homeless LGBT youth in the Hampton Roads area. The problem, of course, is not limited to this region and is, in fact, a national crisis. Surprisingly, the Virginian Pilot - which typically doesn't expose homophobes since they and their bigotry are considered "not news worthy" by the Grand Poohbas at the Pilot - has a story today on this national crisis. And what fuels this crisis? Religious based bigotry and discrimination, naturally. Here are some highlights:

Iro Uikka clutches his throat as he describes the violent clash that led to spending his nights sleeping in New York City subway cars. "When I told my mother I was gay, she grabbed me by the neck and threw me out," he says. "Then she threw my coat on top of me and shut the door."

Uikka is among tens of thousands of homeless youths across America who are LGBT - lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Most are on the streets because they have nowhere else to go - outcasts who leave home after being rejected by family members or flee shelters because residents bully or beat them.

LGBT young people represent a dramatically high proportion of an estimated 600,000 or more homeless youths across the country - between 20 percent and 40 percent, . . . But only about 5 percent of youths identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The White House has taken notice. Members of the Obama Administration are hosting a national conference on housing and homelessness in America's LGBT communities on Friday in Detroit. They'll discuss these issues with advocates, community leaders and the public. Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh, who is openly gay, is one of the participants. . . . Detroit has the only nonprofit agency in the Midwest that focuses on LGBT youth . . .

[T]he largely voiceless, powerless youth are fighting to survive from coast to coast. They live on streets, in subways and train stations, on river piers, in parks and abandoned houses. They're robbed, raped and assaulted. Some are murdered. And they're invisible to most Americans.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are about four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, according to the CDC. And one in three is thrown out by their parents, according to data collected from youth across the country by the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.

Some youth use "survival sex" to land in a warm bed, or they move from home to home of friends and acquaintances. In the past, Ryan Kennedy resorted to survival sex. He lists his education on Facebook as "Urban Survivalism at University of NYC Streets." He adopted a rebellious middle name for his page, calling himself "Ryan TransEquality Kennedy."

One is a lively 19-year-old bisexual man from Virginia. When he leaves in the late evening, Baresco Escobar goes to the far end of Brooklyn to sleep in an abandoned house with dozens of homeless kids, covering bare floors with blankets and cuddling for warmth.

"Home is where you're supposed to have stability, unconditional love, support, a foundation," he says. Instead, back in Virginia, "I was in a place of dysfunction, with expectations that didn't apply to me - full of judgment, discrimination and hypocrisy."

Siciliano believes there's a new reason for the rising number of LGBT youths seeking shelter. As some states legalize gay marriage and the military welcomes openly gay soldiers, "many kids think, `Oh, I'm ready to come out,'" he says.

As a result, the average age of young people declaring their sexuality - or at least sharing their doubts - has dropped dramatically in recent years to as young as the early teens, according to Family Acceptance Project. Some families are not ready for them, nor are segments of society, he says. Each rejection turns into a homeless youth looking for a bed. And there aren't enough. "These kids are the collateral damage of our cultural wars," Siciliano says.


In my view, the best argument for not wanting any association with the term "Christian" is the horrors inflicted on others virtually daily by the self-righteous, self-congratulatory Christianist set. Bob McDonnell, I include you in this crowd. I hope that some day you wake up to the harm you and your cohorts have done to others.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Rick Santorum’s Church and Opus Dei


Having been raised Catholic, including serving as an altar boy for a decade and proceeding up the ranks to a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus, I know all about of the cult like aspects traditional Catholicism . But even among many "traditional Catholics" Opus Dei is regarded as more than a little scary. As Andrew Sullivan (who was also raised Catholic) recently noted about Opus Dei:

I was recruited by Opus Dei at Harvard. Why not? I was a very bright young Catholic, very motivated by and interested in the church. I even went on an Opus Dei retreat. . . . But it was not for me. The sex segregation was creepy; the cult of the Founder was creepier; the practices of self-mortification - the cilice, self-whipping - I found psychologically troubling.

It is within the broad spectrum of Catholic tradition; but the all-male sexual repression seemed all too close to pathology for my part, especially given what we were discovering about sex abuse from the heirarchy on down. So I resisted. There was something dark in there; and I preferred the light.

Unlike Sullivan, Santorum chose the darkness and his home church affiliation underscores his bizarre link to Opus Dei and how he is inflicting this strain of extremist Catholicism on his children. Knowing only too well the Church's obsession with all things sexual (and that all sex is deemed dirty) and the psychological and emotional that this obsession has the potential of causing - look no farther than the multitude of predator priests - I tremble at the thought of what Santorum's children are experiencing. An article in The New Republic looks at Santorum's church in Northern Virginia and its eerie ties to Opus Dei. Here are some excerpts:

Rick Santorum’s Catholic faith is an obvious centerpiece of his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, and it is rare for him to speak without referencing his religious beliefs. It is also rare, however, to hear him speak about his particular church, St. Catherine of Siena, which he and his family have belonged to for at least a decade.

St. Catherine is a modern, low-slung brick building that sits in the affluent and hilly Washington suburb of Great Falls, Virginia. It is a notably conservative congregation—its neat grounds include a “garden for the unborn,” and the schedule offers a Latin Mass each Sunday featuring Gregorian chant sung by a professional choir.

Mostly, the church is home to families with school-aged children—“big families, seven-, eight- or nine-children families,” as one parishioner told me. (None of the half-a-dozen parishioners I interviewed would agree to be quoted by name, and the parish office declined interview requests.)

Before the GOP race began, members of the church say, Santorum attended Mass with his family nearly every day. Even with his wife, Karen, now joining him on the campaign trail, several parishioners told me that the Santorums ensure that their children attend Mass almost daily by having other congregants drive them to St. Catherine.

St. Catherine also has ties to Opus Dei, an extremely conservative organization that encourages members to knit their Catholic faith with policy-making. Many members of St. Catherine belong to Opus Dei, McAfee told the Times, and Opus Dei priests still regularly hear confession at St. Catherine. For his part, McAfee was an Opus Dei cooperator—a formal title that identifies someone who does not belong to Opus Dei but assists its mission.

Santorum has said he is not a member of Opus Dei, just an admirer, but he has numerous connections to the group. In 2002, he travelled to Rome with high-profile American members for the 100th birthday of Opus Dei’s founder, JosemarĂ­a Escrivá de Balaguer. (The five-day event is where Santorum first criticized John F. Kennedy’s “separation of church and state” speech, speaking to a reporter.) He has also sent two of his sons to the Heights School, a Washington, D.C. school with ties to Opus Dei.

St. Catherine is one of only about 10 sites in Virginia that offers “evenings of recollection.” These are monthly, hour-and-a-half long talks by lay people and priests belonging to Opus Dei. They are segregated by sex—St. Catherine men who attend these do so at the Reston Study Center, one town over, while women attend them at St. Catherine.

At St. Catherine, Santorum is never mentioned from the pulpit, members told me. “Not even a, ‘How about our boy,’” one stressed. But many said they planned to vote for him. . . . . And almost all of the parishioners I spoke to were familiar with the sight of Santorum attending the daily 9 a.m. Mass, young children in tow. “Their faith,” one congregant told me about the Santorums, “is totally who they are.”

During my years in the closet I too attended daily mass - for many years in fact - as I tried to "pray away the gay" and be what I was not. Those were very tortured years even though I did my best to keep my internal turmoil hidden. The effort to "change" obviously did not work, and part of me cannot help but wonder what demons Santorum is trying to flee by his daily mass attendance and extreme religiosity. It's Santorum's extremism of devotion and antiquated sexual mores that I suspect drives away many Catholics who sense something strange as well. Not to mention, of course, their displeasure with Santorum's efforts to destroy the political acceptance of Catholics pioneered by JFK. Sadly, Santorum seems only too willing to make Catholics look bizarre and subservient to Rome. In contrast, JFK clearly stated that he would not be a tool of Rome. In more ways than one Santorum is trying to drag us backward in time by 50 years or more. We certainly do NOT need him as a serious contender for the presidency.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

"Taliban Bob" McDonnell Signs Forced Ultrasound Bill

As referenced in the prior post, Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell has lived up to his nickname and signed legislation that will force any woman seeking an abortion to under go a non-medically necessary (and possibly non-insurance covered) trans-abdominal ultrasound. In addition, the bill requires that the woman be "offered" the opportunity to view the image and listen to the heartbeat. Obviously, the goal is not to "inform women" but to brow beat them and intimidate them. I cannot help but wonder if the ordeal won't be enough to push some women to harm themselves or end their lives. As to why Taliban Bob decided to sign the bill, the speculation varies. Some believe that it merely proves McDonnell is a religious extremist as indicated by his 1989 thesis at Pat Robertson's CBN University Law School. Others believe he was afraid to cross the Christofascists at The Family Foundation who the GOP will need this November and in November 2013. Still others speculate that Taliban Bob thought becoming "Ultrasound Bob" - to quote Rachel Maddow - might make him a more attractive VP nominee. Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:

After a debate that drew protesters to the state Capitol and put Virginia in the national spotlight, Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation that will require women to submit to an abdominal ultrasound before having an abortion.

Weakening the law did little to quell the firestorm that surrounded it. Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said the governor's endorsement shows he "cares more about pandering to his extreme conservative political base than the rights of women."


Many of the comments on the article rip criticize McDonnell and "rip him a new one." One summed up the overall failure of the GOP controlled General Assembly:

We have very pressing issues in the Commonwealth regarding transportation infrastructure, the economy, and jobs...and this is what the big debates were during the session. Oh sure, saw Jeff McWaters touting some various minor bills that were passed. But with the majority of the gen. assy on his side, the gov. had no earth shaking legislation that would help our Hampton Roads economies. We ended up with the 'McDonnell tolling' that will cripple many industries that rely heavily on the tunnels. Basically, I am not impressed. This will hurt McDonnell in this area if he has designs on higher office.

Another telling comment was this one:

Dr. Bob McDonnell, said " I believe that we become a more compassionate society when we enact reasonable legislation to protect innocent human life...."
Which is why he signed a low permitting anyone to purchase an unlimited number of guns in the State of Virginia.

Social Media Firestorm Causes Limbaugh's Advertisers to Continue to Bail

In yet another example of how social media pressure can change the equation, the exodus of advertisers from Rush Limbaugh's show continues to swell with the count currently at 45 as of this afternoon according to Think Progress. I wish similar pressure could be brought against the Virginia GOP and its anti-gay and anti-woman agenda. The attitude expressed by Rush Limbaugh is actually little different from the members of the Virginia GOP who want to return women to the days of being kept in the home bare foot and pregnant. Limbaugh mere said what many in the far right think. Just ask Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell who today signed legislation that forces women seeking an abortion to submit to a non-medically necessary ultrasound simply to put women in their place and to intimidate women into submission to the GOP/Christianist agenda. Here are highlights from Think Progress on the continuing exodus of advertisers from Rush Limbaugh's show:

Rush Limbaugh’s latest misogynistic tirade against Georgetown University Law Student Sandra Fluke may be the last straw for many of the shock jock’s corporate sponsors. Thousands of angry customers have been inundating dozens of Limbaugh’s corporate sponsors, demanding that they cut ties with the program.

So far, Sleep Number, The Sleep Train, Quicken Loans, Legal Zoom, Citrix, Carbonite, ProFlowers, Tax Resolution, AOL, Bonobos, Sears, Allstate Insurance, Sensa, Bare Escentuals, Vitacost, Hadeed Carpet, Thompson Creek Windows, PolyCom, Service Magic, AccuQuote Life Insurance, Geico, John Deere, Stamps.com, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Bethesda Sedation Dentistry, Cascades Dental, Philadelphia Orchestra, Goodwill Industries, Heart & Body Extract, Netflix, Downeast Energy, Capitol One, JCPenney, Matrix Direct, Reputation Rhino, Consolidated Credit, Constant Contact, RSVP Discount Beverage, Cunningham Security, Regal Assets, Freedom Debt Relief, Norway Savings Bank, Portland Ovations, The Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington and O’Reilly Auto Parts have pulled ads from the program.

Current tally as of March 7 at 3:30pm: 45


Have you noticed how its generally the far right that's constantly trashing and slandering others while always claiming that they are being persecuted?

The Bible As Justification for Evil

The Bible has been used to justify all kinds of horrors and brutality over the centuries, typically by those who claim the the Bible is the "inerrant word of God" when Bible passages conveniently support their existing hatred and prejudice. The problem is, if the Bible is the inerrant word of God, then one doesn't get to selectively pick and choose the passages one likes and the ones that are to be ignored. To make this point and to respond to the Pennsylvania House's adoption of a "year of the Bible" resolution, PA Nonbelievers erected a bill board which depicted the image set out above. Just one day after the billboard went up it was vandalized and the lower half of the image was obliterated. Here are some highlights from Friendly Atheist:


The billboard was a response to the “Year of the Bible” Resolution passed by the state’s House in January. The atheists quoted a particularly controversial Bible verse in the hopes that they would encourage viewers to take another look at the Holy Book.

The point of our billboard was:

1.The bible is NOT holy or moral as promoted by the PA House of Representatives in the “Year of the Bible”.
2.The bible was used as an excuse for many very bad things — Including American slavery.

We would have hoped this message was clearer to observers.

Sadly, the selective application of the Bible by Christianists continues to be the wellspring for hate and violence against LGBT individuals. The passages about divorce, bearing false witness, and some of the lunatic passages in Leviticus are conveniently ignored by the sanctimonious and self-congratulatory godly folk.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

FRC's Poisonous Message in the North Carolina Marriage Equality Battle

The Virginia/North Carolina border lies a little than 30 miles from the Peninsula area of Hampton Roads where the boyfriend and I live and it is literally next door for a number of cities in the southside of Hampton Roads. Thus, what happens immediately across the border impacts this region and that is why the efforts of anti-gay Christianists and the North Carolina GOP is noteworthy even though the local media is doing little to cover the message of hate and religious extremism that is being disseminated by many of the usual suspects within the professional Christian ranks. Matt Comer of InterstateQ captured some of the bathshitery and hate being spewed by Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, a registered hate group, at a gathering First Baptist Church of Charlotte, the church headed up by Mark Harris, the president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention. As is always the case with Perkins, his message was one of hate, bigotry and special rights for Christianists. And yes, all too typically, Perkins equates homosexuality with adultery and promiscuity. Here are some highlights from Matt's piece and Perkis' remarks:

You gotta hand it to Southern Baptists. They know how to put on a show. Blaring trumpets, waving flags and soaring patriotic melodies blended together with a little bit of soul and spirit in calls for defending “God and Country.”

After more than an hour of First Baptist worship, the reason became clear.

“Tony Perkins…has been willing to step up and speak out,” Harris told his congregants, affirming that Harris’ brand of Christianity is just as hate-filled and exclusive as Perkins’.

Marriage and the church are under attack, First Baptist Church-Charlotte Pastor and N.C. Baptist Convention President Mark Harris and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said on Sunday. And, it is up to the faithful to defend against the attacks of Satan. For any keen observer — and, no doubt, to any of the few LGBT young people in the audience (of which I am sure there are quite a few, given how large a congregation First Baptist is) — it’s clear who Harris and Perkins think are on the satanic side of the LGBT equality debate.

For all their whimpering over faith and freedom, what they really wish to create is a heterosexuals-only, exclusive country club.

[O]ne can’t help but find it ridiculously funny that Harris, Perkins and Co. believe they are the ones whose rights are under attack. I see no proposed constitutional amendments seeking to limit their rights. I see no organized movement to send Christians to “ex-Christian” camps. I see no state legislatures taking up “Don’t say Christian” bills. I see no school principals or school boards in mass denying the formation of Christian school groups or expelling heterosexual students and their boyfriends or girlfriends.

It’s a topsy-turvy world Harris and Perkins live in. The whole weight of a discriminatory body of law weighs down on the lives of LGBT people, yet it’s the WASP-y Christians who are oppressed? Talk about delusional.

PERKINS: God defined marriage. It is not for us to redefine. Even when we go into the voting booth and we cast a vote on the marriage amendment number one here in North Carolina, we are not defining marriage. God already defined it. Who are we to think that we can redefine it?

We are to love everyone. We are to love those who are bound up in lifestyle choices whether it be homosexuality, whether it be adultery, whatever, promiscuity. But, loving people is oftentimes telling them that they have chosen a pathway that is destructive.

Today, we hear it as the separation of church and state. That’s not what we’re talking about here. When they talk about the separation of church and state, they’re talking about the separation of morality and truth from the public space, about the education of our children, about what our universities are teaching…

And, Sodom was not destroyed because they were inhospitable as some would claim today. As Jude pointed out, it was because of sexual immorality and pursuing that which was unnatural. . . . women and women, you ought not be doing that either because that’s an abomination. And, men and men, we don’t even want to talk about it.

But what is most chilling, for me, and what struck me the hardest on March 4, was simply knowing that Perkins’ words and Harris’ “leadership” were having disastrous effects right then and right there in the hearts and minds of the young people scattered among the congregation.

A church as big as First Baptist surely has LGBT young people there. I bet there are more than a simple handful. I remember well the days when I’d go to church simply fearing what might next come out of my pastor’s mouth. These young people, held captive in their seats by their parents and church family, are in those very moments being tortured spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. Such abuse is unacceptable. And, it’s part of what ultimately leads to tragedies like wasted lives, drug and alcohol abuse and, God forbid, suicide.

Marine Kiss: Time for the GOP to Kiss "the Gold Old Days" Goodbye

I've looked at the furor amongst the Kool-Aid drinker set that the kiss between Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan and his boyfriend Dalan Wells after a Facebook photo of their reuniting went viral. It's the type of scene that will play out increasingly now that the religious based discrimination policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is on the trash heap of history where it belongs. And the majority of Americans seem fine with the death of DADT. Except for the Christofascists and their puppets in the Republican Party (both of which are far too numerous in Virginia). Leonard Pitts has a great column that looks at the changing world that the GOP needs to embrace. Here are some excerpts:

A few days ago, a U.S. Marine returned to the States after six months in Afghanistan. Spotting his new honey among the people waiting, he rushed forward and planted an enthusiastic kiss -- their first kiss, as it turns out. A friend snapped a picture and posted it on Facebook. And all heck broke loose.

Under other circumstances, it would have been an event noteworthy only for being ordinary, a scene we've seen played out a million times. But we've never seen it like this. That's because Sgt. Brandon Morgan's "honey" is a guy named Dalan Wells and that photo of them playing same-sex tonsil hockey thus manages to simultaneously affirm and subvert a cherished bit of patriotic iconography: the returning serviceman being greeted by the one he loves.

The image forces us to see an old thing in a new way. It is a sign of the times -- jarringly so for some.

That's why it went viral, why it has made international headlines and sparked thousands of comments on message boards. You can probably predict the contents without bothering to read them. On the one hand are best wishes for the happy couple and gratitude for Morgan's service. On the other, claims that the picture induces nausea or proves the country is going to hell at warp 9.

One individual phrased it thusly on a Miami Herald message board: "Sick, degrading, and deviant behavior. these low life's (sic) need to be dishonorably discharged from the Marines."

Indeed, at least one GOP candidate -- the reliably entertaining Rick Santorum -- has promised, if elected, to reinstate the military's demeaning "don't ask, don't tell" policy, under which gay people were considered good enough to risk their lives for this country but not good enough to be open about their sexual identities while so doing.

That promise is part of a breathtaking Republican lurch -- not just to the right, as a number of pundits have framed it, but to the past. On issue after issue -- gay rights, contraception, labor rights -- the goal seems to be to return the nation to the supposed tranquility of its Beaver Cleaver years, before Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream, before Betty Friedan wrote her book, before Rock Hudson was gay, before everything changed.

[Y]ou cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube. Or, as Fleetwood Mac once put it, "yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone." And the sooner the Grand Old Party concedes that and stops pandering to the bitterness and fear of dead-enders and hard-liners still desperately clinging to the broken remains of Beaver Cleaver's white picket fence, the better off we all will be.

There is something bracing in the very publicness and unselfconsciousness of that lip-lock. Coming after years of government imposed silence and government mandated lies of omission, it feels not unlike sunlight and fresh air blasting into a room that has been dark and stuffy for years. And it suggests four words of advice to those discomfited by this newborn change. Get used to it.