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Religion Last Updated: Jan 27th, 2009 - 03:36:39

Part I: The 2008 Wholly Hypocrite of the Year Award goes to . . .
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 27, 2009, 00:22

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So many worthy candidates. There were, of course, the perennial nominees: James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, �Lucky Louie� Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. But there were also some new contenders.

The Church of Jesus Christ and Later-day Saints garnered several nominations based on its use of selective religious dogma and church funds to help revoke an existing civil right from some Californians. After Proposition 8 passed (52% to 48%) the Mormons claimed to be victims of �anti-religion� bigotry. In a post-election article about the vote, the Los Angeles Times juxtaposed comments from a Mormon supporter of Proposition 8 and two of its victims:

�This has been a moral battle,� said Ellen Smedley, 34, a member of the Mormon Church and a mother of five who worked on the [�Yes on 8�] campaign. �We aren�t trying to change anything that homosexual couples believe or want � it [Prop. 8] doesn�t change anything that they�re allowed to do already. It�s defining marriage. . . . Marriage is a man and a woman establishing a family unit.�

How is civil discrimination �moral�?

The sole purpose of Proposition 8 was to change what committed same-sex couples are �allowed to do already� in California.

And as for �establishing a family� . . .

John Lewis, 50, and Stuart Gaffney, 46, . . . were married in June. They were at the San Francisco party holding a little sign in the shape of pink heart that said, �John and Stuart 21 years.� They spent the day campaigning against Proposition 8 with family members across the Bay Area.

�Our relationship, our marriage, after 21 years together has been put up for a popular vote,� Lewis said. �We have done what anyone would do in this situation: stand up for our family.�

Author, columnist and activist Wayne Besen asked the most salient question and stated the obvious:

What kind of nation let�s a majority of citizens vote on the most basic rights of a minority? Perhaps, we should drive this point home in the next election cycle by sponsoring ballot initiatives that ban Mormon marriage or Evangelical marriage. We could air millions of dollars of ads discussing polygamy or snake handling in churches. I think these bullies would be shocked to learn that they are not much more popular than we are in a beauty contest of belittlement.

What disgusts me is that $70 million has been spent on the California marriage battle. It is a fight that, in the end, will not impact a single heterosexual marriage, and this is proven by the fact gay people have already been marrying in California for five months � and the world has not ended.

When one thinks of all the orphans that could have been fed with the money used to attack gay families, it is hard to consider our opponents real Christians. Their priorities are so misplaced and skewed that it is appalling. The only things they genuinely seem to worship are political power and discrimination.

The Church of Jesus Christ and Later-days Saints believes it�s quite legitimate to use their religious dogma to justify revoking an existing civil right from gay and lesbian Californians, but when those truly victimized � and millions of other across the country who support them � take exception with LDS and denying civil rights based on religious dogma, then it�s �anti-religion bigotry.� How very hypocritical.

But California couples weren�t the only ones the hypocritical Mormons were victimizing:

When they weren�t busy promoting the passage of California�s Proposition 8 in recent months, Mormon leaders tried their best to make Chad Hardy�s life hell. Riled by his �Men on a Mission� calendar of shirtless returned missionaries, elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicated Hardy � a lifelong Mormon � in July. Then in September, officials from the Provo, Utah�based Brigham Young University informed the 32-year-old entrepreneur, who had participated in the school�s graduation ceremony a month earlier, that his diploma would be denied. BYU says Hardy�s expulsion from the church placed him outside of the �good honor-code standing� necessary to award him his degree, which has been placed on nonacademic hold; Hardy contends that since he completed his coursework prior to excommunication, the rule should not apply.

There was also the case of Brigham Young University photography student J. Michael Wiltbank:

Did Prop. 8 backlash cause art censorship � or its reversal � at Brigham Young University? Could be, as BYU photography student J. Michael Wiltbank found when his contribution to a two-week-long art exhibitioneight pairs of benign portraits, each depicting an LGBT-identified BYU student alongside a supportive friendhad been removed. . . .

Wiltbank�s contribution . . . consisted of eight pairs of benign portraits, each depicting an LGBT-identified BYU student alongside a supportive friend, without identifying which person is which.

While the Mormon Church-owned university honor code forbids gay behavior or advocacy, Wiltbank�s project didn�t violate that code. Simply identifying as gay or owning up to gay feelings is permitted.

�I knew exactly what BYU�s stance was,� he says, �and I brought it up during the conceptual stage. My professor even had the project approved before I was able to begin photographing.�

After confirming with the school�s administration that his portraits had been removed, Wiltbank vented about the affair on his blog. His story made its way to a number of gay blogs and some news sites, and a few days later university administrators came calling. . . .

When asked whether the censorship � and reversal � had anything to do with the anti-Mormon backlash that followed the passage of Prop. 8, the California anti-gay-marriage measure supported by many members of the church, BYU media relations manager Michael Smart said, �That is a fair question. The reason it was resolved quickly is that it shouldn�t have come down in the first place.�

And then there�s the �perplexing� symbolism and equally perplexing LDS dogma Ed Decker pointed out in his article �LDS No More! Mormon No More!

This is a picture of the 4th floor windows that will grace all 4 sides of reconstructed LDS Navoo Temple. This is not just a window. It is an upside down 5-pointed star that is a PENTAGRAM, one of the highest symbols of Lucifer, the true god of the LDS temple. . . .

Well, if that isn�t enough to make you wonder, listen to what the Book of Mormon says a group of Christian pastors. [sic]

And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil. And he said unto me:

�Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil. And he said unto me:

�Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.�
(Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14:9-10)

This doctrine was strongly supported for many years in the LDS temple ritual where we learned that such pastors as these were hirelings of Lucifer and taught �the Orthodox religion� for him. That orthodoxy included salvation by grace and a god who is spirit, not an exalted man, the very doctrines upon which these local pastors rest their faith.

Why would Mormons want any part of these organizations filled with pastors whom they believe have absolutely no authority to act in the name of God? . . .

Answer: to demonize and deny equal civil rights to gay and lesbian monogamous couples even though the Church of Jesus Christ and Later-day Saints advocated and practiced polygamy well into the twentieth century. But then again, �biblical marriage� was also often polygamous and involved arranged marriages between girls as young as 13 and their much older men: facts conveniently overlooked by those who claim to be protecting �biblical marriage� against same-sex couples by denying them access to a basic civil right.

As the U.S. Supreme Court stated in its Loving v. Virginia decision (that struck down all laws against interracial marriage), marriage is �one of the basic rights of man,� and the freedom to marry is �essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.�

In their assault on that basic right �essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness,� the Mormons teamed up with the winner of this year�s Wholly Hypocrite of the Year Award, as well as other noteworthy contenders, such as James Dobson and his organization �Focus on the Family� which, of course couldn�t give a damn about families headed gay and lesbian Americans. But after the �Get the Gays� campaign was over, so was the feigned �religious unity�:

Focus on Family pulls Glenn Beck article
By Joel Campbell
Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008

James Dobson�s Focus on the Family ministry has pulled from its CitizenLink Web site an article about talk show host Glenn Beck�s book �The Christmas Sweater� after some complained that Beck�s LDS faith is a �cult� and �false religion� and shouldn�t be promoted by a Christian ministry.

When contacted Friday, a Focus on the Family worker at the ministry in Colorado Springs, Colo. confirmed that the article had been pulled . . . and read a prepared statement for callers who had called about the Beck article:

�You are correct to note that Mr. Beck is a member of the Mormon church, and that we did not make mention of this fact in our interview with him. We do recognize the deep theological difference between evangelical theology and Mormon theology, and it would have been prudent for us at least to have pointed out these differences. Because of the confusion, we have removed the interview from CitizenLink.� . . .

All other questions about the controversy were directed to a ministry media spokesman who would not be available until Jan. 2. Calls to Beck�s offices Friday went unanswered. A link to the story still remained on the Front Page of

Apparently, the controversy was fueled on Dec. 22, when an anti-Mormon group called Underground Apologetics issued a release through Christian News Wire which read:

�Focus on the Family has a story on Glenn Beck, a Mormon, on their CitizenLink Web site. Glenn Beck was a CNN host and will move to Fox News in January. Beck is currently promoting his book, �The Christmas Sweater.� The CitizenLink story focuses on Beck�s faith and why he wrote �The Christmas Sweater.�

�While Glenn�s social views are compatible with many Christian views, his beliefs in Mormonism are not. Clearly, Mormonism is a cult. The CitizenLink story does not mention Beck�s Mormon faith, however, the story makes it look as if Beck is a Christian who believes in the essential doctrines of the faith.

Through the years, Focus on the Family has done great things to help the family and has brought attention to the many social ills that are attacking the family. . . . [italics added]

�Through the years, Focus on the Family has done great things to help the family.� That statement defines �hypocrisy.� Dobson and FOF have done everything in their power to disenfranchise, demean, and hurt gay parents, their children, and their families, as has another mega-contributor to the campaign to pass Prop 8, Don Wildmon and his American Family Association. Nothing made that clearer than Wildmon�s latest Action Alert condemning Campbell Soups because

In the December, 2008 and January, 2009 issues, Campbell Soup Company bought two, two-page advertisements in the latest issues of the nation�s largest homosexual magazine, �The Advocate.� The ads promote their Swanson line of broth.

In one of the December ads, the Campbell Soup Company highlighted the lives of two lesbians with their son. The others feature New York City chefs.
See the ads here.

Campbell Soup Company has openly begun helping homosexual activists push their agenda. Not only did the ads cost Campbell�s a chunk of money, but they also sent a message that homosexual parents constitute a family and are worthy of support. . . . [italics added]

Aside from the fact that target-marketing is a common practice, what kind of �man,� what kind of �Christian� would deny that legally married parents and their child constitute a family?

Aside from boycotting Campbell Soups, Wildmon�s AFA is attacking Campbell Soup�s �Labels For Education� program that �provides equipment for schools. Children and adults can redeem UPC codes in order for their school to benefit from newer equipment. As a result, the company has helped a great many schools receive equipment that they would not, normally, have.�

If ever there was an example of raw hatred, seething bigotry, and unbridled hypocrisy hiding behind religion, it�s Don Wildmon and his grotesquely misnamed American �Family� Association.

And how�s this for hypocritical? Despite Wildmon�s and AFA�s notorious campaigns against any retailer that said �Happy Holidays� instead of �Merry Christmas,� there was absolutely NO �Merry Christmas� message on the AFA website, as this December 25, 2008 screen shot attests.

But on Christmas Day Wildmon and the AFA were still hawking their antigay scare videos �They�re Coming to Your Town� and �It�s Not Gay,� the latter of which has been definitively debunked by Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Outs.

Another major contender was �God�s� antigay spokesman Rick Warren for his raging duplicity after being invited to give the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama.

In her December 18, 2008 CNN Commentary, Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for the American Way, summarized why Warren�s invitation inflamed so many:

The announcement that Pastor Rick Warren has been chosen to give the invocation at Barack Obama�s inauguration ceremony landed with a thud in my inbox.

Many people who know Warren as the affable megachurch pastor and best-selling author may be confused about the anger and disappointment that his selection has generated among progressive activists who worked so hard to help elect Obama. Here�s my explanation; you can find plenty of other voices online. . . .

Warren also
campaigned for Proposition 8, the initiative that stripped same-sex couples in California of their right under the state constitution to get legally married. But it�s not just his support for Prop. 8 that is so galling to equality activists.

It�s that Warren, in an interview with, has since equated allowing loving same-sex couples to get married with redefining marriage to permit incest and pedophilia.

And he has repeated one of the Religious Right�s big lies: that somehow allowing marriage equality to stand would have threatened the freedom of preachers like him to say what they thought about homosexuality. That�s not remotely true, but it�s a standard tool of Religious Right leaders trying to resist the public�s increasing support for equality.

In other words, Warren has been divisive and dishonest on the issues of marriage equality and religious freedom . . . [link added]

Ms. Kolbert was indeed correct. There were �plenty of other voices online� and in print. The �Open Letter to Pastor Rick Warren,� dated 22 December 2008, by the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, Rector and Pastor of The Episcopal Church of St. Paul in Chatham, NJ was one of them:

Dear Pastor Warren,

Congratulation, I suppose, are in order on the occasion of your having been invited to deliver the invocation at the historic inauguration of President Elect Obama.

You will excuse me if I don�t stand and cheer.

Like you, I share the privilege of being a pastor. I know that, as pastors, we cannot be �all things to all people.� Many people have expectations for us that even Jesus himself couldn�t meet. We are God-representatives. We are not God. Alas, we are very, very human. And, therein lies the rub. . . .

I heard you laugh when Ann Curry asked if you were �homophobic.� And, you were right to do so. Being opposed to marriage for LGBT people does not necessarily make you homophobic.

It does, however, make you heterosexist.

Heterosexism is a social disease, the root cause of which is straight, white male privilege. It is the assumption that the �normal� societal paradigm for marriage and family is male-female which has its basis in the �family values� of scripture.

That is a decidedly false assumption. The biblical family was hardly male and female with 2.5 children. Polygamy was the norm, and the �family� included slaves, male and female, adult and child. Furthermore, miracles aside, by ancient and modern cultural standards Mary was an unwed teen and Jesus was an illegitimate child. . . .

Your ministry with people with AIDS is deeply commendable. Admirable, in fact. But to respond to the accusation of homophobia with the defense of your AIDS ministry is to find you guilty as charged, even though you probably would not be convicted by a jury of your Saddleback peers.

AIDS does not equal Gay. Hasn�t for a very long time, if it ever did. AIDS is now a pandemic, thanks, in part, to the homophobia fueled by the Religious Right which prevented earlier, more aggressive research and inhibited intervention.

To provide pastoral care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people only when we are dying � or to care for them only if they adhere to your demand for celibacy � is prima facia evidence of homophobia and therefore, pastor, not very pastoral. . . .

It�s not about you and what you want, no matter how noble or how good it makes you look. It�s about what God wants - and God�s desire for us is a very personal thing, something which is worked out between the individual and God, with the counsel of a wise and earnest priest and in community.

As Bishop Jack Spong once said, �Literalism in any form is little more than pious hysteria.�

Indeed, were you to take scripture literally, you would be compelled to pick up a rock and stone me to my death. For, while I am enormously privileged to have been ordained an Episcopal Priest for almost 23 years, I have also been in a faithful, monogamous, life-long, loving relationship with another woman since 1976.

We have raised six children to adulthood, and are now grandparents to five beautiful children who are growing up in a country which is moving on, thanks be to God, from judging a person by the color of their skin � or their age, sexual orientation, gender, physical ability or economic status � and more by the content of their character.

And there was Greg Wert�s Open Letter:

Dear Pastor Warren:

I am going to take you and President-Elect Obama at your words and look upon your selection to lead the invocation at his upcoming inauguration as a way to open dialogue between two groups that don�t see eye to eye on everything.

I am a gay man. And frankly, I take offense at some of the things that you say, and that you apparently believe, about me. Things that are just not true.

You say that even if science were to show, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that being gay is an innate thing, it would still be wrong, and that we should reign in those impulses. You say you have a natural impulse to have sex with every beautiful woman you see, and that you have to curb that impulse. But you DO get to have sex with one woman, right? (I am assuming you are married.) The obvious implication of what you are saying is that those of us who have a �predilection� toward homosexuality should reign in those unhealthy desires and, I guess, never have gratifying sex at all. �Delayed gratification�? �Maturity�? To never have sex in your life because you were born a certain way?

I will tell you that being homosexual is NOT a choice. It�s NOT a �lifestyle.� It�s certainly NOT a �lifestyle choice.� Science is starting to prove this out, but any gay person will tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we were born this way. Created this way by God, some would say. An excellent book which I would recommend to you (Crisis, edited by Mitchell Gold) contains stories of 40 gay people, both famous and unknown, and the difficulties they faced growing up gay in America . There are common threads in all these lives � the dawning recognition that they were different, the realization that they had to hide this difference, and the pain and torment it caused. This could be my story and that of thousands, perhaps millions, of others.

You seem to imply that being gay automatically makes you promiscuous. That is, of course, nonsense (as is any attempt to define any group by one certain behavior). But how are you encouraging what to you would be considered more acceptable behavior? By denying us access to the very structures that encourage stability in a society, that encourage faithfulness to one partner, you are actually encouraging (forcing) the opposite for those of us born gay. Most of us are not going to delay gratification for our entire lives. Would you?

I am sure that you feel that you have a Biblical basis for your views on homosexuality, but I will tell you that there are many, many other Christian pastors, theologians, and Biblical scholars who do not interpret the Bible the same way as you. What if your interpretation is wrong? You speak hurtful words and destroy lives based on your interpretation. You are an influential man, and violence against homosexuals springs from your kind of attitude, because people who listen to your words take those words to heart and for some of these misled people, the next logical step is to �kill a fag for Christ.�

And I cannot help but feel intense sorrow for the children in families who so strongly believe, and teach their young, that homosexuality is evil and wrong. Some of those kids are going to be gay! Think of the harm being done to these innocent children. They are going to be so conflicted, so at war within themselves � and many of them will attempt to take their life, and some will succeed. . . .

I am 58 years old. I cannot help but wonder what my life would have been like had I been able to recognize and accept my own gay-ness when I was young, and had the acceptance of society at large. How much different my life might have been. I am one of millions who made, and make, life choices based on having to hide an important aspect of our very being. Their potential, their possibilities as God�s children, are greatly diminished when faced with such odds. . . . [link added]

And then there was Frank Rich�s 27 December 2008 OpEd in The New York Times,You�re Likable Enough, Gay People,� that questioned not only the selection of Warren but also the President-Elect�s hubris in extending the invitation:

Obama may not only overestimate his ability to bridge some of our fundamental differences but also underestimate how persistent some of those differences are. The exhilaration of his decisive election victory and the deserved applause that has greeted his mostly glitch-free transition can�t entirely mask the tensions underneath. Before there is profound social change, there is always high anxiety.

The success of Proposition 8 in California was a serious shock to gay Americans and to all the rest of us who believe that all marriages should be equal under the law. The roles played by African-Americans (who
voted 70 percent in favor of Proposition 8) and by white Mormons (who were accused of bankrolling the anti-same-sex-marriage campaign) only added to the morning-after recriminations. And that was in blue California. In Arkansas, voters went so far as to approve a measure forbidding gay couples to adopt.

There is comparable anger and fear on the right. David Brody, a political correspondent with the Christian Broadcasting Network, was
flooded with e-mails from religious conservatives chastising Warren for accepting the invitation to the inaugural. They vilified Obama as �pro-death� and worse because of his support for abortion rights.

Stoking this rage, no doubt, is the dawning realization that the old religious right is crumbling � in part because Warren�s new generation of leaders departs from the Falwell-Robertson brand of zealots who have had a stranglehold on the G.O.P. It�s a sign of the old establishment�s panic that the Rev. Richard Cizik,
known for his leadership in addressing global warming, was pushed out of his executive post at the National Association of Evangelicals this month. Cizik�s sin was to tell Terry Gross of NPR that he was starting to shift in favor of civil unions for gay couples.

Cizik�s ouster won�t halt the new wave he represents. As he also told Gross,
young evangelicals care less and less about the old wedge issues and aren�t as likely to base their votes on them. On gay rights in particular, polls show that young evangelicals are moving in Cizik�s (and the country�s) direction and away from what John McCain once rightly called �the agents of intolerance.� It�s not a coincidence that Dobson�s Focus on the Family, which spent more than $500,000 promoting Proposition 8, has now had to lay off 20 percent of its work force in Colorado Springs. . . .

By the historical standards of presidential hubris, Obama�s disingenuous defense of his tone-deaf invitation to Warren is nonetheless a relatively tiny infraction. It�s no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It�s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.

Since he�s not about to rescind the invitation, what happens next? For perspective, I asked Timothy McCarthy, a historian who teaches at Harvard�s Kennedy School of Government and an unabashed Obama enthusiast who served on his campaign�s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council. He responded via e-mail on Christmas Eve.

After noting that Warren�s role at the inauguration is, in the end, symbolic, McCarthy concluded that �it�s now time to move from symbol to substance.� This means Warren should �recant his previous statements about gays and lesbians, and start acting like a Christian.� . . .

Did Rev. Warren �recant his previous statements about gays and lesbians, and start acting like a Christian�? No. He just did the gay shuffle. He removed the antigay material from his website, but then issued the typical bigot�s �I�m not a bigot� statement:

Pastor Warren: I love gays
By The Associated Press, 12.22.2008

(Long Beach, California) Under fire for opposing gay marriage, influential evangelical pastor Rick Warren says that he loves Muslims, people of other religions, Republicans and Democrats, and he also loves �gays and straights.� . . .

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against gays, he has condemned same-sex marriage.

I have many gay friends. I�ve eaten dinner in gay homes. . . .� he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet. But later in the interview, he compared the �redefinition of marriage� to include gay marriage to legitimizing incest, child abuse, and polygamy. [italics added]

What�s that standard racist�s �I�m not a racist� line?

�Some of my best friends are black . . .�

The similarity is unmistakable.

Rick Warren will never �get it.� He�s too committed to his own fame, popularity and power.

But did Obama �get it�? Maybe . . .

Bishop Gene Robinson to Deliver Prayer at Inauguration�s Opening Ceremony

The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person to be ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church, has been asked by President-elect Barack Obama�s inaugural committee to deliver the invocation at the inauguration�s opening ceremony, which is being held at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, January 18, and will be the first event attended by the president-elect.

Robinson, whose endorsement of Obama before the New Hampshire primary was considered a big coup for the campaign, has been critical of the controversial selection of Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the president-elect�s swearing-in ceremony on the National Mall on January 20. When Robinson heard the news about Warren, who has likened being gay to incest and statutory rape, he said �it was like a slap in the face.� . . .

In any case the winner of the 2008 Wholly Hypocrite of the Year Award goes to . . .

To be continued . . .

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