Various Direct Links

24 March 2012

Repudiation: Tax Dollars for Discrimination

Yesterday, 23 Marcy 2012, Rob Schwarzwalder of the Family Research Council (FRC) wrote an article, Another Obama Administration Attack on Marriage, Religious Liberty.  The article complains that World Vision, a religious charity that is hired by the government to help overseas, is being coerced to hire homosexuals.
Now, World Vision and other international Christian ministries are once again being pressured to jettison a key biblical teaching – only this time, on marriage.  According to Christianity Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development has issued “a new federal policy that ‘strongly encourages’ all contractors to develop anti-discrimination policies covering employees’ sexual orientation.”
 According to World Vision Senior Vice-President Kent Hill, “all World Vision U.S.employees must sign a statement of faith and agree to a standard of conduct that limits sexuality to ‘a God-ordained covenant between a man and a woman’.”
The encouragement is from an executive policy for USAID, United States Agency for International Development, that contractors for USAID not discriminate.  The language is specific:  "contractors and recipients are not required to implement the same comprehensive nondiscrimination policies required by the Agency for its own employment practices."  The Washington Blade has the full memo.

Mr. Schwarzwalder even quotes the Obama administration verifying that there is no attack on religious liberty.
The Obama Administration was quick to deny any potential discrimination: According to USAID spokesman Drew Bailey, “The LGBT anti-discrimination policy is not binding … Nothing in the policy precludes our continuing strong partnerships with religious organizations or otherwise affects contracting or grant decisions. We have strong, productive relationships with many faith-based organizations, and [they] will not be adversely affected by this policy.”
Of course, that does not stop Mr. Schwarzwalder from assuming that encouragement is about to become requirement.
Let us pray that this tacit attack on religious liberty will not impede the ability of Christian groups to partner with Washington in providing aid to those so in need.  And let us act, by contacting the Obama Administration and our elected federal representatives to express to them that this potentially massive violation of our “first freedom” – freedom of religion – will be stopped.
The latest policy directive, released 12 March 2012, has nothing about sexual orientation or marriage equality.  Twenty-four pages without a hint of requirement that World Vision and other religious contractors of USAID stop discriminating.

In a more just environment, my tax dollars would not be going to organizations that discriminate against the LGBTQ Community.  If a religion to which I do not adhere or belong wants to discriminate with its own money, my objections should be dismissed as an outside annoyance.  But this is about money that comes from the government, from all of us.

The United States government should stop paying any contractor that discriminates based on the same criteria as government employment.

23 March 2012

Praise: Bully, the Movie

On 30 March 2012, the movie Bully will be released in theaters.  Stupidly, it is rated 'R', so it won't be shown in most of the schools where it is most needed.  Ellen Degeneres interviewed the parents of Tyler Long, a bullied student who and Aspergers and who committed suicide in 2009.  The video, below, is about fifteen minutes and is a tear-jerker.  Then go see the movie when it is released.

22 March 2012

Praise: Ban Ki-Moon on Equality

Thanks to All Out for getting permission and composing this video of the Secretary General of the United Nations calling for Human Rights for everyone, including the LGBTQ Community.  Many members of the United Nations Human Rights Council walked out of the meeting on 7 March 2012 in Geneva because the Secretary General called for respect for everyone, "the time has come."

21 March 2012

Praise: Starbucks Stands Up to Bigots

Sorry about the previous link. NOM has made their video private. Here is a YouTube link that should work.

At today's stockholder meeting of Starbucks, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) complained that Starbucks was among the corporations that stood up for marriage equality in Washington State.  As seen on a NOM video, the reply from Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, was civil, respectful, and honoring the values of all of Starbucks shareholders and customers.  Now wants to have a boycott of them.  I think I'll have a Starbucks Blonde with my breakfast tomorrow morning.

20 March 2012

Repudiation: Republicans Against Republican Ideas

Lamar Smith of Texas
The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith, wrote an opinion piece for Fox News today, The Truth about the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act has become a rallying cry for President Obama, members of his administration, and liberal Democrats everywhere. President Obama has vowed to “keep fighting for the DREAM Act,” which would grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
It’s true when listeners or those polled don’t know the facts that the DREAM Act has some appeal. After all, we are all naturally sympathetic when children are involved.
So, what is President Obama's DREAM Act?
The DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) is an American legislative proposal first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001[1] by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch. [2] The act was most recently reintroduced to the senate on May 11, 2011.
This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal aliens of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. Within the six-year period, they may qualify if they have "acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or has completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor's degree or higher degree in the United States" or have "served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge".[3] Military enlistment contracts require an eight-year commitment, with active duty commitments typically between four and six years, but as low as two years.[4][5] "Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated... shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under this Act."[6] This bill would have included illegal immigrants as old as 35 years of age.
Let's slow down a minute.  This isn't legislation that originated with President Barack Obama.  Rather, it was bi-partisan legislation that was first sponsored by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.  According to the Library of Congress, Dick Durbin was one of eighteen co-sponsors.  Other co-sponsors included Republicans Sam Brownback, now Governor of Kansas, Larry Craig of Idaho, who had an airport bathroom scandal involving lewd behavior, Mike DeWine, now Attorney General of Ohio, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, retired, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

To be fair, since Barack Obama was inaugurated President of the United States, Senator Hatch has done an about face on his own legislation.  One can speculate as to why.  The answer from Senator Hatch's spokeswoman, Antonia Ferrier, is not convincing:  “He believes that we have to get tough on border security because the American people will have no faith in any immigration legislation until we do that,” she said in an email.

Back to Lamar Smith's opinion article.  He complains that many students will be older, which is true.  He then continues
DREAM Act proposals are also a magnet for fraud. Many illegal immigrants will fraudulently claim they came here as children or that they are under 30. And the federal government has no way to check whether their claims are true or not.
Such massive fraud occurred after the 1986 amnesty for illegal immigrants who claimed they were agricultural workers. Studies found two-thirds of all applications for the 1986 amnesty were fraudulent.
This is not the first time that Mr. Smith has made this allegation of studies finding massive amounts of fraud in 1986.  He made the same claim a decade ago, although links from the article at the Center for Immigration Studies to the studies he cites are broken.  More importantly, a study last year at American University refutes the allegation of fraud.

The rest of Mr. Smith's article is a complaint that President Obama is soft on illegal immigration.  According to the Pew Research Center, illegal immigration peaked in 2007 under President George W. Bush and has declined since ... a reversal of an annual increase for almost a decade.  This is likely due to the Great Recession followed by increasing border security under President Obama.

Since President Obama was elected, Republicans have done everything in their power to undermine his efficacy.  This includes working against their own ideas.  One can argue that we should simply deport all who are here illegally.  One can argue that those who have the greatest potential to help the United States should be allowed a path to legal residency and perhaps citizenship.  But arguing against one's own ideas only makes sense when the motive is no longer what is best for the country but what is best for the political party.

Is the visible animosity to President Obama purely partisan?  My guess is that there is a racial element.  While institutional racism has been illegal in the United States for half a century, it takes longer for old prejudices to be entirely eradicated.  The evidence for racism are the claims that Barack Obama is not a United States citizen or not a Christian, easily belied by his long form birth certificate and the controversies over Jeremiah Wright.

Praise: Military Six Months After DADT

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class John Ebron, Senior Chaplain NCO, 5th Signal Command, Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Carothers, Supply Point Monitor, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, talk about what life was like as gay servicemembers before the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and how life has changed for them in the six months after the repeal.

From the Stars and Stripes.  Thank you to the United States military for successfully transitioning to open service of lesbian and gay service members.  I expected it would go well, so I am not surprised.  Those who seek to reinstate Don't Ask, Don't Tell should be shunned.

19 March 2012

19 March 2012: Marriage News Watch

Links:  American Foundation for Equal Rights, Marriage News Watch.

23 January 2012: Marriage News Watch.
30 January 2012: Marriage News Watch.
6 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
13 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
20 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
21 February 2012: Marriage News Watch Special Episode.
27 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
12 March 2012:  Marriage News Watch.

26 March 2012:  Marriage News Watch.
2 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
5 April 2012: Marriage News Watch, Surprise Advance.
16 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
23 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
30 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
7 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
10 May 2012: Marriage News Watch, 2012's Biggest Marriage Milestones So Far.
14 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
21 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
28 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
4 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
5 June 2012: Marriage News Watch, Prop 8 Rehearing Denied.
11 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
18 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
25 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
2 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.
10 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.
16 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.

Praise: Kickstarting Family Restaurant

Andrea James is a member of the board of directors of OutFest an annual LGBT film festival.  She is looking to produce a movie about and for the children of gay or lesbian couples, particularly for Zion who is featured in the video below.  The Kickstart project has already exceeded the minimum donations to go ahead, but they are happy to accept additional funding.  The intro video is cute.  Enjoy.

Repudiation: Opposition to Day of Silence

Mission America, created and headed by Linda Harvey, has been spreading Christianity and denouncing homosexuality since 1995.  She has just written a piece titled Why Parents Should Keep Their Children Home from School on the Day of Silence.
On Friday April, 20, 2012, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is once again exploiting public schools to promote homosexuality and gender confusion as moral and normative through the political protest called the Day of Silence.
The idea of promoting homosexuality or "gender confusion" as if these were somehow contagious is absurd.  Ms. Harvey clearly wants no understanding of the medical and counseling communities views on these matters.  Every major medical and psychological and counseling organization understands that homosexuality and transgender persons are on the spectrum of normal and does not treat either as immoral.

GLSEN has just launched a new Day of Silence website.  In their words, "Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."
A coalition of pro-family groups is urging parents to keep their children home from school on the “Day of Silence,” if your school is allowing students to refuse to speak in class.
Every public school where I have taught has allowed students to make this decision for themselves.  No student is ever coerced into participating.  I have had students tell me that they don't agree with the Day of Silence and will be participating vocally in class.  That is the right of those students.  Rather than stand up respectfully in disagreement, as a few of my students have done, Ms. Harvey is encouraging hiding and closing the minds of students from other ways of thinking.  She is encouraging cowardice.  She wants to make sure that bigoted students aren't contaminated by others who are nice to each other in silence.
GLSEN’s Day of Silence, which began on college campuses and has now infiltrated even middle schools, exploits anti-bullying sentiment to undermine the belief that homosexual acts are immoral.
Whether or not one believes that "homosexual acts are immoral", that does not give one the right to bully those who one thinks are homosexual.  The word "infiltrated" implies some kind of subterfuge.  No, this is not a secret.  It is quite open and apparent.
GLSEN shamelessly exploits teen suicide in order to create a climate of hysteria which they then use to falsely impute culpability for teen suicide to conservative moral beliefs.
The "climate of hysteria" is that which is created by bullies and encouraged by beliefs like those of Mission America.  When one establishes an environment where some children are designated as being in a lower caste, that makes bullying acceptable.  That is the basis for saying that Mission America and hate organizations have culpability in the rash of teen suicides that we have seen.
GLSEN’s end game is the eradication of conservative moral beliefs and the creation of a social and political climate in which it is impossible to express them. Their cultural vehicle of choice for this radical social experiment is public education. What a strategic coup for homosexualists: use our money to capture the hearts and minds of our children.
No.  The end game of GLSEN is the creation of an environment where those with conservative moral beliefs and everyone else can coexist without a caste system, without bullying, and without belittlement of any groups within our schools.  The only expressions that are not welcome in this ideal are those that put down others.  To the best of my knowledge, the Day of Silence is not funded by school or tax dollars.  Materials are paid for by GLSEN, donations to which are tax-deductible under the same IRS code as Mission America.
Efforts to exploit public education for the purpose of eradicating conservative moral beliefs are dramatically increasing every year. Homosexual activists and their allies are aggressively targeting younger and younger children through “anti-bullying” laws, policies, and curricula; through the effort to nationalize “comprehensive sex ed”; through laws mandating positive portrayals of homosexuality and gender deviance in curricula; and through events like the Day of Silence, National Coming Out Day, Ally Week, Transgender Day of Remembrance; and Spirit Week.
"Eradicating conservative moral beliefs"?  That applies to only those that involve hate (which isn't supposed to be part of Christianity according to what I remember from theology classes taught by Jesuit priests).  It is certainly true that anti-bullying policies and curricula are and should be available to all of public school classes and children.  I have written previously about the value and importance of comprehensive sex education.  I have written quite a bit about California's SB-48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act which is the law "mandating positive portrayals of homosexuality and gender deviance in curricula".  These and the other GLSEN programs listed are very good for our schools and society.
And conservatives do virtually nothing. Our complacence makes us complicit in the damage done to our children and our culture. 
If that were true, there would be no need for my blog.  Most of what I write is in response to hateful legislation and responses to efforts to move toward equality.  In short, Ms. Harvey is bearing false witness.
Moreover, we teach our children by example to be cowardly conformists. It’s time to resist and there’s no easier way to resist than to call your children out of school on the Day of Silence.
Keeping children and home and hiding from an opportunity for dialogue is cowardly.
Parents and Guardians: Call your children’s middle and high schools and ask if students and/or teachers will be permitted to refuse to speak during class on Friday, April 20, 2012. If your administration allows students and/or teachers to refuse to speak during class, call your child out of school. Every student absence costs school districts money.
As a teacher who firmly believes in the Day of Silence, I have never refrained from speaking on those days and neither has any other gay or straight teacher who I know.  This is entirely the students.  The nature of funding the schools varies from district to district and state to state.  Some district funding is based on every absence.  Other districts do quarterly or annual attendance checks for purposes of funding.  In many schools, Ms. Harvey's suggestion hurts the students pulled out but not the schools, other than in losing opportunities for students to learn.
When administrators refuse to listen to reason and when they allow the classroom to be exploited for political purposes, parents must take action. If they don’t, the politicization of the classroom and curricula will increase.
The Day of Silence is a symbolic gesture to raise awareness of bullying.  How is that not reasonable?  To quote from GLSEN, "GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. Moreover, two of the top three reasons students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. Thus, the Day of Silence helps bring us closer to making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in America’s schools."  It is about protecting students by creating a more tolerant environment.
If your administrator tells you that they do not permit students or teachers to refuse to speak in class, ask him or her how that is communicated to faculty and students and how it is enforced.
In the schools where I have taught, students have been allowed to put up posters announcing the day in advance.  Teachers have been informed during an staff meeting when this will occur and reminding us that we can require that all students speak in our classes ... that our classroom policy is up to us as long as we remain respectful in implementing it.
The ACLU has issued this statement to students regarding silence in class:

"You DO have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at a public school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak."
Sounds reasonable to me.
The idea that homosexual acts are moral, good, or normative is not a fact. It is an unproven, non-factual, controversial moral belief. As such, no government employee or publicly subsidized institution has the ethical right to teach it to children implicitly or explicitly. It is entirely possible for schools to work toward the important goal of eradicating bullying without affirming homosexuality or gender confusion.
While Ms Harvey is wrong in her first sentence, schools are not teaching anything other than tolerance.  However, here is an important clue regarding "affirming homosexuality or gender confusion."  Homosexuals and transgender persons have been around for millenia.  We are real.  We are part of American society even as we have been part of every other society throughout history (including during biblical times ... that is why we are mentioned in the Bible).  Acceptance of this simple fact by Ms. Harvey would help.

There are a few more repetitive paragraphs.  Rather than me writing more, let's look at a few facts from GLSEN:
The day is a positive educational experience. The Day of Silence is an opportunity for students to work toward improving school climate for all students. GLSEN advises students interested in participating to discuss their intentions with their administration and teachers long before the event. The day is most successful when schools and students work together to show their commitment to ensuring safe schools for all students. Many schools allow students’ participation throughout the day. Some schools ask students to speak as they normally would during class and remain silent during breaks and at lunch. There is no single way to participate, and students are encouraged to take part in the way that is the most positive and uplifting for their school.
Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

18 April 2012, FollowUp 1

20 April 2012, FollowUp 2.