Tuesday, August 30, 2011

American Family Association says: "Criminalize Homosexuality"

On his Aug. 29 radio program, Focal Point, Bryan Fischer, a spokesperson for the Venango County-based HATE GROUP, American Family Association of Pennsylvania, called on all fifty states to "criminalize homosexuality."

Will other more reasonable voices in Venango County ever speak out publicly to counter this type of demonizing and dangerous rhetoric and offer alternative, more welcoming and inclusive, points of view for area lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents to see and hear that they are not alone?

Census Reveals Gay People are Shockingly… Normal

By Candace Chellew-Hodge for Religion Dispatches:

According to new census figures, the number of people reporting that they are living with a same-sex partner has risen 52 percent in the last decade. That’s almost 902,000 people who are living all across the United States. Even here in my own incredibly conservative state of South Carolina, the number of same-sex couples increased and a quarter of them are raising children.

It’s those kinds of facts that have right-wing media like the Christian Post scratching their heads, with headlines like this that rival anything over at The Onion:

“Gay Couples Spread in U.S., Behave Like Straight Couples”

Um, yeah, well, duh. What exactly are gay couples supposed to act like? Wild hyenas? The story that follows that headline would be just as funny if it didn’t signal the death knell for the religious right’s jihad against gays and lesbians.

The article marvels that:

According to the research, many same-sex couples are doing something straight couples have been doing for generations: getting older, having kids, and moving to the suburbs...

These trends, both the spread of gay people living openly, and of gay populations mirroring trends in the straight population, are playing out nationwide.

That makes gays and lesbians seem somehow, oddly, oh, I don’t know, human. We age, we have kids, we move to the suburbs! Who knew?

And this is where it gets sticky for anti-gay religious leaders. As this article points out, they have no interest in letting the facts get in the way of a good lie and have vowed to continue their efforts to keep discrimination against gay people in place.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, addressed the same-sex marriage issue during an interview on the CBS program 60 Minutes, urging policymakers not to tamper with the definition of what he termed “authentic marriage.”

“I love my mom, but I don’t have the right to marry her,” said the archbishop, whose national public profile as a spokesman for church values rose last year, when he was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Dolan could have a point if those census figures, or any other research, showed that gay people were even slightly interested in marrying their parents. Heck, most gay people would just love to have a relationship with their parents, but many of them remain estranged because of anti-gay crusaders like Dolan who have spread the lie that being gay is somehow akin to wanting to marry a parent, a dog, or a piece of furniture.

But, as more and more lesbians and gay men raising children move into the neighborhoods of suburbia, the more “normal” gay and lesbian relationships will be. The census shows this is already happening and that more and more gay and lesbian people are feeling comfortable enough to come out on a government form and be counted.

What it proves is that more and more people are catching on to the lies being told by the religious right. Gay and lesbian people don’t want to “redefine” marriage—they want the same kind of marriage everyone else has, complete with kids, a dog, and a nice neighborhood. Weird, right?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oil City Grace United Methodist Church Promotes Hate Group's Lies

Several readers have written recently to draw attention to the fact that Oil City's Grace United Methodist Church has the following bulletin (shown below) linked on the front page of its web site under the title: How The Hate Crimes Bill May Affect You

The source of this outdated bulletin is the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, a state affiliate of the Tupelo, MS-based American Family Association, the controversial national organization recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.” (Pictured above, right, is Diane Gramley, President of the Venango County-based American Family Association of Pennsylvania.)

(An analysis about the religious-right's lies is printed below the bulletin.)

Under 'action steps," the bulletin recommends contacting Sen. Arlen Specter, who was replaced as Pennsylvania's Senator by Pat Toomey on Jan. 3, 2011. Why Grace United Methodist Church is circulating outdated hate group lies now is an important question.

More importantly, what are more reasonable voices in Oil City doing to counter such lies and to make sure that local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, and all people, feel welcome and safe in the region?

(Click on image to enlarge.)

by Rob Boston for Talk to Action (4/21/09):

Legislation that would target hate crimes is expected to start moving in Congress soon. The Religious Right is going bananas.

The legislation, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 1913), is intended to do a few key things: It would allow the U.S. Justice Department to offer assistance when a crime that results in death or serious injury is committed against any American because of the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The federal government could even prosecute such cases if local officials were unwilling to do so. This section of the proposed bill reflects statutes from the Civil Rights era that gave the federal government a greater role in battling crimes against African Americans in the Jim Crow South and also allowed the Justice Department to address the denial of voting rights. It's nothing new.

The bill also would also make some federal money available to for law enforcement training. It would help police officers recognize bias-motivated violence and combat it, especially among young people.

The bill penalizes assault and physical violence, not speech. In fact, the legislation makes it clear that free speech is protected. Section 10 states, "Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution."

Nevertheless, here's what the Family Research Council told pastors in a recent bulletin: "Let's say you preach from Genesis 19 or Romans 1, referencing the homosexual agenda or lifestyle. Your sermon could be heard by an individual who applies it in a way prohibited by a hate crimes law. Not only would the offender be prosecuted under this law, but you could also be prosecuted for conspiracy. Consequently, hate crimes laws would radically impact our freedom of speech as Christians."


As Becky Dansky, federal legislative director for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, told the Washington Blade, such claims by the Religious Right are "completely inaccurate, unless their priest or reverend or religious leader is physically assaulting someone based on their sexual orientation while they're giving that sermon."

Yet Religious Right leaders keep playing the "your-pastor-will-go-to-jail" card.

"An offended homosexual could accuse a pastor, Sunday School teacher of broadcaster of causing emotional injury simply by expressing the Biblical view that homosexuality is sinful," blares the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association in an e-mail alert.

Over at the Traditional Values Coalition, Andrea Lafferty warns, "Your pastor could be prosecuted for conspiracy to commit a hate crime if it passes and become law. This so-called `hate crimes' bill will be used to lay the legal foundation and framework to investigate, prosecute, and persecute pastors, business owners, Bible teachers, Sunday School teachers, youth pastors - you name it - or anyone else whose actions are based upon and reflect the truth found in the Bible."

What is the Religious Right's evidence for these extravagant claims? It doesn't have any.

The FRC is fond of citing the case of Ake Green, a pastor in Sweden who was sentenced to a month in jail in 2004 after he delivered a sermon attacking gays that he later distributed to local newspapers.

There are two things wrong with this: Green's case happened in Sweden. Sweden is not part of the United States. It does not have our First Amendment. Secondly, Green's conviction was later overturned on appeal.

Many members of the clergy are debunking the Religious Right's claims and support the bill (as does the ACLU). Hundreds of religious leaders endorsed the measure in 2007.

"This law," the clergy coalition wrote to senators, "does not criminalize or impede religious expression in any way. Rather, the bill specifically addresses violent acts by those who act on their hate to terrorize entire communities."

The text of H.R. 1913 is online at Thomas.gov. Anyone can go there and read it.

I sure wish the Religious Right would. But I suppose I'm being silly to think that would make a difference. Truth long ago became irrelevant to that gang.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Traditional Family Values in Northwestern Penna. - "Man Jailed Over Unwelcome Toilet Break in Ex-Wife’s Home"

from The Oil City Derrick:

GIRARD (AP) — A northwestern Pennsylvania man is jailed on charges he took an unwelcome toilet break in his ex-wife’s home.

Police in Girard say 24-year-old Nathan Wingerter broke into his ex-wife’s home on Aug. 1, threw her photo identification cards into the toilet and then defecated on them. Police say the woman walked in to find Wingerter on the toilet.

The Erie Times-News reports that police issued a warrant for Wingerter and arrested him days later in Painesville, Ohio.

He was returned to Erie County to face charges of burglary and criminal mischief on Wednesday.

Online court records don’t list an attorney for Wingerter. Erie County Prison officials say he remained incarcerated there on Friday.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gay Marriage Opponents Need to Get the Facts About Homosexuality

This article from The Baltimore Sun speaks to the lies about LGBT people propagated by the Venango County-based hate group, the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.

Comparisons of Gay Marriage to Polygamy and Worse
Belie a Lack of Understanding about Homosexuality

By Lori W. Hollander for The Baltimore Sun:

A state delegate from Virginia recently wrote on this page that "Sexual orientation is not limited to same- or complementary-sex attractions but includes attractions to children, prostitutes, multiple wives (polygamy), dead persons (necrophilia), animals, inanimate objects and others that could not printed in the Baltimore Sun out of deference to readers." Not only is this statement erroneous and misleading, it demonstrates a reckless disregard for the gay community.

As licensed marriage and relationship therapists in practice with straight and gay couples for 23 years, my husband and I have seen firsthand the relationships of gay and lesbian couples. Their partnerships are no different than yours or ours; only they have the additional burden of being discriminated against by people who don't know the facts.

The following facts were copied verbatim from the website of the American Psychological Association, the leading advocate for psychological knowledge and practice informing policymakers and the public to improve public policy and daily living:

• What is sexual orientation? Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction toward others. Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality.

• Is sexual orientation a choice? No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. … Psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.

• Can therapy change sexual orientation? No; even though most homosexuals live successful, happy lives, some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups. ... The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable.

• Is homosexuality a mental illness or emotional problem? No. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals agree that homosexuality is not an illness, a mental disorder, or an emotional problem. More than 35 years of objective, well-designed scientific research has shown that homosexuality, in and of itself, is not associated with mental disorders or emotional or social problems.

• Can lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals be good parents? Yes. Studies comparing groups of children raised by homosexual and by heterosexual parents find no developmental differences between the two groups of children in four critical areas: their intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, and popularity with friends. It is also important to realize that a parent's sexual orientation does not indicate their children's.

Another myth about homosexuality is the mistaken belief that gay men have more of a tendency than heterosexual men to sexually molest children. There is no evidence to suggest that homosexuals or bisexuals molest children at a higher rate than heterosexuals.

• What can be done to overcome the prejudice and discrimination that gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals experience? Research has found that the people who have the most positive attitudes toward gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals are those who say they know one or more gay, lesbian or bisexual person well, often as a friend or co-worker. For this reason, psychologists believe that negative attitudes toward gay people as a group are prejudices that are not grounded in actual experience but are based on stereotypes and misinformation.

• Why is it important for society to be better educated about homosexuality? Educating all people about sexual orientation and homosexuality is likely to diminish anti-gay prejudice. Accurate information about homosexuality is especially important to young people who are first discovering and seeking to understand their sexuality, whether homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Fears that access to such information will make more people gay have no validity; information about homosexuality does not make someone gay or straight.

These are the same positions taken by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, American Academy of Marriage & Family Therapists and American Academy of Physicians Assistants.

A simple computer search would have easily revealed all of this.

Statements and beliefs based upon individual morality are one thing. But a delegate who holds the public trust and serves the community — which includes people who are straight and gay, adolescents and young adults who are becoming aware of their sexual orientation, families of gay children, and gay parents of children — also has a moral and ethical obligation to know and put forth established scientific knowledge.

Lori W. Hollander is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Owings Mills.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It Gets Better - Even in Pennsylvania

An important message from an elected official in Southwestern Pennsylvania. When will such representatives and other community leaders in Venango County break their silence and add their voices to this important cause?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Nature of Hate

Venango County is home to a notoriously anti-gay hate group known as the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.

This important new film from In The Life media looks at hate-speech spewed from such organizations and whether, in a nation lacking legal protections for LGBT people, it motivates violence against the LGBT community.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

U.S. Evangelicals Export Hate - Promote Genocide in Uganda

In 2009, the Ugandan Parliamentary proposed an anti-homosexuality bill that would impose the death penalty on serial offenders of homosexual acts. Inciting fear and sanctioning homophobia, the bill has caused LGBT Ugandans to be hunted in their communities and forced into exile. IN THE LIFE focuses on the evangelicals behind the bill, and exposes the political and financial influence used by powerful conservatives in the U.S. to export their anti-gay agenda overseas.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"The Response," Sponsored by the American Family Association, "Is A Divisive, Fringe Event"

(The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Family Association, the viciously anti-gay hate group behind "The Response," is based in Venango County. The local version of The Response is being held at the Oil City Community Alliance Church on Sat., Aug. 6.)

Rick Perry's Religious Revival Sparks A Holy War

from NPR:

Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor of Texas, is a Methodist by tradition who, with his wife Anita, now attends an evangelical megachurch in Austin. He is open about his deep Christian faith.

On Saturday, Perry, who is widely expected to enter the race for the White House, is hosting a religious revival in Houston to pray for what he calls "a nation in crisis."

While the governor claims it's nothing more than a Christian prayer rally, the event has touched off a holy war among critics, who claim it is Jesus-exclusive and political.

'We Need God's Help'

Late last year, shortly after he won his third term, Perry, a Republican, began to envision the event that is now called "The Response."

"With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis, people adrift in a sea of moral relativism, we need God's help," he said. "And that's why I'm calling on Americans to pray and fast like Jesus did."

An event spokesman, who is a former Perry speechwriter, says the daylong affair will be filled with prayer, inspirational messages, Scripture readings and praise music. More than 8,000 people have registered for the prayer rally, which is being held in the 71,000-seat Reliant Stadium, normally used for rodeos and NFL games.

Perry invited all his fellow governors. The only one to accept was Sam Brownback of Kansas, but he is now backing away. His office says Brownback is "on vacation," and if he goes, "it's at his discretion and on his dime."

Among prominent religious leaders expected to speak: James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Perry is not scheduled to address the crowd.

'The Fringe Of The Fringe'

Other names on the list of coordinators and endorsers have raised eyebrows.

"I mean, when you talk about the religious right, this is the fringe of the fringe here," says Dan Quinn, communications director of the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based watchdog group that tracks the far right in Texas.

"This is clearly, when you look at it, religious extremism and naked partisan politics," Quinn says. "I think it's one of the most cynical displays of using faith as a political tool we've seen in a long time."

The event is being paid for by the American Family Association, which describes itself as being "on the frontlines of America's culture war." The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes the AFA as a hate group because of its fierce anti-gay agenda.

Other participants include:

—John Hagee, a San Antonio evangelist whose endorsement was rejected by John McCain in 2008 because of Hagee's anti-Catholic statements.

—Mike Bickle, a founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., who's called Oprah Winfrey a "pastor of the harlot of Babylon."

—Alice Patterson, founder of Justice at the Gate, in San Antonio, has written that there is "a demonic structure behind the Democratic Party."

—And then there's John Benefiel, head of the Oklahoma-based Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, who once said this about the Statue of Liberty: "You know where we got it from? French Freemasons. Listen, folks, that is an idol, a demonic idol right there in the middle of New York Harbor."

A Rush To Judgment?

The gathering in Houston appears to some observers as an early attempt to line up the support of conservative evangelicals for Perry's expected presidential run. The event's executive committee includes religious/political activists David Lane and Jim Garlow, as well as Wayne Hamilton and David Barton, both former officials of the Texas Republican Party.

But wait, organizers say: Don't condemn an event before it happens.

"We do need to come together, and pray, and to seek the Lord on behalf of our nation," says Doug Stringer, who runs a Christian world outreach ministry in Houston called Somebody Cares. "If we can do that without being against anything, then I [am] pleased to be a part of it."

Stringer says he agreed to be an organizer if they guaranteed there will no long-winded sermons or political speeches.

"And so as a result, they've allowed me to be a prayer captain, and if anything goes off-track to where I feel it should be focused on the Lord and prayer and worship, I can come to the microphone and kind of give redirection to it."

Yet "The Response" remains divisive.

Earlier this week, 50 Houston religious leaders, led by the Anti-Defamation League, signed a letter expressing their concern that the Texas governor, and possible presidential candidate, is "sending an official message of religious exclusion" to non-Christian Texans.

An event spokesman insists that everyone is welcome.

Listen to the story HERE.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Citing New Research, Psychology Group Supports Gay Marriage

from USA Today:

WASHINGTON – The world's largest organization of psychologists took its strongest stand to date supporting full marriage equity, a move that observers say will have a far-reaching impact on the national debate.

The policymaking body of the American Psychological Association (APA) unanimously approved the resolution 157-0 on the eve of the group's annual convention, which opens here today.

The group, with more than 154,000 members, has long supported full equal rights for gays, based on social science research on sexual orientation. Now the nation's psychologists — citing an increasing body of research about same-sex marriage, as well as increased discussion at the state and federal levels — took the support to a new level.

"Now as the country has really begun to have experience with gay marriage, our position is much clearer and more straightforward — that marriage equity is the policy that the country should be moving toward," says Clinton Anderson, director of APA's Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.

The resolution points to numerous recent studies, including findings that "many gay men and lesbians, like their heterosexual counterparts, desire to form stable, long-lasting and committed intimate relationships and are successful in doing so."

It adds that "emerging evidence suggests that statewide campaigns to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage are a significant source of stress to the lesbian, gay and bisexual residents of those states and may have negative effects on their psychological well-being."

Six states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont) and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

"Psychologists have been very important in helping to keep the discussion at a fact-based level and not let it steer off into stereotypes," says M.V. Lee Badgett, research director at the non-profit Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law & Public Policy at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville, says his board is divided on the issue and hasn't taken a stance on same-sex marriage. He says the APA resolution will likely have a broad impact.

"I don't think it's very significant for the population at large, but I do think this move is significant for the ongoing public policy and legal battles in Washington and around the states," he says.

Clinical psychologist Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University in New York City, whose new research is cited in the resolution, says the courts tend to look at these kinds of policy statements because "they're really looking to see what social science research says about the influence on gay marriage and marriage bans on a whole host of outcomes."

Badgett's research of gay marriage across cultures is also cited in the resolution. She says the Netherlands was the first to allow gay couples to marry, and it showed "very little change in the overall society, but it was very important to gay couples themselves."

The last APA resolution on sexual orientation and marriage was approved in 2004. The resolution notes that since that time, APA has worked on 11 amicus briefs filed in same-sex marriage cases since 2004.