Saturday, January 14, 2012

More Anti-Gay Hate and Lies from the Christianist Crowd

I noted recently that a petition has been started to challenge MSNBC to stop providing a platform for known anti-gay bigots and liars like Tony Perkins. But Perkins is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of whom the mainstream media needs to cease treating as "experts." Time and time again we see people being allowed to make outrageous statements without any challenge or reference to the fact that ALL legitimate medical and mental health experts clearly make the point that the Christianist claims are untrue. Lambda Legal has put together a video clip that captures the lies and undisguised venom that the Christianists are allowed to spew over and over again by lazy and irresponsible reporters and media outlets. If these folks are going to be allowed to make such statements, (1) they need to be forced to admit that their statements merely reflect their personal opinions and (2) the news anchor or someone else needs to state the fact that legitimate credentialed experts disagree 100% with the views being stated. Here's the Lambda Legal video clip:

With the epidemic of gay teen suicides continuing one would think responsible journalist would seek to present the truth on their shows. Right Wing Watch looks at a new anti-gay myth being floated by the Christianists: that 60% of gays were sexually abused as children. We may have been abused but it wasn't sexually. No, it was psychological abuse by "godly Christians" preaching anti-gay hate and parroting junk science. Here are highlights from Right Wing Watch:

Dobson and Myers insist that by reporting on anti-gay activists, Right Wing Watch is trying to quash any debate over homosexuality, and then went into push the myth that gays molest children in order to recruit them.

Myers said that “60 percent of the males who end up proclaiming a homosexual lifestyle were abused as children,” even though according to the American Psychiatric Association, “no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse does not appear to be more prevalent in children who grow up to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, than in children who identify as heterosexual.MaleSurvivor also called such a claim a “myth,” noting that “experts in the human sexuality field do not believe that premature sexual experiences play a significant role in late adolescent or adult sexual orientation.”

As I've said before, when a Christianist's lips are moving, its a safe bet that he or she is lying. And lying deliberately.

Romney's Wealth Problem

Try as he might, Mitt Romney just doesn't seem to be able to make the case that he connects and understands ordinary Americans. And listening to some of his statements, they just don't ring true. Honestly, does Romney have any idea of how devastating a job loss can be both to the fired employee and to their family? I would argue he doesn't have a clue since it's an experience anyone with his family wealth would never suffer: loss of one's home, inability to care for and support one's family, etc. Having been forced from a large law firm for being gay and rendered largely unemployable in Hampton Roads by comparable law firms as a result (and being too old to easily get hired by a firm outside the area), I know the devastation. Romney? He'd simply fall back on his wealth and life would go on without a ripple. The chart above shows the problem Romney faces against Obama. Also, as David Frum notes, over the last century, Americans have rarely elected the very wealthy:

Before the Civil War, the parties (and especially the Democratic-Republicans) often nominated presidential candidates wealthy in land and slaves. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, and John Tyler were some of the richest men of the young Republic. But since 1865, it has become unusual for parties to nominate very wealthy men.

In that sense, Mitt Romney is defying what seems to be a strong American current. If he wins against that current, it may be because his two severest critics, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, are not only hardly poor, but both made their money in ways that you might have thought even more ethically disturbing than Romney's: in Perry's case, a series of very cozy land deals; in Gingrich's case, by lobbying in all but name.

Yep, Romney may be wealthy, but he's not as sleazy as Newt and Rick Perry in terms of how he got his wealth.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Rick Santorum's Charity Provided Little Aid to Targeted Beneficiaries

As if there isn't already enough reason to dislike GOP demagogue Rick Santorum, now a story is out that the charity he founded a decade ago to supposedly improve the lives of low-income residents in his home state provided little aid to the intended recipients. Instead, monies went to "administration" and office rental payments to Santorum's political allies. I hate to say it, but Santorum fits the pattern of so many of the "family values" organizations: they talk about family values but focus money on their own salaries and anti-gay and anti-secularism activities and provide little or nothing towards assisting the poor and needy. Hypocrite and modern day Pharisee are terms that once again seem to aptly describe Santorum. Here are highlights from the Washington Post coverage:

[A] decade ago, Rick Santorum, who was then an up-and-coming senator from Pennsylvania, launched a charity he said would improve the lives of low-income residents in his home state. “Wouldn’t it be a great thing to leave something positive behind other than a bunch of parties and a bunch of garbage?” Santorum told a local reporter.

But homeless families and troubled children were not the biggest beneficiaries of “Operation Good Neighbor.” Instead, the foundation spent most of its money to run itself, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for fundraising, administration and office rental paid to Santorum’s political allies.

The charity also had significant overlap with the senator’s campaigns and his work on Capitol Hill. Among the leading donors to the foundation were Pennsylvania development and finance firms that had donated to his election efforts and had interests that Santorum had supported in the Senate. . . . in the case of his charity, his efforts ended up mostly helping his cadre of political friends.

Before it folded in 2007, the foundation raised $2.58 million, with 39 percent of that donated directly to groups helping the needy. By industry standards, such philanthropic groups should be donating nearly twice that, from 75 to 85 percent of their funds. “That’s exceptionally poor,” Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a national organization that rates charitable groups, said of the group’s giving. “We would tell donors to run with fear from this organization.”

Robert Bickhart, a Republican political strategist who was Santorum’s campaign finance director, became the charity’s executive director. He served without pay in 2001, and received payments for renting the charity office space in his Conshohocken consulting firm, Capitol Resource Group. Tax records do not specify the amount paid for rent.
Beginning in 2002, he was paid for his part-time job as director, and from 2002 to 2006 he received a total of $97,000 in compensation, plus unspecified amounts in office rent.

Let's face it, in addition to being a vile homophobe, Santorum looks pretty sleazy as well.

Italian Cruise Ship Capsizes - At Least 3 Dead

In a bizarre mishap at sea that instills thoughts of both the Titanic and Andrea Doria sinkings, the Costa Liane's Concordia hit rocks off the Italian coast, immediately takes on a list that renders half of her lifeboats useless and ultimately capsizes as shown above. Reports of passengers paint a picture of chaotic mishandling of the evacuation of the vessel. In addition, the rapid heeling over of the vessel raises questions about the ship's design (a design defect doomed the Andrea Doria in 1956) and that of its sister ships. Costa is owned by Carnival Cruises which also owns P & O Lines and the famed Cunard Line. Having cruised through these very same waters on the cruise the Boyfriend and I took last October certainly makes the sinking take on a closer meaning. To me, it is baffling that now evacuation drill had been held. On the Liberty of the Seas, we had a drill the first day after boarding the ship and before leaving port. Here are highlights from the BBC:

The Costa Concordia had sailed earlier on Friday from Civitavecchia port near Rome for a Mediterranean cruise, due to dock in Marseille after calling at ports in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain. One thousand passengers were Italian, with 500 Germans and 160 French.

Some passengers told the Associated Press the crew had failed to give instructions on how to evacuate the ship. An evacuation drill was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. "It was so unorganised, our evacuation drill was scheduled for 17:00 (16:00 GMT)," Melissa Goduti, 28, from the US told AP. "We had joked what if something had happened today."

The 290-metre (950 ft) vessel ran aground, starting taking in water and listing by 20 degrees, the local coast guard said. Orders were given to abandon ship, Deodato Ordona, a cabin steward on the Costa Concordia, told the BBC. "We announced a general emergency and took passengers to muster stations," he said. "But it is hard to launch the lifeboats, so they moved to the right side of the ship, and they could launch."

Coast guard official Francesco Paolillo, a local coast guard official, told the AFP news agency there was a 30m hole in the ship but that it was too early to say what exactly had happened. "We think this happened as a result of sailing too close to an obstacle like a reef," he said. Costa Cruises, the company which owns the ship, said it could not yet say what had caused the accident.

Three are known to have died and a morning NBC News TV story indicated at least another 14 are missing.

Perry, Gingrich and Others Fail to Get on Virginia Ballot

In a commonsense ruling, a federal judge has rejected the efforts of Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick "Frothy Mix" Santorum and Jon Huntsman to get themselves added to the Virginia Primary ballot after failing to comply with the long standing requirements to be placed on a statewide ballot. The rules have been around for about four decades, so the requirement should not have been surprise to anyone. In effect, the would be candidates were asking the court to excuse them for their own incompetence or the incompetence of their staff members. As a result, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will be on the ballot for the Republican Party of Virginia's March primary. No doubt the Christofascists at The Family Foundation will have their panties in a know now that they can't vote for the most virulent of the anti-gay candidates. Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

A federal judge denied a request Friday by four presidential candidates to add their names to Virginia’s Republican primary ballot. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. failed to qualify for the ballot and sued the State Board of Elections and the state GOP.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. said the candidates should have challenged the qualification rules months ago when they realized that Virginia forbids out-of-state residents to collect signatures. “Had the plaintiffs filed a timely suit, the court would likely have granted preliminary relief,” Gibney wrote in his ruling. “In essence, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair.’’

Gibney said he thought a provision requiring the candidates to use only state residents was unconstitutional, but none of the candidates had managed to collect the required 10,000 signatures. Only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) qualified for the Virginia ballot.

Virginia’s ballot-access rules, in place for four decades, are considered the toughest in the nation. Candidates must collect 10,000 signatures, with at least 400 from each of the congressional districts, while some other states only require candidates to pay fees or sign forms.

Perry’s campaign told state election officials that it had submitted 11,911 signatures, but the lawsuit says 6,000 were submitted. Officials testified that an employee of the Utah firm hired to collect signatures went into a diabetic coma and was unable to either collect all the signatures or turn them in.

Gingrich’s campaign said it submitted 11,050 signatures. But the Virginia firm hired to collect signatures included 1,500 signatures that appeared to be signed by one person.

The Democratic Party of Virginia certified President Obama’s signatures. He was the only Democrat to qualify for the ballot, so the state will cancel the party’s primary.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Quote of the Day: A Reaction to the Suicide of 19 year Old EricJames Borges

The death toll of LGBT youth who have had their lives and psyches destroyed by fundamentalist Christianist inspired anti-gay hate. The latest victim that we know of is 19 year old EricJames Borges who had been subjected to an exorcism by his parents and then kicked out of their home. While I never experienced anything like EricJames, one of the most difficult things in my coming out journey was ridding myself of the toxic religious brainwashing I had been raised with. Some of us never fully get over the psychological damage done to us by religion. Andrew Sullivan sums up this latest tragedy very well in a post entitled "My Name Was Not Eric. It Was Faggot":

Eric - after making this video and struggling to overcome the impact of this psychological and physical warfare against him - killed himself two days ago at the age of 19. His own mother had tried to exorcize the gayness out of him. His own mother.

You want to know why so many of us are so impassioned to change the world that effectively killed this human being, made in the image of God? To love and save the Erics of today, and to prevent the laws and culture that reduce him - and all that he is - to the word "faggot." And this is a task real Christians need to be in the vanguard of, rather than adding to the pain and torture that seeps into the lives of so many, so young, and so vulnerable.

Why is that so hard to understand? Can anyone doubt where Jesus would be in this battle?

The following is the "It Gets Better" video that EricJames made which tells the story of how he was raised in a Christian extremist household and was kicked out of his parents’ home. Sadly, it did not get better for EricJames - and I suspect there are many, many more EricJames that we never hear about.

What was done to EricJames was unadulterated child abuse. Yet his parents will suffer no repurcussions.

And as for the "real Christians" that Andrew Sullivan refers to, most do nothing and sit on their hands because they fear disrupting parish or denominational unity. My own ELCA parish is as guilty of this as are so many others. Doing what's right often means rocking the boat and offending the sensibilities of hypocrites, bigots and modern day Pharisees. As I have noted many times before, often bad things happen because good people do nothing to stop it.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Canadian Government Seeks to Qwell Gay Marriage Filing Backlash

The implications of a government filing in a lesbian divorce case in Canada has set off a fire storm over the validity of marriages performed in Canada for non-Canadians. Like many in the LGBT community, I have numerous friends who traveled to Canada to marry, including two of my best friends who have considered themselves happily married for almost five years. Given the anti-gay mindset of some in Stephen Harper's conservative government, it is not surprising that many among the thousands of non-Canadian same sex couples who married in Canada assumed the worse. Especially given the rejoicing that took fire among anti-gay hate groups such as the American Family Association. Now, the Harper government is seeking to calm the firestorm - and likely avoid the negative tourism repercussions of disallowing marriage to non-Canadians who reside in anti-gay jurisdictions such as Virginia. Here are highlights from The Globe and Mail on the Harper governments damage control effort:

The Harper government has moved to defuse a growing controversy over same-sex marriage with a promise to make legal changes to ensure that non-residents married in Canada can obtain divorces.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said that the same-sex marriage that ignited the controversy cannot legally be dissolved, but his department will search for a solution.

The move came after The Globe and Mail revealed that the Justice Department had taken a legal position that same-sex marriages involving non-residents are invalid – and cannot be dissolved – unless they are recognized as legitimate in the couple’s home country. That quickly sparked confusion at home and abroad from activists and couples who married in Canada.

Political opponents and gay activists feared the move signalled a reopening of the issue that would potentially cast the legality of same-sex marriage in doubt. However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted Thursday afternoon that he would not do so.

“We're not going to reopen that particular issue,” Mr. Harper told reporters
at a shipbuilding event in North Vancouver on Thursday afternoon, declining to elaborate beyond mentioning the release of Mr. Nicholson's statement.

Gay activists warned Thursday that their formidable lobby will mobilize to fight any attempt by the Harper government to push back hard-won rights. “Have thousands of same-sex couples been misled by Canadian officials for nearly eight years?” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of the gay rights group, Egale Canada.

It also emerged that the Toronto case was the second time in the past year that Justice Department lawyers have intervened to raise obstacles in a same-sex divorce case.

Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, insisted that the Conservatives consider the issue of gay marriage closed. “There’s been absolutely no discussion within our party about this at all,” he said. However, skepticism about the government’s motives continued to run rampant.

Former prime minister Paul Martin, who brought in the law allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, said the government’s position in the Toronto divorce case is “absolutely ridiculous.” “We validated those marriages and you cannot retroactively invalidate marriages that you validated,” Mr. Martin said in an interview.

Former Toronto mayor David Miller said any move that called into question same-sex marriage legalities would embarrass Canada in front of the world by upsetting the lives of couples who flocked to the city for marriages they had been denied in their home countries.

I hope the matter is quickly and totally resolved to affirm all marriages conducted in Canada. I also hope the swift and powerful reaction will make it clear to the reactionary elements in Canada that there is no going back to the bad old days of legalized discrimination.

Gingrich Slams Romney for Speaking French

I guess it will play well in the sick lunatic world of the Christianist/Tea Party base of the GOP, but in the thinking world one would not think that having a president conversant in the language of a foreign ally would be a bad thing. Yet, among Newt Gingrich's latest batshitery and pandering to ignorant bigots are attacks in an ad against Mitt Romney for - oh the absolute horror - being able to speak French. Last time I looked, France was a NATO ally and not insignificant trade partner with America. But amongst the knuckle dragging set, France and those who can speak a foreign language upset the groundless sense of superiority so desired by the redneck, white supremacist and Christianist crowd. I swear, to be a Republican nowadays, a lobotomy is a prerequisite. Gingrich's attacks are insane, but so then is Gingrich in my opinion. Here are highlights from Politico on this lunacy followed by a ad clip:

A new web ad from Newt Gingrich's campaign, "The French Connection," stresses the similarities between Mitt Romney and John Kerry, tying the two Massachusetts politicians together with the fact that both of them speak French.

"Just like John Kerry, he speaks French, too," the ad's narrator says of Romney, showing an often-circulated clip of Romney speaking about the 2002 Winter Olympics in French.

The French theme came up in 2004, when Republicans noted that Kerry "looked French" -- and that fact isn't lost on team Newt as they use the connection against Romney now.

More Vatican Hypocrisy on Priestly Celibacy

No one is more intellectually dishonest - and dishonest in other ways as well - than the bitter old men in dresses at the Vatican. Rather than allow married priests, over time the Church hierarchy has been willing to scrap the bottom of the barrel to find men willing to live the bizarre life of a Catholic priest that is devoid (at least in theory) of sexual intimacy. And we all know what the result of that policy has been: psychologically and emotionally disturbed clergy and a worldwide sex abuse scandal. Now with so-called vocations in the Church plummeting in the western world and reactionary Neanderthal Anglican and Episcopal parishes breaking off from their denominations over the issue of - gasp, gay clergy in committed relationships - the Vatican is willing to throw the celibacy requirement down the toilet for these renegade Anglicans/Episcopalians and allow married priests to join the ranks of the Catholic priesthood. Obviously, if celibacy were truly Christ ordained (i) it would not have taken 1000 years for the practice to emerge and (ii) the requirement would not be something to be waived under any circumstance. The New York Times has an editorial that looks at what will be the strange - and likely degrading - situation of the wives of Anglican/Episcopal priests who join the ranks of a Church that basically deems women as dirty and evil. Here are some highlights:

[T]he Roman Catholic Church is prepared to house married priests in numbers perhaps not seen since the years before 1123, when the First Lateran Council adopted canon 21, prohibiting clerical marriage.

Now as then, the church’s critics and defenders are rehashing arguments about the implications of having married priests in an institution that is otherwise wary of them. But in the midst of these debates, we should pause to ponder the environment that the priests’ wives might expect to encounter. After all, the status of the priest’s wife is perhaps even more strange and unsettling than that of her ordained Catholic husband.

While the early Christian church praised priestly chastity, it did not promulgate decisive legislation mandating priestly celibacy until the reform movement of the 11th century. At that point, the foremost purpose of priestly celibacy was to clearly distinguish and separate the priests from the laity, to elevate the status of the clergy. In this scheme, the mere presence of the priest’s wife confounded that goal, and thus she incurred the suspicion, and quite often the loathing, of parishioners and church reformers. You can’t help wondering what feelings she will inspire today.

By the time of the First Lateran Council, the priest’s wife had become a symbol of wantonness and defilement. . . . . The priest’s wife was an obvious danger. Her wanton desire, suggested the 11th-century monk Peter Damian, threatened the efficacy of consecration. He chastised priests’ wives as “furious vipers who out of ardor of impatient lust decapitate Christ, the head of clerics,” with their lovers. According to the historian Dyan Elliott, priests’ wives were perceived as raping the altar, a perpetration not only of the priest but also of the whole Christian community.

The priest’s nuclear family was also seen as a risk to the stability of the church.
His children represented a threat to laypersons, who feared that their endowments might be absorbed into the hands of the priest’s offspring to create a rival clerical dynasty. A celibate priest would thus ensure donations from the neighboring landed aristocracy. Furthermore, the priest’s wife was often accused, along with her children, of draining the church’s resources with her extravagance and frivolity.

[P]riests’ wives should beware a religious tradition that views them, in the words of Damian, as “the clerics’ charmers, devil’s choice tidbits, expellers from paradise, virus of minds, sword of soul, wolfbane to drinkers, poison to companions, material of sinning, occasion of death ... the female chambers of the ancient enemy, of hoopoes, of screech owls, of night owls, of she-wolves, of blood suckers.”

I cannot help but wonder about the mental state of women willing to assume such a detested role. They must be as psychologically damaged and filled with self-loathing as the twisted gay men who inhabit the ranks of the Catholic clergy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More Thursday Male Beauty

The GOP's Worsening Hispanic Problem

When a political party deliberately or by default panders to bigoted older white far right Christians and white supremacists of all ages, it should come as no surprises that attracting minority voters who are the targets of constant GOP demonization is going to be problematic. Like gays, Hispanics are a favored whipping boy of the GOP base. Indeed, most Hispanics are depicted in GOP circles as wetbacks who just came across the Rio Grande by cover of night. In fact, here in Virginia Virginia Attorney General Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli recently compared immigrants to rats. Yet, Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the American population. Thus the GOP attacks on Hispanics might not be described as very good long term strategic planning. A Salon article looks at the GOP's increasing problem with the Hispanic vote. Here are some highlights:

“We have to fix our problems with the Hispanics,” said John McCain last week when asked by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd about the Republican Party’s competitiveness in the Southwest in the 2012 election.. “It starts with a way to address the issue of immigration in a humane and caring fashion, at the same time emphasizing the need to secure our borders because of the drug cartels and the people who transport people across our border and treat them terribly.” A tip for McCain, front-runner Mitt Romney and other Republicans: drop the “the” in front of references to Hispanics.

Democrats dominate among non-white groups, winning among African-Americans and Asian Americans as well as Latinos. In 2008 Obama carried 67 percent of the Latino vote, and even won the Cuban-American subset previously loyal to Republicans. For GOP presidential candidates, the party’s struggle to attract Latino voters is particularly troubling for two reasons. First, the Latino vote is significant and growing quickly, and will in the near future surpass African-Americans as the nation’s largest ethnic minority voting bloc.

Second, unlike in the South where white Republican performance rates can counterbalance African-Americans’ overwhelming support for Democrats, the Latino vote outside Florida and Texas tends to be concentrated in Southwestern states where the offsetting effects of white Republicans are often insufficient.

Although other issues have contributed to the GOP’s struggles with Latino voters, the party’s strident opposition to immigration reform has poisoned the electoral well. From California’s Proposition 187 referendum in the 1990s to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s signing of the most anti-immigrant law in the country in 2010; from the antics of crusading Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the state-level attempts to secure borders to denying benefits to immigrants or their children, conservative groups and their Republican allies are leading the anti-immigrant charge.

“The GOP’s reputation among Latinos is as bad as it has ever been, driven primarily by statements and state legislation on immigration,” Gary Segura, a Stanford political scientist,

Segura estimates that if Romney or any other Republican nominee fails to get 40 percent to 42 percent of the Latino vote nationwide, Obama will likely hold Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, and possibly win Arizona without McCain at the top of the ticket.

“The current dynamic among Latinos is mild disappointment with Obama but outright fear of the GOP,” wrote Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a center-left think tank known for its analysis of Latino politics, . . . .

Collins predicts that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats will make a major immigration reform push at some point this summer or fall, not in order to actually pass legislation but to demonize the Republican ticket and split the party in the months before the general election.

As Republicans try to simultaneously please both the xenophobic elements within the conservative base and the Latino voters it needs to compete nationally, they may be tempted to seek a quick-fix solution, notably the selection of a Latino vice-presidential running mate. Symbolic shortcuts to demographic parity don’t necessarily work, of course, and may create as many problems as they solve.

John McCain is right: The GOP has a problem with “the” Hispanics. In general elections and especially during primaries, Republican candidates increasingly depend upon support and money from older, whiter voters who hold more reactionary views than younger Americans do toward minorities and immigrants.

What is really distressing is that the GOP base increasingly is utterly incapable of seeing the common humanity of minorities that aren't white, far right Christian, and heterosexual. Long term, it is a recipe for electoral disaster. It also puts a very ugly face on Christianity.

Homophobic Bob Marshall to Join GOP U. S. Senate Race

There are few politicians in Virginia (other than perhaps Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli) who are as rabidly anti-gay as Del. Bob Marshall. Marshall has even gone so far as to state publicly that he'd like to drive all LGBT Virginian's from the state. And in the current session of the Virginia General Assembly, Marshall has introduced a "personhood" bill that would make a fertilized egg an "person" under the law. To say that Marshall is extremist (and a total douche bag) is an understatement. While I suspect that my former law school classmate, George Allen, will be the eventual GOP nominee for the U. S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim Webb, nothing would make me happier than to see Marshall get the nomination only to go down to a humiliation defeat in the general elections. As one comment on the Virginian Pilot article notes, Marshall would bring out Democrats in droves - and perhaps result in the defeat of other GOP candidates. Here are highlights from the Pilot article:

Del. Bob Marshall confirmed Thursday that he soon will enter the race this year for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, which already features four other contenders.

The strongly conservative Marshall said he is finishing "a few mechanical steps" such as setting up a campaign account and assembling a staff before making a formal announcement. He's also gathering voter signatures to qualify for the June 12 primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jim Webb.

Marshall will join a GOP field that includes former governor and U.S. senator George Allen; Chesapeake faith leader Earl W. Jackson; Virginia Beach attorney David McCormick; and former tea party activist Jamie Radtke.

Marshall didn't specify why he considers himself a better option than Allen, who's considered the GOP front-runner based on the strength of his fundraising and campaign organization. . . . He successfully pushed a 2006 amendment to the state constitution that effectively bans homosexual marriage in Virginia.

U. S. Supreme Court: Churches Are Free to Ignore the Law

Personally - and as regular readers are no doubt aware - I am way over churches and so-called religious organizations, especially Christian ones, being afforded special rights and allowed to do things that other citizens and organizations are forbidden to do. Yet, sadly, the U. S. Supreme Court has handed down a ruling that will likely result in churches and religious organizations increasingly believing that they are above the law. While the Court purported to recognize a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws, the reasoning behind the ruling has opened all kinds of likely abuses. The fired employee in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, was by no means a "minister" and in any other universe would have been described as a school teacher. Not surprisingly, Justice Clarence Thomas gave the equivalent of judicial fellatio to the church defendant who had wrongfully fired the school teacher. The New York Times has sanitized coverage of this wrongheaded ruling. Fellow blogger compatriot Jillian T. Weiss at The Bilerico Project has a real world analysis of the ruling. First the Times' mealy mouthed coverage:

WASHINGTON — In what may be its most significant religious liberty decision in two decades, the Supreme Court on Wednesday for the first time recognized a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws, saying that churches and other religious groups must be free to choose and dismiss their leaders without government interference.

The decision gave only limited guidance about how courts should decide who counts as a minister, saying the court was “reluctant to adopt a rigid formula.” Two concurring opinions offered contrasting proposals.

Whatever its precise scope, the ruling will have concrete consequences for countless people employed by religious groups to perform religious work. In addition to ministers, priests, rabbis and other religious leaders, the decision appears to encompass, for instance, at least those teachers in religious schools with formal religious training who are charged with instructing students about religious matters.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Wednesday’s decision could have pernicious consequences, by, for instance, barring suits from pastors who are sexually harassed. “Blatant discrimination is a social evil we have worked hard to eradicate in the United States,” he said in a statement. “I’m afraid the court’s ruling today will make it harder to combat.”

In a concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the courts should get out of the business of trying to decide who qualifies for the ministerial exception, leaving the determination to religious groups.

“The question whether an employee is a minister is itself religious in nature, and the answer will vary widely,” he wrote. “Judicial attempts to fashion a civil definition of ‘minister’ through a bright-line test or multifactor analysis risk disadvantaging those religious groups whose beliefs, practices and membership are outside of the ‘mainstream’ or unpalatable to some.”

Religion continues to be one of the most insidious threats to constitutional government and civil rights for all citizens regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual orientation and national origin. Here some highlights from Jillian's spot on review of what the Court has done:

When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came calling, after Ms. Petich had filed a claim for discrimination based on disability, the school said that Ms. Petich had not been fired because of her disability. No, they were fine with her disability. Rather, she had been fired because of religious law. Ms. Petich had violated the beliefs of their Church. What beliefs of the Hosassa-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church had Ms. Petich violated so flagrantly? Why, the belief of the Church that its members should never resort to the law to protect their rights against Church members.

No, I'm serious. The Church said that anyone who threatens litigation is violating God's law. Since Ms. Petich mentioned that she "planned to assert her legal rights," she had to be fired because she violated God's law. I mean, seriously?

Rather than dismissing this whopper with a chuckle, as they should have, the Supreme Court bowed reverentially and ruled that any religious employer can avoid a lawsuit for workplace laws so long as they take care to ensure that their religious beliefs include a line about never suing the Church. Firing for disability? Right as rain. You seem gay, so you're fired? No problem. Fire those sniveling whiners who complain about sexual harassment or sex-for-keeping-your-job? A- Okay. You say we violated the child labor laws or the minimum wage laws? No, sorry, those are ministers, so the laws don't apply. You got injured on the job and want to sue? Forget it, bub, we told you that your job includes thinking about God and being holy, so the "ministerial exception" puts the halo of silence around you. Get on your knees and tell your ambulance-chaser to take a walk.

Also, courts must now decide what constitutes "internal church decisions" and also whether they "affect the faith and mission" of the religion. Honestly, how is a judge of some other or no religious persuasion supposed to decide that?

There is already another exception for that, permitting churches to use religious qualifications in their hiring decisions. Rather, the decision yesterday makes "Church" into a magic word that banishes law enforcement.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a large scale reorganization of a wide variety of business-related entities to try to take advantage of the new religious shield exception. It shouldn't be unexpected to see a series of lower court decisions, particularly in, say, Oklahoma, saying that the Baptist Plumbing Co., Inc., which has every employee lead morning prayers or write a religious blurb on the company blog once a month, is exempt from workplace laws. As I discussed in my recent law review article on the application of the First Amendment to LGBT employment discrimination laws, a First Amendment claim cannot trump employment non-discrimination laws. But we're going to see a much stronger effort to do so after this decision.

Courts deciding on which religious purposes matter -- now there's an "Establishment Clause" problem if I ever heard one. Christian Dominionists rejoice!

Why Does MSNBC Invite Anti-Gay Liars on TV to Represent Christians?

I have long lamented the laziness and irresponsibility of the main stream media ("MSM") that results in anti-gay bigots and Christianists who lack any legitimate credentials being given platforms as either representatives of everyday Christians and/or "experts" on social issues, especially those pertaining to homosexuality. Would the MSM invite the Imperial Wizard of the Klux Klux Klan on to talk about the threat posed by blacks who seek civil equality? Or neo-Nazi leaders to talk about Jewish Americans? I think not, yet we see the precise equivalent time and time again when extreme Christianists and hate group leaders are brought on to TV news programs and allowed to spew lies and untruths while never being challenged. It's one thing when this travesty occurs on Fox News. It's something far different when the offending networks are CNN, MSNBC and the three main networks. A group called Faithful America has shouted out "enough is enough" and launched a petition addressed to MSNBC demanding that hate group leader and white supremacist lover Tony Perkins cease being provided a platform by MSNBC. Sign the petition here (I've already signed it). Here are highlights from the Faith in Public Life that looks at what lead to the petition effort againstMSNBC:

MSNBC is in the news this week for announcing that they may finally be ending their contract with contributor Pat Buchanan, who has come under fire in the last month (deservedly) for publishing another book with incendiary racist commentary. Led by Color of Change and CREDO Action, hundreds of thousands of people pressured MSNBC to fire Buchanan. This latest update suggests MSNBC finally listened to their concerns.

Unfortunately, Buchanan wasn’t the MSNBC’s only problematic regular contributor. As Media Matters has tracked, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins has appeared on the network 18 times in the past year alone–almost as often as he’s gone on Fox News.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has rightfully declared Family Research Council a hate group because of their consistent, unwavering commitment to spreading hateful lies about the LGBT community.

Speaking on MSNBC, Perkins has falsely claimed that “the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children,” and another FRC official has called for criminalizing homosexuality.

Yet instead of accurately identifying FRC as a untrustworthy hate group, MSNBC has continued to treat its officials as legitimate political commentators, most recently inviting Perkins on air just yesterday twice to discuss how evangelical Christians view the Republican presidential candidates.

In response, Faithful America has launched a petition calling on MSNBC to “stop inviting Family Research Council spokespeople on the air to represent the views of Christians and other people of faith.”

Just as racist rhetoric has no place in the media, anti-gay liars should not be baptized as credible Christian messengers, particularly for a network built on progressive viewers. MSNBC should continue its move to improve its contributor rolls by keeping FRC off its shows.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

What Loving v. Virginia Says About Today

The U. S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia in 1967 was a major smack down for both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Virginia Supreme Court which had upheld the state's ban on interracial marriage. Unfortunately, neither the Commonwealth nor the Virginia Supreme Court deems to have learned anything from the 1968 ruling that continues to be a blight on the Commonwealth's reputation. Having argued before the Virginia Supreme Court in Moore v. Virginia Museum of Natural History (Moore was fired by the state museum for being gay), the Virginia Supreme Court seems just as hostile to the rights of minorities today as in was in the 1960's. Indeed, it is probably safe to say that LGBT equality under the civil laws in Virginia will not be forthcoming until the U. S. Supreme Court of the U.S. Congress forces Virginia to end anti-gay discrimination. A story in The Advocate that looks at an HBO documentary that focuses on Loving v. Virginia - and what that court decision says about anti-gay bigotry today. Here are some highlights:

HBO’s new documentary The Loving Story tackles a historic legal case with a timely message about marriage equality — one used to justify an elections director's decision to resign in North Carolina.

The parallels between the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia and the fight for marriage equality today are undeniable. Forced to flee their home state of Virginia and live in exile in Washington, D.C . — or risk being arrested again for having violated the state’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 — Mildred and Richard Loving, a mixed-race couple, took the only route they could find to get back home: through the courts.

“They were in a community [in Virginia] that not only tolerated their marriage but really fostered it,” attests filmmaker Nancy Buirski, a straight woman who is well aware that many LGBT couples and families live in communities whose mores may not be aligned with those of their states. “It reminds you what it means for the state to step in and tell us what to do with our personal freedoms.

When Sherre Toler resigned in early January as director of elections in North Carolina's Harnett County, she cited the case as her reason for taking a stand and what she'd learned from her own interracial relationship, saying she couldn't preside over marriage equality being put up for a vote via an upcoming ballot initiative.

Over the course of the narration-free film, she [Buirski] lets the Lovings and their lawyers speak for themselves. Buirski accomplished this through footage she found that was shot at the time and lay untouched in a closet for more than 40 years.

The footage makes the Lovings’ struggle feel almost present-day — with perhaps one exception: Being made to live outside of Virginia sounds like a not-bad punishment, right? But, as Buirski points out, it was a different time.

“It was a very special place for them,” she says of the Lovings’ community in Virginia, which they were eventually allowed to return to. “They were not trying to be heroes, they were not activists. I feel strongly that we need to honor people like that.”

More information on the resignation of Sherre Toler can be found here in the Virginian Pilot. Pam's House Blend also has detailed coverage here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Ladies of "The View" Rip Into Pope Benedict XVI

I recently commented on Pope Benedict XVI's continued vile bigotry against LGBT individuals when he described same sex marriage as a threat to the "future of humanity." Well, I apparently am not the only one who cannot stomach this child rapist protecting bastard. Exhibit No. 1 - The ladies of the program The View do a great job of thoroughly trashing Benedict XVI. Here's a video clip:

One can only hope that more and more people will come to recognize Benedict XVI for the foul hypocrite that he truly is and stop funding the criminal enterprise otherwise known as the Catholic Church hierarchy.

Fundraiser for Hampton Mayor Molly Ward

In the Hampton Roads area the City of Hampton has surprisingly shown itself to be among the most welcoming to LGBT owned businesses and LGBT professionals. This reality is in has been in sharp contrast to the City of Norfolk where the city's official policy seems to be to harass and make LGBT businesses and LGBT residents unwelcome. Much of the City of Hampton's progressive approach to the LGBT community and a realization that in the changing economic environment ALL businesses need to be welcome and allowed to flourish traces to Hampton Mayor Molly Ward - who also played a major role in securing the designation of Fort Monroe as a national monument by Barack Obama. In May, Molly Ward - who the Boyfriend and I count as a friend - will be up for re-election in a contested race.

On Sunday, January 22, 2012, from 4:00 to 6:00PM a fundraiser will be held to support Mayor Ward's re-election effort. I invite local readers to attend and support this wonderful straight LGBT ally. If you cannot attend, please support Mayor Ward financially. Details are set out below. Special guests will be Senator Mark Warner and Congressman Bobby Scott. Help keep the City of Hampton headed in the right direction and accepting to all citizens.

Yes, the Boyfriend and I are sponsors and putting our money where our mouths are.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Ignores Cuccinelli and Approves Gay Nondiscrimination Policy

One thing that can always be relied upon is that Virginia Attorney General Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli will always slant his legal advice to state agencies in a way to encourage anti-gay discrimination and the gutting of LGBT friendly polices. In the twisted world of Kookinelli and Del. Bob Marshall, they only feel good about themselves when they are denigrating and persecuting someone else, with gays most often being the target of choice. And sadly, all too often the agencies receiving Kookinelli's recommendations do not have the courage or moral integrity to ignore Kookinelli's anti-gay bigotry and do the right thing. Thankfully, Department of Juvenile Justice has blown off Kookinelli and agreed Tuesday, for a second time, to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Here are highlights from the Washington Post on the Department's defiance of Kookinelli's directive:

The board that oversees Virginia’s juvenile correctional facilities agreed Tuesday, for a second time, to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation despite being counseled against such action by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II.

The board voted 5 to 1, rejecting Cuccinelli’s contention that only the General Assembly can designate a special class of citizens.

The Department of Juvenile Justice operates five facilities and a diagnostic facility, and the Board of Juvenile Justice sets broad policy for the agency. More than 800 juveniles are housed in the institutions.

“The regulations passed by the board today will return to the governor’s office for review as the next step in the process. They will be reviewed then in the coming weeks,” said Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). “The governor’s office will review the minutes of the board’s meeting and the language of the resolutions passed today before making any determination on this issue.”

A spokesman for Cuccinelli did not respond to a request for comment.

GOP Neanderthals Scramble for Way to Block Romney

I'm not a fan of Mitt Romney for many reasons, not the least of which is his flip-flopping on issues, including LGBT rights, is enough to give one whiplash. Plus, he has shamelessly pandered to some of the nastiest elements of the Christianist/Tea Party base of today's foul Republican Party. Yet, to many he seems to be the most electable of the mediocre field of candidates fighting to be the GOP presidential nominee. Now, with Romney's better than expected win in New Hampshire, some of the knuckle dragging Kool-Aid drinkers of the GOP base are hysterical that Romney will get the nomination and then fail to back their Christianist version of Sharia law. The Washington Post looks at the scramble by the ultra-far right fear/hate mongering elements of the GOP (which the Post too politely calls "conservatives") to devise a strategy to derail Romney. Here are some highlights:

A near-panic has taken hold among some core conservative activists, who are now scrambling to devise a strategy to deny Mitt Romney the Republican presidential nomination.

Many of these activists see South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 21 as their last best hope of stopping Romney by consolidating in a united front against him. But many acknowledge that they have yet to figure out which of the remaining conservative rivals to rally behind and which should get out.

The tension is exacerbated by the deep divisions between two key GOP wings: tea party groups yearning for a pure small-government conservative, and evangelical Christians who want a loyal social conservative.

In one sign of their desperation, some activists are holding out for what they acknowledge is a spectacular long shot: a late-entering savior who could still qualify for enough state ballots and win enough delegates to force a brokered GOP convention this summer.

The Romney conundrum will be on the agenda Friday when about 150 evangelical leaders huddle at a Texas ranch to debate their next move. Likewise, the subject of consolidating conservative opposition to the former Massachusetts governor is expected to be a major point of discussion among about 500 attendees at a tea party convention set for this weekend in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where the list of speakers includes two Romney rivals seeking the conservative mantle, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

One participant in Friday’s evangelical meeting, the Rev. Jim Garlow — pastor of a San Diego megachurch and a leading champion of California’s anti-gay-marriage initiative — said Romney is “untrustworthy” and not “ visceral on the issues that are cardinal to me.”

The fretting from conservatives reflects a persistent question about Romney’s candidacy: whether a wealthy private-equity executive with a history of centrist views in a liberal state can gain the trust of the most energized and active elements of the GOP’s conservative base.

Romney campaign aides and supporters concede that the candidate has not yet made the sale, but they say he will win over conservative voters. They point to the support of a tea party favorite, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who is campaigning nationally for Romney.

[N]ational and South Carolina-based activists said Romney has a difficult task in unifying the party base. Many social conservative leaders are still seething over the party’s experience in 2008, when evangelical Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses but the base didn’t unite, and John McCain locked up the nomination early. “We made a terrible mistake in 2008,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Among the candidates who remain, Romney’s critics can’t agree on who should get the nod. Gingrich backers are pushing for Santorum and Perry to drop out, while Santorum supporters see an obvious solution if Gingrich and Perry clear the way.

With luck, the bloodbath within the GOP will continue and the far right elements will lose the battle. The sooner they are permanently driven from the political realm, the better it will be for America as a nation. Hate, division, the embrace of ignorance and religious extremism will not make America competitive in the world of the 21st century.

What's Wrong With Gay Republicans?

As noted many times, I once was a Republican. But the party I belonged to back then was a very different political party from what exists nowadays. Yes, back then, the Christianists had begun to slowly infiltrate the party, yet they were still viewed as delusional by the majority and moderates held sway and religion had not been fully conflated into the party platform. Back then, facts, figures and rational analysis were actually respected and I was known for always backing up my opinions and positions with hard facts and objective data. Indeed, I was awarded honors by both the local city committee by even received a plaque from then Governor Jim Gilmore shortly before I resigned from the GOP. Admittedly, I wasn't out of the closet back in those days, but homophobia had not become one of the most important planks in the party platform either. That's all changed nowadays and yet some gays in what I can only view as a form of masochism and internalized self-loathing continue to cling to saying they are Republicans. To me it's akin to someone of Jewish descent belonging to a neo-Nazi organization. I do not understand the mindset. The cartoon above makes this case as well. A very much on point column in the Huffington Post calls out to gay Republicans and basically asks them WTF is wrong with them. Here are some highlights:

Dear gay Republicans, . . . . Let's put economic and other issues aside for a moment; we can have a spirited debate about the backward GOP approach to taxes, the environment, and foreign policy another time. I don't understand how you can look beyond the fact that a major portion of your party's fundamental beliefs are that you are not equal.

This isn't a minor issue within your party. The Republican Party platform calls for amending the United States Constitution to discriminate against you. Party officials actually want to use our country's foundational document, which grants and extends rights and freedoms to people, to limit yours. But that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Your party has, as one of its major leading presidential candidates, a person who doesn't think you should be able to serve openly in the military, who doesn't believe that you can create a loving family, who thinks that your committed relationships are destroying the moral fabric of America. Your party has thrown you in the deviant pile. Your party has labeled you a sexual predator. Your party is afraid of you and does not incorporate your voice or believe in your dignity.

This fact isn't a small debate within your party. It is not some misguided homophobes who are simply unaware of the LGBT community and all its accomplishments, struggles, and contributions, speaking out of turn and out of step with the platform. This is your party's platform. They don't like you, they don't want you, and they want to strip you of your rights and make you and your core personhood illegal, and Santorum exemplifies it.

And sadly, even so-called "moderates" like Romney have been forced to mimic Santorum on all LGBT issues in order to increase their electability. So when you vote for these guys and actively try to put them in power, you are hurting yourself, you are hurting me, you're hurting every loving LGBT family, and, most importantly, you're hurting America. Hate is not a family value. Hate is not an American value. Hate should not be a Republican value, but it is.

As a gay man, I humbly ask that you withdraw your support from the Republican Party unless and until the homophobic party platform is demonstrably and fully remediated. Bullies cannot serve the people of the United States of America, uphold the Constitution, or embrace you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Click on image to enlarge.

Romney Scores Win in New Hampshire

The results of the New Hampshire primary are in and the chameleon, Mitt Romney (pictured above with his beautiful sons) was the winner with 39.2% of the vote followed by Ron Paul at 22.9% and Jon Huntsman at 16.8%. Happily, Rick Perry got less than one percent of the vote and Gingrich and Santorum each received under 10%. One can only hope that Perry will pitch his tent and head back to Texas where is sort of idiocy and bigotry are still considered statesman like. As for Gingrich, one can dream that he'd pack up and leave the campaign trail as well, but i suspect his super over inflated ego will not allow for that - at least not yet. Here are highlights from Politico:

Mitt Romney claimed a decisive and widely expected victory in Tuesday night’s New Hampshire presidential primary, easily outdistancing runner-up Ron Paul and leaving his conservative challengers trailing far at the back of the pack.

The former Massachusetts governor is the first-ever Republican who is not an incumbent president to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, and Romney supporters hope his easy finish here will send a signal to the party that it’s time to start uniting behind him.

But even as Romney basked in his win — he addressed a crowd of elated supporters less than half an hour after the polls closed — his rivals signaled that they are now girding for a savage fight in South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary.

With 69 percent of precincts reporting, Romney was drawing 38 percent of the vote to Paul’s 24 percent. In third place was Jon Huntsman, with 17 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, both with approximately 10 percent.

Rick Perry, the Texas governor who has largely avoided campaigning in New Hampshire, had less than 1 percent of the vote.

And by finishing third — even 20 points behind Romney — Huntsman gains just enough credibility as a national candidate to press his effort forward in South Carolina. In his election-night remarks, Huntsman urged his supporters to look to the next election later this month. “Ladies and gentlemen, I think we’re in the hunt,” he said. “Third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen. Hello, South Carolina!”

Huntsman, whose anti-war views have earned him applause from young voters as well as moderate-leaning elites, declared in his speech: “Afghanistan is not this nation’s future, and Iraq is not this nation’s future.”

Meanwhile, the candidates who have seemed most menacing to Romney — Santorum, Gingrich and Perry — fell short even of their limited expectations in New Hampshire. Gingrich, who had earned the endorsement of New Hampshire’s powerful Union Leader newspaper, and Santorum, who rolled into the state after an encouraging near-win in Iowa, must now go into South Carolina with no particularly imposing momentum behind them.

I listened to Jon Huntsman speech and candidly, if the GOP had any sense, Huntsman ought to be the nominee. Of course, I'm not a Bible beater or GOP party hack, so my opinions surely carry no weight in those circles.

God Did Not Write the Bible

I often criticize the Christianists and far right Christians who claim that the Bible is inerrant and engage in a form of idolatry that makes a mockery of their supposed self-professed beliefs in the Gospel message. Likewise, I often attribute the fear and hatred of others to their weak faith and fear of the unknown that pushes them to attack and denigrate anyone who is perceived to threaten their house of cards religious belief construct. Interestingly enough, two different columns at Religion Dispatches look at the issue. One is in the form of an interview with retired Episcopal Bishop and author, John Shelby Spong, and the other is a column that looks at Rick Santorum's religiously twisted psyche and why he cannot accept that LGBT individuals are entitled to full equality under the nations (and states') civil laws. I believe that these issues and criticisms of the Christianist mindset need to be pounded home over and over to undecided members of the public so that they will realize that it is the so-called "family values" crowd, not LGBT Americans, who are a threat to the principles of religious freedom upon which this nation was founded, First highlights from the interview with Bishop Spong:

Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong is used to being a lightning rod for religious debate. Known affectionately as “Jack” to his friends, Spong has been taking religious literalists to task for over 40 years.

Spong’s new book Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World . . . on page 15, Spong writes: “I do not think for one moment that Bible is any literal sense the ‘Word of God.’” This book is Spong’s way of putting the Bible back in its right perspective—as a collection of “tribal” stories that sprang from “the experience of human beings seeking to make sense out of the life they are living and the things they are experiencing.”

RD: Erstwhile candidate Michele Bachmann was even asked in one debate whether she believed the Bible required her to be “submissive” to her husband. Politicians are trying to enforce that aura around the Bible and competing to be seen as taking it the most literally. What do you make of that?

SPONG: I think it’s sick, though I think there is less of it now than during the Bush years—we’re making progress, as strange as it sounds. . . . . I think it’s a reality show. I think it’s the strangest group of candidates I’ve ever watched run for office and I would be embarrassed at almost any one of them being the president of the United States.

It seems to me that what the Christian faith says is that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called and empowered to be all that it can be. That’s not what you hear. Christianity has been a religion of victimization if you look at its history. We victimized Jews during the Crusades. We victimized Muslims in the 14th century. We victimized heretics. We victimized people of color. We victimized women. We victimized homosexuals. We victimized the environment. We’re currently victimizing immigrants. It’s all the same mentality.

What is it about Christianity that makes us constantly be a victimizer? I think it’s because we’ve adopted victimizing theology. We spend all our time in church talking about how sinful and evil human beings are. The only way you can tolerate listening to that is to pass it on. We have to pass on this hostility that we have. The idea that God killed Jesus because you were a sinner is a really strange idea. It makes God an ogre. It makes Jesus a sadomasochistic victim and it makes you and me guilt-laden.

Guilt never produces life. If guilt is your message, the best you can produce is a hidden righteousness. You repress your negative feelings in public and you pass this guilt on because it’s intolerable. I think what we’ve turned Christianity into is a sick religion and it comes out politically.

Exceptionalism is in every religious system. Religion is a human social invention to keep insecurity in check because being human is a very insecure thing to be. We’re self-conscious. We know we’re going to die and we have to relate to that. Animals don’t have to relate to that, they just live until they die. Human beings are the only animal that commits suicide or uses drugs. Religion is part of our defense system against the radical insecurity of life.

In order for religion to make you secure you have to make excessive claims.
You have to say that, “We are the chosen people,” or “The Pope is infallible,” or “Our way is the only way,” or “the Bible is inerrant.” You have to make a claim that locks security up tightly.

Christianity is not supposed to make you secure. . . . If you’ve got to spend your time proving that you’re better than someone else—males are better than females, whites are better than blacks, heterosexuals are better than homosexuals — you’re always building yourself up by pushing somebody else down. But, you shouldn’t need to build yourself up unless you’re radically insecure. Religion feeds into that radical insecurity with triumphalism—ours is the only religious route you can take to get to God. That’s a really strange idea.

Religion is not about truth, it’s about security. The sort of thing I’m presenting is never going to be the majority view but it’s going to be the minority point of view for those who are bold enough to look at life as it really is and not to need a narcotic to get through it but as something that gives them the strength to embrace the radical insecurity of life, and I think that’s worth doing.

Christianity is not about saving people from their sins. It’s about expanding the sense of what it means to be human. That’s a very big difference. I’m tired of being saved from my sins.

The column on Rick Santorum is equally damning although more focused on Santorum's own very damaged mental state that likely arises from his tradition Roman Catholic upbringing. Here are some highlights:

It’s been widely observed that religious foes of LGBT equality frequently make arguments of convenience. These arguments are usually guised in the language of rhetorics other than that of religion. Thus homosexuality is pathological (medical), destructive of society (sociological), narcissistic (psychological)—anything, really, as long as it’s bad, which is what opponents of equality really mean.

Last week, for example,Rick Santorum argued that same-sex marriage would be a slippery slope, because “in terms of pleasure,” polygamous marriages offered as much pleasure as gay marriages do. This strange new line of thinking presupposes that the only reason for same-sex marriage is pleasure, just as the only reasons for a homosexual “lifestyle” are pleasure, lust, and so on.

This is, of course, absurd. Gay couples get married for the same reasons that straight couples do, with pleasure being pretty far down the list — behind, say, love, companionship, taking care of one another, societal recognition, raising children, and so on. Santorum’s ignorant comment (one of many, of course) assumes, incorrectly, that homosexuality is a (changeable, optional) predilection of the gonads, rather than an orientation of the heart. Lust, not love.

If we assume that Santorum is being sincere in his bigotry rather than purely opportunistic, what he’s really interested in is religion, not social policy. If it were social policy that motivated him, he’d read the studies of same-sex couples in Massachusetts and in other countries, which show that they raise children as well as opposite-sex couples, form stable families, and the rest. But what Santorum is motivated by is actually religion: a fear of sexuality and of women souped-up by a misreading of Leviticus, Romans, and Corinthians.

But he can’t really say that on television. If he were honest, he’d just come out and say something like: “I’m sorry, but God just cannot abide any homosexual behavior.” But he isn’t.

Santorum and other homophobes cannot speak frankly because their real motivations are private, emotional, and incoherent.
It’s not as though Santorum dispassionately selected Catholicism from a menu of religious ideologies. He believes because he feels. Even before his wife’s miscarriage (in 1996), before his political career, some concatenation of circumstances installed what some have called religious “software” in his brain. Things are good when religion is dominant, bad when it is not. This is the truth of his experience.

They [Santorum and anti-gay Christianists] have wedded their fundamental sense of okay-ness to the truthfulness of a set of doctrines.
Not only is sociology not at issue for Rick Santorum, Romans isn’t either. What is at stake is his very sense that the world is a good place, that things are basically okay, and that he himself is okay as a result. That may be expressed in a theological framework, but it is a psychological reality. If I marry my partner, therefore, Rick Santorum is not okay.

The fake secularism, the fake science, the bogus constructions of homosexuality — all of these are so transparently false because they are mere props.
As one after another of them collapse, anti-gays will eventually be left only with their convictions, and the reasons why they have them. Perhaps only then, echoing Portnoy’s therapist, might we say “Now we may perhaps to begin.”

Be it due to religious brainwashing, limited intelligence or some sort of psychological malady, Santorum and those like him who claim the Bible is inerrant are motivated primarily by fear. Fear of who they really are. Fear of the future or fear of life after death. Fear of anything that rattles their sense of safety and security. And unfortunately, that fear quickly transforms itself into hatred of anything and anyone who threatens that artificial sense of safety and security that stems from mindlessly checking off the boxes on the Christianist list of rules to live by. Ans sense gays challenge the Bible materialists we are rewarded with a special level oh hate and animus by the Santorums of the world. The ones who are damaged goods are not LGBT individuals but rather the Christianists, Rick Santorums and Pope Benedict XVI of the world.