Saturday, February 25, 2017

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

Associated Press: DHS report disputes threat from banned nations

ABC News: White House chief of staff urged FBI to dispute Trump-Russia report

Washington Post: Trump administration sought to enlist intelligence officials, key lawmakers to counter Russia stories 

Washington Post: In first month of Trump presidency, State Department has been sidelined

New York Times: Rex Tillerson Arrives in Mexico Facing Twin Threats to Relations

The Hill: Trump: FBI ‘totally unable’ to stop leaks 

CNN: White House blocks news organizations from press briefing

Resistance to the Trump administration remains strong.

Reuters: One month in, anti-Trump movement shows signs of sustained momentum

Huffington Post: There’s About To Be A Dance Protest At The White House To Celebrate Trans Youth

Haaretz: Palestinians Hurl Shoes 'At Trump's Face' as They Protest Symbol of Israeli Occupation 

Esquire: A Conversation with the CPAC Protester Waving That TRUMP Russian Flag

The Oregonian: Counter-protest planned for Lake Oswego 'March 4 Trump'

Soulforce Organizing Direct Action During Proclaim 17 Convention in Orlando

Proclaim 17, the International Christian Media Convention, will take place from February 27th to March 2nd at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida. The Proclaim convention is the annual gathering of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), a network of conservative Christian media professionals. Judging by its homophobic code of ethics, the recipients of its awards and its positions on Trump administration policies, Israel, the Johnson Amendment, and "religious freedom", the NRB is very much part of the Religious Right.

Proclaim 17 offers Christian media professionals an opportunity to network and develop new strategies for engaging with audiences. While much of the convention's content focuses on technology, outreach, and industry trends, some of its workshops have a decidedly right-leaning flavor.

  • Is Transformation Really Possible for Persons with Same Sex Attraction? (presented by Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network, an "ex-gay" ministry)

  • The Fight for Religious Freedom and the Future of the Courts (presented by Ryan T. Anderson and Roger Severino of the Heritage Foundation)

  • Personal Attacks on First Amendment Freedoms and What May Lie Ahead (presented by Todd Starnes of Fox News and the Benham brothers)

  • Pastors Lunch: Shall We Talk About Islam? (featuring no Muslim speakers, oddly enough)

  • The Human Cost of the Attack on Religious Freedom

  • What Does the Trump Presidency Mean for Christian Radio?

Let's not ignore the convention's speakers, who include right-wing figures such as Alliance Defending Freedom founder Alan Sears, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, anti-abortion activist Alveda King, David and Jason Benham, and homophobic ex-Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran.

Writing at the Advocate, L. Cole Parke observes that both NRB and many of the organizations participating in Proclaim 17 are opposed to LGBTQ equality. The fact that Proclaim 17 will take place in Orlando, the location of last year's devastating Pulse massacre, makes the participants' homophobia even more painful to behold.

Fortunately, Soulforce is organizing a direct action during the convention under the hashtags #StopKillingUs and #KeepPulseAlive. According to their website, Soulforce will be honor Pulse victims with a Living Altar of paper doves while "bringing healing, witness, joy, and resistance to the leading Christian Right Wing communicators who are killing our people."
"The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a Right-Wing communications network with 1400+ member stations broadcasting around the world. Their annual meeting will be hosted this year in Orlando, FL during which thousands of members and supporters will convene to strategize, network, and gain skills to further their aggressive anti-LGBTQI and anti-Muslim agenda that broadcasts to the world.

Soulforce invites all those who are willing and able, both in Florida and everywhere, to hold vigil over this Living Altar with us in Orlando as we honor our dead and challenge the power of this communications hub to harm our bodies and spirits with death-dealing rhetoric.

Soulforce, in partnership with local and regional organizations, is collecting doves from around the world to join our Living Altar. These doves symbolize those who were made ancestors at the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in Orlando in June 2016."
As the Religious Right explores ways to promote its agenda through broadcasting in Orlando, people of conscience will be holding them accountable for their bigotry. Soulforce's direct action will serve as another reminder that the Religious Right will encounter resistance to its intolerance.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

News Tidbits

Washington Post: CPAC organizer denounces ‘alt-right’ as ‘left-wing fascist group’

Politico: White nationalist leader kicked out of CPAC

New York Times: Milo Yiannopoulos’s Pedophilia Comments Cost Him CPAC Role and Book Deal

NPR: Lack Of Education Leads To Lost Dreams And Low Income For Many Jehovah's Witnesses 

Associated Press: Kentucky ark attraction adding biblical truth exhibit

Associated Press: Rhode Island lawmakers propose banning anti-gay therapy

Gay Star News: North Carolina: Burglar broke into gay-friendly church to graffiti Bible verses condemning 'wrong-doers'

CBC News: Local Christian leaders don't want evangelist Franklin Graham speaking in Vancouver

CBC: Trinity Western law school fight heading to Supreme Court of Canada

Pink News: Australia: Anti-LGBT activist invited the whole internet to his rally and it didn’t end well

The Guardian: 'The exorcism was over in 15 minutes but nothing changed': LGBT life in Nigeria

Commentary Tidbits

Politico: CPAC’s Identity Crisis

Right Wing Watch: It’s Not Just Milo: Five Of The Wildest CPAC Speakers

Bilerico Report: In Trump’s America, Christian proselytizing is another form of oppression

CBS News: Milo Yiannopoulos and the conservative implosion 

The Atlantic: The Christian Retreat From Public Life

The Advocate: Resisting the Christian Right in Orlando

Media Matters for America: The Biggest Myth About Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Debunked

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

Newsweek: Amnesty International Calls Out Trump's 'Poisonous' Rhetoric

The Advocate: Education Department's LGBT Employees Make Plea to DeVos

PRI: Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel ‘regrets’ Holocaust-related slur

CBS News: Amid growing calls for action, Trump addresses JCC threats, anti-Semitism

Washington Post: Anne Frank Center slams Trump: ‘Do not make us Jews settle for crumbs of condescension’

Washington Post: Thousands of emails detail EPA head’s close ties to fossil fuel industry

CNN: British MP on Trump: My daughter deserves better

Associated Press: Pence tries to reassure European leaders shaken by Trump

Reuters: Trump to reverse Obama-era environmental rules in executive orders: report

NBC News: DHS Outlines Crackdown on Illegal Immigration

Positive news stories continue to give us hope.

Fox 5 New York: New Yorkers rally at Stonewall for transgender rights

Reuters: Norway pledges $10 million to counter Trump's global anti-abortion move

Business Insider: Ginsburg says public reaction to Trump gives her 'hope' 

Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Transgender Students' Restroom Use

To support transgender youth, it is important that institutions acknowledge their gender identity and allow them to safely navigate public spaces, including restrooms. Allowing transgender youth to use the restroom that matches their gender identity is an important way to affirm their identity. Unfortunately, the Trump administration does not agree.

According to Reuters and UPI, the Trump administration announced on February 22nd that it had rolled back Obama administration guidelines allowing transgender students the right to use public school restrooms that matched their gender identity. In a February 22nd statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained that the Department of Justice and Department of Education withdrew guidance issued in 2015-2016 regarding transgender student restroom use. "The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.  The Department of Education and the Department of Justice therefore have withdrawn the guidance," he wrote. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos also issued a statement insisting that the restroom issue is "best solved at the state and local level".

The decision drew immediate criticism and dissent. Several city and state officials announced that they would continue to protect transgender restroom rights, according to Buzzfeed. A joint statement issued by 19 education, mental health, and youth-oriented organizations criticized with the administration's decision to rescind the federal guidance. LGBTQ rights groups were also unhappy with the decision, calling it "a mean-spirited attack""a blind and cruel attack on young children", "a new low" that could "endanger the well-being and safety of children across the country". Pro-LGBTQ demonstrators convened at Stonewall Inn in New York on February 23rd to protest the Trump administration's decision.

On the other hand, right-wing figures applauded the decision. News of the decision drew cheers from CPAC attendees, according to Talking Points Memo. White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the decision, calling transgender restroom access a states' rights issue.

Religious Right organizations praised the decision as well, resorting to ugly stereotypes and about transgender youth in their defense of the move. In a February 23rd Washington Update, Family Research Council staff resorted to scare tactics about government "coercion" and boys invading girls' showers to justify the decision.
"The administration's posture isn't anti-LGBT. It's pro-democracy. States and local districts are in the best position to decide what serves their students best. If it's letting teenage boys shower with the girls, then by all means, pursue that. Just don't be surprised when families rise up -- as they have all across this nation -- and demand better. When pressed, the persistence of parents will always be stronger than the government's coercion."

In a February 22nd statement, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins called the Obama administration's guidance on Title IX a "coercive policy" that would "force boys and girls to shower together, stay together on school trips, and use the same locker rooms and bathrooms." He demonized transgender youth as a danger to children, claiming that " Parents refused to allow their child's innocence to be sacrificed on the altar of government imposed political correctness."
"Today’s announcement fulfills President Trump’s campaign promise to get the federal government out of the business of dictating school shower and bathroom policies.   The federal government has absolutely no right to strip parents and local schools of their rights to provide a safe learning environment for children."
Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation penned a commentary piece for the Daily Signal, in which he called the Title IX guidance "unlawful" and characterized it as an affront to students' dignity and safety.
"While we must be sensitive to the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of people who identify as transgender, that is not a reason to ignore the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of everyone else.

Unfortunately, the Obama-era policies were entirely one-sided. They favored the concerns of people who identify as transgender while entirely discounting the concerns of others."
Andrew T. Walker, director of policy students at the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote a commentary piece in defense of the Trump administration's move. He called gender identity an "amorphous and subjective" concept, described transgender women as "biological males who think of themselves as female" and who are "gender-confused", and called the Obama administration's guidance "lawless". Sickeningly, he claimed that allowing transgender women in women's restrooms would put women at risk of sexual assault, thereby promoting the ugly stereotype of transgender persons as predators.
"Christian parents with kids in public schools should be thankful for the Trump administration’s actions because it bars the federal government from treating citizens with a different belief on debated issues over human anthropology as outside the mainstream.

There are ways to resolve this dispute at the local level without bringing the heavy hand of government coercion into the equation and in the process, penalizing different beliefs about how men and women are made.

Restroom and locker room policies separate men and women based on privacy concerns. Individuals of the same biological sex share the same anatomy. Sharing the restroom with those who are of the same sex and who have the same anatomy enhances the possibility of embarrassment or vulnerability from viewing the opposite sex in a state of undress. For the sake of protecting women against sexual assault by those who would take advantage of these laws or preventing biological men from viewing women in a private situation, restroom, or locker room, it is prudent to base access on biological sex distinction."
The Trump administration's decision has dealt a cruel blow to transgender youth across the country. Transgender students must continue their struggle for the basic right of restroom access while coping with damaging stereotypes of transgender people as predators, threats, and male interlopers in women's spaces. By throwing red meat to transphobic members of the Religious Right, the Trump administration has created heartache for transgender youth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

News Tidbits

Christian Post: Public Decries Christian Men's Conference for Featuring Speakers Accused of Rape, Sexual Abuse Cover-Up

Washington Blade: Anti-LGBT legal organization designated a hate group

The Hill: Washington court rules against florist who refused flowers for gay wedding

ABC 33/40: Alabama: Briarwood Presbyterian Church seeks lawmakers’ approval to establish police force

Huffington Post: Creationist Ken Ham’s Giant ‘Noah’s Ark’ To Feature Dinosaurs vs. Giants Diorama

Gay Star News: New Mexico Senate votes to ban anti-LGBT conversion therapy

Pink News: Christian radio host Bryan Fischer says homosexuals are ‘literally’ Nazi stormtroopers

Washington Post: Influential conservative group: Trump, DeVos should dismantle Education Department and bring God into classrooms

The Independent: UK: Children at faith school 'ordered by teachers to ignore classmate because her parent is transgender'

Commentary Tidbits

Broadly: I Went to a Pro-Islamophobia Rally Hosted by Canada's Breitbart in My Hijab

Daylight Atheism: Some Right-Wing Christians Enthusiastically Promoting a Form of Genocide

The Guardian: Trump's 'global gag rule' could endanger millions of women and children, ​Bill and Melinda Gates​ warn

Mic: 5 times white students invoked Trump to taunt minority students

The Inquisitr: Ark Encounter: City Warned, Drops Trip Plans for Controversial Religious Site

BBC News: Anna LeBaron: How I escaped my father's murderous polygamous cult

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lou Engle: Shut Up and Stop Complaining

New Apostolic Reformation preacher Lou Engle took to Twitter to comment on the recent surge in protesting and political dissent. In a February 9th tweet, Engle wrote that "To protest is an American privilege. Yet to protest with a bitter spirit defiles many." In another Tweet that day, Engle claimed that "If people would pray for their leaders instead of complaining about them the kingdom would more speedily advance." Engle's tweets are problematic for several reasons.

First, protest is an American right, not a privilege. The rights of citizens to exercise freedom of speech, to assemble in a peaceful manner, and to petition the government for redress of grievances are protected by the Bill of Rights. Furthermore, democracy thrives when citizens hold leaders accountable and communicate their will to all levels of government. It is not only the right but the duty of Americans to offer dissent when leaders propose unsound policies. Contrary to what Engle writes, protest is an important American tradition, not a privilege.

For citizens to hold their government accountable, they must speak. They must identify what is wrong with a leader's decisions and make their thoughts known. Engle frowns on this as "complaining", but in reality, it is an expression of free speech that is essential to healthy democracy. Speech and action, not prayer, bring about results in the real world.

Engle's comment about protesting with a "bitter spirit" is revealing. First, it suggests that Engle sees rancor in the protests of the past few weeks, instead of righteous anger, courage, humor, and solidarity with the marginalized. Second, "bitter" is a epithet that some Christian fundamentalists hurl at those who criticize persons in power or demand justice for wrongdoers. Is it easier for Engle to dismiss the anti-Trump protests as outpourings of "bitterness" than to listen to the grievances of the protesters?

With Donald Trump in the White House, unsuitable figures rising to cabinet positions, alarming executive orders flying off the president's desk, and so much at stake, Americans can't afford to be passive. We can't afford to stay silent for fear of appearing "bitter", and we can't wait for a cosmic white knight to fix our problems. Now is the time for constructive action, not passivity.

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

PBS News Hour: Draft DHS guidelines seek to aggressively detain immigrants

The Hill: Trump signs repeal of transparency rule for oil companies

Politico: Panetta warns Trump's National Security Council is 'dysfunctional'

Associated Press: Religious freedom could top Sessions civil rights priorities

BBC News: Sweden to Trump: What happened last night?

Washington Post: DeVos: Critics want to ‘make my life a living hell’

UPI: Senate confirms McMahon to lead Small Business Administration

CNN: GOP Senate Intel Member: Exhaustive investigation into Trump-Russia connections needed following Flynn resignation

New York Times: Michael Flynn Resigns as National Security Adviser 

New York Times: Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

New York Times: Trump Chooses H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser

Other events from the past week will lift your spirits!

Washington Post: Thousands of demonstrators across US say ‘Not My President’

The Independent: Thousands of protesters across the UK demonstrate against US President as MPs debate state visit

Boston Globe: Photos from Boston’s ‘Stand Up for Science’ rally

Huffington Post: The Resistance Calendar lists upcoming rallies across the country