Tuesday, December 05, 2006

They Don't Know What They Believe

I went to graduate school in North Carolina, and I remember one particular conversation I was having with a religious guy. He was talking about the end of the world coming, and the signs of it, and we was quoting Revelations, with its dragons and plagues ... and then, I realized, he was actually talking about Nostradamus! Somewhere in the middle of the conversation he had derailed and switched tracks, and now he was talking about the signs of this-and-that, but it wasn't the Bible any more...

AlterNet has an interesting article up this morning about the sad fact that many of our most passionately devout Americans don't really know very much about their religion.
It's been a rough season for the Christian right. Even for an eschatological movement, these are dark days. First came former Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives David Kuo's public admission that evangelicals were often derided as "nuts" and "goofy" within the inner sanctums of the Bush administration. Then, weeks before losing their shotgun seat in the 109th Congress, the booming voice of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, was silenced in a scandal involving a gay hooker, massage oils, methamphetamine, and a string of Denver hotel rooms booked under false names.

But even before all that hit the fundamentalist fan, the movement was contending with a quieter, more systemic crisis: functional Biblical illiteracy among the flock. That's right, religious conservatives aren't so religious, after all. The Christian Right Goes Back to Bible Boot Camp

This is a hard thing to discuss, because there are a lot of good-hearted, well-intending people out there who go to church and try to live a good life, and I don't have anything really against that. But the church leaders have gotten wound up in political issues, they've gotten used to living high on the hog, and they use the numbers of their flocks to do serious damage to the ability of our society to live in harmony. So, for those poor salt-of-the-earth people who trust their leaders and believe what they're told, I say, I'm sorry it's turning out like this. But the rest of us have to stop playing along.
This alarm was sounded by George Barna, chief pollster and CEO of the Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif.-based Christian polling and communications outfit. In August of 2005, Barna reported that less than ten percent of born-again Christians held what he termed a "Biblical worldview." Based on his survey, very few grasped the nuances of scripture or believed in "Absolute Truth" any more than their secular counterparts; the "Body of Christ" had been infected with the virus of relativism, a wasting disease.

"Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content," reported Barna, "our research found that most [professed evangelicals] have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life."

The prolific Barna dashed off a book in response to this worrying discovery. Entitled "Think Like Jesus" -- and marketed as "one of those books that really ticks off Satan" -- it quickly sold out in Barna's online bookstore. A second edition of "Think Like Jesus" soon went to press to further aggravate the Lord of Darkness.

The Lord of Darkness is spitting fire, but Mammon is happy.
Barna's poll and subsequent call to think like Jesus caught the attention of Dr. James Dobson, patriarch of the two most important religious right groups, the $140-million-a-year Focus on the Family, and its more politically minded spin-off, the D.C.-based Family Research Council. Dobson called Barna's report on Christian America's disappearing Biblical worldview "very distressing news" and felt that it warranted a muscular response, one befitting the massive resources at his disposal. The result is Focus on the Family's "The Truth Project: An In-Depth Christian Worldview Experience," a slick and intensive two-day training conference that kicked-off a North American tour last month at a megachurch outside Atlanta. It has since visited sell-out audiences in six cities; there are already 10 events planned for 2007.

Man, the way these guys come up with names: "The Truth Project." They could call it ... oh, never mind, sometimes this is just too easy. You hate to make fun of people who don't know any better, but it is hard to stomach the exploiters.

I can hardly wait till these folks find out what Jesus really said. Man, they are going to be embarrassed.

92 Comments:

Blogger digger said...

Interesting post, Jim. Most people I went to church with read the bible regularly, but many people say they base opinions on biblical principles without having read the text stright through.

As an aside, here's a post from PFOX, under the title: "Ex-gay former boyfriend of Boy George." Is this what they mean by ex-gay? Seems to me the guy is encouraging tolerance.

Boy George's Ex-Bandmates Slam Singer
Nov 02 10:05 AM US/Eastern

By JILL LAWLESS
Associated Press Writer

LONDON

Their infectious melodies, flamboyant frontman and multiracial mix
made Culture Club a sunny beacon of 1980s pop. Now, though, it's
war.

Two of the band's founding members told The Associated Press on
Thursday that they're furious with Boy George, who recently accepted
a songwriting award without telling them, labeled their new
vocalist "dreadful" and, they claim, made their lives a misery.

"We've never said anything about George, because George has always
been George," said Jon Moss, the band's drummer and Boy George's
former boyfriend. "But this has gone too far."

Later this year, Moss, bassist Mikey Craig and keyboard player Phil
Pickett will be back on the road as Culture Club Reborn. Boy George
will not be joining them.

Culture Club topped charts around the world in the 80s with songs
like "Karma Chameleon," "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" and "Church
of the Poison Mind." The androgynous George, with his broad-brimmed
hats, makeup and beribboned hair, became an early MTV star and a
global style icon.

By the late 80s, the band split, plagued by flagging sales and Boy
George's well-publicized heroin addiction.

While the other members have since combined music careers with
reasonably quiet lives, George has stayed in the headlines _ most
recently during an August stint sweeping streets in New York as
punishment for falsely reporting a burglary at his apartment.

Culture Club reunited successfully in 1998, but George _ real name
George O'Dowd _ declined to participate in another tour this year.
The band recruited 29-year-old unknown Sam Butcher for a British
tour that starts Dec. 7.

Boy George was not impressed, telling an audience at a music awards
ceremony that he thought the new singer was "dreadful."

"I wanted to like it," he said of the group's new sound, "but I
couldn't."

Earlier this week he picked up a classic songwriting award at the Q
Music Awards for 'Karma Chameleon' _ a song credited to all the
original band members. None of the other band members were invited
to the ceremony.

"We should have been there," said Craig, 46. "George wasn't the sole
writer of the song. We wrote collectively.

"At the end of the day, Culture Club was very much ours as well as
George's. He was the visual impact that everyone got, but there was
a hell of a lot behind it."

Even the singer's iconic name, Moss said, was his bandmates' doing.

"He wanted to call himself Papa George," said Moss, 49. "It doesn't
have the same ring to it. And he wanted to call us Caravan Club."

Moss, now married with three children, has a particularly volatile
relationship with the singer. He and George were lovers at the
height of the band's success, though the relationship was not made
public at the time.

In his autobiography "Take It Like a Man," Boy George said many
Culture Club lyrics were about his feelings for Moss and claimed the
band's breakup was driven by the collapse of their relationship.

Moss says the book is misleading.

"He says I was ashamed" of the relationship, Moss said. "I'm not
ashamed of anything. My parents know, all my friends knew. There's
no problem there."

He said George's claim the band split "because he was distraught and
broken-hearted over our love affair" was "complete and utter
cobbler's (rubbish)."

"The only person George loves is George ... He's like a nightmare ex- wife," Moss said. "This guy's being rude about me all the time.
I've lived with it for years and I've just had enough."

Moss and Craig, now fortysomething fathers, sound _ well, like
middle- aged dads _ when they discuss their former bandmate. Moss
recalls with embarrassment how George swore at the audience during
the band's reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002.

"Here's a man who's got the audience that put him where he is,
bought his house for him and made him Boy George," said Moss. "It's
not acceptable."

They say George's griping is spoiling the legacy of a band whose pan- sexual, multiracial makeup helped transform social attitudes in the
1980s.

"The whole idea of Culture Club was multiculturalism, the spirit of
tolerance, the spirit of all as one," Moss said.

"Think of the diversity in our band _ a Jew, a black person, an
English person from Essex and a Catholic homosexual. That was
Culture Club."

###

#

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All donors will receive a subscription to the PFOX Press Newsletter by mai

December 05, 2006 10:46 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

I must have missed something -- I don't see anything about "ex-gays" in this story...

JimK

December 05, 2006 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While this may be news to TTFers, it's no secret to anyone who actually attends an evangelical church. I meet few people, including clergy, who wouldn't agree that everyone, including themselves, has much to learn. Bible study is a continual activity. I also hear many teachers who speak of a fifth gospel, meaning you need to know the history and context in which the original words were spoken.

December 05, 2006 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Steve Boese said...

The PFOX story about Jon Moss, Boy George's former boyfriend, now married with kids, echoes material that used to be posted at their website about Anne Heche. They were in gay relationships, and now straight ones, so to PFOX folks they are beacons of hope that their own kids might make the switch some day, too.

It was pretty amazing to me to attend Love Won Out and hear Nancy Heche tearfully tell the story about Anne leaving Ellen being an answer to prayer. She never acknowledged, that I heard, that she and Anne remain estranged and that, according to Nancy's deeply-held beliefs, Anne is still going to hell.

The Heche family's story speaks to your original point, Jim -- people who draw hope and motivation from them refuse to acknowledge what they believe.

December 05, 2006 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They were in gay relationships, and now straight ones, so to PFOX folks they are beacons of hope that their own kids might make the switch some day, too."

And why shouldn't that be considered a hopeful development?

"It was pretty amazing to me to attend Love Won Out and hear Nancy Heche tearfully tell the story about Anne leaving Ellen being an answer to prayer. She never acknowledged, that I heard, that she and Anne remain estranged and that, according to Nancy's deeply-held beliefs, Anne is still going to hell."

Many readers seem obsessed with the topic of homosexuals going to hell. Orthodox Christians would believe that anyone who hasn't received forgiveness through Christ is going to hell. No one has singled gays out as a special category in this regard. Unless you believe that yourself, it's hard to see why it would bother you.

In any case, why is it that Heche's mother should feel obligated to discuss this every time she discusses her daughter?

"The Heche family's story speaks to your original point, Jim -- people who draw hope and motivation from them refuse to acknowledge what they believe."

What?

December 05, 2006 12:29 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I simply don't see what is "hopeful" in those stories, which again gets back to the Anon crew's definition of "normal." Sorry, guys, that just won't cut it.

Get used to the fact that there are bisexuals in this world as well -- probably many of them. And people are going to do what they're going to do with no desire to be pigeon-holed into any category. Which is their right.

December 05, 2006 12:56 PM  
Blogger digger said...

I agree, there are many bisexual people in the world (Kinsey's charts of the distriubtion of lgb people agrees closely with my experience of people I know and hear about).

Anyway, so what if sexual orientation is more fluid? My point, repetatively, is that the reparative therapy and conversion ministries rely on the shaming of lgbt people for religious and prejudicial reasons, and are intrinsically harmful. Montgomery county should (and almost certainly will) avoid this poison like the plague that it is.

Lunchtime is over; time for another meeting.

rrjr

December 05, 2006 1:01 PM  
Blogger digger said...

I agree, there are many bisexual people in the world (Kinsey's charts of the distriubtion of lgb people agrees closely with my experience of people I know and hear about).

Anyway, so what if sexual orientation is more fluid? My point, repetatively, is that the reparative therapy and conversion ministries rely on the shaming of lgbt people for religious and prejudicial reasons, and are intrinsically harmful. Montgomery county should (and almost certainly will) avoid this poison like the plague that it is.

Lunchtime is over; time for another meeting.

rrjr

December 05, 2006 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Get used to the fact that there are bisexuals in this world as well -- probably many of them. And people are going to do what they're going to do with no desire to be pigeon-holed into any category."

I've said this many times, Dr, and I just get attacked as a bigot for it.

Let me ask you: do bisexuals have a choice, in your humnle opinion?

December 05, 2006 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops! I meant humble

December 05, 2006 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anyway, so what if sexual orientation is more fluid?"

Kinsey's a discredited nut, Robert.

The "so what" here is that given this truth, which is obvious, what to make of all these claims by TTF that studies show it's impossible to change. If there is all this pressure, and so many are really bi, why can't they change? It makes you think the numbers were jiggered just like Kinsey's studies and Margaret Mead's studies.

We all know what happens in prisons. People choose to be gay. Well, no, TTF says, it's not their preference. But at least one half of them are obviously enjoying the experience. And, so enjoying, coming to desire it. Aren't they gay or bi, for a time? Don't they choose it?

Granted, you don't hear about prisoners continuing this when released but if they can change to gay under certain conditions why can't it go the other way if motivated by a desire to conform to societal standards?

Are we really just talking about what one desires or what one desires the most? In the light of that, are societal standards really the inhumane oppression TTF characterizes them to be?

December 05, 2006 1:27 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, bisexuals can choose which gender we want to be with, but we cannot choose not to have bisexual attractions. Sex in prison is about dominating other prisoners to establish who is the bigger man. Its about forcibly making another take the female role so the rapist can feel he's taking back some of the power that has been taken away by his incarceration. In many cultures the dominant male is not considered gay, only the submissive one is. The dominant male fantisizes that he's having heterosexual intercourse. Kinsey correctly observed that many of us are innately bisexual. I suspect that's why you are so obsessed with the idea that gays can choose to be straight - you're expressing fear of your own repressed same sex attractions and the hope that you can simply choose to make them go away. You will not be able to, you'll be much happier if you just learn to relax and accept that its okay for you to feel same sex attractions.

December 05, 2006 1:48 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, I should add that bisexuals don't owe it to society to choose their partners sex based on what society wants. Given that no one is hurt its morally correct for bisexuals to choose the partner they are most attracted to and in love with. I have been in loving relationships with women, and now with a man. I'm mostly a loner and if I had caved in to society's whims I'd be spending half of my life without love. No way should I be making a major sacrifice like that just to satisfy the precocious whims of someone like you.

December 05, 2006 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Randi, you believe society is hateful, bigoted and repressive if it cuts in half the number of potential sexual partners for a certain unnumbered part of the population? Unless it doubles their chance at true happiness?

December 05, 2006 2:14 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Oh, boy, Anon, where and when did you attend school? What did Randi say that you could possible infer your last statement: "So, Randi, you believe society is hateful, bigoted and repressive if it cuts in half the number of potential sexual partners for a certain unnumbered part of the population?"

Again, in my humble opinion -- bisexuals do not have a choice about their desire. They have a choice whether or not to act upon that desire. I don't understand why this is so hard for you. You obviously have desires, and then you must act or choose not to act on those desires.

As has been said recently, Peter Sprigg and his buds understand this. Why can't you?

The underlying difference is quite clear -- The Dobsonites believe that any kind of sex outside their chosen parameters is sinful. They don't care if it's innate or not. The theocons' position is quite evident, as Robert George has admitted that masturbation is not only sinful but should be made a crime.This is extreme religious totalitarianism, but at least it's consistent.

The problem for you guys is that very few Americans care to buy into that extremism. We've graduated beyond it, and fought many wars the past century against similar forms of totalitarianism.

December 05, 2006 2:46 PM  
Blogger digger said...

Randi said:

" In many cultures the dominant male is not considered gay, only the submissive one is."

There's a developing thread in textual criticism of Latin literature that indicates that this was true of ancient Rome.

Caesar was lambasted as "King of Rome, Queen of Bythinia", because he lingered at the court of Nicomedes.

rrjr

December 05, 2006 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What did Randi say that you could possible infer your last statement: "So, Randi, you believe society is hateful, bigoted and repressive if it cuts in half the number of potential sexual partners for a certain unnumbered part of the population?""

He said this:

"I have been in loving relationships with women, and now with a man. I'm mostly a loner and if I had caved in to society's whims I'd be spending half of my life without love. No way should I be making a major sacrifice like that"

"Again, in my humble opinion -- bisexuals do not have a choice about their desire. They have a choice whether or not to act upon that desire."

So they potentially have desires for pretty much any breathing human. Is it so burdensome to limit themselves to acting on those desires which produce a better society? How about keeping their feelings to themselves?

"The theocons' position is quite evident, as Robert George has admitted that masturbation is not only sinful but should be made a crime.This is extreme religious totalitarianism, but at least it's consistent."

Well, I don't know anybody who favors that and, since it's so preposterous, I don't know why it causes such alarm in TTFers except as a straw man to advance their cause.

"The problem for you guys is that very few Americans care to buy into that extremism."

Well, I'm not a part of you guys and I think those guys are an insignificant group, assuming they exist at all. Very few Americans support, and, frankly, are sick of, the gay agenda- which is why so few politicians support it.

"We've graduated beyond it, and fought many wars the past century against similar forms of totalitarianism."

The gay advocacy movement displays more signs of totalitarianism than any group in America.

December 05, 2006 3:05 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, its not for society or government to dictate the gender of anyone's love or marriage partner - yes, its hateful, bigoted and repressive to do so. Its up to me to decide who best makes me happy, not you, its none of your business.
If you're not a repressed gay or bisexual yourself, just why do you care what the gender is of anyone's love interest? What's it to you? What makes you think you should have a say in who anyone loves?

December 05, 2006 3:08 PM  
Blogger digger said...

Anonymous dear friend,

Do you find argument and invective relaxing or stimulating in some way? You must be aware that you are convincing no one on this blog of anything, but instead egaging in back-and-forth argument with remarkably little content. I would be genuinely interested in hearing what you really think, explicated clearly in a way that I could understand, rather than the disdainful and insulting posts you've been engaging in. But then again, maybe I get something out of it, because I really love to read the comment section of this blog.

rrjr

December 05, 2006 3:20 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, I am a she, not a he.

Anonymous said "[Bisexuals] potentially have desires for pretty much any breathing human. Is it so burdensome to limit themselves to acting on those desires which produce a better society? How about keeping their feelings to themselves?".

You really are dumber than a bag of hammers, aren't you? We don't potentially have desires for any breathing human any more than you potentially have desires for all people of the oppoosite sex. Obviously it would be a huge burden for me to go half my life without love. It doesn't benefit anyone for me to have missed out on love for half my life just to have given you the most trivial bit of satisfaction - and that's exactly what would have happened if I'd have restricted myself to only the gender you think I should have. In no way can it be considered a burden on you to let people love who they want. True love is hard enough to find without needlessly excluding possible partners.

As to bisexuals keeping our feelings to ourselves, forget it. Its impossible to find love without ever letting others know you are interested and available. No heterosexual hides the fact that they are straight and no gay or bisexual should have to hide their sexuality either. We deserve the same right to openly pursue love that straight people have. When you completely stiffle your sexuality you can suggest others give it a try.

December 05, 2006 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"True love is hard enough to find without needlessly excluding possible partners."

Is this the issue, then? Maximizing one's chances?

December 05, 2006 3:59 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, the point is we don't choose who we fall in love with. A bisexual like me can't help it if we fall in love with someone of either sex. The idea is preposterous that we should turn our back on someone we happen to fall in love with just because they are the same sex as us.

Are you a repressed gay or bisexual yourself? Just why do you care what the gender is of anyone's love interest? What's it to you? What makes you think you should have a say in who anyone loves?

December 05, 2006 4:07 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Anonymous on October 31, 2006 8:36 AM at http://www.teachthefacts.org/2006/10/family-blah-blah-running-out-of-steam.html said "Dobson is not a theologian and has never pretended to be. He's a psychologist with a emphasis on family issues."

In the article quoted by Jim in this blog, Dobson's own words prove otherwise: "Only by understanding the immutable truth claims of Christ," says Dobson in The Truth Project's promotional video, can Christians successfully defend against the "postmodern worldview" in which "God does not exist," "the family is defined as any circle of love," and "homosexuality is the moral equivalent of heterosexuality."

"If we capture and embrace more of God's worldview and trust it with unwavering faith," says Dobson, "then we begin to ... form the appropriate responses to questions on abortion, same-sex marriage, cloning, stem-cell research and even media choices." But the real prize is bigger than any one issue. By fully embracing Truth, religious conservatives can "recapture Western Civilization," which they "invented but have lost."


Dobson, like many on the religious right including Anon, uses his own religious views to divide when he judges some Americans as unholy sinners -- those who are not heterosexual, those who have safe, legal abortions, and even those who perform medical research on discarded fetal stem cells in an effort to help alleviate suffering.

I've had enough of Dobson's religious-psycho-political babble.

Instead I offer a call to unite and bring hope to those suffering from AIDS. Here is the text of Barack Obama's speech on World AIDS day:

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama

I want to start by saying how blessed I feel to be a part of today and how grateful I am for your church and your pastor, my friend Rick Warren.

Ever since Rick and Kay visited Africa to see the pain and suffering wrought by AIDS, the Warrens and this church have proved each day that faith is not just something you have, it’s something you do. Their decision to devote their time, their money, and their purpose-driven lives to the greatest health crisis in human history is not one that’s always reported on the news or splashed across the front pages, but it is quietly becoming one of the most influential forces in the struggle against HIV and AIDS. The resources of governments may be vast, and the good works of philanthropists may be abundant, but we should never underestimate how powerful the passion of people of faith can be in eradicating this disease.

One of those passionate individuals is the man we just heard from – my friend and colleague, Sam Brownback. Now, Sam and I may not agree on every issue, but I could not be more impressed with his efforts on issues like AIDS, the crisis in the Congo, the genocide in Darfur and sexual trafficking – issues that touch some of the world’s most vulnerable people. I am proud to work with him on many of these issues, and I’m proud to be by his side today.

I took my own trip to Africa a few months ago. As I’m sure Rick and Kay would agree, it’s an experience that stays with you for quite some time. I visited an HIV/AIDS hospital in South Africa that was filled to capacity with people who walked hours – even days – just for the chance to seek help. I met courageous patients who refused to give up for themselves or their families. And I came across AIDS activists who meet resistance from their own government but keep on fighting anyway.

But of all that I heard, I encountered few stories as heartbreaking as the one recently told by Laurie Goering, a Chicago Tribune reporter based in Johannesburg who had covered our trip for her newspaper.

Three years ago, Laurie hired a woman named Hlengiwe Leocardia Mchunu as her nanny. Leo, as she is known, grew up as one of nine children in a small South African village. All through her life, she worked hard to raise her two kids and save every last penny she earned, and by the time Leo was hired as Laurie’s nanny, she had almost finished paying off the mortgage on her home. She had even hoped to use the extra money from her new job to open a refuge for local children who had been orphaned by AIDS.

Then one day, Leo received a phone call that her eldest brother had fallen ill. At first he told everyone it was diabetes, but later, in the hospital, admitted to the family it was AIDS. He died a few days later. His wife succumbed to the disease as well. And Leo took in their three children.

Six months later, Leo got another phone call. Her younger brother had also become sick with AIDS. She cared for him and nursed him as she did her first brother, but he soon died as well.

Leo’s pregnant sister was next. And then another brother. And then another brother.

She paid for their caskets and their funerals. She took in their children and paid for their schooling. She ran out of money, and she borrowed what she could. She ran out again, and she borrowed even more.

And still, the phone calls continued. All across her tiny village, Leo watched more siblings and cousins and nieces and nephews test positive for HIV. She saw neighbors lose their families. She saw a grandmother house sixteen orphaned grandchildren under her roof. And she saw some children go hungry because there was no one to care for them at all.

You know, AIDS is a story often told by numbers. 40 million infected with HIV. Nearly 4.5 million this year alone. 12 million orphans in Africa. 8,000 deaths and 6,000 new infections every single day. In some places, 90% of those with HIV do not know they have it. And we just learned that AIDS is set to become the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide in the coming years.

They are staggering, these numbers, and they help us understand the magnitude of this pandemic. But when repeated by themselves, statistics can also numb – they can hide the individual stories and tragedies and hopes of the Leos who live the daily drama of this disease.

On this World AIDS day, these are the stories that the world needs to hear. They are the stories that touch our souls – and that call us to action.

I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like if Leo’s family was my own. If I had to answer those phone calls – if I had to attend those funerals. All I know is that no matter how or why my family became sick, I would be called to care for them and comfort them and do what I could to help find a cure. I know every one of you would do the same if it were your family.

Here’s the thing – my faith tells me that Leo’s family is my family.

We are all sick because of AIDS – and we are all tested by this crisis. It is a test not only of our willingness to respond, but of our ability to look past the artificial divisions and debates that have often shaped that response. When you go to places like Africa and you see this problem up close, you realize that it’s not a question of either treatment or prevention – or even what kind of prevention – it is all of the above. It is not an issue of either science or values – it is both. Yes, there must be more money spent on this disease. But there must also be a change in hearts and minds; in cultures and attitudes. Neither philanthropist nor scientist; neither government nor church, can solve this problem on their own – AIDS must be an all-hands-on-deck effort.

Let’s talk about what these efforts involve. First, if we hope to win this fight, we must stop new infections – we must do what we can to prevent people from contracting HIV in the first place.

Now, too often, the issue of prevention has been framed in either/or terms. For some, the only way to prevent the disease is for men and women to change their sexual behavior – in particular, to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage. For others, such a prescription is unrealistic; they argue that we need to provide people with the tools they need to protect themselves from the virus, regardless of their sexual practices – in particular, by increasing the use of condoms, as well as by developing new methods, like microbicides, that women can initiate themselves to prevent transmission during sex. And in the debate surrounding how we should tackle the scourge of AIDS, we often see each side questioning the other’s motives, and thereby impeding progress.

For me, this is a false argument. Let me say this – I don’t think we can deny that there is a moral and spiritual component to prevention – that in too many places all over the world where AIDS is prevalent – including our own country, by the way – the relationship between men and women, between sexuality and spirituality, has broken down, and needs to be repaired.

It was striking to see this as I traveled through South Africa and Kenya. Again and again, I heard stories of men and women contracting HIV because sex was no longer part of a sacred covenant, but a mechanical physical act; because men had visited prostitutes and brought the disease home to their wives, or young girls had been subjected to rape and abuse.

These are issues of prevention we cannot walk away from. When a husband thinks it’s acceptable to hide his infidelity from his wife, it’s not only a sin, it’s a potential death sentence. And when rape is still seen as a woman’s fault and a woman’s shame, but promiscuity is a man’s prerogative, it is a problem of the heart that no government can solve. It is, however, a place where local ministries and churches like Saddleback can, and have, made a real difference – by providing people with a moral framework to make better choices.

Having said that, I also believe that we cannot ignore that abstinence and fidelity may too often be the ideal and not the reality – that we are dealing with flesh and blood men and women and not abstractions – and that if condoms and potentially microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, they should be made more widely available. I know that there are those who, out of sincere religious conviction, oppose such measures. And with these folks, I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree. I do not accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence. Nor am I willing to stand by and allow those who are entirely innocent – wives who, because of the culture they live in, often have no power to refuse sex with their husbands, or children who are born with the infection as a consequence of their parent’s behavior –suffer when condoms or other measures would have kept them from harm.

Another area where we can make significant progress in prevention is by removing the stigma that goes along with getting tested for HIV-AIDS. The idea that in some places, nine in ten people with HIV have no idea they’re infected is more than frightening – it’s a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

So we need to show people that just as there is no shame in going to the doctor for a blood test or a CAT scan or a mammogram, there is no shame in going for an HIV test. Because while there was once a time when a positive result gave little hope, today the earlier you know, the faster you can get help. My wife Michelle and I were able to take the test on our trip to Africa, after the Center for Disease Control informed us that by getting a simple 15 minute test, we may have encouraged as many as half-a-million Kenyans to get tested as well. Rick Warren has also taken the test. Sam Brownback and I took it today. And I encourage others in public life to do the same. We’ve got to spread the word to as many people as possible. It’s time for us to set an example for others to follow.

Of course, even as we work diligently to slow the rate of new infection, we also have a responsibility to treat the 40 million people who are already living with HIV.

In some ways, this should be the easy part. Because we know what works. We know how to save people’s lives. We know the medicine is out there and we know that wealthy countries can afford to do more.

That’s why it was so frustrating for me to go to South Africa, and see the pain, and see the suffering, and then hear that the country’s Minister of Health had promoted the use of beet root, sweet potato, and lemon juice as the best way to cure HIV. Thankfully, the South African government eventually repudiated this, but it’s impossible to overestimate how important it is for political leaders like this to set a good example for their people.

We should never forget that God granted us the power to reason so that we would do His work here on Earth – so that we would use science to cure disease, and heal the sick, and save lives. And one of the miracles to come out of the AIDS pandemic is that scientists have discovered medicine that can give people with HIV a new chance at life.

We are called to give them that chance. We have made progress – in South Africa, treatment provided to pregnant women has drastically reduced the incidents of infants born with the infection. But despite such progress, only one in every five people with HIV around the world is receiving antiretroviral drug treatment. One in every five. We must do better. We should work with drug companies to reduce the costs of generic anti-retroviral drugs, and work with developing nations to help them build the health infrastructure that’s necessary to get sick people treated – this means more money for hospitals and medical equipment, and more training for nurses and doctors.

We need a renewed emphasis on nutrition. Right now we’re finding out that there are people who are on the drugs, who are getting treatment, who are still dying because they don’t have any food to eat. This is inexcusable – especially in countries that have sufficient food supplies. So we must help get them that nutrition, and this is another place where religious organizations that have always provided food to the hungry can help a great deal.

And even as we focus on the enormous crisis in Africa, we need to remember that the problem is not in Africa alone. In the last few years, we have seen an alarming rise in infection rates in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean. And on this World AIDS day, we cannot forget the crisis occurring in our own backyard. Right here in the United States, AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African American women aged 25-34, and we are also seeing many poorer and rural communities fail to get the resources they need to deal with their vulnerable populations – a problem that unfortunately some in Congress are trying to address by taking money away from larger cities that are still facing enormous problems of their own.

Now let me say this – I think that President Bush and this past Congress should be applauded for the resources they have contributed to the fight against HIV and AIDS. Through our country’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, the United States will have contributed more than $15 billion over five years to combat HIV-AIDS overseas. And the Global Fund, with money from the United States and other countries, has done some heroic work to fight this disease. As I traveled throughout Africa this summer, I was proud of the tangible impact that all this money was having, often through coordinated efforts with the Centers for Disease Control, the State Department, foreign governments, and non-governmental organizations.

So our first priority in Congress should be to reauthorize this program when it expires in 2008. Our second priority should be to reassess what’s worked and what hasn’t so that we’re not wasting one dollar that could be saving someone’s life.

But our third priority should be to actually boost our contribution to this effort. With all that is left to be done in this struggle – with all the other areas of the world that need our help – it’s time for us to add at least an additional $1 billion a year in new money over the next five years to strengthen and expand the program to places like Southeast Asia, India, and Eastern Europe, where the pandemic will soon reach crisis proportions.

Of course, given all the strains that have been placed on the U.S. budget, and given the extraordinary needs that we face here at home, it may be hard to find the money. But I believe we must try. I believe it will prove to be a wise investment. The list of reasons for us to care about AIDS is long. In an interconnected, globalized world, the ability of pandemics to spread to other countries and continents has never been easier or faster than it is today. There are also security implications, as countries whose populations and economies have been ravaged by AIDS become fertile breeding grounds for civil strife and even terror.

But the reason for us to step up our efforts can’t simply be instrumental. There are more fundamental reasons to care. Reasons related to our own humanity. Reasons of the soul.

Like no other illness, AIDS tests our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – to empathize with the plight of our fellow man. While most would agree that the AIDS orphan or the transfusion victim or the wronged wife contracted the disease through no fault of their own, it has too often been easy for some to point to the unfaithful husband or the promiscuous youth or the gay man and say “This is your fault. You have sinned.”

I don’t think that’s a satisfactory response. My faith reminds me that we all are sinners.

My faith also tells me that – as Pastor Rick has said – it is not a sin to be sick. My Bible tells me that when God sent his only Son to Earth, it was to heal the sick and comfort the weary; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; to befriend the outcast and redeem those who strayed from righteousness.

Living His example is the hardest kind of faith – but it is surely the most rewarding. It is a way of life that can not only light our way as people of faith, but guide us to a new and better politics as Americans.

For in the end, we must realize that the AIDS orphan in Africa presents us with the same challenge as the gang member in South Central, or the Katrina victim in New Orleans, or the uninsured mother in North Dakota.

We can turn away from these Americans, and blame their problems on themselves, and embrace a politics that’s punitive and petty, divisive and small.

Or we can embrace another tradition of politics – a tradition that has stretched from the days of our founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another – and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.

Let me close by returning to the story of Leo, that South African woman burdened by so much death and despair. Sometime after the death of her fifth sibling, she decided that she wasn’t just going to stand idly by. She decided to call the town’s first public meeting about the AIDS crisis – something that no one had even talked about, let alone met about. 200 people showed up. Some had walked for miles to get there, a few with their grandchildren on their back.

One by one, they stood up and broke their silence, and they told their stories. Stories of tragedy, and stories of hope. And when they were done, Leo rose and said, “I don’t know whether we will win this war, but I’m looking for people who will stand up and face the reality. The time for sitting silently has come to an end.”

Everything did not suddenly get better after that meeting, but some things did. Despite all the children she had to raise and all the sick relatives she still had to care for, Leo still decided to open the AIDS orphanage she had dreamed about so long ago. She began building a daycare center that would house one hundred orphans. And she started plans on a youth center and a soup kitchen.

I hear that part of the story and I think, if this woman who has so little, and has lost so much, can do so much good – if she can still make a way out of no way – then what are we waiting for?

Corinthians says that we are all of one spirit, and that “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” But it also says, “if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

On this World AIDS day, it is the stories of overcoming, and not just illness, that the world needs to hear. Yes, the stories of sadness call us to suffer with the sick. But stories like Leo’s also call us to honor her example, rejoice in the hope that it brings, and work to help her find that brighter future. Thank you, and God Bless you.


http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/news_theswamp/2006/12/obama_aids_and_.html#more

December 05, 2006 6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christine

Most evangelicals, of which Rick Warren is one, would like to alleviate all suffering, regardless of the cause. Warren and his congregants at Saddleback Church hold an traditional biblical view of homosexuality and Warren has stated that governmental efforts are destined for failure and only a network of Christian churches working together can solve problems like AIDS.

Meanwhile, Dobson holds similar views.

BTW, although relieving suffering of those already sick is laudable, the most effective way to end AIDS would be to encourage compliance with the Ten Commandments. Obviously, no one would ever be able to do so completely but the closer we come, the farther this scourge will fade away. You must admit if everyone were to follow this, AIDS would disappear overnight.

December 05, 2006 8:44 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Well, global governmental efforts have eradicated smallpox and almost eradicated polio. AMerican efforts have extended the lifespan in this country over thirty years in the past century. That's governmental public health, not the work of churches.

As for obediance to the Ten Commandments bringing about an end to AIDS, please enlighten me. I can't figure it out by myself.

December 05, 2006 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As for obediance to the Ten Commandments bringing about an end to AIDS, please enlighten me. I can't figure it out by myself."

You'll have to take my word for it. Suffice it to say, simple evangelism is, in effect, an anti-AIDS program.

December 05, 2006 10:20 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

"You'll have to take my word for it. Suffice it to say, simple evangelism is, in effect, an anti-AIDS program. "

Evangelism may be "an anti-AIDS program" but alone, it is not very effective.

The fact is that most federally funded religiously based abstinence-only sex education programs are not effective at reducing AIDS, pregnancy and other STDs. Representative Henry Waxman evaluated 13 such programs and found 11 of the 13 included medically inaccurate information apparently intended to scare teens into abstinence, a tactic which has repeatedly found to be ineffective. However, abstinence-based comprehensive sex education, which includes medically accurate information and instruction in contraceptive use like the ABC program in Africa, has been shown to be effective.

And even if the abstinence-only based program is medically accurate (2 of the 13 evaluated), abstinence alone is not enough. As Senator Obama implied, such programs are a good start but are incomplete. "...we cannot ignore that abstinence and fidelity may too often be the ideal and not the reality – that we are dealing with flesh and blood men and women and not abstractions – and that if condoms and potentially microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, they should be made more widely available....We should never forget that God granted us the power to reason so that we would do His work here on Earth – so that we would use science to cure disease, and heal the sick, and save lives."

Our students need to receive both messages.

December 06, 2006 7:35 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim, Jim, Jim...you really ought to do a little more background before uncritically reposting articles. You see, I did a bit of digging on this "journalist" Alexander Zaitchik, and I think I understand a little better where Mr. Zaitchik is coming from...and let me assure you he is more than merely "a journalist in Washington, D.C." (the tag line attached to this thinly veiled op-ed piece).

So, what do we know about this person?

Well, for beginners, here is the Wikipedia entry for Zaitchik,

Alexander Zaitchik is a staff writer at the Intelligence Report, a project incorporating liberal criticism of conservative figures undertaken by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is published regularly on Alternet. He is also a former senior staff writer and editor for a Prague alternative magazine called Think. He is also the founder-and former co-editor-of a defunct Prague magazine called The Prague Pill. In addition to these assignments he briefly served as editor-in-chief of the New York Press, a paper that he edited and contributed to for several years before leaving. He served as the editor of an alternative zine called Freezerbox, which was created in 1998 and is based out of New York City. He has also written for other publications, including Wired and the eXile.

I picked up on this from a review of a new biography (by James Traub) on UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan that appeared in last Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle, found here,

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/
article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/12/03/
RVG8MMJDS61.DTL&hw=
Alexander+Zaitchik&sn=001&sc=1000

(which curiously enough discloses his professional affiliation at present, whereas the article Jim re-posted has the byline for Zaitchik as a "journalist in Washington, D. C." though go to the bio on alternet and his present employer is disclosed).

It appears that the book and the review of the book both border on hagiography...

So Zaitchik is STAFF writer for Intelligence Report, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Well then, what do we know about the SPLC? Well, here is the entry in Wikipedia,

http://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Southern_Poverty_Law_Center

Of particular attention is the section labeled "Controversy"...which saves the best for last, in this case a stinging investigation by Harper's Magazine by (genuine) journalist Ken Silverstein which has this observation,

Morris Dees doesn't need your financial support. The SPLC is already the wealthiest 'civil rights' group in America... One [sales] pitch, sent out in 1995 — when the center had more than $60 million in reserves — informed would-be donors that the "strain on our current operating budget is the greatest in our 25-year history." Back in 1978, when the Center had less than $10 million, Dees promised that his organization would quit fund-raising and live off interest as soon as its endowment hit $55 million. But as it approached that figure, the SPLC upped the bar to $100 million, a sum that, one 1989 newsletter promised, would allow the Center "to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising." Today, the SPLC's treasury bulges with $120 million, and it spends twice as much on fund-raising — $5.76 million last year — as it does on legal services for victims of civil rights abuses. The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the center one of the worst ratings of any group it monitors, estimating that the SPLC could operate for 4.6 years without making another tax-exempt nickel from its investments or raising another tax-deductible cent from well-meaning "people like you."

BTW, the rating the AIP gave the SPLC? An "F".

Curiously enough, Mr Zaitchik omits any mention of his current employer on his own website, found here,

http://www.zaitchik.com/

then again, at the top of all of the links on his website it reads "Selected Clips"...quite so.

Still, I guess if one writes for a living, it is better to work for an employer with deep pockets. It sounds like "journalist" Alexander Zaitchik has found that employer.

December 06, 2006 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orin,

Theresa has a message for you:

Theresa said...
...quite amusing...how you just throw insults at him when you can't fight his arguments.

very enlightening.

December 06, 2006 12:52 AM

Aunt Bea

December 06, 2006 8:34 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Cute, Anon,

I ask you for a reference to which of the Ten Commandments (by the way, they are not "commandments, but "words" or "sayings")an you give me some simplistic nonsense about "evangelism."

What's the matter? You can't even quote the relevant Commandment?

I won't take your word for it. Sorry.

December 06, 2006 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr

Don't get your point here. I thought I was kind of exchanging witty remark for same.

Anyway, there is a point to my remark. The more we can encourage kids to commit to traditional morality, the lower the AIDS rate will be. Most comprehensive sex ed programs have an underlying message that traditional morality is a little unreasonable. Kids are bright. They pick up the message. So, long-term, the desired goal is elusive.

A religious revival here, or anywhere, would probably do more than any sex ed program in a public school to improve public health. Why do we think the constitution requires us to fight against that? Why does MCPS think they should shield kids from this positive influence?

***********

I can name the 10 commandments but what would it prove? I could just have easily have looked them up on our sprawling internet.

Here's an interesting thought concerning them though:

Despite TTF's view of the Judeo-Christian (JC) religion as obsessed extremists, moderation is at the core of JC morality. In the 10 commandments, the first four involve man's relationship to God, the next six involve man's relationship to other men. Which is most important? The God commandments are first but there are more of the men commandments.

The truth is there is a balance. If one emphasizes the God commandments, one becomes self-righteous. If one emphasizes the men commandments, one falls into empty humanism.

So concludes today's meditation.

"In all things, moderation"

Paul

December 06, 2006 10:42 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Aunt Bea writes,

Orin,

Theresa has a message for you:

Theresa said...
...quite amusing...how you just throw insults at him when you can't fight his arguments.

very enlightening.


How could I fight his arguments since I generally agree with his assessment? Opps, I guess I left that part out...sorry. lol Try not to assume what opinions I do *or* do not hold. BTW, as a Catholic I can assure you that they don't do much better...sigh. I would like to think that this type of illiteracy is as much a subset of a much larger problem with the entire US population reading less than anything else. Still, for a group that prattles on and on and on about how they KNOW their Bible, it is amusingly ironic (call it poetic justice if you will).

Still, the point of all of this digging for dirt is to ask a question that needs to be asked of a erstwhile journalists: what prejudice, bias and (most importantly) potential conflict of interest does this writer have?

The article Jim posted has a byline, (and I quote),

Alexander Zaitchik is a journalist in Washington, D.C.

And it is not hurling insults for me to investigate who this "journalist" is and what potential conflict of interest this person may, or may not have. While I could be mistaken, I believe it is proper journalistic protocol to disclose such affiliations as it appears Mr. Zaitchik does have, especially with a group that is classified as "controversial" by outside groups with no apparent axe to grind and that are nonpartisan, like the Institute of Philanthropy.

Especially in this digital age it is important to carefully scrutinize sources of information, WHATEVER their political angle...don't you think?

December 06, 2006 12:52 AM

Aunt Bea


...still, I understand how it must sting a little to have all of this background stuff on a "journalist" dug up. Don't whine, cry, moan or complain on Jim's behalf...simply insist that he does his homework first since isn't this really about "teaching the facts"?

Orin

December 06, 2006 11:14 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Well, Orin, I hope that made you feel good because I and I strongly suspect the rest of us don't give a damn about anything you said. Its just not relevant to the post.

December 06, 2006 11:48 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Orin

I cannot understand how you could possibly imagine that there was something scandalous about the writer working for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC is a legitimate organization with an excellent reputation. They keep track of hate groups in the US. You may find that some groups you like are listed there, and you may not like that, I understand. But this group is totally above-ground and good.

I really don't know what else to say -- you certainly didn't "catch" us at something, or expose a shady character. There was no secret here, the guy works for a great organization, if he didn't mention it, it's probably because he wasn't working in that capacity when he wrote this. But it's bizarre to think you have uncovered a conspiracy here.

JimK

December 06, 2006 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The SPLC is a legitimate organization with an excellent reputation. They keep track of hate groups in the US. You may find that some groups you like are listed there, and you may not like that, I understand. But this group is totally above-ground and good."

Oh, yeah. They may falsely identify some as a hate group but they're a fine, fine organization.

December 06, 2006 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orin "generally agree[s] with his assessment" and yet goes on and on about this journalist's supposed bias. What's up with that?

December 06, 2006 1:43 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

They may falsely identify some as a hate group...

Anon, could you give us a link to a place where they've done that?

Thanks

JimK

December 06, 2006 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, don't know anything about them. Just found your dismissal of such a thing flippant.

December 06, 2006 2:08 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

I'm sorry to say, there are times here when I am embarrassed to be part of these conversations.

JimK

December 06, 2006 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering your contributions, you ought to be.

December 06, 2006 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous dear friend,

Do you find argument and invective relaxing or stimulating in some way? You must be aware that you are convincing no one on this blog of anything, but instead egaging in back-and-forth argument with remarkably little content. I would be genuinely interested in hearing what you really think, explicated clearly in a way that I could understand, rather than the disdainful and insulting posts you've been engaging in. But then again, maybe I get something out of it, because I really love to read the comment section of this blog."

Robert,

I'll admit I do sometimes say things just to find out how others will respond. I'm writing a novel and it's part of the research. I figure the readership of this blog is so small that there's no harm done.

Drop me a line if you so desire-

EHollis4132@aol.com

December 06, 2006 3:40 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

Orin

I cannot understand how you could possibly imagine that there was something scandalous about the writer working for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC is a legitimate organization with an excellent reputation.


Where I saw "scandal" as you put it was when the article you posted did not disclose that the "journalist" from Washington, D. C. is in fact also a staff writer in the employ of the SPLC (which is in and of iself a little more than an oxymoron given how wealthy they are for a non-profit with such a name as the southern POVERTY law center). Disclosure is warranted because he was writing as a journalist on an organization his employer classifies as an "anti-gay" group.

"excellent reputation"??? You have got to be kidding! The American Institute of Philanthropy gave the SPLC an "F" because as the Wikipedia entry stated,

The American Institute of Philanthropy, an independent charity watchdog organization, gave SPLC a grade of F because SPLC spends only 51 to 65% of its income on program services, and because it continues to fundraise even as though it is cash-rich with $137 million assets. These assets are equal to six years' worth of SPLC's operational expenses, twice that recommended as reasonable by the AIP. (Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report, Dec. 2004, Vol. 38) SPLC's own website confirms $137 million figure. (August 10, 2006)

Don't even get me started on how they are alleged to have mistreated blacks employed by them, or their abysmal affirmative action record (all documented by independent media sources).

They keep track of hate groups in the US. You may find that some groups you like are listed there, and you may not like that, I understand. But this group is totally above-ground and good.

Yes, they do track hate groups, and they raise prodigious sums of money, money they do not need, by scaring the secular left-wing in a similar manner as it is alleged that religious right-wing groups scare their faithful.

And if they are so above ground then why would they threaten legal action against a newspaper for a 9 part investigative series, that btw was a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize?

I really don't know what else to say -- you certainly didn't "catch" us at something, or expose a shady character. There was no secret here, the guy works for a great organization, if he didn't mention it, it's probably because he wasn't working in that capacity when he wrote this. But it's bizarre to think you have uncovered a conspiracy here.

No conspiracy here? No, no...I did not say that or even think that; those are YOUR words. My purpose in posting this information is not to convince or change your mind (when have I ever accomplished that?), but rather to inform others about the nature of this organization...that while POVERTY is a aprt of the title of their organization, they are anything but poor...not by a longshot.

I don't know whatever the opposite of "great" is, but I don't think that that would apply in this case. So, what would? I believe that any fair-minded person, in possession of all of the facts, would conclude that the Southern Poverty Law Center is trading on a few cases, its name, and a general overall ignorance of how they operate to raise loads of money. For what purpose, when they have clearly raised more money than they are ever going to need? I suppose only Morris Dees and a few select others know.

Teach the facts? LOL...that sounds funnier all the time.

December 06, 2006 7:33 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Wow, Orin is a little sensitive about this.

Orin, I don't know why you would think the SPLC should be poor. It doesn't make any sense. And it's just plain paranoid to think that this well-known writer was trying to trick us by concealing his connection to that organization.

It's clear that the rightwing like to criticize this organization because they raise a lot of money. When else is that a criticism? I mean, what are Republicans good at, if it's not raising money?

Well, whatever, Orin, please remember to take your medicine tonight. You've gone off the deep end this time.

JimK

December 06, 2006 7:45 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I still don't understand which of the Ten Commandments (and there are two explicit versions, btw)are relevant to the AIDS epidemic.

If you want to say that being a fundamentalist Christian would protect you from AIDS, say that. That is NOT what you originally said.

And the sad fact is that it is the red states, which are subsidized heavily by the blue states, which have the most problems with Christian virtues. So the statistics show that, to the contrary, claiming to be a good fundamentalist Christian does not protect oneself from a host of human problems and diseases.

December 06, 2006 7:55 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

Wow, Orin is a little sensitive about this.

"a little sensitive"? Lemme see here...you repost an article by a "journalist" from DC, and I expose the fact that it appears this "journalist" is a staff writer for a non-profit that is critical of a religious group, and posing as a "journalist" wrote an article critical of this religious group while not also disclosing his affiliation with this left-wing non-profit...hummm, what part of that don't you understand?

Orin, I don't know why you would think the SPLC should be poor.

Did I say they should take a vow of poverty? Please, if I did say that you should have no problem quoting my words back to me. Now, if you even bothered to consider what I actually wrote (as opposed to what you "read"), you would have seen that it was the American Institute of Philanthropy that gave the SPLC an "F" (as opposed to the two liberal groups they listed here,

http://www.charitywatch.org/
toprated.html

CIVIL RIGHTS & ADVOCACY
PHONE

AIP
GRADE
Center for Constitutional Rights
212-614-6473
A–
Interfaith Alliance Foundation
202-639-6370
B+

There is a reason you don't see the Southern Poverty Law Center...and it is not their politics since both of the two aforementioned groups are clearly liberal.

And here is a great soundbite,

“No one has been more assiduous in inflating the profile of [hate]
groups than the [SPLC]’s millionaire huckster, Morris Dees, who
in 1999 began a begging letter, ‘Dear Friend, The danger presented
by the Klan is greater now than at any time in the past ten
years.” - JoAnn Wypijewski of the Nation magazine

Wow, even The Nation magazine has noticed this problem with the SPLC...amazing.

It doesn't make any sense.

To anyone that is as impervious to facts, reason, logic and evidence as you seem to be...then yes, it certainly would not make any sense at all.

And it's just plain paranoid to think that this well-known writer was trying to trick us by concealing his connection to that organization.

I suspect it was simply a matter of this "journalist" having a blindspot when it comes to dealing with their own political bias..."Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity" (Robert J. Hanlon).

It's clear that the rightwing like to criticize this organization because they raise a lot of money.

The "rightwing"? Uh, you mean Harper's Magazine, The Nation, the American Institute of Philanthropy, the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser? Help me out here...which one of these would be "rightwing"?

When else is that a criticism? I mean, what are Republicans good at, if it's not raising money?

Ahhh, changing the subject from a so-called non-profit law group trading on a much over inflated image of the only thing standing between us and a takeover of America by any number of hate groups (note that I did not place that in scare quotes because sadly these groups do exist) and a major political party whose job it is to raise money to win elections. Oh, and the other major distinction (an important one no less): SPLC is a non-profit, the Republican Party (much like the Democratic Party) is not (so donations to the GOP, the Democratic Party et al are NOT tax deductable charitable contributions).

Well, whatever, Orin, please remember to take your medicine tonight. You've gone off the deep end this time.

Oh, you mean have a cup of coffee? Been there, drank that, and I feel much better...thanks.

lol

And I will take the insult as a tacit admission that what I have written is correct...thanks again.

You originally wrote,

The SPLC is a legitimate organization with an excellent reputation.

"legitimate"? Ok, I'll give you that...they are legitimate in that they were founded and operate to address a serious social ill, i.e. societal hatred of certain groups of people. Fair enough?

"excellent reputation"? This is where you get as disconnected from reality as those ex-gay folks that want to be represented in the MCPS sex ed curriculum.

December 07, 2006 5:15 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Orin quoted and replied "It's clear that the rightwing like to criticize this organization because they raise a lot of money.

The "rightwing"? Uh, you mean Harper's Magazine, The Nation, the American Institute of Philanthropy, the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser? Help me out here...which one of these would be "rightwing"?"

Sure Orin, I'm glad to help you out. After following the circular links within Wikipedia and never finding the investigative reports at the Montgomery Advertiser website, I found that googling the phrase from Wikipedia on Morris Dees, "Morris Dees and the SPLC were the subject of a 1994 investigative report by the Montgomery Advertiser", yields the following hits in this order:

http://www.zpub.com/notes/znote-splc.html
"Why has Mike Wallace stooped to using a scumbag like Morris Dees to discredit William Pierce, author of the Turner Diaries, in a June 2001 version of 60 Minutes II...The current campaign against militias and the right is the biggest threat to freedom in America since the anti-communist campaign of the fifties. Today's witchhunters are people like Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center."

www.godhatesfags.com/writings/20051211_morris-dees-splc.pdf
Needs no explanation I trust as I refuse to ever go to their website again.

www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1466446/posts
"Free Republic is the premier online gathering place for independent, grass-roots conservatism on the web. We're working to roll back decades of governmental largesse, to root out political fraud and corruption, and to champion causes which further conservatism in America. And we always have fun doing it. Hoo-yah!"

leagueofthesouth.net/rebellion/index.php/site/2006/07/20/
"...We're Southerners, and plan to stay that way."

www.minutemanhq.com/project/LEO.html
"Minutemanproject: Americans doing the jobs our Government won't do"

www.thenewamerican.com/artman/publish/article_3281.shtml
"20 Good Reasons... Why You Should Subscribe to The New American Magazine and Join The John Birch Society "

Those rightwing organizations.

Aunt Bea

December 07, 2006 7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I still don't understand which of the Ten Commandments (and there are two explicit versions, btw)are relevant to the AIDS epidemic."

They all are. Would you like to start with number 1?

"If you want to say that being a fundamentalist Christian would protect you from AIDS, say that. That is NOT what you originally said."

You are correct. I didn't say that. But does it really matter what I say? You'll just put the words in my mouth and then debate your own fantasy, like this:

"And the sad fact is that it is the red states, which are subsidized heavily by the blue states, which have the most problems with Christian virtues. So the statistics show that, to the contrary, claiming to be a good fundamentalist Christian does not protect oneself from a host of human problems and diseases."

Yes, but actually heeding the Ten Commandments would. Am I right?

I'm just pointing out that God gave us all the guidance we need. Why keep it secret?

December 07, 2006 8:44 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

I wrote,

The "rightwing"? Uh, you mean Harper's Magazine, The Nation, the American Institute of Philanthropy, the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser? Help me out here...which one of these would be "rightwing"?"

And Aunt Bea answers...well, sort of,

Sure Orin, I'm glad to help you out. After following the circular links within Wikipedia and never finding the investigative reports at the Montgomery Advertiser website, I found that googling the phrase from Wikipedia on Morris Dees, "Morris Dees and the SPLC were the subject of a 1994 investigative report by the Montgomery Advertiser", yields the following hits in this order:

And this explains the assessment of the American Institute of Philanthropy? Oh, and check out the piece that Ken Silverstein did for Harper's...November 2000, starting on page 54, it is one their "Annotation" articles that I loved so much when I was actually a subscriber and was able to read it on a regular basis. In an "Annotation" piece they pick apart a piece of mail, govt document, etc., adding value by putting it all in context.

Oh, and here is Silverstein's bio at Harper's...and I'd have to say that his credentials as a liberal are impressive,

Ken Silverstein is the Washington Editor for Harper's Magazine, and a regular contributor to both the print and web version of Harper's. A former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Silverstein has covered such topics as intelligence collaboration between the CIA and controversial foreign governments in Sudan and Libya, political corruption in Washington, and links between American oil companies and repressive foreign governments. His 2004 series “The Politics of Petroleum,” co-written with T. Christian Miller, won an Overseas Press Club Award. His stories on ties between the government of Equatorial Guinea and major U.S. companies—including Riggs Bank, ExxonMobil and Marathon Oil—led to the convening of a federal grand jury, and to investigations by the Senate and the Securities and Exchange Commission. His report, co-written with Chuck Neubauer, on a lobbying business opened by Karen Weldon, daughter of Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, led to the opening of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

Silverstein has been an outspoken gadfly in the newspaper business. In December of 2005, a memo he wrote to his editors at the Los Angeles Times expressing his dismay over their insistence on false “balance” was discussed in an article by Michael Massing in The New York Review of Books. While reporting on potential voter fraud in St. Louis in 2004, Silverstein was angered to learn that his findings were to be woven into a larger “balanced” piece on accusations being made nationwide, when it was clear that Republican charges of irregularities in St. Louis were insubstantial. “I am completely exasperated by this approach to the news,” Silverstein wrote. “The idea seems to be that we go out to report but when it comes time to write we turn off our brains and repeat the spin from both sides.”

Silverstein had been a contributing editor to Harper's before joining the Times. One of his pieces for the magazine, The Radioactive Boy Scout, became a highly acclaimed book of the same title published by Random House in 2004. He has also written for Mother Jones, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Slate, and Salon. From 1989 to 1993 he was a correspondent for the Associated Press in Brazil.

Ken can be emailed at ken@harpers.org.


Sorry, but you will have to access a database at your local library to retrieve this article, or better still you can easily dig it up at any better library.

Why is it that when I try to present facts and evidence, you and Jim act like, well...teenagers? Time to grow up sweetie.

It is a little chopped up looking, but hey, the information is all there...

December 07, 2006 8:54 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Wow, this is fascinating... Turns out the radical right really really doesn't want to see a liberal organization do what they do: raise a lot of money and use it to fight groups who violate their values.

Orin is beside himself here. Unfortunately, besides turning red in the face he doesn't have much to say.

It's not a surprise that the right wing opposes the SPLC, because it's the SPLC's mission to keep track of those guys and see that they're prosecuted when they cross the line.

JimK

December 07, 2006 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kind of an uncomfortable truth for liberals is that these organizations designed for a specific cause have no interest in solving the problem because, then, they couldn't justify their continued existence.

Sorry, Jim, but one need do nothing but follow the money to see this.

Wow!

December 07, 2006 10:34 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

December 07, 2006 11:42 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous at December 06, 2006 3:40 PM says "I'm writing a novel".

Now there's a laugh. A fellow like you can put every reasonable idea he's got on the back of a post card - you just gotta be careful the postage stamp doesn't cover up both words. You'll have to greatly increase the quality of your writing before any publisher will be bothered to actually confirm his opinion by sending you a rejection letter.

December 07, 2006 11:44 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, the last thing the world needs is more religion. Religion is at the heart of most conflict in the world today. Studies have shown the more religious a country is the more social dysfunction it suffers from.

The only thing the world needs to solve its problems is a committment to fairness and equality. To do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The ten commandments is the spawn of an evil book describing perhaps the most dispicable character in all literature, your god. You should try reading the old testament sometime. Its a real eye-opener. Your god is psychotic, insecure, murderous and with an insatiable appetite to torture humans. In no way can this book be remotely considered a source of morality.

December 07, 2006 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, is that nice?

Don't worry, Randi. I'll say all the characters are fiction.

December 07, 2006 11:52 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, it doesn't matter what you say about your characters, the best you'll be able to do is publish 50 or so copies yourself and set up a table in a mall where you'll sell a total of two books. Enjoy your delusions of grandeur while they last.

December 07, 2006 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Randi

I've got a book recommendation for you. A guy here in Montgomery County, James Beauseigneur, wrote a trilogy called the Christ Clone Trilogy. It's a fictional end times scenario but with a lot of unexpected twists. Anyway, the spiel you just went through is very similar to the words of the Anti-Christ in the book. It's fast-paced and easy to read. Check it out.

December 07, 2006 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, it doesn't matter what you say about your characters, the best you'll be able to do is publish 50 or so copies yourself and set up a table in a mall where you'll sell a total of two books. Enjoy your delusions of grandeur while they last."

The true greats aren't recognized until they're dead.

What I do, I do for posterity!

December 07, 2006 12:02 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, actually I'm much more like Jesus - he never said anything against gays either, unlike yourself. Sounds more like you're the anti-christ. You don't take to heart his most important rule either - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I read the Old Testament so I've had more than my fill of religious flap-doodle. Besides you're the last one I'd take advice from on what to read.

Anonymous said "The true greats aren't recognized until they're dead. What I do, I do for posterity!".

Sounds like you and a whole lot of us are looking forward to the time when you're dead.

December 07, 2006 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, actually I'm much more like Jesus - he never said anything against gays either, unlike yourself."

Well, I can't think of anything that he said on the subject. Probably wasn't really feasible for anyone to be out in first century Palestine. You should know that he spoken positively about the Old Testament though.

"Sounds more like you're the anti-christ."

Do you know much about the anti-Christ? One interesting the New Testament says is that the spirit of the anti-Christ is the one that says Christ didn't really come in the flesh.

"You don't take to heart his most important rule either - do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Did you know the golden rule also appears in the Old Testament?

"I read the Old Testament so I've had more than my fill of religious flap-doodle."

Maybe you don't understand it. Is that possible?

"Besides you're the last one I'd take advice from on what to read."

Your loss. You'd probably get into it. One review I read in a secular paper said it's "an end-times book even a new ager could love".

"Anonymous said "The true greats aren't recognized until they're dead. What I do, I do for posterity!".

Sounds like you and a whole lot of us are looking forward to the time when you're dead."

Yeah, you Canadians are in desperate need of a sense a 'umor!

December 07, 2006 12:50 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, don't take my word for it, read that old testament pile of crap and see what an evil character is described there. Only an incredibly evil character would let belief in him and his religion of preference be debatable and then torture people for an eternity for believing otherwise. There's no getting around it. Obviously a loving and just god that would do that cannot exist any more than a square sphere can exist.

December 07, 2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, Thomas Jefferson said your god was "cruel, capricious, vindictive and unjust." He was quite fond of the ethical system of Jesus, who he regarded only as an ethical philosopher and not as the son of God, but rejected pretty much everything else about the Bible. I guess you think he was the anti-christ too, eh?

December 07, 2006 5:18 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

Wow, this is fascinating... Turns out the radical right really really doesn't want to see a liberal organization do what they do: raise a lot of money and use it to fight groups who violate their values.

Sigh...I think it is wonderful an outfit can raise loads of money, especially to fight an evil like hate motivated and directed crimes. I do not know how much more clear I can be with the english language.

The issue is that they do NOT use the prodigious sums of money they raise to fight such evil, and this is what has caught the eye of liberals like Ken Silverstein of Harper's and the writer I quoted from The Nation magazine...not to mention the American Institute of Philantropy which gave it an "F".

What part of this do you not understand?

It's not a surprise that the right wing opposes the SPLC, because it's the SPLC's mission to keep track of those guys and see that they're prosecuted when they cross the line.

Now you are sounding like a hardened political ideologue, little concern with anything closely approaching the "facts". One of the things that gives me the most pride in this area is when old age KKK geezers are tried for crimes they think they got away with, and they are convicted and sent off to die in prison. It is a classic liberal conceit to tell yourself that those on the right don't care or desire to fight such an evil...much like the conceit that liberals are more generous in their giving, something that Arthur C. Brooks, professor of public administration at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs has soundly refuted in Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism, a book chock full of facts...probably something most here would not be interested in reading.

Imagine that...pity that.

December 07, 2006 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

You asked for rightwing groups that criticize SPLC because they raise a lot of money and I gave you a list of them, which you promptly ignored. Yes Silverstein's a liberal who wrote the story and in your eyes I suppose that's supposed to make my opinion of the SPLC be changed by it. Nope. The way I see it, Morris Dees won't live forever so in order to ensure his very worthwhile organization will continue after his death, he's in the process of acquiring a lot of capital to fund his legacy, capital that of course is not spent on the "good works" as reported by the AIP. It's just good longterm business sense.

Why is it that when I try to present facts and evidence, you and Jim act like, well...teenagers? Time to grow up sweetie.

Your "evidence" as you later pointed out Orin was not obtainable on line. You think I'm acting like a teenager for pointing that out? That's your problem.

And don't call me sweetie again, Opie.

Aunt Bea

December 07, 2006 8:29 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Orin

I don't hear you complaining about what any of the rightwing institutions spend their money on. Hey, how about the way Halliburton is rebuilding Iraq? Has that cost the taxpayers a trillion dollars yet? Does Iraq have electricity or running water yet? C'mon, man, you can't criticize SPLC cuz they pay themselves well. Did you look at the last couple of appropriations bills that our Republican congressmen wrote for themselves?

Sorry, not going to feel bad if the good guys make some money on the deal.

And it is really bizarre how you blew off Aunt Bea's comment about the extremists. The groups she listed are hard-core, and that's where the criticism comes from.

Like, JewWatch.com
is a typical web site critical of them. I love how they use a little sickle for the "c" in "watch." Very subtle. Who would've guessed that the founders of SPLC are Jewish?

This is really weird.

JimK

December 07, 2006 8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, Thomas Jefferson said your god was "cruel, capricious, vindictive and unjust." He was quite fond of the ethical system of Jesus, who he regarded only as an ethical philosopher and not as the son of God, but rejected pretty much everything else about the Bible. I guess you think he was the anti-christ too, eh?"

Jefferson is a well known deist. A little more new agey than most of the founding fathers. That's why he is most quoted by liberals. He is also the source of the term "separation of Church and state" which so many falsely believe is law in the US. BTW, he also raped his slaves and had illegitimate children with them. Probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

I think I cited a verse in the Bible that says that the spirit of the anti-Christ is the idea that he didn't come in the flesh. Sounds like Jefferson didn't suffer from that delusion. He was wrong, however, to deny the deity of Christ. I think if you'll look into it, you'll find most cults do the same.

December 08, 2006 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except of course for the cults that do accept Jesus Christ like the Branch Davidians, Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Body of Christ, The Children of God, Church of God with Signs Following (snake handlers), Church of Scientology, Jesus Army, Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, Lord's Resistance Army, Unification Church, and Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church to name a few.

December 08, 2006 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of those you mentioned either don't believe in the deity of Christ or have a diluted version of it. Do your homework before making these posts.

December 08, 2006 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do your homework. Each and every one of those cults believes in the "diety of Christ."

December 08, 2006 8:31 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Anonymous, I couldn't care less about your bronze age mythology. Thankfully you didn't quote anything from the buy-bull

December 08, 2006 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, my bad! Scientologists don't believe in the "diety of Jesus" but the rest of those cults do.

December 10, 2006 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about the Unification Church? Is that your bad too?

December 11, 2006 7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Unification Church (UC) believes that Jesus appeared to Mun Yong-myong (his birth name) in the spring of 1935, when Moon was 15 years old (16 years old in Korean age reckoning), and asked him to help him with the accomplishment of the work left unaccomplished after his crucifixion. After a period of prayer and consideration, Moon accepted the mission"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unification_Church

December 11, 2006 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is the deity in that statement?

December 11, 2006 8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you go ask Richard Cohen, PFOX President, expelled former member of the American Counseling Association, and Moonie. It's his religion so I defer to his expertise on what Moonies believe.

December 11, 2006 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or maybe you could just ask the folks at the Washington Times, Reverend Moon's newspaper.

December 11, 2006 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why don't you go ask Richard Cohen, PFOX President, expelled former member of the American Counseling Association, and Moonie. It's his religion so I defer to his expertise on what Moonies believe."

Really. Didn't know that.

I do know that they don't believe in the deity of Christ.

December 11, 2006 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just looked up Cohen's story. He apparently once was involved in this cult, just like he was once a homosexual. He's overcome both problems. Here's his words:

"More and more, my wife and I were growing distant in our connection to the Unification Church. We were struggling emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. In the years to come, we would eventually resign and return to our Christian roots. (Now we attend a wonderful church in our community. There we find fellowship, support, and love.)"

December 11, 2006 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now Cohen leads his own cult and expects good Christians to bring them their gays sons so he can hug them straight as he "coaches" them. A rational parent might wonder if he's coaching them like other ex-gay quacks who have “fallen from grace” for having sex with clients who are themselves in treatment for conversion of sexual orientation.

http://www.drdoughaldeman.com/doc/ScientificExamination.pdf

December 11, 2006 12:41 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Sorry, but I am wrapping up school, so I don't have as much free time as I would like...

Jim writes,

Hey, how about the way Halliburton is rebuilding Iraq? Has that cost the taxpayers a trillion dollars yet? Does Iraq have electricity or running water yet?

Uh, Jim...NEWSFLASH!...Halliburton is a corporation that is in the business of making money and delivering shareholders value in a stock that increases in value. Now it could very be that Halliburton is bilking the US taxpayer to the tunes of billions...something I will depend on the newly elected DEMOCRATIC Congress to investigate.

As to the water and power issue...if Iran and Syria were not attempting to destabilize Iraq, and if Iraqi's themselves would take a break from the bloodletting long enough to see that much work remains to be done, then reliable power and clean water would not be far behind.

And it is really bizarre how you blew off Aunt Bea's comment about the extremists. The groups she listed are hard-core, and that's where the criticism comes from.

The criticisms of the SPLC? LOL!!!! So, are you alleging that the American Institute of Philantropy, Harper's magazine, and the hometown paper, the Montgomery Advertiser are in some sort of conspiracy with with extreme right-wing hate groups to discredit the SPLC? Please, tell me this is not so...

Not only was the nine-part investigative series on the SPLC a Pulitzer finalist, but the editor gave a recounting to the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University (Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University).

Here is the the URL,

http://niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm

and then search for,

Panel Discussion: Nonprofit Organizations

May 1999

Nonprofits Require Special Handling

and you will get an eyefull.

I ignored Beas comment because it was as irrelevant as your attempting to distract with talk of Halliburton when the topic here is the Southern POVERTY Law Center (which really is not poor at all). Yes, there are extremist right-wing groups like those listed by Bea and you (Jewwatch? wow, that is a new one on me...hey, just about can and indeed does set up shop on the internet) that have been identified and tracked by SPLC and that has earned the SPLC the ire of these groups.

The FACT still remains that the criticisms I have listed (and even some of which I have posted) are from legitimate organizations. Jim Tharpe (who, btw, was a Nieman Fellow 1989-90; do you think they would have given this sort of distinction to an extreme right-wing crank?...come now...really?), the Deputy Metro Editor of The Atlanta Constitution had this to say about his experience being the managaing editor of this series,

I was talking to Doug earlier and he said one of the organizations he reported on accused him of attacking God, one of the nonprofits he’d done some work on. We were accused of attacking essentially the Mother Teresa of Montgomery, being Morris Dees in the Southern Poverty Law Center.

For many years after I first got to The Montgomery Advertiser, probably three or four, we were essentially boosters for the center. We parroted their press releases; when they dedicated the civil rights memorial we published a series called "Alabama’s Real Heroes," about the martyrs who died in the movement; we were friends with people at the center. My newspaper was at 200 Washington Avenue, the center was at 400 Washington Avenue; a parking lot literally separates us.

I always saw the center as a pyramid. At the very top are the five people who make all the money. In the middle are the young idealists, they’re the same sorts of folks who would have volunteered for the Peace Corps after John Kennedy made his plea in the '60s. These are people, many of them from the Northeast and the West Coast, who come down to Montgomery for their Southern experience and they want to change the world. They work very long hours for very little money.
Breaking a Collegial Relationship

They were friends with people at the paper; we hung out with them. There aren’t a lot of young liberals in Montgomery, as you might imagine, and those are the people we associated with. We went to their parties, they went to our parties, they dated people on our staff; occasionally people on our staff would go work for the center. I think we may have had one person from the center actually come work for us. We’d share information back and forth. It was a very collegial relationship.

At the same time, there were some indications that things were amiss, The Progressive had published an article, "How Morris Dees Got Rich Fighting the Klan." A former associate of Mr. Dees, Millard Farmer, who is a very well-known anti-death penalty lawyer and the study for the lawyer in "Dead Man Walking," had parted ways with Mr. Dees over a fight over the way they were pursuing anti-death penalty fundraising, and had referred to Mr. Dees as running the Jim and Tammy Bakker Show of the civil rights movement down in Montgomery.

So you were getting little inklings all along that there was something that wasn’t quite right there. Many of the staffers in the mid-level of the pyramid who were our friends would come, they would stay a year or two, by design - those jobs were generally meant to last a year or two - and they would leave, and on several occasions they would come to me or come to somebody else at the paper and say, "You guys really ought to look at this place, something’s just not right there. I came here thinking this place was one thing and I’m leaving thinking it’s another."

So getting to the source question, those were our initial sources, those people who we were friends with. This went on for two or three years after I got there, and as 1991 approached the center was approaching its 20th anniversary, so we decided to look beyond the sound bite of the reporting that had been done on the center, to put it under a magnifying glass and see what we came up with.

I’d never done any reporting on nonprofits, I thought they were all good guys, they were mom-and-pop, bake-sale, raise-money-for-the-local-fire-department type operations. I had no idea how sophisticated they were, how much money they raised, and how little access you have to them as a reporter, some of which has already been covered here.

Summary of Findings

Our series was published in 1995 after three years of very brutal research under the threat of lawsuit the entire time.

Our findings were essentially these:

The center was building up a huge surplus. It was 50-something million at that time; it’s now approaching 100 million, but they’ve never spent more than 31 percent of the money they were bringing in on programs, and sometimes they spent as little as 18 percent. Most nonprofits spend about 75 percent on programs.

A sampling of their donors showed that they had no idea of the center’s wealth. The charity watchdog groups, the few that are in existence, had consistently criticized the center, even though nobody had reported that.

There was a problem with black employees at what was the nation’s richest civil rights organization; there were no blacks in the top management positions. Twelve out of the 13 black current and former employees we contacted cited racism at the center, which was a shocker to me. As of 1995, the center had hired only two black attorneys in its entire history.

Questionable Fundraising

We also found some questionable fundraising tactics. One of the most celebrated cases the center handled was the case of a young black man, Michael Donald, who was killed by Klansmen in Mobile, Alabama, and his body suspended from a tree, a very grotesque killing. The state tried the people responsible for the murder and several of them ended up on death row, a couple ended up getting life in prison.

The center, after that part of the case took place, sued the Klan organization to which they belonged and won a $7 million verdict. It was a very celebrated verdict in this country. The problem was the people who killed this kid didn’t have any money. What they really got out of it was a $51,000 building that went to the mother of Michael Donald. What the C enter got and what we reported was they raised $9 million in two years using the Donald case, including a mailing with the body of Michael Donald as part of it.

The top center officials, I think the top three, got $350,000 in salaries during that time, and Morris got a movie out of it, a TV movie of the week. I think it was called, "The Morris Dees Story."

As I said, being the editor on this series really raised my eyebrows. I never knew anything about nonprofits before this. I thought we would have complete access to their financial records; we didn’t. We had access to 990’s, which Doug mentioned earlier, which tell you very little, but they are a good starting point.

Organizations Monitor Nonprofits

I also learned that there are organizations out there that monitor nonprofits. A couple of these that might be worth your time are the National Charities Information Bureau, the American Institute of Philanthropy, and the Charities Division of the Better Business Bureau. They have rather loose guidelines, I think, for the way nonprofits operated, and even with those guidelines, they had blasted the center repeatedly for spending too little on programs, for the number of minorities in management positions, just very basic stuff that they’d been criticized for but nobody had reported.

The relationship with sources on this story was pretty interesting, because like I said, most of these people were our friends, and as somebody mentioned earlier, these were the disillusioned faithful. They were people who didn’t resign. As I said, most of their jobs simply ran out, but they left the center very disillusioned and very willing to talk about it, although most of them wanted to talk off the record.

That presented a number of problems for us. We did not publish anything in the series unless it was attributed to somebody, but we went beyond that. I think if we had stuck with that tack as the only thing we did in the series, we would have ended up with people at the center could have easily dismissed as disgruntled employees.

By looking at 990’s, what few financial records we did have available, we were able to corroborate much of that information, many of the allegations they had made, the fact that the center didn’t spend very much of its money that it took in on programs, the fact that some of the top people at the center were paid very high salaries, the fact that there weren’t minorities in management positions at the center.

If I had advice for anybody looking into a nonprofit it would be this: It’s the most tenacious story. You have to be more tenacious in your pursuit of these things than anything else I’ve ever been a part of. These guys threatened us with a lawsuit from the moment we asked to look at their financial records.

They were very friendly and cooperative, up until the point where we said, "We want to see the checks you write," and they turned over their 990’s and said, "Come look at these." We said, "We don’t want to see those, we know what those are and we’ve seen them. We actually want to see the checks you write," and they said, "Well, there’s 23,000 checks we’ve written over two years, you don’t possibly have time to look through all those," and we said, "Yes, we do, and we’ll hire an auditor to do it."
First Threats, Eventually No Response to Questions

At that point, they hired an independent attorney. They’re all lawyers, you’ve got to understand. They hired an attorney who began first by threatening me, then my editor, and then the publisher. "And you better be careful of the questions you ask and the stories you come up with," and they would cite the libel law to us. So we were under threat of lawsuit for two years, basically, during the research phase of the series.

They initially would answer our questions in person, as long as they could tape-record it. After we asked about finances, they wanted the questions written down and sent to them in advance, and then finally they said, "We’re tired of you guys, we’re not answering anything else," and they completely cut us off.

We published the series over eight days in 1994, and it had very little effect, actually. I think the center now raises more money than it ever has. [Laughter]

The story really didn’t get out of Montgomery and that’s a real problem. The center’s donors are not in Montgomery; the center’s donors are in the Northeast and on the West Coast. So the story pretty much was contained in Montgomery where it got a shrug-of-the-shoulders reaction. We really didn’t get much reaction at all, I’m sad to say.

One of our editorial writers had an interesting comment on it. I think he stole it from somebody else, but his comment was this: "They came to do good and they’ve done quite well for themselves, and they’ve done even better since the series was published." I’m not sure what the lesson in that is, but don’t assume because a nonprofit has a sterling reputation it’s not worth looking into, and don’t assume when you start looking into it that it’s going to be easy to get the information, because it’s not.
Lawyers Offering Their Services

Kovach - Let me add two addenda to this in terms of reporting on nonprofits. I don’t know if it was your experience or the experience of one of you guys, but one of the results of the increasing journalistic interest in nonprofits is that lawyers have talked about this kind of reporting at bar association meetings and there are now law firms that specialize in calling news organizations that are investigating nonprofits and offering their services.

We invited to the conference last year a reporter working on a major series about the Save The Children organization. He could not come because the lawyers had already put the newspaper on notice that they were going to sue them and were sending lawyers out to follow the journalists and go behind them and question the people the journalists talked to, file complaints back to the office about the way they talked to the people out in the field around the world, and had the newspaper so tense and so tied up they were ordered not to speak about it.

The other point is, when this was nominated for a Pulitzer, Morris Dees, who is one of the great fundraisers for a lot of political figures in the country, mobilized some of the best-known and probably most liberal politicians in the country for whom he had raised money and they lobbied the Pulitzer Board against this series, the first lobbying that I know of of that kind, and without knowing anything about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s activities they were lobbying the Pulitzer Board not to recognize this work.


So, this is it...either FACTS matter, or when they get in the way of political prejudices, they do not.

So Jim and Aunt Bea...which is it?

December 11, 2006 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Score: Team Orin!!!

December 11, 2006 2:07 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Orin, I really don't have time today to read all this, but scanning it, it appears that the criticism is that the SPLC has raised a lot of money, and that they don't publicize that fact. I'm still not sure what the outrage is about.

They mention Mother Theresa. I've heard that she was an excellent fund-raiser, too. In fact, some have complained that she was a tough old bird. But it's a lot harder to be outraged over a little old Catholic nun than a bunch of Jewish civil-rights lawyers, isn't it?

If I missed some gem in your torrent, please point it out to me. Sorry, but I just don't have the time for that much reading today. I expect a group like SPLC is subject to all kinds of scrutiny, and it seems funny that you think no liberal writer or group would criticize another one, as if they were all the same.

JimK

December 11, 2006 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim

Orin posted a story with two disturbing revelations:

1. The group has used between 69-83% of money raised on administrative costs. This is considered unacceptably high by most non-profit groups. They wouldn't qualify for approval for certification by any accrediting agency with those kind of numbers.

2. Despite being a large civil rights group, the have no blacks in top management positions.

December 11, 2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

Orin, I really don't have time today to read all this, but scanning it, it appears that the criticism is that the SPLC has raised a lot of money, and that they don't publicize that fact. I'm still not sure what the outrage is about.

"Outrage" is the term you choose to use...not me. To be honest, I once admired Morris Dees and actually attended a speech he gave when he came to Southern California. It was after reading how he and the SPLC choose to react to the Montgomery Advertiser investigative series (and this according to Jim Tharpe, the Managing Editor at the time as retold to the Nieman Foundation) that I became disillusioned about the claims made by the Southern Poverty Law Center about their primary purpose.

To assert that "The SPLC is a legitimate organization with an excellent reputation"

-and-

"the guy works for a great organization"

is to IGNORE some obvious deficiencies in such a group that claims to be a non-profit, yet uses as little as 13% of what they take in on program services.

The founding principle of the SPLC is as morally beautiful a thing as one could do just about. Can I be any more clearer than saying so??? But to characterize what it has become after all the FACTS that I have presented as still having an "excellent reputation" is to willfully ignore reality as you are so fond of accusing the CRC, the Bush Admin, et al.

They mention Mother Theresa. I've heard that she was an excellent fund-raiser, too. In fact, some have complained that she was a tough old bird.

Ever read Christopher Hitchens book on her? The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. That is to say, I am aware of the fact that she has been criticized for alleged ethical lapses.

But it's a lot harder to be outraged over a little old Catholic nun than a bunch of Jewish civil-rights lawyers, isn't it?

Trying to change the subject...huh. That is certainly one way of looking at this...another way is that Dees is cynically trading on his status (not unlike Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc) to raise money with scant regard for the purposes for which he claims...CLAIMS...to be raising these vast sums of money.

If I missed some gem in your torrent, please point it out to me. Sorry, but I just don't have the time for that much reading today. I expect a group like SPLC is subject to all kinds of scrutiny, and it seems funny that you think no liberal writer or group would criticize another one, as if they were all the same.

Oh, and now you are a mindreader? LOL...actually I think that some LIBERALS do a better jobs of policing their own than do CONSERVATIVES. And unfornately, the investigative series on the SPLC did not receive a wider audience (in 1994 many smaller newspapers were not yet online like they are today).

Again, Sorry, but I just don't have the time for that much reading today.
No need to apologize...please understand though that this exchange casts into doubt the legitimacy of the claim that Teach the Facts is all and only about the facts. This exercise has fleshed all of that out. Apparently one person recognizes that,

Score: Team Orin!!!

Thanks, but I would like to think that the victory, if any, is on behalf of the TRUTH of FACTS, and those that would oppose the social engineering project of Teach the "Facts".

December 11, 2006 4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And unfornately, the investigative series on the SPLC did not receive a wider audience"

Well, thanks to TTF, if anyone googles SPLC now, they should hit this site.

December 11, 2006 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

...that while POVERTY is a aprt of the title of their organization, they are anything but poor (Orin, December 06, 2006 7:33 PM )

It's called the Southern Poverty Law Center because it provides legal representation for people who live in poverty, not because like some religious orders and people including Mother Theresa it takes a vow of poverty for itself. If the Center was poor, it couldn't help as many people as it does.

I agree with Jim. You and several hardcore right wing groups have expressed "outrage" over the 1994 investigative reports on the SPLC's practices. The term befits your posts on the matter in this thread IMHO.

The AIP reported that SPCL spent 51-65% of its funds on its program. Where do you come up with the "as low as 13%" figure?

Aunt Bea

December 12, 2006 7:33 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Aunt Bea writes,

It's called the Southern Poverty Law Center because it provides legal representation for people who live in poverty, not because like some religious orders and people including Mother Theresa it takes a vow of poverty for itself. If the Center was poor, it couldn't help as many people as it does.

The SPLC took another hit in 2001 when JoAnn Wypijewski wrote in the leftist Nation magazine that the Center was preoccupied with making money. “In 1999 it spent $2.4
million on litigation and $5.7 million on fundraising, meanwhile taking in more than $44 million—$27 million from fundraising, the
rest from investments,” she wrote.


The Nation magazine? Hello? Does this even register that they are being criticized by their ideological relations? The SPLC should not take a vow of poverty, however when an outfit spends more on fundraising than on litigation (fundraising that is clearly not warranted by a non-profit that could cease fundraising and could operate for almost 5 years off of the funds they already have...do you suppose SPLC donors are fully aware of this?) one must suspect what they genuinely motivates them...

But, hey, keep the liberal faith Morris Dees would say, and keep those dollars rolling in!

December 12, 2006 3:58 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Orin ... can you think of one Republican/conservative organization that you would criticize because of their fund-raising success?

This is just the funniest thing.

JimK

December 12, 2006 4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim

Are you crazy?

This group collected $27 million and spent $2.4 million on what it was raising money for.

Jim Bakker went to jail for numbers like that.

And all you can say is:

"This is just the funniest thing."

December 12, 2006 4:55 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, are you quoting the Harper's article reproduced at Free Republic, that says:
The Center earned $44 million last year alone--$27 million from fund-raising and $17 million from stocks and other investments--but spent only $13 million on civil rights program , making it one of the most profitable charities in the country.

They also compare to the Bakkers, so I figure ... but you said they spent 7.4% on civil rights programs, this article actually says they spent 29.6%.

What a weird thing to lie about!

JimK

December 12, 2006 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim

You are a riot.

I was quoting the article Orin had most recently posted.

December 12, 2006 11:11 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

So was I.

JimK

December 12, 2006 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He said it was "Nation" and here's the quote:

“In 1999 it spent $2.4
million on litigation...meanwhile taking in...$27 million.."

December 13, 2006 9:44 AM  

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