Friday, April 10, 2009

More Happy News: The Post

There has been a sort of theme on the blog this week, it just so happens. As we tend to focus here on the rights of sexual minorities, we have had a lot of good news recently. States are deciding to recognize same-sex marriages. State and local governments are considering and adopting nondiscrimination policies and laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Public opinion in general has shifted in a positive direction.

Not every step is a step forward, but there are lots of steps forward these days. There are still a lot of states that have laws defining marriage in narrow terms, and the federal government has some turning-around to do, but all in all it is clear that the tide has turned.

It is an amazing revolution, really. Not that many years ago the public image of gay and lesbian people was that they were weird, strange, laughable. The Stonewall riots of 1969 are considered the turning point, where the gay community came together and began to organize to work for recognition by the straight public as ordinary, respectable people deserving all the rights that everybody else got. Paranoid heterosexuals, especially ones with some tendencies they were struggling to suppress, saw the campaign for equal rights as "the gay agenda," a kind of conspiracy of evil people to take over the world and convert adults and children alike to some weird and scary sexual lifestyle. The revolution has been rough at times, the backlash has often been severe, but gays and lesbians and their straight allies pushed constantly and would not accept second-class treatment.

The campaign has been extraordinarily successful. Though a vastly larger percentage of the population is straight, gays and lesbians have been successful at getting the majority to "get over it." It's not just that straight people bite their tongue and accept something they don't like, there has been a more profound change, as the heterosexual community has realized there really is nothing unusually dangerous or scary about gay people.

This morning the Washington Post has a good story about the rapidly-changing tide of public opinion. Before I quote this piece, I want to complain about the headline: Faith Groups Increasingly Lose Gay Rights Fights. Look, they could just as easily have said Faith Groups Increasingly Win Gay Rights Fights. "Faith" has nothing to do with gay rights. There are many religious people -- the majority, I would guess -- who have faith that God loves his creations, each and every one of us, gay as well as straight. There is a small minority of people who believe that loving someone of your own sex, or failing to conform to your society's gender-role expectations, is sinful, and that those kinds of sinners should be shunned and punished. This isn't about "faith," unless by "faith" you mean "faith as an alternative to reason." That might work. Faith, in my experience, more generally leads to tolerance, acceptance, and love than to hatred and rejection of the soul of another pilgrim in this harsh world.
Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.

The lawsuits have resulted from states and communities that have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those laws have created a clash between the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of religion, religious groups said, with faith losing. They point to what they say are ominous recent examples:

-- A Christian photographer was forced by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to pay $6,637 in attorney's costs after she refused to photograph a gay couple's commitment ceremony.

-- A psychologist in Georgia was fired after she declined for religious reasons to counsel a lesbian about her relationship.

-- Christian fertility doctors in California who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient were barred by the state Supreme Court from invoking their religious beliefs in refusing treatment.

-- A Christian student group was not recognized at a University of California law school because it denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage.

"It really is all about religious liberty for us," said Scott Hoffman, chief administrative officer of a New Jersey Methodist group, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which lost a property tax exemption after it declined to allow its beachside pavilion to be used for a same-sex union ceremony. "The protection to not be forced to do something that is against deeply held religious principles."

But gay groups and liberal legal scholars say they are prevailing because an individual's religious views about homosexuality cannot be used to violate gays' right to equal treatment under the law.

"We are not required to pay the price for other people's religious views about us," said Jennifer Pizer, director of the Marriage Project for Lambda Legal, a gay rights legal advocacy group.

Twelve states now offer some form of same-sex marriage or same-sex partner recognition. Twenty states -- including Maryland -- and more than 180 cities and counties, including the District, ban discrimination against gays, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. Virginia bans it against state employees. Faith Groups Increasingly Lose Gay Rights Fights

See, this is what I have been calling a "good news" story, and there have been a lot of them lately. I think this is a cat that won't be put back into the bag, gay people have been successful in integrating themselves into a society that is predominantly heterosexual, they have largely overcome the stereotypes and prejudice through constant struggle and insistence on fair treatment. And I don't think it will go back.

In this post I have avoided use of the acronym LBGT, or GLBT. This article is about rights for gay and lesbian people, the "G" and the "L," and I doubt that bisexual people -- the "B" -- have ever had a big problem, except as they are identified as homosexual. But the transgender population, the "T's," have a long way to go. Progress has been made, and many liberal communities have recognized that it is fair and kind to protect that vulnerable population from discrimination, but public acceptance, it appears to me, is still a long way off.

Again, I want to complain about The Post's careless use of the word "faith" here, it really is unconscionable. There are people who use their religion to hurt others, but they do not in any way represent "people of faith." If you want to kill religion in the twenty-first century, then you would do well to frame it in opposition to reason, kindness, and fairness. I happen to think that religion is an important component of life among any community, and would like to see it persist. In an enlightened society, that can only happen if "faith" is understood in a positive way, as faith that the force that brings light to the world is intelligent, loving, and creative.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, at long last, someone has now summoned the courage to declare that the emperor has no clothes:

"President Barack Obama is set to be the commencement speaker at Arizona State University this year. Often, when a high-profile official provides this service, he or she is awarded an honorary doctorate. But ASU will not be giving Obama the ceremonial degree, because "his body of work is yet to come"."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

April 10, 2009 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There has been a sort of theme on the blog this week, it just so happens."

Don't forget the sub-theme about meditative verses.

You're right about the sloppy use of the term "faith", Jim. I happen to believe homosexuality is unbiblical but that isn't an excuse for unfair persecution. Jesus always seem to quickly forgive sexual sins. Indeed, he was attacked for doing so.

April 10, 2009 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I didn't care for this article. It seems to buy the notion that this is new, while in fact discrimination for religious reasons in non-religious settings has been addressed by courts for the entire history of our country. The article, to my mind, fails to emphasize that these objections are in situations that are not religious. I remember the religious objections to school integration and housing integration. Many years ago it was settled that religious reasons were not an excuse for racial or religious discrimination (for example, in my home town, it was determined that you couldn't refuse to sell to african-american or jewish people). The Post article buys the notion that somehow 'religious' discrimination against lgbt people is somehow different.

I think the article legitimizes the scare tactics of anti-gay organizations that imply that lgbt people are trying to take away their religious rights.

The idea that one's personal bias (religious or not) doesn't justify discrimination is not new. What's new is anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

The whole idea that religion justifies mistreating people is weak, and unamerican.



April 10, 2009 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't think He'd ask Caesar to make any laws.

April 10, 2009 6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Many years ago it was settled that religious reasons were not an excuse for racial or religious discrimination (for example, in my home town, it was determined that you couldn't refuse to sell to african-american or jewish people). The Post article buys the notion that somehow 'religious' discrimination against lgbt people is somehow different."

It is different. It doesn't buy into anything.

Anti-semitism is generally racial not religious.

April 10, 2009 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention that article on President Obama, anonymous:

Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University, tells POLITICO that the school is reconsidering its widely mocked plans not to give President Barack Obama an honorary degree when he speaks at commencement on May 13 and will “honor him in every way possible.”

“There was no intended slight,” Crow said by telephone from his office in Tempe. “We had not yet talked about what honors we might give him as our commencement speaker, and we still have a month to work all that out. We don’t want anyone to think we do not recognize what he has achieved and what he means in America.”

Rest of the article here -

April 10, 2009 6:37 PM  
Blogger BlackTsunami said...

Funny, anonymous.

Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.

April 10, 2009 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never said he did, Alvin.

Although, not all that he said is recorded and he did support the Torah.

April 10, 2009 7:12 PM  
Anonymous anon-zim said...

You guys have been so good today, I'm going to give you another Good Friday meditative verse. I think you'll like this one. I actually plagiarized from it earlier this morning.

The author is Kristoffer Kristofferson. I know, I know, but it's been over three decades so I think we can forgive him for the whole Barbra Streisand thing:

"There was a man named Mahatma Ghandi

He would not bow down, he would not fight

He knew the deal was down and dirty

And nothing wrong could make it right

But he knew his duty,

and the price he had to pay

Just another holy man who dared to make a stand


Another man from Atlanta, Georgia

By the name of Martin Luther King

He shook the ground like rolling thunder

And made the bells of freedom ring


With a dream of beauty that they can not burn away

Just another holy man who dared to take a stand


The only son of God Almighty

The holy one called Jesus Christ

Healed the lame and fed the hungry

And for his love they took his life away

On the road to glory

where the story never ends

Just the holy son of man

which we'll never understand


April 10, 2009 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...


He would say that one's personal salvation does not depend on telling other people what to do (even in respect to marriage).

The reality is, as much as you hate to admit it, that anti-lgbt discrimination is no more based on religious objections than anti-semitic or racial discimination were back in the day.

It's simply discrimination, plain and simple. The religious objections are just a cover.

Oh, come on honey, admit it: you don't like queer people, and you're afraid that if you knew some, you would become one. Just 'fess up honey, that's what you think.

April 10, 2009 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

You have to forgive Kris Kistoffson for associating with Babs Steisand? God, you're a mess.


April 10, 2009 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, I've found it hard to be civil to him since that "Star is Born" fiasco

you think that should be against the law?

April 10, 2009 9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you don't like queer people, and you're afraid that if you knew some, you would become one"

Oh, I've known some and thought they were fine. Of course, I've met some that would make any sane person cringe.

It's all on an individual basis but, in general, they don't really bother me.

You're hallucinatin' and extrapolatin', Robert!

April 10, 2009 9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

President Barack Obama has recently completed the most successful foreign policy tour since Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.

You name it, he blew it.

What was his big deal economic program that he was determined to drive through the G20 summit?

Another massive stimulus package, globally funded and co-ordinated.

Did he achieve it?

Not so as you'd notice.

Barack is not the first New World ingenue to discover that European leaders will load him with praise, struggle sycophantically to be photographed with him and outdo him in Utopian rhetoric.

But when it comes to the critical moment of opening their wallets - suddenly it is flag-day in Aberdeen.

Okay, put the G20 down to inexperience, beginner's nerves, what you will.

On to Nato and the next big objective: to persuade the same European evasion experts that America, Britain and Canada should no longer bear the brunt of the Afghan struggle virtually unassisted.

The Old World sucked through its teeth, said that was asking a lot - but, seeing it was Barack, to whom they could refuse nothing, they would graciously accede to his wishes.

So The One retired triumphant, having secured a massive contribution of 5,000 extra troops - all of them non-combatant, of course - which must really have put the wind up the Taliban, at the prospect of 5,000 more infidel cooks and bottle-washers swarming into the less hazardous regions of Afghanistan.

Then came the dramatic bit, the authentic West Wing script, with the President wakened in the middle of the night in Prague to be told that Kim Jong-il had just launched a Taepodong-2 missile.

America had Aegis destroyers tracking the missile and could have shot it down.

But Uncle Sam had a sterner reprisal in store for l'il ole Kim (as Dame Edna might call him): a multi-megaton strike of Obama hot air.

"Rules must be binding," declared Obama, referring to the fact that Kim had just breached UN Resolutions 1695 and 1718.

"Violations must be punished." (Sounds ominous.)

"Words must mean something." (Why, Barack? They never did before, for you - as a cursory glance at your many speeches will show.)

President Pantywaist is hopping mad and he has a strategy to cut Kim down to size: he is going to slice $1.4bn off America's missile defence program, presumably on the calculation that Kim would feel it unsporting to hit a sitting duck, so that will spoil his fun.

Watch out, France and Co, there is a new kid on the block and, over the next four years, he will spectacularly sell out the interests of the West with every kind of liberal-delusionist initiative on nuclear disarmament and sitting down to negotiate with any power freak who wants to buy time to get a good ICBM fix on San Francisco, or wherever.

If you thought the world was a tad unsafe with Dubya around, just wait until President Pantywaist gets into his stride.

April 10, 2009 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

"They don't really bother me."

How generous of you.


April 11, 2009 8:13 AM  
Anonymous anon-zim said...

You guys probably thought, "well, maybe there's meditative verses for The Last Seder and Good Friday but surely there's no such thing for the Saturday between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, when Jesus' loved ones mourned"

Well, you'd be wrong. Here's today's Holy Week meditative verse. Author is unknown. It's an old antebellum negro spiritual:

"Well if I could I surely would

Stand on the rock where Moses stood

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

O Mary don't you weep, don't you mourn

O Mary don't you weep, don't you mourn

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

Well Mary wore three links and chains

On every link was Jesus' name

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

O Mary don't you weep, don't you mourn

O Mary don't you weep, don't you mourn

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

Well one of these nights bout 12 o'clock

This old world is gonna rock

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

Well Moses stood on the Red Sea shore

Smote' the water with a two by four

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

Well old Mr. Satan he got mad

Missed that soul that he thought he had

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

Brothers and sisters don't you cry

There'll be good times by and by

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

Well O Mary don't you weep, don't you mourn

O Mary don't you weep, don't you mourn

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep

God gave Noah the rainbow sign

"No more water but fire next time"

Pharaoh's army got drownded

O Mary don't you weep"

April 11, 2009 4:02 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, I can't figure out what you're trying to say, but I love that song!


April 11, 2009 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea non anon
I am calling WTOP to complain about their use of the term "family values organizations" in their story on those who oppose same sex marriage. I have been married almost 26 years to the same man, have two children, attend services regularly, was involved in my kids schools and the community. I know family values and I do not think "family values" are those of bigotry or hatred.

April 11, 2009 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Easter in the morning. Hope you all get out to a church. Perfectly welcome and, if you're not a regular, you won't be out of place. Churches are full of visitors on this Sunday. As a matter of fact, I'm going to the early service to leave room.

Thanks for indulging me this week. Here's the final meditative verse of Holy Week. The author is Keith Green:

"Hear the bells ringing

They're singing that you can be born again

Hear the bells ringing

They're singing Christ is risen from the dead

The angel up on the tombstone

Said He has risen, just as He said

Quickly now, go tell his disciples

That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the word,

He has risen,


Hear the bells ringing

They're singing that you can be healed right now

Hear the bells ringing, they're singing

Christ, He will reveal it now

The angels, they all surround us

And they are ministering Jesus' power

Quickly now, reach out and receive it

For this could be your glorious hour

Joy to the world,

He has risen,


The angel up on the tombstone

Said He has risen, just as He said

Quickly now, go tell his disciples

That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the world,

He has risen,



April 11, 2009 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

US religious Right concedes defeat
America's religious Right has conceded that the election of US President Barack Obama has sealed its defeat in the cultural war with permissiveness and secularism.
By Alex Spillius in Washington
Last Updated: 4:18PM BST 10 Apr 2009

Leading evangelicals have admitted that their association with George W. Bush has not only hurt the cause of social conservatives but contributed to the failure of the key objectives of their 30-year struggle.

James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family - one of the largest Christian groups in the country - and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff.

“We tried to defend the unborn child, the dignity of the family, but it was a holding action,” he said.

“We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”

Despite changing the political agenda for a generation, and helping push the Republicans to the Right, evangelicals have won only minor victories in limiting the availability of abortion. Meanwhile the number of states permitting civil partnerships between homosexuals is rising, and the campaign to restore prayer to schools after 40 years - a decision that helped create the Moral Majority - has got nowhere.

Though the struggle will go on, the confession of Mr Dobson, who started his ministry from scratch in 1977, came amid growing concern that church attendance in the United States is heading the way of Britain, where no more than ten per cent worship every week.

Unease is rising that a nation founded - in the view of evangelicals - purely as a Christian country will soon, like northern Europe, become “post-Christian”.

Recent surveys have suggested that the American religious landscape has shifted significantly. A study by Trinity College in Connecticut found that 11 per cent fewer Americans identify themselves as Christian than 20 years ago. Those stating no religious affiliation or declaring themselves agnostic has risen from 8.2 per cent in 1990 to 15 per cent in 2008.

Despite a common distaste among evangelicals for the new Democratic president, who is regarded as at best a die-hard, pro-abortion liberal and at worst a Marxist, a serious rift is emerging among social conservatives in the wake of his election victory.

A growing legion of disenchanted grassroots believers does not blame liberal opponents for the decline in faith or the failures of the religious Right. Rather, they hold responsible Republicans - particularly Mr Bush - and groups like Focus on the Family that have worked with the party, for courting Christian voters only to betray promises of pursuing the conservative agenda once in office.

“Conservatives became so obsessed with the political process we have forgotten the gospel,” said Steve Deace, an evangelical radio talk show host in Iowa who broadcast a recording of Mr Dobson’s address, which he said had appeared on Focus on the Family’s website before disappearing.

Mr Deace added: “All that time spent trying to sit at the top table is not time well spent. Republicans say one thing and do another.”

In the southern Bible belt, many like the Rev Joe Morecraft, head of a small Presbyterian church near Atlanta, judge that the Christian movement failed not because its views were unpalatable for moderates and liberals, but because “it was not Christian enough”.

A deserter from the Republican Party, he said Christians had been corrupted by politics and needed to return to the basics of local social work and preaching the gospel, rather than devoting their “energies to getting a few people elected”.

He is not alone in questioning how evangelical leaders such as Mr Dobson could spend a career campaigning against abortion and then eventually support a candidate like Senator John McCain, who has dubious “pro-life” credentials.

Ray Moore, president of Exodus Mandate, a South Carolina-based group which organises home-schooling for Christian children, said: “Political involvement by Christians is not wrong, but that’s all the big groups did for 25 years. They were more concerned with fund-raising and political power than they were with our children’s welfare.”

“It’s a failed movement,” he said. “We will end up like England, where the church has utterly lost its way.”

Michael Spencer, a writer who lives in a Christian community in Kentucky, said the religious Right had suffered from its identification with Mr Bush, the most unpopular president in living memory, and the extremist rhetoric of some on the religious Right.

One of the more notorious outbursts was the Rev John Hagee’s assertion that the deadly Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was God’s judgment on New Orleans for hosting a gay parade.

In an online article in the Christian Science Monitor that has became a touchstone for disaffected conservatives, Mr Spencer forecast a major collapse in evangelical Christianity within ten years.

“Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake,” he wrote.

April 12, 2009 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that conservative Christians became too closely identified with one political party. Christians need to remember that government is not the biblical answer to the world's problems.

Still, very similar rhetoric was in the air in 1992 and the 1994 election turned out to be a disaster for Democrats.

Time will tell.

April 12, 2009 2:33 PM  

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