Is protesting Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally a sin? Organizers seem to think so.
For the past few weeks, organizers of this weekend’s prayer rally with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have been sending out calls to prayer and fasting in support of the event. This week they’ve added daily prayer calls at which they have led participants in prayer for Jindal, for the event’s organizers, for those in charge of logistics like sound and security, and even for those who will be protesting the event. While there is a big rhetorical emphasis on rally leaders having a “posture of humility,” this week’s prayer calls have demonstrated what you might call spiritual arrogance regarding those who have been planning a protest. Protesters being organized by Louisiana State University students and progressive allies have been portrayed as spiritual enemies. During open prayer time, one call participant asked forgiveness for the protesters, saying “they hate us because they hated You first.” One participant prayed that God would “silence the mouths of those who would speak against You.”
On Tuesday, prayers for “those who would stand against us” asked that protesters would experience God’s love from rally participants. On Wednesday’s call, prayer leaders asked God to forgive the protesters, saying “they know not what they do” — language used by Jesus asking God to forgive those who were crucifying him, according to the account in the Gospel of Luke. Martyrdom and crucifixion returned on Thursday’s call, with a call leader praying that God “release” the protesters to God, the way Stephen asked forgiveness for those who were stoning him and Jesus did for those who were crucifying him.
Clearly, Response organizers have embraced the tendency of Religious Right leaders to portray disagreeing with them as a form of persecution. One prayer leader cited the biblical story of God appearing to Saul, who had been persecuting Christians but saw the light and become the evangelist Paul. A woman asked to lead prayer for the protesters prayed that God would similarly release “the angels of the harvest” over them.
Organizers are worried that the protesters, who are planning a rally and activist training, might be a threat. They prayed that God would help police and security officers see any “flanking” or “positioning” maneuvers. One prayed that God would “bind any demonic assignment” and one thanked God that He would send angels to guard the arena where the rally is being held, and declare it a “no-go zone for demons in the name of Jesus.” (That’s a clever reference to Jindal’s recent comments about Muslims, which according to call organizers have stirred up more “anger” and “angst” against Jindal.) “There is a confrontation in the heavenlies going on,” declared one prayer leader.
It seems that Response organizers are making a lot of awfully big assumptions about people who simply think it’s a bad idea for a governor and potential presidential candidate to lend the power of his office to an event promoting anti-gay bigotry and religious exclusion: namely, that all such protesters must not be Christians, must not be right with God and may in fact be demonic agents, and are in need of forgiveness for their audacity to “stand against” Jindal and his prayer warriors.
Response organizers might want to pray a little harder for a spirit of humility.
Last week, People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported on a Christian Post column by right-wing commentator Larry Tomczak in which he warned that Hollywood is “promoting homosexuality” by “targeting innocent and impressionable children.” In particular, Tomczak attacked Ellen DeGeneres, whom he wrote “celebrates her lesbianism and ‘marriage’ in between appearances of guests like Taylor Swift to attract young girls.”
The column caught the attention of none other than Ellen herself, who responded to Tomczak on her show this week.
She told Tomczak: “First of all, I’m not ‘married.’ I’m married. That’s all,” adding “I don’t even know what it means to ‘celebrate my lesbianism.’”
She then revealed her true “gay agenda”:
In response to the vote by the House GOP to prevent President Obama from using his executive authority to address our broken immigration system, Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action, issued the following statement:
“Today’s vote is another deeply disturbing attack on immigrant families and an offense to our core values. Just as our history reminds us that America is a nation of immigrants, our faith reminds us that we’re called to welcome the stranger among us. This attempt to marginalize and harm immigrant families isn’t just contrary to our beliefs as Christians—it’s contrary to our belief as Americans that this country is, and must always be, a nation where people of all backgrounds can build a better life for future generations. We commend President Obama for standing firmly against this attempt to harm hardworking immigrants and their families who have made themselves a part of our shared community.”
Republicans in the House of Representatives today voted to deport DREAMers and prevent President Obama from using his executive authority to temporarily address our broken immigration system, threatening funding for the Department of Homeland Security. In response, PFAW President Michael Keegan issued the following statement:
“After years of bashing Latinos and other immigrant groups to appease their far-right base, GOP leaders are moving quickly to use their political power to put their anti-immigrant agenda into law. Today’s vote is a clear sign that extremists like Steve King and his ilk are still calling the shots in the GOP. Instead of passing legislation that addresses our immigration crisis, House Republicans prefer to attack millions of immigrants and their families who are working hard to build successful, stable communities in our country. President Obama should be applauded for standing up to the GOP’s bullying tactics and promising to veto this legislation.”
As we noted just now, we recently discovered that the website for the international conference of social conservatives hosted at the Kremlin in September has posted a number of English transcripts of speeches given at the event, including those of a handful of American activists.
One of those activists was Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, who had previously testified before a Russian parliamentary committee in favor of tightening the country's laws preventing the adoption of Russian orphans by same-sex couples.
Brown warned the audience in Moscow that “[i]n the West especially there is an attempt to silence those of us who stand for the truth of marriage” but claimed that Americans in general oppose LGBT rights. Lamenting that “there’s a picture that is sometimes painted of the United States as if all of us in the U.S. are somehow embracing this new and false vision of the family,” Brown said that it is “unelected judges” who are “coming and simply throwing away the votes” of Americans who oppose LGBT equality, violating “our civil right to have our vote counted.”
Brown told the conference attendees that he was hopeful for the future of the “international pro-family movement” that would “stand in a united manner against the attempt to redefine the very nature of what it means to be a human being.”
It is a great blessing to be with all of you here, in Moscow. I must say I am obviously an American, and I have eight children. We do exist, there are Americans with large families, but I never thought, and after talking to so many other Americans that are here today, I don’t think any of us ever thought that we would be here in Moscow, uniting together with all of you and seeing the leadership in defense of the family that we’re seeing in this country, and God bless you for that.
There are three things I want to discuss today. I want to focus primarily on what the future of the international pro-family movement is. Because what is occurring here, and what is occurring around the world, with leaders coming together, and meeting, and thinking, and discussing, and planning, and organizing, is a historic moment. We have an opportunity, we have been placed here to make a change.
Of course we see all of the bad that’s occurring. We see the countries that are embracing a false notion of marriage, we see the depressing and horrible rates of abortion in countries around the world; we see the negatives from what goes on in the media, what we see in movies. But there’s also a great good occurring, and great opportunities, and I think this moment in history is the time in which people from around the globe who understand the truth of the nature of the family, the truth of the nature of human dignity, the truth about what we need to do to protect the unborn, – we have an opportunity to band together, even in places that might seem unlikely, even in new relationships that we haven’t had in the past, to stand in a united manner against the attempt to redefine the very nature of what it means to be a human being. Because that in fact is what the redefinition of the family is all about.
So I think there are three characteristics of this new movement that we should embrace as we move forward. Number one – I think we need a boldness, a willingness to speak. In the West especially there is an attempt to silence those of us who stand for the truth of marriage; there is an attempt to punish donors who’ve donated to protect marriage in states like California throughout the country, to get their names in public, to try and fire people who are standing up for their beliefs, from their jobs, simply because they are standing for the truth of the union of a man and a woman.
At this point in history, it’s not enough to shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, I’m not going to deal with that.” We have to deal with it, we have to stand for the truth, we have to be bold.
At the same time, I believe we need a humility in our interactions around the world. What I mean is, much of our mass media is telling us things that may or may not be true, and it requires humility to work together with those that you may have differences on other matters, on the key issues of marriage and life. It takes humility to say that there are other countries that have stood up, and there’s something we can learn from them, especially if there’ve been other historic differences. I look at France, and I see one million people in the streets. We need to learn from France standing up for marriage.
It also takes humility that there’s a picture that is sometimes painted of the United States as if all of us in the U.S. are somehow embracing this new and false vision of the family. That is not true. The reality is that when the people of state after state have been able to vote on the definition of marriage, they voted to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Only in a few states has marriage been redefined. In 32 states the people have voted, even in California, to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman. When the people have been able to have their say, they’ve stood up for the truth! The problem is that we are now in a position when judges, unelected judges are coming and simply throwing away the votes of all of these millions of Americans! We have to stand up for civil rights, our civil right to have our vote counted!
So I think that when talking about the United States it’s important to understand that there are many-many people that are working to protect marriage, that are working to protect life and don’t accept the changes that are occurring at the higher levels of government.
Finally, I think we need to be faithful. Our Lord said that we would be persecuted if we stood up for righteousness; we are going to be persecuted, it is going to take a faithfulness for all of us that when we are persecuted and when there are attempts to divide us, that we stand together for the truth! There are many issues on which we may disagree; there are many issues of geopolitics that there may be differences of opinion in this room, but what we are united on is the fundamental truth that is at stake in this century, and that is the truth of the beauty and dignity of marriage and family.
And I believe, instead of fear, or being depressed, or being negative, we need an optimism with our faith, to say that no culture can long stand that neglects or denies the truth, the simple truth that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. No culture can long stand that denies the inherent dignity of each and every human being. We need to proclaim this truth, be faithful, and I believe, it may take five years, ten years, fifteen years, even decades in the future. If we are faithful, we will make a change. But above all that, whether the change occurs or not, we are all called to do this. This is our mission, this is our duty, and it is our honor to be a part of it at this time in history. Thank you, and God bless!
Back in September, a number of American activists, including the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown , traveled to Moscow to take part in an international conference on “Large Families and the Future of Humanity” hosted at the Kremlin. The event, funded by a handful of close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had originally been planned as the annual convention of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families, but WCF dropped its official sponsorship after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine led the U.S. to place economic sanctions on several of the Russian leaders involved in the conference.
Nonetheless, the conference went right ahead as planned, with two leaders of WCF — communications director Don Feder and managing director Lawrence Jacobs — attending in their personal capacities and speaking at an opening press conference along with two of the event’s top Russian funders, Natalia Yakunina (wife of Putin ally Vladimir Yakunin) and Konstantin Malofeev.
In addition, Feder and Jacobs both had the chance to give speeches at the event. Feder, never one to be shy about his extremism, posted a transcript of his speech decrying the “sexual revolution” on the conservative website BarbWire in October.
Coincidentally, today, just as Glenn Beck was warning his Religious Right allies against siding with Putin in his anti-LGBT crusade and blasting WCF for having “bought Russia's salesmanship that they are the new global champion of Christianity,” we came across the English transcript of Jacobs’ speech, which pretty much reinforces Beck’s point.
After being introduced by Yakunina, who called him “our old friend and ally in pro-family movement,” Jacobs heaped praise upon Russia’s leaders for resisting European trends toward LGBT equality and abortion rights, saying, “I think Russia is the hope for the world right now.”
“Russian Eastern European leadership, I believe, is necessary to counter the secular, post-modern, anti-family agenda and replace want I’m calling the cultural Marxist philosophy that’s destroying human society, in particular destroying the family,” he said.
The “radical population control people” and “the radical LGBT groups” are staging a “Marxist takeover” of the West through developments like legalized abortion, liberalized divorce law, and the abolition of “sodomy” laws, he warned, leaving Russia to lead the “spiritual battle.”
“I believe that now that you’ve emerged from the seventy years of oppression, culturally you are healthier than much of the West,” he said.
In particular, I wanted to just talk about why I think Russia is the hope for the world right now. In particular…really, to the importance of the future of the family and to the future of civilization.
Russian Eastern European leadership, I believe, is necessary to counter the secular, post-modern, anti-family agenda and replace want I’m calling the cultural Marxist philosophy that’s destroying human society, in particular destroying the family. I can’t think of a place that’s experienced the destruction of the Marxism more than Russia after seventy years of destroying the family and the church. So this is something, I think, all of you understand.
What is happening now is a cultural Marxism. You defeated communism here in Russia, but we inherited a cultural communism, a cultural Marxism. Many Western nations may have economic freedom, political freedom or democracy, freedom of speech, but they’ve lost the freedom of education and culture. Our culture has been taken over by the Marxist in America and in the West. Let me explain.
So where does this leave us, what is causing all of these problems that we discussed so eloquently today and yesterday, why is it that the family is under attack? Well, I believe that really the cultural Marxism and socialism has replaced communism as the new attack on society. Really, the socialist revolution in the West has been greatly influenced by an Italian communist that maybe you don’t know of, Antonio Gramsci. Right in the thirties, he said in particular about the culture of the West, “If we can take over the family and the church, we can remove the barrier what stands as robust obstacles to a communist economical and political takeover.” So what he was saying is, “Look, we don’t need violent revolution, we need a cultural revolution.”
He proposed the takeover of the cultural institutions, the destruction of marriage and family, and the church. This would achieve what I’m calling cultural political correctness, which is what we see, where the minority rules the majority. The majority of people believe that the family is the fundamental unit of society, but we’ve been taken over by a minority of people, sometimes less than one percent of the population, that produces their agenda and their values.
So, this means that socialists have been working tirelessly in the West, and this includes, you know, the radical population control people, the radical LGBT groups. They’ve been working on a takeover of universities and various socialist institutions, and taking over the education, the media, the churches, and destroying any structure that stands in their way, which is the family.
How has this happened? Well, they devalued sex, they devalued life, they devalued marriage. And ultimately, the destruction of the family has become the focus of these socialists and their leftist ideology.
This should demonstrate what they’ve been able to do through the sexual revolution. I call it a timeline of a cultural takeover of the family and the church, a Marxist takeover.
Unfortunately, some of this begins in Russia, in 1920, when the communists legalized abortion at all stages of a woman’s pregnancy. And it wasn’t just that particular moment in time. Of course, it was then the development of the technology of abortion and spreading that across Europe and across the world, to the United States as well.
Then, to go further, prior to 1930, all Christian denominations – Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants – all believed the contraception was wrong, that the pill or any form of contraception was against God’s will. That changed in 1930, with the Anglicans.
And as I go forward to more modern times, we look at the promotion of pornography, the legalization of the birth-control pill, no-fault divorce. You can see the gradual loosening of moral values, Christian values, until, in 1973, the US Supreme Court and their famous Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in the United States.
And then we went beyond abortion to same-sex marriage, legalizing that in the Netherlands in 2001. And in 2003, we struck down the sodomy laws in the United States, which opened up same-sex marriage. And now we have to worry about polygamy and all kinds of other forms of marriage.
So why is it that Russia can combat what has really been largely a revolution in the West? Well, because you understand what the Marxists can do to culture and to society. And I believe that now that you’ve emerged from the seventy years of oppression, culturally you are healthier than much of the West. And what you need to do, I think, is really continue to share the values that make Russia strong, that made it strong historically.
There is also a spiritual element to this. This is a spiritual battle, and, I think, members of the church in Russia, members of civil society should think about a way to reverse what happened in 1920. Clearly, if we can’t respect the dignity of human life, how can we do… We can see what happens. All these other things happen. So we need to make sure that we’ve reversed the legalization of abortion, but not just legally. I think, spiritually, there needs to be a repentance. There need to be an asking of forgiveness, not only in Russia but throughout the world, but I think Russia can lead this. Abortion started here, it can end here.
I believe, if Russia apologizes, takes responsibility and changes its abortion laws, and tells the world why it’s doing it, why the focus on the natural family, and life, and the dignity of human at all stages, it will lead in a counter-revolution to what we’ve seen in the sexual revolution that spread so many horrible values throughout the West. In fact, I think only Russia can do this.
One final thought. It’s obviously a spiritual battle, but there is also a philosophical battle. And so when the church, I believe, takes the lead on this issue of abortion, there is one additional area we can’t forget, and that’s the philosophical ideas of what we are doing. The spiritual part is the most important, and then what follows C. S. Lewis spoke about. You know, people as C. S. Lewis, the great Christian writer, Anglican, he was in England, they said… Once he converted to Christianity, they said, “Well, why don’t spend your time evangelizing people, telling people about the good news of Jesus? Why not spend all of your time…” He was, you know, obviously, very intelligent man and excellent orator – why shouldn’t he go into the ministry, for instance? And he said this. He said, “To be ignorant and simple now – not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground, would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” And I believe, friends, that good philosophy must come from Russia.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, spoke at a press conference in Plano, Texas, today on behalf of an effort to repeal that city’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. Soon after Plano’s city council approved the ordinance last month, a new group sprung up to oppose it, apparently coordinated by Houston pastor Dave Welch, who also led the opposition to a similar ordinance in his city.
Welch and his allies are hoping to gather enough signatures to either force the council to repeal the ordinance or to put repeal on the ballot.
The Plano-based Liberty Institute, which said that it will file a lawsuit against the measure, organized today’s press conference with a number of area pastors. Cruz’s participation was not announced in advance, but a reporter who was present posted to Twitter a photo of him speaking:
The elder Cruz has been active in the effort to repeal a nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio, falsely claiming that the law allows pastors to be fined for preaching from the Bible.
We’ll update this post with video of Cruz’s speech when it becomes available.
UPDATE: The Plano group, Plano Citizens United, has posted an excerpt from Cruz’s speech in which he urged his supporters to run for office and oust “wicked” politicians who are violating the country’s “Judeo-Christian heritage.”
If the righteous, if the people of faith are not running for office, all that is left is the wicked ruling the wicked, the wicked electing the wicked. It is about time that our people of faith become involved in the political arena. We need to send a clear message, not just to the city council members, but to every politician that violates our Judeo-Christian heritage: we will primary you, we will get you out of office. Only that way will we see righteousness prevail and make America again that shining city on the hill to the glory of God.
A new report from the Croatia-based Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI) examines the organized assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Europe from the Catholic hierarchy and its conservative allies. CESI was founded in 1997 to respond to violations of human rights, particularly women’s and minority rights, as well as militarization and economic dislocation.
“Neo-Conservative Threats to Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights in the European Union” examines the efforts of the Catholic hierarchy, its “satellite organizations,” and allied politicians to restrict access to abortion and LGBT equality in the European Union. According to the report, “the Vatican hierarchy and its civil allies have recently re-organized and enhanced their efforts towards influencing public policies regarding family, sexuality and reproductive health.”
The report also references the mentoring role of U.S. groups that provide “inspiration and transfer of experience, tactics and strategies of action” to their European counterparts. As RWW readers know, we have been covering the support given by U.S. Religious Right groups and leaders, such as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and its European arm (ECLJ) and NOM’s Brian Brown, for anti-gay activism around the globe. “What we have here is a small, marginal, but very well organized and financed group of advocates for a fundamentalist religious-political agenda,” says the report.
According to the CESI report,
“Institutions in Brussels are now increasingly used as channels to promote Catholic values and fundamentalist ideology, creating an atmosphere of increased neo-conservative influence on the political institutions…this kind of extreme advocacy in defense of traditional, catholic values simultaneously aims to limit rights and discriminate against ‘the others and different ones’…”
The report documents the global interconnections among conservative groups and activists. For example, Luca Volontè is on board of patrons of U.S.-based C-FAM, and is among the European contributors to C-FAM’s “Turtle Bay and Beyond” blog.
In June of 2014, Luca Volontè, Ignacio Arsuaga – the president of CitizenGO and HazteOir, and Ludovine de La Rochère – the president of La Manif Pour Tous, have publicly supported “The March for Marriage” in Washington, an event organized by The National Organization for Marriage. In a meeting that was held behind closed doors, together with the representatives of some 70 countries, they have begun working on establishing an International Organization for Marriage.
The report notes the movement’s use of online communications and organizing strategies, including the online petition platform called CitizenGO.
CitizenGO presents itself as a global community of active citizens who use online petitions and actions to defend and promote life, family and (religious) freedom. They emphasize promoting active citizen participation in public and political life on local, national and international level, so this platform, based in Spain, operates in eight languages (Italian, German, French, English, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish). Arabic and Chinese version are in the planning stage.
Skillfully using the principles of participatory democracy as a disguise, CitizenGo actually works as a politically intelligent instrument, gathering numerous prominent figures of neoconservative agenda in the EU and centralizing advocacy actions against the right to abortion, marriage equality, assisted reproductive technology and sexual education in schools. In organized advocacy efforts against adopting three reports on SRHR status and gender equality in the EU (Estrela, Lunacek, Zuber), they have managed to gather about 350 000 support signatures in few months, and, while lobbying for each individual report, they have mobilized citizens to send tensof thousands of e-mail messages to the representatives in the European Parliament. That kind of numbers in support, as well as the range of influence should mostly be credited to Ignacio Arsuaga, the president of the CitizenGO platform and the founder of the organization HazteOir, who spent many years adapting online organizing and advocacy techniques used by conservative groups in the USA to the political conditions in Spain and the EU.
NOM’s Brian Brown is on the board of CitizenGo, whose logo describes the group as a “Member of the ACTRight Family.” ACTRight was founded by Brown to raise money for conservative causes and campaigns.
In addition to conservative efforts Europe-wide, the CESI report also includes a focused look on political activities in Croatia, including the role of the Catholic hierarchy in support of a campaign for a referendum to put a ban on marriage by same-sex couples into the country’s constitution, the use of the U.S.-developed “TeenStar” abstinence-based sex ed program, and travel to the country by U.S. religious conservative activists Judith Reisman and Lila Rose.
Voice of Christian Youth America’s Jim Schneider invited Americans for Truth About Homosexuality president Peter LaBarbera onto the “Crosstalk” program yesterday to discuss the events of 2014, which was full of disappointments for the anti-LGBT activist.
LaBarbera’s chief villain of the year appears to be Apple CEO Tim Cook, who came out as gay in October, writing, “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me." LaBarbera told Schneider that because Cook “implicated our Heavenly Father in his sinful behavior,” he told “the biggest gay lie of 2014.”
“God has nothing to do with his homosexual behavior,” LaBarbera said. “So what he and the homosexual activist lobby are doing is they’re using, they’re trying to steal away Christianity and God to try to affirm their lifestyle because they’re so desperate to legitimize it.”
In a recent email to AFTAH supporters, LaBarbara accused Cook of “awful slander against God,” warning that if the Apple executive doesn’t renounce his homosexuality he “will spend eternity without Him in a place called Hell.”
LaBarbera was also frustrated by advances for LGBT people in sports, including the International Olympic Committee’s decision to require host countries to ensure LGBT nondiscrimination and NFL player Michael Sam’s coming out as gay.
LaBarbera, who traveled last year to Jamaica to urge the country to keep its criminal ban on homosexuality and has defended anti-gay laws inUganda and Russia, lamented that such a move would impede the Olympic hopes of countries that are “not as decadent as the United States.”
He warned that “it’s going to get to the point where you can’t take your son or daughter to a sporting event without risking the promotion of immorality to them at the game.”
LaBarbera illustrated this with a story about someone “sitting at a baseball game” when “a couple of lesbians start[ed] making out or necking, kissing each other, groping each other at the game. Well, we’re all against PDAs, public displays of affection, by anybody, but certainly homosexuality is a special case. Most parents don’t want homosexual behavior promoted to their son or daughter. And this is what’s going to happen to sports because of this.”
LaBarbera went on to lament the Obama administration’s efforts to promote LGBT rights abroad, which he said meant that “instead of being a force for good we became a force for evil.”
He boasted about his own anti-LGBT work in Jamaica, which he said was part of his refusal to “give up the truth” as illustrated by his “sexual sin substitution test.”
“Whenever you hear the word ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual,’ substitute another sexual sin in place of the word ‘gay’ and see if it makes sense,” he told Schneider. “We don’t go around scolding people for ‘incestphobia’ or for being ‘pornography-phobes,’ it’s only the homosexual issue which we try to grant some sort of special, approved status.”
This weekend, thousands of Americans from all walks of life took to the streets to protest the unaccountable deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of police officers.
The multiethnic, multi-racial, multi-generation, LGBT and straight crowds filling streets in major cities were reminiscent of demonstrations that we have seen so many times before: marches for civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights.Those marching this weekend recognized that after so many struggles and so many victories, we are still struggling to build a society that treats every human being with dignity under the law.
Something is wrong in America when people of color — particularly African American men and boys — do not feel safe in their own communities. Something is wrong when that sense of unease comes from the very systems we all have been taught to respect, honor, and count on for trust and protection.
This journey has never been easy, and has never moved forward without fearless social movements. Even after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, our laws encoded racial segregation for decades and enabled an explicit system of control over Black lives. Even then, African Americans were subjected to the Tuskegee experiment, witnessed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., mourned the 1985 police shooting of 66-year-old Eleanor Bumpurs. In our history, just as in our present reality, African Americans have faced a dramatically different justice system from the one that white Americans experience.
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun, is shot dead in a park because he is seen as a threat. A father, Eric Garner, allegedly selling cigarettes on a streetcorner dies at the hands of a police officer, and the case never goes to trial. Death without trial is seen as an appropriate punishment for Michael Brown, a teenager who may have stolen a box of cigars. These cannot be trivialized as flukes, or as isolated acts. They are the products of a justice system that still does not value or see all Americans equally.
Those who are involved in any struggle — for the recognition of the humanity of people of color, of immigrants, of women, of LGBT people — must recognize that when a justice system puts one group at risk for rights denied, every group is at risk. No struggle for civil rights will be complete until this injustice is rectified and yes, it can be rectified. But it will require getting to the root causes of racial injustice to forge a democracy that truly represents all of us and build a justice system that protects all Americans.
This past weekend demonstrators, in a unified voice, demanded stronger laws against racial profiling, special prosecutors in cases of police misconduct, and the demilitarizing of police forces. These are reasonable, doable demands. But the solutions must also also go beyond the criminal justice system.
Those of us fighting any civil rights fight must open our eyes and keep them open to the truth that all men are not treated equally in America. Because of this, the voices of four mothers who have lost their sons – Trayvon, Jordan, Michael and Eric – have become a call, a movement for justice like nothing seen in the past decade. There can be no justice for any of us until we consider all lives fully human, fully worth living.
In a victory for LGBT equality and genuine religious liberty, Michigan’s state legislature ended its 2014 lame duck session last night without passing a bill that would have allowed individuals and businesses to cite religious beliefs to bypass state anti-discrimination laws.
The Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act would have allowed business owners to refuse service to LGBT customers, and was initially introduced as a counter to a proposed state bill that would protect LGBT people from discrimination. But while the anti-discrimination bill never even moved, the discriminatory bill passed in the House.
After the bill was introduced in the state legislature, PFAW members and local activists mobilized to call lawmakers and raise awareness of the bill’s dangerous consequences for LGBT Michiganders. Efforts like this are not unique to Michigan and come in the wake of this year’s 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case. This legislation is part of a nationwide campaign by the Right to hijack freedom of religion and use it as a weapon to deny Americans their fundamental rights.
Fortunately, the bill -- which has been called the “right to discriminate” bill by some – did not even come to the State Senate floor for a vote.
This was the second of two victories in the Michigan state legislature’s lame duck session. Earlier this month, Michigan Republicans introduced a bill that would change the way the state’s electoral votes are counted in presidential elections. This strategy isn’t unique to Michigan, but is part of a larger right-wing effort to use Republican election victories in blue and swing states to consolidate political power by rigging the Electoral College, tilting the playing field to the GOP’s advantage. Last year, PFAW helped beat back similar plans in Pennsylvania and Virginia that would have changed the way those states apportion their electoral votes. In Michigan, we were just as engaged, with our members and staff attending committee hearings and lobbying legislators.
With the passage of a key deadline last week, the Electoral College rigging bill is also effectively dead for the year. But its proponents can (and likely will) bring it up again in the 2015 session – as they may also do with the “right to discriminate” bill. Michigan’s lame duck session has ended without either of these insidious bills becoming law, but the fight is far from over. We expect to see similar state-level legislative attacks from the Right throughout the next year. PFAW is proud to be a leader in the ongoing fight against right-wing extremism, and we’re ready to keep working in defense of progressive values in 2015 and beyond.
Last week, we reported that the anti-gay, Christian nationalist organizers of a supposedly nonpolitical prayer rally that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is hosting next month had reused some materials from a similar rally hosted by Texas Gov. Rick Perry back in 2011, including a prayer guide blaming LGBT rights and legal abortion for natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
Blaming Hurricane Katrina on gay people and abortion, it turns out, didn’t go over so well in the state that was hardest hit by the 2005 storm, and after reporters in Louisiana started asking the organizers and Jindal’s office about the prayer guide, it was scrubbed from the rally’s website.
But disappearing one document can only do so much to hide the fact that Jindal is partnering with some pretty extreme organizations to put on his "The Response" event. In fact, the offending document was replaced on the event’s website by a letter from organizer Doug Stringer which only slightly more vaguely blames “earthquakes, floods, fires, and an escalation of natural disasters across the country and the world” on “the continued moral failures of our leaders.”
And when the New Orleans Times-Picayune approached Bryan Fischer, a spokesman for the event’s main funder the American Family Association, about the controversial prayer guide, he told them that his group stood by the original content. "We do know that natural disasters can be a form of God's judgment on an unrepentant nation,” Fischer told the Times-Picayune, before explaining that it’s “fitting that a part of the country that is obviously at risk for natural disasters would lead the nation in modeling repentance."
Still, the AFA initially issued a prayer guide that has offended many Louisiana residents. It implied legal abortion, same-sex marriage and pornography use contributed to Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. Though the prayer guide has been taken down, Fischer reiterated that sentiment on Wednesday. He said Louisiana should be especially concerned about the morality of the country, given its vulnerability to natural disasters.
"We do know that natural disasters can be a form of God's judgement on an unrepentant nation," Fischer said, "It's fitting that a part of the country that is obviously at risk for natural disasters would lead the nation in modeling repentance."
On “The 700 Club” today, Pat Robertson took a question from a viewer who said she attends a church whose members aren’t allowed to date, leaving many church members “frustrated because we’re getting older and no one is getting married.”
Robertson found this to be absolutely ridiculous because a church with a no-dating policy will eventually “die out”… just like gay people.
“You know, those who are homosexual will die out because they don’t reproduce,” he said. “You know, you have to have heterosexual sex to reproduce. Same thing with that church, it’s doomed, it’s going to die out because it’s the most nonsensical thing I’ve heard in a long time.”
While most of the news on Russia this week has been focused on the country’s ongoing financial collapse, it is important to highlight a report released by Human Rights Watch on Monday documenting the rise of anti-LGBT violence in Russia along with the ways the government, which recently passed new laws curbing LGBT rights, has ensured virtual impunity for the perpetrators of such attacks. Following the report’s release, Russia added a LGBT legal aid group to a list of NGOs that must register as “foreign agents.”
The uptick in violence against LGBT Russians certainly won't discourage Religious Right activists from supporting Putin, many of whom also seem more than willing to ignore his deadly incursion into Ukraine , support for laws curbing the freedoms of Russian evangelical Christians and other human rights abuses.
Nothing, it seems, can dissuade many of Putin’s American supporters, several of whom recently attended an anti-LGBT conference at the Kremlin, from believing that the U.S. should adopt anti-gay laws modeled on Russia’s, such as a ban on gay “propaganda” and adoption by same-sex parents.
In fact, many Religious Right activists in the U.S. believe that Putin is on a mission from God to save Russia, and the world, from the LGBT community.
Crush on Putin
It is no secret that many conservatives have fallen under Putin’s spell.
Matt Drudge has called Putin the “leader of the free world.” Sarah Palin has fawned over the Russian leader’s wrestling abilities. Franklin Graham has hailed Putin for “protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda” and having “taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.” Larry Jacobs of the World Congress of Families, the group that helped organize the Kremlin meeting, praised Putin last year for “preventing [gay people] from corrupting children.”
Religious Right leader and Iowa GOP kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats has upheld Putin as a world leader in morality. Josh Craddock, who represents Personhood USA at the United Nations, came back from the Kremlin conference cheering on Russia as a “light to the world.” Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver expressed offense last year that Obama would dare criticize Putin.One Fox News host wished that Putin could be president of the United States, even for just 48 hours.
Any violence against Russian gays, one Religious Right group explained, is probably “provoked by homosexual activists.” Massachusetts-based pastor Scott Lively, who has taken credit for inspiring Russia’s “propaganda” law, dismissed anti-LGBT violence in Russia as a “hoax” and told right-wing radio show host Linda Harvey that if violent anti-gay incidents occur, other gay people were likely the perpetrators.
God Will Favor Russia Instead Of America, Thanks Obama
Anti-gay activists think that God has decided to bless Russia, thanks to Putin’s leadership, while punishing the U.S. for passing rebellious gay rights laws. Pat Buchanan clearly articulated this mindset in a column in April titled “Is God Now On Russia’s Side?,” in which he likened the U.S. and Western Europe to Sodom and Gomorrah and cheerfully proclaimed that “Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”
In a February column, Don Feder of the World Congress of Families gushed that Putin had become the new Ronald Reagan: “As my friend and Russian pro-family leader Alexey Komov likes to say: 'Under Reagan, America helped to save us from communism. We'd like to return the favor.'”
Lively made the case last year that Putin is “the only world leader capable of standing up to the West” and could “inspire all the morally conservative countries of the world to adopt a similar law that he just adopted.” In the same interview, Lively called Obama the Antichrist.
“The country that’s acting like it’s part of the kingdom of the Antichrist is the United States of America, and Russia is standing against homosexual marriage, they’re standing for traditional family values,” Religious Right radio host Rick Wiles said in September. “The United States is exporting its wickedness, we’re using our power and might to force nations to change their laws to accept abortion, to accept homosexual marriage and homosexual rights, so which country is part of the Antichrist system and which is not?”
Wiles even predicted that the U.S. would soon go to war against Russia “with an atheistic, Jesus-hating, pro-homosexual, pro-lesbian, pro-transgender military and we're going to go up against another military carrying a Christian cross.”
Bring Anti-Gay Laws To The U.S.
Anti-gay activist Matt Barber said earlier this year that it was “encouraging” to see more anti-gay measures coming out of Russia, adding that he would like to see laws that “stop this homosexual activist propaganda from corrupting children in our nation and we need to see that right here in the United States.”
Peter LaBarbera called Russia’s “propaganda” law an “acceptable” and necessary way to stop companies like Disney from “promoting lesbianism to kids,” while American Family Association governmental affairs director Sandy Rios said the speech-inhibiting law was just “common sense.”
One of Putin’s most vocal cheerleaders, American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer, has called him a “lion of Christianity” and repeatedly demanded that the U.S. enact similar bans on gay “propaganda.”
Since the U.S. hasn’t embrace such an anti-gay crackdown, Religious Right activist William Murray writes, Americans are now “fleeing” to Russia in order to avoid LGBT equality at home.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is following in the footsteps of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and kicking off his possible presidential campaign next month with a stadium prayer rally organized by radical religious right activists. As Brian reported on Monday, the virulently anti-gay Christian nationalist American Family Association, influential Religious Right leader David Lane and Doug Stringer, a self-proclaimed “apostle” from Texas who has blamed America’s rejection of God for the September 11 attacks, are spearheading Jindal’s Baton Rouge rally.
These activists are the perfect ambassadors for the Christian nationalists that Jindal appears to be courting. In a letter introducing the rally — printed on official governor’s mansion stationary — Jindal warns of “a new world order of chaos…being driven by militant Islam seeking to impose Sharia Law worldwide” and domestic epidemics of “fatherless homes,” “drugs and crime in our inner cities” and “a saturation of pornography, abortion, racism,” problems for which Jesus Christ “is America’s only hope.”
Jindal’s prayer rally appears to be so closely modeled after Perry’s that its organizers are even reusing materials from the 2011 Texas event, including a prayer guide contending that natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, were the result of God’s displeasure with the “alternative lifestyle” of homosexuality, marriage equality, legal abortion, and Internet pornography.
The prayer guide listed on the “resources” page of the website for Jindal's rally includes suggestions for seven days of prayer leading up the event. It appears to be exactly the same as the guide disturbed to participants in Perry’s event in 2011 — it hasn't even been updated to include the increased number of states that are bringing God’s judgment on America by allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry:
Day 2 - Locust plagues
In Joelʼs day Israel experienced the destruction of a massive locust plague. The nationʼs economy was crippled because of the decimation of the agriculture. The reason these plagues came was because of the peopleʼs negligence to worship and serve God with their whole heart. Because the people grew cold and eventually departed from God, they experienced incredible hardships. The result of their inner departure was multiple external crises.
In America today we face a similar crisis. We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before. We live in the first generation in which the wholesale murder of infants through abortion is not only accepted but protected by law. Homosexuality has been embraced as an alternative lifestyle. Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and Washington, D.C. Pornography is available ondemand through the internet. Biblical signs of apostasy are before our very eyes. While the United States still claims to be a nation “under God” it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity.
This year we have seen a dramatic increase in tornadoes that have taken the lives of many and crippled entire cities, such as Tuscaloosa, AL & Joplin, MO. And let us not forget that we are only six years from the tragic events of hurricane Katrina, which rendered the entire Gulf Coast powerless.
Furthermore, because of mismanagement and greed, our national economy is in incredible disarray, with our national debt topping 14 trillion dollars. We have effectively mortgaged our childrenʼs future, while spending money we do not have on entitlements as we search in vain for “the American dream”. The first “wave of locusts” has begun to descend upon us and many are oblivious to the fact that destruction has come and is still coming.
God destined America to be a gospel beacon to the rest of the earth – a nation under God who declares His goodness, truth and mercy to a world desperately in need.
The Jindal rally’s prayer guide also includes the 2011 guide’s plea to conservative Christians to save the United States from “debauchery, sin and ultimately destruction.”
There is much at stake for the church in America. In many ways we are at a crossroads of two divergent paths. Either the church will turn to the Lord with her whole heart, sparking a great revival and reformation in our nation, or she will continue in compromise, keeping the status quo as we watch our nation turn to debauchery, sin and ultimately destruction.
(Emphases are ours.)
Both “Response” rallies are modeled after the “Call” rallies organized by Religious Right leader Lou Engle. The leadership team of Perry’s rally included a number of officials from the International House of Prayer, a ministry closely associated with Engle that promotes the dominionist theology that calls for evangelical Christians to gain control of all parts American culture and government.
The Michigan House of Representatives today passed a bill explicitly designed by its sponsor to allow discrimination against LGBT people. The proposed law, the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) at issue in the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby case, would allow individuals to cite their own religious beliefs to bypass state anti-discrimination laws.
“Religious liberty is a core American value,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, “but this law isn’t written to defend an individual’s right to practice his or her own religion: it’s designed to legalize discrimination. Even more disturbing is the fact that the sponsor of this law explicitly says that he proposed it in order to weaken anti-discrimination protections for gay people that are under consideration. That’s a gross perversion of what religious liberty actually is.”
In addition to allowing individuals to ignore essential anti-discrimination laws, the law potentially permits individuals to exempt themselves from other laws they disapprove of on the basis of their religion. As a result of the Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of the federal RFRA in Hobby Lobby, and provisions of the bill itself, individuals could effectively claim exemption based on general offense to their religious beliefs without showing a truly substantial burden on their actual exercise of religion. The results could range from pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, to hotel owners refusing to provide rooms to unmarried couples, to landlords refusing to rent homes to single parents.
“Laws that truly defend religious liberty serve as shields to prevent the government from impinging on our essential First Amendment rights,” said Keegan. “This law is a sword that allows individuals to harm others.”
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an expert on religious liberty issues, contact Layne Amerikaner at 202-467-4999 or email@example.com.
American Religious Right leaders Mat Staver and Judith Reisman are scheduled to be featured speakers at a conference in Jamaica this weekend hosted by a group that has been working to preserve the country’s criminal ban on consensual gay sex.
The annual conference, hosted by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, will focus on how “[c]ontemporary society has become increasingly hostile to the traditional definitions of marriage and family” and Staver, the head of Liberty Counsel, will discuss “global legal trends impacting the institution of the family.”
JCHS’s conference has drawn prominent American anti-gay activists before. In 2012, two top lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom spoke at the conference, one of whom defended Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, calling homosexuality “harmful not only spiritually and psychologically, but also physically.” Last year, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality’s Peter LaBarbera made an appearance at the conference, urging Jamaicans: “Do not be like us, do not be like Britain, do not sit idly by as so-called ‘LGBT activists’ manipulate words and laws to achieve dominance in your country.”
LaBarbera distanced himself from the U.S. State Department’s support for LGBT rights around the world, telling attendees (as transcribed by a Buzzfeed reporter who attended):
I do not stand with my government. I’m a patriotic American, but I do not stand with the current United States government in its promotion of homosexuality and gender confusion. But I do stand with the Jamaican people … I pray that you will learn from our mistakes and from lessons of history and avoid the inevitable moral corruption and health hazards and the danger to young people that come from capitulating to this sin movement that calls itself gay. It is almost now can be predicted with 100 percent accuracy, if the law is a teacher: If you take down this law, it will only lead to more demands. Appeasement does not work.
MassResistance’s Brian Camenker has also headlined a rally for the group.
The groups organizing the conference have opposed efforts to overturn the country’s anti-sodomy laws, which impose up to 10 years imprisonment for gay sex. Jamaica CAUSE, a cosponsor, organized rallies earlier this year to oppose an effort to overturn the law. The main sponsor, Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, also supports keeping the laws. On its website, JCHS provides a document called “Frequently Asked Questions About The Buggery Law” that attributes homosexuality to “economic reasons, direct Satanic influence, media and entertainment enticement, and experiences during incarceration” and cautions, “If determining human rights is separated from morality and based on individual freedom without any restraints, all perversions will in due time become ‘rights’.”
In a section on countries with greater freedom for LGBT people, the group adopts the American Right’s persecution messaging:
Why is it so important to certain countries, such as the UK, that Jamaica removes the buggery law?
Homosexuals in those countries have gained political power and so are able to use the machinery of the state to achieve their ends. It is interesting to note that the aim in these countries is not just that the buggery law is repealed, but that all types of sexual behaviour, including pedophilia and bestiality, should be eventually legalized as alternative sexual orientations. Further, the removal of the buggery law often results in attacks on freedom of speech and religion so that those who speak out against homosexuality are discriminated against and victimized. They want all types of sexual behavior to be legal.
JCHS defends Jamaica’s anti-sodomy, or “buggery,” law this way:
Since the buggery law is difficult to police shouldn’t it be removed from the books? Laws have multiple roles. (i) instruction on right behaviour that benefit individuals and society (ii) deterrence against wrong behaviour (iii) punishment for wrong behaviour. The law of the land bears witness to that which the state approves. This is important because this determines, for example, what can and can’t be taught to children in schools. Laws against murder, littering and traffic violations have not prevented these activities but that is no reason for these laws to be removed. Because a law cannot be policed does not mean it should be removed.
The group also provides images like this as “media resources”:
Yesterday, Michelle Lentz, the state coordinator for the anti-LGBT group Minnesota Child Protection League Action, appeared on VCY America’s “Crosstalk” radio program to discuss a proposal to better accommodate students who identify as transgender in Minnesota high school sports.
Lentz argued that the proposed policy, which would allow children to participate in sports teams based on their gender identity, rather than biological gender, would have grave consequences for students. Insisting that “it’s all fair the way it is” now, she described the proposal as a “reckless policy that puts children in danger,” and accused advocates of lying about religious exemptions for parochial schools and local control over rollout of the policy. “A look at this policy shows that it is dangerous to all kids, including transgender kids,” she said.
Lentz also used the opportunity to criticize other efforts to combat bullying in schools and ensure equality for LGBT students. “The anti-bullying movement is a precursor that opens the door to all kinds of curriculum and policies of sexually explicitly material, ideas, themes,” she continued. “And this may be the pattern we are seeing all across the country. It is necessary for us as a people to stand up against these policies when they are harmful and put children at risk.”
The federal court ruling striking down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples getting married is worth reading for many reasons. Paul wrote earlier at People For the American Way's blog about U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves’s compelling explanation of the role of the courts in protecting Americans’ constitutional rights. The ruling is also filled with rich historical detail about the extent to which the state of Mississippi and the federal government have discriminated against LGBT citizens over the years, as well as the ways in which groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the notorious Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission used anti-gay rhetoric and innuendo in their attacks on African American civil rights leaders and institutions.
This history is an important rebuttal to bogus claims by anti-gay activists that gay people do not need to have their rights protected in law because they have never suffered from discrimination.
Quotes from the opinion, with citations removed for readability:
Any claim that Mississippians quietly accommodated gay and lesbian citizens could no longer be made in the 1960s, when prejudice against homosexuals (and other groups) became more visible during the civil rights movement. Segregationists called their opponents “racial perverts,” while U.S. Marshals – summoned to enforce civil rights – were labeled “sadists and perverts.” Klan propaganda tied together “Communists, homosexuals, and Jews, fornicators and liberals and angry blacks – infidels all.”
One Klan photo showed a black man touching the crotch of the white man sitting next to him, attempting to make the link between racial equality and homosexuality explicit.
Civil rights leaders had predicted the attack. In selecting the Freedom Riders, James Farmer had conducted interviews to weed out “Communists, homosexuals, [and] drug addicts.” “We had to screen them very carefully because we knew that if they found anything to throw at us, they would throw it,” he explained.
This reflected society’s notion that homosexuals were “undesirables.” It also placed civil rights leaders in the position of seeking rights for one disenfranchised group while simultaneously seeking to avoid association with another disenfranchised group. Mississippians opposed to integration harassed several civil rights leaders for their homosexuality. Bill Higgs was a prominent gay Mississippi civil rights lawyer. He was targeted for his activism, convicted in absentia of delinquency of a minor, and threatened with “unlimited jailings” should he ever return to Mississippi.
He never did.
Reeves also discusses the case of Bayard Rustin, the openly gay African American civil rights activist who organized the 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
The most interesting part of Rustin’s story, though – and the reason why he merits more discussion here – is that he was subjected to anti-gay discrimination by both white and black people, majority and minority alike. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, a black Democrat, threatened to feed the media a false story that Rustin was having an affair with Martin Luther King, Jr., unless Dr. King canceled a protest at the Democratic National Convention.
Other persons within the civil rights movement were similarly “put off by Rustin’s homosexuality.” Roy Wilkins, an NAACP executive, “was particularly nasty to Bayard Rustin – very hostile,” in part because he “was very nervous about Bayard’s homosexuality.” Dr. King eventually had Rustin resign “because of persistent criticism of Rustin’s homosexuality and Communist ties and because of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell’s threat.”
Rustin reemerged years later as one of the principal organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A. Philip Randolph and Dr. King wanted Rustin as the march’s chief organizer, but Wilkins pushed back “because [Rustin] was gay . . . something which in particular would offend J. Edgar Hoover.” The group ultimately “decided Randolph would be in charge of the march, that Rustin would be the principal organizer, but that he would stay somewhat in the background.”
The concern about offending Hoover was prescient, as the FBI Director and other top officials soon moved to use Rustin’s homosexuality against him. In August 1963, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and President John F. Kennedy urgently reviewed the transcript of a FBI wiretap in which Dr. King acknowledged Rustin’s homosexuality. A day later, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina “rose in the Senate to denounce Rustin for sexual perversion, vagrancy, and lewdness.” FBI “headquarters badgered the field offices for new details” of Rustin’s sex life for months.
As Reeves makes clear, this kind of persecution was not only reserved for civil rights activists.
Rustin’s story speaks to the long tradition of Americans from all walks of life uniting to discriminate against homosexuals. It did not matter if one was liberal or conservative, segregationist or civil rights leader, Democrat or Republican; homosexuals were “the other.” Being homosexual invited scrutiny and professional consequences.
These consequences befell quite a few Mississippians. Ted Russell, the conductor of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra, lost his job and his Belhaven College faculty position after he was caught in a gay sex sting by the Jackson Police Department. In the early 1980s, Congressman Jon Hinson drew scrutiny for frequenting an X-rated gay movie theater in Washington, D.C., and although he won reelection, he resigned when he returned to Washington and was caught performing gay sex acts in a Capitol Hill bathroom. As early as 1950, the State’s flagship institution of higher learning, the University of Mississippi, “forced three homosexual students and one faculty member to leave the university” because it “did not tolerate homosexuality.” Lesbian instructors at Mississippi University for Women were pushed out of their jobs, while students at other Mississippi public universities were expelled for their homosexuality. A 1979 article on gay Jacksonians said “most” remained closeted because “they fear losing their jobs, friends and families.”
Reeves discusses the anti-gay actions of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, which was created in 1956 to maintain racial segregation by any means necessary.
Sovereignty Commission “[i]nvestigators and local officials also targeted local blacks and outsiders involved in civil rights activities as being sexually deviant.” They singled out Rust College, a private historically black institution, on reports that instructors there were “homosexuals and racial agitators.”
Those with power took smaller, yet meaningful, actions to discourage gay organizing and association in Mississippi. The State refused to let gay rights organizations incorporate as nonprofits. The newspaper at Mississippi State University – student-led, with an elected editor – refused to print a gay organization’s advertisement notifying gay and lesbian students of an off-campus “Gay Center” offering “counseling, legal aid and a library of homosexual literature. An advisor to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concluded that the Jackson Police Department took “a series . . . of maneuvers to harass members of Jackson’s gay community.” “As of 1985 not a single university campus in Mississippi recognized a lesbian and gay student group.”
Reeves’s ruling also makes clear that official discrimination is not only in the state’s past.
In 1990, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed a trial judge who declared that a mother, who was a lesbian, could not visit her children in the presence of her female partner. In Weigand v. Houghton, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed a trial judge who refused residential custody to a father in large part because he was in a long-term relationship with another man. A dissent complained that the father’s sexuality had impaired the court’s judgment, since the child would now have to live with “the unemployed stepfather [who] is a convicted felon, drinker, drug-taker, adulterer, wife-beater, and child-threatener, and . . . the mother [who] has been transitory, works two jobs, and has limited time with the child.”
In 2002, one of Mississippi’s justice court judges, frustrated with advances in gay rights in California, Vermont, and Hawaii, “opined that homosexuals belong in mental institutions.” Although he was reprimanded and fined by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, the Mississippi Supreme Court vacated the sanctions. It was more important for gay citizens to know that their judge was biased and seek his recusal than to “forc[e] judges to conceal their prejudice against gays and lesbians,” it wrote. The “Commission urges us to ‘calm the waters’ when, as the guardians of this state’s judicial system, we should be helping our citizens to spot the crocodiles.”
Reeves details a number of recent complaints and lawsuits challenging discriminatory treatment by state and local governments as well as legal inequities such as the fact that Mississippi law permits a single person to adopt a child but not gay or lesbian couples.
This kind of restriction was once supported by pseudoscience. We now recognize that it actually “harms the children, by telling them they don’t have two parents, like other children, and harms the parent who is not the adoptive parent by depriving him or her of the legal status of a parent.”
Reeves concludes the historical section of the ruling this way:
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” That is as true here as anywhere else. Seven centuries of strong objections to homosexual conduct have resulted in a constellation of State laws that treat gay and lesbian Mississippians as lesser, “other” people. Thus, it is easy to conclude that they have suffered through a long and unfortunate history of discrimination.