Equality Matters: Going Undercover At NOM’s Anti-Gay Student Conference Gives A Fascinating Glimpse Behind NOM’s Moderate Facade

When Carlos Maza, a gay activist who monitors the National Organization for Marriage, the “moderate” anti-gay marriage group (let’s face it, the ANTI-GAY HATE GROUP) went undercover to attend one of their weekend training sessions, he found himself connecting with another attendee in a surprising way.

Read the whole thing, it’s like a spy novel except with Leviticus-spouting Religious Right leaders trying to “turn” a roomful of impressionable college students, instead of Communist moles posing as tweed jacketed leather-patched college professors.

Yeah, it’s that complicated.

Also, take note of some interesting details:

  • Many of the college attendees were from either BYU or Arizona State
  • Most of the leaders were from the evangelical/fundamentalist/Biblical literalist end of the Protestant spectrum
  • These groups are normally suspicious of each other but they worked together to pass CA’s anti-gay (marriage)Prop 8
  • It’s not necessarily a good thing that the Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco helped to ram Prop 8 down gays’ throats.
  • Retiring Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson was involved in some kind of dialogue, curious about the reaction to him.
  • Someone who works for the Institute of Religion and Democracy was also there. They hate Bp. Gene.

Carlos attended the “It Takes A Family (To Raise A Village)” conference at the end of July, well before the Archbishop-Elect of San Francisco was arrested for drunk driving in San Diego, the same city where the conference was held. His election as Archbishop was announced with great joy and a little loathsomeness by one of the organizers while Carlos and other attendees were being bused to an event. Ugh.

In the empty lobby of a small hotel in San Diego, a conservative Mormon from Utah and a progressive gay activist from DC saw eye-to-eye on the overwhelming majority of “pro-family” and “pro-marriage” issues.

It was the kind of unholy alliance I never expected to form at an anti-gay conference.

Flying home the next morning, I thought about how small our differences had been all along. I’d spent the weekend thinking of myself as some kind of spy working behind “enemy lines,” assuming the worst about every person I met. I was terrified that I’d be discovered by the other attendees and felt certain that they’d turn on me the second they discovered who I was.

In reality, though, the “enemy lines” were a bit blurrier than I had imagined them to be. Most of the students who attended NOM’s ITAF conference weren’t anti-gay zealots; they’d decided to show up after hearing about the event from their professors, their churches, or their parents. Many of them, like the BYU student, were genuinely interested in preventing divorce and ensuring that married couples maintain healthy and lasting relationships. Few of them had ever even heard of the Ruth Institute before attending.

It seemed silly that I had spent all weekend feeling so embattled.

Then I remembered the Regnerus study – how NOM’s speakers had spent the weekend trying to depict gay parents as predatory towards their own children.

I remembered Gagnon’s speeches and NOM’s use of Christianity as a weapon to condemn LGBT people as unrepentant sinners.

And I remembered Leviticus.

The ideological divide between me and the BYU student may have been small, but NOM had spent the entire weekend trying to widen it by teaching her that gays and lesbians – including me – are unstable, dangerous, and unworthy of raising their own families. Despite the promise to focus on “marriage, not gayness,” ITAF had been a veritable crash course in demonizing LGBT people.

via EXCLUSIVE: Undercover At NOM’s Anti-Gay Student Conference | Equality Matters

Reactions are a little… mixed. I found this glowing account from St Paul’s Cathedral Blog (Episcopal Diocese of San Diego):

A fair amount of humor peppered the otherwise tense conversation. It was interesting to sit in the huge, warehouse-like sanctuary with my partner, Kathy, and to know that we were sitting right next to people who were opposed to gay marriage. Not a comfortable experience, but a good one, because it means that we can all be in one room together and discuss this hot topic without coming to blows.

Kudos to Skyline. Huge love and thanks to Bishop Robinson. My favorite picture is to the right! — Fearless Love:; Report From Skyline Church

But alas, tolerance is lacking in this official wrap-up (with slideshow) from the Ruth Institute blog:

Generally, the biblical voice is silenced or the event becomes so infused with allegations of “hate” that the arguments are no longer really heard. Sunday night was so different. Everything was heard and you could hear a pin drop. All the intelligence was on the biblical side; all the sentimentalism was on the gay side. Neither Rob nor Jennifer ever backed down… they made their points with great civility and lucidity. — A Conversation on the Definition of Marriage

Ah, ergh. I can only hope that the young people who had attended that weekend’s conferene were insufficiently indoctrinated to see it that way. The detail about praying over the facility to protect it from forces of conflict (which was somehow meant to keep the evil gay cooties at bay?) was kind of… weird and too much like “praying the gay away” to my mind.

I can’t really post this on the church blog; it’s too distracting and upsetting and political. And creepy! But I wanted to react to it, so here it is. UGH. To the National Organization for Marriage, and their education arm the Ruth Institute, that’s my reaction: UGH.

Your positions are not Christ-like, and you twist His words and say things He never said to support your position.

Here is everything Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said about homosexuality as it was understood in His time:


In my admittedly lacking Biblical knowledge, I do believe that Jesus said that the whole of the Law came down to just two things: love of God, and love of one’s neighbor. Well, one thing really: LOVE.

So that probably means that all that stuff in Leviticus about shellfish, mixing linen and wool, and killing gay people for LOVING EACH OTHER no longer applies. Because: LOVE.

And one last thing: This post is dedicated to the memory of John Thurman, who passed away after suffering a fall this week. His spouse Dave Fleer now must go on alone.

John never really recovered from a head injury received several years ago. He was badly beaten and left for dead in front of his home, in what was likely a hate crime. The assault was never solved, or even investigated to any degree by local police in Munster, Indiana.

That is the consequence of the HATE preached with sweet-sounding words behind closed doors by anti-gay groups like the “National Organization of Marriage.” Behind those doors, they admit that opposing marriage for gays polls a little better than opposing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for gays. They pass out handouts to young people emphasizing that gays should be killed, and “their blood shall be upon them.” As in, “you get a free pass for killing the gay neighbor, because it’s not really murder, God says it’s OK”

Like I said, UGH. Thanks to Carlos Maza’s courageous (and initially mischievous) undercover work, the cover is pulled back on NOM to reveal them as something unwholesome, and definitely not following the two greatest commandments.

In which I run off at the mouth ranting, then has a Pifanee!

Wow, I actually got a comment that isn’t spam, a request for a washing machine part, or looking for Fry Sauce. It’s from a recent post called “My God is the God of the Poor,” which was just a link to a awesome recent post by Pastor Dan that ***Dave passed along.

In it, I said as I quoted pastordan

Something else I believe as a liberal Episcopalian, put a little more aggressively:

My God is the God of the poor. You can be for the poor or you can go to hell.

A month later, I get this rather condescending comment from someone named Dan Kegley, and since this is my blog, I get to be not only condescending right back, but also slightly snotty and obnoxious. But hey, it’s my blog. I suddenly got inspired to respond with important, well-thought out arguments, but those darn LOLcats got in my Bible and messed with my sin tax again.

I has a pifaneee!!1!

How sad that one would relate a man’s wealth, or lack thereof, with how God, in His wisdom, will judge us all at His time and place. How can you speak of liberalism, with its oddities and corruption of heart, being obviously at war with morality and values of any kind, as having a “leg up”, so to speak, in God’s eye? I have never heard that God wishes for us to take from producers and give to the lazy or unproductive. I am not referring to those on hard times, or those whose hardships have them in a bad place currently. Liberals, though, actually see a calling to punish hard working men and women, as if that elevates those who do nothing to help themselves. The Lord Himself, on many occasions, spoke of the need for man to strive and produce for his own family, as no one other than the head of the family can lay claim to the prosperity or destitution by which the family comes. I believe your words will never be taken seriously by progressives who cannot understand the good hearts of men, and who by their political nature want for destruction and chaos to reign, as in this they prosper in wealth, control over men, and unquestioned power. How sad.

— commenter Dan Kegley, who has a sad

How sad indeed that you seem to inhabit a completely different version of reality, because it will be very difficult for us to communicate across the divide. Since I know what state you probably hail from, I’d love to introduce you to some lovely liberal Christians there who might give you a whole new perspective on Jesus and His mission to the poor (and also the proper raising of cows, chickens, and dogs).  I’m a pretty rotten liberal Christian by comparison to them, but I mean well, give as much as I can, and hope to do better.

What are liberalism’s “oddities?” What “corruption of heart?” Are we talking religion or politics? If religion, best not raise the spectre of corruption lest we have to go into the many and varied kinds of priest/clergy sex scandals plaguing the conservative churches, not to mention embezzlement or financial fraud cases by either clergy or lay leaders (all too common in Utah, for example, as the sheep are very easily clipped there).

I’m not at war with morality, and I have values. This doesn’t give me a “leg up.” This puts me on a path that may be different from yours that is no better, and no worse. I think war is immoral, I think capital punishment is immoral. I also think Han shot first, which is both a moral position and a value judgement.

Let’s talk about taking from the producers and giving to the unproductive next. You really need to stop reading Ayn Rand, and start reading your Bible – it seems that at least one reading in church each week mentions the poor in some context (I go to church every week, unlike many Americans who claim church attendance but don’t actually go). Strangely, I do not think Ayn Rand thought much of this Bible thing. She seems very selfish and unpleasant and her characters are cardboard cutouts. Seriously, producers? Do you grow your own wheat? Weave your own linen, unmixed with wool? Live in a gulch? Of course not.

Here are a few mentions of the word “poor” in the Bible. Several of them are very familiar even to non-religious Americans – the ones that keep buying the Bible, but not reading it, apparently.  As it happens, the ones in the beginning are what Jesus said about the poor.

Multi-Version Concordance

Poor (276 Occurrences)

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Matthew 6:2 When then you give money to the poor, do not make a noise about it, as the false-hearted men do in the Synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have glory from men. Truly, I say to you, They have their reward. (BBE NAS)

Matthew 6:3 But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, (See NAS)

Matthew 11:5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Matthew 26:9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Matthew 26:11 For you always have the poor with you; but you don’t always have me. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Mark 10:21 Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Mark 12:42 A poor widow came, and she cast in two small brass coins, which equal a quadrans coin. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Mark 12:43 He called his disciples to himself, and said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Mark 14:5 For this might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.” They grumbled against her. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Mark 14:7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Luke 1:48 For he has had pity on his servant, though she is poor and lowly placed: and from this hour will all generations give witness to the blessing which has come to me. (BBE)

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Luke 6:20 He lifted up his eyes to his disciples, and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Luke 7:22 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John the things which you have seen and heard: that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Luke 11:41 But if you give to the poor such things as you are able, then all things are clean to you. (BBE NIV)

Luke 12:33 Give what property you have in exchange for money, and give the money to the poor; make for yourselves money-bags which will not get old, wealth stored up in heaven which will be yours for ever, where thieves will not come nor worms put it to destruction. (BBE NIV)

Luke 14:13 But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Luke 14:21 “That servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant,’Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’ (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Luke 16:20 And a certain poor man, named Lazarus, was stretched out at his door, full of wounds, (BBE DBY YLT NAS RSV)

Luke 16:22 And in time the poor man came to his end, and angels took him to Abraham’s breast. And the man of wealth came to his end, and was put in the earth. (BBE DBY YLT NAS RSV)

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

Luke 19:8 Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much.” (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)

What Jesus said, world without end, amen.  Pray silence for reflection…

Okay, pause over. And as it happens, it turns out Jesus’ Mom the God-Bearer was poor!  No wonder he’s always harping about them…

That’s only about a third of the quotes – some of them are repetitive because of the multiple versions of the Gospel. But Luke is my favorite of the Evangelists, because his language is poetic and full of interesting detail. There are a bunch more quotes on that web page of course, these are just the Gospel ones to illustrate what has become an increasingly tiresome and over-argued point.  Jesus loved him some poors.

So how is it that the unproductive are different from those fallen on hard times? Poverty is poverty. Or are you quietly saying “the undeserving poor?” Kind of like the sort of people who show up on Hoarders screaming and yelling and arguing over piles of garbage and dead animals? The “those people” that live in urban blight and rural squalor, far from where sight of their hovels would disturb us?

Hard times is hard times. Sometimes poverty is a multi-generational weight crushing people down so far that they don’t know that there’s an up. Sometimes we’re only 4 or 5 decisions from shitting in a bucket.

Can you possibly see that liberals fight to support working class people? Fight for clean air and water and food? Fight for family leave legislation, fight for a fair wage? fight for worker’s compensation laws? Fight for universal, affordable health care (and don’t succeed because of conservative obstructionism)?
These are all things political and religious conservatives were AGAINST. Conservatives are AGAINST health care coverage for children, and against adult children who don’t yet have insurance staying on their parents’ plan for a few extra years.

Conservatives were AGAINST civil rights. They were AGAINST abolition of slavery. They were AGAINST the minimum wage, and AGAINST any increase in the minimum wage. They were AGAINST the 40-hour work week. They were AGAINST health and safety laws in the workplace. AGAINST. AGAINST. AGAINST.

Conservative means STOP. Progressive means GO. Liberal means GO FAST. Oh, and independent might therefore mean “Could go either way, stuck in neutral, may need a new clutch.”

Conservatives were FOR tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent in this country, whose deep pockets paid for their political campaigns and for their huge megachurches, and also paid FOR whisper campaigns and “funny business electioneering” to disenfranchise the poor and the brown. Wealthy Christian Reconstructionists like the Mellons and Howard Ahmanson Jr bankrolled “dissenters” and “orthodox believers” within mainline churches bent on splitting them apart from within. They did this because they claimed to be “for life, Jesus and morality,” but really they were in favor of regaining all the power, property, and prestige that they had lost as the mainline churches liberalized through the 60’s and 70’s. As the older churches lost membership – a lot of people stopped believing, stopped caring about religion – the newer churches that survived gained converts who were hardliners fleeing from the Lutherans or the Presbyterians or the Episcopalians, who weren’t real Christians in their eyes any more. I can’t tell you how irritating it is to be told by a fellow Christian that I am not Christiany enough, because I don’t make the Christianist cut by being more Christianish than thou.

People are supposed to be different. Conformity is boring to the Creator – we were created to be a beguiling and delightful array of allsorts. Anyway…

The moderate and liberal Christians stayed put, wondered where everyone else was, and got on with the work of the Church: serving the poor, and praising God in prayer and song. The conservative Christians preached the Prosperity Gospel and solicited donations from… yes, the poor, promising them riches on Earth as it would be in Heaven. And they had really, really crappy music (sorry, I’m a church music snob, I’m sure God is happy with whatever joyus ruckus His children make on any given Sunday).

What would Jesus think of that Prosperity Gospel, I wonder? I wonder.

The 80’s marked the time of the Republican Right’s resurgence – and also a time when the Reagan “Teflon Presidency” produced a remarkable amount of administration officials being convicted for corruption, which never touched Saint Ronnie himself. Strangely enough, Reagan was for emigration amnesty or reform, and raised taxes, and the Jim Brady law must have been galling to the NRA crowd. Reagan must have been a closet liberal, but then you can’t trust these faux-Republican Hollywood actors, can you?

There was more political corruption through the 90’s, mostly from the Right side of the aisle (yes, Clinton was a bad husband, but also a good statesman, and the country prospered). Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich went through a few wives, usually when they were seriously ill. Who’s the moral man? The man who asked his wife for forgiveness, or the man who did the unforgiveable?

And then there was Bush, and then…  and we all grieved together, and then our grief was cynically used against us to frighten us into acquiescing when they curtailed our civil rights, because TERRA!  A noun, a verb, and 9-1-1! And then Madrid and London, terra terra terra WAR WAR WAR.

Of course, the conservatives, who are always FOR the military-industrial complex were FOR WAR WITH afghanistan IRAQ (but whispered that IRAN was next and the fringe hoped that Armageddon was nigh).

And they were all FOR Halliburton getting the bidless contracts for services to the military, because duh, they were FOR OIL too.

And they were FOR the Supreme Court being just as hard-right conservative as possible, which came in deucedly handy when the Florida election almost got won by that creepy Al Gore guy.

It wasn’t just the hanging chads, it was the shortage of voting machines in urban precincts in both Florida and Ohio – but the Supes stopped the recount and there we were, stuck with that idiot pretzel-gobbling Bush guy again and his evil puppet master, Darth Cheney. Talk about your high crimes and misdemeanors, you had ’em all along with that pack of robber barons in office.

The Republicans are FOR the right people having the right to vote and AGAINST the wrong people having the right to vote. And of course they are AGAINST any group that works to enfranchise the urban and suburban poor, who the Republicans don’t wish to represent anyway, because they are unproductive parasites who can’t give them more than a few dollars.

Liberal politicians and religious leaders have always fought FOR hard-working people, but the message isn’t getting out to the people who need to hear it. It’s been co-opted and turned around 180 degrees, so that the oppressors and the corporate plutocrats cry foul, play the victim and claim all the financial benefits for themselves and their cronies. How do they do it? They own the loudest, gaudiest, blaringest propaganda machine since 1940s Argentina: FOXNews. All lies, all the time. Unfair, and unbalanced. All the news we think you need to know. Meanwhile, a good bill or a great innovation for local communities goes unreported, because politics is boring unless somebody is getting beat up by the Republicans on their pet “news” channel. And local or national religious leaders can’t get any press UNLESS TEH GAY.

How can you possibly say that conservatives have ANYONE’s interests at heart unless it’s the corporations and lobbyists who take them to the Caribbean and Scotland, and the shadowy people in the background buying the media and Congress? Whether we’re talking religion or politics, no progress has ever come from going backwards.

The Lord himself, on many occasions and not just the ones quoted above, urged his followers to sell everything, give the money to the poor, and follow Him. He urged disciples to leave family behind, if necessary. Now, that sounds pretty radical and extreme to me, and I doubt many people would take Him up on it; but that’s what’s on the table. Not “get your hands off my stack, Jack” or “I’ve got mine.”

No, it’s “Possessions and wealth will not get you into heaven. It’s what you do here that counts. Put on your sandals, pull up yo’ pants, and go tell it on the mountain.”

Now you go on to this: “no one other than the head of the family can lay claim to the prosperity or destitution by which the family comes.”

What does that even MEAN? OH, right, it’s part of the doctrine of submission and the headship of the man in the family over the woman and children, his chattel. This is a disgusting tribal artifact inflicted on Western civilization by cranky old zealots with an axe to grind, who wanted to keep the uppity wimmenfolk (especially the purty-mouthed fertile ones) under their control. It’s one of the reasons I absolutely cannot stand much of what St Paul wrote regarding the role of women in the church. We’re not going to see eye to eye on this one, Daniel, because I am a very uppity woman indeed. The man as “head of the family” is an insulting, offensive concept to me personally.

I reject your reality and substitute my own.

By the way, that whole SUBMIT thing is sekrit fundamentalist code for “you must have sex with me every time I want it, whether you want to or not! And wash my smelly socks! And you will like it! And now I will read aloud from the Bible, and after that we can pretend I am a slavemaster of Gor and you are my latest acquisition. Send the children and goats out into the fields, and assume the position.”

See? Disgusting tribal artifact.

Strange that Jesus spoke to unmarried and widowed women who were not his blood relatives, whose place in His society was so precarious. This was unheard of at the time, and it’s still unheard of in ultra-orthodox Jewish communities in Israel and the US. Imagine how RADICAL, then, this was 2 millennia ago. His actions and statements were not just radical, they were dangerous and possibly blasphemous according to the standards of the time. They threatened the status quo.

Jesus had radical compassion for women, because they worked so hard drawing water (the Syro-Phoenecian woman), were too busy cleaning house and cooking to hear the Gospel (Martha), because they were poor and still gave what they had to others (the widow and her mite), or they were so broken up with grief that they didn’t even recognize Him (Mary Magdalene).

Stranger still that He chose to appear first to women at the Resurrection, including the woman called “apostle to the Apostles.”  Why do you think that might have been?

If you ask me, Jesus was very much a long-haired hippie radical. After he left, the literati got busy and did a re-write for the masses so he was a little more moderate, a little less rabble-rousy. And they made sure to put the women back down in the dust, even though the rich ones were financing the church and the poor ones were doing all the work looking after the priest’s house. It’s always the way…

It doesn’t matter to me if I’m not taken seriously by other progressives – most of whom aren’t interested in this churchy stuff.  Meanwhile, I think that progressives DO understand “the good hearts of men;” I think that progressives and liberals are good men and women who are inherently generous in spirit,  and community-minded. I think that conservatives and fundamentalists are like the Grinch, with hearts two sizes too small, never thinking of other peoples’ needs and certainly not giving any of their money away to those horrible parasites, and grumbling about the taxes they pay as the drive on federal highways and drink clean water.

Like I said, stop reading Ayn Rand and think for yourself. Because, dude: don’t you get who you’re really talking about? When you say “who by their political nature want for destruction and chaos to reign, as in this they prosper in wealth, control over men, and unquestioned power” you’re talking the Republicans, Wall Street, the US Chamber of Commerce, the TSA, the Bush Era FEMA, the Bush Era Federal Secrets Act, the AT&T deal for wireless wiretapping, Halliburton, BP, Xe, and the Koch Brothers, man!

These are the ones who:

  • took us into war with Afghanistan (right country, still there, trillions of dollars later)
  • Iraq (wrong country, still there, trillions of dollars later),
  • prospered at the expense of everybody else (toxic mortgages, credit default swaps, Bush era TARP),
  • controlled men (stop-loss rules in the military, limited amount of credit available for small business loans and job creation, obstructionism in Congress, offshoring of jobs by large companies for obscene profit margins)
  • held unquestioned power and drove the national narrative with questionable motives (Hello, Congressman-Oversight Police Officer Darrell Issa! Hello, Orange Speaker Boehner! Hello, Weeping Glenn Beck! Hello, Word-Salady Sarah Palin! Hello, Batshit Crazy Michele Bachmann! Hello, all you double-talking, fact-spinning, truth-distorting, fake-crying, black-boarding, propaganda-spouting wool-pullers!).

Do you see it yet? Soylent Green is people. SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE.

No? Oh, right, you’re in that other reality where the black man in the White House isn’t American (psst, they’re lying to you) and the Founding Fathers wrote Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit into every paragraph of the Constitution (no, they didn’t) and that this is a deeply Christian country with deeply conservative values (actually, most people aren’t all that interested in religion or politics – NEWS FLASH). Also, they have your back (sorry, they’re lying again) and share your convictions (the only convictions they have will be for election fraud, financial chicanery, or sexual misconduct).

We are all so screwed, but the delusions of people who think as you do got us in this mess by electing Bush and his pack of merry military-financial plunderers. And then you and they believed all the lies they told you and elected even more of these geniuses to the Congress, and we are all so screwed double-plus-ungood.

So after years of obstructionism by the Republicans, the Democrats “failed” to pass a GOP bolus in the bowels of the Senate pass a budget. Yet they somehow managed to get a lot done in spite of the kicking and screaming from the GOP (and health care could have been so much better, but is watered down thanks to these same obstructionist goops).

And now, it’s up to the Boehner Congress. We get to sit back and watch the stupid unfold before us for the next few years, especially going into the 2012 elections. We’ll all have to watch them punish hardworking men and women, and send many more families into destitution without “laying claim” or taking the blame for it, just to prove to President Obama that they are the ones with unquestioned power.

How sad indeed.


Why @GlennBeck’s campchair revival meeting on the National Mall will probably turn out to be irrelevant, even with the Theocratic Right’s deep pockets. Barna: How Teenagers’ Faith Practices Are Changing

The most striking change was the fact that teenagers today seem much less inclined to have spiritual conversations about their faith in Christ with non-believers. The survey question specifically asked if the survey respondent had “explained your religious beliefs to someone else who had different beliefs, in the hope that they might accept Jesus Christ as their savior.” Among born again Christian teenagers, the proportion who said they had explained their beliefs to someone else with different faith views in the last year had declined from nearly two-thirds of teenagers in 1997 (63%) to less than half of Christian teens in the December 2009 study (45%).

Kinnaman noted: “Christian teenagers are taking cues from a culture that has made it unpopular to make bold assertions about faith or be too aggressively evangelistic. Some of the Barna Group’s other research shows that the vast majority of these students agree with the statement it is ‘cool to be a Christian.’ Yet fewer young Christians apparently believe it is worthwhile to talk about their faith in Jesus with others.”

Play Cancelled Due To Church Meddling, Playwright Steve Martin Steps In

UPDATE: Just want to make it clear, the show will go on. Mr Cahill continues to update his blog with new developments, like the offer of a set of costumes from a community college in Utah that staged the play. He recently appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud, which covered it as part of a longer broadcast to do with censorship in Oregon schools. The pastor of the local Nazarene church, Tim Gerdes, also appeared to discuss the issues with Mr Cahill, and there was a long recorded segment with the parent who originally brought her objections to the play before the principal and school board.

An interesting side note: there are at least 17 girls at La Grande High School who are pregnant. A commenter at the OPB page for the radio show noted, “Abstinence education: epic fail.”

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Steve Martin backing banned play

Comic actor Steve Martin has stepped in to support a school production of his play that was banned after parents objected to its adult themes.

Students at La Grande High School in Oregon were stopped from staging Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

Martin has offered to help pay for the play to be performed off-campus.

He said he was supporting the production because he did not want his play “acquiring a reputation it does not deserve”.

Written in 1993, the play depicts a meeting between a young Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in a Parisian bar in which they get into a discussions on the superior merits of art or science.

Although I haven’t seen this play, I’ve read many news stories about it in the past, as it seems to have become one of those new classic repertory staples; as stated lower in the story, it’s been produced by a large number of professional, amateur, and school theater groups. Particularly as the theme features a discussion of the arts and sciences by two famous historical figures, it’s ironic that a school production should be protested in this way. Apparently the objections are that the thing takes place in a bar, and there is some discussion of women as objects of desire, and some parents objected to their kids saying some of the lines or seeing them performed.

Philistines. Bluestockings. I’m surprised that it’s in Oregon, but La Grande was a fairly conservative place based on what some of my college acquaintances from there said about it.

Martin, whose career as a playwright has been pretty successful, wrote a letter to the La Grande Observer:

First let me compliment Mr. Kevin Cahill, the teacher who selected the play, on his excellent taste! The play has been performed, without incident, all over the world by professional and amateur companies, including many high schools.

Because I don’t know the standards of your community or the life experience of your students, it is impossible for me to address whether my play is appropriate to be performed on campus, although in the limited web exchanges I have read, the students, and the eloquent Mr. Cahill, seem to understand the play and can discern that the questionable behavior sometimes evident in the play is not endorsed.

I have heard that some in your community have characterized the play as “people drinking in bars, and treating women as sex objects.” With apologies to William Shakespeare, this is like calling Hamlet a play about a castle. This play is set in an actual bar in Paris that was frequented by Picasso, a historical site that still exists today.

Focusing on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and Picasso’s master painting, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science. Pablo Picasso, as a historical figure, does not come gift-wrapped for the sensitive. He lived as he painted, fully sexual and fully daring, and in the play he is chastised by a sage bartendress for his cavalier behavior toward women.

Because of the controversy, I recently reread the play, and, frankly, I could understand how some parents might object to certain lines if they were to be delivered by a 16- or 17-year-old. Yet I do believe that the spirit of the play and its endorsement of the arts and sciences are appropriate for young eyes and minds.

Martin has always been a much deeper performer and artist than merely the guy with the arrow through his head playing the banjo; I really enjoyed the repeat of a Fresh Air interview he did with Terry Gross in 2003 where he talked about those days, and moving beyond them to something he found more fulfulling as he aged into “writer” and “artist” from “comic” and then “comedy actor.”

After this thoughtful response, he goes on to say that he suspects that the signers of the petition probably read only the “dirty bits,” or excerpts of the play before signing the petition — and definitely not the parts of the play that are more sensitive, inspiring or uplifting to the human spirit. He concludes:

To prevent the play from acquiring a reputation it does not deserve, I would like to offer this proposal: I will finance a non-profit, off-high school campus production (low-budget, I hope!), supervised and/or directed by Mr. Cahill and cast at his discretion, so that individuals, outside the jurisdiction of the school board but within the guarantees of freedom of expression provided by the Constitution of the United States, can determine whether they will or will not see the play, even if they are under 18.

I predict that the experience will not be damaging, but meaningful.

Before Martin learned of the controversy and offered to back the staging of the play at another location, some students and faculty at Eastern Oregon University had stepped forward to offer their facilities, neatly dodging a decision by the college’s president that week that the administration of EOU could not be involved. So the Student Democrats volunteered their services and offered to help with fundraising and staging, whose faculty sponsor sent a letter to the college president reminding her that the State of Oregon has a non-discrimination law regarding the use of public facilities at the state-funded college.

Lund decided last week that Eastern’s administration could not be involved in hosting the production because “the (La Grande) superintendent and the school district board have determined it is inappropriate for high school students to perform.”

In elaborating on this statement, Lund added, “I as president do not want to counter what the La Grande School District decided for students. So I opposed this play and supported the La Grande School District’s decision not to have the play.”

Lund did not reverse her decision Monday. Rather she was forced to respond to a new wrinkle. Monday morning Lund received a written request from EOU anthropology professor Linda Jerofke on behalf of the EOU Student Democrats club. The request asked that the EOU Student Democrats be permitted to rent space at Eastern to allow the LHS cast to perform “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”

Lund said she had no choice but to allow the EOU Student Democrats to rent space and host the play.

“As a public institution, we must abide by a non-discrimination policy, which permits rental of campus facilities by outside groups or clubs,” Lund said.

Nicey played, Prof. Jerofke and students. It’s clear that the president didn’t want to piss off the Concerned Parents and risk pitchforks and torches outside her bedroom windows.

Additionally, I had to chuckle that it was a student political club, and not the college theater students, that felt inspired to help the high school kids put on the production. I’ll have to bring this to my friend Debbie’s attention, she’s from Eastern Oregon originally and she may get kick out of it.

Donation information, if you’d like to donate toward the production anyway (and help Mr Martin defray costs plus contribute toward the scholarship fund) is below.

Make checks payable to:
EOU Scholarship Foundation (subject LHS Thespians)
One University Boulevard
La Grande, OR 97850-2807
Donations can be posted online at:
eou.edu (click on “make a donation” at the bottom of homepage)

Theater teacher Kevin Cahill’s blog has been getting a lot of hits lately, and he’s been updating posts on the saga as the story continues to evolve. He took a call from an Entertainment Weekly reporter while drinking with friends in a bar (heee!!).

But now the story has a darker twist: the local school board now will be creating a special committee, in an item buried in a story about a salary freeze:

In another matter Wednesday (school board Superintendant Larry) Glaze authorized board member Michael Frasier to begin organizing a committee to create a policy that will specifically address the selection and approval of school plays in the future. The district does not have such a policy now.

The committee will consist of parents, district staff and other community members. Glaze wants the committee to report back to the board with a recommended policy in May.

The committee is being formed in response to the controversy involving the LHS student play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.’’

Oh, bad show! Dirty pool! Not on! Boooo! Boooo!

Mr. Cahill is clearly a fun, creative guy; here he is as a dragon being pursued by the Knights of the Kitchen Table at his son’s birthday party.

I think Mr. Martin need not worry about the relocated high-school play being too expensive a production; the helmets, armor, and horses in the photo are made out of milk jugs, duct tape, sticks, and old socks.

Check out this well-produced student journalist’s video for a look at the players in this drama, including the lady who brought the original complaint. She comes off as the worst kind of religious-nut meddler.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ez1dnZF9DOU" width="425" height="344" wmode="transparent" /]

The discussion at Democratic Underground, where the help of many was enlisted to get the word out (and also probably led to Martin becoming aware of the censorship) has been pretty lively but is kind of hard to read. The gist of it is that a parent (the one in the video) objected and passed around a petition at her church and got a lot of members to sign. She irritated me in the video because she kept referring to the student actors as “children” and “kids.” This definitely irritated some of the young adults in the video, by the way.

When the news first broke over Kevin Cahill’s head, he and his young son got to listen to a message on his home answering machine from one of those good Christian souls who berated him for “defending evil” and expressed the hope that his “butt should be fired from that school.” It appears that this time it was indeed the local Mormon ward or wards that passed the petition around, although it could well have been the Baptists or some other fundamentalist/Evangelical megachurch. And the local people are somewhat afraid of ruffling feathers, but the people who feel strongly about the arts, culture, and broadening their kids’ education are going forward.

I hope that the news continues to get better for the production, and for La Grande in the long run. Ironically, it appears that Cahill’s diligence in cautioning potential actors and parents about potentially troubling dialogue and incidents may have led to the church people getting out the pitchforks and torches. He provided excerpts to students and parents, and eventually the petition got going, more than likely fueled by the fire in the excerpts Cahill so responsibly provided.

Glenn Beck’s OMGWTFBBQ and My Manifesto

Daily Kos: State of the Nation diarist Hunter spent the day posting updates about yesterday’s wingnut festivities.


[Throughout the day we have been bringing you breaking coverage of today’s ‘We Surround Them’ event, newsperson Glenn Beck’s effort to demonstrate the power of the ultraconservative movement via… um… well, we’re not quite sure. It seems to be based on surrounding the rest of us by meeting at Chili’s?]

CRITICAL EMERGENCY UPDATE — DAILY KOS EXCLUSIVE: Home again now. Home not surrounded. Neighbors seem placid, no surrounding seems imminent. Possible conservative flanking maneuver on 2nd street turned out to be loose dog.

Of course, a conservative talk-radio sponsored function in Utah was a big success. No surprises there.

No word on the turnout in Lafayette, LA, but the mockery in the comments is pretty telling. Also, some pretty sturdy objections to the theocratic posturings of the two “celebrity” event hosts, Beck and “TV’s Chuck Norris.” The martial arts star threw a barbecue at his Texas home, announced his readiness to be President of Texas when they secede, offers himself to serve a Godly republic,  etc. Actual Texans were not that impressed, frankly.

The rest of the country is too cold (and possibly too reality-based) to think about outdoor BBQs yet. So most of the events were held in restaurants and bars that either agreed to change the channel on the TV, or that had function rooms that could be reserved. The regionalism of the OMGWTFBBQ mindset is evident.

Hundreds gathered for a viewing party of Beck’s tearstained special in Asheville, NC.

Portsmouth had an event at a restaurant that was SRO. This supposedly non-partisan concept was hosted by the local Republican party and their supporters.  Newsflash: the GOP lost the election.

Rexburg. Home of BYU-Idaho. Dude, they already surround non-believers there… Almost 400 turned out,  so all three of the non-LDS Democrats stayed home and made escape plans.

The whole thing is based on Beck’s concept of “912: 9 Principles, 12 Values” which are listed here (on a site unlikely to crash, as Beck’s site did yesterday).

Note how carefully worded they are so as to seem “not that crazy.” Some independent-minded people, even self-identified liberals, might not think they are such a bad idea, except for the problem of enthusiastic older ladies forming militias and marching on Washington to overthrow the gubmint.

The 9 principles
1. America is good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
[…except for those whose spouse is Teh Gay, of course. They must be purged.]

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
[Translation: “I have a right to life, liberty, and happiness. You, not so much.”]

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
[Translation: I read Ayn Rand in college, which formed my core values as a selfish S.O.B.]

8. It is not “un”-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
[Translation: …except for liberal traitors who complained post-9/11 about “curtailment of civil rights,” “extrajudicial rendition,” and “illegal war.”]

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
[Especially after I threw a big donation their way at that golf junket to Bermuda]

The 12 values
Hard Work
Personal Responsibility

Some of these seem reasonable, some of these are a little suspect. Here’s my take:

Ginny’s 10 Principles For A Better,  Kinder World

1. America (and the world) could be better, if it weren’t for our deep well of stupid preventing progress.
2. Insert creed of your choice here, or quote a moral philosophy, such as “Be kind, rewind.”
3. No change.
4. See 2 above: express importance of family in your own terms. Cherish them and your pets.
5. No change. Cheney better pack a bag for a long stretch Inside.
6. All people should have the right to life, liberty,  clean water, food, and the pursuit of happiness.
7. I work hard for what I have and I am willing to help people who have less than I do.
8. It is the duty of every American to speak out on injustice, while not being a dick about it.
9. No change. Addendum:  all corrupt politicians must be thrown out of office.
10. Science and religion should never be mixed, or bad science and bad religion are the result.

That should do it. The Virtues list is all right as it currently stands, although I might add a few of my own, such as:

Love (the greatest Virtue of all)

Beware of creationist “scientists” padding their resumes

 Is it a problem if creationists have their own academic journal, giving them a forum for publishing their theories in a “peer-reviewed,” theologically literalist setting for a Bible-believing readership?

Well, it is if they are permitted to lie about their identities in order to hide their association with said journal, and said “peers,” at least until they get a little more academic seniority in their fields. And it is if they publish under their own names but use the fact of publication in a journal with rigorous biblical standards but not-so-rigorous scientific standards to pad their resumes or make them seem more authoritative if running for a school board office or quoted for a local newspaper article.

How Creationists peer-review their “academic” scholarship. – By Bonnie Goldstein – Slate Magazine

As an extra incentive to participate, those with “a reason for not wanting their biographical details publicized on the AiG website” (such as seeking tenure at an institution with more rigorous notions about scholarship) may use a “pen name” (Page 2). In a recent ARJ microbe forum, two “independent scholars” (purportedly, Ph.D.s at “prominent research facilities in the eastern part of North America”) submitted abstracts under the pseudonyms “Luke Kim” and “Ira Loucks” because they “prefer to keep their creationist credentials hidden for the moment until they achieve more seniority


Come on, boys, be out and be proud. Fly your freak flag for all to see.  Otherwise, the smart people will smell the rat and call you on it.

Oh wait, they already did in the comments section:

The creation of this journal fits into a larger context of cynical moves made by the creationist community to acquire the trappings of real science so as to be taken more seriously by an uninformed public. First they tried the direct approach: simply attempting to insert young-earth creationism into public school science curriculae. These attempts were repeatedly struck down by the courts, and they began to realize that in order to get into the science classroom, they would need to cloak their dogma in the language of “real science,” which meant finding some like-minded people with Ph.D.’s (in any subject area), forming a research institute, and creating a peer-reviewed journal. In effect, this journal exists to provide bogus credentials to information that has failed consistently to be accepted by anyone in the mainstream scientific community so that it may ultimately be slipped into public science education.


A well-reasoned and logical summary of Things Thus Far is a pleasure to read.

I agree that this “journal” could be another chessboard move to bolster the standing of “Creation and Flood” theories in the public mind, in a very indirect way (since the general public will never read it). It’s not just cynical, it’s insidious.

Via The Lead

Fred Barnes: Pundit, Provocateur, and Parishioner

The Gay Bishops Links

Remember the smear campaign conducted against Gene Robinson when he was elected Bishop of New Hampshire: Fred Barnes started it. Remember the huge amount of publicity generated by the  news that two large and conservative parishes were leaving the Episcopal Church? Fred Barnes is a member of one of them, and as a FOX pundit-on-call he commented on it on air. Remember the IRD? Fred Barnes is on the board. Coincidence? I think not. 

Via  Jake

Little Christian Soldiers, Toddling Off To War

The Full Armor of God–Playset – – Christianbook.com




Play and learn about Gods protection for Spiritual Battle. Complete set based on Ephesians 6:13-18, for ages 3 and up. Each item is made of molded, flexible plastic designed to fit most children. Adjustable straps and velcro allow children to wear certain pieces. Each item is labeled in order to recall Gods Word. The set includes: The Sword of the Spirit, the Helmet of Salvation, the breastplate of Righteousness, the Belt of Truth, the Shield of Faith, the Gospel of Peace Shin Guards, and a Parent-Teacher Guide with suggested activities and scripture verses.

Is it just me, or are the Gospel of Peace Shin Guards just an afterthought? And yes, the reviews are especially creepy.

Theocracy Watch: Follow The Money

This item was right at the top of my Google News today – I have it set up to find articles about the Episcopal church (but also filtered so that I mostly see stuff about my own, progressive wing of said church, rather than endless polemics from the small but extremely vocal conservative wing, who are forever yammering about how the consecratioin of Gene V. Robinson as a bishop (remember, he’s the one that wishes he’d be remembered as “the good bishop” and not just “the gay bishop”) forces them to hold the threat of schism over the rest of us.

Oh, irony of ironies – the bishop of Utah a few years back was gay, but since he came out n 1993 after he retired, they couldn’t use him as their whipping boy, the bastards. And even as an old man, he still comes in for criticism and censure, even from the relatively supportive (and soon to retire) bishop of California, for daring to get married to his longtime partner. Which is pretty funny when you consider that California nominated 2 openly gay people to be their next bishop when Bp. Swing retires.

Political Cortex: Episcopal Newspaper Exposes Rightwing Agencies

The Washington Window, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has joined a growing number of publications inside and outside mainline Christianity to publish exposes of the efforts of rightist agencies to destabilize the historic mainline Protestant churches in the U.S.

The two-part series by former Washington Post and New York Times reporter James Naughton examines, according to a press release, the network of conservative groups, “their donors and the strategy that has allowed them to destabilize the Episcopal Church…. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion “to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face a possible schism.”

The expose, which demonstrates the unambiguous motives of rightwing activists to foment a permanent schism in the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and in the world Anglican Communion, comes in the run-up to the American church’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio in June.

In a feature article in the current issue of The Public Eye magazine, I reported that the war of attrition against the mainline churches, bankrolled with millions of dollars from rightwing foundations, has been underway for a generation. The targeted churches include the major member denominations of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, (international ecumenical agencies that have also been under attack), inclding the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Smaller denominations, notably the United Church of Christ, have also been systematically undermined from within by a network of self-described “renewal” groups associated or aligned with the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, the hub of the network.

Follow The Money is in two parts – the first is background, the second details the likelihood that the vigorous conservative movement, supposedly coming from African and Asian bishops whose congregations are burgeoning but poor, is actually bankrolled by right-wing religious donors in America, probably the same ones bankrolling the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

The goal: take down the mainstream Protestant churches whose “social witness” progressiveism offends them, and replace them with ultra-conservative leadership and enable America to turn ever more rightward to a hoped-for theocracy. Knock each one off from within, and take the property and destroy the polity, leaving only wild-eyed zealots. The Pentecostal movement was renewed one hundred years ago in California, and has always been in direct opposition to mainline Protestantism. Is it true that the groundwork for these takeovers was laid 25 years ago when the IRD was founded? Maybe. But the rest of us are starting to wake up and recognize the thread to religion and democracy posed by the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Because they will stop at nothing less than the destruction of the wall between church and state, and that means that their real target is the Constitution itself, and not just the relatively petty but galvanizing issues of gay marriage, gay clergy, or homosexual persons even being allowed to exist.

Is there a secret cabal that meets and plots to take this nation into theocracy? I highly doubt it. But there are a lot of groups that want to make the rules their own way and create communities where only the saved and the righteous dare tread. There’s the Charch in Utahhr, but more importantly, the very odd offshoots of same establishing new polygamist enclaves in remote areas. And then there’s Tom Monahan of Domino’s Pizza, building his ultra-conservative Catholic community of Ave Maria in Florida. You know,the one where the pharmacies won’t even stock contraceptives, and of course no OB-GYN will be allowed to hang up their shingle and offer women’s reproductive services unless it’s to birth babies, babies, babies. What’s to stop any fundamentalist group with strong beliefs to start their own enclaves, too? Handmaids’ Tale, anyone?

Up to a point, these otherwise wildly disparate groups have similar goals – gather the faithless into the fold and make them toe the line set by the faithful. However, beyond that, the many different religious groups making up the Religious Right don’t really play well with one another – which may be our saving grace.

Strangely enough, these “pseudo-Christians” have a theology of their own based on exclusion and criticism and lining their own pockets (see the excellent UCC ads for visuals) rather than acceptance and tolerance (and concern for the poor). And as such, are most un-Christlike. They spend their millions of dollars forwarding their fundamentalist agenda, and ignore the poor, or even worse, blame them for their poverty. One satirist at Huffington Post recently set out to mock the Religious Right, but then found that his schtick was disturbingly reality-based.

In the meantime, here in the Episcopalian corner of the sandbox, we’ll set our hope on Christ that the coming schism won’t be necessary. And beyond that, confusion to the enemies of tolerance and acceptance and affirmation, and we’ll set our hope on the inability of stiff-necked intolerant zealots to get along with each other long enough to bring about this theocracy thing I keep worrying about. Thank God we’re finally starting to wake up to the nastiness of the IRD and get to the root of all their evil: money.

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