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Reposted from Mikey Weinstein by Shockwave

AUTHOR'S NOTE: No one sect has a monopoly on murderous misanthropy. As this article goes to press, horrifying details are emerging of the tragic mass-murder of young Muslim-American students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Indeed, initial reports about the shooter indicate that even atheists, of course, are capable of the foulest sorts of bigotry and hatred. When we acquiesce to or normalize a situation where entire populations are subject to wholescale denigration, distortion, and demonization, then one can be assured that rivers and rivers of blood will spill.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

                       - J.K. Rowling
In what’s become an increasingly mundane and predictable ritual as of late, the fundamentalist Christian Religious Right is up in arms over the latest “outrage” emanating from the White House. President Obama’s ‘sin’? A salient commentary delivered at the annual Presidential National Prayer Breakfast on the nature of religious wars. I have not always applauded the actions of our President but I believe I DO know courage when I see it, and our President exhibited unadulterated courage a few days ago when he bravely swung a verbal two-by-four upside the head of Christian supremacists at their annual "Jesus-Fest Tribute” in our nation’s capitol. His comments were made in light of the current campaign against ISIS, and they were absolutely right on the money. However, our fellow American citizens on the theocratic right have never been known to let facts get in the way of a damn good tantrum. Indeed, the hysteria and downright perfidy of the indecorous response to the president’s speech just shows the pathetic depths to which reasonable and rational political discourse in the United States has plummeted.

However, my friends, one such response towered above others in its grotesque hideousness: the response from Adjutant Rich Sestili of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 6 in Marrieta, Georgia. Sestili’s message was specifically designed to incite irrational rage and fury against our president: “Never in the history of the United States has any other president ever made a negative comment about Christ.”

Huh? When did President Obama, a lifelong Christian, ever make a negative comment about Jesus Christ? All things considered, the president’s “criticism” was pretty tepid, as well as most justified and germane, to the proceedings of this National Prayer Breakfast. This event is almost always an unapologetic and garish spectacle of exclusivist American Christian supremacy and primacy no matter HOW hard those who produce it try to disingenuously include token and minute, atomic particles of secularism, respect and acceptance for those who are not "the right type of Christian." Obama’s courageous comments were clearly aimed at those who cynically manipulate and pervert religion for the purpose of harming others. And apparently he struck a nerve.

This is what the president actually said:

"Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."
Simple enough, yet in the leaden-eyed views of the ignorant, these comments are an indicator that our president “is a one-man sleeper cell” who seeks to “advance in America what Islam is advancing worldwide.” Obama even received criticism from his supporters on the liberal left for his supposedly “patronizing tone.”

However, what the president dutifully noted was simply the tip of the iceberg – let’s not forget the even more recent history of unbridled violence committed in the name of Christianity.

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Reposted from Chrislove by Chrislove

It's likely going to be a bad 84th legislative session for all Texans with Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick taking the helm, but it's shaping up to be a particularly defensive one for the LGBT community. Two "license-to-discriminate" amendments have been filed seeking to gut local LGBT non-discrimination ordinances that have been passed in cities such as San Antonio, Houston, and Plano. And now we can add a batshit bill introduced by State Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr. (R-Magnolia) to the mix: House Bill 623, or the "Texas Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act," which seeks to amend the Texas Family Code to prevent same-sex marriages from taking place in the extremely likely event the state's marriage ban is struck down.

Of course, the ban has already been struck down, but the ruling was stayed pending appeal. Which Greg Abbott couldn't file fast enough. Tomorrow, the Fifth Circuit is hearing oral arguments in the marriage equality cases from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and despite the conservative reputation the court has earned, there just may be a swing vote that will deliver an unexpected pro-equality ruling. If that doesn't happen, the Supreme Court is likely to eventually hear a case and is widely expected to strike down marriage bans nationwide. Whether it's sooner or later, marriage equality is coming to Texas. Even right-wingers like Bell are starting to get that. But they'll be damned if they don't go down swinging.

Just how crazy is HB 623? From the Texas Observer:

HB 623 would amend the Texas Family Code to prohibit the use of  taxpayer funds for the “the licensing or support of same-sex marriage.” It would also bar government employees from recognizing, granting or enforcing same-sex marriage licenses. Any government employee who violates the provision would be barred from collecting “a salary, pension, or other employee benefit.”

HB 623 would also require Texas courts to dismiss challenges to the law and award attorneys’ fees to defendants. And it would grant Texas sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it comes to enforcing the law, “regardless of a contrary federal court ruling.”

In other words, Bell's idea is to proclaim that the state of Texas does not have to--and will not--comply with impending federal court rulings legalizing marriage between same-sex couples. And if a clerk actually, um, follows the law (the real law, not this nonsense)? They lose their paycheck. That crazy. From Bell's press release:
When I was elected, I made a promise to my constituents to fight to protect our traditional values and to stand strong in the defense of our constitutional rights as Texans and Americans. Texas is a sovereign state and our citizens have the right to define marriage. We as Texans voted in 2005 to define marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. In Texas marriage is sacred and traditional families are recognized as the fabric of our society.
Daniel Williams, legislative specialist for Equality Texas, responds to HB 623 in the Texas Tribune:
This bill is retreading very well-established precedent here. In 1869, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Texas v. White that no, Texas may not ignore federal law whenever it wants. Beyond ignoring federal law, it would actually punish state employees who follow the law.
As for its chances of actually passing? Williams again:
It’s certainly far outside the mainstream, but it’s something we’ll be watching very carefully. The Legislature can always pass unconstitutional laws, and then it’s litigated in the courts. I’m guessing Cecil Bell wants to make sure Ken Paxton has plenty of work to do in his new job as attorney general.
Equality Texas has put out an action alert on HB 623.

As for Bell, it won't surprise you to know that he was one of the 63 Texas legislators who signed a court brief to the Fifth Circuit linking marriage equality to incest and pedophilia. Because of course.

Meanwhile, also from the Tribune:

Other lawmakers have filed bills to recognize same-sex marriage in Texas, allow same-sex parents to put both of their names on their child’s birth certificate and prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
My guess is that Bell's bill has a much better chance of passing than any of those do. It's going to be a long legislative session.
Reposted from Chrislove by Chrislove

You may remember that, back in December, the conservative Dallas suburb of Plano saw a glimmer of progress when it extended limited anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people. In a 5-3 vote (which included the mayor), the city council moved to amend the Non-Discrimination Ordinance (now known as the Equal Rights Policy) to include sexual orientation, genetic information, and gender identity. The ordinance protects residents from discrimination in public accommodation, employment, housing transactions, and city contracting. The news wasn't all good, of course, as there are huge, gaping loopholes in the ordinance that prevent it from having the effect it should:

City Attorney Paige Mims said the ordinance also includes a waiver process for businesses to be exempt if the owners feel the policy would not allow them to conduct business based on their personal faith. Individuals and organizations found in noncompliance to the ordinance would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, the least severe class of misdemeanor. While the ordinance does make it illegal to discriminate against gender identity in a public place, Mims said that would not extend to public restrooms and locker rooms which would still be segregated based on physical anatomy.

“We realize that privacy interests need to be balanced with equality interests,” Mims said at the meeting. “We took a lot of care to look at constitutional issues and freedoms that people have that are protected under the law ... We’ve recognized in this ordinance that due process needs to be allowed and if people do have those [religious] defenses, they’re required under law to give the city notification ... and we’re going to evaluate that.”

In addition, religious and political groups and nonprofit organizations are exempt from the ordinance. Not exactly a sweeping victory for the LGBT community, but nevertheless a welcome advance, especially given Plano's politics and the fact that the city is home to the right-wing Liberty Institute.
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Reposted from Matt Sinovic by Dave in Northridge
The third annual Family Leadership Summit is being held today, hosted by Bob Vander Plaats and various extreme right-wing organizations.

The Summit has become an opportunity for every conservative politician even thinking about running for President to visit Iowa and pander to Vander Plaats, the man who has used his position of leadership to compare homosexuality to the effects of secondhand smoke and claimed that African Americans were better off under slavery than today. Vander Plaats has run for office unsuccessfully several times, but has carved out a niche of influence on the fringe right of the Republican Party in Iowa's first in the nation caucus.

This year's Summit has attracted Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is hosting this year's summit, along with anti-LGBT hate group the Family Research Council. State Senator Joni Ernst, the Republican Party's nominee for US Senate in Iowa, will also speak.

Having attended the past two summits to live-tweet for Progress Iowa, I have a good idea of what to expect today. Here are a few highlights, some of the worst from past summits:

"€œI don'€™t think the mark of the beast will come in the form of a 666. I think it will be a rainbow."

Attendees were called upon to vote against pro-choice candidates even if they have to vote for "€œthe devil himself."

Another radio host who is now teaming up with Vander Plaats for their own right-wing talk show said "there is a reason the child killers are on the side of the homosexual lobby."

I'll be posting live updates all day below, and quoting speakers directly. Stay tuned for more unfortunate and extreme rhetoric from this year's Family Leadership Summit, and follow @progressiowa for quotes before they're posted here.
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Reposted from Mikey Weinstein by Dave in Northridge

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a civil rights organization founded in 2005 to combat unconstitutional proselytizing in the U.S. Armed Forces, I don’t shock easily. However, a recent, truly SHOCKING allegation and charge by the American Family Association’s "Director of Issues Analysis" Bryan Fischer has parachuted well beyond the realm of error, landing roughly along the porous frontier separating blithering idiocy from criminal insanity. This fundamentalist Christian monster is a liar and I will prove it.

Recently, devastating reports dating back to 2010 have shown that athletes at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) have participated in wild benders off campus involving binge drinking, drug use, sexual assaults, gang rapes and all manners of debauchery unbecoming of Academy cadets (indeed, unbecoming of human beings). Investigations at USAFA (which is my alma mater and the alma mater of four of my children) implicated 32 cadets, half of whom were football players and three of whom were later court-martialed and expelled. This news comes after the Academy was humiliated by a report released in January 2014 which showed that a massive 45 reports of sexual assaults came from USAFA in 2012-2013, compared to 15 at the U.S. Naval Academy and 10 at West Point.

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Reposted from librarisingnsf by Dave in Northridge

That Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association has stated or written something offensive or completely inaccurate is nothing new. But, reading or listening to some of the stuff he spews is still a bit of a shock.

Bryan Fischer writing for the American Family Association website:

I have contended for years that the First Amendment, as given by the Founders, provides religious liberty protections for Christianity only. Most attorney types, befuddled by years of untethered Supreme Court activism, think it covers any and all religions you can name. The results of this expansive but badly misguided understanding of the First Amendment have not been too costly to this point. But with Islam growing in America like a noxious weed, some of the more troublesome aspects of this distorted view of religious liberty are becoming evident, when it comes to things like school curricula, halal food, and Christian evangelism at Muslim street fairs. These problems have been brought into stark relief now by Satanists, who are pressing for exactly the same kind of religious liberty protections the Supreme Court just recognized for Hobby Lobby.
via JMG

Perhaps that is some (odd) originalist interpretation/view of the constitution, but I think it is extremely difficult to square with Supreme Court precedent.

Reposted from LGBT Rights are Human Rights by Dave in Northridge

This is the first of what I think will be three diaries that directly resulted from my experience at NN 14. Religious exemptions was identified as one of the five major post-marriage issues for the LGBT community at the LGBT Caucus, and it seemed to be the one on which I could do the most good. My mission for the foreseeable future is going to be finding every law that contains an exemption that goes beyond the one preserved by Executive Order 11478, the Bush formula

that allows religiously affiliated contractors to favor employees of a certain religion in making hiring decisions.
The history of that exemption, and of the effort to navigate a passage between the shoals of the First and the Fourteenth Amendments, as a necessary background for this effort, follows.
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Reposted from leftprogressive by Dave in Northridge

Scott Esk is a candidate for the state House in Oklahoma. Last summer, he wrote on gay people are "worthy of death" and that violence against gay people is "in the old testament under a law that came directly from God."

When he was asked "So just to be clear, you think we should execute homosexuals?", he responded "I think we would be totally in the right to do it."

On what level can that be even remotely acceptable? How can it not result in vehement condemnations from everyone who hears about it?

On his campaign website, he says "I look forward to applying Biblical principles to Oklahoma law."

When the religious right talks about "biblical principles", do they realize that this is what those principles are?

Reposted from Mikey Weinstein by Dave in Northridge

General Mark A. Welsh III

Chief of Staff, United States Air Force

1670 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, DC 20330-1670 

Re: Air Force Instruction 1-1 

General Welsh, 

I have just become aware that you have asked the leadership of the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) for comments on proposed changes to para 2.11 and 2.12 of AFI (Air Force Instruction) 1-1 regarding USAF members' authority to exercise their right to religious expression. As I understand the specific proposal sent to USAFA, most unfortunately, it DOES attempt to significantly change the basic language currently contained in para 2.11 (original version), which very effectively limits commanders' and/or supervisors' authority to witness or proselytize to their otherwise defenseless subordinates (now contained in para 2.12).  

In what can ONLY be viewed as a staggering capitulation by the USAF to the fundamentalist Christian religious extremist/Tea Party Congressional members on Capitol Hill, your new AFI 1-1 proposed language totally eliminates the following words, specifically referencing USAF "Leaders at all levels," from this current regulation. To wit, "For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline.”

What a horrific pity to see that the USAF has abandoned the profoundly protective powers those words have had for thousands of Air Force personnel in the 22 months in which they have thus far been permitted to exist...

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Reposted from librarisingnsf by Dave in Northridge

Pierre Bynum, the Family Research Council's prayer director, has called on members to pray to G-d to "stop the advance of this official celebration of sin."

From Right Wing Watch:

“Only heaven knows exactly how this brazen departure from the moral law of God will impact our nation,” Bynum said.

LGBT Pride Month - On Call2Fall Sunday, June 29th, the very day believers and churches across America will fall to their knees to pray for our nation, those who self-identify as homosexuals will be celebrating "LGBT Pride Day," a grand finale for June's observance of "LGBT Pride Month." President Obama will announce the observance and the White House, federal agencies, the Pentagon, many state agencies, many businesses and likeminded organizations across America will join the celebration. Only heaven knows exactly how this brazen departure from the moral law of God will impact our nation. But we are called to intercede with an Almighty God (White House Celebrates Activist Harvey Milk, New Postage Stamp 2013 WH Proclamation).

• May the Lord hear out intercessions stop the advance of this official celebration of sin! (Gen 20:18-23; Rom 1:16-32; 3:10 ff; Heb 13:4; Jude 7, 21-25)

I'm sure that many of their members will be out screaming Bible verses (which they don't really understand) at us as well (at various Pride celebrations around the country).
Reposted from Chrislove by Chrislove

If you caught ericlewis0's diary last night, you know that Houston's City Council voted yesterday to approve an Equal Rights Ordinance banning discrimination against LGBT people (among other categories of people) in public accommodations, city contracting, and private employment. Although over 200 miles north of Houston and well out of the ordinance's jurisdiction, an incident in the East Texas city of Pittsburg shows just why these kinds of laws are needed. Because yes, contrary to what right-wingers often claim lie through their teeth about, there are businesses that will refuse service to LGBT people if they are allowed to do so. And plenty of them. Case in point: Big Earl's, a Pittsburg restaurant and bait shop that actually has an official policy on how men and women are supposed to "act":

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Reposted from Hunter by Dave in Northridge
You may recall Oklahoma as being one of the states where Republican legislators verily wigged out at the thought of Creeping Sharia, back in the wettest days of the spittle-flecked 2010 campaign season. As per usual, the thought of any religion holding sway over our laws that is not the sub-sub-sect of Christianity that the lawmakers themselves adhered to was an obvious precursor to the doom of America. There was never any actual evidence that sharia law was creeping or hopping or hiding behind the sofa or anything else, mind you; this is just one of those examples of fanatical racism/bigotry that continues to govern the laws of our various states even as the Supreme Court, who now keep themselves sealed in an airtight container between decisions so as to not be spoil, declares the problem solved.

So the Oklahoma Legislature drafted a constitutional amendment banning "Sharia Law" from being "considered" in the courts, the voters approved it, people who knew a little something about actual law noted what a gigantic and ridiculous mess it was going to be, and now the bill is starting to come due.

Oklahoma must pay $303,333 for attorneys’ fees of the plaintiffs who challenged a measure approved overwhelmingly by voters on Nov. 2, 2010, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange ruled May 14. [...]

Plaintiff Muneer Awad, an Oklahoma City Muslim man, said in the lawsuit that the measure would stigmatize him and others of his faith, limit the results they can receive in court and prevent his will from being probated in Oklahoma because his will references Sharia law, the Islamic law system.

The judge agreed, finding the law unconstitutional.
Micheal Salem, of Norman, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said there has never been any indication that Sharia law was being applied in Oklahoma courts in the first place.

“It created a solution where there was no problem that existed,” Salem said.

Nonsense, the problem that existed was that the Republican base had been whipped into an openly bigoted frenzy by conspiracy-peddlers and the Oklahoma Legislature had to scramble to meet the needs of state conspiracy theorists or the lunatics would vote them out of office. And drafting up an "anti-Sharia" amendment "solved" that.

Now Oklahoma taxpayers get to pay $300,000 for the privilege of the stunt, and this is only one lawsuit, and doesn't count any of the state's own expenses in defending the law. Fiscal responsibility, baby!

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