Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lying in God's name

As the nation is in the grips of a cold wave, California is a bask in warmth and sunlight. Evidently, even the sun in California is subject to darkening by “Yes on Prop 8” lawyers who have successfully, delayed the television broadcast of the Federal trial regarding Prop 8. It seems that they fear the light of day being cast on the deceptive campaign which they ran in California (and mirrored in Maine) to strip same sex couples of their right to a civil marriage. Why should the “Yes on Prop 8” forces go to such lengths to prevent you from seeing the evidence presented in a U.S. Federal court of law?

Part of the answer is found in Anita Bryant’s successful campaign to stop anti-bias laws in the 1970’s. Yale professor George Chauncey said the following on the witness stand. Statements which the “Yes on Prop 8” side do not want you to hear. Chauncey testified in the witness stand .

“The initial polling data showed there was actually a margin of support for anti-bias ordinances,” said Chauncey. So Bryant and her campaign, he said, “decided to focus on the consequences of allowing such laws –the effects on children.”

“They made two arguments,” he said, during his appearance as an expert in gay history on the witness stand in the Proposition 8 trial Tuesday. “That simple tolerance of gays would mean they’ll become role models so kids would become gay,” and that gays are child molesters.

Psychology has already debunked the myth of homosexuals as pedophiles.

Homosexuals Are No More Likely to Sexually Abuse Children Than Heterosexuals.

· In fact, gays and lesbians may be less likely than heterosexuals to sexually abuse children.
Two studies that examined the sexual orientation of child molesters found that less than
one percent, in one study, and zero percent, in the other, were lesbian or gay.
· About four of every five cases of child sexual abuse reported to child protection
authorities involve a girl who is abused. But because sexual abuse of boys is less likely to
be reported, it is estimated that 1/4 to 1/3 of all sexually abused children are boys, while
2/3 to 3/4 are girls.1 Because most child molesters are men, (90 percent2), some have
argued that “homosexual” child abuse is widespread and that homosexuals abuse children
at a rate higher than their proportion of the general population, which is somewhere
around 3 to 8 percent of the population. Such claims are based on the false belief that
men who sexually abuse boys are homosexual. In fact, the overwhelming majority of men
who sexually abuse children live their lives as heterosexual men.

1 Finkelhor, 1994, pp. 46-47; Stevenson, 2000, p. 8.
2 Finkelhor, p. 31.

Finkelhor, D. (1994). Current information on the scope and nature of child sexual abuse. T he
Future of Children: Sexual Abuse of Children, 4(2) , 31-53.

Stevenson, M. R. (2000). Public policy, homosexuality, and the sexual coercion of children.
Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 12(4) , 1-19.

In testimony today and Monday, witnesses for the plaintiffs discussed a number of “Yes on 8” television ads and fliers which underscored the campaign slogan “Protect your children.”

Even though both the California Teacher’s Association and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction made public statements that made it clear that these allegations by the “yes on Prop 8” forces, were untrue. My own bishop, John Steinbock, in his “pastoral letter” to the people of our dioceses falsely claimed that “children would be brainwashed.” These deliberate perpetuation of grossly untrue myths and stereotypes by the “yes on Prop 8” side were and are a lie. A lie which they, like Bryant before them, successfully used to deceive and cause unfounded fears in voters. Lies and fears which were used to strip countless same sex couples of the right to a civil marriage. The Los Angeles Times reported the following:

“They were able to focus the debate on their assertion that without the ban, public school children would be indoctrinated into accepting gay marriage against their parents' wishes, churches would be sanctioned for not performing same-sex weddings and the institution of marriage would be irreparably harmed.

Supporters of gay marriage, along with political leaders including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco) and the state's superintendent of public instruction, denounced those messages as scare tactics, but they were not able to sway voters. Preliminary returns showed Proposition 8 passing 52% to 48%.

"It was masterful of the campaign to raise the implications of what it could mean in terms of the school system," said Republican political consultant Wayne Johnson. He said voters may have started out "thinking that as long as it doesn't affect me, do what you want" but the supporters shifted the focus to children.”

Even though the truth was publicly announced in a “No on Prop 8” commercial, the damage was done and countless voters believed the “Yes on Prop 8” lie. They lied. They deceived voters and they do not want voters to now realize that they were manipulated with carefully crafted lies.

Far more nuance are the U.S. Catholic hierarchy in promoting such myths and stereotypes. With the Catholic priest sexual scandals, you would think they would avoid this subject altogether. Therein lies the twisted appeal of the false claim that homosexuals are pedophiles. Vatican renews ban on gay priests

Even though this action by the Vatican is very vague and fails to define what is “deep seated homosexuality.” It creates the false impression that the Pope is “acting” to stop pedophile abuse in the Church. In fact, the Pope is cleverly sidestepping the real issue with the pedophilia scandal, specifically that the hierarchy covered up the abuse and transferred known offenders from assignment to assignment. In doing this they knowingly exposed innocent children to sexual abuse in an attempt to protect the Church’s material assets and PR reputation. To scapegoat gays is far easier than accepting personal responsibility. If using pseudo scientific terminology and issuing vague/ineffectual “bans” serves in redirecting outraged people away from the hierarchy, then so be it.

Thus far, the Prop 8 trial has revealed that the “yes on Prop 8” side was more than willing to lie in the name of God. It has also begun to reveal their motives. No wonder they are so desperate to hide the truth from the general public and why they have gone to such legal lengths to forbid you to see the evidence revealed in the trial. St. John gives a theological explanation in JOHN 20-21. For a more secular explanation I encourage you to read the testimony for yourself.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Robert P. George, the Catholic Bishop's Karl Rove

The New York Times reported the following regarding Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.

Last spring, George was invited to address an audience that included many bishops at a conference in Washington. He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice. They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear. To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops' “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care — “matters of public policy upon which Gospel principles by themselves do not resolve differences of opinion among reasonable and well-informed people of good will,” as George put it.

A few months later, in a July 17 letter to Congress, the bishops did something close to that in the health care debate. Setting aside decades of calls for universal coverage, the bishops pledged to fight any bill that failed to block the use of federal subsidies for insurance covering abortion. “Stalin famously asked, ‘How many divisions has the pope?’ ” George wrote to me in an e-mail message after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed a vote on an amendment that satisfied the bishops’ demands. “I guess Pelosi now knows.”

“As long as they did not advocate specific remedies.” Yes, yes say you wish to help the poor and the marginalized, but for God’s sake don’t specify HOW. Why does George insist on this vague approach? Because, any “specifics” would almost assuredly contradict the neo-conservative dogmas of the Republican party. Catholic Social teachings are indeed a “nuisance” almost as much of a “nuisance” as the poor and their needs. The beauty of George’s advice to the Catholic Bishops is that by focusing on “the moral social” issues (abortion, stem-cell research and same sex marriage) those other social justice issues can be tabled.

This extends a fig leaf behind which health care corporations can hide their obscene profits. Profits paid for by the deaths of countless Americans and the suffering of exponentially even more Americans. A fig leaf also for financial institutions which have issued billions of dollar worth of bonuses paid for by American tax payers, just as many of those American lose their homes to foreclosure. A fig leaf also for those who refuse to pay living wages to employees. A fig leaf for those who abuse migrant workers. The list goes on and on.

Not only does George’s “Catholic” agenda offer fig leaves to all of these exploiters but, at the same time he even extends to them the luxury of being morally smug. George’s new morality, or is it just the morality of the Pharisees revisited, allows the wealthy and powerful to do nothing for the poor. Well, except to judge them for having abortions, or seeking to establish a home with someone they love who happens to be of the same gender. Yes, this “morality” merely requires the prohibition of certain acts. One does not have to be “my brother’s/sister’s keeper,” just their judge.

All of this is neatly wrapped in a dispassionate appeal to “reason.”

It is a debate at least as old as the Reformation, when Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church and insisted that reason was so corrupted that faith in the divine was humanity’s only hope of salvation. (Until relatively recently, contemporary evangelicals routinely leveled the same charge at modern Catholics.) “This is a serious issue, and if I am wrong, this is where I am wrong,” George acknowledges.

The problem with an appeal to reason as our guide can be found in our refrigerators. Think of the many times you have opened the refrigerator door and found yourself staring at a slice of chocolate cake or a pint of ice cream. Reason tells us we should have the celery. This is not to say that we should throw reason out the door, but we must recall that human reason is subject to human will.

George’s reason is very appealing to the will of those who don’t want to have to part with profits for the sake of prophets. It is very appealing to brokers of wealth and power in our society. George’s “morality” requires nothing of them, except to prohibit behaviors. It is a “morality” which would have played well at the court of Louis XVI. George states: “Obviously, I am gratified that view appears to have attracted a very strong following among the bishops,” he went on. “I just hope I am right. If they are going to buy my arguments, I don’t want to mislead the whole church.”

Sadly, not only has George misled the Bishops, he had caused them to use their influence to derail universal health care. Ironically, poor women will have to decide to either spend $400.00 on an abortion or, $4000.00 on delivering a baby at a hospital. This makes George and the Catholic Bishops de facto accomplices to the abortions they denounce. A small price to pay for becoming the "choir boys" for the Republican Party and the far right.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Prop8 proponents don’t want the public to know the truth.

The following is a reprint of a time sensitive letter from the Courage Campaign. I urge you to read it and to sign the petition to make the Prop 8 federal trial public. It is fascinating that the religious right are so terrified of their deeds being exposed to the light of day before the public.

"For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God." John 3: 20-21

The letter from the Courage Campaign follows in full:

Yesterday, we asked you to respond to Judge Vaughn Walker's request for public comment on potentially televising the Prop 8 federal trial that starts Monday. In less than 24 hours, an amazing 82,103 people have joined you in signing the letter from the Courage Campaign Institute and CREDO Action.

Thank you for signing the letter. Now we need you to spread the word by forwarding this message to your friends urgently. Despite Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling below (please read on), right-wing groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family are gathering signatures to stop any broadcast of the Prop 8 trial. Please tell your friends ASAP.

GOAL: 100,000 signatures. DEADLINE: Friday 9 AM

The news is spreading like wildfire. And it's both good and bad.
From a San Jose Mercury News article:
"Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker approved court-operated cameras in his courtroom for delayed release on YouTube, but rejected a bid by media organizations to televise the proceedings themselves for live broadcast."
This decision is NOT final: Judge Walker is leaving the public comment period open until Friday, pending a ruling on his decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
While we are pleased that the trial may be on a delayed broadcast via YouTube at least, our call for full transparency -- a televised broadcast that network news and cable channels can pick up live, as it happens -- has not been met.
And, it's entirely possible that the 9th Circuit Appeals Court may overrule Judge Walker's ruling, shutting down all broadcasting -- even a delayed daily YouTube broadcast. Lawyers representing supporters of Prop. 8 have already opposed broadcasting the trial in any form whatsoever and are likely to fight Walker's ruling.
Millions of lives across America will be affected by this federal trial challenging Prop 8. That's why more than 80,000 people have already signed our letter asking for a televised trial. To keep up the pressure before the public comment period closes on Friday, please sign here now:

GOAL: 100,000 signatures
. DEADLINE: Friday 9 AM

With right-wing religious groups like NOM and Focus on the Family organizing against televising the trial, we need as many signatures on this letter as possible.
If you know other people who believe the Prop 8 trial should be televised so that as many people as possible can see it, please forward this message to them ASAP.
Thank you so much for your incredible response to this critical action. We will update you again as soon as news breaks.

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign Institute  

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Progress! Happy New Year!

(Mexico City) Mexico City enacted Latin America’s first law recognizing gay marriage Dec. 28 and said it hopes to attract same-sex couples from around the world to wed.
The law, approved by city legislators on Dec. 21, was published in Mexico City’s official register Tuesday and will take effect in March. It will allow same-sex couples to adopt children and municipal officials say it will make Mexico’s capital a “vanguard city” – and attract extra tourism revenues. Full article.

Predictably, the Cardinal Archbishop of Mexico City responded negatively to the secular government’s granting of full civil rights to LGBT citizens. The Los Angeles Times reports: “Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said the law created the "perverse possibility" that "innocent children" would be adopted by gay couples.” Thank you Cardinal Carrera, who better to voice the protection of “innocent children” than the Catholic hierarchy?

Meanwhile in Portugal the Cardinal Patriarch of Portugal has taken a far more enlightened position towards Civil Marriages for same sex couples. “While normally vocal on the role of marriage and the family in society, the Catholic Church has refused to mobilise on a subject which, according to Lisbon's Cardinal Patriarch Jose Policarpo, is "parliament's responsibility".

The contrast between the positions taken by Carrera in Mexico and the Cardinal Patriarch of Portugal is striking and illustrates a very sharp division in Catholic thought on the question of same sex marriage and the relationship between Church and State. Policarpo represents a post enlightenment respect for the division of Church and State whereas, Carrera represents a far more medieval understanding of the relationship between Church and State. In the medieval model held by Carrera, the Church dictates to the State how social laws are to be enacted. In Policarpo’s model, Civil Laws are the proper domain of the laity, who are not subordinated to the clergy in the question of civil laws.

This must of course be alarming to Ratzinger, since such an exercise of free speech and dissent from the current “official” Vatican party line is seldom seen in the Catholic hierarchy. I would imagine that there will be a furious exchange of communication between the Vatican bureaucracy (Curia) and Cardinal Policarpo before the passage of the Portuguese legislation. There will be a strong attempt by the Vatican to bring Policarpo “in line” with their monolithic position on same sex marriage. One can only imagine what will be said behind closed doors, but I doubt it will be “happy talk.”

Hopefully, Cardinal Policarpo will politely remind the Vatican that he is the Cardinal Patriarch of Portugal and not an “office boy” for the Vatican. It seems that not even popes can stop the hands of time and the progress of human history. Happy New Year!