THE POPE IS A BIGOT December 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
Tags: bigotry, catholic church, Civil Rights, gay marriage, gay rights, Gay Voices News, lgbt, Pope benedict, Pope Benedict On Gay Marriage, Pope Benedict On Same-Sex Marriage, religious bigotry, The Pope, World Day Of Peace, World Day Of Peace 2013
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Pope Says Gay Marriage Poses A Threat To ‘Justice And Peace’ In World Day Of Peace 2013 Address
Posted: 12/14/2012 5:18 pm EST | Updated: 12/14/2012 8:08 pm EST
Pope Benedict XVI said this week that gay marriage poses a threat to “justice and peace.” The 85-year-old religious leader went on to suggest that same-sex marriage is “unnatural.”
According to the Associated Press, the head of the Roman Catholic Church kicked off the Christmas season on Friday with the traditional lighting of the tree in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square. On the same day, the Holy See released the Pope’s message for World Day of Peace 2013.
“There is…a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union,” the Pope said, according to ANSA.
“Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society. These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity,” he continued.
The Pope went on to suggest that support of gay marriage “constitutes an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”
According to AP, the Pope said abortion is also a threat to peace.
This is not the first time that Pope Benedict has vocally opposed same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that the religious leader had denounced gay marriage as being “insidious and dangerous.” Previously, he had called same-sex unions “a threat to humanity.”
Pope Benedict Blesses Top Lawmaker Pushing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” Bill December 15, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
Tags: bigotry, catholic church, DAVID BADASH, gay rights, lgbt, Pope benedict, rebecca kadaga, roger hollander, uganda, uganda parliament
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by David Badash on December 13, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday sent his first tweet from his new Twitter account, then turned around and blessed Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Uganda Parliament who promised to pass the “Kill The Gays” bill as a “Christmas gift” to Uganda’s Christians.
Kadaga was at the Vatican to meet the Pope and to attend the seventh Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.
Pope Benedict XVI has given blessings to Uganda Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga during a mass attended by thousands of pilgrims at the Vatican,” Nsimbe Kasim at the Ugandan New Vision news reports:
During the service, the Pope launched his Twitter account and sent his first message in several languages to millions of online followers.
“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” the Pope wrote.
The Ugandan delegation was in Rome to attend the 7th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.
Yes, that’s right, the Pope blessed the woman who is about to become guilty of crimes against humanity for passing the Kill The Gays bill.
“Kadaga who led a delegation of Ugandan legislators to the Vatican expressed delight at meeting the Pope and visiting St Peter’s Basilicca [sic],” New Vision adds:
“I think this is a moment that cannot be repeated. We have been reading about him, hearing stories about St.Peter’s Basilica but now we are here physically.
“I think it is something that I will remember all my life. It’s a very great moment and I thank God for this opportunity,” she said minutes after meeting the Pope.
The Speaker dedicated to all Ugandans readings from the book of St.Mark which the Pope quoted in several languages during the Vatican mass.
She handed over to the Pope a portrait of the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo, a historical place where Christians were murdered because of their allegiance to their faith.
The deathly irony is inescapable.
[At the link below is the full text of the "Reichskonkordat," the political treaty between the Vatican and Adolf Hitler. At the time this treaty was signed, the anti-Jewish racial laws were already in force in Nazi Germany:
Here is an example of what is in the treaty:
In order to foster good relations between the Holy See and the German Reich, an apostolic nuncio will reside in the capital of the German Reich and an ambassador of the German Reich at the Holy See.
Continuing in struggle: New images and statements from WORD! November 28, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Racism, Women.
Tags: bigotry, lgbt, Palestine, racism, roger hollander, shirley chisholm, women, women's rights
|Please share this graphic widely|
In honor of Shirley Chisholm Day, WORD is circulating the above graphic on social media. We celebrate Chisholm’s contributions to the struggle for women’s reproductive rights, health and justice, and honor her pioneering role as a woman of color in U.S. politics. Please continue to share this image widely.
WORD – Women Organized to Resist and Defend – was formed by longtime activists from a number of struggles. Our commitment to those struggles continues as we move forward in the struggle to defend women’s rights.
We are dedicated to fighting racism, sexism and anti-LGBT bigotry. We believe strongly that an injury to one is an injury to all, and our involvement in the continuing struggles of oppressed people across the United States continues.
The most recent WORD statement addresses the consequences of denying abortions to women who need them:
The life of a child is precious. The life of a woman is equally precious. The quality of life for both are stifled by politicians who continually gut public health programs, education, and access to safe, affordable housing.
|WORD at the Bay Area Families March Against Police Brutality|
In the San Francisco Bay Area, WORD joined the Bay Area Families March Against Police Brutality in Oakland, California, to demand an end to racist police brutality in our communities.
WORD Los Angeles joined Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV) for a march in Los Angeles. WORD supports JFAV in demanding full equity for Filipino-American veterans, and we stand in support of the widows and family members who have been denied compensation and benefits for more than 66 years.
Across the country, WORD has joined demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against U.S. aid to Israel throughout Israel’s eight-day bombing of Gaza.
WORD will continue to stand with the Palestinian people now that a ceasefire has been reached. Please read and share our statement condemning the attacks:
We believe that the issue of war is an issue of women’s rights too. As women, children and their families suffer the indignation of occupation, as they are killed and maimed by weaponry paid for by U.S. tax dollars, we call on everyone to join in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
We need your support to continue our efforts in building the struggle for women’s rights across the United States. Can you make a small donation? Any donation is appreciated, and every cent goes directly to literature and other resources for the struggle. Thank you for your continuing support.
How Mormon Doctrine Shapes Romney’s World View November 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Mitt Romney, Racism, Religion, Women.
Tags: bigotry, kirk robinson, Latter Day Saints, mitt romney, Mormon, Mormon Church, religion, religious bigotry, roger hollander, salvation
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Roger’s note: I have studiously avoided posting articles about the current presidential election becuase both candidates leave much to be desired, and one gets tired of advocating for the lesser of evils. I will make this once exception at the last minute.
By Kirk Robinson
November 03, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – As Mormon missionaries in the 1960s, Mitt Romney and I were required to present six “discussions” to “investigators” before baptizing them – he in France and I in northern California. Central to those discussions was the “Plan of Salvation” (POS); and central to it, the “Doctrine of Eternal Progression.” These doctrines are also the essence of the Mormon temple “endowment ceremony” in which covenants of allegiance to God and the Church are made, accompanied by oaths of secrecy.
The doctrines are unique to Mormonism and absolutely central to it. There is no way that Mitt Romney’s view of the world cannot have been shaped by them, especially given the rather cloistered life he has lived. Together with passages of Mormon scripture, they imply several disturbingly retrograde political views that define the Republican-Tea Party:
* Women are subordinate to men.
* People of color are, or were, morally underdeveloped compared to white people.
* Gays cannot become gods, i.e., will be damned.
* The correct political philosophy is libertarianism.
* The best form of government fosters free-market capitalism with minimal regulatory oversight of business and industry.
* Earth is only a temporary home to be used as a stepping stone, not necessarily to be preserved or conserved.
* War in the Middle East is inevitable as part of God’s plan for “the last days.”
* Lying for the cause of righteousness, such as winning the election, is morally acceptable.
The Plan of Salvation
This takes us back to before the creation of Earth, when we were spirit beings living in a “spirit world.” We were created out of “spirit matter” through a process of conception, gestation and birth involving a heavenly father (God) and mother. The firstborn spirit of our heavenly parents was Jesus, the second was Satan, and other notables included early Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They were especially “righteous” beings who were “fore-ordained” to play important roles in the historical unfolding of Mormon eschatology.
God eventually decided there were enough spirit children and it was time to start sending them away to college (my metaphor). So He created Earth and its myriad creatures for the college campus and solicited plans for a curriculum, graduation requirements, and future career tracks. Jesus and Satan each submitted a plan.
According to Jesus’s plan, the spirits who would decide to go to Earth would receive a mortal body, suffer and die, then be resurrected in a perfect union of spirit and body that would never suffer or die. A “veil of ignorance” would be placed across their minds so that they would not remember their pre-existence, and God’s commandments would be revealed to them through prophets. Importantly, they would have “free agency” to choose to obey them or not and would be responsible for their choices and actions.
All spirits who agreed to go along with Jesus’s plan will eventually receive resurrection as a graduation diploma and will be exalted to a level of glory commensurate with their earthly grades. The most righteous ones will receive the highest degree of eternal glory: the Celestial Kingdom. Others will go to the Terrestrial (middle) Kingdom or to the Telestial (lower) Kingdom. Each of these kingdoms is better than mortal existence, which is better than the spirit pre-existence. The three estates and the three kingdoms of glory represent a continuum of moral and material progress: an increase in righteousness leads to an increase in mastery and dominion over creation.
Satan had a different plan. He knew that many spirits would be unable to resist temptations. He empathized with them and thought a much more compassionate plan would be to “force” them to live God’s commandments, so they could go to the Celestial Kingdom. The catch here is that they would have to be deprived of their free agency through dictatorial force. And this would be very bad because then they would not earn, and would therefore not merit, their eternal rewards.
There was another important difference between the two plans. Jesus told God that even though he would suffer for the sins of the world, he would give all glory for the salvation of mankind to God; while Satan said that since he devised the plan and would be doing all the work to ensure salvation for mankind, he would accept the glory for himself – and he wouldn’t have to suffer for people’s sins either, because they wouldn’t be allowed to sin.
War in Heaven
A “Council in Heaven” was held in which Jesus and Satan each pitched his plan. God liked Jesus’s plan best and gave the spirits an ultimatum, which was essentially this: “Follow Jesus or follow Satan of your own free agency. But if you follow Satan, you will be barred from eternal progression.” This fomented a “War in Heaven” in which one third of the spirits took sides with Satan and rejected Jesus’s plan, apparently out of sheer orneriness for they had nothing to gain thereby; and so they, along with Satan, were banished from the divine presence for all eternity. The rest of us were eventually born into mortal bodies on Earth (with an untold number still waiting to be born), while Satan and his minions now occupy a kind of shadow Earth where they are constantly scheming and working to thwart Jesus’s plan.
The Status of Women
There was a rank order among all the spirits with respect to their degrees of righteousness. Jesus was the highest ranking spirit. Satan was second until his “fall.” The Biblical patriarchs and prophets were high achievers too, and so were “fore-ordained” to play a big role in the unfolding of the divine plan here on Earth. The rest of us were less stellar.
Because of the natural ranking of the spirits, there will be a roughly corresponding ranking among them as mortal beings too. Eternal progression can be compared to a foot race in which the starting points in the pre-existence were staggered according to the degrees of righteousness of the spirits, with the most righteous ones having a head start. Because of their superiority, they will tend to pull further ahead on Earth. The most righteous of all will naturally be great leaders and empire builders and the like. But for some inexplicable reason, the spiritual leaders will all be males. Women cannot hold the priesthood or become prophets in the Mormon Church, and they enjoy no ultimate decision-making authority. Their primary job is to serve men, which above all means homemaking, child bearing, and child rearing.
The Status of Blacks and American Indians
The more inferior spirits on Earth start at the back of the pack and tend to fall behind even while progressing. They are the descendants of Cain (Negroes) (here the race analogy tends to break down – pun intended) and the descendants of rebellious Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon (Native Americans). God “marked” or “cursed” them with a dark skin to distinguish them. But because they have their free agency, through extra diligence they might eventually overcome their poor starts to join God’s elite. A 1978 “revelation” to then-Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball allowed blacks to hold the Mormon priesthood for the first time, presumably because they had then progressed sufficiently. There was once a passage in the Book of Mormon (it has been excised) that said the descendants of Laman and Lemuel would one day become “white and delightsome.”
Polygamy and the Status of Gays
The people who earn the best grades on Earth will get the best jobs upon graduation from Earth. They will be the most god-like beings and accordingly will receive Celestial glory. They will become gods, endlessly creating and ruling over their own cosmic empires. Also, despite the Mormon Church’s official repudiation of polygamy, which was a precondition for Utah statehood, it is still generally accepted that achieving godhood will require the institution of polygamy in the Hereafter, with husbands being “sealed” to multiple wives. Needless to say, gay people won’t participate in this, so they can’t become gods; which is to say that they will be damned in the sense of not continuing to progress for eternity.
Cosmic Pyramid Schemes
It is a kind of axiom of Mormon doctrine that to be righteous is to follow “correct principles” that tend to produce successful and happy lives, conceived in both spiritual and material terms. Achieving godhood status is believed to be the highest possible source of happiness and joy. And presumably this grand POS will be repeated over and over for eternity, with new gods creating new worlds ad infinitum in a cosmic pyramid scheme. (This may go some distance in explaining why Utah is plagued to an unusual degree with earthly pyramid schemes in which trusting Mormons are bilked out of their life savings by trusted Mormons.)
The Status of Earth
From the point of view of the POS, Earth and its myriad creatures exist primarily for the benefit of mankind, and thereby to glorify God. They are like a pair of shoes: It is prudent to take good care of your shoes, but their primary purpose is to help you get where you want to go, in the course of which wear and tear will be unavoidable. So don’t worry too much about global climate change or species extinctions. Yikes!
Free Agency vs. Compassion, Brotherly Love, and Cooperation
The POS illustrates the relative importance of two Mormon moral ideals: free agency, which entails taking responsibility for one’s choices and actions; and compassion, brotherly love, and cooperation, which require helping those in need. Each is in its own way commendable, but combining them in a way that is responsive to real circumstances can be challenging: Concerning people ostensibly in need, when is compassion the right response and when is demanding that they take responsibility for themselves the right response?
Of the two, free agency is in an important way more fundamental than compassion, as shown by the fact that God preferred a plan that emphasized the one over the other. It is more important than doing good deeds because only good that is done freely merits moral approbation and reward. Free agency is therefore a necessary condition for individual moral progress – and ultimately also for material progress as represented by gods creating worlds and exercising dominion over them. So far, so good, but . . .
The Right Form of Government and Economic System
The POS pretty clearly supports a libertarian political philosophy, including free market capitalism with minimal regulatory oversight of business and industry. Anything less would necessitate a sacrifice of free agency.
In this connection, it is interesting that in the early days of Mormons in Utah, Brigham Young attempted to establish a very pure socialistic system, the “United Order,” that would have made Karl Marx envious. In doing so, he was clearly giving precedence to compassion, brotherly love, and cooperation over competition. Why? One can presumably imagine a morally perfect being, such as Jesus, who always chooses and does what is right without being forced to; and Brigham Young thought the Saints ought to give it a try. Unfortunately, the experiment failed. Too many of the Saints gave in to avarice when they saw a chance to make money selling stuff to overland travelers. And they weren’t anxious to share their lucre either.
The Best of All Possible Worlds?
In Mormon terms, the best of all possible worlds will be one in which all people freely live God’s commandments. If compassion is called for, like the “good Samaritan” they will show compassion even at the expense of personal inconvenience. And they will share their talents and possessions freely to advance the greater good – as was supposed to happen with the United Order experiment. However, real people and the real world being what they are, an astonishing amount of human suffering goes unalleviated – suffering that might be prevented or relieved to a considerable extent through the institution of government programs designed to promote the general welfare, e.g., Social Security and universal health care. Yet paradoxically, given the ethical primacy of respect for free agency over the duty of compassion, from the point of view of the POS such a world must be reckoned morally inferior to one in which there is more human suffering, perhaps much more, but less state coercion. This fact doesn’t fit comfortably with Jesus’s message of love and compassion in the New Testament. Ouch!
A person who has been indoctrinated with Mormon dogma, especially if he is also a male born into a privileged social and economic position, is physically attractive, intelligent, and charismatic, might easily come to believe that he is one of the fore-ordained or “chosen ones” of God who will play a critical role in the events of the last days, including perhaps saving the United States Constitution when it is “hanging by a thread,” as predicted in the uncanonized “White Horse Prophecy” that was reputedly delivered by the Mormon Church’s founder Joseph Smith in 1843. It is known that Mitt Romney had such delusions of grandeur when he was younger. Does he still?
Sinning for the Lord
Because Mormon eschatology views human history, from the War in Heaven through Armageddon, as a continuing war between the two great forces of good and evil , sinning for the Lord” might at times be a moral necessity. Indeed, in the opening pages of the Book of Mormon, the most prominent hero of the book, a revered Mormon prophet named Nephi, murdered a man named Laban in order to steal a genealogical record of his people to take with his family to the Americas. This act was ethically justified as follows: “And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (1 Nephi 4:12-13) (One can’t help but think of Romney’s shameless shape-shifting and etch-a-sketching.)
According to Mormon eschatology, we are now in the “last days” of our earthly estate, which explains the official name of the Mormon Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Surely Armageddon is not far off, when the forces of righteousness will permanently conquer and subdue the forces of evil. This will usher in a millennium of peace in which Jesus will return to Earth to rule, assisted by the most worthy of God’s children, a good many of whom will of course be Mormons. These elite will include men who are leaders of men and empire builders the likes of Mitt Romney. They will also be members of the “House of Israel,” which consists both of the descendants of the Biblical patriarch Jacob and people who are “adopted” into the House of Israel by being baptized Mormons. From the Mormon perspective, this implies a special affinity between Mormons and Jews that is reinforced by a common history of persecution. It’s an obvious step from this to the conclusion that ineluctable Armageddon will involve a war between the righteous nation of Israel and its supporters on the one side, and its enemies on the other. As things presently stand, we are talking here about a war to end all wars between Israel and Iran and their respective allies. Just what we don’t need!
Our nation has reached a point of extreme political and moral polarization, with the Republican-Tea Party on one side and the Democrat Party on the other, each vying for command of our future. One can say, accurately enough, that the one side fervently embraces the propositions listed at the beginning of this essay, while the other side vehemently rejects them. It is to be expected, therefore, that the views of the respective presidential nominees reflect this same stark opposition. While it is hardly likely that the upcoming election will resolve this clash of values for once and for all, all the indications are that it will mark a singular, momentous, and irreversible turning point in our nation’s history.
Kirk Robinson, Ph.D., is an attorney (and former Mormon, having left decisively over 40 years ago) living in Salt Lake City.
This article was originally posted at Counterpunch
Conservative Christian goes undercover as a gay man October 17, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Religion.
Tags: bigotry, Christianity, conservative christian, evangelical, gay, gay community, gay liberation, gay rights, human rights, laura kane, lgbt, religious bigotry, roger hollander, sodom and gomorrah, tim kurek
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Roger’s note: Shades of John Howard Griffin’s classic “Black Like Me,” which had a tremendous impact in the era of the Civil Rights movement.
Courtesy of Tim Kurek Tim Kurek, who posed as a gay man for a year to understand the adversity homosexuals face in the Bible Belt.
Courtesy of Allen Media Strategies Timothy Kurek, centre, poses with friends on his first Pride Day in Nashville, during his year of pretending to be gay.
The Cross in the Closet
The Cross in the Closet, Tim Kurek’s book about his year-long experiment.
When Timothy Kurek told his mother he was gay, she wrote in her diary that she would have rather heard she had terminal cancer.
Most of his Christian friends stopped speaking to him. “Jesus doesn’t love you anymore,” one said. As he sat outside a café in a gay neighbourhood, a stranger yelled “Faggot!” and threw a full two-litre bottle of cola at his head.
All terrible, painful experiences for a gay man — but Kurek isn’t gay. He’s a straight, conservative Christian from Nashville.
The aspiring writer went “undercover” as a homosexual for a year to understand the adversity gay people face in the Bible Belt. His book about the experience, called The Cross in the Closet, was released last week.
Kurek said the idea came to him after a friend came out as a lesbian. She told him, sobbing, that her family had disowned her.
“While she was crying in my arms, instead of loving her and trying to comfort her, my thoughts were … ‘Maybe I should give it a go and try to save her, get her to repent,’” he said.
Kurek was raised Independent Baptist and told that being gay was a sin. He remembers learning the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and being taught that God destroyed the cities to punish homosexuality.
But after his experiment, he realized the voice in his head wasn’t God, but religious propaganda.
“I realized I had to kill that voice inside of me, because it was only hurting me and hurting others,” he said.
The only way he could do that, he thought, was to experience what his friend had just gone through. So in January 2009, when he was in his early 20s, he “came out” to his family, got a job at a café gay men frequented and started going to gay bars.
His family was outwardly supportive, although he later found his mother’s diary entry that revealed she was struggling. “I was actually pretty fortunate, compared to a lot of other LGBT folks,” he said.
The first time he went to a gay club, he panicked when a shirtless man began grinding against him on the dance floor.
“I didn’t know whether I needed to punch him in the face or go have a cigarette,” Kurek said.
So Kurek asked a friend, who he described as a “big, burly, black teddy bear,” to pose as his boyfriend, so he wouldn’t be hit on.
He didn’t have relationships with men, but did experience what it was like to wear the label of gay in the South, he explained.
He devotes an entire chapter to the first time he was called “faggot.” To his surprise, it made him weep.
“I had to be held back from attacking the person that did it. I never felt so violated and minimized in my entire life, because of that one word,” he said.
LGBT advocates are divided on Kurek’s experiment. Helen Kennedy, director of Egale Canada, said he can never truly know what it’s like to be gay.
“He can’t see what it’s like to be a gay father, or to be an out man in a straight workplace,” she said. “He’s coming from a place of privilege.”
Irene Miller, president of PFLAG Toronto, agreed, but said she was hopeful the book would change some homophobes’ minds. “Within that evangelical culture, if they listen to his message, then it may do some good.”
When the year had ended, Kurek found his views had completely transformed.
“I went from being a very narrow-minded, hyperconservative Christian to an ally of the gay community,” he said.
His project not only changed him, but also his family and friends. When he revealed a year later that he was in fact straight, his mother said she understood that sometimes you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand them.
She is now an avid supporter of gay rights. His new LGBT friends were also supportive, Kurek said.
And rather than destroy his faith, the experiment actually saved it. “To the conservative Christians who read my book, I say, ‘Hey, there’s a much better way,’” he said. “It’s God’s job to judge, it’s the spirit’s job to convict, and it’s my job to love.’”
Tags: anti-gay, benedict xvi, bigotry, catholic church, Civil Rights, DAVID BADASH, gay marriage, gay rights, human rights, Pope benedict, religious bigotry, roger hollander, roman catholic, same-sex marriage
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The special Prayer (Google translation) directs the faithful to pray for “those who were recently elected to legislate and govern.” France’s new President, Francois Hollande, has promised gay marriage will be the law of the land next year. The Catholic Church also is telling its believers to ask Jesus Christ to “grant us the courage to make hard choices and a better quality of life for all and vitality of our youth through strong families and loyal,” and specifically to ask Christ to ensure children “cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother,” a direct attack on same-sex couples adopting or raising children.
For children and young people that we help all people to discover their own path to progress towards happiness, they cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.
The Advocate notes:
French bishops typically avoid entering political debates, but Reuters reports that spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said the [Catholic] Church wanted to “raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.”
The prayer effort follows the Catholic Church’s outspokenness against recent plans to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Scotland. Pope Benedict XVI denounced the momentum for marriage equality in the United States during a visit of American bishops to the Vatican in March.
A Reuters report confirms the purpose of the Prayer.
In May, the Pope told Catholics they should become more political and ignore what the Bible teaches about politics. Speaking in Tuscany, the Pope urged the melding of Church and State, and told listeners to be “the engine of society in promoting peace through justice.”
The Catholic Church in France did not explain why only heterosexual couples should be allowed to raise children, nor does the Prayer direct the faithful to pray for the victims of pedophile priests.
Obama’s Still Muslim March 12, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Media, Right Wing.
Tags: abby zimet, bigotry, evolution, interracial marriage, public opinion, republicans, right wing, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: before I go off on my high horse ranting and raving against the ignorance of those southern red necks, I have to remind myself that it is BIG corporate money financing those gazillions of nutcase radio shows throughout the south and southwest and their counterpart Republican politicians, all of whom spout wholesale bigotry and lies that amount to brainwashing, on a daily basis. And not to forget that PUBLIC OPINION IN OUR CAPITALIST PSEUDO-DEMOCRACY IS IN FACT MANUFACTURED. What is scary is how far towards fascism they are taking it.
by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org, March 12, 2012
A new survey of southern Republicans from Public Policy Polling finds that about half – 45% in Alabama, 52% in Mississippi – still believe Obama is a Muslim. A majority do not believe in evolution. And about a quarter – 21% in Alabama, 29% in Mississippi – think interracial marriage should be illegal. Oy: Wake me when they’ve seceded.
In Riverdale, A Happy Long Life Free of Prejudice March 1, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, LGBT, Right Wing.
Tags: archie comics, bigotry, comic art, family values, gay liberation, gay marriage, lgbt, one million moms, openly gay, right wing, roger hollander, toys 'r us, zabby zimet
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www.commondreams.org, Feb. 29, 2012
by Abby Zimet
The right-wing American Family Association’s One Million Moms is freaking out because Archie comics now has not just an openly gay character, but that character getting married to his partner. Who’s black, for Jiminy Cricket’s sake. So they want Toys ‘R Us to get rid of those nasty comics right now. But Archie Comics’ CEO says he wishes Kevin Keller and his new husband all the best, thanks.
“We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday.”
Why Is an Atheist High School Student Getting Vicious Death Threats? January 19, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Religion.
Tags: atheism, atheist, bigotry, church-state, cranston high, daniel dennett, first amendment, greta christina, intolerance, jessica ahlquist, judge lagueux, peter palumbo, relgious bigotry, religion, religious freedom, roger hollander, school prayer
Roger’s note: Why are so many contemporary evangelical Christians filled with hatred and intolerance? Is there something about organized religion that appeals to baser instincts like hatred and revenge? Do unscrupulous so-called religious leaders and politicians use religion to manipulate these ugly sentiments? In any case, if he hadn’t already left it, Jesus surely would be turning over in his grave.
If you take away just two things from the story about atheist high school student Jessica Ahlquist, and the court case she won last week to have a prayer banner taken out of her public school, let it be these:
- The ruling in this case was entirely unsurprising. It is 100 percent in line with unambiguous legal precedent, established and re-established over many decades, exemplifying a basic principle of constitutional law.
- As a result of this lawsuit, Jessica Ahlquist is now being bullied, ostracized and threatened with violence in her community. She has been called “evil” in public by her state representative, and is being targeted with multiple threats of violence, rape and death.
Which leads one to wonder: What the hell is going on here?
Let’s get #1 out of the way first. This court decision — that as a public school in the United States, Cranston High School West cannot promote religion, either any particular religion or the idea of religion in general — is, in any legal sense, entirely non-controversial. In ruling after ruling, for decades now, this principle has been made eminently clear. There have, of course, been some genuinely controversial court cases recently about separation of church and state, which examined previously untested questions and established new legal precedent.
But Jessica Ahlquist’s was not one of them. Not even in the slightest. This was a no-brainer. If the school district’s lawyers didn’t uncategorically advise the district that they didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell, and fervently plead with them to concede the case before trial, they should be disbarred. (A PDF of the full court ruling, including extensive citation of clear precedent, can be found on the Friendly Atheist blog.)
For anyone who doesn’t understand this ruling or agree with it, let me take a moment to explain. First of all: No, the majority does not always rule. In a constitutional democracy, people with minority, dissenting, or unpopular opinions and identities have some basic rights, which the majority cannot take away. If the majority thought that everyone had to dye their hair brown, or that all witches should be burned at the stake, the majority would not rule. Redheads have the right not to dye their hair brown; witches have the right not to be burned at the stake. No matter how much in the minority they are.
And the right to not have your government impose a religious belief on you is one of these basic rights. The right to make your own private decisions about religion or the lack thereof, without your government enforcing or promoting a particular view on religion that may or may not be your own, is one of the most central rights that this country was founded on. In fact, it’s the very first right established in the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” As U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux said in his ruling, “When focused on the Prayer Mural, the activities and agenda of the Cranston School Committee became excessively entangled with religion, exposing the Committee to a situation where a loud and passionate majority encouraged it to vote to override the constitutional rights of a minority.”
Oh, and no, this case was not about “history” or “tradition.” Many people opposed to this ruling are making a very disingenuous argument: saying that the prayer in question wasn’t really a prayer, that the religious content wasn’t really religious but was simply “history” and “tradition,” and that it therefore shouldn’t be a problem. Bull. When a public school has a banner in its auditorium beginning “Our Heavenly Father” and ending “Amen”… that’s a prayer. The religious fervor with which the banner was defended attests to that. As Judge Lagueux pointed out in his ruling, “No amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that.” Furthermore:
The Court refrains from second-guessing the expressed motives of the Committee members, but nonetheless must point out that tradition is a murky and dangerous bog. While all agree that some traditions should be honored, others must be put to rest as our national values and notions of tolerance and diversity evolve. At any rate, no amount of history and tradition can cure a constitutional infraction. The Court concludes that Cranston’s purposes in installing and, more recently, voting to retain the Prayer Mural are not clearly secular.
And — very crucially:
The retention of the Prayer Mural is no doubt a nod to Cranston West’s tradition and history, yet that nod reflects the nostalgia felt by some members of the community who remember fondly when the community was sufficiently homogeneous that the religion of its majority could be practiced in public schools with impunity.
And no, this court ruling didn’t take away anyone’s right to practice their own religion, or to express their religious views, or to pray at their school, or even to organize religious student clubs on their school campus. People in Cranston, Rhode Island are still entirely free to do all these things. The ruling simply said that, as a government institution, Cranston High School West is not allowed to endorse any one of those religious views and practices. It said — has been said again and again and again by the courts in the United States — that the government, including the public schools, should stay out of the question of religion.
This is a principle that doesn’t just protect atheists. It protects everyone’s right to practice their own religion, or lack thereof, as they choose — regardless of whether that religion is the majority or the minority. As someone in a discussion about this case so eloquently pointed out to Christians screaming “Majority rules!”: If you lived in a small town, and dozens of Muslim families quickly moved in and became the majority, should they have the right to post a prayer to Allah in the public school?
So yeah. To anyone with even the most basic understanding of civics and the Constitution, the court decision in favor of Jessica Ahlquist, ruling that her public high school could not have a banner in the school auditorium offering a prayer to the Christian god, was about as surprising as the fact that millions of people enjoy chocolate and think kittens are cute.
So why are so many people so enraged about it?
Have no doubt — people are enraged. Not just disappointed; not just upset. Enraged. Even before the judge’s decision, Jessica Ahlquist had been ostracized, bullied, and even occasionally threatened over her lawsuit. But when the court ruling came down last week, the climate of harassment and hostility against her escalated out of control, into widespread vilification, venomous bile, and explicit threats of violence, rape and death. Including the following:
“Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner #fuckthatho””I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer… #Honestly”
“hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”
“Fuck Jessica alquist I’ll drop anchor on her face”
“lol I wanna stick that bitch lol”
“We can make so many jokes about this dumb bitch, but who cares #thatbitchisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”
“Brb ima go drown that atheist in holy water”
“”But for real somebody should jump this girl” lmao let’s do it!”
“shes not human shes garbage”
“wen the atheist dies, they believe they will become a tree, so we shld chop her down, turn her into paper then PRINT THE BIBLE ON HER.”
“May that little, evil athiest teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!”
“definetly laying it down on this athiest tommorow anyone else?”
“yeah, well i want the immediate removal of all atheists from the school, how about that?”
“If this banner comes down, hell i hope the school burns down with it!”
“U little brainless idiot, hope u will be punished, you have not win sh..t! Stupid little brainless skunk!”
“Nothing bad better happen tomorrow #justsaying #fridaythe13th”
“How does it feel to be the most hated person in RI right now? Your a puke and a disgrace to the human race.”
“I think everyone should just fight this girl”
“I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus”
“literally that bitch is insane. and the best part is she already transferred schools because shes knows someone will jump her #ahaha”
“Hmm jess is in my bio class, she’s gonna get some shit thrown at her”
“gods going to fuck your ass with that banner you scumbag”
“I found it, what a little bitch lol I wanna snuff her”
“if I wasn’t 18 and wouldn’t go to jail I’d beat the shit out of her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yet”
“nail her to a cross”
“When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists”
Even her state representative, Rhode Island State Representative Peter G. Palumbo, has gotten into the act. He went onto WPRO talk radio to excoriate the ruling (saying, among other things, “we’re crucifying Jesus again”), and to mock and vilify Ahlquist, calling her a “pawn star” (that’s a 16-year-old girl we’re talking about), a “clapping seal,” and an “evil little thing” (later modified to “coerced by evil people”). (Slight tangent: It’s bad enough when ordinary citizens don’t understand enough Civics 101 to know that this ruling was not only correct but entirely uncontroversial. It’s much worse when this isn’t understood by a state representative, whose job it is to understand the law, and who took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Palumbo’s phone number, by the way, is (401) 785-2882 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (401) 785-2882 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, and his email is email@example.com .)
What the hell is going on here?
Why has an entirely unsurprising court ruling — on a well-established point of law, based on one of the most fundamental rights established by our country’s Constitution, protecting everyone’s right to practice their religion without government pressure or interference — resulted in such grotesque, hateful, violently threatening rage aimed at a 16-year-old girl, simply for having the temerity to ask her public school to obey the law?
Some of it, of course, is Internet culture, and the anonymity that makes people feel comfortable saying horrible, cruel, threatening things they would probably never say in person. Some of it seems to stem from a grossly underfunded public education system, and the widespread piss-poor understanding of Civics 101 that apparently goes along with it. And some of it, of course, is just generic enforcement of conformity, and generic hostility aimed at anyone who steps outside social norms. (A tendency that’s especially prevalent in high school.)
But some of it seems to have to do with the unique nature of religion.
Religion, unlike any other belief system or social structure, is based on a belief in that which cannot be seen, felt, heard, touched, or otherwise detected by any normal or reliable means. It is based on ideas that have no good evidence to support them, and that by definition can’t have good evidence to support them.
And in a frustrating and exasperating paradox, when people hold beliefs we don’t have good evidence for, we have a strong tendency to defend them more vigorously, more vehemently, and in many cases more violently.
This is something Daniel Dennett pointed out in his book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. If you see that the sky is blue, and someone else says that it’s orange, you don’t feel a particularly passionate need to defend your position… because it’s freaking obvious that you’re right. You have an easy way of resolving the dispute, and the facts are clearly in your favor. But if you think that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that your faith in his divinity is required for you to get into Heaven — and someone else insists that no, Jesus Christ is not the son of God, there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet — you don’t have any way of resolving that dispute. Neither of you can point to any good evidence showing that one of you is probably right. All you have is your personal feelings and beliefs and wishful thinking, and the teachings of authorities who don’t have anything better to back up their ideas than you do.
So — paradoxically — the less good evidence we have for a belief, and the less defensible it is, the more vigorously we defend it.
And if that indefensible belief is important to us — if it’s a central part of our philosophy, our community’s culture, our consolation in the face of hardship, our deepest personal identity — our defense of it is likely to become even more vigorous. And our need to shut down any contradictory ideas becomes even more vehement. In some cases, to the point of ostracism, bullying, and outright threats of violence.
So when religion is questioned, and the privilege it enjoys is challenged, all too often the answer is, “Shut up.”
That is exactly what the bile and vilification and threats against Ahlquist are. They are not a serious attempt to engage with her on the question of separation of church and state, or even on the question of atheism and religion. They are an attempt to shut her up. They are an attempt to terrify her into silence. And they are an attempt to terrify anyone else into silence who dares to ask questions about religion, to challenge unjust religious privilege, and to insist that the government stay the hell out of their personal religious convictions.
So those of us who care about religious freedom — including the well-established freedom to not have our government impose religious views on us — need to speak out about it. Believers, atheists… everyone. We need to speak out about it. We need to act on it. And we need to support the organizations and the people who are defending it on the front lines, in the face of willfully ignorant and hideously cruel opposition.
(A college scholarship fund is being raised for Jessica Ahlquist on the Friendly Atheist blog. Donations of all sizes are welcomed through February 29.)
Tags: Africa, Bible, bigotry, evangelical, fundamentalism, gay rights, homophobia, human rights, lgbt, religion, religious bigotry, roger hollander, uganda, valerie tarico
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Christian extremists in Uganda’s parliament are hoping that hunger and high gas prices will provide the cover they need to finally subject gay men to punishment of biblical proportions. They haveintroduced a bill, up for vote on May 11, that seeks life imprisonment for gay sex and, for repeat offenders, the death penalty. Last year, similar legislation was averted by international outrage. President Museveni was afraid of losing valuable aid dollars, and after outcry arose across the West, with Barack Obama calling the law “odious,” Museveni prevented the bill from coming to a vote.
Stopping the bill was insufficient to save the life of one Ugandan,David Kato, who was beaten to death with a hammer in January. Kato was Uganda’s most outspoken gay rights advocate and had received many death threats before he was killed. In the winter months before his death, one newspaper ran a front page photo of Kato with an anti-gay rant and a banner urging “Hang them.” Last spring I traveled in Mozambique, where a full-page article in a local paper interspersed Bible verses, exhortations to spiritual living, and similar anti-gay vitriol. Although leading fundamentalists like Albert Mohler appear increasinglyresignedto “tolerance” here at home, across Africa the marriage of Christianity and homophobia appears to be thriving—thanks in part to an American tendency to take our outdated wares and social movements overseas.
Two years ago, I wrote an article that asked, “If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?” It described some of the thirty six causes for capital punishment listed in the Good Book, including cursing parents, witchcraft, being raped (only within the city limits), adultery, and of course, homosexual sex. Mercifully, even the most old school American Christians seem to ignore the Bible on these points. But one of the unfortunate consequences of Americans exporting biblical literalism to developing countries is thatpeople in those countries take the Bible literally– including the parts we all, missionaries included, wish they wouldn’t. In Nigeria, American Pentecostalism has fused with local animism and resulted in children being beaten and burned as witches, just like the Bible prescribes.
In Uganda, American evangelism may besimilarly responsiblefor Kato’s death and the proposed law. In March 2009, frustrated by their inability to block the gradual inclusion of gays in the universal human rights umbrella at home, Evangelical leaders traveled to Uganda and led incendiary workshops seeking to increase Ugandan fear that gay men are a threat to straight marriages and children. It would appear that Uganda’s already fractured and restive society is reaping what the American missionaries have sown: further contention and violence.
“I don’t want anyone killed,” said Mr. Schmierer, one of the Evangelical leaders who traveled to Uganda two years ago. “But I don’t feel I had anything to do with that [Kato's death].” Many evangelicals, those who see the Bible as literally perfect, find it almost impossible to imagine that the Bible itself could be responsible for inciting violence or that those who preach biblical inerrancy could be complicit in that violence. And yet other Christians, those who see the Bible as the imperfect record of the imperfect struggle of our spiritual ancestors, find this causal chain quite plausible. According to theologian Thom Stark (The Human Faces of God),the biblical record attributes divine sanction in places to some of the worst of Iron Age impulses, including human sacrifice. Unless we understand those writings in their human context we are bound to glorify passages that instead should teach us about the darkness in the human spirit. And glorifying human darkness puts us at risk of enacting it.
It is troubling that of the many offerings that might have been carried by American Christians to Africa in the service of theGreat Commandment, what has been carried instead are the seeds of homophobia—fear, hatred, and death. It will take many voices raised together to reverse the damage done by a few misguided missionaries. I hope those voices will be raised this week (petition here)and again next year, and for as many years as are needed until Uganda’s gay community can live in love and peace
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist. She is the author of ‘Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light’. She is also the founder of WisdomCommons.org.