Friday, December 23, 2011

Petition Asking Cardinal George to resign after defaming LGBT people.

After almost a quarter of a century hearing confessions and counseling individuals and families, I know that sexual orientation is not merely a political, sociological or psychological issue. At core, what this is truly about is discrimination and its hurtful and harmful impact on simple human dignity and the lives of real people.

Bullying, employment discrimination, denial of service in the armed-forces under the recently repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, denial of adoption rights, denial of Civil Marriage rights, all attempt to force LGBT people into lives of secrecy, shame, denial, fear and foster self-hatred. The Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Study of 1999 found that 33% of gay adolescents attempt suicide. A statistic that we were tragically reminded of last year when several young LGBT students took their own lives. That is the true cost of bigotry in the lives of countless LGBT people, their families and loved ones.

Cardinal George’s comparison of LGBT people who are simply seeking full Federal equality as American citizens with the KKK, a notorious hate group that seeks to deny full Federal equality to minorities, is both an inversion and a denial of the truth. George’s words constitute both a grave injustice and a moral outrage. By vilifying members of a minority group he targets them for prejudice and hate crimes.

A simple apology is insufficient, since an apology is merely a public announcement of one’s personal feelings. I believe that cardinal George is morally required to ask for forgiveness of the LGBT people, their families and loved ones, who he has vilified. His immediate resignation, upon asking for forgiveness, would manifest his sincerity and serve as a reproach to bigotry in our society.

I invite you to sign a petition from asking Cardinal George to resign as Archbishop of Chicago due to his defamation of LGBT people.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cardinal George attempts to raise fears about LGBT people.

Cardinal George of Chicago objected to an LGBT parade in that city. Claiming that it would force the cancellation of Mass at a church along the parade route. The Huffington Post reported

"I go with the pastor," George told Fox. "He's telling us that he won't be able to have services on Sunday if that's the case. You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."

The preceding quote makes it appear that this “poor pastor” desperately called the “good” cardinal for help. Fear that his services might be interrupted, or that Catholics might be targeted for harassment by rioting LGBT parade attendees.

Don’t believe it for a moment. Having lived as a pastor for decades I can tell you how the system works. The pastor in question most probably got a phone call from the Archdiocese “asking” him to write to the cardinal about the LGBT parade routed pass his church. Failure to express what the cardinal wanted to hear in that letter would impact unfavorably on the pastor’s future career.

The pastor lives and works in that community, many of the folks in the parade are either his parishioners, or family members/relatives of his parishioners, he does not want to alienate these people. Furthermore, Chicago is a large city, there are countless parades held there every year and most of them on weekends. Odds are that, like most Catholic priests, the pastor (as well as the cardinal) is gay.

Sadly, I am not surprised by cardinal George’s absurd assertion comparing the LGBT communities struggle for full Federal Equality, with the KKK. My former bishop, the late John Steinbock, compared the LGBT community with, “Stalinist Russia and Maoist China.” The disturbing fact is that it is the Catholic bishops who are using strong-arm tactics against LGBT people who simply seek equality.

It is the bishops who have consistently orchestrated political campaigns against LGBT people and their families. This despite the fact that the majority of U.S. Catholics are supportive of equality legislation for LGBT people, but then again the only opinion on LGBT rights that concerns George is that of the out-going pope.

In the middle of what some have called the Second Great Depression and the Sexual Abuse Cover-Up Scandals that have rocked the Catholic church both in the USA and internationally, implicating even the current pope himself, cardinal George’s chief pastoral concern is not helping the jobless, the homeless or addressing the Cover-Up scandal. It is lobbying, in a vain attempt, to keep LGBT people in the closet socially and second-class citizens legally.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mass Deception

You may say, “Why should I care about the new English translation of the Mass, I’m not a Catholic!” Regardless of your personal beliefs the spiritual and social significance of this translation cannot be brushed aside. Regardless of how you “feel” about this translation, the Mass, Catholicism, or religion in general, 25% of the U.S. population is Catholic.

Those numbers are augmented by the numbers of Catholics in other English speaking countries worldwide (e.g. Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, etc). Prayers that people recite every week seep into the depths of their psyche. They affect how they think, how they act, and how they vote; therefore, this new translation will affect you personally and our society as well.

“Out of the mouths of babes” is an old adage that aptly describes the insights of a young Latinist and his comments on the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Erik Baker is a sixteen-year-old child prodigy who, having taken every Latin course offered at the high school level, is currently doing course work at Northwestern University. Erik also happens to be Catholic and so, when the new translation of the Roman Missal, that is much more faithful to the original Latin, became public he was eager to read it.

Erik’s astutely captures the “Why” of these uniform changes throughout the English-speaking world. Here are some of his insights in a nutshell; the new translation will slowly and subtly effectively reprograms churchgoers in the following ways:

• It destroys the communal and egalitarian nature of the Mass.
• Rather than an act of communion through which the churchgoer relates to God, it becomes an individualistic act through which the churchgoer relates to "experts" in Rome.
• The notion that only “moral” (as defined by those experts in Rome) or Christian people deserve peace and our prayers.
• Faith becomes something of the individual, by the individual, for the individual -- ironically, a very Protestant idea. Catholicism is supposed to value unity and togetherness.
• It might aim to promote humility, but inevitably it fosters guilt instead. It promotes a vision of human nature as overwhelmingly and inexorably sinful-- a vision more in line with the heretical Janesenist doctrine of centuries past than Catholic dogma.

Here is a full reprint from an article by Erik in the National Catholic Reporter

On the revised Roman missal

By Erik Baker

It's definitely a better translation. That's probably the biggest misconception that critics of the recent revision of the General Roman Missal have. They perceive the new translation as some sort of conservative formalization of the text that is only ostensibly more faithful to the Latin. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Though there are some changes that really are no better, and certainly tend towards archaic jargon, the vast majority of the dramatic shifts -- especially to the Confiteor, the Gloria, and the Nicene Creed -- are certainly far more accurate.

In fact, looking over the Latin, it’s quite clear that the former translation didn't even attempt to be literal. So the question clearly isn't "is it a better translation," if "better" is defined in terms of accuracy vis-à-vis the Latin. The question is "is a more accurate translation desirable?" For many that question will seem like a no-brainer. Of course we want to stay as close to the Latin as possible. And yet, I think it's valuable to use these changes as an opportunity to examine the value of the Latin Mass and ultimately the nature of the Mass itself. I think that the conclusions might be startling.

Let's start at the beginning. The first major change is to the Confiteor, the prayer used in most forms of the Penitential Rite. The new translation translates the adverb "nimis" as "greatly", so that it now reads "I have greatly sinned." It's certainly a dramatic change, but one that's grounded in the Latin. In fact, the word "nimis" means something more than "greatly"; it actually connotes the idea of "excessiveness". The other change is that the Latin "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" is now translated "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." This is pretty much a literal translation. So the Latin is solid.

The problem, though, is that the Latin itself seems to be hyperbolically critical of humanity. It might aim to promote humility, but inevitably it fosters guilt instead. It promotes a vision of human nature as overwhelmingly and inexorably sinful-- a vision more in line with the heretical Janesenist doctrine of centuries past than Catholic dogma.

An apologist of the translation reminds us that "the guiding principle of the new translation is a closer adherence to the Latin--not a sharper critique of our virtue." But this makes absolutely no sense. Who cares what the "guiding principle" was? The end result is that the Latin is more condemnatory for no discernible reason. And there is no scriptural grounding for this “sharper critique” either-- the first appearance of the prayer is in 1100 AD, over a millennium after Christ.

The next major change is to the Gloria. Most of the changes are innocuous enough, but there's one at the beginning of the prayer that seems bizarre to me. The familiar "and peace to his people on earth" is changed to "on earth peace to people of good will." Not only is the latter far more awkward in English, but there's also a problematic sentiment implicit in the new phrase. Why are we only praying that people "of good will" receive peace? This seems to say that people who are without "good will" are not deserving of peace.
But what is "good will"? It seems to me that it could either mean "good" in the virtuous sense of the word, or, more specifically, Catholic. In either case, it expresses a profoundly anti-Christian sentiment. The notion that only moral or Christian people deserve peace and our prayers is anathema to everything Jesus ever taught. There is simply no sound reason for abandoning "love your enemies" simply because it’s closer to the Latin. The original Greek text recognizes this, and expresses "goodwill to all people." Ironically, the Latin is then actually a mistranslation of the Greek. This just highlights the fact that the possibility of human error doesn’t disappear when writing church texts. It’s hard to see what inherent reason we have for respecting this highly fallible process.

Finally, I think the changes to the Nicene Creed merit some discussion. As before, all of them have good grounding in the Latin, but it's the Latin that's problematic. The first is the fact that all of the "believe"s are in the first person. This destroys the sense of communal vision found in the "we believe" of the previous translation. Faith becomes something of the individual, by the individual, for the individual -- ironically, a very Protestant idea. Catholicism is supposed to value unity and togetherness.

Furthermore, there are two bizarre translations of particular words in the Latin that sound awkward and even obscure: "consubstantial" and "was incarnate." The former is a translation of the word "consubstantialem" in the Latin, so it certainly resembles the Latin the most. But does that make it a better translation? Surely not. The first rule that every Latin translator learns is that often Latin words may look like certain long, rare English words -- but comprehensibility matters more. The same applies to "was incarnate." The whole reason why an English translation is used in the first place is so people can actually understand the Mass. For the average churchgoer "consubstantial" is no more comprehensible than "consubstantialem.” Ridiculous words defeat the point of a translation in the first place.

Ultimately, the whole affair just begs the question of why the Latin Mass has any particular spiritual significance. It's certainly not Scripture, and it's often just an amalgamation of various communal prayers used throughout Europe for several centuries. In fact, many early bishops would write their own Masses or translations to best fit their community's needs. And that's the essence of Mass. The reason why we come to Mass in the first place rather than just praying by ourselves is the interaction with others that has spiritual importance. In the Mass the people become the Body of Christ, conceived as the organic whole Paul writes about in the famous passage from 1 Corinthians: “for the body is not one member, but many.”

The problem with the new translation and indeed the notion of a codified Latin Mass at all is that it destroys the communal and egalitarian nature of the act. Rather than an act of communion through which the churchgoer relates to God, it becomes an individualistic act through which the churchgoer relates to "experts" in Rome. It sets certain people above others in terms of their knowledge of a dead language and of dogma -- concerns that clearly distract from the message of God. If the Mass has any meaning, it must be grounded in communal concerns and vision-- not an effort to include as many four-syllable words as possible.

Some of my own observations:

The two things that I find most striking about this article are the brilliance and passion of Erik. Beyond his technical knowledge of Latin, his theological insights are both profound and exceptional for someone of his young age and experience.

Let me say that many years ago I heard about the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Frankly, I thought it was long overdue. Every Sunday I celebrated Mass in both English and Spanish language. The Spanish translation of the Mass is far more poetic, natural and beautiful than the English translation that has just been discarded. No one, at least from a literary point of view, will mourn the passing of the previous translation. However, while what replaces it may be more polished it reminds me of a quip from a poisoner, “You put the arsenic in the cake, not in the brussel sprouts, after all it doesn’t work if the victim doesn’t eat it.”

Having come from Cuba I had relatives who lived and died under a totalitarian regime, I grew up very attuned to the impact of ideology in people’s daily lives. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Stalinist era movies, for example, is that the protagonists all tend to die. What remains is “The State, The Revolution.” Stalin couldn’t have done a better job re-writing the Mass than Benedict XVI. The re-written Mass makes the churchgoer feel that he/she is part of something greater than him/herself, something to which he/she should be completely submissive and that will be here, long after he/she is gone and forgotten. Utopias, atheist or theist, are bigger than lives. Apparently that the Gospel is lost in the translation is a small price to pay for all that power and glory.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Demons, Coffee and Cheesecake.

In 1987 I was a young associate pastor at Saint Francis church in Bakersfield, California. One night, around 2 AM I received a disturbing phone call. It turned out to be the first in a series of such phone calls, all in the middle of the night.

The caller was not some abusive person; rather he was a Vietnam veteran suffering from extremely disturbing nightmares. In my extended conversations with him, I listened as he related his experience as an infantryman in Vietnam. “Walking point,” meant that he led his platoon down jungle paths on missions. The guy walking point was the person most likely to get killed, maimed, or seriously wounded by an enemy attack.

Additionally, he was the person who had to detect and disarm/avoid any traps that might have been set by enemy combatants. These could be ditches filled with hollowed-out, sharpened bamboo filled with human excrement and hidden with foliage. They could be spring traps that would pierce the sides of a person who unwittingly sprung them while walking on the path. They could be an anti-personnel mine that was discreetly buried just beneath the earth on the jungle path.

If you find reading this disturbing, imagine what it would be like to live through this not once, but on a daily basis for years. Imagine what it would be like to see a friend you had shared dinner or a beer with, impaled, shot or blown-up in your immediate presence. Imagine that, its latent effects, and the guilt you’d feel for having survived such an attack, while others were maimed or killed and you will begin to understand the meaning of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

These were some of my thoughts as I officiated at a Memorial Service for Vietnam veteran this morning. His brother had asked that I refrain from making the Service overly religious. “We don’t want to come off like hypocrites,” he said. John (not the deceased’s real name) was not very religious. I smiled when he shared that sentiment with me, because I have heard something similar on innumerable occasions. “I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

Nevertheless the deceased’s niece, who helped plan the Service, asked that I include some prayers and a reflection. I selected a passage from the First Epistle of St. John, Chapter 4, and Verse 16, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Those words are etched in my mind and heart, because they were written in illuminated gold leaf behind the high altar at my childhood parish church. As a child, that was my definition of true religion.

I added a commentary ascribed to Saint Francis instructing Franciscans, “Teach the Gospel always, use words when necessary.” The heart of authentic spirituality is love. A love expressed concretely and practically to those we encounter on life’s journey.

The deceased had lived through hell on earth. He had ample cause to become embittered and to close in on himself. It would have been completely understandable if he had developed into a closed and sullen person. Instead, he chose to be a loving uncle and to reach out to those in his retirement home. He chose to love and not become consumed with hate. Yet, he did not consider himself a “religious” person. Maybe not, but perhaps that is due to a distorted understanding of “religion.”

It seems that in contemporary America, and certainly in the political campaigns we are currently suffering, religion has become a code word not for loving; but rather, for judging/controlling thy neighbor. Has this seeped into the ranks of the clergy too? I would argue that it has seeped from the ranks of the clergy. A critical read of the Passion account in the Gospel leaves little doubt as to who were the prime movers in visiting evil upon on an innocent man, or upon the prophets who preceded him. Titles and garb may have changed, but motives of power, vanity and greed remain firmly unchanged.

At the luncheon reception following the Memorial Service, an open microphone was offered to anyone who wished to share personal reflections. One gruff bear like man came up wearing a Vietnam veteran’s baseball cap. He picked up the microphone and said, “John wrestled with his share of demons, but I have never met a more loving and generous man, and that’s all I have to say.” I smiled quietly over my cup of coffee and half eaten cheesecake.

On the drive home, I thought about priests with whom I have been privileged to serve over the decades. I recalled one priest who decided to leave active ministry about ten years ago. He decided to return after a year away. When asked by the Vicar General (the #2 man under the bishop) why he had decided to return to active ministry, the returning priest said, “Finances.” The Vicar General looked down briefly, nodded and told him that he would be given a new assignment.

At the Personnel Board Meeting (the priests who advise the bishop on assignment placements), one priest angrily protested, “He has been off living a carefree life, while we have been struggling with the unjust stigma of pedophilia and now he comes back and we’re going to give him a nice assignment?!” Ironically, the returning priest is a highly introverted person, who has a Victorian view of sex.

When I found out the identity of the Personnel Board Member who had made that statement, I was aghast. That Personnel Board Member was known to go up to San Francisco and pay hustlers for sexual favors. The bishop looked the other way, “there are things a bishop shouldn’t know” he once quipped. The returning priest was given a highly undesirable assignment.

Years later, the Personnel Board Member apologized to the returning priest. He confided that he was gay, but felt that his family would reject him if they knew the truth about him. He had lived in fear, self-loathing and lashed out at gay people as a result. Not for a year, or a decade, but for decades. As you read these words, he is still imprisoned in that living hell.

Like the deceased veteran and the Personnel Board Member, we all have to face demons in life. How we respond, and whom become is entirely our choice. Speaking the truth will set us free from fear, but only practical love will heal and make us whole.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Occupy Movement promotes both Liberation and Evolution

An article in The Economist entitled: "We are the 99% Straining for the populist mandate" represents a sophisticated attempt to "debunk" the international Occupy Movement that continues to grow. Here are some counterpoints to this attempted debunking.

You state in your article, “If "we" really are the 99%, why have we failed to use our overwhelming democratic heft to set in place reforms that would unrig the system and put the 1% in their place? The obvious answer there is a great deal of ideological disagreement within the lower 99%”

Yes and No. If there has been widespread “ideological disagreement” among the 99%, this is due not to apathy or lack of common concerns but to a well choreographed messaging by the Corporately controlled Major Media outlets and the two Major Political parties in the USA.

What is in the best interest of the Nation, a national energy policy that moves us off of fossil fuels (e.g. Brazil), a national healthcare plan, a national public education policy through University level that does not create a caste of indentured servants, a much reduced military budget that funds national defense and not an international Corporate empire, all of these it may be argued are in the national interest. Are these “leftist” goals? I would argue that they are human goals and that maintaining the current economic/social systems in place, although they profit 1% of the population, do so on the backs of an increasingly disenfranchised and vocal majority.

The choice is either voluntary reform, as Britain did when they freed their colonies in the post WWII period, or escalating social/political destabilization that will forcefully lead to the long overdue changes. Obama in 2012? Perhaps, but only an Obama and Democratic Party that aggressively pursues substantive reform, e.g. publicly funded political campaigns for Congress and the Presidency and anti-bribery laws with sharp teeth that make an end of political lobbying. Why should the 1% acquiesce to such reforms? Better to deal with a Gandhi than with a Lenin.

The 100% will all benefit with an end to the economic neo-colonialism of the Near East and Third World by Corporations and their purchased politicians (governments). We will all benefit from an end to Climate change that endangers all of our future. We will all benefit by an end to wars and uprisings inspired/driven by Corporate international Arms Sales and Oil interest’s greed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A speech I delivered at Occupy LA on Wednesday 12 October 2011

In 1989 I watched my television screen in awe as a single young Chinese student stood in front of a column of tanks and forced them to stop.

In 1992 again I watched in awe as I saw people rip apart the Berlin Wall.

This year I watched in awe as I saw people fill Tahrir Square in Cairo and demand a government answerable to them.

Today Americans are moved by the same thirst for greater Freedom, Equality and Justice that moved all those champions of Human Dignity to fight for governments free of corruption.

Americans want an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan that has cost countless human lives, suffering and TRILLIONS of our tax dollars. A war, that Alan Greenspan said, was fought for oil, period.

86.7 million Americans do not have health insurance today, Americans NEED single-payer health insurance. Millions of Americans have lost their homes, tens of millions of Americans can't find a decent job and 44 million Americans are on food stamps. While we are on the subject, Social Security is not “an entitlement” it has been paid into by American workers over a course of their lifetime. It is not charity it is their pension that some politicians want to rob them of to give tax breaks to the wealthy.

There is much work that needs to be done. More than a quarter of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Leaky pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day. And aging sewage systems send billions of gallons of untreated wastewater cascading into the nation’s waterways each year.

These are among the findings of a report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which assigned an overall D grade to the nation’s infrastructure and estimated that it would take a $2.2 trillion investment from all levels of government over the next five years to bring it into a state of good repair.

In the face of all these staggering needs, Corporations are sitting on TWO TRILLION dollars that they refuse to spend to stimulate the economy, even after America has reduced tax rates to levels not seen since President Eisenhower and a 700 Billion dollar bail out to Wall Street by American taxpayers. It is time to TAX the Corporations, put American workers back to work and fix America’s infrastructure.

Our generation is fighting for Freedoms written into our Bill of Rights, which the so-called “Patriot Act” has diluted. 56% of Californians are in favor of Marriage Equality and yet, Marriage Equality is currently denied in California. Tomorrow, language for a new ballot initiative in 2012 that will restore Marriage Equality in California will be submitted in Sacramento.

America needs just and humane immigration laws that do not make criminals of innocent and honest people who contribute to our national economy. School children in Alabama cry in their classrooms today out of fear because the color of their skin is brown. This is immoral and needs to end now.

Americans are waking-up! In cities all across America, ordinary people are standing-up and demanding simple justice, equality and human dignity. Together we are reclaiming our country.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, in their own words:

What follows is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.

To the people of the world, We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

REAL Audacity, Hope & Change!

What is Occupy Wall Street all about? What are their demands? Where is this going?
Why are the major news media playing this down?

The following video, in the tradition of Gulliver’s Travels, offers an insightful synopsis of the issues at the heart of this protest.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dolan attempts Re-defining “Religious Liberty” for America.

I live in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles. Every Friday I see many of my neighbors walking (it is not permitted to drive on the Sabbath) with their families. Some of them wear clothing that would have been used in nineteenth century Eastern Europe. Some men simply wear conservative suits and yamaka their wives dressed in black or dark blue ankle length dresses.

My next-door neighbor is an Evangelical Protestant. Every Sunday, he and his wife, dutifully climb into their SUV and drive to their church for worship. The Buddhists down the block own a Thai restaurant and have a neatly manicured lawn. There is a gay couple a few doors down the street, one is an agnostic and the other is an atheist. There is a Church of Religious Science located at the end of our street. The Minister and his partner (a Roman Catholic) came to dinner a few weeks ago.

When I think of “Religious liberty” I think of my neighborhood in LA. Religious Liberty for me, and many Americans, means that you are free to follow your own conscience on matters of belief. That no one, no institution and most certainly not the government have the right or the power to dictate to you what you may or may not believe, or what dietary or adult consensual sexual practices you may or may not engage in predicated on those beliefs.

The Buddhist couple, although they are vegetarians, serve meat dishes to their customers who wish to purchase and eat meat. The local supermarket stocks and sells both kosher foods and bacon. When the city repaved our street, the Religious Science Church down the block offered its parking lot to local residents, so that they had a place to park their cars. They did not require us to convert to Religious Science for that convenience. Occasionally Jehovah Witnesses ring the doorbell, I am polite but have absolutely no desire or intention of joining their religion. The Hasidic Jews have not threatened to burn down the Religious Science Church because the Minster is gay and has a male partner.

I would be offended and vocal, if any of my neighbors were attacked or maligned because of their beliefs, or if some entity attempted to force them to change their beliefs. I hope my neighbors would also stand by me, if I were attacked or maligned due to my beliefs, or some entity attempted to forcibly change my beliefs. That is my understanding of “Religious Liberty.” However, Archbishop Dolan of New York City, the current president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops [NCCB] has a radically different understanding of “Religious Liberty.”

“Citing the famous preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Dolan wrote that the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are now "increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America" because of administration policies.”

He goes on to list six items he believes impinge on “Religious Liberty.” These include:

1. Proposed regulations that requires private health insurers to cover contraceptives for patients who wish to use contraceptives.

2. Proposed requirements those religious aid groups, who accept federal money, to include condoms in their HIV prevention campaigns.

3. Dolan claims that “the religious conscience exemptions” in the proposals from the Department of Human Services “are not broad enough.”

4. Dolan also cites the administration's challenge to the "ministerial exception" rule, which will be argued Wednesday (Oct. 5) at the U.S. Supreme Court, which could determine whether churches have to conform to employment discrimination laws for workers who are not clergy.

5. Dolan also blasted the White House's decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

6. Dolan voiced frustration that neither he nor the previous USCCB president, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, received responses to private letters sent to Obama. Dolan said that's partly why he decided to take the feud public.

Essentially, Dolan wants,

1. For your health insurance NOT to cover the cost of contraceptives that you chose to use.

2. To use your tax dollars as he wishes, without requirements attached for the use of public funds.

3. To be able to invoke “religious conscience exemptions” at will and at his personal discretion.

4. To apply “ministerial exception” not only to clergy, but also to secretaries, gardeners, custodians, bookkeepers, choir directors, musicians, housekeepers, accountants, security guards, and any other person employed by the Church. That means these employees, as a condition of their continued employment, had better agree with the NCCB.

5. The NCCB not elected representatives, to decide policy decision and civil law.

6. The President of the United States (and all other elected officials and Judges) to “consult” privately with the NCCB in the formation/implementation of laws.

Where did the Roman Catholic Hierarchy get the idea that they have the right and the power to do all of this stuff? The Emperor Constantine and fifteen centuries of dictating moral laws in Europe and Catholic colonies. Oh, and that little exercise of over ruling the California State Supreme Court on Prop 8 (with a huge check written by the Mormon Church's leadership in Salt Lake City).

Thankfully, President Obama and the Federal government are choosing to follow the example of most Roman Catholics (and many Catholic theologians/priests) and simply ignore Archbishop Dolan, the NCCB and the Vatican. True Religious Liberty grants religious entities the freedom to make the laws of their religion, which may be voluntarily followed by their believers, but it does not grant them the power to dictate the law of the land, so far.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Are you energized and excited about the 2012 Elections?

Most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, would answer no. Watching the Republican candidates “debate” on multiple occasions reminds me of how an elderly Hispanic woman described American food, “It is light brown, dark brown and green; and it all tastes the same.” Ron Paul, who advocates for an end to the “Patriot” Act, pulling our troops out of Afghanistan & Iraq, and ending American Empire, provided the only moments of interest. Sadly, these were offset by his views on healthcare and social programs that, if implemented, would push American society back to a pre-Theodore Roosevelt social Darwinism.

The Democratic side of the aisle provides all the spectrum of food service choice found in coach class on a budget airline. Apologists for President Obama, desperately trying to convince progressives to vote for him, resort to, “He’s better than the alternatives.” That alone is a comment on the President’s litany of half-measures and outright “Cave-ins” to Republicans.

We got Healthcare “Reform,” instead of a Single Payor or a National Healthcare PLAN. The “Reform” does not fully kick in for another two years and three months (too bad if you need health care before the kick in date) and requires Americans to purchase health insurance out of pocket, sort of like we are required to purchase automobile insurance out of pocket. Why are there so many “irresponsible” uninsured drivers? Because the poor cannot afford monthly automobile insurance payments, yet they still need to get to their part time jobs. The “public exchanges” and special subsides to the poor offer a complex and frustrating series of hurdles to people who are least equipped to successfully navigate such obstacles. Setting aside EPA laws, Financial “Reform” akin to requiring an additional fire extinguisher on the Hindenburg and reauthorizing George “W” Bush’s tax break to millionaires adds to an increasingly frustrating and seemingly inexplicable series of decisions by President Obama.

Seemingly inexplicable, until you ask who benefits from all these policies “mistakes,” Corporations are awash in over two trillion dollars, while average Americans suffer a worsening second Great Depression. Essentially, American’s choices in the 2012 Election will boil down to Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum. A Corporation candidate who is also a social Darwinist, or a Corporation candidate who will offer limited concessions to progressives on “social issues.” Either way, Corporations will fund the candidate’s political campaigns and thereby continue to dictate America’s economic policies, energy policies, healthcare policies, and foreign policy. The rest is a sideshow between the teabaggers and social progressives meant to generate the illusion of democracy.

So, why did the media fail to cover weeklong protests on Wall Street by demonstrators demanding real economic reforms and real policy changes? Because Wall Street owns the politicians and the media and they don't want you to realize you have it within your power to take your country back. Caesar’s old maxim, “Divide and Rule,” will continue to work until, like the demonstrators on Wall Street, the American people realize that their enemies are not fellow citizens with differing social views, but the Corporations that have foreclosed on their homes, force them to pay exorbitant fuel costs, outsource their jobs to third world nations, use the resultant economic depression as a license to eliminate the social safety networks of FDR while striping workers of collective bargaining powers, and substantively weakened the Bill of Rights through the “Patriot” Act.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to beat John Eastman, NOM's new spokesperson, in public debate

The Associated Press reports the following, re-printed by the Huffington Post:

"A law school professor from Southern California was named Thursday as the new chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, one of the most active groups opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
John Eastman, a professor and former dean at Chapman University Law School in Orange, Calif., will replace NOM's co-founder, Maggie Gallagher, who will remain a member of the board while devoting some of her time to finishing a book about the same-sex marriage debate.

Eastman, a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, ran unsuccessfully last year for state attorney general in California, though he did garner support from some tea party activists."

In confronting John Eastman, the new spokesperson for NOM, I would suggest using material presented in Professors Salzman and Lawler’s recent book, “The Sexual Person.” ISBN: 9781589012080 (1589012089)

The Huffington Post re-published an interesting article by Phyllis Zangano on “The Sexual Person” on 29 September 2010,

"Salzman and Lawler's dense academic argument turns traditional Catholic teaching on natural law on its head. They redefine natural law, saying "nature" is personal and individual, and that sexual activity need not be directed at procreation (contrary to what the Catholic Church has always said).

Salzman and Lawler argue that what is "natural" for a heterosexual is not "natural" for a homosexual, and therefore homosexuals and heterosexuals must act in accord with their personal "natures".

In other words, if it's "natural" for a homosexual to perform homosexual acts, then--for that person--heterosexual acts would be "unnatural" and immoral. For the two professors, homosexual activity is only immoral for the heterosexual acting against his or her nature."

Georgetown University Press offers this review, for more click here,

"Two principles capture the essence of the official Catholic position on the morality of sexuality: first, that any human genital act must occur within the framework of heterosexual marriage; second, each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. In this comprehensive overview of Catholicism and sexuality, theologians Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler examine and challenge these principles. Remaining firmly within the Catholic tradition, they contend that the church is being inconsistent in its teaching by adopting a dynamic, historically conscious anthropology and worldview on social ethics and the interpretation of scripture while adopting a static, classicist anthropology and worldview on sexual ethics."

Professors Salzman and Lawler’s work is a very important tool in our battle for Full Federal Legal Equality, because “Natural Law” arguments form the philosophical foundation for Anti-Equality laws and policies. Salzman and Lawler's arguments transform Natural Law into our ally for full Equality and should be required reading for anyone debating John Eastman, Robert George and other NOM spokespersons.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Day (and work) after the "End of DADT" Celebrations

As I drove home during LA rush hour traffic I was listening to National Public Radio news. The news commentator observed that the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen had been an important advocate for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, especially in his testimony on several occasions last year on Capitol Hill.

At a news conference held on the day the repeal took effect, Politico reports
the following comments by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Admiral Mullen,

“Today is really about every man and woman who serves this country, every man and woman in uniform, regardless of how they define themselves,” Mullen said. “Tomorrow they’ll all get up, they’ll all go to work, and they’ll all be able to do that work honestly.”

Asked about how the military can guard members of the military against harassment and violence against gays, Panetta noted that the military has a “zero tolerance” with regards to harassment and that military leaders must be on the lookout for potential problems that arise.

I think that the Admiral’s words are the clearest expression of what is at the heart of our struggle for Full Federal Legal rights and protection. It really is simply about people, ALL people including LBGT people, being able to get up in the morning, go to work and live their lives (and relationships) in peace. Without harassment and violence.

Yesterday, we took a significant step forward towards that ultimate goal. It was an imperfect step, transgendered people are not protected by the repeal of DADT and gay/lesbian service member’s spouses/domestic partners are not granted the same rights and privileges of their heterosexual counterparts. However, it was a historic step forward, not only for the Armed Forces and their members but also, for American society.

When I arrived home I found the following article posted to my Facebook wall,

Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, Dies in Suicide

Another tragic reminder that bullying against gay youth is a continuing problem comes with the suicide of a 14-year-old boy, Jamey Rodemeyer, who had asked for help repeatedly.

The repeal of DOMA and the passage of ENDA are necessary and important next steps in our struggle for Full Federal Legal Rights. However, while we work to recapture the House of Representatives and secure victories in November of 2012 that will make such legislation possible, we can and must work on the grassroots level to advance Anti-Bullying laws.

You can be part of this effort by attending your local PTA meetings, School Board meetings and becoming informed, involved and advocate for Anti-Bullying Laws. Write local officials letters, with a postage stamp, members of Congress actually pay much more attention to real letters from constituents than to E-mails.

Anti-Bullying laws will help to avoid tragedies like the one posted above. Remember how you felt when you were very young and first discovered that you were “different?” Remember how alone and powerless you felt? You can be a voice for the voiceless. You can personally make a real and immediate difference in this battle. Finally, Anti-Bullying laws will help all the “letters” in our alphabet soup.

Monday, September 19, 2011

DADT Repeal, Part of Full Federal Legal Equality.

"The President-Elect has promised to lift the ban on homosexuals serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. What we are going to do here today is brainstorm about policy changes that we will make in the Air Force after the ban is lifted."

Through my peripheral vision I saw Airmen manning recording equipment and I looked down at that dime-sized microphone at my desk. I looked around the room at approximately fifty young officers, each at an identical desk also equipped with a dime-sized microphone. I raised my hand and said, "Major, until the Uniform Code of Military Justice is amended we are not free to speculate on policy changes." The Major paused and said, "That is correct." That was the end of the exercise.

Years later, I learned that similar exercises were held at various military bases. Many of those who offered policy recommendations in favor of accommodating homosexuals had their careers “negatively impacted.”

In those heady days, many of us believed that President-Elect Clinton would lift the ban. National Healthcare was given priority and all we got was DADT and DOMA. Still, LGBT people were thrilled that the President mentioned us at all. Oh, we never got National Healthcare either, even now we only have a partially implemented Healthcare Reform Act. Arguably, this is better than what we had, but still far less than Single Payor, or a National Healthcare Plan. So much for bi-partisan cooperation.

The cost of DADT was paid for in destroyed careers and ruined lives of countless members of our Armed Forces. Most of those costs will never be recouped. Moreover, gay and lesbian military personnel were forced to live double lives in the shadow of fear. DADT was a lie. Everyday at the water cooler people talked about whom they were dating. About their wives and husbands. About what they were doing on the weekend, or on leave. Gay and lesbian had to do what they had learned to do as adolescents, what they had learned as a survival mechanism, they had to lie. Heterosexual service members were quite free to Ask and Tell, gay and lesbian service members were not.

Pronouns were changed and reasons were fabricated as to why they were still single, why they chose to live off base. Worse still, some entered into sham marriages in order to protect their careers. I recall one such marriage that ended shortly after the military member reached his twenty years of service. Suddenly, his wife discovered that her husband was gay and that he was divorcing her. DADT had straight victims too.

Thankfully all that ends on Tuesday 20 September 2011 for most of our military. Most, not all, transgendered members of the Armed Forces are still at risk. They must still remain hidden. They are still required to lie merely to survive. At a talk I gave tonight, someone stated that we should have held out for “all or nothing!”

Although I empathized with the person’s zeal for justice, I quoted my old Political Science professor who said, “The reasons why liberals seldom win, is that they want the whole loaf of bread. In politics, you’re lucky to get one-third or one-half of what you want.” The repeal of DADT is imperfect for many reasons.

It is imperfect because it does nothing for transgendered members of the Armed Forces. It is also imperfect because spouses/domestic partners of gay/lesbian service members are not entitled to base housing, insurance benefits, etc. There is still much more work to be done, more battles for equality to be fought.

I think that the frustrations with incrementalism in our community are both reasonable and unreasonable. They are reasonable in that some LGBT organizations have used incrementalism as a license for inaction. One woman used to make a substantial donation to the Cancer Society every year and then, one year, she suddenly stopped her donations. Her son asked her why she stopped. The woman answered, “I discovered that they were only funding research for treatments and not research for cures.” If they found a cure, there would no longer be a need for the Cancer Society, or for continued donations and fund-raisers. Not to mention all the salaried positions. Some LGBT organizations might be afraid that the attainment of Full Federal Legal Equality would render them obsolete. Full Equality would mean an end to the donations and fundraisers that make possible all those salaried positions and benefits packages they currently enjoy. Incrementalism in this light is politically cynical and ethically indefensible.

Incrementalism in President Harry S. Truman’s Executive order desegregating the U.S. Civil Service and Armed Forces did little to immediately end segregation in this country. However, the Armed Forces socialize young enlistees from all over the nation and those enlistees bring their new thinking back to Hometown, USA. Truman’s act changed America’s culture and laid the groundwork for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 and the Civil Right Act of 1964. In that light, the repeal of DADT is an ominous defeat for the forces of social bigotry they understand that this will affect all of American society.

It may also be argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was incrementalism. Since it failed to address the issue of housing discrimination based on race. Title VIII of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 addressed that, but without the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there would have been no Fair Housing Act of 1968. In that sense, incrementalism is an intelligent and necessary strategy. We take a third of the loaf of bread today and then fight for fourth of the rest of the loaf tomorrow and so on, until we have the whole loaf. The NAACP still has much work to do today, even though Civil Rights have come a very long way since Dr. King delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the feet of Lincoln’s statue. There will still be many generations of work ahead for LGBT organizations, long after Full Federal Legal Equality is attained.

We still have to pass ENDA and repeal DOMA. We still have to fight for those in our community who have not yet benefited from the repeal of DADT. Some of these battles will be fought by attorneys in courtrooms, some by you at the ballot box and in your conversations with family members, co-workers and in social settings.

Although imperfect, the repeal of DADT represents substantive progress for our community. Today is a day to draw strength from this battle victory by celebrating this encouraging step forward towards greater legal equality. Even after full federal legal equality and protection for our community is achieved, we will have to continue to work and fight for full social equality.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Department of "Justice"?

As one of the thirteen people who handcuffed themselves to the White House Fence on 15 November 2010, I have been following the trial of Dan Choi with much interest; he has been in my thoughts and prayers through this whole ordeal. The reason I handcuffed myself to the Fence was to draw attention to an unjust law that has destroyed the careers of countless members of the U.S. Armed Forces, simply because they are members of a minority group.

At the time of this act of Civil Disobedience, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell had been de-prioritized by the Obama Administration. The House of Representatives was about to fall under Republican Control in January 2011. Unless the lame-duck session of Congress, specifically the U.S. Senate, passed repeal legislation sent to them by the House, DADT would remain the law of the land. Our action put DADT repeal on the front page of media. That spotlight helped to move repeal forward in Congress.

Typically protesters are penalized with a $100.00 fine and misdemeanor count, which is about as serious as a traffic ticket. As the current Court proceedings clearly indicate, we were singled out for “special treatment” by Obama’s Justice Department. Twelve of us agreed to plead “guilty” with a plea agreement that dismisses charges against us. Our motives for accepting this agreement were: 1) some members of our group are teachers who would lose employment and be barred from their profession and become unemployed as a result. 2) All of us would have a federal crime on our records that would undermine future employment. 3) Twelve of us did not have the considerable financial resources to retain competent legal counsel and pursue costly litigation in Federal Court.

I am happy that Dan Choi was in a position to pursue this matter further. In doing so he is unmasking not only the true face of this Administration, but a corrupting arrogance on the part of the Federal government since the enactment of the Patriot Act, the de facto suspension of habeas corpus at Gitmo and the violation of the Geneva convention by the Bush Administration. Not to mention our nation’s engagement in a war against Iraq in violation of the Just War Theory. A war prompted by corporate greed for Iraq’s oil, as Alan Greenspan pointed out, and paid for with the blood of civilian non-combatants (collateral damage) as well as members of our Armed Forces.

Regardless of how you feel about LGBT Equality, there are other broader issues at stake here. As Chris Geidner reports in MetroWeekly,

The judge went on to say that he believed the prosecution was not selective in the traditional sense but rather was more subtle.

"It is impermissible," he told the courtroom, "for the U.S. Government to prosecute differently on the basis of the content of First Amendment speech."

We handcuffed ourselves to the White House Fence to obtain Civil Rights for our community in the Armed Forces. Dan has gone on to fight for all of our First Amendment rights. Specifically the rule of law and the notion that the government is accountable to its citizens, BRAVO Dan!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Obama 11 October 2009

Consider carefully the comments by the President then and also, the insights/comments of the various panelists on the interview. Specifically, consider the comments on the Employment Non Discrimination Act.

Lt. Dan Choi begins his trial on Monday 29 August 2011 for his part in a protest at the White House that helped bring national attention (and move members of Congress) to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. He is being prosecuted by the Executive branch of government that is headed by Obama.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Many faces of NOM's Maggie Gallagher.

Click the link below to read a very insightful article by psychologist, Dr. James Walton, on NOM's Maggie Gallagher.

"As A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I Have Just One Question to Maggie Gallagher, President of The National Organization for Marriage: "What’s It All About Maggie?" "

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Justice is to Law, as Healing is to Medicine

Last Tuesday evening I had the privilege of hearing a presentation on the history of marriage in California law by former State Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno. In his presentation Justice Moreno recounted how California’s State Supreme Court overturned the ban on interracial marriage in 1948, 19 years before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia.

"Richard Loving was white; his wife, Mildred, was black. In 1958, they went to Washington, D.C. — where interracial marriage was legal — to get married. But when they returned home, they were arrested, jailed and banished from the state for 25 years for violating the state's Racial Integrity Act. Judge Leon Bazile wrote: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. ... The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Justice Moreno quoted Judge Bazile’s sentencing statement. In August of 2011, Bazile’s statement is (almost) universally seen for what it is, a monstrously ignorant, unjust and bigoted statement. However, in 1958 there were many “God fearing A-mur-eh-kins” who wholeheartedly agreed with Bazile’s “Christian” theology.

Justice Moreno went on to debunk the false accusation of “activist judges.” He explained that the court does not seek to create new legislation; but rather, people come to the court to resolve real world disputes. Justice Moreno cited a case in which a woman had a hysterectomy, but still was producing viable ovum, she very much wanted to have a child. A female friend volunteered to carry the first woman’s fertilized ovum and give birth to the child. The first woman had her ovum fertilized by her husband’s semen at a clinic and then deposited into the volunteer.

During the pregnancy, the volunteer had a change of mind and the two women ended up suing each other in court. The court had to determine who was the lawful mother of the child. Pause here for a couple of moments and place yourself in the position of the Judge who had to decide this matter. Justice Moreno voiced the thoughts of many in the room, when he cited the dilemma of King Solomon having to adjudicate who was the true mother of the child.

Justice Moreno explained all the various indicators usually used to determine paternity (DNA, giving live birth, etc); however, in this particular case both parties could claim several of these. Finally, the Judge in the case used the “intent” of the parties to determine maternity and the corresponding parental rights/duties.

Advancements in human science required a reconsideration of the seemingly “unchangeable” criteria for motherhood. Yet, this “new” understanding had a very ancient precursor, since adoptive parents are not the biological parents of a child and yet, in many cases, they are much more the “true” parents than the biological parents. In short, the intent and the relationship trump the act.

I listened with great interest, since this is precisely the thesis of Professors Salzman and Lawler in their recent book, “The Sexual Person.” Todd A. Salzman is a professor of Catholic theology and chair of the Department of Theology at Creighton University. Michael G. Lawler is professor emeritus of Catholic theology at Creighton University. A review of their new book states,

“Two principles capture the essence of the official Catholic position on the morality of sexuality: first, that any human genital act must occur within the framework of heterosexual marriage; second, each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. In this comprehensive overview of Catholicism and sexuality, theologians Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler examine and challenge these principles. Remaining firmly within the Catholic tradition, they contend that the church is being inconsistent in its teaching by adopting a dynamic, historically conscious anthropology and worldview on social ethics and the interpretation of scripture while adopting a static, classicist anthropology and worldview on sexual ethics.

While some documents from Vatican II, like Gaudium et spes ("the marital act promotes self-giving by which spouses enrich each other"), gave hope for a renewed understanding of sexuality, the church has not carried out the full implications of this approach. In short, say Salzman and Lawler: emphasize relationships, not acts, and recognize Christianity's historically and culturally conditioned understanding of human sexuality. The Sexual Person draws historically, methodologically, and anthropologically from the best of Catholic tradition and provides a context for current theological debates between traditionalists and revisionists regarding marriage, cohabitation, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, and what it means to be human.”

I had an opportunity to visit with Justice Carlos Moreno after his lecture. In our conversation I thanked him for his role in serving justice and human dignity. Later that week I read a statement by the American Psychological Association,

“The American Psychological Association reaffirmed its support Wednesday for marriage equality for same-sex couples, noting that its annual convention taking place here this week provides an opportunity to call attention to the science supporting this position.

‘As the world’s largest organization of psychologists, we felt it was important to make a statement here and now to demonstrate APA’s unwavering support of marriage equality,” said APA President Carol D. Goodheart, EdD. “With the issue playing out so prominently in California, we are using the opportunity presented by our annual convention to present the growing body of science that is the foundation for our position, and that has influenced many of the legislators, judges and other public officials who are working to achieve this goal.”

On 06 September 2011 the California State Supreme Court will hear opening arguments regarding the question of legal standing of the “Yes on Proposition 8” proponents to appeal Judge Walker’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Justice Moreno speculated that the Federal Court thinks that these proponents stand on very “shaky [legal] ground” on Article Three to appeal Walker’s decision and therefore sought an opinion from the California Supreme Court regarding California State Law. The proceedings will be broadcast and since the Court has nothing else on the docket that day, it could be rather extensive. Get some popcorn and tune in.

In conformity with California’s Constitution, the State Supreme Court has ninety days to issue an opinion, so by 06 December 2011 our State Supreme Court may deliver a fatal blow to Prop 8.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

NAACP 102nd Annual Convention: "Overcoming Homophobia"


Civil Rights Icon Julian Bond Speaks at NAACPs First Town Hall Meeting on LGBT Rights

by Karen Ocamb on July 29, 2011 | 12:08 PM

The NAACP held its first-ever town hall meeting to discuss LGBT issues on July 25 as part of its 102nd annual convention held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The theme was “Our Collective Responsibility: Overcoming Homophobia”. Julian Bond, Civil Rights Icon and Chairman Emeritus NAACP, addresses the NAACP. Video by Renee Sotile & Mary Jo Godges of TraipsingThruFilms for LGBT POV and Frontiers In LA. An extensive piece on the town hall with more video is coming soon.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dangerous Complacency

On July 2nd, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act that had just been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives a few hours earlier, into law. The act outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools.

Passage of that piece of legislation was not easy. It had been bottled up in the House Rules Committee and in the Senate, opponents attempted to kill the legislation with a filibuster. It is a testament to the tireless work and clear vision of people of conscience that the Civil Rights Act became law in 1964. But, what if it all ended with the passage of that landmark legislation? What if all activist decided simply to stop all of their work on July 2nd, 1964? What if the NAACP simply closed its door on that victorious day? What if donors to the advancement of Civil Rights and human dignity decided to stop donating? What if volunteers decided to lend their efforts to other causes, and there were several important causes and good works (the Vietnam War, Peace Corps)? What if the President simply decided to focus on other matters?

Without sustained political pressure, volunteers, donations, activists, we would probably never have passed the Civil Rights Act of 1965 that outlawed literacy tests and poll taxes as a way of assessing whether anyone was fit or unfit to vote. After the passage of the 1965 Act, all you needed to vote was American citizenship and the registration of your name on an electoral list, after the passage of the 1965 Act no form of hindrance to this would be tolerated by the law courts. If everyone threw a party, celebrated and went home after the signing of the 1965 Act’s signing into law, what then?

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 that among other things ended legal housing discrimination, would probably not have been passed into law. If people stopped working for Equality after the signing of the 1968 Act, then there would have been no Civil Rights Act of 1991 that protected workers from unlawful harassment and intentional discrimination in the workplace.

The point of this is that the attainment of Civil Rights and Social Justice are rarely, if ever, “an event,” if history is an accurate guide, this is usually a long, painful, tedious and costly process. There will always be vested interests and uncharitable people who will work, contribute and organize to oppress minorities. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous quote that the “Arc of history bends towards justice,” is a noble truth meant to inspire in the face of evil and not as a license to do nothing in the face of evil.

In our War for Human Dignity, we will be forced to engage in many battles. We have recently won two major battles, the final repeal of DADT that will occur on September 20th, 2011 and the establishment of Marriage Equality in New York State. Some in our community feel that they have won and that someone else, somewhere else, can fight other battles elsewhere. These sentiments are reported in an article by Alana Horowitz (Full Story).

The line of thought expressed by some members of our community is dangerous on two levels. First, there is still much work that must be accomplished before we reach Full Federal Equality and beyond that goal, Full Equality for members of our community Internationally. Here are just two major mileposts on the road ahead:

• Repeal of DOMA (the falsely named “Defense” of Marriage Act)

• Passage of ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act)

Even after we have won, and we will win, Full Federal (legal) Equality. There will be decades of work to be done to establish Full Social Equality for members of our community. There is a distinction between “legal” protection and “social” acceptance. This was tragically pressed home last fall with a spate of suicides of young people in our community. People who were hounded into self-hatred and despair by those who would “keep us in our place” (i.e. silent and invisible).

It is important, healthy and good to celebrate victories in our battles. This encourages future efforts and necessary sacrifices. However, it is a fatal mistake to assume that a victorious outcome to a particular battle, such as the victory in New York State or the Repeal of DADT, marks an end to our War for Human Dignity. It most certainly does not and I promise you that the oppressive elements at NOM and their funders in Salt Lake City and the Knights of Columbus have not stopped trying to restore injustice.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Man behind the Hate

The Intellectual Architect who transformed American Catholic Bishops into the Choirboys for the Republican Party.

What do former LA Cardinal Mahony’s and San Francisco’s Archbishop Niederauer’s support of California’s Proposition 8, NYC Archbishop Dolan’s opposition to Marriage Equality legislation in New York state, the unified opposition to all Marriage Equality legislation by the American Catholic hierarchy and the Manhattan Declaration all have in common? Is there one person who is the intellectual architect of all the “talking points,” the inspiration for funding of a coordinated political action against Marriage Equality and LGBT civil rights? New York Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick tells us that many social and political conservatives say one name.

Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.

He has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as “one of the biggest brains in America,” or, on one broadcast, “Superman of the Earth.” Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told me he numbers George among the most-talked-about thinkers in conservative legal circles. And Newt Gingrich called him “an important and growing influence” on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage.

“If there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy,” the conservative Catholic journal Crisis concluded a few years ago, “its leaders probably meet in George’s kitchen.”

The Effect:

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.

George’s marching orders have transformed the National Catholic Bishop’s Conference (NCCB) into becoming the choirboys for the Republican Party. What is the real world cost both to American Catholics and American Society?


Sixty leaders of Catholic religious orders representing 59,000 nuns sent a letter to Washington leaders urging them to vote for the health care reform bill. Unlike many of the Catholic bishops, who have worked against the current bill on the basis of abortion policy, the sisters argued the pending bill represented a "real pro-life stance" and urged Catholic members of Congress to pass the legislation.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a national Catholic social justice lobby represents one of the organizations that signed the letter to Congress, in her words,

“But this really isn't so much about a face and morals difference. It's about a political analysis difference where does this or does this not fund abortion? And our perspective is is that it does not. And it promotes life by giving 30 million people in our country access to health care when we know that 45,000 people die every year because they don't have access to health care and to having their needs met.”

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in this country have chosen to transform the Catholic Church into a far right PAC. As Sister Campbell points out the price that the US bishops have paid is not merely dollars but 45,000 human lives per year.


Robert P. George’s own analysis of the weakness in his appeal to absolute 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.
Over lunch last month at the Princeton faculty club, George noted that many evangelicals had signed the Manhattan Declaration despite the traditional Protestant skepticism about the corruption of human reason. “I sold my view about reason!” he declared. He was especially pleased that, by signing onto the text, so many Catholic bishops had endorsed his new natural-law argument about marriage. “It really is the top leadership of the American church,” he said.

“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.”


First, Professors at Creighton University in a recent book “The Sexual Person” have developed an argument that supports Marriage Equality.

“While some documents from Vatican II, like Gaudium et spes ("the marital act promotes self-giving by which spouses enrich each other"), gave hope for a renewed understanding of sexuality, the church has not carried out the full implications of this approach. In short, say Salzman and Lawler: emphasize relationships, not acts, and recognize Christianity's historically and culturally conditioned understanding of human sexuality. The Sexual Person draws historically, methodologically, and anthropologically from the best of Catholic tradition and provides a context for current theological debates between traditionalists and revisionists regarding marriage, cohabitation, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, and what it means to be human. This daring and potentially revolutionary book will be sure to provoke constructive dialogue among theologians, and between theologians and the Magisterium.”

This work by Professors Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler has already been condemned by American Catholic bishops, since they understand that it threatens to bring down the whole house of cards on their objections to Marriage Equality based on their appeal to the Natural Law (reason) argument. This would unmask the hierarchy’s relentless opposition to LGBT Civil Rights as nothing more than a cynical attempt to deflect attention from the Sexual Cover-Up Scandal and re-vivify their waning social influence and political power.

Also, too much scrutiny into the supposed “objective” role of reason in Anti-Equality arguments threatens fissures in the “Christian” alliance with Evangelicals. I respectfully suggest that LBGT persons with media connections use their influence to publicly air Professors’ Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler Natural Law theories and their logical legal/social implications.

Secondly, I’d point out that we “dropped the ball” and missed a significant opportunity to highlight the confrontation between the American Catholic bishops and Catholic Religious women’s orders (Nuns). The bishops have already been largely discredited by their complicity in the National and International Sexual Cover-Up Scandal. The Sisters on the other hand enjoy a much-deserved sterling reputation as ministers of charity and advocates for the marginalized. Diana Butler Bass ask the following question in an article for the Huffington Post,

“I have one question for you: Whom do you trust to speak for the Catholic faith? The bishops who covered up the sex scandal in the church, ignoring the cries of victims, while rewarding those with "habitually foul behavior" with ever-bigger parishes and positions in the hierarchy? Or the sisters -- the women who nursed your sick grandparents, who taught your children to read, cooked meals for hungry people, who started schools on the prairies and established hospitals in far-away jungles? When it comes to being pro-life, you best listen to the ladies.”

I am amazed that we have failed to do “Sixty-Minutes” type television exposes on this showdown between the hierarchy and these brave nuns. Most Catholics are more progressive, not only than other religious people but, than American voters as a whole on several social issues. Somehow, politicians interact with the local bishops as if he controlled a monolithic voting block that held very socially conservative opinions AND voted according to those opinions---they do not.

It is time for us to recognize the source of our oppression and the hatred & bigotry encouraged by these irresponsible theories. As a Philosophy professor of mine once quipped, “You have to shoot these people with their own bullets.” It is time for us to effectively and more aggressively fight back.

Post Script: An excellent article on Dr. George by Colleen at Open Tabernacle

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dealing with Hate

Due to our two recent political victories, Marriage Equality in New York State and the end of DADT scheduled for 20 September 2011, there has been a backlash of hatred towards our community. I have prepared a reasoned and polite letter of response to such critics.

Through such an approach I hope that we may move some of those opposed to Equality Laws to reconsider their harsh positions. I also believe that by making a reasoned argument and presenting it reasonably, we will move more people “in the middle” to support our fight for Full Federal Equality.

Please feel free to use the following in letters to editors, personal correspondence, etc.

Thank you for your interest in contacting me,

Moral questions regarding sexuality are, and should be, a concern for us all. I find the following presentation by moralist Dr. John Corvino especially helpful in regard to issues of sexuality and morality.

What's Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?

The following is taken from the American Psychological Association website:

Is sexual orientation a choice?

No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.

Can therapy change sexual orientation?

No; even though most homosexuals live successful, happy lives, some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so. The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable. However, not all gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who seek assistance from a mental health professional want to change their sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people may seek psychological help with the coming out process or for strategies to deal with prejudice, but most go into therapy for the same reasons and life issues that bring straight people to mental health professionals.

Consider the loving advice would you give to a young person who confided in you that they had a same-sex orientation. Would your advice lead that young person to a life of love and self-acceptance, or to a life of fear, self-hatred and hiding?

Thank you very much for your interest and for making the time to consider the role of sexuality in your own and other’s lives.

God Bless!

Father Geoff

Friday, July 22, 2011

20 September 2011 the death of DADT.

Today President Obama joined the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen certified the repeal of the unjust Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). The clock now starts ticking for the sixty day time period after certification. On 20 September 2011 gays and lesbians will be able to serve openly in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Obviously this is of immense significance for gay/lesbian members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their loved ones. It is also a huge “game changer” for the national debate on Marriage Equality, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA] and the repeal of the unconstitutional and falsely named Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA].

In 1947 President Harry S. Truman desegregated the U.S. Civil Service and the U.S. Armed Forces. That decision set in motion changes in social attitudes. Those changing attitudes helped to usher in tectonic social changes in America. The landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education that ordered the desegregation of schools and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are both connect to Truman’s courageous Executive Order of 1947.

Imagine the impact that the repeal of DADT will have in “military towns” across America. Suddenly locals will see Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors who are gay/lesbian. Inductees into basic training will be formed to be respectful of service members with same-sex orientations. These values will become engrained and affect civil society.

Sunday the State of New York will recognize Same-sex marriages. This is a huge victory for Marriage Equality nationally, since New York is one of America’s most populace and influential states. In September the California Supreme Court will issue an opinion regarding the standing of the “Yes on Prop 8” proponents to appeal Judge Walker’s ruling striking down Prop 8 in California.

Make no mistake, there remain many battles to be fought until Full Federal Equality for LGBT people is achieved. Beyond that happy day, there will still be many struggles to end bullying and bigotry in our nation. However, it is good to celebrate and draw strength from today’s victory.