Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Word On Dangerous Lifestyles

by Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out:

In a self-righteous, moralizing speech in Michigan last week, right wing radio personality Linda Harvey blithely offered this gem when questioned about discrimination against LGBT partners who want to marry.

“They can still marry someone of the opposite gender,” Harvey said.

This flippant response was not surprising. Self-styled “family values” activists have long turned a blind eye to the destruction caused by such “arranged” marriages. There are support groups, such as The Straight Spouse Network and Gay Husbands/Straight Wives, to pick up the pieces after these unions implode.

In her propaganda-laced presentation, Harvey (pictured) portrayed gay men as living an unhealthy existence. She cherry-picked medical data while blithely ignoring the positive affect marriage would have on the health of LGBT people. In the New York Times, conservative columnist David Brooks wrote about what social science has to say about the affects of marriage:

“According to another [study] being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year,” writes Brooks. “If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy.”

If Harvey and others of her ilk were genuinely concerned about the health of LGBT couples, they would be in favor of allowing them to marry. Instead, such hypocrites smugly mask their contempt with transparently saccharine professions of concern. They even offer “help” for LGBT people who are unhappy – while simultaneously working to undermine relationships that might bring joy. Is this not a conflict of interest?

Today’s New York Times science section has an article, “No Matter What, We Pay For Others’ Bad Habits”, that highlights a plethora of factors that determine health:

“Unhealthy habits are one factor in disease, but so are social status, income, family dynamics, education and genetics.”

Homosexuality is not a habit, of course, while homophobia is. Indeed, this preoccupation with prejudice by religious extremists directly affects several of these key measures of health. Every time an LGBT person is rejected from his or her house of worship, this has a tangible impact on their social status. When gay and lesbian couples are taxed at discriminatory rates it affects income.

Gay youth who drop out of school because they are bullied or kicked out of their homes have both their education and family dynamics torn apart. San Francisco State researcher Caitlin Ryan found that, LGBT “Teens who experienced negative feedback [when they came out] were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use.”

One would think that priggish proselytizers such as Harvey would read these alarming statistics and oppose bullying in schools. Instead, her organization, Mission America, is dedicated to attacking the “Day of Silence,” an annual event where students remain quiet for a day to show their support for LGBT peers.

Instead of insightful views from a faith perspective on Mission America’s website, Harvey’s organization offers manipulative questions designed to incite students against their LGBT classmates. These include:

* Is there any room for finding homosexuality—dare we say it—repulsive? Or is that response now going to be viewed as “hate”?
* Is a student allowed to say a firm “no” to a homosexual advance?

* Is the Day of Silence really a back-door way to silence valid criticism and gain approval for questionable lifestyles?

So, the unctuous Harvey is concerned for our health, but portrays LGBT teenagers as repulsive predators with a furtive political agenda. I’d hate to see what Harvey is capable of saying if she did not love us so much.

Harvey also prattled on in her presentation, and website, about the supposed dangers of homosexuality – particularly contracting HIV. Not surprisingly, Harvey actively promotes abstinence-only “education” in schools, which is proven to be ineffective. She recklessly presents HIV as a gay disease – when it can be contracted by anyone who fails to take adequate precautions.

It is important to note that even if a gay man contracted HIV today, he still might outlive judgmental religious extremists who are so quick to condemn. Bible-Belt states are generally the fattest, have the highest concentration of smokers, have the most divorces and are even more likely to have traffic accidents due to aggressive driving.

While these busybodies worry about our hearts and happiness, their own children may one-day die prematurely of heart attacks by inhaling Happy Meals. In conservative areas, the fast food drive-thru might as well be a drive-by-shooting.

Isn’t it time our foes stopped obsessing about narrow-minded “morality” and spent more time addressing their own mortality caused by gluttonous and destructive lifestyles? Averting their obsessive gaze from the gays to focus on their own families is quintessentially a “pro-life” position.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Whose Country, and Whose County, Is It?

This NY Times Op-Ed raises interesting questions not just about the country, but about what's going on in Venango County as well.

Whose Country Is It?

by Charles Blow:

The far-right extremists have gone into conniptions.

The bullying, threats, and acts of violence following the passage of health care reform have been shocking, but they’re only the most recent manifestations of an increasing sense of desperation.

It’s an extension of a now-familiar theme: some version of “take our country back.” The problem is that the country romanticized by the far right hasn’t existed for some time, and its ability to deny that fact grows more dim every day. President Obama and what he represents has jolted extremists into the present and forced them to confront the future. And it scares them.

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

Hence their anger and frustration, which is playing out in ways large and small. There is the current spattering of threats and violence, but there also is the run on guns and the explosive growth of nefarious antigovernment and anti-immigrant groups. In fact, according to a report entitled “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism” recently released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “nativist extremist” groups that confront and harass suspected immigrants have increased nearly 80 percent since President Obama took office, and antigovernment “patriot” groups more than tripled over that period.

Politically, this frustration is epitomized by the Tea Party movement. It may have some legitimate concerns (taxation, the role of government, etc.), but its message is lost in the madness. And now the anemic Republican establishment, covetous of the Tea Party’s passion, is moving to absorb it, not admonish it. Instead of jettisoning the radical language, rabid bigotry and rising violence, the Republicans justify it. (They don’t want to refute it as much as funnel it.)

There may be a short-term benefit in this strategy, but it’s a long-term loser.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday took a look at the Tea Party members and found them to be just as anachronistic to the direction of the country’s demographics as the Republican Party. For instance, they were disproportionately white, evangelical Christian and “less educated ... than the average Joe and Jane Six-Pack.” This at a time when the country is becoming more diverse (some demographers believe that 2010 could be the first year that most children born in the country will be nonwhite), less doctrinally dogmatic, and college enrollment is through the roof. The Tea Party, my friends, is not the future.

You may want “your country back,” but you can’t have it. That sound you hear is the relentless, irrepressible march of change. Welcome to America: The Remix.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good Old Traditonal Family Values

Gay Student OK'd for Prom, Kicked Out of House

from The Advocate:

A Georgia gay high school student who wanted to bring his date to the prom may have scored a victory at school, but he may be losing the war in his own home.

Derrick Martin, 18, lobbied his school, Bleckley County High, to let him bring his date to the prom. Administrators gave him the OK after he appealed an earlier decision turning him down. Martin's story made headlines across the country, and offers for tuxedos, limos, and dinner poured in. But because of the media attention, Martin's parents kicked him out of their home. According to Macon's Telegraph, he is currently staying with a friend.

He said he was inspired by another Southern teenager, Constance McMillen, who was denied permission to bring her same-sex date to her prom in Mississippi. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that while the school board wronged McMillen, it would not have to hold the prom, which school officials canceled rather than allow her to bring a female date.

Martin's prom is set for April 17.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tea Party's Thuggish Tactics

from Wayne Besen at Truth Wins Out:

In 1995, House Majority leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.) referred to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) as "Barney Fag." He quickly apologized calling his verbiage a "slip of the tongue". Fifteen years later, the obstreperous Tea Party Tea Baggermovement that Armey is behind showed no such restraint, with members boldly calling Frank a "faggot" during the healthcare debate, while the crowd stood by and laughed. They also used the N-word to taunt civil rights hero, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), as he entered the Capitol to vote.

Can the media please stop pretending that the Tea Party is an amalgam of small government conservatives and anxious Americans concerned about their families? What we just witnessed was not spontaneous, nor was it a genuine outpouring of anger towards Washington. It was privileged DC Republicans shilling for the insurance industry while posing as populists. To obscure their genuine goals, they mobilized racists and riff raff to throw tyrannical tantrums in an effort to intimidate lawmakers.

If you think I'm wrong, watch almost any interview with Tea Baggers on the healthcare bill. They display a shocking lack of understanding about what they were actually protesting. Many condemn "socialized" medicine while not realizing that Medicare is a government program. These "good folks" have consistently regurgitated stale and misleading GOP talking points about "death panels" that they heard on FOX News.

Sure, there are some Tea Baggers who don't fit this unflattering description. But one would have to be intellectually dishonest to deny the role extremists are playing in this movement. It is also worth noting that those who are reportedly not fringe ideologues are nonetheless eerily comfortable protesting alongside the more fanatical goons.

The thuggish tactics - from the ugly August "town brawls" to the race-baiting rallies on Capitol Hill - were grotesque and anti-democratic. Many of these so-called "patriots" were not putting forth real arguments in the interest of America - but simply arguing loudly to bully opponents and drown out genuine debate.

It was disgusting to watch Republican members of Congress egg on this unruly behavior. Several grandstanding politicians encouraged the mob from a second story balcony on the Capitol, as the empowered crowd yelled slogans through bullhorns such as, "Nancy Pelosi, you will burn in hell for this." These grossly irresponsible lawmakers even encouraged anarchy by cheering a protester who was ejected from the House chamber for a disruptive outburst.

In my view, Republicans have crossed a dangerous line that threatens the fabric and cohesion of this nation. They are courting and catering to crazies and now call them a core constituency. The GOP leadership is consistently communicating in illogical, apocalyptic terms to reach "Values Voters" who are excitedly awaiting Armageddon.

The very strategy of today's conservative movement is an affront to this nation. They incite their most fervent and fanatic followers by questioning the legitimacy of America's leaders and institutions. They engage in legislative obstruction. And, many of these zealots believe that God commands them to rule, while anyone else is a usurper of the natural political order.

Republicans are also fanning the flames of regionalism and trying to balkanize this nation for political gain. When asked if passing the bill would help democrats politically, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) replied, "Someone at Harvard or in San Francisco may think that, but not the rest of the country." This rhetoric mirror's that of Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) who spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month and derided liberals for supposedly hanging out at "Chablis-drinking, Brie-eating parties in San Francisco."

At the anti-healthcare rally, cantankerous protesters yelled, "kill the bill." But, there is a true concern that the overheated rhetoric will lead to the death of real people. Republicans and Tea Baggers can only shout "fire" in a crowded theatre for so long before an unbalanced individual moves decisively to extinguish the alleged conflagration.

The GOP and the Tea Bag crowd need to stop polarizing America and dial back the rhetoric before it is too late.

As far as the politics of healthcare, the GOP will suffer. Obama proved he can be tough and get things done in Washington - and everybody loves a winner. In the end, the public will appreciate their new benefits and the GOP is now in the position of trying to deny health insurance to people with preexisting conditions. Good luck on that.

Finally, the gloom and doom scenarios painted by overwrought phonies, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), will not come to pass. This is no different than when social conservatives claimed that civil unions in Vermont and marriage equality in Massachusetts would destroy the world.

Obviously, this did not happen, the public saw legalizing LGBT relationships was no big deal and our opponents lost credibility. The same will happen with healthcare. The sooner the public sees the sky is not falling, the faster the polling numbers will plummet for Republicans who voted on wrong side of history.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Anti-Gay Website Listed as Hate Group

by Julie Bolcer for The Advocate:

The website of the anti-gay group Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, (a close ally of Venango County-based Diane Gramley and her American "Family" Association of Pennsylvania), was recently listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The listing, which appeared in the most recent issue of Intelligence Report, the Law Center’s quarterly publication, was the result of lobbying by the Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network, according to a news release from GLN.

“The criteria that the Law Center historically has used to determine whether or not an organization is a hate group is not merely that it opposes legal equality for gays or others, but whether or not they intentionally utilize discredited and slanderous propaganda to spread lies about a group of people,” said GLN. “By repeatedly using the phoney ‘research’ of defrocked psychologist Paul Cameron, who is roundly condemned by every major professional psychological association, AFTAH's website apparently met the Law Center's definition of a hate group.”

The leader of AFTAH is Peter LaBarbera, who previously headed the Illinois Family Institute. According to GLN, that group was briefly listed as a hate group by the Law Center when it listed work from Cameron on its website.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Sadness: If You're Not White or Not Straight, The "Tea Party" Is Out To Get You

By Paul Kane for the Washington Post:

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that racial epithets were hurled at them Saturday by angry protesters who had gathered at the Capitol to protest health-care legislation, and one congressman said he was spit upon. The most high-profile openly gay congressman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was heckled with anti-gay chants.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) issued a statement late Saturday saying that he was spit upon while walking to the Capitol to cast a vote, leading the Capitol Police to usher him into the building out of concern for his safety. Police detained the individual, who was then released because Cleaver declined to press charges.

"The congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The congressman would like to thank the U.S. Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the other Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care," said Danny Rotert, a spokesman for Cleaver.

Protesters outside the Capitol hurled epithets at Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.) as they left the building after President Obama delivered an 11th-hour speech on behalf of the health care bill. Carson told reporters that protesters yelled "kill the bill," then used a racial epithet to describe Carson and Lewis, who is a revered figure on both sides of the aisle.

According to observers, Frank was confronted by about 100 protesters inside the Longworth House Office Building, where Democrats were huddling for another meeting about the legislation. Some targeted Frank with anti-gay epithets and urged him to vote against the bill.

Democratic leaders and their aides said they were outraged by the day's behavior. "I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus," said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking black official in Congress.

And Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement, "On the one hand, I am saddened that America's debate on health care -- which could have been a national conversation of substance and respect -- has degenerated to the point of such anger and incivility. But on the other, I know that every step toward a more just America has aroused similar hate in its own time; and I know that John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, has learned to wear the worst slurs as a badge of honor."

"This is not the first time the congressman has been called the "n" word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans," said Rotert, Cleaver's spokesman. "That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name-calling and spitting."

The incidents followed a noontime protest on the west side of the Capitol that drew several thousand people from around the country for a "Code Red" rally against the health-care bill. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) addressed the crowd.

As that rally ended, some protesters moved around to the south side of the Capitol, near the entrance to the House chamber, and across the east front of the complex.

On the first day of spring, most lawmakers walked across the street from their office buildings to the Capitol, rather than using the underground tunnels. That brought them into contact with protesters forming a gauntlet on each side of the walkway leading into the House. At one point, when Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) wanted to walk across the street to an office building, he was ushered into a car by his security detail and driven a couple hundred feet through the screaming crowd.

Saturday evening, more than a handful of House Republicans held an impromptu rally on the Capitol steps. Using a megaphone, the lawmakers urged on the crowd. Shortly after 6 p.m., Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) dared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to come out onto the House steps and address the more than 1,000 people who were gathered at the foot of the Capitol, prompting a loud and angry chant of "Nancy, Nancy, Nancy."

The protesters believe that the Obama administration and Congress are ignoring the public's opposition to the $940 billion legislation, which they consider it to be a government takeover of the health-care system. They carried signs saying "Remember in November"; one carried a broomstick with cardboard pasted onto it with the label "Here's Your Ride," for Pelosi.

Friday, March 19, 2010

An All-Too-Common Story - But This Time With a Good Ending

Link to Video on ABC News:

NEW HOPE, Pa. - March 17, 2010 (WPVI) -- When a local high school student made the decision to be open about his sexuality, his life changed, and not for the better.

15-year-old Joey Kemerling says he was always well liked in school.

"I fit in fairly well, I was friends with most kids," he said.

But in 8th grade, Joey told his friends he was gay.

"I was normal for a while and I said one little thing about myself and the entire world changed, I lost all my friends," Joey said.

Joey says one kid pulled a knife on him, another threatened his life; the bullying became so bad, Joey fell into a deep depression.

"I felt all alone and there were times when I didn't want to live anymore," he said.

But while Joey endured daily attacks at school, he realized he wasn't the only victim.

"I noticed a lot of other types of bullying, there was a lot of anti-Semitism, a lot of bullying against kids because they dressed differently, talked differently," Joey said.

On the advice of school counselors, Joey decided to fight back.

His weapon?


Joey created a page called the Equality Project. An online safe-zone where kids from as close as Bucks County and as far away as Egypt can share their stories and fears about all kinds of bullying and intimidation.

"So now everyday when I come home and I can read the stories, I can know that I'm not alone and there are other kids going through this and it helps a lot," he said.

Joey's mom, Joyce Mundy, who is also a principal of a nearby middle school, says the Equality Project has offered students something most schools have not.

"He has opened up dialogue among students of his school who he never would have had this conversation with," Joyce said.

Carrie Jacobs, executive director of the Attic, a Philadelphia based youth center for LGBT teens, says Joey's Facebook page is a safe haven for young adults who may not be able to find the support they need at home, school or even traditional support group.

"A website like this would offer an opportunity for kids who may be ashamed of who they are talk about the bullying they may be experiencing," Carrie said.

Although Joey's struggles with bullying may revolve around his sexuality, not all of the 4,000 members of the page are gay, but many of them easily relate to the pain caused by vicious words and overwhelming feelings of alienation.

"I was teased a lot as a child about being overweight; it really helps me to know that we every one feels that and that's really sad, but we can all use it to heal," Joey's friend Maddie Reilly said.

"It makes me feel like I can go online, I can share my story and someone is going to care about me," Joey's sister Jamie said.

"If I didn't have Facebook or a computer, I probably wouldn't be here today," Joey said.

Joey makes it very clear on the Facebook page that he is not a professional nor should any person confuse this page as a source of professional help. If you or someone you know is truly struggling with depression seek professional help.

Transgender Basics - Gender Identity Project

from National Youth Advocacy Coalition:

The Gender Identity Project at the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City came out with this wonderful video called "Transgender Basics," giving the "Trans101" rundown that achieves the accessible and manageable method that so many have attempted. The video is very informative, but, more importantly, allows a space for some really smart trans people to talk about themselves and their identities. Not only does the video go into depth about alternative gender models, terminology and technicalities, but I really appreciated the amount of time that is spent discussing genderqueer folks and understanding gender beyond the binary.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good News! Senate Commitee Votes Down Discriminatory Marriage Amendment

from the ACLU of PA:

HARRISBURG- The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee today voted against legislation to amend the state constitution to ban same sex marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania hailed the vote as a victory for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the commonwealth.

“The efforts to embed discrimination against LGBT people into our constitution have failed for a third time,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, citing failed attempts to pass similar legislation in 2006 and 2008. “This committee today recognized that LGBT people are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, and our family members and that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Senate Bill 707, introduced by Senator John Eichelberger of Blair County, was tabled by an 8-6, bipartisan vote of the committee. Although Senate rules allow the bill to be considered again at any time, Hoover noted that it is unlikely that the bill will be brought up before the end of the 2010 legislative session.

“This vote today spoke loud and clear,” Hoover said. “Members want to move on and address truly pressing issues for the people of Pennsylvania.”

Committee members who voted for the motion to table SB 707 included Republicans Pat Browne, Jane Earll, and Mary Jo White (Venango county!) and Democrats Daylin Leach, Lisa Boscola, Wayne Fontana, Michael Stack, and Jay Costa.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Narrow-Mindedness of Diane Gramley and the AFA of PA Once Again Bring Shame To Venango County

Rep. Josephs Objects to AFA of Pa.'s Homophobic Statements

HARRISBURG, Feb. 12 – State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phila., is going on record against the homophobic and ignorant statements recently made by Diane Gramley (pictured) of the American Family Association of Pa. in response to "Freedom to Marry Week," a week long slate of events in the state Capitol organized by groups and individuals in support of same-sex marriage.

Josephs, a longtime supporter of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights, including the freedom to marry if they so choose, participated in a news conference in support of legislation to permit same-sex marriage held during the week's events.

After the news conference, AFA of Pa. issued a news release calling same-sex marriage the "destruction of the foundation of a successful society."

Josephs said she felt she could not let its bias go unanswered.

"The organization offers no proof beyond the assertion of its president, Diane Gramley, that same-sex marriage is destructive of society or of opposite-sex marriages," Josephs answered.

The group's view also claims that those who engage in homosexual acts account for the majority of AIDS cases, that it is a gay disease.

"I am offended on my own behalf and on the behalf of those who suffer from HIV or AIDS, or have lost loved ones to that scourge. HIV is a horrible disease that impacts people worldwide. It does not discriminate. Gramley's statement is inflammatory and not worthy of serious discussion," Josephs added.

"All people are worthy and contribute to our society, including those who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. We should welcome and value all families, and support efforts to make this state a place where everybody will want to live, work and visit, not treat a select group as second-class citizens.

"I take the narrow-minded viewpoints expressed by AFA seriously in that it only further cements my resolve to fight for equal rights for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Reality of Bullying for LGBT Youth & Allies: It’s Everywhere

from HRC Back Story:

Two major studies on bullying among school aged children have been released this month. On March 4th, the Associated Press reported on a study funded by the U.S. Dept. of Justice which found a sharp decrease in the percentage of children who reported being physically bullied over the past year – from 22% in 2003 to 15% in 2008.

These findings are positive and at first glance you might even think that the bullying problem has been solved. Many attribute this decrease in bullying to the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs implemented following the Columbine shootings in 1999.

If you look closer you notice that the study did not address bullying related to sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Thanks to the work of organizations like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, we have a clear picture of school climate for LGBT youth and their allies and it’s not good. In fact, it is scary. Check out these stats from GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey, a national survey of LGBT youth conducted every two years:

* How many feel unsafe in school? Over half of the students surveyed felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation (60.8%) and more than a third because of their gender expression (38.4%)
* How many had been verbally harassed? Almost 9 of every 10 students surveyed were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation (86.2%) and two thirds of students because of their gender expression.
* How many were physically harassed? Almost half of students surveyed were physically harassed because of their sexual orientation (44.1%) and 3 of every 10 students because of their gender expression (30.4%).

So, what’s the deal? If schools are focusing on bullying prevention more than they have in the past, why has bullying of LGBT youth stayed stable since 2001? Well, for starters these anti-bullying programs – like the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program discussed in the AP article – by and large don’t talk explicitly about the reasons why youth are bullied. There’s no mention of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or other characteristics like race, family structure, socio-economic status and ability.

These anti-bullying programs are a great start but to create a truly positive school climate, schools must help students learn to understand and respect ways in which we are all alike and ways in which we are different. That’s why Welcoming Schools helps elementary schools clearly address family diversity (including families with LGBT parents), gender stereotyping and bullying rooted in anti-LGBT bias.

The second study released this month, conducted by Iowa State University, focuses on cyber bullying of LGBT youth and their allies. The study found that 54 percent of these youth report being cyber bullied – either for being LGBT or for associating with LGBT youth. Among the LGBT students, 45 percent have felt depressed as a result of being bullied and one in four report having suicidal thoughts. Cyber bullying has been linked to the suicides of several youth over the last few years (You may recall the tragic story of Megan Meier from 2006 that brought cyber bullying to the attention of many of us for the first time.). The survey also shows that over half of the respondents hesitate to tell their parents about this bullying (parents, check out some resources on cyber bullying).

So, thank you to Robyn Cooper and Warren Blumenfeld at ISU for conducting this study – it will be officially released in the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy later this month. Hopefully it will lead to creative and effective solutions to the threat cyber bullying poses to the youngest members of our community. The sad reality is that the online world, which for so many of us provided our first connection to the LGBT community, can now be a very negative place for LGBT youth and their friends. Bullying is pervasive in the real world and in cyber space.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Take Action: Help Pass LGBT-Inclusive Hate Crimes Legislation in Pennsylvania!

PA House of Representatives Vote on Hate Crimes Bill (HB 745)

Late last year, House Bill 745, an LGBT-inclusive Hate Crimes Bill passed the PA House Judiciary Committee with massive bipartisan support in an 18-8 vote!

In just a few weeks, a FULL Pennsylvania House of Representatives floor vote is expected on House Bill 745.

NOW is the time to step up the pressure on our State Representatives. HB 745 would amend the Title 18 Ethnic Intimidation Act to define crimes against individuals based on “actual or perceived ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity” as ethnic intimidation, or hate crimes.

Passing House Bill 745 would add the above listed groups as protected classes of Pennsylvanians, classes that are not protected on the state level from hate crimes and violence.

Now is more important than ever to CONTACT YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE serving in the PA House and tell them to vote in favor of HB 745!

From 2006 to 2007 hate violence in the state of Pennsylvania has increased by 28 percent.

Since 2001, over 430 Pennsylvanians have called Equality Advocates PA to report acts of hate violence. The rise in violence inflicted on those under the age of eighteen has more than doubled. Both the state and federal government have consistently failed to uphold their responsibility to put an end to the surge in violence and ensure that all citizens receive the protection they need.

According to one FBI report, current attacks on LGBT individuals are under-reported by at least 33%

Hate crimes legislation would encourage victims of hate violence to report the attacks. Equality Advocates PA received fifty-four calls from hate crimes victims in just one year.

Most importantly, 73% of the American people support hate crimes legislation.

They support strengthening laws to give local law enforcement, police and sheriff's departments the tools and resources they need to prevent and prosecute these heinous acts.

Take Action HERE

Thursday, March 11, 2010

From Disgust To Humanity

Why Has a Divided America Taken Gay Rights Seriously?
A philosopher credits the power of imagination.

By Dahlia Lithwick for Slate:

New Hampshire state Rep. Nancy Elliott, at a recent state Judiciary Committee meeting on a proposal to repeal the state's same-sex marriage bill, described the issue of gay marriage as follows: "taking the penis of one man and putting it in the rectum of another man and wriggling it around in excrement." Rep. Elliott continued, irrelevantly, "and you have to think, I'm not sure, would I allow that to be done to me?" (Elliott has since apologized for the portion of her remarks in which she falsely claimed that because gay marriage had been legalized, New Hampshire's fifth-graders were being taught to have anal sex in the public schools.) Last month at the trial over California's ban on same-sex marriage, one witness who supported the measure testified that homosexuals are "12 times more likely to molest children." And recently, while addressing the proposed repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council warned Larry King if gay soldiers could serve in the military, "we might have to return to the draft" because other soldiers would refuse to serve. Perkins noted that he had showered together with 80 other men during his own time in the military, and he'd feel threatened by a gay man showering there with him.

Welcome to Martha Nussbaum's politics of disgust: an America in which national policy can be discussed at the level of Beavis and Butthead, chasing each other around in circles with a stick that once touched poop.

In From Disgust to Humanity, Nussbaum, a prominent professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, explains that much of the political rhetoric around denying equal rights to gay Americans is rooted in the language of disgust. Their activities are depicted as "vile and revolting," threatening to "contaminate and defile" the rest of us. Looked at starkly, she argues, much of the anti-gay argument is bound up in feces and saliva, germs, contagion and blood.

The philosophical question for Nussbaum is whether disgust of this sort is a "reliable guide to lawmaking." She cites Leon Kass, head of the President's Council on Bioethics in the George W. Bush administration, who has argued that it is; that visceral public disgust contains a "wisdom" that lies beneath rational argument. Then she proceeds to annihilate that argument by offering example after example of discarded disgust-based policies, from India's denigration of its "untouchables" to the Nazi view of Jews, to a legally sanctioned regime of separate swimming pools and water fountains in the Jim Crow South. Time and again, Nussbaum argues, societies have been able to move beyond their own politics of disgust to what she calls "the politics of humanity," once they have finally managed to see others as fully human, with human aspirations and desires.

Nussbaum is a clear, essential thinker and writer, and to anyone who cares about the debate over gay rights, she offers here an elegant—even dispassionate—defense. She systematically chips away at most of the policy arguments against gay rights in America until it's clear they are either wholly unsupported by the data or rooted in disgust, fear, or a misreading of religious and historical texts.

Perhaps the most radical aspect of Nussbaum's work, however, is her prescription for moving past the politics of disgust to the politics of humanity. This will be a familiar call to anyone who listened to President Obama last spring, as he described the qualities he seeks in a jurist. Nussbaum calls for "imagination" and "empathy," for respect and the willingness to listen to new narratives. In effect, this is a moral call to walk in the other guy's moccasins before we call him revolting. She observes that this "capacity for generous and flexible engagement with the sufferings and hopes of other people" was described by Adam Smith (of all people) back in the 18th century, even though it is derided as unmoored, mushy-headed, and even dangerous today. In Nussbaum's formulation, imagination and empathy are essential to overcoming the childish biases that allow us to use our legal machinery to turn others into subhumans.

Nussbaum is clearly right about the results of greater public empathy and imagination. Recent polling has shown, for instance, that 75 percent of Americans now support allowing openly gay Americans to serve in the military, a massive jump from the 44 percent who supported it in 1993. And one of the most reliable predictors support for gay military service is personal acquaintance with an openly gay person: Among poll respondents with a gay friend or family member, 81 percent are now in favor of allowing them to serve. In a country more polarized than ever on virtually every social issue, we have been curiously willing to take gay rights seriously.

Perhaps that's because, as Nussbaum suggests, we have been so willing to hear compelling personal narratives, ranging from the fictional Will of Will and Grace to the stories of politicians and athletes and friends. She especially credits the arts—such as Sean Penn's exuberant portrayal of Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's film Milk—with sentiment-shifting power. She also assigns a catalytic role to the courts. Nussbaum invokes the dawning public awareness of how black schoolchildren experienced "separate but equal" as an assault on their self-image in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. She cites the striking down of anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia as another turning point, spurring a broader recognition that the pursuit of passion, fulfillment, and happiness belongs to all couples. It has often been the judiciary that has pushed Americans to imagine a reality, and a dream of equality, larger than their own experience.

Nussbaum works her way through the relevant case law, from Bowers v. Hardwick (finding no right to gay sodomy in the U.S. Constitution) to Romer v. Evans (striking down Colorado's Amendment 2, which disqualified gays and lesbians from the benefits of anti-discrimination laws), frequently analogizing the struggle for gay rights to the struggle for religious equality in America. In both instances, Americans had to learn to tolerate people with beliefs they found abhorrent, even disgusting, because they understood, as she puts it, that "even when we believe others are going astray, the faculty of conscience in them deserves respect from our laws and institutions."

Ultimately, the most intriguing aspect of Nussbaum's call for greater imagination is that, as she shows (and as Homer Simpson famously said of alcohol), imagination is in fact both the cause of and the solution to so many of our problems. Nussbaum details the ways in which our overactive imaginations are often the source of our biases. As she traces the genesis of the fear and disgust American feel toward homosexuals, she describes what she calls "projective disgust"—the magical thinking that allows us to believe that things that disgust us (i.e., male homosexuality) are contagious and that heterosexual sex is somehow better and less messy than it really is. So the reason male (as opposed to female) homosexual sex is ultimately experienced as so revolting and so terrifying, Nussbaum contends, is that it is viscerally threatening; it raises the possibility of being penetrated and violated. The very "gaze of a homosexual male is seen as contaminating because it says 'you can be penetrated.' "

What Nussbaum is really saying here is that Perkins experiences discomfort at the prospect of showering with 79 straight men and one gay one because in his imagination, "the very look of a gay man can be contaminating." In his imagination there has been an assault, even though nobody really wants to assault Tony Perkins in the shower. Elliott, too, lost in her fantasy of being personally assaulted by excrement, cannot help but experience gay marriage as a physical assault of herself. This isn't rational. It's fantasy and magical thinking, and that's what makes it so initially counterintuitive to claim that this type of irrational logic—the abundance of wild imagination that leads us to conclude that every gay man wants to invade our homes and assault our kids—can be conquered only by yet more imagination.

What Nussbaum really means, I think, is that we must replace one set of fantasies—about homosexuals as aggressive outsiders who seek to defile us—with the reality that they are just like us, people with aspirations and dreams and desires. In a sense she is using the word imagination in the first instance to describe a solipsistic experience: the subjective fear that the misunderstood "other" is coming to defile you. At the cure stage, however, imagination stops being a solo sport and becomes a way to reach beyond your own experience. Instead of dwelling on the other as other, you find some point at which his dreams and yours look similar. It's a profound idea: that we might use empathy and imagination to see people as they really are.

Nussbaum doesn't fully unpack the difference between the pernicious imaginings of the bigot and the imagination that opens our eyes to the experience of the outsider. She deftly shows how judicial empathy and imagination are critical to broadening American civil liberties beyond a single jurist's life experience, but doesn't quite answer the question that nearly derailed Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation last summer: Does judicial empathy itself risk being invoked to back up bias, and can it be constrained? Nussbaum cannot be arguing that every episode of judicial empathy brings us more liberty. After all, when Justice Anthony Kennedy imagined himself right into the shoes of a mother who regretted her abortion in the 2007 "partial birth abortion" case, Gonzales v. Carhart, the result was a Supreme Court decision that made American women less free, not more so.

Nussbaum's cure raises questions, but they should not obscure her basic diagnosis of the problem, which rings perfectly true. Centuries of experience have taught us that making law and policy from a place of imagined contagion and childish disgust has never brought us closer to justice.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Too Much Sex?

No Such Thing -- Why Sex Addiction Is Total B.S.

By Raymond J. Lawrence, CounterPunch

American befuddlement over matters of sex is on the increase, in spite of the fact that one can hardly imagine the subject becoming more befuddling to the people of this country than it already is.

Sex addiction is the latest star in America’s sexual burlesque. Sex addiction has of course been a malaprop from its first usage. Addiction was originally and properly defined as a physiological dependence on a substance to which the body had grown accustomed, such as alcohol, nicotine, heroin and various other drugs. The cure was to end the dependency and abstain from further use of the substance in order to avoid a recurrence of the physiological dependency. These treatments do work and many people have been cured of their addictions and never returned to the addictive substance.

Applying such a metaphor to sexual pleasure creates a misleading and ominous innuendo. Sex is not an addictive substance. It’s a human interaction on which the survival of the species is dependent. It is also possibly the most pleasurable and sought after activity known to humankind, and arguably an experience no one should be deprived of. Most normal people consider more rather than less sexual pleasure to be a major objective in life.

Following the substance abuse mode implies that the only cure for an addiction to sexual pleasure would be a celibate or monastic life, a complete renunciation of the alleged addictive sexual pleasure.

The very idea of sexual pleasure as a harmful addiction plays precisely into the hands of one of the most perverse aspects of Western religious history, namely the teaching that sex is a work of the devil redeemed only by the act of procreation itself. Reliance on the notion of sex addiction in counseling and psychiatric treatment is ominous.

Christianity as a world religion has much to commend it on balance. Nevertheless, its posture toward sexual pleasure has been abysmal. In that respect it should be noted that Christianity, of all the major world religions, is the only one to cast sexual pleasure in such a negative light. Never mind that Christianity’s distaff side - Protestants and others - challenged such negativity toward sexual pleasure. They were eventually and unfortunately drowned out in the debate. It is no coincidence that currently the most Christian of nations, the U.S., is also the most negative toward sexual pleasure. (And at the same time the most confused sexually.) Europe as gone blessedly post-Christian.

We must suspect that the sex addiction proponents unconsciously wish to rebuild something like the medieval Christian social order where virtually every cultured and literate person was bereft of sexual pleasure for life, save for sexual pleasure in the service of procreation

Some psychiatrists are now getting into the fray, offering treatment for sex addiction. However, the Bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is currently being prepared for its 5th edition, and is wisely declining to introduce sex addiction to its manual. It does, however, come close by introducing the category of hypersexuality as a mental disorder. This neologism is the editors’ own special, and arguably less troublesome, substitute for sex addiction. But as the saying goes, it walks like the proverbial sex addiction duck.

The pundits are now weighing in on the new DSM 5. Allan Frances in The Los Angeles Times is worried that philanderers and rapists will now be able to claim mental illness as a defense of their anti-social behavior and thereby escape punishment. George Will in The Washington Post astutely raises the problem of medicalizing the assessment of character, which he unaccountably blames on liberals. I thought I was a liberal, but I’m as concerned as Will about defining character or the lack thereof as a burden of psychiatric diagnosticians. And by extension, character as an expected outcome of proper medication.

So now according to the working version of the new DSM-5, psychiatrists will be able to assess whether one is having too much sex, or even whether one simply wants too much sex. Or too little. They will presumably have some kind of measuring rod to determine what is too much or too little.

This new project, of assessing who might be wanting or getting too much sexual pleasure, or too little, should create many more jobs for psychiatrists. We’ve been needing something to improve the job market. Maybe this will do it. Perhaps psychiatry will now join hands with the worst elements of Christianity and recreate the medieval Christian dream, a world where the only sexual pleasure allowable is that accidentally associated with the desire to procreate.

Raymond J. Lawrence is an Episcopal cleric, recently retired Director of Pastoral Care, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and author of numerous opinion pieces in newspapers in the U.S., and author of the recently published, Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom (Praeger).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When Public Schools Peddle Ex-Gay Propaganda

by Michael A. Jones @

You expect your kids to come home from school with homework, maybe a report card, or a note from the teacher. But would you expect your kids to come home with a flier from an ex-gay organization? At a public school no less?

Turn to Montgomery County, just outside of Washington, D.C., where a group of high school students were officially given literature from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), an ex-gay organization that believes that sexual orientation is a self-chosen identity, and collaborates with organizations who view homosexuality as destructive. What did the flier given to students say?

According to, the flier told students that if they were LGBT or knew someone who identified as LGBT, that they could change. Oh, and of course, that scientists have yet to discover the “gay center of the brain.”

“Every year thousands of people with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave a gay identity through gender affirming programs, including therapy, faith based ministries, and other non-judgmental environments,” the PFOX flier stated. “No ‘gay gene’ or gay center of the brain has been found. No medical test exists to determine if a person is homosexual. Sexual orientation is based on feelings and is a matter of self-affirmation and public declaration.”

Huh, maybe next week the Montgomery County Public Schools would like to hand out fliers suggesting that the world is flat? Because that carries about as much scientific fact as what PFOX is saying. Tell the Montgomery County Public Schools that peddling propaganda from ex-gay organizations is not only harmful to LGBT students, it’s also an affront to science.

PFOX claims to have distributed the flier as a means of drawing attention to the discrimination that ex-gay people face. But as the Washington City Paper’s Amanda Hess points out, PFOX doesn’t really have all that many ex-gays among its membership. Just a lot of straight people who talk about how gay people can change their sexual orientation.

But PFOX and their bad science aside, what was the Montgomery County Public School system thinking? The President of the School Board even admitted that these fliers “probably” ran counter to what children are taught in the classroom.

“These fliers are probably counter to what is available in our health curriculum,” said President Patricia O’Neill. Really? So would you hand out a flier that says 2+2=67 too?

The school district said they were forced by a previous lawsuit to distribute the fliers. But does litigation really mean giving your students misinformation? As notes, that’s just not a good enough justification.

"This is damaging both to gay adolescents who need understanding and accurate information at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable, and to the others, who are forming attitudes and stereotypes, and are likely to believe this junk about gay people choosing not to be gay, especially since it is handed out by their teachers, at school,” they write."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Word Is Out

from National Public Radio:

The '70s: Between the Stonewall riots and the emergence of AIDS, it was one of the last moments in mainstream American society when homosexuality was still "the love that dare not speak its name." Yet one pioneering movie managed not just to investigate the lives of more than two dozen "out" gay men and lesbians, but to allow them to tell their own stories in their own ways.

The documentary, called Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, is widely appreciated among film scholars, but it's been relatively inaccessible to the general public since its theatrical release in 1978. That changed this winter, when a newly restored print from the UCLA Film and Television Archives hit theaters; a DVD release is set to follow soon.

One of the first films made by gay people about gay people, Word is Out documented 26 very different lives — from the early activist Harry Hay to a young black Princeton undergraduate to a white corporate executive and a working-class Latina couple — talking about their experiences. And the key word was "their."

"Even as a black lesbian, I wouldn't want to be seen as [saying], 'This is how black lesbians are," begins one young woman named Betty (now Achebe) Powell, at pains not to speak for an entire group.

But the film's diversity is mostly emotional. The subjects reflect frankly on their relationships with families and with lovers, and the film takes on an earnest, gentle tone that initially irritated some gay activists.

"I remember thinking, 'Why isn't it sexier?'" recalls Jeff Weinstein, a former arts editor for The Village Voice. "And I remember thinking of it as spinach. I've changed my mind. It's only grown in its importance. I think people have to see this, to see how difficult it was, how brave people were."

He's referring, in part, to the interviews with a woman identified in the film only as "Whitey," who spent most of her teenage years institutionalized because of her lesbianism. Her psychiatrist advised eating green salads as part of her "cure."

But Whitey was relatively lucky compared to one mild-mannered man, who could not even recall how many shock treatments he'd received.

"It would be between 10 and 50," he says, voice tight.

The people interviewed in Word is Out tell their stories quietly in living rooms, offices and backyards. In one interview, David Gillon sits in a sunny meadow and says that for the longest time, he thought perhaps he was just a cold person who could never love anybody.

"And when I fell in love with this guy, it meant so much to me," he says. "It meant I was a real person."

Gillon was a young man when he agreed to be part of the film, but not as young as filmmaker Rob Epstein, who was still a teenager when he started working on the documentary.

"It was my film school," Epstein says now, on the phone from the Sundance Film Festival. Epstein, who went on to direct the acclaimed documentaries The Celluloid Closet and The Times of Harvey Milk, was screening his new drama, Howl — based on the life of beat poet Allen Ginsberg — to the Park City crowd.

And the young man he spoke with so many years ago? David Gillon is now 57 years old, and says he's still friends with the man who was his first love.

"Being in the movie made me squirm," he confesses today. It was overwhelming, he says, to be sharing screen time with gay-rights activists like Harry Hay and Sally Gearhart.

But after the film's release, Gillon got hundreds of letters from people telling him he'd given them hope of finding love too. He says he saw it as his duty to answer every letter in a friendly, upbeat tone.

"And I'd say, 'If you're in the neighborhood, stop in,'" he recalls. "I didn't think that was going to happen, but it seemed that everyone ... showed up practically the next day."

Gillon says that's evidence of how isolated so many gay men and lesbians felt, and what a relief it was to see people talking honestly and without shame about their lives.

When the Word is Out DVD comes out in June, it will include a short follow-up documentary about the film's subjects. The update tells of the death of about half the men from HIV-related illnesses, but it also revisits one of the women who now identifies as straight. Two of the other women are still together; they have nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Those great-grandchildren might have a hard time understanding how differently gay people lived in the 1970s, and for that Jeff Weinstein partially credits Word is Out. Back in the film's day, he says, "other people were always defining who gay people were."

Word is Out, by contrast, gave gay people a chance to change the conversation, and discuss the sometimes banal, sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful realities of their lives.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

HIV Best Practices Summit

National HIV Best Practices Summit:

LGBTQ Youth of Color and HIV Prevention

May 11-14, 2010 - Washington, DC


The National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC) is convening a national summit for

HIV/AIDS and youth service program managers who are currently working with youth of color and/or LGBTQ youth to share best practices with colleagues and be trained in using NYAC’s You Know Different social marketing campaign. At this Summit, NYAC hopes to achieve the following:

1) Best practice sharing and national HIV service provider networking:

Allow 10 organizational representatives doing similar work to from across the country share their successes and problem solve challenges in HIV prevention and outreach to LGBTQ youth of color

2) Build a cohort of agencies utilizing You Know Different: All participants will be trained in social marketing and specifically, the You Know Different social marketing campaign created by NYAC.

Participants can look forward to receiving training on social marketing as an outreach tool, using social networks to recruit peers for HIV testing and best practices in program design for LGBTQ youth of color. This summit is designed as a capacity-building, professional development, and deep networking opportunity for program managers and supervisors who serve LGBTQ youth of color in HIV prevention and related fields.


The summit will involve two and a half days of intensive training, best practice sharing, team building, strategizing, and problem-solving activities. Participants will be asked to present a “best practice presentation” from their agency or own work experience in HIV prevention and outreach to LGBTQ youth of color. NYAC intends to develop a best practice publication highlighting the accomplishments of participating organizations. NYAC is covering all expenses for this summit, including hotel, travel and meals. Each participant will also receive a $150 stipend to assist with ground transportation and miscellaneous expenses.


To be eligible for this summit, applicants must be currently functioning in a program managerial or supervisor role in the delivery of HIV prevention and outreach at a community-based organization or AIDS service organization. All applicants must be willing and able to travel to Washington, DC for the summit and committed to preparing a 30-minute presentation to share as their “best practice.” Persons who identify as LGBTQ, youth, and/or people of color are strongly encouraged to apply for this opportunity!

Learn More HERE

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Right-Wing Rage: Hate Groups, Vigilantes and Conspiracists on the Verge of Violence

By Mark Potok, Southern Poverty Law Center

The radical right caught fire last year, as broad-based populist anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.

Hate groups stayed at record levels -- almost 1,000 -- despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by nearly 80 percent, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most remarkably of all, so-called "Patriot" groups -- militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose “one-world government” on liberty-loving Americans -- came roaring back after years out of the limelight.

The anger seething across the American political landscape -- over racial changes in the population, soaring public debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal Obama Administration that are seen as "socialist" or even "fascist" -- goes beyond the radical right. The "tea parties" and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.

“We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history,” Chip Berlet, a veteran analyst of the American radical right, wrote earlier this year. "We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage."

Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Just a quarter think the government can be trusted. And the anti-tax tea party movement is viewed in much more positive terms than either the Democratic or Republican parties, the poll found.

The signs of growing radicalization are everywhere. Armed men have come to Obama speeches bearing signs suggesting that the "tree of liberty" needs to be "watered" with "the blood of tyrants." The Conservative Political Action Conference held this February was co-sponsored by groups like the John Birch Society, which believes President Eisenhower was a Communist agent, and Oath Keepers, a Patriot outfit formed last year that suggests, in thinly veiled language, that the government has secret plans to declare martial law and intern patriotic Americans in concentration camps. Politicians pandering to the anti-government right in 37 states have introduced "Tenth Amendment Resolutions," based on the constitutional provision keeping all powers not explicitly given to the federal government with the states. And, at the Web site titled "A Well Regulated Militia," a recent discussion of how to build "clandestine safe houses" to stay clear of the federal government included a conversation about how mass murderers like Timothy McVeigh and Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph were supposedly betrayed at such houses.

Doing the Numbers

The number of hate groups in America has been going up for years, rising 54 percent between 2000 and 2008 and driven largely by an angry backlash against non-white immigration and, starting in the last year of that period, the economic meltdown and the climb to power of an African American president.

According to the latest annual count by the Southern Poverty Law Center), these groups rose again slightly in 2009 -- from 926 in 2008 to 932 last year -- despite the demise of a key neo-Nazi group. The American National Socialist Workers Party, which had 35 chapters in 28 states, imploded shortly after the October 2008 arrest of founder Bill White for making threats against his enemies.

At the same time, the number of what the SPLC designates as "nativist extremist" groups -- organizations that go beyond mere advocacy of restrictive immigration policy to actually confront or harass suspected immigrants -- jumped from 173 groups in 2008 to 309 last year. Virtually all of these vigilante groups have appeared since the spring of 2005.

But the most dramatic story by far has been with the anti-government Patriots.

The militias and the larger Patriot movement first came to Americans’ attention in the mid-1990s, when they appeared as an angry reaction to what was seen as a tyrannical government bent on crushing all dissent. Sparked most dramatically by the death of 76 Branch Davidians during a 1993 law enforcement siege in Waco, Texas, those who joined the militias also railed against the Democratic Clinton Administration and initiatives like gun control and environmental regulation. Although the Patriot movement included people formerly associated with racially based hate groups, it was above all animated by a view of the federal government as the primary enemy, along with a fondness for anti-government conspiracy theories. By early this decade, the groups had largely disappeared from public view.

But last year, as noted in the SPLC’s August report, "The Second Wave: Return of the Militias," a dramatic resurgence in the Patriot movement and its paramilitary wing, the militias, began. Now, the latest SPLC count finds that an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) — a 244 percent jump.

That is cause for grave concern. Individuals associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead.

Already there are signs of similar violence emanating from the radical right. Since the installation of Barack Obama, right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers. Racist skinheads and others have been arrested in alleged plots to assassinate the nation’s first black president. One man from Brockton, Mass. — who told police he had learned on white supremacist websites that a genocide was under way against whites — is charged with murdering two black people and planning to kill as many Jews as possible on the day after Obama’s inauguration. Most recently, a rash of individuals with antigovernment, survivalist or racist views have been arrested in a series of bomb cases.

As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas, aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible mainstream. While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences like FOX News’ Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Beck, for instance, re-popularized a key Patriot conspiracy theory -- the charge that FEMA is secretly running concentration camps -- before finally “debunking” it.

Last year also experienced levels of cross-pollination between different sectors of the radical right not seen in years. Nativist activists increasingly adopted the ideas of the Patriots; racist rants against Obama and others coursed through the Patriot movement; and conspiracy theories involving the government appeared in all kinds of right-wing venues. A good example is the upcoming Second Amendment March in Washington, D.C. The Web site promoting the march is topped by a picture of a colonial militiaman, and key supporters include Larry Pratt, a long-time militia enthusiast with connections to white supremacists, and Richard Mack, a conspiracy-mongering former sheriff associated with the Patriot group, Oath Keepers.

What may be most noteworthy about the march, however, is its date -- April 19. That is the date of the first shots fired at Lexington in the Revolutionary War. And it is also the anniversary of the fiery end of the government siege in Waco and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Know Your Smear Campaign

How the Catholic Hierarachy Lies, Claims Gays Attack Religious Freedom

from Pam's House Blend:

In early 2006, in the wake of the 2004 Goodridge decision legalizing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the Archdiocese of Boston told Catholic Charities to cease its adoption services, claiming that due to the new marriage equality law, the Charities would be forced to place children with gay couples, which the Vatican had declared immoral in 2003. However, as it normally does, the church hierarchy was playing fast and loose with the facts.

According to Boston Globe reporting in October 2005, Catholic Charities in Boston had placed 13 children with gay couples since 1987, finalizing their first gay adoption in 1997. All 13 children were considered difficult cases due to being older, or special needs. This was done quietly, out of the eye of the public, and right under the nose of the Boston Archdiocese, whose bishops either didn't know, or presumably cared more about the money coming in than a few gays adopting older, special-needs children whom no one else wanted. After all, Catholic Charities had to abide by anti-discrimination laws in order to receive public funds. Then along came Goodridge and marriage equality in 2004, a year after the Vatican's proclamation. Suddenly, the Archdiocese had a big problem. Attention was on Masschusetts from the Vatican, and the recent Globe reporting drew attention. The Archdiocese directed Catholic Charities to abide by Vatican teachings, and cease placing children with gay couples.

(There's a phrase somewhere about waste products and giant oscillators that describes what happened next, I'm sure of it...)

Upon being told that they would have to cease placing adoptive children with gay couples, the 42 board members of Catholic Charities unanimously voted to continue the practice. Recognizing both the legal and moral imperative to not discriminate, they agreed that doing so would alienate parishioners, paint the Church as bigots, and disqualify Catholic Charities from the majority of its state-allocated and donor funds. Catholic Charities refused to discriminate.

In order to play both sides of the coin, ie, receive public money and still abide by Vatican decree, in February 2006 the Archdiocese initially sought a religious exemption to the state anti-discrimination laws. This would allow them to refuse family services to LGBT families and still receive public money.

Any agency in Massachusetts that handles adoptions must obtain a state license, which prohibits them from turning down prospective parents based on sexual orientation, religion, and race, among other factors, said Constantia Papanikolaou, general counsel for the Department of Early Education and Care, which licenses all adoption agencies. If an agency knowingly discriminates, it could be stripped of its license to broker all adoptions.

''You can't have a discrimination policy," Papanikolaou said. ''It's a condition of their license."

The effort failed. When the bishops tried to plead religious exemption, the Commonwealth refused. Then-Governor Mitt Romney admitted he did not have the authority to grant such an exemption, and there was not enough support among the Legislature. The Archdiocese directed Catholic Charities to cease placing adoptive children with gay couples, and to hell with the public funds and the adoptive services license. In response, seven members of the board resigned in protest.

Among those who quit was Peter Meade, executive vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and chairman of the board until last month. Meade expressed concern that the bishops' position on gay adoptions will alienate Catholics in the state and reduce much-needed donations for the agency's charitable work.

We ''cannot participate in an effort to pursue legal permission to discriminate against Massachusetts citizens who want to play their part in building strong families," the seven members said in a statement.

This stunt by the Archdiocese cost Catholic Charities not just their public funds, but millions in donor dollars as well. Not only were Catholic Charities disqualified from receiving tapayers funds, they were also cut out of the pot by charitable organizations such as United Way, which has a strict anti-discrimination policy. In 2005, 24% of Catholic Charities' budget came from such private funding. The Church couldn't afford to fund adoption services without public money and the majority of their philanthropic org money.

Catholic Charities of Boston shut down their adoption services altogether in March 2006. They didn't shut down their adoption services simply because they didn't want to place children with gay couples. They shut down because they could no longer afford to fund the services, having lost their cash flow from the Commonwealth's Treasury and private philanthropists once they instituted a policy of discrimination. And all at the behest of Archdiocese, which only three years earlier had paid $157 million in claims by victims of child rape by priests.

This, Blenders, is the crapheap that anti-gay religious hate groups and their affiliates sell as an "attack on religious freedom." This is the story they warp and twist and feed to voters, who don't know any better. These are the facts, and I urge you all to remember them the next time you hear the lie that "gays are attacking free practice of religion." Religious organizations have the right to discriminate against whomever they wish. What they do NOT have is the right to taxpayer money while doing so.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just For A Little Fun ...

Exodus International Launches Campaign In Support Of Anti-Gay Bullying

from Joe My God:

GLSEN's national Day Of Silence is six weeks away, but the "ex-gay" mental cases at Exodus International have already launched their "Day Of Truth" campaign to stop students from being taught that it's wrong to beat up and harass gay kids. According to Exodus, the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund is standing by with 1200 attorneys to represent anybody that faces opposition from school administrators.

In the past, students who have attempted to exercised their rights to talk about topics related to homosexuality have been censored or, in some cases, punished for their beliefs. It is important that students stand up for their First Amendment right to hear and speak the Truth about human sexuality in order to protect that freedom for future generations. The Day of Truth provides an opportunity to speak the Truth in love and have an honest conversation about homosexuality and at the same time publicly exercise your constitutional right to free speech. Over the past 6 years, we have had over 17,000 participants in the Day of Truth. This year, even more students are expected to take part in the Day of Truth, as news of this vital project continues to spread across the country. The Alliance Defense Fund has more than 1,200 allied attorneys who are available to assist you if you run into complications with school officials or pro-homosexual advocacy groups on your campus.

It's more than a little sad that the same people who were likely brutalized for their homosexuality while in school are now campaigning to support their tormentors.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Heads Up: Prayer Warriors and Sarah Palin Are Organizing Spiritual Warfare to Take Over America

By Bill Berkowitz, AlterNet:

Imagine a religious movement that makes geographic maps of where demons reside and claims among its adherents the Republican Party's most recent vice presidential nominee and whose leaders have presided over prayer sessions (one aimed at putting the kibosh on health-care reform) with a host of leading GOP figures.

It's a movement whose followers played a significant role in the battle over Proposition 8, California's anti-same-sex marriage initiative, and Uganda's infamous proposed Anti-Homosexuality Law, more commonly associated with the Family, a religious network of elites drawn from the ranks of business and government throughout the world. But the movement we're imagining encompasses the humble and the elite alike, supporting a network of "prayer warriors” in all 50 states, within the ranks of the U.S. military, and at the far reaches of the globe -- all guided by an entire genre of books, texts, videos and other media.

Imagine that, and you've just dreamed up the New Apostolic Reformation, the largest religious movement you've never heard of.

NAR's videos, according to researcher Rachel Tabachnick, "demonstrate the taking control of communities and nations through large networks of 'prayer warriors' whose spiritual warfare is used to expel and destroy the demons that cause societal ills. Once the territorial demons, witches, and generational curses are removed, the 'born-again' Christians in the videos take control of society."

The movement's notion of "spiritual warfare" has spread from the California suburbs to an East-Coast inner city, and has impacted policy decisions in the developing world. Movement operatives are well-connected enough to have testified before Congress and to have received millions of dollars in government abstinence-only sex-education grants, and bizarre enough to maintain that in its prototype communities, the movement has healed AIDS, purified polluted streams and even grown huge vegetables. Leaders in the NAR movement refer to themselves as "apostles."

In the days leading up to the historic vote on health-care reform in the Senate, Apostle Lou Engle led the Family Research Council's "Prayercast” against health-care reform, a Webcast featuring Republican Senators Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Sam Brownback (Kans.), and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Earlier in the year, Engle, who leads the group TheCall, prayed over Newt Gingrich at a Virginia event called Rediscovering God in America. In 2008, Engle, at an event he staged at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, advocated acts of Christian martyrdom to end abortion and same-sex marriage. This "apostle" claims LGBT people are possessed by demons. And Engle is not the only NAR apostle with political connections.

Presidential campaign watchers got their first taste of the New Apostolic Reformation when it was revealed that Sarah Palin, while mayor of Wasilla, had been prayed over in a laying-on-of-hands by Rev. Thomas Muthee of Kenya, director of the NAR East Africa Spiritual Warfare Network, in a ceremony designed to protect Palin from witches and demons. Muthee, it turns out, is famous in his native land for driving out of town a woman he deemed a witch, a charge that had her neighbors calling for her stoning.

Palin, according to Alaskan Apostle Mary Glazier, became part of her prayer network at the age of 24. Wasilla is no stranger to wandering NAR leaders. Last June, Apostle Lance Wallnau stopped through in the course of his world travels, promoting the movement's Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture campaign at Wasilla Alaska Assembly of God Church -- the very church at which Muthee laid hands on Palin. (The "seven mountains" are the realms of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.) Other NAR luminaries dropping by Wasilla last year include leading international Apostles Naomi Dowdy and Dutch Sheets.

Apostle Samuel Rodriguez heads an organization of 15 millions Hispanic evangelicals (the Sacramento, Calif.-based National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference) and was courted by both Democratic and Republican candidates during the 2008 presidential election.

In 2006, former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Penn., who appears to be positioning himself for a run at the presidency, took the stage with Apostle Alistair Petrie at a NAR "Transformation Summit" in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.

The International Transformations Network conferences led by Apostle Ed Silvoso have featured Hawaii's Republican Lt. Gov. James "Duke” Aiona (who is currently running for governor) and Uganda First Lady Janet Museveni. Silvoso has been hosted abroad by heads of state, including Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni and Gloria Arroyo, president of the Philippines.

Apostle Julius Oyet was recognized by the Ugandan Parliament for the draconian anti-gay bill recently introduced in that country, and is a star in one of the movement's Transformation movies. An influential Guatemalan pastor, Apostle Harold Caballeros, made a quixotic run for the presidency of that country in 2007.

Christian publishing magnate Stephen Strang is an apostle, as well as a director for John Hagee's Christians United for Israel, while Apostle Tom Hess hosts the annual Christian Government Leaders Conference in the Israeli Knesset.

Outside the realm of politics, Apostle Jim Ammerman, as head of a pentecostal chaplains' organization, accounts for more than 270 chaplains, including U.S. military and civilian chaplains. "Ammerman is a former military chaplain whose Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches was approved in 1984 by the Department of Defense as an endorsing agency to place chaplains in the United States Military," writes Rachel Tabachnick.

Apostle Bernard Wilks, in conjunction with Apostle Ed Silvoso's International Transformation Network, has assigned a "prayer warrior" to almost every single street in Newark, New Jersey, to pray for "transformation” of the city.

The movement has emerged from the largest single block of Protestant Christianity on the globe -- sometimes called charismatic, neo-charismatic or neo-Pentecostal -- one often overlooked since its adherents do not comprise a single denomination, and often belong to churches characterized as "non-denominational."

Charismatic Christians are born-again believers who have a secondary conversion experience, one they claim gives them supernatural gifts, such as speaking in tongues, casting out demons, faith healing, and other "signs and wonders" they believe will help to evangelize the world in preparation for the end times. Charismatics are typically Protestant, but there is also a movement of charismatic Catholics.

At the top of the New Apostolic Reformation authority structure is Presiding Apostle C. Peter Wagner, a longtime Christian educator (who recently enjoyed a brief blip of fame when he was revealed as the graduate school mentor of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church in California). Wagner partnered with Ted Haggard, then pastor of the New Life Christian Church in Colorado Springs, to build the initial nerve center of the movement in that town. (Haggard went on to become president of the National Association of Evangelicals, but resigned both that post and pastorship of his megachurch in 2006 when he was famously disgraced by revelations of a gay affair and drug use.)

AlterNet turned to Rachel Tabachnick for insight on the New Apostolic Reformation and its political impact. Tabachnick is a nationally recognized researcher and writer on the religious right and its "end-times" narratives.

Bill Berkowitz: Most people are unaware of the New Apostolic Reformation. Tell us what we should know.

Rachel Tabachnick: Imagine for a moment that a large block of the evangelical world decided to re-organize themselves in a hierarchy somewhat resembling the Roman Catholic Church, with leaders in authority over each nation and region. And additionally imagine that every person -- from the individual congregants to the top leaders -- would have someone to whom they are accountable. It seems unthinkable, but this is exactly what the "apostles" and "prophets" [of the New Apostolic Reformation] are doing.

C. Peter Wagner streamlined the ideology and named it the New Apostolic Reformation. Wagner serves as the presiding apostle of the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) which includes several hundred apostles across the U.S. and about 40 nations, international training centers and prayer warrior communication networks in all 50 states and worldwide. Those in the top tier of Wagner's network each have apostolic authority over other ministries, sometimes hundreds or even thousands. (See Talk2Action's Resource Directory for the New Apostolic Reformation.)

This is not just a church movement. [Those called] market apostles work in business, finance, communications, media and also lead the Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture mandate. Bruce Wilson [a co-founder of Talk2Action] and I have both written about this campaign encouraging Christians to take dominion over seven spheres of government and society.

Enterprises known as "kingdom businesses" play an important role: A Toronto apostle's ministry includes an oil and gas company; two ICA apostles head Markets Unlocked, a business matchmaking system that connects kingdom business customers and suppliers, and claims exclusive agreements for over a half billion dollars of products and services. Trained intercessors are now paid to pray for businesses, and ICA apostles work closely with the International Christian Chamber of Commerce.

Apostles are also active providing social services, which Wagner describes as a method for accessing government and society. Apostle Doug Stringer, who is a former fitness instructor, is now listed as a policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, and claims to have distributed $30 million of gifts and donations during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He has expanded operations to Fiji, Poland and Southeast Asia.

Wagner teachers that there will soon be a "great transfer of wealth" from the ungodly to the godly and has set up structures in preparation. The Wagner Leadership Institute teaches courses in prophecy as well as foreign currency exchange.

BB: How is the movement structured, and how has it grown so rapidly?

RT: Church growth is the key concept. Other Christian dominionist movements propose austere biblical law but Wagner explained in his 2008 book that he believes rapid growth of the movement will allow Christians to take dominion inside a democratic framework.

Wagner, who will be 80 this year, was a professor of church growth for 30 years at Fuller Theological Seminary, and promoted explosive mega-church growth. He has mainstreamed the concept of cell church structures, a strategy which began in Asia and South America and has resulted in congregations of tens of thousands. Cell churches are organized like a pyramid marketing scheme with small groups, usually with no more than 12, tasked with spinning off new cell groups and growing the church. This also resembles a military structure: Each cell group has a leader and lower level leaders answer to and are accountable to their superiors, on up the chain.

Such "spiritual accountability" schemes used to be called shepherding, but because of bad press and reports of coercive and abusive practices, it has been rebranded as "discipling." Lay people in cell groups perform many of the functions that would normally be carried out by pastors, and pastors become like corporate CEOs. This is how many of today's megachurches function. In his role as a church growth specialist, Wagner was able to repackage radical shepherding and cell structures as mainstream concepts for church growth.

These authoritarian strategies were further sanitized by Wagner's most famous student, Saddleback Church 's Rick Warren. Recently, while commenting about Uganda's proposed draconian anti-gay legislation, Warren denied that Wagner was his dissertation adviser. However, I have a copy of the dissertation which lists Wagner as "mentor,” and also explains Warren's desire to rid churches of voting, boards, and democratic structure. In Wagner's 1999 book Churchquake: How the New Apostolic Reformation is Shaking up the Church as We Know It, Wagner describes this radical re-structuring: "The traditional concept is that the congregation owns the church and that they hire the pastor to do their ministry for them. New apostolic churches, like Rick Warren's, turn this around 180 degrees…”

The New Apostolics are now trying to apply shepherding to entire communities and even nations. Sara Diamond, a pioneer in the field of dominion theology, warned in 1989 that charismatic shepherding was becoming a "masterpiece of political strategy." Some of the very same religious right strategists that Diamond wrote about in 1989 are now apostles in the ICA.

BB: What do the terms 'spiritual mapping' and 'spiritual warfare' mean and how do they function?

RT: Spiritual warfare is not a new concept; it can mean something as benign as a person's internal struggle to resist evil. These days, the New Apostolics have co-opted the term.

During the 1990s, in a frenzied effort to evangelize the world before 2000, Wagner proposed that instead of winning souls one by one, entire geographic areas and "people groups" could be targeted, therefore speeding up the process.

These new strategies include "Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare" and "spiritual mapping," designed to win territory. This is accomplished by doing battle with demons or principalities that they believe cause entire ethnicities, religions, and geographic areas to resist conversion. After expelling the demons, the evangelized population can take "dominion" over local government and culture. Then the community supposedly experiences a foretaste of "God's Kingdom on earth." These mini-utopias are advertised as having reduced poverty, corruption, disease, and even healing the environment. This is the ultimate faith-based initiative: remove the demons and society will be healed.

Spiritual mapping is the reconnaissance mission for spiritual warfare and involves the literal mapping of neighborhoods and cities to determine where the demons are. This includes generational curses, or those things in a city's history that allowed demons to take hold of the entire populis. Spiritual mapping is the ideological foundation for the now popular "prayer walking" and the formation of many city-wide prayer groups.

Wagner, George Otis, Jr., Ed Silvoso, Ted Haggard, John Dawson of Youth With a Mission, and others created an entire genre of books, texts, videos and other media teaching spiritual mapping and strategic level spiritual warfare. Their access to the interdenominational world missions' movement in the 1990s helped them spread these techniques rapidly around the globe.

The Transformations movies produced by Otis, Jr. are promotional "documentaries" showing prototypes of this process in which supernatural transformation of a community takes place including the healing of AIDS, instantaneous purifying of polluted streams, and even growth of huge vegetables. These movies have been shown to millions globally, and Transformations organizations worldwide are attempting to replicate these prototypes in their local communities.

Uganda is featured in several of the series of Transformations movies, which include top political, military and religious leaders. Bruce Wilson's recent video, Transforming Uganda, documents Silvoso's claim that his International Transformation Network is "discipling" every region of Uganda and 14,000 churches across th at country.

It is important to note, however, that this supernatural warfare isn't limited to faraway places and underdeveloped countries. The Transformations ideology originated from Western evangelicals -- witch-hunting and all -- and the prototypes have included cities like Hemet, California. Ugandan Julius Oyet, who starred in one of the Transformations movies is a key figure in the recent proposed draconian anti-gay legislation in that country.

BB: How are these strategies put into practice? Where have they been tried successfully? Where have they failed?

RT: Although many of the claims made in the Transformations movie can be easily disproved, the movement's advancement appears to be partially due to the promotion of the Transformations prototypes.

Supernatural healings of AIDS, spontaneous destruction of property of other belief systems, and even claims that the prayers of the movement have killed other humans are featured in films shown worldwide, including to mainline Protestant churches and renewal groups which have subsequently broken from their parent denominations.

For instance, the Transformations movies claim there have been thousands of cases of miraculous curing of AIDS in Uganda. Conversely, medical leaders are warning that claims of miraculous healing are interfering with the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Since altering their AIDS programs to abstinence-only programming promoted by U.S. evangelicals, Uganda has had an increase, not decrease of new AIDS cases.

To give you an idea of how deeply entrenched the New Apostolics are in this policy consider this example of one of the most celebrated abstinence-only programs in the U.S. Recapturing the Vision and Vessels of Honor are names for abstinence-only programs headed by Jacqueline del Rosario, who testified for renewal of Title V abstinence-based funding in Congressional hearings in 2002. Since 2001, her Miami organizations have been the recipient of $3,147,589 of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant money, and significant sums from other public sources, despite the fact that her organization was one of four in a long-term federally funded study which show ed no measurable results.

Del Rosario was a speaker, along with Wagner and other top apostles, at a conference in January, where she was described as an apostle in the promotional literature. Her relationship with the apostles is not new, however. She incorporated her organizations in the mid 1990s with leading Florida apostle Diane Buker, head of Battle Axe ministries, and Cindy Trimm, described as a "general in the art of strategic warfare." Buker is the author of God's Power to Multiply for Wealth and her Battle Axe Brigade ministry Web site features virulent attacks on Catholicism and other faiths. It certainly makes you question what is being taught in faith-based programming [financed] with millions of our tax dollars.

Another political area in which New Apostolics are deeply entrenched is John Hagee's Christians United for Israel. Hagee is still teaching that the Rapture may happen any moment, but many of his directors and leadership are New Apostolics who teach that they must take "dominion" over the earth, including Israel, before Jesus can return. These include ICA Apostle Stephen Strang who heads the Strang charismatic publishing empire, and regional director Robert Stearns, who publishes another leading New Apostolic journal titled Kairos. Stearns also leads the largest single international Christian Zionist event, which involves 200,000 churches worldwide -- and his ministry has been endorsed by the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus and by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

BB: Are there politicians involved with NAR?

RT: The Transformations movies show access to many political figures from Fiji to South America to Africa. Uganda is a prime example and the movies are corroborated in this respect by active participation of political leaders in Transformation organizations.Transformation Hawaii has the full participation of Lt. Governor James “Duke” Aiona, who has spoken at conferences and even written for the movement. Lou Engle, a prophet in Wagner"s inner circle, has recently been on the news leading an anti-health care reform Prayercast with Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Sam Brownback, and Rep. Michelle Bachmann, among others. In May, Engle led another televised event in which he prayed over Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee.

The New Apostolic movement more closely resembles a political campaign than a denomination. PrayforNewark is a citywide prayer project in which every precinct has been mapped out and every street assigned to a volunteer. PrayforNewark is part of Ed Silvoso's International Transformation Network (ITN), the same operation that is "transforming" Uganda, and promoting the belief that homosexuals are possessed by literal demons. Silvoso's ITN is also active in numerous other locations in the U.S. and worldwide.

BB: Where does Sarah Palin fit into all this?

RT: The movement made early inroads in Alaska through an ICA apostle named Mary Glazier, who claims that a 24-year-old Palin joined her spiritual warfare network. These communication networks allow apostles to disseminate new prophecy to their "prayer warriors." During the presidential election this included prophecies about Palin, including one in which Glazier described a vision that Palin would take the "mantle" of leadership after a period of national mourning, apparently following John McCain's demise.

The first Transformation film so impressed pastors in Wasilla, Alaska, that they contacted some of the religious leaders featured in the movie including Thomas Muthee, who was shown driving a witch out of Kiambu, Kenya. Wasilla Assembly of God developed an ongoing relationship with Muthee and a 2005 church video shows him anointing Palin. Unfortunately the press picked up on the witch part of the story, and not the more important fact that Palin has ties to top leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation.

BB: Why should the American people be concerned about the New Apostolic Reformation?

RT: I believe this movement's threat to separation of church and state is greater than some of the more overtly theocratic movements of the religious right. The inclusion of women and all races in leadership roles, and their enthusiastic sponsorship of social services conflicts with a popular notion about religious fundamentalism. Despite their radical strategies, leaders in the movement have been labeled in the press as moderate, including Apostle Samuel Rodriguez -- president of the Sacramento, Calif.-based National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference -- who has been described as a "new evangelical."

Unsuspecting people are certainly becoming involved in New Apostolic activities without understanding its agenda. For example, the Global Day of Prayer sounds benign but was founded by Graham Power, head of the Africa division of Silvoso's International Transformation Network. Numerous citywide prayer efforts and pastors' networks are under the auspices of Wagner's apostles. Charities, social services, and "reconciliation" events appear to welcome all, but are designed as stealth evangelism to advance the "Kingdom."

In June, Lance Wallnau, an ICA apostle and motivational speaker for the Seven Mountain campaign, spoke on stealth evangelism at Wasilla Assembly of God. In Guatemalan jails, according to Wallnau, New Apostolics teach prisoners a secularized version of "Kingdom" worldview for a full year before making any attempt to convert them to "born-again" Christianity. Wallnau encouraged the congregation to follow this example for infiltrating the seven spheres of society.

Peter Wagner's ideas have spread widely into mainstream of evangelicalism, to little public notice. Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, partnered with Wagner in founding the New Apostolic Reformation and building its early headquarters, the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs. Despite the fact that Haggard has written books on New Apostolic strategies, his participation in promoting this radical reformation of both church and society is so little known, it could be described as "Haggard's other secret."

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering right-wing groups and movements. Rachel Tabachnick has provided research on the religious right to political campaigns and regularly contributes to, Political Research Associates' The Public Eye, and the Jewish Daily Forward's Zeek.