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Baton Rouge... epicenter of the Jimmy Swaggart empire, which still has a large following here despite the scandal—

but if you’re tired of Rev. Jimmy, we’ve got plenty of other mega churches to choose from, including the one with the three giant crosses that loom over the highway across from Lowe’s.  [My only intention was to illustrate how "mega" the churches are here, but in this context it might imply this particular church preaches intolerance.  I have no evidence they do so.  beabea]

We’ve got people here who truly believe that Katrina was sent by God as a punishment for the "sin" in New Orleans, and in September 2004, 78% said "yes" to adding marriage definition hate to the state constitution.

Being a liberal here (and a Yankee to boot), I definitely have those days when I feel like I came from another planet.  But that’s nothing compared to what my gay friends have to deal with...

Details about the latest slap in the face, on the flip—

Yesterday I woke up to the heartbreaking news that the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council voted down a simple gesture of inclusion toward, among many other groups, gay people.  The "One Baton Rouge" resolution was presented by our Mayor, Melvin "Kip" Holden, and the One Baton Rouge Committee, a group of community leaders (including religious leaders) that was formed early this year in response to a cover story on intolerance in the Baton Rouge Business Report.  

Had it passed, the resolution would have expressed the Metro Council’s support of, and publicized its commitment to...

... diversity and equal opportunity for all the citizens of the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge, and displaying same on the City-parish website, diversity materials, economic development materials, and all other appropriate internal and external expressions of our city and parish, which shall read as follows:

"The City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge has a strong commitment to diversity and equal opportunity for all of our citizens, including acceptance and integration of people of all races, sexes, creed, colors, religions, ages, ancestries, disabilities, sexual orientations, nationalities, marital status, political affiliations and people of all abilities and all walks of life into every aspect of Baton Rouge community life so that we all will be enriched by one other."  (emphasis mine)

Why would any city NOT want to convey this message?"  Particularly the capital city of one of the poorest states, which is still trying to recover economically from two devastating storms.  A state that in national rankings, always seems to be "first among the worst, and last among the best".  A state that young people tend to leave after graduation, to find a job and make their future, somewhere else.

Passing this resolution might have been a no-brainer, even in conservative Baton Rouge, were it not for two words:  "sexual orientation".  No matter that this resolution was a symbolic gesture; the opposition reacted with a full-court press of vitriol.  

Dr. Dennis Eenigenburg, Pastor of The Chapel, who no doubt considers himself to be a "man of God", had this to say:

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This letter, part of the public record, is a little hard to read, so let me pull out some choice paragraphs for you:  

The Gay Agenda has moved from repealing all sodomy laws, to a demand for minority rights to "You must all get on our team and celebrate our sexual preferences with us."  I realize the political correctness you face.  Perhaps you accept the "junk science" used to "prove" sexual orientation, that is for you to decide.  However, for the city council or Mayor to make a blanket declaration that we want to be a sanctuary city for homosexuals is another thing.  These declarations are just the beginning of demands for more and more special rights and recognitions.  A few years ago, the citizens of this state overwhelming [sic] voted down gay marriage.  I hope the city values oneness with these citizens.

Wow.  Hard to know where to start—distortions, untruths, hate-mongering...but nothing that sounds particularly Christian.

The term "minority rights" is a little concerning; does the pastor believe there is some subset of rights especially for minorities?  And the "sanctuary city for homosexuals" comment makes me wonder what the pastor’s intentions are toward the gay people who live here now; who own homes and businesses here, who work, go to school, and pay taxes here.  If their home is not to be a sanctuary, then what is he implying?

The pastor predictably deems himself qualified to speak for God, and informs us of what God wants.  And, just as predictably, he includes the cherry-picked Bible quote:

God judges governments.  He calls on government to be "A minister of God to you for good."  Romans 13:4.  The government is judged by what it prohibits, what it permits, and what it promotes.  Today we are promoting what our more morally attuned ancestors prohibited.  We do not want the vices of the so called world class cities.  We want a morally wholesome community in which to raise our families and a government that affirms, not undermines, these virtues.  Build us roads and bridges, give us honest leaders and lawful lawmen.  Stay out of the social agendas.

And then we have the good folks of the Louisiana Family Forum, represented at the Metro Council meeting by former judge Darrell White.  In the days prior to Wednesday's vote on the resolution, LFF was busy spreading this reprehensible claim:

But opponents of the gesture, including several religious leaders, said the resolution would protect immoral behavior and even encourage pedophiles and those who engage in bestiality to come to Baton Rouge.

"Civil rights protection should not be granted on the basis of preferences of sexual activity," said Darrell White, a representative of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum and a former city judge.

The fact that the measure only failed by one vote, does little to assuage the hurtfulness (and untruthfulness and hypocrisy) of the opposition’s rhetoric.  Here’s an example of that hurt, spoken by a local man:

White’s comments prompted an emotional reaction from resident Paul West, who said he had not planned to speak on the resolution.

"I am the father of a gay son," West said. "He does not perform bestiality, he is not a pedophile, and, Judge White, he is not immoral."
West said his son lives in Washington, D.C., because "he is not welcome in this town."

"This resolution will not bring him back; you’ve lost him," he said. "But a resolution like this could help some other people — somebody else’s son."

Somebody else’s son, or daughter.  

These holier-than-thou hypocrites cloak their hate with the veneer of their smug certainty about "what God wants".  Apparently, they (and the spineless politicians who refuse to stand up to them) believe in a God who distinguishes between their own children, and "somebody else’s son".

But after all I've written about what's wrong with Baton Rouge in regard to gay rights, I would be neglectful if I failed to point out the good that we do have here.  Our Democratic mayor is popular because he does a great job, and he had the political courage to become visibly involved with this issue.  We have a group of distinguished leaders in business and the faith community who recognized that intolerance in Baton Rouge holds our city back from reaching its full potential, and then gave of their time and energy to do something about it.  And we had almost enough Metro Council members who did have the courage and open-mindedness to vote FOR this resolution.  

After something like this, it can seem as if Baton Rouge will never change.  But there's no way it won't change; it already has, thanks to the courage and energy of these people.  Becoming a tolerant city (and gaining the prosperity that seems to characterize tolerant cities) seems a thousand miles away for us.  But "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" as Lao-tzu said.  Even with the tide of current public opinion against them, we have people willing to take that step, and in that we are fortunate.

Originally posted to beabea on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 02:01 PM PDT.

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