Contraception Mandate Clarified To Accommodate Religious Groups, Obama Administration Announces February 1, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Women, Religion.
Tags: roger hollander, religious bigotry, catholic church, Politics News, kathleen sebelius, Birth Control Mandate, Contraception Mandate, Contraception Mandate Accommodation, Contraception Mandate Changes, Contraception Rule Accommodation, Obama Birth Control, Obama Birth Control Mandate, Obama Contraception Mandate, Obama Contraception Mandate Accommodation, obama cop out
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Roger’s note: This makes my blood boil. In his monumental work, “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins questions the way we tip toe around the prerogatives of the religious minded. The notion of religious freedom means the right to worship (or NOT worship) as you please. Religious freedom does not mean that one can hide behind his religious belief to opt out of legal and social obligations, in this case, the obligation to provide health benefits to women. Remember that it was not that long ago the freeing the slaves was “morally objectionable” to established religion in the South. Once again Obama is copping out to a powerful institution, in this case the Roman Catholic Bigoted Church. Would that he would pay more attention to those of us who find torture, aggressive warfare that targets civilians, indefinite detention, destruction of the environment, destruction of our public education system, etc. etc. “morally objective” on human grounds.
Posted: 02/01/2013 11:40 am EST | Updated: 02/01/2013 12:27 pm EST
Faced with nearly 50 lawsuits by employers with religious objections, the Obama administration announced on Friday new details of the contraception coverage rule that clarify which employers will be exempt from having to cover contraception costs for their employees.
The new rules announced on Friday eliminate some confusion over which organizations qualify for the exemption by requiring employers with religious objections to self-certify that they are non-profits with religion as a core part of their mission. Religiously affiliated organizations that choose to insure themselves would instruct their “third-party administrator” to provide coverage through separate individual health insurance policies so that they do not have to pay for services to which they morally object.
“Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.”
The so-called “contraception mandate,” which went into effect on Aug. 1, 2012, requires most employers to cover birth control for their female employees at no additional cost. Houses of worship are exempt from the rule, and religiously affiliated organizations that are not churches, such as schools and hospitals, are allowed to opt out of directly paying for contraception coverage. The cost of coverage, in those cases, would be shifted to the insurer.
The accommodation for religious organizations did not satisfy all of them. As of Friday, there have been 48 lawsuits filed in federal court challenging the contraception mandate. Some for-profit companies that are not religiously affiliated, including the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby, sued the administration on the grounds that they are being denied their religious freedom by having to cover services to which they morally object. Judges have granted nine of those companies temporary relief from the rule as they pursue their claims in court.
Some non-profit religious organizations that self-insure, such as Catholic schools and dioceses, also filed lawsuits against the mandate, arguing that the accommodation does not apply to them because there is no third-party insurer to absorb the cost of coverage. The courts have largely dismissed those cases because non-profits with religious objections were given a one-year grace period to comply with the birth control coverage rule.
Reproductive rights advocates said on Friday that they are still pleased with the details of the contraception rule. “We look forward to examining and commenting on the proposed rule and helping ensure that, when it is implemented, the women who are affected will have simple and seamless access to contraceptive coverage without co-pays or added costs,” said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “It’s time for opponents of women’s reproductive choice to stop politicizing women’s health.”
The U.S. Catholic Church, one of the primary foes of the contraception mandate, remained mum on the changes.
“We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later,” said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The New York archdiocese is one of many dioceses that have sued the administration over the changes.
THE POPE IS A BIGOT December 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, LGBT.
Tags: Civil Rights, gay marriage, bigotry, religious bigotry, gay rights, catholic church, Pope benedict, lgbt, The Pope, World Day Of Peace, Pope Benedict On Gay Marriage, Pope Benedict On Same-Sex Marriage, World Day Of Peace 2013, Gay Voices News
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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.”
How Mormon Doctrine Shapes Romney’s World View November 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Women, Religion, Racism, Mitt Romney.
Tags: roger hollander, Mormon, Mormon Church, Latter Day Saints, bigotry, religion, religious bigotry, mitt romney, kirk robinson, 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, Religion, LGBT.
Tags: roger hollander, human rights, bigotry, religious bigotry, gay rights, Christianity, gay, lgbt, evangelical, gay liberation, gay community, conservative christian, tim kurek, laura kane, sodom and gomorrah
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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: Civil Rights, roger hollander, human rights, gay marriage, bigotry, same-sex marriage, religious bigotry, gay rights, catholic church, Pope benedict, roman catholic, anti-gay, benedict xvi, DAVID BADASH
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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.
Trust the Experts On Women’s Health, Because Middle-Aged Men Know the Most About Everyting March 2, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: abby zimet, birth control, blunt amendment, contraception, funny or die, health, healthcare, Humor, humour, judd nelson, religion, religious bigotry, reproductive health, right wing, roger hollander, womens heath
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by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org, March 1, 2012
The Senate killed the Blunt amendment today that would have allowed employers to opt out of healthcare coverage that violates their “moral beliefs” – though not without rhetoric like Orrin Hatch’s, “This is tyranny (and) discrimination masquerading as compassion” – but that’s hardly the end of the GOP war against women. Funny Or Die‘s health experts speak out on the complex subject of lady parts.
Colbert: If Mormons Posthumously Baptize Holocaust Victims, I’ll Posthumously Circumsize Mormons February 25, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Religion.
Tags: Humor, roger hollander, humour, religion, religious bigotry, Mormons, jews, roman catholic, baptism, circumcision, stephen colbert, colbert report, baptizing jews, morman baptizing
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WATCH THE VIDEO:
Elie Wiesel has recently spoken out against the far too common Mormon practice of posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims–including a record nine baptisms of Anne Frank.
In his new segment on the controversy, Colbert gets in a few digs at the Mormon tiers of heaven (the top of which is only reseved for true Mormons), his own Catholic faith and a certain recent comedy film too (to tell you which one would spoil the joke), before he gets down to his retributive business.
“Right now I’m going to balance everything out by converting all the dead mormons to Judaism,” says Colbert, before he ritually circumcizes a hot dog in proxy for all the world’s departed Mormons. “Mormon Tov!” he cries.
Tags: roger hollander, same-sex marriage, religious bigotry, right wing, religious right, fundamentalism, sarah posner, religious freedom, first amendment, anti-gay, religious dogma, religious extremism, religious education, christian law school, oral roberts, herb titus, michele bachman, religiion, relgious bigots, ten commandments, god's law, christian reconstructionism, establishment clause, legal education, bible school, oral roberts law school, american taliban
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called in Christian Reconstructionist Herb Titus. Michele Bachmann is the law
school’s most famous graduate.
At the May “First Friday” lecture hosted by the Institute on the Constitution
at the Heritage Community Church in Severn, Maryland, IOTC founder Michael
Peroutka presented the evening’s guest speaker, attorney Herb Titus, with a
“Patrick Henry Award” for “his tireless and fearless telling of God’s truth to
power.” Titus (best known for his representation of former Judge Roy Moore in
his failed quest to install a 2.6-ton Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama
Supreme Court building) is one of the few lawyers in America who, Peroutka
noted, truly “believes God is sovereign and therefore God’s law is the only
law.” For Peroutka, the Constitution Party’s 2004 nominee for president, this
was his usual spiel on God and the law.
In the late 1970s, Titus played an instrumental role in launching the law
school at Oral Roberts University (ORU), from which GOP presidential hopeful
Michele Bachmann graduated in 1986. Titus, who rejected his Harvard Law School
education after reading the work of R.J. Rushdoony, the late founder of
Christian Reconstructionism, was moved to exercise what he believes is a
“dominion mandate” to “restore the Bible to legal education.” To teach, in other
words, that Christianity is the basis of our law, that lawyers and judges should
follow God’s law, and that the failure to do so is evidence of a “tyrannical,”
Titus’ lecture, as well as the teachings of Reconstructionists, the
Constitution Party, and the IOTC, provide a window into Bachmann’s legal
education, and thus how her political career and rhetoric—so incomprehensible
and absurd to many observers—was unmistakably shaped by it.
Restoring the American Jurisprudence to its “Biblical
After launching ORU’s law school, and later helping with Regent University’s
1986 takeover and launch of a public policy program, Titus ran on Constitution
Party founder Howard Phillips’ presidential ticket in 1996. The stated goal of
the Constitution Party “is to restore American jurisprudence to its biblical
foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional
boundaries.” That includes, for example, “affirm[ing] the rights of states and
localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior” (i.e., homosexuality) and
“oppos[ing] all efforts to impose a new sexual legal order through the federal
court system” (i.e., civil unions, marriage equality, or adoption by LGBT
people). It is more extreme than the Republican Party platform, to be sure, but
the GOP is hardly devoid of allies of the Constitution Party—including Sharron Angle, who ran for Senate in Nevada last year, and
presidential candidate Ron Paul.
The lecture series at the Institute on the Constitution, which also offers
in-depth classes that are popular with tea party groups, has recently included
presentations on constitutional law by Moore and one of his protégés, current
Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker. In a dissenting opinion in a 2005
child custody case in which the majority affirmed an award of custody to the
child’s grandparents, Parker cited not legal cases or statutes, but rather
Romans 13:1-2, for the proposition that “there is no authority except from God.”
That, he concluded, dictated that the state should stay out of such family law
matters except in the most extraordinary circumstances.
Christians are “Second-Class Citizens”
The claim that powerful, anti-Christian forces aim to undermine God’s “truth”
lies at the heart of the IOTC’s and Titus’ conception of the constitutional
roles of government and religion. Titus insists that Christians are
discriminated against by these conventional interpretations of the Establishment
Clause, which are at odds with his own, and which he contends have contributed
to the treatment of Christians as “second-class citizens.”
“I would say to you that someone who holds a Christian view such as Michele
Bachmann does would be much more accommodating of different views than any
liberals,” he told me, because her views would permit the public posting of the
Ten Commandments, for example, but a liberal’s would not.
That’s because, of course, under a “liberal” (i.e., accepted by the Supreme
Court, at least for now) view of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the
government cannot act in a way that does, or appears to, endorse a particular
Titus contends, however, that religion, as used in the Establishment Clause
(“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) does not
mean, well, a religion. Rather, Titus insists that this clause means
that Congress cannot make you do anything that you are otherwise commanded by
God to do: in other words, Congress cannot flout God.
Religion, Titus told the IOTC audience, “is the duty which we owe our
Creator.” As Julie Ingersoll has described in detail, Rushdoony argued that God granted certain
jurisdictional authority to the government, the church, and the family—therefore
any government action exceeding its God-granted authority is in violation of
God’s commands. Titus says the government has the power to make you, say, pay
taxes, but other “duties we owe to God exclusively” cannot be enforced by the
In Titus’ view, the First Amendment prohibition against Congress establishing
a religion was actually intended to prevent Congress from establishing
institutions that he maintains are tantamount to a religion, like
public education, or National Public Radio. “I don’t believe what they teach in
public schools,” Titus told his IOTC audience. “They don’t even believe in the
first thing—that God is the source of knowledge.”
Indeed, as Titus himself was aware, the activism that launched Bachmann’s
political career was an extended crusade against public schools in Minnesota
(which, oddly enough, included a failed bid for a spot on her local school
board, even though her own children did not attend public schools).
According to a 2006 Minneapolis City Pages profile, in 1993 Bachmann helped found a charter school in
Stillwater “that ran afoul of many parents and the local school board when it
became apparent that the school—which received public money and therefore was
bound to observe the legal separation of church and state—was injecting
Christian elements into the curriculum.” Later, Bachmann “became a prolific
speaker and writer on the evils of public education.”
Health Care, Guns, and Slavery
In a 2009 interview with Glenn Beck, Bachmann said, “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this
issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back.” Both that statement and
her characterization of health care reform as federal government
excess that amounts to creating “a nation of slaves” and “tyranny,” draw on her
Reconstructionist understanding of the Constitution.
Indeed, Bachmann possesses an alarming misunderstanding of the history of
slavery that at once celebrates it as a heyday of African-American family life,
and engages in revisionism about the founders’ view of it. She recently signed a
“marriage pledge” in Iowa that included the statement (since removed): “sadly a child born into slavery in
1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent
household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s
first African-American president.” She has also stated, incorrectly, that the founders “worked tirelessly” to end
Peroutka and the IOTC, for their part, express affection for the Confederacy.
In bestowing the “Courage of Daniel Award” on Moore on June 3, Peroutka,
who frequently ribs people for being from the “wrong side of the Mason-Dixon
line,” cheerfully noted that it also happened to be the birthday of Confederate
President Jefferson Davis.
Other IOTC speakers have included Franklin Sanders, whom the Southern Poverty
Law Center describes as “a peculiar mix of neo-Confederate fantasist and
seasoned tax protester.” Sanders has served on the Board of Directors of the
League of the South, a Southern nationalist organization the SPLC characterizes as “a neo-Confederate group that advocates for a
second Southern secession and a society dominated by ‘European Americans.’” That
society would be, according to the SPLC, a “godly” nation “run by an
‘Anglo-Celtic’ (read: white) elite that would establish a Christian theocratic
state and politically dominate blacks and other minorities.”
In the Reconstructionist view, a gun will protect you from your imagined
enslavement by the federal government. Bachmann is one of several Republicans
endorsed by the Gun Owners of America, another Titus client, which contends
that gun ownership is not just a right, but an “obligation to God, to protect
life.” Last year, Titus cited the “totalitarian threat” posed by “Obamacare” and told
me that people need to be armed, “because ultimately it may come to the point
where it’s a life and death situation.”
When I asked him recently whether he agreed with Bachmann’s opposition to
health care reform, he exclaimed approvingly, “talk about turning yourself over
to tyranny—your health care decisions made by bureaucrats.”
Bachmann’s history of questioning Barack Obama’s American-ness, or of espousing “normal people values,” is rooted in the Reconstructionist
conception of “American-ness.” Not just Christian, but their kind of
Christian; one who would obey God, exercise “dominion authority,” and, most
crucially, is one of their “brethren.”
Titus, founder of Bachmann’s law school, happens to be the architect of a
legal theory—as far outside of the legal mainstream as his Establishment Clause
theory—that Obama is not a “natural-born citizen,” a designation that would render him
ineligible to be president due to his “divided loyalties.” Deuteronomy 17, he
insists, demands that that the “king” be selected from one’s own “brethren.” As
an outsider Obama isn’t a “real” American, worthy—according to the Bible or the
Constitution—of being president.
The “Judicial Tyranny” Canard
In 2003, motivated by Moore’s Ten Commandments crusade, then-state senator
Bachmann participated in a “Ten Commandments Rally” on the state capitol steps,
at which speakers called for the impeachment of federal judges who rule public
postings of the Ten Commandments unconstitutional, and for a return to “biblical
principles.” Bachmann, according to coverage in the Minneapolis
Star-Tribune, “told the crowd that the founders of the United
States—including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—‘recognized the Ten
Commandments as the foundation of our laws.’”
Bachmann isn’t alone among Republican politicians embracing Reconstructionist
views. After Moore was stripped of his judgeship for defying a federal court
order to remove his monument, Titus drafted the Constitution Restoration Act,
which would have deprived federal courts of jurisdiction in cases challenging a
government entity’s or official’s “acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source
of law, liberty, or government.” The bill, which did not pass, nonetheless had
nine Senate co-sponsors and 50 House co-sponsors; including House Majority
Leader Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal, now the governor of Louisiana, Nathan Deal,
now the governor of Georgia, and Mike Pence, a conservative hero who’s now
running for governor of Indiana.
While campaigning for president, Bachmann took up the “tyrannical judges”
mantle, this time in connection with the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling that the
state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. She applauded the ouster of
“black-robed masters,” the three Iowa judges who had ruled same-sex marriage
constitutional, and who were targeted by the religious right. In Iowa, judges are
appointed, but subject to what is normally a routine, periodic retention
The necessity of electing judges, rather than appointing them, was the
subject of Parker’s First Friday lecture in January, because “elected judges are
bulwarks against the agenda of the left.”
“If you take a moment to think,” said Parker, “federal judges appointed for
life have legalized abortion, homosexuality, pornography, same-sex marriages,
and outlawed school prayer and the display of the Ten Commandments.”
“When judges don’t rule in fear of the Lord,” he concluded, “all the
foundations of the earth are shaken.”
Just the sort of thing that Peroutka complains isn’t taught in secular law
schools. But at ORU, it was.
The Birth of the Christian Law School
The launch of the law school at ORU was intended to create public figures
just like Bachmann: lawyers unafraid to inject their particular Christian
beliefs, not only into the public square, but quite deliberately into
legislation, policy, and jurisprudence.
As Titus tells it, God opened a door when the televangelist Oral Roberts
wanted to found a Christian law school at his eponymous university in Tulsa,
Oklahoma. “My first reaction,” said Titus in a recent interview with the
Christian Reconstructionist Chalcedon Foundation, “was, no way, I’m not going to
be identified with Oral Roberts, with this healer, with this Pentecostal
personae and so forth, and yet God made it so clear to us that we were to go and
help begin a Christian law school.”
Bachmann, who until a few years ago attended a staid and deeply conservative
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod church in Stillwater, Minnesota, might have
been, like her law school classmate Dean Burnetti, “shocked” when a fellow
student spoke in tongues in chapel the first day of law school. But Burnetti,
now a personal injury lawyer in Florida, told me, “My personal worship
experience has changed because of those people, and the way I see God’s active
involvement in my life has changed because of that.”
The law school at ORU was a first effort at creating a “Christian” law school
that would teach the “biblical” foundations of the law—essentially substituting
Rushdoony’s totalizing worldview for mainstream legal theory. His views are
evident not only in the ORU education Bachmann received, but in the perspectives
of other Christian law schools forged on the ORU example, such as Liberty
University Law School, where students are taught to follow “God’s law” rather than “man’s law,” and where Rushdoony’s
texts are required reading. The rise of Christian schools—not just law
schools, but elementary and secondary education, and homeschooling as well—has
been, in Titus’ view, a “silent revolution” that has “basically escaped the
scrutiny of most journalists.”
According to Titus, there have been “tremendous strides that have been made
in last 20 or 30 years,” in developing other “Christian” law schools, including
Regent University Law School, which, as noted above, took over ORU law school
after Bachmann graduated. Titus credits Roberts, who “didn’t bow down to the
establishment”; in particular the American Bar Association, which initially
refused to give the school accreditation because it required faculty and
students to be professing Christians (both were required to sign a pledge that
they were followers of Jesus).
Burnetti described Bachmann as “brilliant” and a “very gifted, very talented,
very smart girl.” When I asked whether he could see now how her ORU education
influenced her, he said, “there’s no doubt in my mind that has an influence and
will have an influence on everything that passes through the filter of her
conscience and life. It will be filtered through the principles she has used in
the joining of the Bible and her Christian faith and beliefs and the use of the
Titus was quick to point out that not all of the students of his preferred
pedagogy are “cookie-cutter” types who fall into an identical ideological line.
On foreign policy matters, for example, he said he’d be more aligned with the
non-interventionism of Ron Paul than with Bachmann.
But it’s clear, nonetheless, that he’s confident that her Christian beliefs
pass muster. He doesn’t consider either Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman, both
Mormons, to be Christians; said he didn’t know whether Tim Pawlenty was a
Christian (even though his pastor is the president of the National Association
of Evangelicals); and defended Texas Governor Rick Perry’s hosting of a prayer
Though he isn’t even running, Titus took a dig at Mike Huckabee, saying that
host of Fox News’ Huckabee show “doesn’t understand the difference
between the state’s business and the church’s business,” because he believes in
“welfare taking care of the poor, which is contrary to Jesus’ teaching.” Again,
that’s a reflection of the Christian Reconstructionist view of
God-granted authority—i.e., it’s not within the government’s “authority” to take
care of the poor.
I asked Titus whether it would be a big moment for him to see Bachmann, a
product of the law school he helped found, ascend to the GOP presidential
nomination. He replied, “It’s the kind of thing that we believe was one of our
major purposes, which was to train people in such a way so as to make an impact
in the leadership of the country.”
Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade
Tags: roger hollander, human rights, bigotry, religion, religious bigotry, gay rights, Bible, Africa, fundamentalism, homophobia, lgbt, evangelical, valerie tarico, uganda
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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.
Malawi: Judge convicts gay couple May 18, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Human Rights, Criminal Justice, LGBT.
Tags: roger hollander, human rights, gay marriage, religion, religious bigotry, gay rights, Africa, lgbt, anti-gay, same sex, raphael tenthani, malawi, gay activists, donna bryson
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By RAPHAEL TENTHANI
Associated Press, May 18, 2010
BLANTYRE, Malawi — A judge convicted a gay couple in Malawi Tuesday of unnatural acts and gross indecency after a trial that drew worldwide condemnation of this southern African country’s colonial-era laws on homosexuality.
Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, had been jailed since their arrest Dec. 27, the day after they celebrated their engagement with a party that drew crowds of curious, jeering onlookers.
Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa said the sentencing will take place on Thursday. The couple could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.
Hearings in the trial have drawn Malawians who have ridiculed the couple, an indication of views on homosexuality in this traditional society — and elsewhere in Africa.
Undule Mwakasungula, a gay rights activist in Malawi, said the couple’s decision to declare their relationship with an engagement ceremony, a first in Malawi, appears to have been personal, not political. Mwakasungula said others have been prosecuted under the law, but this case was different because the two men were open about their homosexuality.
“This is the most publicized case related to that penal code,” he said.
Mwakasungula said he did not know the couple before their arrest, but that he and other activists have supported them since. He said they were relaxed before the verdict, but concerned that if they were released, they could be attacked by Malawians who have threatened them.
Mwakasungula said activists had planned to take the two to a safe house if they had been found innocent, but that given the laws and the climate in Malawi, a guilty verdict had been expected.
“It’s a challenge in terms of us pushing for legal reform,” Mwakasungula said. “We can’t be using a law that was enacted in 1940.”
The verdict is “extremely disturbing,” said Michaela Clayton of the Namibia-based AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, saying it could encourage anti-gay sentiment in the region as well as set back the fight against AIDS. Gay people forced underground in Africa are unlikely to seek counseling and treatment for AIDS, she and other activists said.
Homosexuality is illegal in at least 37 countries on the continent. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and include capital punishment for “repeat offenders.” Even in South Africa, the only African country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have carried out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.
Clayton said gays and other minorities in Africa had in recent years become more assertive about their sexual orientation and about claiming their rights, which could have led to the backlash.
“We have to keep on being strategic about the way we push this agenda forward,” she said.
Priti Patel of the Southern African Litigation Centre, an independent rights group, said Monjeza and Chimbalanga could appeal on the grounds that the laws under which they were prosecuted violate the country’s 1994 constitution. But an earlier attempt by their lawyer to have the case thrown out on those grounds was rejected.
Malawi’s government has been defiant in the face of international criticism over the prosecution of Monjeza and Chimbalanga. Months before the verdict, Information Minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto said it was clear the two had broken the law.
Malawi church leaders have backed the government, saying homosexuality is “sinful” and the West should not be allowed to use its financial power to force Malawi to accept homosexuality. Malawi relies on donors for 40 percent of its development budget.
The controversy, though, has emboldened some human rights activists in Malawi. The Center for the Development of People was recently formed to fight for the rights of homosexuals and other minorities.
Associated Press Writer Donna Bryson in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.