It boggles my mind that someone can claim to be a follower of Jesus while spewing such hate. I mean, seriously, being overjoyed at murder? Looking forward to committing murder with impunity yourself?
What boggles even more is that people who claim to believe in the man who said “love thy neighbor as you love thyself” will follow these hatemongers and proclaim them great faith leaders.
We have people like Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio saying things like ‘The Real Brownshirts Are In The Homosexual Movement’. That’s pretty rich coming from a guy who was removed from one of this jobs at the American Family Association because his anti-semitic and anti-muslim comments raised a bit of an uproar too close to a Republican fundraising event in 2015.
Then there’s Scott Lively Scott Lively: Trump Must Ban Gays From Intelligence Agencies Because They’re Conspiring Against Him. Lively is currently involved in a lawsuit for crimes against humanity (I kid you not), because he gave encouragement and material assistance to get Uganda to pass kill-the-gay laws. And that’s some of the least insane evil stuff he’s been involved in. But he’s the president of Abiding Truth Ministries, so he is, of course, hailed as a Christian leader.I’m not sure what has prompted Manning to turn on Trump again this week. There’s probably a new sermon up on his youtube channel explaining it, but I can’t deal with listening to any more of his hate and craziness. I have to admit that I kind of like the nickname “Tribulation Trump” for Donald. But I’m sure that Manning will flip-flop back to loving Donald again, he just needs to do something hateful enough that Manning recognizes him as a fellow devil, again.
There are even more poorly disguised devils in the news, of course. Yesterday a lot of people, particularly right-leaning news and blogging folks, were being shocked, shocked to learn that Milo Yiannopoulos has argued in favor of adults having sexual relationship with underage teen-agers. He has specifically insisted that this is not only good, but tried to claim that it is normal in the homosexual community. All of which is BS, but really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. It’s not as if he hasn’t said this sort of thing many times before. Nor is it at all inconsistent with his other attitudes.
So let’s unpack that a little. In the past, Milo has espoused a lot of undeniably racist opinions. He has orchestrated harassment campaigns against women, particularly women of color. He has encouraged violence against trans people. He has excused actual calls for genocide from some of his neo-nazi friends. He has advocated so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” He has previously made sexual references to teen age boys. But it is only when he has specifically advocated for adult men having sexual relationships with 13-year-old boys that the Republican party, the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference, his fellow writers & editors at Breitbart, Bill Maher, and Simon & Schuster are objecting? In other words, all of those people and institutions are okay with racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide.
Let me repeat that: the Republican party, conservatives who organize CPAC, Breitbart writers & editors, Bill Maher, and the publishing house of Simon & Schuster don’t just turn a blind eye, they happily endorsed racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide. When people show you who they are you should believe them.
Also, it seems a lot of people are easily fooled by someone who says outrageous things when those outrageous things are attacks on people they dislike.
In other words, there are a lot of public figures and pseudo-celebrities and wannabe pundits out there who are advocating neo-Nazi opinions and neo-Nazi policies, but we aren’t allowed to call them Nazi. Because that’s rude. Or it’s hyperbole. Or something.
Never mind that these proponents of opinions and policies that exactly (sometimes word-for-word) repeat actual neo-Nazi publications and demands Have previously called any woman who objected to their sexist pronouncements “feminazis.” Or that any of us who called out their racist or misogynist or homophobic statements were called “PC-nazis.” And then if we objected to that, they would make arguments about why the word “nazi” isn’t actually an insult. When it’s used back at them, suddenly we’re the ones who have crossed a line.
Some of these guys have demanded apologies, and even gotten retractions from some publications, insisting that just because they have said things like “In response to concerns from white voters that they’re going to go extinct, the response of the Establishment—the conservative Establishment—has been to openly welcome that extinction” or “Behind every racist joke is a scientific fact” or “some degree of separation between races is necessary for a culture to be preserved” that it is ridiculous to think that means they’re white nationalists or neo-nazis. We’re the bad guys for even suggesting such a thing! They aren’t bad guys for advocating forced deportment or relocation or so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing3”
Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, has called for at least the separation of people by race, ethnicity, and religion. He has also spouted various racist, misogynist, and transphobic beliefs. He has sent hordes of his internet followers to harass women with rape threats and racist attacks. He has said all sorts of awful and false things about trans people and has encouraged his fans to attack and harass them. And not just in general, he has handed out private address and contact information of specific trans people and suggested that someone should teach them some manners.
Yiannopoulos then defends himself by insisting that he’s simply stating an opinion. And besides, he’s gay, so how could he possibly be a bigot? Not only is he gay, but he’s white gay man who only has sex with black men, so he can’t possibly be racist (never might that racial fetishization is deeply entwined with racial hatred). And by the way, he doesn’t endorse all the white nationalist policies of a bunch of his friends (even though he frequently makes some of the same arguments they do), he just thinks they’re interesting people. So it’s wrong to call him a white nationalist or a neo-nazi of a nazi sympathizer.
He’s an editor of a news site which describes itself as the platform of the alt-right. The alt-right is a term coined by white supremacist Richard Spencer in order to make white supremacy seem more like just another political option4. He argues racial opinions of white nationalist are reasonable–not just that they have the right to hold the racist opinions, but that those statements are fact rather than opinion. He attacks people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, or gender identity. He defends not just the right of the neo-Nazis and white nationalist to hold their opinions, but he actively campaigns to write those opinions into law. One day those same white nationalists who currently enjoy having his support may well turn on him, just as the historical Nazis eventually rounded up their own gay members and executed or imprisoned them. But right now he’s a white nationalist and a nazi-apologist. That’s a fact.
Then there are the people who angrily argue that they aren’t defending neo-nazis or white supremacists just because they are telling people like me to shut up about them. Seriously. “You must let them advocate genocide without calling them on it” isn’t defending them? Of course, the most recent person to send me that message personally also slipped in two bigoted dog whistles5 before I blocked him
Then, of course, there are the free speech arguments. Okay, I’m an advocate for free speech. You have the right to your opinion, and you have the right to express it. But I, as a private citizen, am under no obligation to give you a platform. I am under no obligation to sit quietly and listen. I am certainly under no obligation to sit quietly and listen while you advocate policies that will cost me my job, my home, and my health care. I’m allowed to argue. I’m allowed to boycott. I’m allowed to call you a neo-nazi. I’m allowed to shun and shame people who enable your advocacy of hate.Disagreement is not censorship. Boycotting is not censorship. Shunning is not censorship. Calling you a bigot or similar is not censorship. Calling you an idiot is not censorship. Staging a protest when you come to my community to preach your hate is not censorship. Boycotting businesses that give you a platform to preach your hate is not censorship. Repeating word-for-word things you say (particularly if you go on TV or stand up on a stage to address supporters) is not censorship nor misrepresenting you. Pointing out which of your statements are factually wrong is not censorship. Even going so far as to call you a liar (particularly when it has been documented numerous times that you repeat false information again and again) is not censorship.
Free speech means you can express your opinions if you like. Free speech does not mean that those opinions have to be taken seriously, or treated reverently, or accepted without argument.
To circle back to the original point, if you:
- repeat neo-nazi and white supremacist slogans,
- advocate the same programs of racial, ethnic, religious, misogynist, and/or homophobic discrimination and oppression as neo-nazis and white supremacists,
- attack anyone who disagrees with neo-nazi and white supremacist proposals or hate speech,
- thank the avowed neo-nazis and white surpremacists when they repeat your words and deeds and hold you up as an example on their white supremacist video blogs, news sites, and/or conferences,
- are publicly and unapologetically friends with neo-nazis and white supremacists after they have repeatedly (often in your presence) called for the extermination of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity,
then you are a neo-nazi. And no one should apologize for calling you a bigot, a nazi, a white nationalist, a white supremacist, or a nazi sympathizer. Because you are all of those things. And that is a fact.
1. Godwin’s Law was first articulated by author and attorney Mike Godwin: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, if an argument goes on long enough, someone will eventually evoke the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust, et cetera. While it is phrased as if it were a law of mathematics, it’s really just an adage based on observation2. As Godwin himself has stated, it was intended as a tool to remind people not to resort to unnecessary hyperbole. He also wanted people to not trivialize the Holocaust. He has pointed out on several occassion that sometimes such comparisons are quite apt.
2. Godwin’s Law gets abused a lot. People have interpreted it to mean that if someone ever makes a comparison to Hitler, naziism, et cetera, that this immediately invalidates all of their arguments. Part of this comes from rules that were established on some Usenet groups in the 1990s by which if a thread reached the Hitler comparison, the thread would be ended. Note that this was a convention that some people chose to adopt. Godwin’s Law is not an actual law nor does it articulate anything that even approaches a logical fallacy.
3. This oxymoronic term is deployed frequently and unironically by actual neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer, the president of a literal white supremacist “think tank” among other things. He has also called for non-peaceful ethnic cleansing, for example: “humanity doesn’t need the Black man, and having concluded that, we must decide how efficiently to dispose of them.”
4. There some subjects upon which people can legitimately disagree. Details of tax policy, for instance. But when one side is literally calling for the mass murder of the other side (or mass incarceration, or denial of fundamental human rights), then we are no longer talking about a disagreement.
5. Dog-whistle: coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. For instance, in American politics the phrase “states’ rights” seems to be a mere reference to the Constitutions delineation of some powers and rights belonging the states (and other to the people or to the federal government), but signaled the politician’s commitment to segregation and institutionalized racism. “Real Americans” is frequently used to refer to conservative white Christians. Similarly, calls to “cut entitlements” are understood by the target audience to mean that “undeserving minorities” will be kicked off public assistance (when it fact it means that everyone will lose their benefits in order to funnel more tax money to the uber-rich and corporations).6
6. The dog-whistles in question in this particular exchange made it clear the guy arguing with me was both anti-semitic and homophobic. I thanked him for identifying himself just before blocking him.
My friend, Jared, took issue with the headline for being overly clickbaity. The foam mass wasn’t mysterious by the time the reporter got there: it was leaking fire retardant foam from a nearly airport (Chemical foam spills from hangar at airport). It’s non-toxic, and will eventually fade away, but for a little while part of the city of Santa Clara, California was buried under a blob of foam.
And you thought 2016 couldn’t get any weirder!
In much less funny news (though there is some gallows humor to be found), Trumpkins are all het up because Vice President-elect Pence was booed on Broadway last night after a cast member addressed him during the curtain call. Given Pence’s virulent anti-gay actions in past political office, and his emphatic assertions since the election that he and Trump are going to undo as much gay civil rights as they can, and the lead actor of the play Pence went to is an openly-gay man, being booed is the kindest thing that could have happened, IMHO. Then, when a Trump surrogate complained about the disrespect and asserted that Pence loves gay people, CNN host Don Lemon wasn’t having it: WATCH: Don Lemon shoots down Kayleigh McEnany’s whining about ‘elites’ booing Pence at ‘Hamilton’.
Oh, and the statement from the cast member which has Trump and his followers rage-tweeting? Not disrespectful by any means:
Thank you for joining us at Hamilton: An American Musical. We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us. Thank you.
Some Trumpkins are calling for a boycott of the musical Hamilton, which is going to be quite a trick, given that the show (with some tickets as high as $1000) is currently sold out through next January…
But then, Trump supporters don’t seem to understand how boycotts work at all: Trump Fans “Punish” Starbucks For Anti-White Discrimination By Buying More Coffee. Because of Starbucks’ corporate policies supporting various civil rights issues, the company has long been a target of anger and vitriol form the rightwing. However, this week after avideo of a really angry white customer losing his sh*t (attacking and threatening the baristas and the other customers because his coffee took too long—which he blamed anti-white “discrimination”) went viral, Trump supports have been going into Starbucks, ordering and paying for expensive drinks, and telling the baristas that their name is Trump, so that Trump’s name will be written on the cup. They then take pictures of the cups and post them to social media.
Wow, that’ll teach ’em… something?
When I say poorly-closeted I’m not just referring to his interesting fashion choices. There bave been a series of hunky young unmarried male roommates. Once a reporter caught him and one of said roommates showering together in their condo when the reporter arrived for a scheduled interview. The fact that for a long time the accounts he followed on Instagram were all out gay models and athletes who frequently posted barely dressed pictures of themselves (which he unfollowed en masse when the shared shower story brought a bunch of attention to him).And let’s not forget one of the last congressional junkets he took, where a hunky roommate (not the chief of staff roommate mentioned in the story above–they shared a home in D.C., this roommate lived in the uber-expensive house the congressman owned back in Illinois) accompanied the congressmen listed as a “campaign photographer,” yet he attended all of the social events and stood next to the congressmen in all of the photo ops while the other congressmen in the same photos are standing next to their wives. And the many times he was spotted in gay bars or other gay events, such as this one two weeks ago: The Stylish Aaron Schock Wore A Vest To This Big Gay Halloween Party.
I mention all of this because while he was in Congress, in addition to all of the shady financial shenanigans, he had a perfect anti-gay voting record, and gave more than one passionate speech arguing that people should have the right to fire an employee or refuse to rent an apartment to someone that they simply suspected might be gay.
At this point, I almost expect him to come out, then claim that all this stuff is either because of the mental stress of being closeted, or the work of people trying to blackmail him. The day after the indictment he had a major whining session telling reporters it’s a travesty that the FBI is making a criminal mountain out of a “molehill” of small errors. Right. Getting someone to set up a fake business’s bank account, making your constituents pay over $7000 into the fake account, billing the tax payers for the travel the constituents thought they were paying for themselves, and then withdrawing the money is a molehill. Never mind $140,000 in false mileage claims, a $5,000 chandelier for your office, and… and… and…
I guess he’s just a douche.
Speaking of horrible people, Maricopa County voters oust Sheriff Joe Arpaio, elect Paul Penzone. Arpaio is a notorious Sheriff who his county kept re-electing despite (or maybe because) of his awful racist policies, statements, and actions. But the more taxpayer money that went to paying his legal fees, and finally criminal contempt of court charges seem to have driven away most of his supporters.Don’t confuse Arpaio with another notorious Arizona Sheriff who lost an election this week: Democrat Tom O’Halleran beats Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu mum on plans after leaving office. Babeu was not running for re-election as Sheriff, instead he was running for Congress. This is his second attempt to run for Congress. In 2012 he ran on a virulent anti-immigrant/family values platform, which was derailed when one of his gay ex-lovers came forward–the ex was an undocumented immigrant, who said Babeu knew it at the time, and that when he broke up with Babeu, Babeu had threatened to have him deported if he ever told anyone about the relationship. Babeu denied all the allegations for a while… then as other exes (all Hispanic; what is it with racists wanting to f– the people they hate?) came forward (and the state’s Solicitor General started investigating), he came out as gay, but denied that he had known his ex was undocumented, not had he ever threatened him.
The ex claimed to have incriminating emails and text messages. The public got so see some pretty incriminating excerpts from the text messages and emails. The Solicitor General eventually announced that he had exonerated Babeu of all criminal wrongdoing, but also said they there would be no charges of filing a false report pursued against the ex, which leads most observers to conclude that exonerated is a strong word. In any case, Babeu lost in 2012, and he lost again this week.
So at least a few elections went the way they ought.
Update: It’s December 13th, and the last couple of days this month-old current events post is getting a lot of hits. I assume it’s because yesterday Totally Not-Gay Former GOP Rep. Aaron Schock Pleads Not Guilty to Funds Misuse. Anyway, there’s now a follow up post you might find amusing: Totally not-Gay Aaron Schock in the news again.
Three months ago, an angry homophobe walked into an Orlando, Florida gay night club and murdered 49 people, wounding 53 more. It was a Saturday night during Queer Pride month, and it was specifically Latinx Night at that club. The homophobe had spent time in the days before the massacre staking out the location. He had created a fake profile on a gay hook up app before that for the express purpose (based on the recovered chats) of finding out what the busiest gay nightclubs were in his community1. It was a planned hate crime.
The homophobe decided to buy an assault rifle to kill as many queers as he could after seeing two men kissing in public. The shooter’s own father was shocked at how angry his son had become when he saw that.
Three months later, reading about this still feels like a punch in my gut. I’m an out queer man who grew up in redneck communities during the 60s and 70s. I have always had the moment of fear any time I am out in public with my husband any time we show any affection. I have a specific incident where I know my husband was threatened with violence after we exchanged a quick kiss when I dropped him off at a bus stop years ago. It’s a dread calculation I find myself making whenever we are out with friends: is it all right if I call him “honey,” or will we get harassed? Can I safely say, “I love you,” or will we get threatened?
Thanks to this shooting, there’s now a new layer of fear and anxiety on that. Not just that I and my husband might be in danger, but that our actions might set off another bigot who will go murder a bunch of queer people.
Some people will ask, “It’s been three months; are you still upset about this?” And yes, people will actually ask. I know this because the day after the massacre happened people who I used to think were my friends were angry at me for being upset about the shooting.
Other people have much more immediate reasons not to forget: Last hospitalized survivor of Pulse nightclub shooting discharged. And now that he’s finally able to leave the hospital, Pulse nightclub shooting survivor plans return to New Orleans for recovery. Even though he’s out of the hospital, he’s got more recovery to do. As many of the other survivors are still going through physical therapy and otherwise trying to recover health and mobility that was taken from them.
There’s other kinds of fall-out still happening: State slaps $150,000 fine on security firm that employed Orlando Pulse shooter. The company isn’t being fined for anything directly related to the massacre. No, while authorities (and journalists) were investigating, the psychological evaluation he had undergone to get his security job was publicized. And people tried to contact the doctor whose name was on the evaluation. The problem was, she had stopped practicing more than a decade ago, had moved out of state, and hadn’t performed any evaluations for the employer since. At least 1500 employees were incorrectly listed has having been examined by the retired doctor during those ten years.
The state agency that investigated believes that all of those people were evaluated and passed, just that the wrong doctor was listed on their records. Over a thousand times. Over the course of ten years. Isn’t that reassuring?
I mean, a single psych eval doesn’t guarantee anything, particularly one done years before. And if I’m going to be disturbed about problems in the case, it would be the shooter’s history of domestic violence. One might ask how people get jobs where they are given badges and weapons and put in charge of security at places like courthouses when they have a history of domestic violence. I’m reminded of a chilling op-ed piece I read years ago that pointed out if having been arrested for domestic violence (or admitting in divorce proceedings to abuse) disqualified people from being cops, prison guards, and the like, we’d have a very hard time staffing departments, prisons, and so forth3.
“A FELONY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CONVICTION IS THE SINGLE GREATEST PREDICTOR OF FUTURE VIOLENT CRIME AMONG MEN.”
—according to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s analysis of The Offender Accountability Act
Let’s not forget that all the societal forces and institutions that encouraged the shooter to hate queer people, and that afterward blames the victims for bring this thing on themselves just by being who they are, are still active in this country. Some of them are even running for high political office. Others are merely preaching in churches around the country. Though some are finding themselves less welcome with their co-religionists: Baptist Union distances itself from anti-gay pastor.
The pastor in question, Steven Anderson, is one of many who said (from his pulpit) the Pulse massacre victims deserved to be murdered. He’s not the pastor who said that who has since been arrested for molesting a young boy. But since this guy also often goes off on homophobic rants, it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets caught doing something similar. But right now he’s just trying to go to South Africa and preach. He might not get to spread his hate there, however: SOUTH AFRICA CONSIDERS BANNING U.S. ANTI-GAY PREACHER.
Not that banning one pastor from one country is going to make much of a dent in the hate: Fox News Commentator Tells Conservative Christians They Must Support Anti-Gay Hate Groups.
But enough about the hateful people. What can we do to help love to win? Well, the first thing is not to forget the previous victims of hate:
1. The political cartoon I link to above refers to the Orlando shooter as a “gay homophobe” which was widely reported, but later debunked by the FBI2. The shooter installed a gay hookup app on his phone and set up his account around the same time that he bought the weapon that he later used in the massacre. And as I mentioned, his conversations never turned into meetings. He would ask gays what the busiest club was, and if they didn’t know, stop talking to him. If they mentioned any clubs, he would ask questions about the nightclubs, and then deflect any attempts by the person he was talking to to actually meet. A few people who spoke to the press in the aftermath of the shootings, claiming to have been flirted with by him or have even had sex with the shooter. But the FBI determined that none of them had actually met the shooter.
2. I still run into people who believe that the shooter was a self-loathing gay man, and that this fact means it wasn’t actually a hate crime. First, he wasn’t gay. Second, lots of hate crimes against queer people have been committed by self-loathing or in-denial queer people. Doesn’t make it any less of a hate crime.
3. I wish I could find that specific article, but I haven’t been able to track it down. There are numerous other sources of that data, however: Research suggests that family violence is two to four times higher in the law-enforcement community than in the general population. So where’s the public outrage? for instance. Or: 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence.
People insist that there is nothing they else they can do, but frequently they’re wrong. There are things which can be done. Things within the power of the people making that statement. Congress critters of the conservative sort are especially liable, here (but not the only ones). And I don’t just mean in passing laws, though that could often help.
The very same congresspeople who sat in Republican caucus recently and prayed that gays are “worthy of death” made a big show of talking about thoughts and prayers while a lot of the public was up in arms about the Orlando shooting. It didn’t stop them from killing an amendment to extend job discrimination protections to queer people. It didn’t stop them from voting down an amendment to tighten (but hardly close) the so-called gun show loophole. It doesn’t stop them from attending rallies with pastors who call for the death of gays. It doesn’t stop them from telling their supporters that letting trans children use the bathroom that matches their gender identity is dangerous.
They’re not just withholding a water hose. They’re the people who have been splashing gasoline in the direction of every queer person they could for years. They’re the people who handed matches out to lots of people and said, “I don’t condone violence, but god says queers are monsters.”
Thoughts and prayers is more than just a means to look like you care when you don’t. It’s more than just a means to appear helpful while you do nothing. It’s more that just a means to make people focus on your piety rather than the problems of others.
It’s also an attempt to establish an alibi.
If they offer thoughts and prayers, then clearly they can claim they had no idea that all their anti-gay rhetorical was going to encourage another to attack queer people. If they offer thoughts and prayers, then clearly they can also claim that they had no idea that all the anti-trans hysteria they’ve whipped up over bathrooms would make gender nonconforming kids hate themselves to the point of considering suicide. If they offer thoughts and prayers, than clearly they can claim it’s not their fault that queer people grow up filled with fear and self-loathing, driving some to self destructive behavior, while driving some to turn that violence toward others. Clearly, they say, it isn’t their fault that anyone would listen to all the hate they have been spewing and act on it.
Why would anyone ever think they wanted that?
It’s just a mess:
So Mike Hubbard, the self-proclaimed architect of the GOP takeover of the Statehouse, the consensus most powerful man in Alabama politics, the standout with his hand out, was convicted on 12 of 23 counts of using his office to fatten his own substantial wallet… Gov. Robert Bentley is hip-deep in his own sorta-sex scandal, facing the threat of impeachment and federal investigation. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore may get gaveled out of office for the second time, because his idea of “ethics” is disobeying the law…
—John Archibald, writing for AL.com
See, the governor has been in trouble for a while because of a sex scandal that involved misappropriation of fund. He’s a very anti-gay, pro-family, moralizing scold who was having an affair with a married staff member. Before proof of the affair surfaced (in the form of recordings of very family unfriendly phone call), he was already under investigation for doing things like using a state-owned jet to fly the staffer and himself to Las Vegas to attend a Celine Dion concert, among other questionable uses of public funds and resources. The staffer with whom he had the affair was given salary increases that raised eyebrows even before rumors of the affair surfaced. In a separate issue, the husband of the staffer, who is also a state employee, received a very large raise in a year when no one else in the entire agency he worked at received even a token increase in salary. That’s only scratching the surface on the governor. I’ll come back to him.
Then there is the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, Roy Moore. Moore has been suspended from the bench pending an ethics investigation over orders he wrote instructing judges in the state not to obey the U.S. Supreme Court ruling which made marriage equality the law of the land. Moore was previously removed from office over his refusal to remove a gargantuan granite Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse (in addition to insisting on starting court sessions with a prayer and other activities). Alabama voters returned him to office when he ran for election again the next time he could. If he is removed again, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Alabamians don’t re-elect him yet again.
There are several other problems. The Lt Governor, Kay Ivey, former state Treasurer, has been dogged by questions about why the state’s pre-paid college tuition program suffered a loss of $408million in value under her watch. There are, therefore, people worried about whether she is up to the job of filling the governor’s job if he does resign or is impeached. The threat of impeachment had been held at bay for a long time by the Speaker of the House, but it was also hampered by those worries about the Lt. Governor.
The governor also has managed to force some members of state law enforcement out of their jobs to delay and complicate the investigation into the allegations against the him. Oh, and that recording of a sexy phone call between the governor and the staff member? It wasn’t because law enforcement was tapping his phone. No, the governor’s wife had long suspected her husband was having an affair, and she left started secretly recording him to get proof!
One of my favorite odd details of this whole mess, if you see any news stories list the governor’s name this way: “Governor Doctor Dr. Robert Bentley” the second use of doctor isn’t a typo. Back in 2010, because he was running with the campaign slogan, “Alabama’s economy needs a doctor,” Bentley tried to get his medical title (he’s a dermatologist) on the primary ballot, but Republican party rules forbade nicknames, and they said that also mean titles, even if they were legitimately earned. So Bentley went to court and had is name legally changed to “Dr. Robert Bentley.” Some of his opponents made some very funny comments about what kind of person legally changes their name to look better on a ballot, and he then legally changed his name back to “Robert Julian Bentley,” but a lot of Alabama pundits like to remind voters of the temporary name change by using the longer title.
The legislature is so corrupt, and corruption has been a way of life in Alabama politics for so long, that no one knows what’s going to happen next. Maybe Ambrosia Starling, the drag queen who emerged as one of the most articulate and unflagging criticism of Judge Roy Moore is available to fill one of those vacant offices: Ambrosia Starling on Roy Moore: ‘It takes a drag queen to remind you liberty, justice is for all’.
Mississippi’s governor signed a bill this week that is pretty awful. It protects any individual, business, or organization (including hospitals) that want to refuse service to gay people due to a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, that sexual relations should take place only inside such marriages, and that the terms male or female refer to individuals’ immutable biological sex. So it specifies which “religious beliefs” are protected. That is not religious freedom, that is religious imposition. That’s not protecting someone’s right to a belief, that is forcing a very specific set of so-called religious convictions upon everyone.
Yes, the law later has specific language that says that it shouldn’t be construed to imply that anyone can be refused emergency medical treatment, but it will be construed that way, and people will die. We’ve had situations like this before. A lesbian couple was vacationing in Florida some years ago, one member of the couple was in an accident, her partner had their medical power of attorney paperwork, but was refused admittance to the hospital room, was not allowed to give consent to her partner’s medical treatment, and the partner died while the hospital was trying to track down a blood relative. There was no legal basis for the hospital to refuse the power of attorney. Personnel at the hospital refused because they thought that Florida’s ban on same sex marriage invalidated the power of attorney (it did not). Florida courts subsequently ruled that the hospital had been wrong to do that under the law, however they also ruled that the hospital and employees weren’t liable for the death or any sanctions, fines, or lawsuit because they had thought they were acting in good faith.
And that is part of the reason that these “religious freedom” laws are so dangerous. People will decide that their bias is more important than the life of a “sinner”—and other people will be harmed and sometimes even die. Often the person who let them die will get off despite those caveats in the law because it will be decided that they were acting in good faith.
The idea that the law will protect you if you discriminate against certain types of people will encourage people to take it further. As Justice John Paul Stevens noted in his famous dissent of the Supreme Court case that upheld sodomy laws, the mere existence of such laws, even when it was shown that they were largely unenforced, creates the notion that certain types of people are less than human. The existence of even a narrowly-focused law used to justify a plethora of other types of discrimination against people who the law is aimed at. A few years later, when the Supreme Court reversed that ruling and invalidation all sodomy laws, Justice Kennedy quoted Stevens’ earlier dissent in explaining the reason the court had changed course.
The most galling part of all of this is that these people are claiming to be following Jesus when the propose withholding medical care from queer people, refusing to sell food to queer people, refusing the rent to queer people, et cetera. No matter how many times I read the gospels—especially the Sermon on the Mount—I can’t find anything that Jesus said that could be construed to condone such action, let alone command it! In fact, Jesus said that if someone sues you for the shirt off your back, give them your shirt and your coat, also. He doesn’t say change the law so you can shun and be cruel to some of your neighbors and be immune to being sued or legally punished for any of the consequences thereof!
This is why people are fleeing the churches, particularly young people. These folks have redefined Christianity, replacing Jesus’s teachings with condemnation of gay people. You can ignore any and all of Jesus’s actual commandments, but if you’re anti-gay enough you’ll be the hero of the Christian Right.
When laws like this are enacted, they don’t just hurt the people who get the services denied. They scare other people. They send a message that people who don’t conform to one group’s religious precepts are less than human, that they are not safe, that they cannot count on the police to help them if crimes are committed against them, that they aren’t welcome, that they won’t be treated fairly before the law. And that’s why businesses speak out against these laws. It isn’t because they are beholden to some mythic ally power queer lobbying force. It’s because employees—not just queer employees—don’t feel safe being sent to those states to work.
The truth is, no one should feel safe in places that have laws like this. Because the law gives judgmental people a license to punish anyone they think might be queer, or might be supportive of queer people. That makes these laws a form of terrorism—they are intended to scare queer people back into the closet, and with that stuff about biological sex and sex outside of marriage, all sorts of other people to lie and hide and pretend to be something they aren’t—and I can’t find any definition of love that condones that.
I have a few quibbles. At several points the original AFA press release and WND story conflate “religiously unaffiliated” with atheist. Even though other parts of the story make the distinction that only about 15% of of the nation’s population identifies as atheist. Conflating unaffiliated with atheist is simply wrong. I, for example, am not atheist—I’m taoist. But on a survey like this, depending on exactly how the question was phrased, I would almost certainly pick the religiously unaffiliated option because I don’t belong to any church or temple or similar organized religious institution.
I realize, since I’m:
- a big homo,
- have been a firm believer in the separation of church and state since at least the age of 10,
- believe in science,
- usually vote Democrat,
- support pro-choice candidates and policies,
…et cetera—that the AFA would of course classify me as godless. But I suspect they would classify my queer friends who regularly attend Christian churches (decidedly liberal ones) as godless, as well.
My point, however, is that there are people who believe in god, and even believe in the same god the AFA claims to believe in, who would describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated because people like the AFA have done everything in their power to redefine Christianity to mean hating gays and people who support them to the point that they’re driving people from their congregations.
The original article also asserts as one of the harms of all this godlessness the following: “religious groups, spiritual environmentalists, and secularists… sometimes must cooperate with each other to address the region’s pressing economic, environmental and social issues.”
Horrors! People must cooperate with other people who may not agree with them on some other things to get things done? Say it ain’t so! Too bad we have all this cooperation going on! If we didn’t, we might have the insanely high infant mortality rates, childhood poverty, and teen pregnancy rates like the more godly cities in the Bible belt have. You just gotta love that strong religious culture, right?
I’ve known plenty of misogynist, racist, and/or homophobic atheists, just as I know a lot of Christians who are feminist, pro-queer, pro-equality, and otherwise in favor of most of the things of which scolds like the AFA disapprove. So we can’t use religious affiliation to unerringly predict someone’s stance on public policy issues. And as I observed a couple weeks ago (Confesses of a recovering evangelical), most of the religious right isn’t terribly devout. They’re far more motivated by their conservatism, which manifests as a reactionary opposition to change. And they don’t really pay that much attention to anything that the Jesus actually said, as evidenced by their breathless enthusiasm for military intervention, condemnation of any unarmed people of color who have the audacity to get wrongfully killed by police, and so on.
It’s why Bill O’Reilly was able to say with a straight face that Jesus promoted charity, but not to the point of self-destruction. Except, of course, since Jesus’ whole reason for coming to earth was to get killed on the cross for the sake of imperfect humans, he was indeed promoting charity not just to self destruction, but to literal self sacrifice.
The World Net Daily story is also interesting in that the comment sections is overflowing with homophobic comments, because of course no place can be godless without us homos there egging the nonbelievers on, apparently. Just like Pastor Manning who is insisting today that the foreclosure auction ordered on his church building because of more than one million dollars in unpaid utility bills has nothing to do with money. No, he claims, it’s an illegal plot of the sodomites to silence him. (By the way, the Ali Forney Center has raised more than 58% of their goal to attempt to participate in that foreclosure auction. If you can donate to this opportunity to turn hate into love, please do!)
Amazingly, New York City doesn’t make it onto the AFA’s list of cities with a higher unaffiliated percentage than the national average of 22%. I guess “New York Values” aren’t completely unholy, after all. Equally amazing, Las Vegas barely exceeds the national average of godlessness! Who knew?
Florida: So, twitter and other places lit up with the news that a notorious GamerGate person has been arrested by the FBI for terrorism. The Florida Man twitter account had the best take: Florida Man Plots Fake Terrorist Attack Because, I Don’t Know, Ethics in Games Journalism…Or Something? Other sites have a few details to add: GamerGate supporter arrested by FBI over terror threats. I understand, and even share a teeny bit of, all the schadenfreude that’s happening on the internet over this. But I’m having trouble actually applauding.
The thing is, people have been calling for investigations into the swatting and doxing and death threats that shut down events for a long time. There have been rumors that the feds were looking into those things at least since last year: #Gamergate Is Reportedly Being Investigated by the FBI.
But this isn’t about any of that. An FBI informant contacted this 20-year-old douche, claimed he wanted to set off a bomb at a 9/11 memorial, and convinced the douche to send him bomb-making instructions. In other words, like every other domestic terrorism arrest in the last decade and a half in America, it’s a case of entrapment. No actual terrorist plot existed. No actual people were in danger. That’s why I’m having trouble applauding. There are actual terrorists active in America right now. But they’re not plotting to bomb 9/11 memorials. They’re burning down Planned Parenthood clinics, burning down mosques and churches, shooting people in temples and churches, murdering doctors who have performed abortions, or threaten to burn down an entire town in upstate New York because muslims live there… and they are never investigated as terrorists. Their support groups and organizations are never investigated as terrorist groups because they all share two convenient traits: their membership is predominantly white, and they claim to be Christian.
So, while I am happy that at least one douche who has threatened and harassed people is getting some legal punishment, I wish it wasn’t on these sort of trumped-up/entrapped terrorist charges instead of things he and others like him are actually doing on their own.
Michigan: I posted in Friday links a few weeks ago about the virulently anti-gay and emphatically “Christian” legislator in Michigan who attempted to frame himself for having a drug problem and having hired male prostitutes as part of a really ill-thought-out plan to cover up the fact that he and another anti-gay legislator had been having an old-fashioned opposite-sex affair (while they were both traditionally holy matrimonied to other people). This week an ethics committee voted to recommend that the two of them should be removed from office. One resigned, and the other refused, so a 14-hour series of votes ensued before she was officially removed from office: 1 Michigan legislator expelled; 1 resigns. It took so long and so many votes, by the way, because liberal democratic legislators kept voting no on the principal that conservative hypocrisy and adultery shouldn’t be reasons to remove someone from office (the only democrats on the ethics committee abstained on the vote to recommend removal).
The two of them had co-sponsored several anti-gay bills, so again there is a bit of schadenfreude going around. I have absolutely no problem applauding this outcome, because they are being expelled for things that they actually did, and I disagree with the liberal lawmakers precisely because these are public officials who used their office to attempt to pry into, criminalize, marginalize, and deny the basic civil rights of their fellow citizens based on sexual orientation—in the name of their religion—while they themselves engaged in sexual conduct that is at least just as wrong according to said religion. When people in authority use their official power to condemn and attempt to police other people’s sexual activities, their own sexual activities become germane to any discussion. Also, there is more going on than just the affair. As this story notes: Disgraced lawmakers, out of office, now face criminal probe, investigation is also underway as to violations of campaign finance laws, official misconduct, and a misuse of public resources.
I didn’t save the link to the most infuriating article I read, and now I can’t find it. But Cindy Gamrat, the one who wouldn’t resign, was trying to paint herself as a victim. She told the interviewer how humiliating it was to have people in public talk about her private shame, passing judgment on her private conduct, and voting on her future because of it. Right. And her bill to make it legal only for “minister of the Gospel, cleric, or religious practitioner” to issue marriage licenses and to revoke all the privileges of marriage from people who hadn’t been married by such a clergyman wasn’t at all invasive of citizen’s private lives. And none of the rest of her actions opposing civil rights protections for queer people had anything to do with passing judgment on citizen’s private conduct.
Kentucky: And you may have thought the Kim Davis issue was over, since she promised the judge she wouldn’t interfere in the issuing of marriage licenses to gay couples, but no: the Associate Press reports Kentucky clerk again asks for delay on gay-marriage licenses. Her attorneys argue that the only couples she denied licenses to before she was sent to jail all got licenses while she was in jail, and now she should be free to refuse any others who come along because those people got thiers. In other words, she’ll refuse licenses until the next couple sues and judges order her to give that couple the license.
Except she doesn’t think that will happen, not because she doesn’t think there aren’t any more queer people in her county, but because Oath Keepers offers Kentucky’s Kim Davis a ‘security detail’ and Oath Keepers Send Armed Guards To Protect Kim Davis From US Marshals – See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/oath-keepers-send-armed-guards-protect-kim-davis-us-marshals#sthash.p5Exjxbp.dpufThese gun-totin’ good ol’ boys have vowed to protect Davis from any federal marshals or judges who attempt to arrest her or otherwise punish her for denying queer people their legal rights.
It has been reported that Davis has declined the offer, and that the Oath Keepers leader has told his men to stand down… but apparently they aren’t leaving Rowan County. And given that Davis has clearly stated in her new filing to the appeals court that she has no intention of keeping the promise she made to the judge to get released from jail, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to contemplate that she may un-decline the offer from the Oath Keepers when things don’t go her way with the appeals court.