Monday, November 30, 2009

Just when you thought the world was going to heck in a handbasket. . .


In San Diego, a family's Thanksgiving holiday was made thanks to a wrong number.  A daughter who was struggling to make ends meet called and asked her mother for help.  Her mother was struggling herself, but was willing to miss a mortgage payment to help.  When she called to let her daughter know that she would send money she dialed the number wrong.  Virginia Saenz heard the message on her answering machine and decided to help. 

From the article by Eric S Page:
So Saenz went grocery shopping on Thanksgiving morning with her 14-year-old son in tow to tell her what kids liked to eat. They bought food for a Thanksgiving dinner and enough groceries to get Crutchfield's daughter through the end of the month -- her next payday.

She said the act of giving made "the day special for me."
"I helped somebody," Saenz said Friday. "I think it's what anybody would have done."
Now THAT is something to be thankful for.

Monday News Roundup: Rick Warren, Minnesota’s “Crazy Lady” and more

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday News Roundup

Here's what I've been reading around the web:

  • Americablog:
    • It's an interesting, and age-old, proposal (so to speak): Put marriage off for another day, and go for civil unions today. It's what they did in Washington state this last election, well, in their case it was domestic partnerships with the full benefits of marriage. While I'm not a big fan of "separate but equal" - especially when you can get much more - settling for second best is an interesting interim proposition when it comes to marriage. A few years of civil unions or domestic partnerships on the books, and no locusts in sight, and it will become harder and harder for the Mormon and religious right anti-gay bigots, and the pedophile-enablers in the Catholic Church, to argue that gay unions somehow "hurt" straight couples.

      The danger with this approach is when you choose separate but equal over full equality simply because you're afraid to try for more. That's the growing impression of the Obama administration's approach to gay civil rights (and practically every other issue): Why try for more when you can settle for less? That's not a strategic move. It's weakness, and a missed opportunity.

    • Working together: African Americans should be supporting gay civil rights and LGBT people should be supporting African Americans and people of color. We're all in this together. As marginalized people, we should not be trying to marginalize someone else. Yet, all too often, various sub-communities get lost in the shuffle. For instance, the greater population of L's and G's forgetting/overlooking the B's and T's; the L's, G's, and B's being willing to throw T's under the bus; or even the greater LGBT population leaving out the LGBT people of color when discussing which political issues we should pursue first. Likewise, the African American community tends to downplay, overlook, or even outright deny the existence of LGBT members. When they do acknowledge their existence, they are extremely reluctant to support our rights, and feel that the Civil Rights fight has been usurped. However, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  • Box Turtle Bulletin
  • Joe My God:
    • LA Times Condemns the Manhattan Declaration—Nuff Said.
    • New Jersey's Catholics are asked to pray against marriage equality. This is an example of blurring the boundary separating Church and State. While I personally disagree with their position, I do feel that this activity is acceptable action for a church. Now if the church starts offering incentives or exerting more pressure—massive bulletin campaigns, leaflets, videos from the bishop, etc. I think that is going a bit far.
  • Bilerico
  • With the report from Ireland indicating that yet again the Church hierarchy and the local government covered up years of priests sexually abusing children, they have lost all credibility to tell others what they should be doing with their sexuality. Incidentally, my loving partner Philip has started a Facebook group to petition the UN to hold the Vatican responsible by sanctioning Vatican City, and asking all countries to strip diplomatic rights from them. The group is called "The Vatican Violated Human Rights; The UN should hold them accountable." I urge you to check it out.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Straw Man Question: By prohibiting Gay marriage aren't we violating the separation of church and state?

The Family Policy Institute of Washington has released a video entitled "By Prohibiting Gay Marriage Aren't We Violating the Separation of Church and State?"  and their Joseph Backholm answers the question:

The phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear anywhere in the United States or Washington State Constitutions. Regardless, the fact that people of a particular religious faith share common ideas does not mean that those ideas are necessarily unconstitutional because they are religious.

To the contrary, our laws against stealing, killing, lying, perjury, incest, rape, battery, and destruction of property were all religious tenets before they were laws. No one wants to repeal the criminal code because its major themes were first recorded in the Bible.

The idea that a preference for heterosexual marriage is unconstitutional simply because it is consistent with a religious doctrine is legally and constitutionally unsupportable.

Our Founding Fathers wanted to avoid a situation where a religious organization wrote the law for the country. However, they did not intend to create a country in which citizens and elected officials were forbidden from reading, discussing, thinking about, or legislating ideas that happened to be religious in nature

The problem is that he is completely missing the point.  He is correct in stating that prohibiting marriage equality does not violate the separation of church and state.   Like Joseph indicated in the video, the concept of a eparation between church and state was to prevent religious organizations writing the laws of the country. 

More after the jump

Sunday Drive: Construction at Sodom and Gomorrah

Believe it or not, the Bible only has 6 verses in it that explicitly mention homosexual behavior, and none of those verses describe anything resembling a loving, committed gay relationship.  Case in point: Sodom and Gomorrah.

Gen 19:1-9 tells the story of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. The term ‘sodomy’ as a reference for anal sex comes from this story because that sex act is often performed by gay men. In the story, some angels come to Sodom and spend the night with Abraham’s nephew, Lot. The men of the town come to Lot’s door to ask him to turn the angels over to them “so that we may know them." Lot asks the men not to be so wicked and offers his daughters instead, but they refuse and threaten to break down his door. Later, because the cities were so wicked, they were destroyed.

The word translated “to know” in Verse 5 is also used in Judges 19 to indicate that they raped a woman to death. Lot was more familiar with the men of Sodom and Gomorrah than we are. Would he have offered his daughters to people whom he knew were gay? Even in the most conservative estimates, the gay population is only a fraction of the entire group. It is more probable that he knew the men in the group were heterosexual, and that this ‘knowing’ was a reference to rape and sexual degradation.

These two wicked towns are mentioned other places in the bible, and nowhere does it mention that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. Rather, it indicates that the sin was inhospitality. Take Ezekiel for instance:

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.

Whether you lump homosexual activity in with ‘abominable things’ or not, this passage deals with homosexual rape—not two individuals in a loving, committed relationship.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Enlightened Catholicism: Reservations About This Notion of "Mental Reservations". The Murphy Report And The Irish Abuse Crisis

Enlightened Catholicism: Reservations About This Notion of "Mental Reservations". The Murphy Report And The Irish Abuse Crisis

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all my readers. I had intended to take the weekend off and keep it light, but this one really needs to be put out there. The Catholic Church is the most famous intersections of Church and State. It is interesting how it will conveniently choose whether it is a National Government and subject to diplomatic protocols or the ruling body of the Catholic Church and therefore subject to the protocols described in Canon law, and neither approach is the correct one for certain issues. I wonder how the Vatican would react if Vatican City were sanctioned by the UN for various human rights offences--the persecution of homosexuals, the abuse of children, the suppression of women . . .


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I am “the Intersection of Church and State”

Where did "Separation of Church and State" Come from?

"The intersection of Church and State" is not just a useful metaphor.  The American ideal is that the State does not mess with Church business, and the Church doesn't meddle in State affairs, referred to as the "Separation of Church and State".  This principle comes from the First Amendment to the US constitution.  However, recently the line has started to be muddied.  Churches have started taking positions on issues like LGBT rights and abortion.  Based on the "separation" principle, I feel that religious institutions have the right to issue position statements on issues, and privately influence their members to vote a particular way.  However, by taking actions like signing the "Manhattan Declaration" and funneling money to various political organizations in support of ballot initiatives, these Churches and other religious institutions are acting like political action committees. If they are going to act as PACs then they should be treated as such.

However, the blurring of that line is a double-edged sword. While separating Church and State is a lofty ideal for creating laws, it is easier said than done. Someone once told me that we should have "Christian men and women in office making Christian laws." I disagree. Making a 'Christian' law violates the separation of Church and State because it respects one religion over another, and in the words of the First amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

In addition, much of the atrocity in human history can be arguably attributed to some religious person/people trying to impose their interpretation of their faith on someone else. That being said, I have no issue with people of any faith voting for or against a law because of the way it matches or conflicts with their personal faith.

The Intersection of Church and State

Individual people are the "intersection of church and state". Their understandings of their faith, and of the laws in the US, place them there. The issues in the two areas overlap, especially in the case of LGBT citizens. The attacks on our lives and loves come from both sides, especially from people who have a stake in blurring the line, like certain religious institutions or conservative politicians. This intersection results in institutionalized heterosexism, where "one man + one woman" is considered normal and anything that is not is abnormal. One of the major issues I have with this though is that the conservatives have hijacked the conversation.

When analyzing the response to any political issue, whether it is a referendum on a local budget item or a law to allow gay couples to marry in any state, there are going to be three groups of opinions: for, against, and undecided. The object in the political fight is to sway the undecided votes to your side of the issue temporarily (long enough to vote). In the fight for gay rights, unfortunately the majority of the religious voices getting the attention, and therefore spreading their message to those 'undecided' voters, are the conservatives. They go on quite loudly about how gay rights are a threat to marriage, our society, etc. and how granting LGBT rights will cause (in a fruity, booming announcer's voice) "the END OF THEWORRLLLDDD!"

Unfortunately, the progressives don't get as much media attention. It is unclear whether this is from the progressives' distaste for using the same over-the-top histrionics as their opponents, cowardice, or just the simple fact that supporting gay rights is not that controversial an issue. We need to do a better job of not only countering the negativity from the right, but also communicating the pro-gay positions and mobilizing the voters on our side. One way to help build a coalition that actually has political influence and counter the right-wing negativity is by reaching out to other groups that we are part of.

LGBT rights issues have been cast as "single voter" issues so long that the meme is not even questioned. In actuality, LGBT people come from various political, religious, ethnic, economic, ability and social groups. (I probably left some groups out, but you get the idea.) Once when I mentioned that I would not support a political candidate who did not support LGBT rights, the reply came back "So you're a single issue voter? What about the economy, healthcare, national security, immigration, etc.?" I could not convince him that by expressing support for LGBT issues I was not abandoning other issues. LGBT rights do not override these issues; they are a material part of these issues:

  • ENDA (which would prohibit job discrimination based on sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression (in addition to the other protected classes from the Civil Rights Act of 1964) keeps people from losing their jobs. Therefore, they are working and have money to buy things. How does preventing job loss not have a bearing on the economy?
  • Repealing "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" addresses both the economy and national security. SLDN estimates that approx 400,000 LGBT people would enlist if it were repealed. That means that 400,000 people are now working and contributing to the economy. Additionally, it helps improve national security because it means that many more troops are available to fight wherever necessary.
  • Recognizing gay relationships under the law has a bearing on healthcare and the economy because it does no one any good to reform healthcare if their spouse/partner cannot be covered or you have to pay more to cover them.
  • Few people think about the Uniting American Families Act. It affects immigration reform similar to the way gay relationships affect healthcare. If a bi-national straight couple lives in the US, the spouse who is a citizen can sponsor the non-citizen spouse. In the case of gay relationships, one partner cannot sponsor the other, and therefore once the partner's visa is up. That couple either is exiled from the US (since the partner would be an illegally entered alien) if they want to stay together, or they break up because the partner is deported.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Justice delayed is justice denied." If LGBT people reach out to other groups they belong to, they can build the bridges necessary to create a coalition and be heard.

Thank you Philip, You've said it better than I ever could



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What is a gay catholic to do?


Some thought provoking discussion about how not just gay Catholics, but gay people in any hostile religion cope with reconciling their faith and their being.

Homophobia: All in "The Family"


Now the ultra-conservative, fundamentalist cult "The Family" is not just content to meddle in American politics, but it is exporting its homophobia abroad to countries like Uganda.  Talk about the intersection of Church and State!

Totally unrelated to Politics, Religion, LGBT or Social Justice issues. Just Cool

The Muppets are on their way back and are cooler than ever!  I love the direction Disney is taking them and I hope they keep going!


Intersections of Church and State: Healthcare, Outing Priests, Marriage Equality, Parenting and more!

All over the web there are Church-State intersections. Here's a roundup:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Where are the progressives?

In the furor over the Catholic Bishops threat to cut off services to the least among the citizens of Washington DC simply to make a political point, and the subsequent announcement of the Manhattan Declaration, it is very easy to overlook the positive Christian voices preaching acceptance.

Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane posted an op-ed in the Washington Post detailing “A Christian Case for Same Sex Marriage”. He’s got some interesting points, and it is an interesting read. It is an extreme contrast to most of the hate-filled rhetoric coming from the religious right.

What I wonder about is why the positive voices seem to get lost in the babble when the negative voices come through loud and clear? Perhaps it’s because we tend to take our supporters for granted. Why put time and effort into lobbying someone who already agrees with you? Americans have a slang term for this, incidentally based in religious imagery—“preaching to the choir.”

Another reason could be that the media thrives on controversy. The only time support is notable is when a formerly unsupportive person or organization switches positions. Most of the positive GLBT Christian voices, like the Episcopal Church in America, the MCC, and others, have been consistently positive for years, so they are no longer generating controversy. Even when something does generate controversy, like the ELCA decision this summer, it boils down to a tempest in a teapot. Most of the general public and even many of the church’s laity are ignorant of what is going on, and even if they know, they brush it off as ‘politics as usual’ and see it as having little bearing on their daily life.

Conversely, the Religious Right knows how to mobilize their base. Fear is a very powerful motivator. While it is not a direction I’d necessarily like to see progressives move in, I wonder if part of the issue is that they’ve been taking the “See, you have nothing to be afraid of” approach.

With the crazies ratcheting up their base, can the Progressives afford to sit on the sidelines or refuse to stoop to their opponent’s level? That’s what happened to get Maine Question 1 passed and strip away marriage rights for gay couples. The base was whipped up into a fearful froth, and the progressives said, “Oh, I don’t need to vote because so-and-so who agrees with me is going to vote for the side of this bill I support.” When you do that, it’s a case of Anybody, Everybody, Somebody and Nobody.

Well, I'm somebody. Are you?


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Watch The Road! The Catholic Church's Attempts to Distract Us From Their Hypocrisy and Wrongdoing

In a post on The Bilerico Project entitled "The DC Catholic Church's Red Herring", Nancy Polikoff discusses her take on the DC Bishop's threat to distract people from the fact that they have been breaking discrimination laws for years.  In Washington DC, it is illegal for any organization that receives public funding to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status, and has been for approximately 30 years.  That law is on the books now, and predates any form of recognition of same-sex marriage.  Up to this point, no one has asked that they be de-funded because gay couples will go elsewhere to another provider that will help them.  This threat simply calls official attention to the fact that they have been breaking the law for years, and the DC lawmakers aren't going to let them get away with it.

It is well known that donations to Catholic Charities are declining in the wake of the priest sex-abuse scandals, and that several parishes have gone bankrupt because of having to pay damages to those who were abused.  I wonder if this is an attempt to save face for the Catholic Church, as well as a way to publicize their opposition to a law they feel contradicts their teachings, and for them to embark on a campaign of defiance?


Who is the wierd guy standing on the corner of Church street shouting?

Bill Donohue is at it again.  Mr. Donohue is a rabidly conservative, Catholic man who runs what he calls the "Catholic League" defending what he sees as smears and insults to the Catholic Church and its teachings.  This time Mr. Donohue is screeching about the website ChurchOuting.org.  From their website:
For generations, in Catholic churches across the country, LGBT youth are told they should be ashamed of who they are and that they should lead loveless lives as social and religious abominations. The emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse inflicted on them by Catholic priests and our church hierarchy is in reality as damaging as the physical or sexual child abuse anyone would quickly condemn. Yet to this abuse, few raise their voices and say "ENOUGH!"

It is shameful that in many Catholic churches, this abuse is being supported by men, who are gay themselves, leading closeted lives of self-persecution and quiet desperation.

Even more shameful, is that many of these priests, while remaining silent, actually lead duplicitous lives rich with romantic and sexual relationships -- both homosexual and heterosexual.

This hypocrisy must end.

 The website was created partially in response to the Manhattan Declaration.  Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God has the details. 


Sunday Drive: Other Helpful links

Other Resources







Sunday Drive Sources and consultations

American Psychological Association. (2008). Answers to Your Questions For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality. Retrieved October 11, 2009, from APA online: http://www.apa.org/topics/sorientation.html

Boswell, J. (1980). Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Davis, C. (2002). Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin. Retrieved October 23, 2009, from Whosoever: http://www.whosoever.org/v6i6/cindy.html

Helminiak, P. D. (2000). What the Bible Really says about Homosexuality. Tajique: Alamo Square Press.

Miner, J., & Connoley, J. T. (2002). The Children are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships. Indianapolis: Jesus Metropolitan Community Church.

Spong, J. S. (2009, October 15). A Manifesto From Our Friend Bishop John Shelby Spong. Retrieved October 23, 2009, from Walking with Integrity: http://walkingwithintegrity.blogspot.com/2009/10/manifesto-from-our-friend-bishop-john.html


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sunday Drive down Church Street: "God made Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve!"

Genesis 1: 27  So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Often, this verse is cited as the basis for the chant “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” Actually, God made Adam, Eve, Steve, Rachel, Renee, Jason, Glen, Reba, Philip, etc. We all are made in his image. That does not mean that God is shaped like us; rather, it means that God had a concept of what our life was to be and created us according to that concept:

Jeremiah 1: 5  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Even the Apostle Paul spoke against the interpretation of Genesis 1:27 as meaning that God didn't create someone to be homosexual.  Instead, according to Paul, everyone is equal, with no status above the other:

Galatians 3:28  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus
The God I believe in would not make someone solely to be condemned.  He has plans for us to prosper us and not to harm us (Jer 29:11). 

Next week: Construction at Sodom and Gomorrah

Wrong Way on Heterosexism Boulevard

One of the most common ways LGBT people get attacked by the conservative Christian Church is through a missaplication of Biblical passages to support a heterosexist viewpoint.  Heterosexism says that anything that is not 'one man, one woman' is abnormal, unhealthy, (insert negative adjective here).  Personally, I think they've come to the wrong conclusion.  The Bible actually affirms gay relationships.

This discussion is very personal to me, because I have been having this discussion with my family as well as with strangers.  Over the next several weeks, I will share with you the research I did, and explain how I came to understand that the Bible that has been used as a weapon to attack me actually is supportive of me.

First up, "God made Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve!"

Breaking News: Healthcare Reform Bill has 60 votes for beginning debate in the Senate!


Blanche Lincoln, the final holdout has announced that she is going to vote to move the bill forward.  Note: we still have a long way to go--None of the 'Blue Dog' Democratic holdouts have promised to vote for the final bill.  Tonights vote is just to start discussion on the bill.  What it will finally look like after all of the amendments and procedural gimmicks is a whole 'nother ball of wax.  But the ball is rolling!

Friday, November 20, 2009

LGBT Violence at the Corner of Church and State

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, to remember all of the trans-people who have died over the past year—especially in hate crimes. Transphobia and homophobia are interrelated, and both are influenced by misapplied religion. To help ensure that these crimes are investigated properly and not subject to the biases of local authorities, we passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes act. It adds clauses about sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and the perception of those attributes to the classes established in the Hate Crimes act of 1969.
Those protections are very timely. Two stories have been in the news recently that underscore why this legislation was so badly needed, especially with the gender expression clauses:
Angie Zapata
Jorge Steven López Mercado

Unfortunately, our attackers come from both the Church and State sides of the street.
Coming from the State street side:
And from the Church side:

Both of these examples are easy to brush off as batshit crazy asshats and bigots. However, while these nutjobs are attempting to take our hard-won protections away, they are also creating an atmosphere of hate that is like waving a match around a fireworks factory. Similar haters are promoting Psalm 109:8 as a 'prayer for the President'… How long is it before someone decides they are being called to do God's work and take out an LGBT person or the President? Sadly, it's already happening.

When does Church turn into State?

UPDATED 11/20/2009: Jeremy's got the text of this "manifesto" up at Good As You.

 As a Christian, a political liberal, and a gay man, I often find myself dismayed and torn when leaders claiming to speak for one group I am part of say something negative about another group that I am part of. That is part of why the Manhattan Declaration is so disturbing. The full document is set to be released at noon today, but excerpts and commentary have been popping up around the blogosphere ahead of the release.

AP: Christian Leaders issue Call of Conscience
NY Times: Religious Leaders unite on Political Issues

The document is signed by multiple Catholic bishops; James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Anus Family; the president of the National Assoc. of Evangelicals; and various seminary leaders, pastors and professors. In it, the signers are stating their continued opposition to abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, and anti-discrimination statutes, among other issues. 

My take after the jump

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Welcome to the Intersection of Church and State

In America, there is an ideal of the "separation of Church and State", which is based on the First Amendment to the US constitution, meaning that the US doesn't meddle in religious business, and religion doesn't meddle in the government. Yeah, right. I intend to use this blog to document the many egregious and outrageous actions of those I feel are right –wing nutjobs and ad my own commentary and opinions. Let's get some discussions going!