Monday, November 23, 2009

The New GLBT Pope Problem


It is time to admit that the gay community has a gigantic Pope problem. Under the leadership of Benedict XVI, the Vatican has become an implacable foe of liberalism, modernity and basic
rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Rome has eagerly jumped with both feet into America's culture wars and is working on a global scale to punish or purge ideological dissenters within the church. This aggressive activism presents a formidable new front in the fight for parity - one with considerable political clout and financial resources.

Last week, a coalition of totalitarian religious activists and radical clerics joined forces to unveil the "Manhattan Declaration" at Washington's National Press Club. This rambling manifesto, written by former Watergate felon Chuck Colson, called for "Christians" to disobey laws they didn't fancy and to ignore civil rights laws that protected GLBT people from discrimination. It was a dishonest document filled with historical revisionism that promoted theocracy, encouraged anarchy and supported the dissolution of the rule of law. It falsely portrayed right wing Christians as victims, even as they pledged to work tirelessly to deny equality to those who would not adhere to their sectarian church rules.

An extreme manifesto of such breathtaking cynicism and insincerity is no surprise coming from what passes for "leaders" in today's evangelical circles. It was striking, however, that more than 15 key American Catholic leaders signed on to the "Manhattan Declaration". Signatories included heavyweights such as Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC. This was clearly a call to arms and a powerful signal that the Roman Catholic Church is taking the gloves off to fight political battles in America.

This hands-on involvement from Rome has passed the "trend" stage and appears to be official policy. Consider the significant involvement the Catholic Church had in stripping marriage rights away from GLBT couples in a Maine referendum held earlier this month.

In the same manner, on June 11, the Washington, DC Archdiocese threatened to abandon the homeless and quit charity work in the District if it had to comply with anti-discrimination laws. Catholic Charities had the audacity to believe it was entitled to collect $8.2 million in tax dollars meant to serve all DC residents, and then still get to handpick whom it deems worthy of assistance.

Catholic involvement with arch-conservative politics is growing by the day. In May, Catholic groups tried to stop President Barack Obama from speaking at a Notre Dame commencement ceremony because of his pro-choice position.
Earlier this month, Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin put the clamp on Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), banning the lawmaker from communion because he is pro-choice. This was reminiscent of The St. Louis Archbishop refusing to give communion to Senator John Kerry during his presidential campaign.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has suddenly begun to steer GLBT Catholics to 12-step programs that promise to "cure" homosexuality or support them in a lifelong celibacy. The Catholic Diocese in Sioux Falls, South Dakota urged its 128-thousand members to oppose an attempt to bring legalizing embryonic stem cell research to a public referendum. (I guess the sacrosanct "people's right to vote" on controversial social issues only applies to same-sex marriage)

In fighting back, we must remember that the Vatican is launch
Pope Roll Eyesing these attacks from a position of weakness. It has yet to recover its moral authority from public exposure of rampant child sexual abuse scandals that cost the Church billions of dollars in legal settlements.

The Vatican appears to be acutely aware it is losing its worldwide market share. It is basically defunct in the Middle East, where the religion began, and on life-support in Western Europe, where it once prospered. In Africa, Rome competes with Islam and Anglicanism for a shrinking slice of the pie. (Who can forget that while in Africa the Pope said condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse.) South America, one of its few remaining strongholds, is losing Roman Catholics to evangelical faiths by the millions.

Instead of competing against the conservative evangelical brand, Pope Benedict has decided to embrace it, shaping a conspicuously political Catholicism that embraces extremism and drives out dissenters. The Vatican has become so doctrinaire that it recently launched an invasive probe into the lives of America's 60,000 nuns to enforce anachronistic rules. In January, Benedict welcomed back excommunicated Bishop Richard Williamson who denied that millions of Jews died in Nazi death camps.

Fortunately, Benedict is a cold, unsympathetic figure and the majority of American Catholics often ignore his edicts. The strategy for the GLBT community should be to stand up to Rome and help mobilize mainstream Catholics to fight back against an authoritarian Pontiff who is hell-bent on making the Catholic Church as unpopular and unappealing as His Holiness.

Re-posted with permission from Wayne Besen of (Nosferatu picture added for effect... that's the one on the left?)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Boston Pride Voting on 40th Anniversary Theme

Action comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes from a rabble rousing Rowdy Citizen like Mark Snyder who is angry enough and courageous enough to stand up and let his voice be heard. It seems agreed by many that equality for all walks of humanity should be expected here in America, yet sadly our laws are currently interpreted to allow fundamental rights to be denied because of your sexuality or sexual identity and even voted away by ballot. One thing most groups and private citizens alike can agree is that the peaceful teachings and leadership of Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were effective and widely accepted as the right way to bring about change. Now enters the next generation and the new Civil Rights Struggle: GLBT Equality. What methods are best to break through to others and help bring about the change we wish to see in the world?

The Pride Parade started back in 1970 as a response to the Stonewall Riots. Over time our anger at the unfair and unethical treatment of the GLBT community has lessened as our inclusion has increased, but we should never forget our past for as we have seen recently that inclusion can be taken away. The 40th anniversary of the Boston Pride Parade gives us an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of yesterday, remember both the triumphs and trials of today, while keeping alive Harvey Milk's message of hope for the future. In light of our recent struggles in CA and ME I believe the theme should be a well thought response that brings light to all these things while maintaining its positivity.

"Ohana" is a Hawaiian word that means "Family", but also inclusion; no one left behind. This is the theme I have submitted to the committee, and here are some of the many reasons:

-Family is often the strongest of relationships, and many people agree that you cannot turn your back on family; we all must somehow learn to live together in at least tolerance of our differences.

-Our opposition has been successful using children as a divisive tool to scare the uninformed public and strip our rights from us. "Ohana" also reminds people that GLBT families have children of their own.

-Hawaii was the first of states that tried to bring marriage as a civil right to same sex couples, and using "Ohana" references their pioneering struggle in 1993 where same sex marriage was legal for all of one day.

-Obama was born in Hawaii, he knows the meaning of the word "Ohana", and the message will not go unnoticed, bringing his eye back to our struggles where we need it.

-On December 7, 1942 the treachery of our enemies was known throughout the world, yet their act of hate unified America. That unity made us unbeatable. December 7 is shared with the GLBT community where in 2005 Massachusetts certified the petition attempt to remove same sex marriage rights, clearing the way for citizens to vote away the equal rights of other fellow citizens all across America.

-Using "Ohana" as the Pride Parade Theme can be a powerfully positive peaceful way to lead by example and include those in the moderate middle who are not against us. By putting out our hand in a gesture of friendship and inclusion in spite of our losses at the polls we may effectively dispel negative stereotypes against us while forming new friendships that lead to stronger alliances with straight allies. They say love can conquer all. Our fight is about love, so why not use our love for our neighbors as a way of dispelling the hate used against us? We have seen how it can change the world, why not now?

Please take a moment to consider what you think of this theme and if you support it please let the Pride Committee know:

Friday, November 13, 2009

DC Diocese Turns on Homeless

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The fight over a proposed same-sex marriage law here heated up this week as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said that if the law passed, the church would cut its social service programs that help residents with adoption, homelessness and health care.
Under the bill, which has the mayor’s support and is expected to pass next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform same-sex weddings or make space available for them.
But officials from the archdiocese said they feared the law might require them to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples. As a result, they said, the archdiocese would have to abandon its contracts with the city if the law passed.
The church’s social services arm, known as Catholic Charities, serves 68,000 local residents, including about a third of the city’s homeless people, who go to city-owned shelters managed by the church, city officials said.
The threat is not the first time a religion-based provider of social services has said it would stop providing services in response to a same-sex marriage law, gay rights advocates say.
In 2006, Boston’s archbishop, Sean P. O’Malley, said that Catholic Charities there would stop its adoption-related work rather than comply with a state law requiring that gay men and lesbians be allowed to adopt children.
The Washington Archdiocese released this statement:
“Religious organizations and individuals are at risk of legal action for refusing to promote and support same-sex marriages in a host of settings where it would compromise their religious beliefs,” said Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, “This includes employee benefits, adoption services and even the use of a church hall for non-wedding events for same-sex married couples.”
When the Boston Arch-diocese ended it's adoption services they claimed it was because they did not want to be forced into a position where they would have to compromise their religious beliefs by being forced to procure adoptions for qualified same sex couples and individuals. What they try to keep quiet is the fact that prior to this decision they had in fact provided services to GLBT parents several times in the past.  From the Boston Globe we find their inconvenient truth:

Over the last decades, the Globe reported, approximately 13 children had been placed by Catholic Charities in gay households...
Agency officials said they had been permitting gay adoptions to comply with the state's anti-discrimination laws. But after the story was published, the state's four bishops announced they would appoint a panel to examine whether the practice should continue. In December, the Catholic Charities board, which is dominated by lay people, voted unanimously to continue gay adoptions.
But, on Feb. 28, the four bishops announced a plan to seek an exemption from the anti-discrimination laws. Eight of the 42 board members quit in protest, saying the agency should welcome gays as adoptive parents.

It seemed the Catholic Church was trying to punish the community for allowing marriage equality to extend to GLBT people while not having the belly to admit the level of their bigotry. With that lesson behind us we can see clearly that the decision in Washington has little to do with the homeless and a lot to do with the same punitive thinking that was here in Boston had suspected all along. This is about the Catholic Church wanting to inflict their will upon society, nothing less. It is a shameful act that harms innocent people that have nothing to do with the policies the Church is at odds with. Let the world take notice of this ugliness and decide for themselves the motivations behind these changes.

I doubt this act will endear the Church to the society of tomorrow, but rather it serves to underscore just how out of touch and disingenuous it has become. Being a former Catholic I can only shake my head in amazement at this last unbelievable act with and console myself that perhaps the public will recognize they've gone too far this time and stop monetarily supporting the Vatican's hateful agenda.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Health Care Reform Bill Passes House

Last night the House of Representatives in Washington voted to approve the long debated Health Care Reform Bill after an amendment to exclude federal money from being used for abortions.

Let me stop here to remind people what a bag of poop President Obama was handed when he took the Oval Office less than a year ago. Our country was demotivated to the point where all eyes were not looking towards January 20 for Obama, they were just looking for change. We didn't know what he would be capable of as a President, but we knew just about anything would be better than George W. Bush's blundering incompetence. The world was on the brink of financial collapse and America had almost lost hope that we could pull out of what looked like the revisiting of the Great Depression.

President Barack Obama may not score points with liberals for his non-committal in GLBT issues, but I believe he should be given credit for what he has been able to accomplish in the given time frame. Now it seems he has been able to take on the high powered lobbyists and corporate giants in the health-care industries, bringing the public a plan to provide everyone health coverage. This impossible task is a step closer to it's goal this morning after last night's vote.

Let me take a moment to remind people of the lies and deceptions that have been used against the GLBT community in order to get uninformed citizens afraid enough to speak out against what's good for them. This tactic is more prevalent in politics than anyone would ever want to believe, but perhaps a few more eyes have been opened thanks to the GLBT community's activists bringing some light to their own cause. Let's hope we can remember this lesson and not listen to the rhetoric we should expect as this bill now goes to the Senate for final confirmation.

Here is a message that was sent out this morning from the President's people:

John --

This evening, at 11:15 p.m., the House of Representatives voted to pass their health insurance reform bill. Despite countless attempts over nearly a century, no chamber of Congress has ever before passed comprehensive health reform. This is history.

But you and millions of your fellow Organizing for America supporters didn't just witness history tonight -- you helped make it. Each "yes" vote was a brave stand, backed up by countless hours of knocking on doors, outreach in town halls and town squares, millions of signatures, and hundreds of thousands of calls. You stood up. You spoke up. And you were heard.

So this is a night to celebrate -- but not to rest. Those who voted for reform deserve our thanks, and the next phase of this fight has already begun.

The final Senate bill hasn't even been released yet, but the insurance companies are already pressing hard for a filibuster to bury it. OFA has built a massive neighborhood-by-neighborhood operation to bring people's voices to Congress, and tonight we saw the results. But the coming days will put our efforts to the ultimate test. Winning will require each of us to give everything we can, starting right now.

Tonight's vote brought every American closer to the secure, affordable care we need. But it was also a watershed moment in how change is made.

Even after last year's election, many insider lobbyists and partisan operatives really thought that the old formula of scare tactics, D.C. back-scratching and special-interest money would still be enough to block any idea they didn't like. Now, they're desperate. Because, tonight, you made it crystal clear: the old rules are changing -- and the people will not be ignored.

In the final phases of last year's election, I often reminded folks, "Don't think for a minute that power concedes without a fight," and it's especially true today. But that's okay -- we're not afraid of a fight. And as you continue to prove, when all of us work together, we have what it takes to win.