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Religion Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Bush and the Christian Right: $100 million for discrimination
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 6, 2006, 01:05

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"The literal blood of the thousands of gay people physically wounded by hate . . . is on the hands of Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and so many others who spew hate for partisan gain and personal enrichment." --Matt Foreman, President, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. . . . It's just a goddamned piece of paper!" -- President George W. Bush

The so-called "Healthy Marriage Initiative" is the latest scheming, malicious way for the pathological Bush administration and Christian Right to intentionally disenfranchise, demean, denigrate and hurt gay and lesbian Americans, their children and their families.

It was a small item in the "News in Brief" section of James Dobson's Focus on the Family's December 22, 2005, CitizenLink daily update e-mailed to "LinkMembers@LISTSERV.FAMILY.ORG" subscribers:

Senate Approves Money to Strengthen Marriage

The U.S. Senate passed a provision Wednesday to provide funding for programs to strengthen marriage.

Included in the Omnibus Deficit Reduction bill is a proviso for The Healthy Marriage Initiative that would set aside $100 million [annually] to help families stay together.

Lanier Swann, director of government relations for Concerned Women for America (CWA), said marriage is a fundamental element of society.

"The healthy-marriage initiative will provide financial resources for educational and skill-based programs that will teach couples to make their marriages work," she said. "Children who come from single-parent homes experience more poverty, emotional and behavioral problems than those who come from households with two parents.

Mom and dad benefit, too," she added. "Physical, financial, mental and emotional health result from a healthy marriage." [links added]

Marriage is "a fundamental element of society." In fact, in its Loving v. Virginia ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declared marriage is "one of the basic civil rights of man," and the freedom to marry is "essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness." But "basic civil rights" and "the orderly pursuit of happiness" mean nothing to Bush or the Christian Right.

Families staying together are without doubt important. Families often do need resources to help achieve that goal. It is also absolutely true that parents -- and their families -- benefit physically, financially, mentally and emotionally from a healthy marriage. But Bush and the Christian Right care only about some parents and some families.

Gay and lesbian couples and their real-world American families -- that include hundreds of thousands if not millions of children -- are excluded from the benefits of The Healthy Marriage Initiative paid for with their tax money because the federal government -- based on perverted, malignant religious ideology -- denies them the civil right to a civil marriage.

There had been an earlier Focus on the Family report on The Healthy Marriage Initiative inappropriately titled "President's Marriage Proposal Gets Help from Pro-Family Groups." How can any of these groups -- or George W. Bush and his policy makers -- call themselves "pro-family" when their actions are specifically designed to exclude and, thereby, hurt families headed by same-sex parents? John D. Moore, professor of health science and psychology at American Public University, was correct:

When President George W. Bush decided to publicly embrace a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, cloaking his remarks in the guise of religion, he psychologically violated millions upon millions of gay and lesbian youth around the nation as well as the many millions more who are their parents and relatives. . . . Make no mistake -- his intolerant message was quite clear: "You and your family are not part of the American family."

Ever since Vermont legalized civil unions between same-sex partners, and especially since the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that "equality" meant "equality" in relation to civil marriage, the Christian Right's hate-based anti-family arguments haven't changed.

There was the initial outcry that same-sex marriage would "destabilize traditional marriage." That turned out to be utter nonsense. With a year and a half's experience of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts -- as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships in several other sates -- "traditional" marriage and families have not been affected -- much less "destabilized" -- in any way.

Then there was the Christian Right's ridiculous ranting that same-sex marriage would destroy society:

Unless the people of the State of Massachusetts rise up with one voice in opposition to this lawless and socially destructive behavior [same-sex marriage], it will destroy society as we know it. --Steve Crampton, Chief Counsel, Center for Law and Policy, American Family Association, December 2003

American society has not been destroyed. It has, however, been demeaned by the Christian Right's unbridled hatred of gay and lesbian Americans and the pathological attempts to hurt their families.

And then there were James Dobson's fear-mongering arguments in his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire. They were addressed and summarily invalidated in "Out of Focus on the Family: A Response to Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage," published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Popular Culture Review (16:1, February 2005, 45-75), where a version of the following economic responses appeared.

In his book, Dobson offered 11 arguments against same-sex marriage, the last of which claimed such unions would bring about the end of the world: "The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become 'as it was in the days of Noah.'" Dobson offered equally ridiculous economic arguments:

6. The health care system will stagger and perhaps collapse.

This could be the straw that breaks the back of the insurance industry in Western nations, as millions of new dependents become eligible for coverage. Every HIV-positive patient needs only to find a partner to receive the same coverage as offered to an employee. It is estimated by some analysts that drastic increases in premiums can be anticipated and that it may not be profitable for companies to stay in business.

And how about the cost to American businesses? Will they be able to provide health benefits? If not, can physicians, nurses, and technicians be expected to work for nothing or to provide their services in exchange for a vague promise of payments from indigent patients? Try selling that to a neurosurgeon or an orthopedist who has to pay increased premiums for malpractice insurance. The entire health care system could implode. [italics added]

"Millions of new dependents"? Millions of newly married heterosexual dependents are added each year. It's more than a bit difficult to believe that the total number of gay and lesbian Americans who choose to marry could possibly result in millions more. And even if it did, does that legitimate and justify discriminating against them and excluding them from the civil institution called "marriage" and the benefits it confers on them and their families?

"Every HIV-positive patient." Playing on stereotypes and fears is the standard MO for the Christian Right's political activists. Aside from the fact that heterosexuals also have HIV and most insurance companies have "preexisting condition" clauses, should a genome scan be performed on every woman who wants to marry to make sure she does not carry the genes that predispose her to breast cancer? How about refusing to insure anyone who gets a suntan in the summer? It's a fact that such exposure to the sun causes skin cancer, which is very expensive to treat.

It's an undisputed fact that marriage lowers health risk and, therefore, health care costs. A May 2004 news release from the American Heart Association attested to that. It detailed the research of Dr. Stephen Morewitz, who presented his finding in "Marital Status as a Risk Factor for Hypertension Impairment" to the American Heart Association's 5th annual Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, Washington, May 16-17, 2004. Dr. Morewitz and his researchers analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey, which included information from more than 30,000 adults. The study concluded that married persons are less likely to have high blood pressure or suffer from related health problems. The same conclusion was reached by Gary Cohan, M.D., and expressed in his article "Rx: Marriage," posted on, March 12, 2004. (Unfortunately, Dr. Cohan's article is no longer available, but a letter about it and another of his articles is.)

Knowledge of the health benefits of marriage is not new. E. J. Graff, in her book, What Is Marriage For?, quoted British public-health statistician William Farr, who remarked in 1858 that "marriage is a healthy state. The single individual is much more likely to be wrecked on his voyage than the lives joined together in matrimony." Graff added that:

The data have been eerily consistent ever since: whether measuring by death rate, morbidity (health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, or ischemic heart disease), subjective or stress-related complaints (dizziness, shortness of breath, achiness, days in bed during past year, asthma, headaches), or psychiatric problems (clinical depression or debilitating anxiety after a cancer diagnosis), married people do better than unmarried -- single, widowed, divorced.

So same-sex marriage could help lower partners' blood pressure, reduce their risks for other illnesses and thereby save insurance companies money, since that economic interest seems to be one of Dr. Dobson's main concerns. But even that concern is overridden by Dobson's pathological attacks on homosexuals and desire to see them and their families harmed. How odd for someone whose organization is called "Focus on the Family."

The version of Dobson's sixth argument that first appeared on Focus on the Family's web site differed slightly from the version that ultimately appeared in Marriage Under Fire. In the web site version, the line "It is estimated by some analysts that drastic increases in premiums can be anticipated and that it may not be profitable for companies to stay in business," read "It is estimated by some analysts that an initial threefold increase in premiums can be anticipated; even with that, it may not be profitable for companies to stay in business." In neither case were "some analysts" identified, nor was any citation or documentation provided. One has to wonder where Dr. Dobson got the "threefold increase in premiums" figure, and why it was toned down to "drastic increases" for the printed version. Once again, Dr. Dobson's malicious attempt to inspire fear is without basis. In a report released May 6, 2004, the Human Rights Campaign documented that:

Private employers are instituting domestic-partner health insurance benefits for gay employees at the rate of three companies a day. . . . The analysis by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that more than 1,000 private employers and colleges and universities added domestic-partner benefits in 2003, 18% more than the year before. Some 40% of the Fortune 500 companies now offer domestic-partner benefits, including nearly 70% of the 50 top businesses. . . . The report says providing such benefits enhances morale, productivity, recruiting, and competitiveness. One of the study's authors, Kim Mills, said the 18% rise is an indication that employers are deciding that such benefits are good for business.

"The Dollars and Cents of Gay Marriage," an article by David R. Francis, appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 2004. It documented that, once again, Dr. Dobson had no legitimate argument, only fear tactics:

"Did you ever wonder why more and more companies, state and municipal governments, and colleges and universities are granting benefits to gay workers' partners and children? One big reason: It's cheap. On average, it would add 1 percent�2 percent tops�to employers' benefit costs," says Susan Sandler, editor of a newsletter, HRfocus, for the Institute of Management and Administration in New York. . . ."Legalizing gay marriage isn't that costly in economic terms. In fact, research suggests it should save money for federal and state governments."

It would seem same-sex marriage would be good for gay and lesbian Americans and their families, good for government, good for business, and certainly good for anyone who was truly and honestly focused on the well-being of all American families.

Dobson's seventh argument read:

7. Social Security will be severely stressed. Again, with millions of new eligible dependents, what will happen to the Social Security system, which is already facing bankruptcy? If it does collapse, what will that mean for elderly people who must rely totally on that meager support? Who is thinking through these draconian possibilities as we careen toward "a brave new world"?

"Who is thinking through these draconian possibilities?" The Republican Party was. They made the case to the U. S. House Judiciary Subcommittee during May 2004 hearings on the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. Rep. Spencer Bachus, an Alabama Republican, cited a recent General Accounting Office report that detailed 1,138 federal laws in which marital status is a factor in receiving benefits, rights, or privileges. The laws affect everything from a spouse's ability to collect Social Security, disability, and veterans' benefits to legal rights to file joint tax returns, apply for joint homeowners' insurance, or claim family leave to care for a sick partner.

Bachus also cited a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate of a bill proposed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) to offer domestic-partner benefits to federal employees. The CBO predicted that providing health care and retirement benefits to the partners of current and former federal workers would cost an estimated $1.4 billion between 2004 and 2013. That's not a lot of money considering that in late 2003 President Bush spent $1.5 billion on a single faith-based PR campaign to "protect marriage" from people who wanted to get married.

Moreover, in 2004 the Congressional Budget Office found that allowing same-sex couples to marry would actually boost federal income tax revenues by $400 million per year until the end of this decade mainly because of the so-called "marriage penalty." Social security payments would rise over time, as would spending on spousal health insurance benefits for federal workers. Other expenditure items would be much lower, however, since spending on Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) would fall. The net impact, according to the CBO, would be a federal budget savings of nearly $1 billion per year.

Ultimately, Bush's and the Christian Right's objection to same-sex marriage rest solely on a perverted, dogmatic version of religion advocated by false prophets who claim to know what "God" wants. But the evolution of the concept of monotheism's "God" requires the growth of all social and cultural institutions, including marriage. Karen Armstrong's 496-page book The History of God made that crystal clear.

To try to briefly summarize Armstrong's meticulously researched book would be a gross injustice, but the reviews by and Publishers Weekly made the case for the argument at hand. From

Armstrong, a British journalist and former nun, guides us along one of the most elusive and fascinating quests of all time -- the search for God. Like all beloved historians, Armstrong entertains us with deft storytelling, astounding research, and makes us feel a greater appreciation for the present because we better understand our past. Be warned: A History of God is not a tidy linear history. Rather, we learn that the definition of God is constantly being repeated, altered, discarded, and resurrected through the ages, responding to its followers' practical concerns rather than to mystical mandates . . . [italics mine]

From Publishers Weekly:

This searching, profound comparative history of the three major monotheistic faiths fearlessly illuminates the sociopolitical ground in which religious ideas take root, blossom and mutate. Armstrong, a British broadcaster, commentator on religious affairs and former Roman Catholic nun, argues that Judaism, Christianity and Islam each developed the idea of a personal God, which has helped believers to mature as full human beings. Yet Armstrong also acknowledges that the idea of a personal God can be dangerous, encouraging us to judge, condemn and marginalize others. Recognizing this, each of the three monotheisms, in their different ways, developed a mystical tradition grounded in a realization that our human idea of God is merely a symbol of an ineffable reality. To Armstrong, modern, aggressively righteous fundamentalists of all three faiths represent "a retreat from God." . . . [italics mine]

What's clear is that the concept of "God" is always evolving. What's also abundantly clear is that today's dogmatic foes of that evolution and the civil equality of all people -- the "aggressively righteous fundamentalists of all three faiths [who] represent 'a retreat from God'" -- epitomize nothing less than a devolution into hate, discrimination and medieval theocratic "thinking."

The ultimate blasphemy is to speak for "God" when really speaking only for one's personal and political agendas. In biblical times such false prophets were dealt with most harshly. In contemporary times, such false prophets -- Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Lou Sheldon, James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Tony Perkins -- and their theocratic political organizations' message of hate and discrimination must be repudiated if the American republic and civil society are to survive.

Many genuine religious leaders are already realizing that as the dubious connections of the leaders of the politicized Christian Right become known -- The Rev. Lou Sheldon, who heads the Orange County-based Traditional Values Coalition, which, according to the Washington Post, got $25,000 from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff . . . [link added]; and as they begin fighting among themselves to see who can propagate more hate to enhance their own self interests -- [Randy] Thomasson's group [ and the Campaign for Children and Families], which is supported by the Rev. Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition, has for months taken swipes at, which is backed by [James Dobson's] Focus on the Family and other conservative national Christian organizations. Thomasson did so again Tuesday [December 27, 2005], calling the competing measure weak and inviting voters to abandon it in favor of his; and they continue to increasingly fail in the process:

The Campaign for Children and Families said last week that it had not been able to get the number of signatures needed and was postponing its ballot initiative "for the foreseeable future." (story) The deadline was Tuesday [December 27, 2005] for submitting names for the June 2006 ballot.

A second conservative group, ProtectMarriage, also failed to submit its petitions for the June ballot but said it is now aiming for an April 13 deadline to make it onto November's ballot. ProtectMarriage said that it is suspending temporarily its signature drive . . .

In his book Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis and related interviews, Jimmy Carter accurately noted that today's politically motivated Christian fundamentalists -- with the aid of George W. Bush and other self-righteous Republicans sycophants -- have indeed "managed to change the nuances and subtleties of historic debate into black and white rigidities and the personal derogation of those who dare to disagree."

But equality will always win, eventually, despite despotic, self-righteous "leaders" like George W. Bush and the pathological, hate-mongering leaders of the Christian Right who pull his strings.

There is little doubt that history will record the failed presidency and political fraud that is George W. Bush, whose perverted "American" and sanctimonious "family" values were documented in Doug Thompson's December 9, 2005 Capital Hill Blue report, "Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'":

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the [Patriot] act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the president from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

"I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the president and the commander-in-chief. Do it my way."

"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"

I've talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned piece of paper."

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