Last week, I spent two days in Lynchburg, Va., to observe a major Religious Right conference, "The Awakening", which featured many of their biggest stars. The symposium revealed the decline of anti-gay focus and showed that it was no longer the far right's number one priority. The obsession with all things gay was nudged aside by an intense hatred of Barack Obama, which was closely followed by a passionate dislike of immigrants, who many in the crowd wanted to see promptly returned to their homeland.
While the sheer number of anti-gay attacks had decreased from past conferences, the remaining rhetoric was vicious and vile, as desperate homophobes realize they are losing the battle of public opinion.
The sullen mood over ceding ground was best summarized by Lou Engle of "The Call". During a breakout session on the "LGBT Agenda", he acknowledged that when he preaches against LGBT issues, Christian youth often "rage against" him. Engle said that the far right has lost on this issue barring a miracle. One idea floated by Engle to turn the tide was creating an intercession by holding a 500,000 strong youth rally.
If Engle is wondering how his movement lost the current generation of youth, it is because the hatred and hyperbole spewed by anti-gay activists is incongruous with reality. Many teenagers, including evangelicals, have friends who come out of the closet at early ages. They listen to the slurs and the slander at such conferences and know, based on real life experience, that they are hearing lies. Such cognitive dissonance is costing evangelical leaders enormous credibility.
I was not "undercover" (Sorry Porno Pete) at the event, having signed up under my own name in case they checked ID. But I was trying to keep a low profile so I wouldn't get thrown out of the conference. To look inconspicuous, I grew some facial stubble, wore a lumberjack shirt and left out the hair gel. The plan worked until The Traditional Values Coalition's Andrea Lafferty spotted me at the LGBT Agenda breakout session, which made me as comfortable as a fly crash-landing on a porcupine.
She asked me if I had any questions. I looked around the room and saw no movable middle in this bunch, so I declined. I preferred to plead the 5th to ensure I could attend the big revival that was planned that evening.
During the seminar, Lafferty said if we pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill in Congress to protect LGBT Americans from job discrimination, we are on a slippery slope to protect those who have sex with amputees, children and animals.
Lafferty seemed to have an unusually acerbic, if not allergic, reaction to transgender people saying, "they are actually she-males.... we need to talk about how truly troubled they are.... Do we want them in the classroom?"
The Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber chimed in, saying that transgender Americans are the "ultimate act of rebellion against God." He justified persecuting LGBT people claiming, "The ultimate act of hatred is to help someone foster a self-delusion."
Just to let everyone know his heart and soften his vitriolic presentation, Barber kindly added, "We are not homophobic."
After the seminar, I photographed Barber and Lafferty. As I left the room, Lafferty pulled me aside to introduce herself. With a friendly smile she shook my hand and told me that the demeaning lies against LGBT people "weren't personal attacks."
Likewise, Barber approached me, shook my hand and told me that he was very glad to have me at the seminar. In a statement on an anti-gay activist's website, Barber claims that I was, "clearly confused and taken-aback by the kindness."
He also wrote, "Meeting Wayne in person, it was clear to me that he is searching. It is my hope and prayer that he and all who struggle with same-sex attraction, live a life of heterosexual or homosexual promiscuity or adultery, or anyone else for that matter, can come to know the life-changing, life-saving, life-making grace and redemption that can only come through surrender, belief and acceptance of Christ Jesus."
It was true that I was searching for something -- the nearest exit. I had reached my limit on anti-gay activists and their cult-like mentality for the day. However, Barber was wrong to say that I was "taken aback" by he and Lafferty's friendly demeanor. I have met several anti-gay activists over the years and many of them seem like nice people. If it weren't for their poisonous politics, we might even be friends.
However, it is always disheartening that activists, who give presentations that reduce LGBT people to human garbage, somehow don't think they are leveling personal attacks. Their ability to disassociate their words and actions from the harm they cause real people is astonishing.
While I appreciate being welcomed at hate-spewing anti-gay conferences, genuine kindness would be not having such conferences at all.
In 1995, House Majority leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.) referred to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) as "Barney Fag." He quickly apologized calling his verbiage a "slip of the tongue". Fifteen years later, the obstreperous Tea Party movement that Armey is behind showed no such restraint, with members boldly calling Frank a "faggot" during the healthcare debate, while the crowd stood by and laughed. They also used the N-word to taunt civil rights hero, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), as he entered the Capitol to vote.
Can the media please stop pretending that the Tea Party is an amalgam of small government conservatives and anxious Americans concerned about their families? What we just witnessed was not spontaneous, nor was it a genuine outpouring of anger towards Washington. It was privileged DC Republicans shilling for the insurance industry while posing as populists. To obscure their genuine goals, they mobilized racists and riff raff to throw tyrannical tantrums in an effort to intimidate lawmakers.
If you think I'm wrong, watch almost any interview with Tea Baggers on the healthcare bill. They display a shocking lack of understanding about what they were actually protesting. Many condemn "socialized" medicine while not realizing that Medicare is a government program. These "good folks" have consistently regurgitated stale and misleading GOP talking points about "death panels" that they heard on FOX News.
Sure, there are some Tea Baggers who don't fit this unflattering description. But one would have to be intellectually dishonest to deny the role extremists are playing in this movement. It is also worth noting that those who are reportedly not fringe ideologues are nonetheless eerily comfortable protesting alongside the more fanatical goons.
The thuggish tactics -- from the ugly August "town brawls" to the race-baiting rallies on Capitol Hill -- were grotesque and anti-democratic. Many of these so-called "patriots" were not putting forth real arguments in the interest of America -- but simply arguing loudly to bully opponents and drown out genuine debate.
It was disgusting to watch Republican members of Congress egg on this unruly behavior. Several grandstanding politicians encouraged the mob from a second story balcony on the Capitol, as the empowered crowd yelled slogans through bullhorns such as, "Nancy Pelosi, you will burn in hell for this." These grossly irresponsible lawmakers even encouraged anarchy by cheering a protester who was ejected from the House chamber for a disruptive outburst.
In my view, Republicans have crossed a dangerous line that threatens the fabric and cohesion of this nation. They are courting and catering to crazies and now call them a core constituency. The GOP leadership is consistently communicating in illogical, apocalyptic terms to reach "Values Voters" who are excitedly awaiting Armageddon.
The very strategy of today's conservative movement is an affront to this nation. They incite their most fervent and fanatic followers by questioning the legitimacy of America's leaders and institutions. They engage in legislative obstruction. And, many of these zealots believe that God commands them to rule, while anyone else is a usurper of the natural political order.
Republicans are also fanning the flames of regionalism and trying to balkanize this nation for political gain. When asked if passing the bill would help democrats politically, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) replied, "Someone at Harvard or in San Francisco may think that, but not the rest of the country." This rhetoric mirror's that of Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) who spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month and derided liberals for supposedly hanging out at “Chablis-drinking, Brie-eating parties in San Francisco."
At the anti-healthcare rally, cantankerous protesters yelled, "kill the bill."But, there is a true concern that the overheated rhetoric will lead to the death of real people. Republicans and Tea Baggers can only shout "fire" in a crowded theatre for so long before an unbalanced individual moves decisively to extinguish the alleged conflagration.
The GOP and the Tea Bag crowd need to stop polarizing America and dial back the rhetoric before it is too late.
As far as the politics of healthcare, the GOP will suffer. Obama proved he can be tough and get things done in Washington -- and everybody loves a winner. In the end, the public will appreciate their new benefits and the GOP is now in the position of trying to deny health insurance to people with preexisting conditions. Good luck on that.
Finally, the gloom and doom scenarios painted by overwrought phonies, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), will not come to pass. This is no different than when social conservatives claimed that civil unions in Vermont and marriage equality in Massachusetts would destroy the world.
Obviously, this did not happen, the public saw legalizing LGBT relationships was no big deal and our opponents lost credibility.The same will happen with healthcare. The sooner the public sees the sky is not falling, the faster the polling numbers will plummet for Republicans who voted on wrong side of history.
It is generally understood that today's youth are more supportive of equality for gay and lesbian people. Faced with losing the next generation, fundamentalists are ferociously scrambling to capture the minds of youth through homeschooling and the subversion of public education. By sequestering students at home or creating public schools where the only drink served in the cafeteria is Kool-Aid, they hope to reprogram tomorrow's leaders.
It appears America's religious fanatics are modeling their efforts on the success of radical Islamists in the Middle East, who reversed the trend of secularization in the region by hijacking education. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently wrote about this phenomenon:
Beginning in the 1970s, the trend in Yemen, Morocco, Egypt and the Persian Gulf "was to Islamicize education as a way to fight the left..."
...Then, in 1979, after the Saudi ruling family was shaken by an attack in Mecca from its own Wahabi fundamentalists, the Saudi regime, to fend off the anger of its Wahabis, gave them free rein to Islamicize education and social life in Saudi Arabia and neighboring states.
The rest is a very sad and tragic history.
In America, according to the Aug. 7, 2009 edition of The Economist magazine, the number of children who are home-schooled--1.5 million--has doubled in the past decade, and 83 percent of home-schooling families do so for religious or moral reasons.
It is important to realize that the goal of many in the homeschooling movement is to create an army of zealot zombies who are committed to transforming America into a fundamentalist "Christian Nation."
"We are not home-schooling our kids just so they can read," said Michael Farris, the founder of the Home School Legal Defense. "The most common thing I hear is parents telling me they want their kids to be on the Supreme Court. And if we put enough kids in the farm system, some may get to the major leagues."
Many of the cult-kiddies are coming of age and have already infiltrated Washington. Homeschoolers are well represented on Capitol Hill, and they played a disproportionate role in George W. Bush's administration.
While many of these students are educated in terms of test scores, they may lack critical thinking skills. In a sense, they are like computers with large hard drives that have been programmed with faulty software. No matter how fast they compute they always arrive at same flawed conclusions based on the Biblical bugs planted early in their memory chips.
For example, Children's Conferences International hosts events across the nation for homeschoolers. Their "2010 theme" is science fiction, except to keep the minds of the children pure there will be no extraterrestrials allowed.
"Parents won't have to worry about their children learning about aliens or some mysterious force in this fun filled futuristic space age theme," according to their website. "Children WILL learn important life lessons about trusting God, faith over atheism, and the dangers of being enamored by the world."
Instead of E.T. and space, these poor children have to endure crazy, spaced out adults determined to strip-mine their minds and corrupt their imaginations. In my view, this is a form of child abuse and deprives these students of real childhood experiences, while making them closed-minded.
Of course, funneling children into homeschooling is not enough for these predators. In order to succeed, the extreme right must hijack the curriculum of public schools. They are already making serious inroads in Texas, with zealots on the state school board rewriting history textbooks. This is vitally important because Texas is such a large consumer of textbooks, that they essentially have the ability to set the standards for much of the nation. So, if history is rewritten in Austin, the revisions will likely appear in your state as well.
One leader of the public school putsch, according to a recent cover story in The New York Times Magazine, is Cynthia Dunbar, a member of the Texas Board of Education. In 2008, she published a book called, "One Nation Under God" where she wrote: "Hence, the only accurate method of ascertaining the intent of the Founding Fathers is from a biblical worldview." She also stated, "this battle for our nation's children and who will control their education and training is crucial to our success for reclaiming our nation."
For all of her passion, Dunbar is opposed to public education, writing of, "The inappropriateness of a state-created taxpayer-supported school system," and says that sending children to public schools is akin to, "throwing them into the enemy's flames, even as the children of Israel threw their children to Molech."
Clearly, Dunbar's real agenda is infiltrating the school system in order to destroy it.
When it comes to support, the next generation was supposed to be a wash. However, this successful trajectory is threatened if we allow today's youth to be brainwashed. While paying attention to school boards is boring, it must become a priority for all Americans who want schools to be about education instead of indoctrination.
Wall Street Felon known as 'Abba Dabba Do' Reemerges As 'Cure' Gays Guru
NEW YORK -- A Truth Wins Out (TWO) and South Florida Gay News (SFGN) investigation revealed today that a Wall Street criminal mastermind who was convicted in 1987 of "fraud of spectacular scope" has secretly reinvented himself as a moral leader who "cures" gay and lesbian people. Known as "Abba Dabba Do" in the financial world, Arthur Abba Goldberg was sentenced to 18 months in jail for bilking poor communities with complicated bond schemes and served six months in prison.
"We have long considered Arthur Goldberg a con-artist, but our investigation shows he is also an ex-con," said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out."His diabolical past mirrors his dishonest present-day work with the ex-gay industry. Whether it was shady deals on Wall Street or shading the truth on gay issues, Goldberg is someone who lacks credibility and can't be trusted."
"Mr. Goldberg's silence today about his illegal conduct yesterday is a clear indicator that 18 months in prison 20 years ago has not inhibited his willingness to deceive others in order to advance himself today,"said SFGN Publisher Norm Kent. "You free yourself by admitting your wrongs, not erasing them. Goldberg is hardly in a position to be advocating how gay men and women should be authentic with their own lives when he is a fraud with his."
Upon completing his parole, Goldberg dropped his conspicuous middle name, Abba, and co-founded Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) in 1999. He is currently the president of Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality (PATH), an umbrella group for "ex-gay" referrals and the Executive Secretary of the notorious National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). He is also the President of Congregation Mount Sinai, a temple in Jersey City and a Principal for the International Center for Gender Affirming Processes (CGAP). Goldberg is a key ex-gay industry insider and viewed as an architect of its strategy and message machine, says TWO and SFGN.
In 1989, Goldberg pled guilty in federal court in California and Illinois to three counts of wire and mail fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The accusations he admitted to include his participation as the engineer of a phony bond and investment scheme, which netted his Wall Street investment firm nearly $11 million in illegal fees.
The U.S. Attorney who handled the case at the time, K. William O'Connor, told the court at his sentencing that Goldberg's crime was "a fraud of spectacular scope."
The SEC banned Goldberg and his firm from ever selling securities again. In addition to his prison term, Goldberg was disbarred in both New Jersey and Connecticut. Despite that, he lists himself as a Doctor of Laws today on the website of NARTH.
John McCain (R-AZ) is defending his U.S. Senate seat against a challenge from ultra-conservative radio host J.D. Hayworth. (Yes, the same Hayworth who was a very large recipient of money and gifts--like sports skyboxes--from the shamed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to the New York Times)
While voters may find McCain's name on the ballot, the man is utterly unrecognizable, switching positions daily to mollify the unruly Tea Party crowd. According to today's Times:
....McCain now finds himself jammed, moving starkly--and often awkwardly--to the right, apparently in an attempt to gain favor among the same voters whom Hayworth, a consistent voice for the far right, could pull toward him like taffy come summer.
McCain now sharply criticizes the bailout bill he voted for, pivoted from his earlier position that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility should be closed, offered only a muted response to the Supreme Court's decision undoing campaign finance laws and backed down from statements that gays in the military would be OK by him if the military brass were on board.
I never agreed with John McCain's largely conservative voting record. There once was a time, however, that he had a small independent streak and could be counted on to occasionally buck the party line. Unfortunately, he threw his integrity out the window when he chose Sarah Palin for his running mate.
He knew she was incompetent and not qualified to be President. Yet, he sold out America and placed our national security at risk for a short uptick in the polls following the Republican convention.
Fortunately, after Palin hit New York's ritzy 5th Avenue clothing stores using the Republican Party's credit card and CBS News' Katie Couric revealed that she did not read newspapers, her popularity nosedived.
Choosing Palin was a crass, unforgivable and grossly irresponsible sin of the highest order. The monstrosity that is Sarah was put on full display last weekend when it was revealed that she scribbled notes on her hand, like a first grader, to answer questions at the Tea Party convention.
Even more disturbing, Palin told FOX News that she is now dedicated to boning up on issues and learning about policy.
"Now that my focus has been enlarged," Palin said, "I sure as heck better be more astute on these current events, national issues."
I don't know about her focus, but it is clear that her ego has been enlarged for quite some time. This quote incontrovertibly proves the depravity of Palin, who accepted the job for Vice President knowing full-well she wasn't ready.
What kind of reprobate places the health and well-being of her fellow citizens in grave danger so she can elevate her political career? A person of strong moral character surely would have turned down McCain's offer and spent the time as Alaska's governor to study issues.
Interestingly, while Palin was vividly aware that she had no awareness of public policy, she smeared Barack Obama as a "charismatic guy with a teleprompter."
Back to McCain...the media has always overblown the reality of John McCain's fleeting independent streak. Still, their were moments when the Arizona Senator fought for what we thought he believed in, such as campaign finance reform.
Even for those like myself who were never fans, it is painful to watch McCain cynically and unconvincingly morph into a Tea Party toady. The Senator's brand has quickly gone from mythical maverick to mindless miscreant. His willingness to cash in his values and pawn his principles to stay in power proves that he is no longer fit to serve.
Here is what I will never understand.
Before he surrendered his reputation, McCain was a popular figure revered for his military and public service. Even political opponents admired how he had sacrificed for his country. On the personal sphere, his wife Cindy is incredibly wealthy (and cool, see picture on left) and he could have stepped down from his seat and sailed off with her into the sunset to enjoy life.
Instead, in political desperation he squandered his large stockpile of admiration. The one-time anti-politician has now come to personify the unscrupulous and unprincipled amoral insider McCain used to despise.
McCain's presidential campaign was premised on him and Palin representing the "Real America" that lived beyond the Beltway. How ironic that McCain will now do whatever it takes -- including the destruction of his reputation -- to avoid the Real America and remain in Washington.
If one wants to know where John McCain stands on any given issue today, just look at Tea Party polling numbers. If there is one word to describe him, it is "predictable". This would surely have upset the old John McCain, but he no longer exists.
Last week, Truth Wins Out's Evan Hurst reported that House Minority Leader John Boehner joined right wing Catholics to attack the Human Right's Campaign's Harry Knox as an "anti-Catholic bigot" and called on him to resign from President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
They were allegedly upset that Knox correctly stated that the Pope is hurting people in the name of Jesus by actively working against honest sex and contraception education in sub-Saharan Africa, and is thus contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS on that continent.
The attacks on Knox over old comments seemed oddly timed and forced -- as if those leveling the bogus charges were desperately groping to find a political issue to serve as a smoke screen to distract the world. It was unclear at the time why these pious henchmen wanted us to avert our gaze.
Well, today the other Prada shoe fell.
It became sickeningly obvious why the Church needed to quickly find a Boogie Man. A new child abuse scandal rocked the Roman Catholic Church in Pope Benedict's XVI native Germany. According to The New York Times:
The widening public scandal began last month with allegations that three priests at the elite Canisius Jesuit high school in Berlin had sexually abused students in the 1970s and '80s. In the midst of a steadily growing uproar over the handling of that case, the German magazine Der Spiegel published an article that said nearly 100 clerics and laypeople had been suspected of abusing children and teenagers nationwide since 1995.
Der Spiegel said that at least 94 clerics and laypeople had been suspected of abuse since 1995, based on a poll of 27 of Germany's 30 Catholic dioceses. The magazine's cover this week was illustrated with an image of a priest reaching suggestively under his robes.
Making matters worse for Rome, Irish victims of the church's rampant sexual abuse wrote a letter to the Pope asking him to take responsibility for the church's concealment of child molestation by forcing out bishops implicated in the decades of cover-up.
Exactly, why hasn't The Pope done this already? Why isn't punishing child rapists a top priority, rather than the Vatican's outrageous campaign against marriage equality, where consenting adults commit their lives to each other?
The way I see it, conservative Catholics, such as Boehner, Thomas Peters of the American Papist Blog, Dr. Kevin Roberts of Catholic Families for America, and Larry Cirignano of Faithful Catholic Citizens tried to pick a fight with America's largest LGBT rights groups last week over condoms only days before the German report and Irish letter were publicly released. They knew this week's shameful news would turn stomachs and they needed to find a scapegoat.
Fortunately, their conjured anti-gay dust-up fooled no one and the world's eyes are firmly fixed on the real issue -- the church's continued exploitation of youth and the heartbreaking cover-ups.
Before the Roman Catholic Church preaches about values and points fingers, I believe it must clean up its own house. At the moment, it has no moral authority to talk about sexual matters -- from condoms to birth control to homosexuality.
The Vatican has a priority problem. I suggest it take a break and spend the next year devoting all of its energy, time and vast financial resources to healing the hurt it has caused to its own members. Indeed, Germany has lost 3 million Catholics since 1990. Today's tawdry revelations won't help reverse this trend. Nor will launching fake attacks on LGBT people and leaders as a diversion from the perversion that has brought the church to its knees.
I was surprised when I began to tear up prior to the press conference on Tuesday announcing The American Prayer Hour. The purpose of the APH, which is Thursday, February 4, is to offer an alternative to the annual National Prayer Breakfast, which takes place on the same day and is run by the secretive fundamentalist organization known as The Family. This shadowy group is directly tied to the notorious "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda.
In the past, I have worked press conferences that included hate crime victims and their families. So, I've become somewhat inured to the daily horrors that are inflicted on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
But, today really got to me.
Moses, a young gay man from Uganda, spoke at our media conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. He is seeking asylum in The United States, because he fears for his life in Uganda. The Ugandan media sometimes publishes the photographs and addresses of LGBT people, placing their livelihoods at risk and their lives in imminent danger.
I usually prep speakers by reviewing talking points. On this day, however, two staff members for the Human Rights Campaign prepared Moses to face the national media by obscuring his face. They stood in a corner fitting his head with a paper bag.
We had two different size bags, and he tried on each, as if they were shirts at an Old Navy store. We had to ensure that it was a snug fit, lest it fall off, reveal his identity and put his life in jeopardy.
It had been a three-day trek by car for Moses and a friend to get to Washington. This heroic journey would not end in magazine covers, book deals or fame as a talking head on the cable networks. All Moses had to gain was the opportunity to share the truth in anonymity, and he did so with remarkable equanimity.
As Moses stood in front of the podium, the juxtaposition of the American flag and this courageous young man wearing a bag to blur his humanity was jarring. I felt pride for living in a free country where we could hold a press conference to denounce The Family's role in Uganda. But, there was also shame that America, famous for its innovation, had been exporting a virulent and violent strain of religious extremism to far away lands.
In front of the cameras, Moses recounted how he had been forced to marry a woman, was assaulted at school, raped by a policeman, and fired from his job because he is gay.
"One would rather die than come out of the closet," Moses said at the press conference.
Many people at the National Prayer Breakfast have no idea about the radical and unorthodox, cult-like beliefs that The Family is passing off as Christianity. With little transparency and regard for democracy, this organization, which believes God favors powerful elites, spreads its influence throughout the world.
Prominent members of The Family in America include: Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mark Pryor (R-AK), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), John Ensign (R-NV). Key House members include: Reps. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn) Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Heath Shuler (D-NC) Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA).
"Would you like a glass of fresh blood with your bacon?"
Perhaps, if this were the question asked the rich and powerful attending Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast, they’d finally understand that the group behind this event was also serving up extreme ideology that wasn't on the menu. They'd realize that while they dined in an opulent ballroom at the Washington Hilton, there were gay Ugandans who were running for their lives.
While some members of The Family have denounced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, the group's leader, Doug Coe, usually a loquacious man, has been strangely silent. On Tuesday, Religion News Service reported that, "the Family has not officially denounced the bill, and did not return repeated requests for clarification of their role in its development."
One would think that publicly opposing a potential slaughter would be high on Coe's agenda, considering the sponsor of the bill, David Bahati, is a key member of The Family.
President Barack Obama will speak at The National Prayer Breakfast. Hopefully, he will denounce the Uganda bill and make a statement that could affect the dire situation in Uganda.
In the meantime, you can help by attending one of 17 American Prayer Hours across the country, including one in Washington DC. (http://www.americanprayerhour.org). It is time to unmask the horror and create a world where people are free to be themselves.
(Moses, pictured left, is a gay Ugandan seeking asylum in the U.S. who had to hide his face at today's press conference. He feared persecution and even violence if his identity were known.)
Religious Leaders Urge America's Leaders to Speak Out Against Event’'s Connection to Abhorrent Ugandan "Anti-Homosexuality Bill"
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Key religious leaders held a press conference this morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to announce the formation of The American Prayer Hour, a multi-city event to be held in two days on February 4, 2010, with key events in Washington, D.C., Dallas, Chicago and Berkeley and to call on organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, Members of Congress attending and the President to use the opportunity to send a clear, unified message against the horrendous Ugandan "Anti-Homosexuality Bill".
The American Prayer Hour was announced as an alternative to the National Prayer Breakfast which is sponsored by The Family (aka The Fellowship), a group with disturbing ties to those spearheading Uganda's oppressive "Anti-Homosexuality Bill." The Bill proposed by Parliament Member, David Bahati, adds an array of criminal punishments for gay people--including the death penalty.
Harry Knox, Director of Religion and Faith for the Human Rights Campaign,(pictured left) opened the press conference and said, "Tax documents from The Family show millions of dollars have gone into programs run by David Bahati, Ugandan Parliament Member who wrote the anti-gay legislation for Uganda. With that kind of influence, we call on the head of The Family, Doug Coe, to publicly speak out against the proposed anti-gay bill in Uganda. Our nation's public officials, religious leaders and civil and human rights champions must speak with one, clear voice that the proposed execution of a group of people for no other reason than because of their sexuality is immoral and will not be tolerated or condoned through silence. Members of Congress and other elected officials attending this event cannot turn a blind eye to the obligation they have to speak out against such inhumane proposals such as the legislation being proposed in Uganda."
Metropolitan Community Church pastor, the Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, (pictured) said, "MCC is an international denomination at work in dozens of countries so we know firsthand that hatred of gay people is not limited to Uganda. Sadly, conservative groups like The Family continue to spread lies and foment rejection of people based on perceived or real differences in sexual orientation and gender identity. In the name of protecting families, they tell parents to reject their sons and daughters. Implicitly they ask families to imprison their own people and inflict the death penalty on them, whether on the streets or in the jails."
Moses, a gay Ugandan man seeking asylum in The United States said, "It breaks my heart that I have to leave my family and loved ones to seek asylum in this country simply because I am gay. Even as I speak, gay people a are being persecuted as a result of this proposed law against gay people. I can only imagine how bad it will be if the bill is actually passes."
Bishop Gene Robinson, (pictured left) the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church said, "I spent time in Uganda to help set up HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs many years ago. Ugandans are a generous and hospitable people. But because of an unholy alliance between conservative religious groups in this country and anti-gay forces overseas Ugandans are turning on their own Ugandan sons and daughters who happen to be gay. This proposed law is a threat to LGBT people in Uganda and everywhere. Around 35% of Ugandans are Anglican and 45% are Catholic. Although many faith leaders have stood by silently, today we speak out on behalf of the marginalized. Faith leaders of all traditions should speak out for the most vulnerable in Uganda before it's too late."
Bishop Carlton Pearson, (left, with collar) interim senior pastor at Chicago's Christ Universal Temple said, "As a straight ally, gay and transgender people come to me and say 'thank you for speaking out.' In Uganda, gay and transgender people cannot even say 'thank you.' They are being silenced by the threat of imprisonment and death. In the yawning silence, we must speak and we must pray. Both religious and political leaders must pray for gay people in Uganda and stop preying on them."
Frank Schaeffer, (pictured left) son of pre-eminent conservative theologian, Francis Schaeffer said, "As a person who was raised in the heart of conservative Christianity, it took me years to realize that anti-gay beliefs are wrong and not inherent to Christianity. Today, fundamentalists are exporting anti-gay beliefs because fewer and fewer people here believe the lies. It's time to stop using gay people as political pawns and understand that we are all children of God."
Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans for Separation of Church (pictured below) said, "We are heartened to note that Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the State Department, under President Obama's direction, have been actively working against the proposed anti-gay law in Uganda. These efforts have led Ugandan President Museveni and MP David Bahati to signal that they are considering changes to the legislation. But, now is not the time to ease up the pressure but to continue to push for full decriminalization of gay and transgender people. We ask that President Obama to take the lead on human rights for everyone, everywhere, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."