Saturday, January 26, 2013

Losing My Religion For Equality

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long 
in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

by Jimmy Carter for The National Times of Australia:

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Venango County Could Prevent Discrimination Too

  Vicco, Smallest Town In Kentucky, Passes LGBT Non-Discrimination Law

from The Huffington Post:

On the heels of a statewide push for Kentucky to its protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens, one of the smallest towns in the commonwealth has just approved a new nondiscrimination law which does exactly that.

A week ago, the Fairness Coalition joined Vicco, Ky. -- home to some 334 residents in total -- as they passed the commonwealth’s first LGBT fair treatment ordinance in a decade, reports Lex 18. Vicco is now being touted by a number of media outlets as the smallest town in America to adopt an anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law prevents discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based upon a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The Advocate reports that Mayor Johnny Cummings supported the fair shake along with three out of the four members of the Appalachian’s commission.

Vicco became the fourth city in Kentucky to pass the equality bearing law. In 1999, Lexington and Louisville both approved such laws, followed by Covington in 2003, LGBTQ Nation reported.

“Vicco is a community that believes all folks should be treated fairly,“ attorney Eric Ashley said in a Fairness Coalition press release sent to HuffPost Gay Voices. “We believe everyone deserves the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Fairness is a Kentucky value, a Vicco value, and one of our most American values.”

Last October, the acquittal of the first-ever federal prosecution of a hate crime, which took place in Harlan County, Ky., left many baffled. Four cousins were accused of attacking Kevin Pennington, a 28-year-old gay man, because of his sexual orientation and possibly because of their own self-hatred.

Though the case had been nationally touted as the first to be prosecuted under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (signed by President Barack Obama in 2009), it was eventually deemed a drug deal gone wrong. While the men were convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy charges, the jury ultimately rejected the theory that hatred had motivated their crimes.

Perhaps the sentiments of Vicco’s new law will echo in the minds of Kentucky lawmakers while the KEF continues to run its petition to alter the commonwealth’s Civil Rights Act of 1966, amending it to include protection for all LGBT Kentucky residents.

Radical Right's Losing Battle Pitting 'Black' Against 'Gay'

by Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Ex. Dir. of the National Black Justice Coalition, for The Huffington Post:

Our airwaves, front pages and social media feeds have been dominated by coverage of the presidential inauguration. From Michelle Obama's impeccable ensemble to Beyoncé Knowles' rendition of the national anthem, critics have been dissecting and distorting the events of the historic day, including President Barack Obama's reference to "Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall" in his inaugural speech.

For the first time in history, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community was referenced in a president's inauguration address. President Obama not only acknowledged LGBT Americans as a vital part of this nation's diverse and intricate fabric but declared that this country's various movements for equality are intrinsically linked by a core value: the conviction that all men and women are created equal. Instead of celebrating this truth, media outlets like The Wall Street Journal have insisted on bending outdated statements to perpetuate their bias and fuel racial divide.

In an opinion piece titled "Selma, Stonewall and Obama," Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason L. Riley purports, "President Obama's equating of gay rights and Black civil rights in his inaugural address Monday had left-wingers cheering -- MSNBC's Ed Schultz called the speech a 'progressive barn burner' -- but some of Mr. Obama's Black supporters might not appreciate the comparison."

How does this tired, overplayed and inaccurate narrative continue to make its way past editors' desks and into actual publications?

Riley continues:

"Stonewall" is a reference to the gay bar in New York City that was raided by police in 1969, an event that is widely considered the start of the gay rights movement, and some gay rights advocates are eager to appropriate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and America's long struggle for racial equality. But Black liberals have complained about equating the current push for gay marriage with a Black civil rights struggle that included chattel slavery, lynchings and Jim Crow.

In his sloppy and lazy reporting, Riley proceeds to misrepresent a statement I made over a year ago by completely removing the context and not running the quotation in its entirety:

Even Black activists who work in the gay community don't like to draw such parallels. Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an organization that works to eradicate racism and discrimination in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, said last year in an interview with that gay history in the U.S. didn't involve getting "hosed down and dogs sicced on us." She added: "You can't compare the plight of the movement, the centuries of oppression that Black people in this country had to face."

Instead of reaching out to the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) for a current quotation specific to the president's reference, The Wall Street Journal and Riley inaccurately parsed my comments from one year ago to solidify his bias viewpoint.

My full statement to Loop21 read:

Do we (the LGBT community) get hosed down and dogs sicced on us? No. But we're comparing how our community is treated, from a so-called civil society -- the overt discrimination and bigotry. No one should be able to understand that better than Black people in this country, and that is the root of the comparison. But you can't compare the plight of the movement, the centuries of oppression that Black people in this country had to face.

Let me be clear: I stand 100-percent behind President Obama and his inaugural address. Yes, our struggles are different, but the core values are the same: No one should be discriminated against for who they are, whether that is on the basis of race, class, gender identity or sexual orientation.

As the radical right realizes that they're fighting a losing battle, they are scraping at whatever they can find to continue to pit "black" against "gay." But more and more, we see that our nation is coming together. We saw it in the fight for marriage equality in Maryland (a state with a significant black population), and we saw it with the reelection of the most pro-LGBT president in our history. We see it in our daily lives, in our families, churches and communities where black Americans are embracing their LGBT brothers and sisters.

According to national exit polls, 52 percent of black voters who turned out on Election Day said they support the freedom to marry in their states. The largest shift came from black women, 59 percent of whom now support gay marriage. Back in 2008 and 2009, the numbers were drastically different. A Pew Research Center survey showed that just 28 percent of African Americans supported marriage equality.

The national landscape is changing. It is time that media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and journalists like Jason L. Riley do the same.

This isn't about "black" vs. "gay." It's about the media searching for and fabricating a story where there isn't one and completely erasing a community that is living and loving at the intersection of our movements for racial justice and LGBT equality.

To a sea of cheering black, brown and white faces, President Obama said:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

Our movement is at a tipping point. The media's deceitful and sensational attempt to imply otherwise is unfair, inaccurate and exclusionary. The Wall Street Journal and Jason L. Riley, show some journalistic integrity and do better.

Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks serves as the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), which is a national civil rights organization dedicated to empowering black LGBT people. NBJC's mission is to eradicate racism and homophobia. For more information about NBJC, visit

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Religious Criminality

Victims Accuse L.A. Catholic Church Leaders 
Of Covering Up Sex Abuse

Prosecutors in California say they are reviewing newly-released personnel files that document efforts by the Los Angeles Archdiocese to cover up clergy sexual abuse. They haven't said whether they might pursue criminal charges against retired Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Statutes of limitations make prosecution difficult, but victims are calling on authorities to be more creative and find a way to punish church higher-ups for protecting abusive priests, rather then children.

Listen to the Story on

God Loves Uganda, the Most Terrifying Film of the Year

by Joe Mirabella, Director of Campaigns for All Out:

God Loves Uganda premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 18. Directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams, the documentary examines the relationship between American evangelical churches, their missionaries and anti-gay laws in Africa, like Uganda's so-called "kill the gays" bill.

A growing majority of people of faith in the United States are supportive of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to live and love, but God Loves Uganda exposes the subversive segment of U.S. churches that export dangerous anti-gay belief systems, which have provided momentum for some of the worst anti-gay laws in the world.

"The world has never had an up-close look at how anti-gay animus is exported from the United States to places like Uganda," said Andre Banks, executive director and co-founder of All Out. "God Loves Uganda shows us how the U.S. culture war is being shipped wholesale to Africa, sometimes unknowingly, but always with disastrous consequences. The film should be required viewing.

"The film also raises urgent questions for American people of faith who care about justice and human rights," Banks continued. "The large majority of churches in the U.S. raise money to do good in their communities and abroad. But this film makes clear that we must each be certain that our contributions at the collection plate are not going, directly or indirectly, toward supporting laws that call for the death of gays and lesbians."

"In the well-known trope about Africa, a white man journeys into the heart of darkness and finds the mystery of Africa and its unknowable otherness. I, a black man, made that journey and found... America," Roger Ross Williams said. "I hope God Loves Uganda helps accelerate the good work of organizations like All Out by helping American Evangelicals understand the negative consequences of some of the deadly lessons imported to Africa by some people of faith. We should be terrified by the results of these actions."

Roger Ross Williams won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) with his film Music by Prudence and is the first African American to win an Oscar for directing and producing a film. God Loves Uganda was produced by Julie Goldman and Motto Pictures.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Map of Human Dignity

by Frank Bruno - New York Times - January 21, 2013:

Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall. The alliteration of that litany made it seem obvious and inevitable, a bit of poetry just there for the taking. Just waiting to happen.

But it has waited a long time. And President Obama’s use of it in his speech on Monday — his grouping of those three places and moments in one grand and musical sentence — was bold and beautiful and something to hear. It spoke volumes about the progress that gay Americans have made over the four years between his first inauguration and this one, his second. It also spoke volumes about the progress that continues to elude us.

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,” the president said, taking a rapt country on a riveting trip to key theaters in the struggle for liberty and justice for all.

Seneca Falls is a New York town where, in 1848, the women’s suffrage movement gathered momentum. Selma is an Alabama city where, in 1965, marchers amassed, blood was shed and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood his ground against the unconscionable oppression of black Americans.

And Stonewall? This was the surprise inclusion, separating Obama’s oratory and presidency from his predecessors’ diction and deeds. It alludes to a gay bar in Manhattan that, in 1969, was raided by police, who subjected patrons to a bullying they knew too well. After the raid came riots, and after the riots came a more determined quest by L.G.B.T. Americans for the dignity they had long been denied.

The causes of gay Americans and black Americans haven’t always existed in perfect harmony, and that context is critical for appreciating Obama’s reference to Stonewall alongside Selma. Blacks have sometimes questioned gays’ use of “civil rights” to describe their own movement, and have noted that the historical experiences of the two groups aren’t at all identical. Obama moved beyond that, focusing on the shared aspirations of all minorities. It was a big-hearted, deliberate, compelling decision.

He went on, seconds later, to explicitly mention “gay” Americans, saying a word never before uttered in inaugural remarks. What shocked me most about that was how un-shocking it was.

Four years ago we lived in a country in which citizens of various states had consistently voted against the legalization of same-sex marriage.

But on Nov. 6, the citizens of all three states that had the opportunity to legalize gay marriage at the ballot box did so, with clear majorities in Maryland, Maine and Washington endorsing it.

Four years ago the inaugural invocation was given by a pastor with a record of antigay positions and remarks. This year, a similar assignment was withdrawn from a pastor with a comparable record, once it came to light. What’s more, an openly gay man was chosen to be the inaugural poet, and in news coverage of his biography, his parents’ exile from Cuba drew more attention than his sexual orientation. That’s how far we’ve come.

And the distance traveled impresses me more than the distance left. I want to be clear on that. I’m proud of our country and president, despite their shortcomings on this front and others. It takes time for minds to open fully and laws to follow suit, and the making of change, in contrast to the making of statements, depends on patience as well as passion.

But the “gay” passage of Obama’s speech underscored the lingering gap between the American ideal and the American reality. “Our journey is not complete,” he said, “until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

He means the right to marry. As long as we gay and lesbian Americans don’t have that, we’re being told that our relationships aren’t as honorable as those of straight couples. And if that’s the case, then we’re not as honorable, either. Is there really any other reading of the situation?

Despite our strides, gay and lesbian couples even now can marry only in nine states and the District of Columbia. The federal government doesn’t recognize those weddings, meaning that in terms of taxes, military benefits and matters of immigration, it treats gays and lesbians differently than it treats other Americans. It relegates us to an inferior class.

The Supreme Court could soon change, or validate, that. There are relevant cases before it. For his part Obama could show less deference to states’ rights, be more insistent about what’s just and necessary coast-to-coast, and push for federal protections against employment discrimination when it comes to L.G.B.T. Americans. His actions over the next four years could fall wholly in line with Monday’s trailblazing words. My hope is real, and grateful, and patient.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Lowest Form of Hatred - The Self-Righteousness of the Religious Mob

Wendell Berry Expounds On Gay Marriage

A Kentucky farmer, essayist, writer and activist, sometimes described as a modern-day Thoreau, criticizes theological strategies used to marginalize gays.

By Bob Allen, ABP News:

Christian opponents to same-sex marriage want the government to treat homosexuals as a special category of persons subject to discrimination, similar to the way that African-Americans and women were categorized in the past, cultural and economic critic Wendell Berry told Baptist ministers in Kentucky on January 11.

Berry, a prolific author of books, poems and essays who won the National Humanities Medal in 2010 and was 2012 Jefferson lecturer for the National Endowment for the Humanities, offered “a sort of general declaration” on the subject of gay marriage at a “Following the Call of the Church in Times Like These” conference at Georgetown College. Berry said he chose to comment publicly to elaborate on what little he has said about the topic in the past.

“I must say that it’s a little wonderful to me that in 40-odd years of taking stands on controversial issues, and at great length sometimes, the two times that I think I’ve stirred up the most passionate opposition has been with a tiny little essay on computers (his 1987 essay “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer” published in Harper’s led some to accuse him of being anti-technology) and half a dozen or a dozen sentences on gay marriage,” Berry said.

Berry said he could recall only twice before when he commented publicly on the issue, in a single paragraph in a collection of essays published in 2005 and in an interview with the National Review in 2012.

“My argument, much abbreviated both times, was the sexual practices of consenting adults ought not to be subjected to the government’s approval or disapproval, and that domestic partnerships in which people who live together and devote their lives to one another ought to receive the spousal rights, protections and privileges the government allows to heterosexual couples,” Berry said.

Berry said liberals and conservatives have invented “a politics of sexuality” that establishes marriage as a “right” to be granted or withheld by whichever side prevails. He said both viewpoints contravene principles of democracy that rights are self-evident and inalienable and not determined and granted or withheld by the government.

“Christians of a certain disposition have found several ways to categorize homosexuals as different as themselves, who are in the category of heterosexual and therefore normal and therefore good,” Berry said. What is unclear, he said, is why they single out homosexuality as a perversion.

“The Bible, as I pointed out to the writers of National Review, has a lot more to say against fornication and adultery than against homosexuality,” he said. “If one accepts the 24th and 104th Psalms as scriptural norms, then surface mining and other forms of earth destruction are perversions. If we take the Gospels seriously, how can we not see industrial warfare -- with its inevitable massacre of innocents -- as a most shocking perversion? By the standard of all scriptures, neglect of the poor, of widows and orphans, of the sick, the homeless, the insane, is an abominable perversion.”

“Jesus talked of hating your neighbor as tantamount to hating God, and yet some Christians hate their neighbors by policy and are busy hunting biblical justifications for doing so,” he said. “Are they not perverts in the fullest and fairest sense of that term? And yet none of these offenses -- not all of them together -- has made as much political/religious noise as homosexual marriage.”

Another argument used, Berry said, is that homosexuality is “unnatural.”

“If it can be argued that homosexual marriage is not reproductive and is therefore unnatural and should be forbidden on that account, must we not argue that childless marriages are unnatural and should be annulled?” he asked.

“One may find the sexual practices of homosexuals to be unattractive or displeasing and therefore unnatural, but anything that can be done in that line by homosexuals can be done and is done by heterosexuals,” Berry continued. “Do we need a legal remedy for this? Would conservative Christians like a small government bureau to inspect, approve and certify their sexual behavior? Would they like a colorful tattoo verifying government approval on the rumps of lawfully copulating parties? We have the technology, after all, to monitor everybody’s sexual behavior, but so far as I can see so eager an interest in other people’s private intimacy is either prurient or totalitarian or both.”

“The oddest of the strategies to condemn and isolate homosexuals is to propose that homosexual marriage is opposed to and a threat to heterosexual marriage, as if the marriage market is about to be cornered and monopolized by homosexuals,” Berry said. “If this is not industrial capitalist paranoia, it at least follows the pattern of industrial capitalist competitiveness. We must destroy the competition. If somebody else wants what you’ve got, from money to marriage, you must not hesitate to use the government – small of course – to keep them from getting it.”

Berry said “so-called traditional marriage” is “for sure suffering a statistical failure, but this is not the result of a homosexual plot.”

“Heterosexual marriage does not need defending,” Berry said. “It only needs to be practiced, which is pretty hard to do just now.”

“But the difficulty is not assigned to any group of scapegoats,” he said. “It is rooted mainly in the values and priorities of our industrial capitalist system in which every one of us is complicit.”

“If I were one of a homosexual couple -- the same as I am one of a heterosexual couple -- I would place my faith and hope in the mercy of Christ, not in the judgment of Christians,” Berry said. “When I consider the hostility of political churches to homosexuality and homosexual marriage, I do so remembering the history of Christian war, torture, terror, slavery and annihilation against Jews, Muslims, black Africans, American Indians and others. And more of the same by Catholics against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics, Catholics against Catholics, Protestants against Protestants, as if by law requiring the love of God to be balanced by hatred of some neighbor for the sin of being unlike some divinely preferred us. If we are a Christian nation -- as some say we are, using the adjective with conventional looseness -- then this Christian blood thirst continues wherever we find an officially identifiable evil, and to the immense enrichment of our Christian industries of war.”

“Condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred, for it is cold-hearted and abstract, lacking even the courage of a personal hatred,” Berry said. “Categorical condemnation is the hatred of the mob. It makes cowards brave. And there is nothing more fearful than a religious mob, a mob overflowing with righteousness – as at the crucifixion and before and since. This can happen only after we have made a categorical refusal to kindness: to heretics, foreigners, enemies or any other group different from ourselves.”

“Perhaps the most dangerous temptation to Christianity is to get itself officialized in some version by a government, following pretty exactly the pattern the chief priest and his crowd at the trial of Jesus,” Berry said. “For want of a Pilate of their own, some Christians would accept a Constantine or whomever might be the current incarnation of Caesar.”

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Family Values Activist Found Guilty of Filming Child Porn

Alliance Defending Freedom Lawyer Will Face 25 Years In Prison 
For Forcing Her 14-Year-Old Daughter To Have Sex With Two Men On Camera

Star News:

An anti-gay lawyer who videotaped her own daughter having sex with two men was found guilty of filming and possessing child porn yesterday (11 January).

Lisa Biron, 43, from New Hampshire, US, faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

The attorney, associated with reactionary Christian anti-gay firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in November last year.

She was accused of eight felony counts involving the videotaping of men having sex with her 14-year-old child, taking a teenage girl to Canada and forcing her to engage in sex on Camera.

Biron also allegedly made a phone video of her having sex with her daughter as well.

The ADF calls itself a ‘servant ministry’ that issue dire warnings about the ‘homosexual agenda’, and offers a book by its president Alan Sears and senior director Craig Osten.

In the book, the authors claim the ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy religious liberty and free speech, and say homosexuality and pedophilia is ‘intrinsically linked’.

According to the Southern Law Poverty Center, the ADF removed all mentions of her from its website and Facebook page, and said Biron was never an employee.

In March of 2011, she was listed by the ADF as an ‘Allied Attorney Success Story’.

The sentencing hearing for Biron is set for 22 April, where she will be charged with a minimum of 10 years in prison on the transportation charge and 15 years in prison on each of the exploitation of children charges.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The American Family Association: America's Bully says USA Today

by Bruce Kluger, Member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors - Jan 10, 2013:

While the rest of America celebrated the holidays by briefly escaping the workload that now, once again, dominates their lives, one unlucky group never got the chance to take a day off. And I'm not talking about the beleaguered clerks at the Big Box stores that never seem to close, but, instead, those valiant defenders of virtue at the anti-gay hate group known as the American Family Association (AFA). They were busy trying to stop elves from cavorting with a known lesbian.

Last month, One Million Moms, the inexplicably angry online village founded by the AFA, inveighed against J.C. Penney for a holiday ad featuring spokeswoman Ellen DeGeneres. "JCP has made their choice to offend a huge majority of their customers again," Moms said in a statement. "Christians must now vote with their wallets."

Hyperbole is nothing new for the AFA satellite army. When Penney first hired DeGeneres last February, Moms blasted the retailer for "jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon." Back then, the nasty broadside was wearying, though predictable. This time, it was just stupid. In the holiday spot, DeGeneres talked gift-shopping with a trio of Santa's elves. Scary, right?

Reasonable people can disregard the ramblings of a belligerent splinter group (as DeGeneres herself noted, you have to wonder about an organization that calls itself One Million Moms but can barely round up 50,000 Facebook followers). But I continue to be bewildered at the obsessive, mean-spirited activism of the American Family Association itself.

Since its 1977 founding by a Methodist pastor in Mississippi, the AFA (whose mission is to rid the nation of "ungodliness and depravity") has sprayed its venomous indignation like buckshot, boycotting any group that bears the faintest whiff of gay inclusion. Among its countless targets: the Walt Disney Co., for promoting "the homosexual agenda" by providing health coverage for employees in same-sex relationships; the American Girl doll company, for supporting the non-profit youth organization Girls Inc., which it called "a pro-abortion, pro-lesbian advocacy group"; Hallmark, for offering same-sex wedding cards on its racks; the Ford Motor Co., for advertising in gay publications and sponsoring gay pride celebrations; Archie comic books, for allowing its first openly gay character to marry another man in one of its stories; McDonald's, for joining the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; and the Campbell Soup Co., for buying an ad in a gay magazine that featured a presumably lesbian couple and their son enjoying a bowl of butternut squash bisque.

These people must be exhausted.

(At left, Diane Gramley, President of the Venango County-based American Family Association of Pennsylvania.)

Though the AFA has largely gone after corporations that have the means to fight back, it crossed the line in late 2012 when it chose a new and more defenseless kind of victim: children. In October, National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, it launched an offensive against Mix it Up at Lunch Day, an 11-year-old national program that encourages kids to seek out new friends in the cafeteria as a way of keeping cliques -- and bullying -- at bay. The AFA decried the program as "a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools," and it asked parents to file protests or keep their children home from school on that day.

Supporters of AFA's efforts argued that anti-bullying campaigns focus too heavily on protecting gay and questioning youths at the expense of non-gay bullying victims. But the fact is, numerous studies -- including a survey by researchers at Harvard -- have determined that gay kids are one to two times more likely to be bullied than straight kids, and between two to four times as likely to attempt suicide. It is a problem within a problem.

The AFA boycott was ultimately unsuccessful -- only about 200 of the 2,500 participating schools reportedly canceled the day's events -- but it underscored the shameful irony at the heart of the brouhaha: that the American Family Association has now, in effect, become the nation's reigning bully, preying on those who are different.

One would think that the AFA might learn a thing or two from the election season polls, which revealed that most citizens are turned off by negative attacks and, likewise, by those who would pry into their personal lives, including their sexual preferences. One would also think that the AFA might learn a lesson from last month's tragedy in Newtown, Conn.: that our children are not only precious to us but also frighteningly vulnerable, and undeserving of being anyone's prey.

It's time to ask the AFA to stand down. Despite its self-appointed, McCarthy-like crusade to transform this nation into its own image, America doesn't need its help, thank you.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Crazies at AFA, Surprise, Are Acting Crazy

The American Family Association, a conservative 'Christian' organization that sits atop the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of extremist Hate Groups, emailed members today with a dire warning that, within 50 years, Christians will be treated like African Americans during the Jim Crow era.

In an email entitled “What will religion look like in the year 2060?”, the AFA warned about the coming onslaught against Christians, who currently make up over three-quarters of Americans. The group’s predictions include that Christians will be brutally discriminated against like blacks in the Civil Rights Era, government will take children from parents at birth, and any city with “Saint” or other loosely-religious name will be forced to change.

The full email:

What will religion look like in the year 2060?

Conservative Christians will be treated as second class citizens, much like African Americans were prior to civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Family as we know it will be drastically changed with the state taking charge of the children beginning at birth.

Marriage will include two, three, four or any number of participants. Marriage will not be important, with individuals moving in and out of a “family” group at will.

Churchbuildings will be little used, with many sold to secular buyers and the money received going to the government.

Churches will not be allowed to discuss any political issues, even if it affects the church directly.

Tax credit given to churches and non-profit organizations will cease.

Christian broadcasting will be declared illegal based on the separation of church and state. The airwaves belong to the government, therefore they cannot be used for any religious purpose.

We will have, or have had, a Muslim president.

Cities with a name from the Bible such as St. Petersburg, Bethlehem, etc. will be forced to change their name due to separation of church and state.

Groups connected to any religious affiliation will be forced out of health care. Health centers get tax money from the state, making it a violation of church and state.

Get involved! Sign THE STATEMENT.


Donald E. Wildmon

As absurd as they may be, these 2060 predictions may not even rank among the AFA’s most extreme ideas. The group’s spokesman has called for kidnapping the children of same-sex couples through a modern-day “Underground Railroad” system. When one man heeded this advice and aided a woman in kidnapping the daughter of a lesbian woman, the group advised him to flout American laws and flee the country. AFA also organizes against any individual or company that shows the slightest tolerance for LGBT people, including Office Depot, Urban Outfitters, Home Depot, JC Penney, and Google.

The AFA’s ideas may be fringe, but their level of support is anything but. The group remains influential among both conservative grassroots and Republican politicians. The AFA’s former leader was heavily courted in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, ultimately endorsing Newt Gingrich and helping dissuade concerns about his multiple marriages and past infidelities.

Problems Continue with Principal George Forster at Franklin High School

Franklin High School Principal George Forster (pictured at left) was alleged to be a primary source of the racist and homophobic climate that terrorized so many students and their families during the making of "Out In The Silence," a documentary film chronicling the efforts of several Venango County residents to make the area more inclusive and welcoming for LGBT people.

According to this court document, problems persist at the high school under Forster's leadership. Sad ...



LEAH BILLINGSLEY, a minor, (by and through her parents and natural guardians, KEVIN BILLINGSLEY and JENNIFER BILLINGSLEY) - Plaintiff



C.A. No. 11-160 Erie - Magistrate Judge Baxter

A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History

On August 8, 2011, this civil action was commenced pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, by Plaintiff Leah Billingsley, a minor, by and through her parents and natural guardians Kevin Billingsley and Jennifer Billingsley. Named as Defendants are: Franklin Area School District (Franklin); Ronald A Paranick, Superintendent of Franklin (Paranick); George Forster, Jr., Principal of the Franklin Area High School (Forster); and Peter Wygant, a teacher at the Franklin Area High School (AWygant@). For convenience, Defendants Paranick, Forster and Wygant will hereafter be referred to collectively as Aindividual Defendants.

The claims in this case arise from the sexual assault of Plaintiff by a fellow student at Franklin Area High School, which occurred on January 14, 2011.

At the time, Plaintiff was in the ninth grade and her primary special education teacher was Defendant Wygant. (Id. at & 9). On the date of the incident, Plaintiff was given a hall pass by Defendant Wygant, which allowed Plaintiff to leave her special education classroom without supervision. (Id. at & 10). Shortly after Plaintiff left the classroom, Defendant Wygant gave a hall pass to another student, a male identified as AJ.R.@ (Id. at & 11). After leaving the classroom, J.R. found Plaintiff and Aviciously assaulted and raped@ her. (Id. at & 16).

Plaintiff alleges that J.R. had sexually assaulted another female student at Franklin Area High School prior to January 14, 2011, and that the individual Defendants were all aware of the prior incident. (Id. at & 12). Plaintiff alleges further that the individual Defendants were also aware that J.R. Ahad aggressive tendencies and had repeatedly made sexual advances to female students,@ which behavior Awas flagrant, obvious, rampant and of a continuous duration.@ (Id. at & 13).

Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated her due process right to bodily integrity under the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. In particular, Plaintiff claims that the individual Defendants Acreated the danger that caused harm to [Plaintiff] and deprived her of her liberty interest in bodily integrity,@ and that the deprivation of her liberty interest was the result of the official policy, custom or practice of Defendant Franklin. As relief for her claims, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 7] arguing that Plaintiff=s claims against the individual Defendants are barred by the doctrine of qualified immunity and/or that Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted against any of the Defendants. Plaintiff has since filed a brief in opposition to Defendants= motion [ECF Nos. 10]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

Download or Read The Full Court Opinion HERE.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cardinal George, Same-Sex Marriage and the Law of Nature

by Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago:

With the Illinois legislature poised to consider a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, Chicago's Cardinal Francis George officially entered the political fray by issuing a letter that urges Catholics to urge their representatives to oppose the legislation. The core of George's argument was straightforward: "Civil laws that establish 'same-sex marriage' create a legal fiction," he wrote, because the "State has no power to create something that nature tells us is impossible."

Really? "Impossible"? Where, exactly, does "nature" tell us that? Does "nature" speak directly to Cardinal George? More likely, George got his information from Saint Thomas Aquinas, who communed with "nature" 750 years ago. In his prodigious Summa Theologica, Thomas largely rewrote much of Christian moral theology and provided a rationale in "nature" for the notion that same-sex sex is contemptible in the sight of God.

Thomas posited that God had instituted the order of nature by which everything was fittingly directed to its proper end; that God had created "natural" coitus for the sole purpose of procreation; that man should not contravene the order of nature; and that man therefore should not engage in any sexual act that is not directed to procreation.

Thomas defined luxuria as the sin of excess in sexual pleasures. There is no sin in sexual things as such, he explained, as long as they are undertaken for the proper purpose (reproduction) and in the proper manner (sexual intercourse in the missionary position).

Thomas divided luxuria into six separate acts: simple fornication, adultery, incest, deflowering a virgin, rape, and vice against nature. Although the first five are mortal sins, they are not as serious as the vice against nature, because they involve "natural" coitus (ejaculating into a vagina). Sins against nature are more serious, because they are an affront to God.

Thomas identified four sins against nature: (1) masturbation, (2) sex with a person of the opposite sex other than in the "natural" manner (i.e., with the man on top), (3) sex with someone of the same sex, and (4) bestiality.

Central to Thomas's classification system was the concept of "unnatural" acts. For Thomas, the key determinant was whether the act was intended to result in procreation. His definition of "natural" was premised on an assumption about the purpose of the genitals, and he inferred this purpose from the behavior of animals.

There are several interesting gaps in this reasoning. First, the declaration of purpose is arbitrary. There is no reason why the purpose of the genitals might not also be to give pleasure for pleasure's sake. It is not a mortal sin for a man to walk on his hands, even though that is not their "purpose."

Second, the definition of "natural" is strained. As Saint Jerome observed, sexual desire is "innate" in humans, and to remain chaste requires one to "act against nature." The term "natural," in other words, is plastic.

Third, Thomas's assumption about animal behavior was erroneous. Some animals masturbate, most do not use the missionary position, few are monogamous, and some, like the hyena, the hare, and the weasel, engage in same-sex behavior (facts that were well-known at the time).

Fourth, it is surprising that Thomas would declare animal behavior the model for human behavior, particularly because "unnatural" acts were condemned as brutish and animalistic. Moreover, in every other context Christian theologians, Thomas included, emphasized that man is not like the animals.

Finally, Thomas's scheme left unanswered some awkward questions. For example, may a woman who is past menopause have sex?

The plain and simple fact is that reasoning about what is "natural" is deeply vulnerable to distortion by one's own personal values and preferences. Cardinal George insists that same-sex marriage is incompatible with "nature." One might just as easily say the same about celibacy. There is such a thing as right and wrong, but invocations of what "nature" commands is no way to get there.

If Cardinal George wants to invoke the law of "nature," then perhaps he should invoke Jesus: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). This precept, which is found in one form or another is virtually every religious and ethical tradition, is a pretty good law of "nature." Apply that one to the issue of same-sex marriage.