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Religion Last Updated: Sep 1st, 2006 - 00:50:57

November 2006: The GOP and Christian Right, inbreeding and infighting
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 1, 2006, 00:36

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As the November elections draw near, some political candidates are again misusing religion, while others are again nurturing anti-gay sentiments. All are seeking to divide and conquer, but their deceit, bigotry and hypocrisy are becoming increasingly transparent.

None is more shameless or blatant in advocating prejudice and discrimination -- on multiple levels -- than Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), currently in a primary battle for the GOP nomination to run for the U.S. Senate. Ms. Harris first came to public attention when, as Florida�s secretary of state, she certified George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore in 2000.

In a recent interview with Florida Baptist Witness, Harris called the separation of church and state �a lie� and said that �God� -- for whom she apparently speaks -- never intended America to be a �nation of secular laws.� To claim to know the mind of �God� is not only the ultimate blasphemy, but something quite impossible as Rev. John Shelby Spong recently noted:

Having only a human means of communication I cannot really talk about God. Horses can experience a human being entering their horse consciousness, but a horse could never tell another horse what it means to be human. Somehow human beings have never quite embraced that fact that this is also true about the human being�s knowledge of God.

Ms. Harris wasn�t satisfied with blasphemy and irreverence. She went on to assert that �if you�re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin.� Someone who holds such an incredibly offensive position and embraces such outrageous bigotry has no place in public office in a country whose citizenry includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, as well as those who subscribe to no particular religion. Moreover, Harris might want to read some history books: virtually all the elected officials whose �sins� were made public were practicing Christians.

Not surprisingly, when asked, �Do you support civil rights protections on the basis of sexual preference?� Harris responded �Civil rights have to do with individual rights and I don�t think they apply to the gay issues. . . . I do not support any civil rights actions with regard to homosexuality� or homosexuals, obviously.

Examine her statement. �Civil rights� are defined as �the nonpolitical rights of a citizen.� Clearly, Ms. Harris believes civil rights should be politicized and �up for a vote.� Sounds democratic, but Tocqueville was right: there is a worm in the democratic apple. Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin particularized it when he noted that civil rights are not a popularity contest. A year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws against interracial marriage and ruled that civil marriage is �one of the basic civil rights of man,� and that the freedom to marry is �essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness� (Loving v. Virginia), a 1968 Gallup poll showed 72 percent of Americans opposed such unions. A �vote� in 1968 would have been a step backwards. Thirty-eight years later, only racists and bigots have a problem with interracial marriage.

The gay community�s drive for civil rights advocates �equal rights for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals; seeks to eliminate sodomy laws barring homosexual acts between consenting adults; and calls for an end to discrimination against gay men and lesbians in employment, credit lending, housing, public accommodations, and other areas of life.�

Sodomy laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003. But Ms. Harris is clearly in favor of allowing, enabling and encouraging discrimination against gays in �employment, credit lending, housing, public accommodations, and other areas of life� such as the civil right to enter into the civil union called �marriage� as she made quite clear in the Florida Baptist Witness interview:

Do you support a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as being only between one man and one woman? Why or why not?

I fully support a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as being only between one man and one woman. I have voted in support of the Marriage Protection Amendment . . .

Do you support the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment?

Absolutely. I have signed on the amendment, I have promoted the amendment. I have stood with them and done press conferences for that amendment and no other candidate has in the primary or the general. They may have signed it but obviously not done press conferences and such.

Another candidate in Florida champions the faith-based �pro-family� agenda which, of course, excludes gay and lesbian parents, their children and families and seeks to denigrate, demean and hurt them in any way possible.

I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good . . . Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don�t want equal time. We don�t want pluralism. --Randall Terry, The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, August 1993

Randall Terry is trying to unseat Florida state senator Jim King in the Republican primary. Some of Terry�s recent campaign literature featured a photo of his family . . . a photo from which his son Jamiel and his daughter Tila were conspicuously missing. Why? Jamiel is gay; Tila had a child out of wedlock. Jamiel was booted out when he came out publicly in 2004. Tila suffered the same fate from her �pro-family� father:

Jamiel Terry said his father�s policy ideas don�t always fit his own behavior.

�He has tried to say abortion should not exist because families and churches should step in,� Jamiel Terry said.

�When his own daughter is pregnant, he refuses to help her.� . . .

�The reason we don�t have a photo with Jamiel and Tila is that we haven�t been in the same room with them in about three years,� Randall Terry said.

That�s the point, Jamiel Terry said. If a candidate is going to talk about strong families -- he ought to talk about why his own family isn�t, he said.

�Both Tila and I have tried to revive or rekindle our relationship with my father and we�ve been shut out,� Jamiel Terry said.

In Rhode Island a candidate for the U.S. Senate is being haunted by his past, when he thought it was �fun� to denigrate gays:

U.S. Senate candidate Stephen Laffey said he regrets that he wrote columns denigrating gays when he was a college student. . . .

�But at the time, we were just having fun. We thought it was funny.�

The Republican candidate wrote them in 1983 and 1984 while studying at Bowdoin College in Maine. The articles appeared in a paper published by campus Republicans.

In one column, Laffey said he has never seen a happy homosexual.

�This is not to say there aren�t any; I simply haven�t seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet,� he wrote. �All the homosexuals I�ve seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life.�

In another column he wrote that pop music was turning the children of America into sissies, and criticized the singer Boy George, referring to him as �it.�

�It wears girl�s clothes and puts on makeup,� he wrote. �When I hear it sing, �Do you really want to hurt me, do you really want to make me cry,� I say to myself, YES, I want to punch your lights out, pal, and break your ribs.�

Mr. Laffey thought those comments were �funny�?

On August 18, 2006 news broke that California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had hired one of the most homophobic lobbyists from the most homophobic organization in the Christian Right: Benjamin Lopez from Rev. Lou Sheldon�s Traditional Values Coalition. TVC says its goal is �to restore America�s cultural heritage� by opposing gay and lesbian civil rights. The �traditional values� and �cultural heritage� Sheldon, Lopez and the TVC wish to resurrect, preserve and propagate include segregation, discrimination, and bigotry masquerading as �morality.�

Himself a advocate of concentration camps (aka �cities of refuge�), Sheldon has accused gay Americans� struggle for civil equality of being Nazi-like:

Americans should understand that their attitudes about homosexuality have been deliberately and deceitfully changed by a masterful propaganda/marketing campaign that rivals that of Adolph Hitler. In fact, many of the strategies used by homosexuals to bring about cultural change in America are taken from Hitler�s writings and propaganda welfare manuals. (�Homosexual Propaganda Campaign Based on Hitler�s �Big Lie� Technique,� by Louis Sheldon, special report, Vol. 18, No. 10)

Sheldon can see outside only what�s inside his mind and soul.

Lucky Louie�s� favorite lie is based on the stereotype he loves to pervert even further for his own sinister purposes:

As Homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality. Many of them will die in that world. (�Homosexuals Recruit Public School Children,� by Louis Sheldon, special report, Vol. 18, No. 11)

The extent to which Sheldon and the TVC will go in further twisting false stereotypes for their own political purposes (and financial well-being) is more fully explored in �America�s New McCarthyism: Homosexual Stereotypes, Myths, and the Politics of Fear,� Popular Culture Review, 16:2 (August 2005), 83-115.

More recently, Sheldon added his two-(non)sense in another venue:

none of the panelists delivered as bombastic a screed as the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the hard-line anti-gay group Traditional Values Coalition. Sheldon demanded laws that treat homosexuality as �a social disorder.� Decrying the term �homosexual� as the brainchild of a 20th-century German psychologist obviously sympathetic to gays, Sheldon implored the conferees to return to the 18th century�s superior diction. �The word used in America [then] was �perverted,�� he noted. When Sheldon was asked by an audience member what to call homosexuals, he shot out of his chair and shouted, �Call them what they are -- sodomites!�

Too bad Lou doesn�t know what �sodomites� really means. But then again, ignorance and unbridled hate are Sheldon�s forte.

Political writers for The San Francisco Chronicle Carla Marinucci and Tom Chorneau summarized Sheldon, his political connections and unbridled hatred for gay and lesbian Americans quite well in their August 21, 2006, article:

Sheldon has been described as a Republican point man often tapped by Washington insiders, from presidential adviser Karl Rove and Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to advise on evangelical outreach.

But critics say Sheldon�s Traditional Values Coalition crossed the line of mere evangelical advocacy to fringe behavior, citing Sheldon�s past suggestions that AIDS patients be quarantined in �cities of refuge,� and his statements that a homosexual invasion will result in �the stealing of our children,� and that gay marriage will �destroy civilization as we know it.�

Benjamin Lopez is a Sheldon clone. No matter what it is, if it involves any modicum of social, cultural, legal, or economic recognition for gay Americans, their children or their families, you can count on Lopez being there to protest. He was a principal player in convincing Schwarzenegger to veto the marriage legislation passed by the California legislature that would have given equal social, legal and economic recognition and benefits to all families. Lopez took great pride in hurting gay and lesbian parents and their children: �To be given specific credit by [CA Assemblyman] Mark Leno for the ultimate defeat of his same-sex marriage bill is an honor.�

When California tried to recognize the contribution of gay and lesbian Americans in history textbooks, Lopez was there to offer the usual fallacious arguments -- as he has done so many times before -- and to defend the discrimination he and the TVC advocate:

�We feel schools should not be in the business of teaching beliefs and value systems that parents instill in the home,� Lopez said. �We�ve given them an inch and now they want to take a mile. I doubt it will stop here.�

Mr. Lopez�s first statement really makes no sense. How does acknowledging the contributions of gay and lesbian Americans -- or Jewish, African, Chinese, Hispanic Americans for that matter -- contradict anyone�s beliefs or values system, unless, of course, one is a bigot and prejudiced against these groups.

It�s history. It�s a fact that gays and lesbians have significantly and positively contributed to American society. Why do Mr. Lopez and the TVC object to acknowledging that?

As for his second statement, if the �we� refers to the Traditional Values Coalition, then Mr. Lopez is simply lying. Sheldon and the TVC are well known for not wanting to give even a millimeter, much less �an inch.� All one has to do is visit the TVC website to see how virulent and vitriolic their anti-gay attitudes are and to see how they twist and pervert every negative stereotype in their campaign against civility and civil equality. They thrive on the politics of fear, which is exactly what Mr. Lopez invoked when he said �I doubt it will stop here.�

It looked certain that this Sheldon acolyte and master of the politics of fear was to be part of Schwarzenegger�s reelection campaign team and a GOP consultant in the Golden State. His first �task� seemed obvious. On August 21, 2006, the California Assembly passed a watered down version of the textbook bill Lopez had railed against

Legislation banning materials and activities in California schools that are discriminatory towards the state�s LGBT community or portray gays in a negative light was passed late Monday afternoon in the Assembly.

The measure passed 47 - 31 after a lengthy, often heated debate.

The bill was a watered down version of one that would also have mandated the teaching of LGBT history and current affairs in schools throughout California. The curriculum provisions were struck out two weeks ago at the request of the bill's author, Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatened to veto it. (story) . . .

By that point the original measure had passed the Senate. The new version returns to the upper house which is expected to approve it. But whether the governor will sign it is not yet known. . . .

California already requires that African Americans, native peoples, Mexicans, Asians and Pacific Islanders be included in textbook descriptions of �the economic, political and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.�

�We�re just the latest community to come along . . ." said [Sen. Sheila] Kuehl [the bill�s author].

Right on cue, another so-called �pro-family� group opposed to civil equality for all citizens mounted a campaign against the California legislation, and the governor if he signed the bill. Randy Thomasson of the Sacramento-based Campaign for Children and Families was blunt in this threat, as duly reported by Agape Press, the propaganda organ of Don Wildmon�s American Family Association: �If the governor of California �abandons children� by signing this or any of the other school sexual indoctrination bills, Thomasson predicts that �pro-family voters will abandon him� when he runs for re-election in November� [italics added].

�Abandons children�? Perhaps Thomasson might want to speak with two other �pro-family� candidates -- Randall Terry and Alan Keyes -- about how they abandoned their children.

The threat of abandoning Arnold in the November election defines �hollow.� Please, stay home, theocrats. Don�t vote. Help California and the rest of the country move forward.

Writing for the California Progress Report, Frank D. Russo summarized the effects of the Schwarzenegger�s pandering:

It�s just fascinating to watch all the gyrations of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the spinning of his spokepeople as the California Republican Party holds its convention this weekend [August 19-20]. You can see the campaign strategy of moving left, right, and center in the press accounts of this media spectacle. If there wasn�t such an important office at stake -- the head of the biggest state in the union, we could treat this as a sport or maybe a modern artform of spatial distancing -- not too close to Bush, but not too far away from some of the litmus test issues of the right wing. If you plot out this on a graph, or even use three dimensional coordinates, it is difficult to see where Arnold really stands. It�s a place that doesn�t make any sense and doesn�t exist in nature, but only in the construct of a political campaign. [italics added]

That last phrase is astute and prophetic. Similar sentiments were echoed in Carla Marinucci�s and Tom Chorneau�s San Francisco Chronicle article:

Critics, however, are already questioning Lopez�s hiring and suggesting it raises concerns about Schwarzenegger�s aim of crafting a moderate political profile in the current re-election campaign.

�This is what happens when you try to be all things to all people, which is Schwarzenegger�s strategy,� said Democratic Party spokesman Roger Salazar. �This is a governor that will do and say anything to get elected . . . and if the governor doesn�t agree with Lou Sheldon on these issues, then he ought to get up and disavow him.� [italics added]

American politics has become a perverted caricature. The overt machinations and behind-the-scenes scheming derive largely from the incestuous marriage of perverted religion -- a la Sheldon-Lopez-TVC -- and �politics as usual.� Many true Christians are appalled: ��How dare we live in a nation where, because of our sexuality, we are denied human rights?� asked a church member, the Reverend Mary Workman, 78, speaking at the First Christian Church in Tucson.�

The words of another true Christian were recorded by her son, Rob Hamm, in a November 2, 2004, article. The lead-in to the article read: �A church-going mom called her gay son last night to ask what he thinks about today�s ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions in their native Oklahoma. The conversation didn�t go as he expected.�

What did Mrs. Hamm have to say? To begin with, she voted against the Oklahoma constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions because, as she put it, �God meant for everyone to have choice in their lives. That is all about being human, and anyone that takes that choice away is acting like God. That is blasphemy, and I won�t be a part of it . . . I don�t think it can be changed or should be changed that you are gay. I don�t know if you were made that way or not, but as long as there is a possibility that it is internal and can�t be changed, I cannot judge anyone based on that. Besides, the Bible says there is only one judge, and we should not be putting ourselves in his place.�

But as the November 2006 elections near, the forces of discrimination are gearing up for another round of pulpit politicking. According to Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (founded by Pat Robertson), and Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, politicized �pastors and churches can do plenty� to skirt the separation of church and state:

�What pastors can do is not only encourage their people to be engaged in the political process, and to vote a biblical worldview, but also, they can talk about the key issues of the day,� Sekulow told [James Dobson�s Focus on the Family�s] CitizenLink. . . .

�Churches and nonprofit organizations may not specifically endorse or oppose a candidate for elective office,� Staver explained. �For example, a church cannot say that it corporately supports or opposes a particular candidate -- whether it�s for local, state or national office.�

But Staver said 501(c)3 groups clearly do have the right to engage in educational campaigns during elections.

�That can be done through the distribution of voter guides that clearly indicate the positions of the candidates on certain issues. These voter guides need to cover a number of areas,� Staver said. �Certainly, the moral areas can be included, as well.�

Staver said churches and nonprofits can also give their specific positions on issues. . . . [italics added]

�Educational campaigns?� Apparently Mr. Staver has the same understanding of �educational� as Tom Minnery, senior vice president of public policy at Focus on the Family, had when he said the pre-election �Stand for the Family� pep rallies would be educational and lay out issues �in a nonpartisan fashion.� James Dobson�s Focus on the Family has spent more than $500,000 to block gay marriage in Colorado, and has launched a new campaign against the California legislation that would benefit gay and lesbian citizens, their children and families.

Dobson�s �urgent call� to bombard Schwarzenegger was covered by WorldNet Daily:

James Dobson, the president of the action affiliate of Focus on the Family ministries, has issued an urgent call to the millions of radio program listeners to contact California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before he is asked to sign the bills.

�What all four bills will do, they will reinforce homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism in a positive light,� Focus State Issues Analyst Mona Passignano told WorldNetDaily.

So what�s wrong with a positive light? Maybe nothing.

But, she said, �They will keep people from saying anything negative about them.�

�You cannot preach the Gospel. If you want to preach about Romans 1, you can�t. Someone could say, �That makes me feel bad,�� she said. �You cannot preach what the Bible says.

�If you�re a Christian, it�s got to be alarming. If you are not a Christian, it�s got to be alarming,� she said. �Because what comes next?

�Is someone going to say, �You can�t drive a red car, that�s the color of heterosexuals. You have to drive a purple car?�

Like her boss James Dobson, and like Lou Sheldon and his lobbyist Benjamin Lopez, Ms. Passignano doesn�t want anything positive said about gay and lesbian Americans. How much more bigoted can you get?

�Preach the gospel?� Last time I checked, there were only four �gospels�: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Romans 1 is not a gospel. It�s dogma created by Paul who, in First Timothy, told Christians �suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.� When are Ms. Passignano and the rest of the selective Bible readers of the politicized Christian Right going to start preaching that?

Intended to inspire fear, Ms. Passignano�s �red car� statement is just plain stupid. It�s akin to Dobson�s assertion in his Marriage Under Fire book that legalizing same-sex marriage would bring about the end of the world. On that issue, Lewis Hastings� August 25, 2006 OpEd in The Arizona Republic was straightforward and astute:

Two Republican candidates for governor, Mike Harris and Gary Tupper, oppose the ban on gay marriage, believing it to be religious in nature and therefore inappropriate for government action (�GOP hopefuls court gay voters,� Valley & State, Monday).

I agree.

The mayor of Phoenix and a former president of the University of Arizona oppose it for practical reasons (�Gay-nuptial ban under fire,� Republic, Wednesday).

I agree.

But most importantly, my common sense tells me that gay marriage will have no impact on me.

It will not affect my relationship with my wife. It will not affect my relationship with my children, other family or friends. It will not affect my business and professional relationships. It will not affect my political beliefs or my religious beliefs, whatever they may be.

If gays marry, it will not affect anyone except the two involved.

Those who wish to impose their religious beliefs on me should think twice before supporting this ban. The pendulum is never centered. [links added]

Others also share the mayor of Phoenix�s �practical� concerns about anti-gay legislation enacted during the Bush administration.

But back to Benjamin Lopez . . .

He was fired by the dithering GOP �at the conclusion of last weekend�s [August 19-20] state Republican Party convention.� In reporting on the firing, Focus on the Family�s Citizenlink quoted Mike Spence, who leads the conservative California Republican Assembly. Mr. Spence �called Lopez�s dismissal frustrating, noting that �they fired the only person who could do church outreach.��

A most interesting comment. A man who takes pleasure in -- and has made a career of -- hurting fellow citizens, their children and families is �the only person who could do church outreach.� If that�s so, then it�s clearly better that those �churches� embracing Sheldon�s, Lopez�s and the TVC�s brand of bigotry and hate be �left behind,� far behind.

And what would a CitizenLink story be without a comment from �the Chairman�?

There was no immediate indication of what effect Lopez�s firing would have on the action Schwarzenegger will take on several pro-gay [ie, pro-equality] bills awaiting either his signature or his veto.

Focus on the Family Action Chairman Dr. James Dobson said on his nationally syndicated radio show today [August 23, 2006] that the governor has �waffled� on an earlier promise to veto at least one of the bills.

�Now he�s saying, �I�m not sure. I�ve got to think about this. I don�t believe I can give you an answer today.� He�s dancing like crazy,� Dobson said. �He�s trying to keep the support of the homosexual community in California. He�s trying to have it both ways.

If people don�t hit him hard in the next two or three days (with demands that he veto the bills) we�re going to see this legislation . . . the law of the land. He has good reason for listening to people this time of the year.� [italics added]

Dobson doesn�t like folks �thinking� about things. He demands that people -- especially politicians -- just blindly obey him, or else. With his usual penchant for exaggeration -- �the law of the land� -- Dobson makes it seem as if the California legislation would become law in all other states: another classic example of the politics of fear.

Dobson was, however, correct about one thing. Schwarzenegger was trying to have it both ways. How much you want to bet he�ll veto at least some of the pro-equality legislation as a peace offering to the Christian Right?

In the movies, Arnold usually played a good guy who eventually did what was right. Wouldn�t it be more redeeming -- personally and politically and for the American body politic -- if Gov. Schwarzenegger and other �moderate� Republicans stood up to the evangelical Christian Right and their pocketed politicians and said �Enough! You guys preach hate, discrimination and bigotry . . . and you have no place in the party of Lincoln.�

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