In a country that doesn't (officially) recognize state-sponsored religion, whose Constitution says "all men are created equal," where bigotry and bias are abhorred — why do otherwise intelligent and sensitive people feel they can engage in hate speech against gay people?

Despite tenets such as [More...]



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Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Religious Left Is Back — And It Is Good

As someone who has only put one toe into his third decade and really wasn't political until a few years ago, it's hard to keep a measured perspective going when things politically — right here, right now — are not progressing the way I think is best. Some of my older friends have seemed unfazed — which should encourage me but only seems to frustrate me at times. They say: "It all proceeds like a pendulum — action, then reaction. Those folks will gain a little ground, and folks who disagree will be compelled to rise up once again and provide a healthy, effective resistance." To be honest, so far in the George W. Bush reign, I haven't seen this happen significantly enough.

And then I read today's Washington Post, and I suddenly feel like exhaling. "There is a God," I think — and there is a growing number of folks who have started to use their brains and hearts to sense what their religion (and God) is actually attempting to teach them — rather than listening to what some old, white, corrupt men are telling them they must believe.

It's about time. Amen.

Religious Liberals Gain New Visibility
A Different List Of Moral Issues

Saturday, May 20, 2006 — The religious left is back.

Long overshadowed by the Christian right, religious liberals across a wide swath of denominations are engaged today in their most intensive bout of political organizing and alliance-building since the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s, according to scholars, politicians and clergy members.

In large part, the revival of the religious left is a reaction against conservatives' success in the 2004 elections in equating moral values with opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Religious liberals say their faith compels them to emphasize such issues as poverty, affordable health care and global warming. Disillusionment with the war in Iraq and opposition to Bush administration policies on secret prisons and torture have also fueled the movement.

"The wind is changing. Folks — not just leaders — are fed up with what is being portrayed as Christian values," said the Rev. Tim Ahrens, senior minister of First Congregational Church of Columbus, Ohio, and a founder of We Believe Ohio, a statewide clergy group established to ensure that the religious right is "not the only one holding a megaphone" in the public square.

"As religious people we're offended by the idea that if you're not with the religious right, you're not moral, you're not religious," said Linda Gustitus, who attends Bethesda's River Road Unitarian Church and is a founder of the new Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture. "I mean there's a whole universe out there [with views] different from the religious right. . . . People closer to the middle of the political spectrum who are religious want their voices heard."

Recently, there has been an increase in books and Web sites by religious liberals, national and regional conferences, church-based discussion groups, and new faith-oriented political organizations. "Organizationally speaking, strategically speaking, the religious left is now in the strongest position it's been in since the Vietnam era," said Clemson University political scientist Laura R. Olson.

What is not clear, according to sociologists and pollsters, is whether the religious left is growing in size as well as activism. Its political impact, including its ability to influence voters and move a legislative agenda, has also yet to be determined.

"I do think the religious left has become more visible and assertive and is attempting to get more organized," said Allen D. Hertzke, a University of Oklahoma political science professor who follows religious movements. "But how big is it? The jury is still out on that."

"My gut tells me that all this foment [on the religious left] is bound to create more involvement in politics," he said. "I don't know whether there's going to be more of them numerically, but you don't need greater numbers to have a political impact; all you need is to be more active. You already see that in Ohio and some other states, where Christian conservatives no longer have a monopoly on faith in politics."

Conservative Christian activist Gary L. Bauer said the religious left "is getting more media attention" but "it's not clear" that it is getting more organized.

"My reaction is 'Come on in, the water's fine' . . . but I think that when you look at frequent church attenders in America, they tend to be pro-life and support marriage as one man and one woman, and so I think the religious left is going to have a hard time making any significant progress" with those voters, he said.

The quickening pulse of the religious left is evident in myriad ways:

· More than a dozen books have been published in the past year decrying the religious right's influence in politics. Three have been particularly influential in galvanizing activists: Michael Lerner's "The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country From the Religious Right," Jim Wallis's "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It," and Jimmy Carter's "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis."

· The recently formed Network of Spiritual Progressives is holding a four-day conference that began Wednesday at All Souls Church in Northwest Washington. A thousand participants from 39 states are discussing a new "Spiritual Covenant for America" and spent Thursday visiting their members of Congress. Lerner, the California-based rabbi who founded the network, said the conference is partly aimed at countering an aversion to religion among secular liberals and "the liberal culture" of the Democratic Party. "I can guarantee you that every Democrat running for office in 2006 and 2008 will be quoting the Bible and talking about their most recent experience in church," he said.

· The Democratic Faith Working Group, made up of 30 members of the House and scores of aides, has begun meeting monthly on Capitol Hill to discuss faith and politics, opening each session with a prayer. Its purpose is to "work with our fellow Democrats and get them comfortable with faith issues," said its chairman, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), a preacher's son who was raised in the fundamentalist Church of God.

· Organizations and Web sites that meld religion and liberal politics have mushroomed since the 2004 elections, said Clinton White House chief of staff John D. Podesta. The think tank he heads, the Center for American Progress, has helped form alliances between some of these new groups — such as Faith in Public Life, the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good and FaithfulAmerica.org — and long-standing organizations, such as the National Council of Churches.

For most of the 20th century — from the Progressive era through the civil rights movement — religious involvement in American politics was dominated by the left. That changed in the 1970s, after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights, the formation of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, and, on the left, "the rise of a secular, liberal, urban elite that was not particularly comfortable with religion," said Will Marshall III, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

According to John C. Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron, and others, the religious left cuts across almost all denominations, drawing in black churches, liberal Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants as well as Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and people who say they are "spiritual" but not affiliated with an organized faith.

It also includes some theologically traditionalist Christians.

Janel Bakker, 28, a graduate student at Catholic University who attends Washington Community Fellowship on Capitol Hill, an evangelical church affiliated with the Mennonite denomination, said she grew up in a "relatively conservative religious home" where "the big issue was considered to be abortion."

But Bakker, who has attended several rallies against the Iraq war, said she now regards poverty, peace and the environment as important spiritual issues ignored by the religious right. "The religious right has assumed that capitalism is the way to go and is the most moral way to organize society," Bakker added. "Young people are questioning that."

Liberal evangelicals are " leaping out of the closet and they are saying 'Enough is enough,' " said Jack Pannell, spokesman for Sojourners, a Washington-based evangelical social justice ministry. "Evangelical Christians are not all white people living in the suburbs and only concerned with abortion and same-sex marriage."

Some groups on the religious left are clearly seeking to help the Democratic Party. But the relationship is delicate on both sides.

"If I were the Democrats, the last thing I would do is really try to mobilize these folks as a political force . . . because I think some of this is a real unhappiness with the whole business of politicizing religion," said Mark Silk, director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

The Rev. Joseph W. Daniels Jr., senior pastor of Emory United Methodist Church in Northwest Washington, said a key question for him is whether the religious left will become "the polar opposite to . . . the religious right" or be "a voice in the middle."

"What this country needs is strong spiritual leadership that is willing to build bridges. We don't need leaders who are lightning bolts for division and dissension," he said.

Nonetheless, some observers doubt that the revitalization of the religious left will lessen the divisions over religion in politics. "I do think," said Hertzke, "that, if in fact this progressive initiative takes off, we will see an even more polarized electoral environment than we did in 2004." — By Caryle Murphy & Alan Cooperman, Washington Post Staff Writers

Postscript: The point these writers end on is well-made. Many of us feel religion and politics should be separate. But when you have Karl Rove and other Republicans butt-fucking church leaders for their votes and misguided Catholic bishops prostituting themselves — compelled by Republicans to tell people who they should vote for and attempting to persuade their flocks they are going to hell if they vote a particular way — it doesn't seem likely religion will become an intimate expression any time soon. Thanks, guys, thanks a lot. Flock you.

My glee about this article doesn't rest with thinking Democrats will attempt to pander to religious folks of any ilk. I hope they don't, and – what's more — I don't think they have to. Republicans already have fostered an image of being wolves in sheep's clothing — and they have raised suspicions about religious leaders as a result. Rather, I'm pleased fair-minded Americans are realizing their religious ideals demand they look for something more honest and can help them separate the wheat from the chaff.

God didn't create us deficient — he didn't intend that we must look toward others to decipher our best intentions and what's in our hearts. The way it is supposed to work is that truly religious people should have bedrock strength and should willfully, spiritually demand honest, ethical and responsible behavior from those we choose to represent us — whether they are religious or political leaders. We ought to demand and set the agenda. Those leaders are not supposed to supplant our God-given vision and prerogative, manipulating us to believe they know better and to fall in line with what they propose.

The Republicans have thought they were just "innocently" manipulating people to get their votes — but what they have done is completely ruin religion for many people. It's a shame; it's a disgrace. It's actually a failure (for now) for the concept of religion. However, if good people start believing their faith might impel them to disbelieve and sometimes disobey their human leaders (and this article presents evidence this is happening) we might actually go back to a place where religion can be used to guide, unite and inspire us — rather than separate, manipulate and condemn us.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Today's Lesson: Arlen Specter Is A Hypocritical Pussy Who Knows Little About The US Constitution

Today's lesson is about leadership and conviction.

When you are convicted about something, your views are typically so strong you will defend your stance in the face of signigicant ridicule, rejection and disagreement. Believing in the validity and worth of your convictions will impel you to hold fast to your beliefs, proclaim them widely — even though they might cause you discomfort.

Religious people, by the way, are called to behave this way. Even though people might try to squealch their "good news" they are to remain steadfast in their beliefs — having great confidence in their faith.

Leaders, also, should behave this way. Trying to lead from the comfort of a place where criticism or healthy debate is silenced isn't leadership at all. Rather, that's called being a great big, hypocritical pussy.

Conveniently, an exchange occurred just today to illustrate the difference.

From PageOneQ:

Feingold Walks Out As Marriage Amendment Hearing Moved Behind Closed Doors

The Senate Judiciary Committee moved its meeting today — including the "mark-up" of a US Constitutional Amendment to restrict marriage equality — from a public room in a Senate office building to the restricted access President's Room, off the floor of the Senate chamber, inside the US Capitol. According to a statement issued by the Human Rights Campaign, the room "is not open to the public and does not even have enough chairs for every Senator on the committee to sit."

Sources have confirmed to PageOneQ that a heated exchange took place at the meeting between Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), the committee's ranking Democratic member, and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the panel.

According to an observer of the meeting, Feingold expressed his dismay that the meeting had been moved and his desire not to assist the committee in reaching a quorum. "Don't lecture me," Specter said to Feingold, before the Wisconsin Senator walked out of the meeting. Feingold was recently recognized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in part for his staunch support of full marriage equality for all Americans.

The Associated Press reported a fuller account of the exchange between the two senators:

"I don't need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., shouted after Sen. Russ Feingold declared his opposition to the amendment, his affinity for the Constitution and his intention to leave the meeting.

"If you want to leave, good riddance," Specter finished.

"I've enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman," replied Feingold, D-Wis., who is considering a run for president in 2008. "See ya." — Michael Rogers

I ask: If Republicans are so passionate about their convictions, why — at every turn — must they silence debate, take hearings to private quarters away from scutiny by the public and increasingly behave like heavy-handed despots protecting the interests of the ignorant masses? Is this how Christians want their leaders to view them?

Holy rollers can defend their leaders' behavior — believing that, by sacrificing this nation's most earnest principles, they are achieving the "progress" they want. But politics go forward like a pendulum. Expect liberals and other Democrats to follow this example when they are back in power — say, around November. They can't be blamed for playing by the same rules they have been forced to accept. But, still, this isn't confident leadership. This isn't befitting a nation proud that every man or woman, regardless of whether they are in office or not, is equal and has a voice. This isn't the America we were taught we were in school.

Amazingly, Arlen Specter says he doesn't believe in the amendment he worked so hard to push through today. Well, isn't that a deliciously insignificant olive branch? — otherwise known as, "having it both ways." Working like a puppet to preserve your party's power isn't heroic, principled leadership. Voting against what you claim to be best for the country isn't convicted leadership, either. I'm not sure who Specter thinks he is representing — the people of Pennsylvania and America at large — or the power-hungry men who pull his strings in the White House and Republican party.

We simply can do with fewer "leaders" such as him — those whose character and belief in American ideals are so weak they can be counted on to bite their lips about what they know is best in order to possibly manipulate a few more votes.

Republicans such as Specter have worked hard to make America more unlike a democracy everyday — and the "Christian" base has acquiesced. In doing so, they all will no doubt learn a valuable, religious lesson when the shift in power comes (and it will come): You do, indeed, reap what you sew.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

These Concerned Women Should Be Concerned About Lawsuits And Liabilities

Well, well, well — It looks as though a conservative Christian group has a plan to make gay students across the nation rich even before they even enter college.

According to Raw Story, this is what the veritable brain trust is up to:

Conservative Women's Group Launches Grassroots Effort Targeting Schools That Accept Homosexuality

May 16, 2006 — The largest conservative Christian organization targeted at women has quietly introduced a grassroots "risk audit" program aimed at rolling back gay, lesbian and HIV programs in American schools, Raw Story has found.

Concerned Women for America, a $10 million-a-year nonprofit and lobbying group, announced their "risk audit plan" in late April. The plan seeks to engage parents in a broad national effort to target schools which "promote" gay and lesbian activity by embracing non-discrimination policies and safe-sex curricula or harbor "objectionable" gay and lesbian novels aimed at children.

"Every school district in America has an absolute responsibility to protect children while they are at school," the group writes in their 24-page audit plan. "There is no legitimate rationale for giving or implying endorsement of homosexual, bisexual or gender-variant behaviors among children of any age."

"It is not a viewpoint," they write, "but a high-risk and often lethal behavior."

… Perhaps most striking about the audit plan is a detailed survey which allows parents to rate their children's school based on how tolerant it is to homosexual themes. The 100-point audit questionnaire singles out topics such as "anti-harassment or anti-bullying" policies, "objectionable books" in libraries, "diversity days" and curricula that include "tolerance programs" or "families headed by homosexuals." Schools are penalized most for including HIV/safe-sex curricula, "homosexual clubs," or required teacher sensitivity training.

"It's a good way to determine quickly if your school has knowingly or unknowingly let homosexual activists and materials in the door under the radar of 'diversity' or 'anti-bullying' or 'AIDS education,'" CWA's Virginia State Director Patricia Phillips said in a release. (More)

It has only been 10 years, but apparently these "concerned" (yet totally misguided) women have forgotten what happens to school districts who turn a blind eye to behavior that harasses and intimidates gay students. To refresh their memory:

Jamie Nabozny Wins Landmark Decision For Gay Students' Rights

On November 20, 1996, Jamie Nabozny, the student who sued his former Ashland, Wisconsin school district, won a $900,000 out-of-court settlement in Eau Claire, Wis. This settlement was agreed in a lawsuit claiming school officials violated a gay student’s rights by not protecting him from years of harassment by other students. The agreement came a day after a federal court jury found that three school administrators violated his rights, although it found the district as a whole was not guilty of discrimination. The same jury had been scheduled to begin considering damages before the settlement was announced by Peg Byron, public education director for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and Timothy Yanacheck, an attorney who defended the district on behalf of Wausau Insurance.

…"I was just happy to get out alive," Jamie said of leaving school. He said that it took him several years to work up the courage to file his suit, but he did so after hearing from friends in Ashland that harassment of others continued and that students -- including Native Americans -- were being treated differently. "I feel like I have justice and that this means justice for all the others kids out there who aren’t sure if they should stay in school or stay alive. School is a place for learning. All kids need to be treated alike," Jamie said in a statement.

Homosexuals have paid a high price in abuse, said Lambda attorney Patricia Logue. "Now the tables have turned, and it is prejudice that has proved so costly," she said. … Lambda legal experts say the case is the first to extend to homosexuals the same right against sexual harassment as others have. They also say the case warns school authorities that they must make sure those rights are enforced. — by Joe Ridky, National Association of School Psychologists

So, by all means, encourage school districts to be intolerant. Those of us who are more tolerant will be right there advising school-age kids to endure, persist and perservere — and then sue, sue, sue!

The most remarkable facet to all this righteousness and evil insensitivity? Mike Rogers at blogactive.com reports that the Chief Financial Officer over at Concerned Women of America, Lee LaHaye, is an openly gay man.

Let me repeat that for emphasis: One of the main "Concerned" "Women" of America is an openly gay man. In the fine tradition of Mary Cheney, LaHaye the Younger works for $12 million a year for the hateful organization his folks helm, working to turn back progress and equality for folks who are just like him.

If that's not the height of hypocrisy and self-loathing, I don't know what is. If Ma and Pa LaHaye think being gay is so incendiary, why don't they do something about the fag they raised who keeps showing up for family picnics?

I can't believe any decent and/or responsible school district would pay any attention to the bad advice CWA is hawking — and if you're concerned about your local district's budget (and the local taxes you pay), you'd do well to make sure it doesn't.

But, if your best efforts are ignored and your school district is encouraged to act only in the interests of some students and not all — and eventually gets sued by a gay student who is harmed by measures the Concerned Women of America would like to see — might I suggest a certain family's nest egg you could go after to recoup your community's losses?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mary Cheney's Book Is A Smashing Success!

Mary Cheney's book sure is having a reaction! Now, far more people are aware of what a disingenuous, opportuing, hypocritcal slimeball she is. (And, according to the reviews at amazon.com, she can't write, either!)

Keep 'em coming, Mary!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Associated Press Masters the Obvious

Does the Associated Press really need to do the all the work conducting a poll to eventually report THIS:

Poll: High Gas Prices Hurt Many Americans

No shit.

"Mounting" Evidence: Gay Escort Scandal Will Soon Expose Republicans

There's "mounting" (and I use that word as delicately as I can) evidence that the current Republican hooker scandal involving resigned representative Duke Cunningham is, in fact, a gay escort scandal.

Not that there's anything wrong with that — unless your base says otherwise.

Watching them all fall like dominoes will be so much more fun than ever watching Clinton explain Monica Lewinsky. "Monicagate" doesn't sound nearly as salacious as the terms they've come up for this: "Hookergate" and (my favorite) "Fornigate." And, as the report on Kos mentions, this time there's PICTURES.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mary Cheney: "The Top Self-Loathing Out Queer On The Planet"

Pam Spaulding from Pam's House Blend (we love her) rips Mary Cheney a new one for having the audacity to suggest that profitting from being a lesbian but not actually doing anything to make life more equal for other gay people is just her "path" — rather than an immoral, unethical, hypocritical, soulless way to live.

Read the entire post here, but here's how she starts…:

Mary Cheney's Path

The top self-loathing out queer on the planet, Mary Cheney, will open her dark heart to ABC News "Primetime" anchor Diane Sawyer tonight at 10 p.m. This is lined up to coincide with the upcoming release of the ready-to-serve-as-fish-wrapper Now It's My Turn: A Political Memoir (can you believe it's 320 pages long?).

…and ends (my favorite part):

What a difference you could have made at the national level, Mary. The path you selected — wealth and access to power — is heartless, selfish and ultimately reflects badly on the purported Cheney family values that we're going to hear about over and over as you shill your book.

Whatever, Mary!

If you care to do something with your rage over Mary Cheney trying to be a gay spokesperson now because she thinks it might make her a buck, please contribute:

I'm collecting pieces for a book I'm going to publish called, "Whatever, Mary -- It's Our Turn Now."

I hope to include 200-plus accounts from people who are GLBTQ 24/7 and who want to send a message to Mary Cheney about how much we disrespect her and her disingenuous attempts to be a "kinder, gentler" gay Republican after selling us out until now.

The profits after anything I might incur for publishing will be dontated to an organization authentically dedicated to working for equal rights for gay people (at this time I'm leaning toward the Human Rights Campaign).

You can contribute here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

If Anyone Can Get More Than Jeff Gannon's Typical "Straight" Answers, It Is Mike Rogers

It was announced this weekend that Mike Rogers (who publishes blogACTIVE and PageOneQ, will be taking on White House whore Jeff Gannon at the Equality Forum in Philadelphia.

I bet I'll be able to see the smoke (and hear Gannon's sobs) all the way here in Wisconsin!

If you plan on attending to watch the fireworks and don't have a thing to wear, might I suggest:

You can find and order these at the GayMafioso CafePress shop!

If you don't get the humor, catch up on the Jeff Gannon chronicles at AMERICAblog.

No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome at the United Church of Christ.


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