Uganda’s Parliament May Consider the Anti-Homosexuality Bill Before the End of 2012

According to committee chair Stephen Tashobya, his committee report on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is almost complete. From Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

Parliament yesterday passed a resolution in recognition of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s stand on homosexuality. The House also urged the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to immediately table its report on the Bill for general debate.

The committee’s chairperson Steven Tashobya yesterday said their report is almost done and will be brought to Parliament before it breaks off for Christmas recess. MPs across the political divide in a plenary session chaired by Ms Kadaga denounced homosexuality and said the country’s moral values are threatened by cultural inventions from the western world.

If the committee report this time is like the last one, there are very few significant changes in the anti-gay bill with the death penalty remaining in the bill. See this post for more on the committee report on the bill.

See below for video of Speaker Kadaga discussing the anti-gay bill.

International Healing Foundation Strikes Gold with School Project

After years of reporting meager income from operations of the International Healing Foundation, Richard Cohen reported over $600,000 in revenue on his 990 form for 2011. Most of that total – $540,000 – was revenue related to an IHF “special school project.” See below:

 The IHF website is silent about this project but it seems likely that this is the educational initiative Cohen described in his Fall 2007 newsletter. After lamenting what he considered to be school indoctrination relating to homosexuality, Cohen provided his solution:

To fill in the blanks left by the public school systems’ strictly gay-affirming curricula, the International Healing Foundation is set to produce a short DVD. This film is designed to be part of the schools’ health education courses, and clearly shows that people can change and come out of homosexuality. The film will feature the true story of a young man and his parents, as well as interviews with several other men and women who have made the change from gay to straight. Half the film’s $40,000 budget has been raised. The International Healing Foundation needs your help in raising the remaining $20,000 to make this film a reality. Please help save our children, and set the record straight!

Once this project is completed, an additional one million dollars will be needed to send a copy of the DVD to every school district in the country. We will urge them to provide a DVD for each of their schools, so the complete story of homosexuality can be told. This historical film will have the power to turn the tide of strictly gay affirmation by proclaiming the truth about change. Millions of students will then have the opportunity to decide for themselves the kind of life they choose to live.

As improbable as it might seem, it appears that IHF has found a donor or several donors willing to fund this effort. The project appears to be moving forward. According to the 990, IHF has spent over $180,000 on expenses relating to the “special school project.”

Yesterday I reported that Unification Church president, Hyung Jin Moon considers IHF founder Richard Cohen to be a member of the Unification church movement and the foremost expert on homosexuality in the church. With this school project, Cohen apparently wants to bring his “expertise” to the nations’ schools. Given the volatile climate of public schools related to anti-gay bullying, I am nervous about the impact of schools showing a video from IHF to students.

While I doubt these clips are a part of the school video, it is worth remembering how Cohen approaches sexual reorientation. First from a CNN appearance:

and then from the documentary, Chasing the Devil:

UPDATE: Another more likely possibility for the video expenses is the underwriting of Acception Productions (another hat tip to David Hart for reminding me of this). This video purports to be about bullying prevention but adds a “U” (for unwanted) to the usual GLBT designation of same sex orientation. Thus, IHF attempts to straddle the fence – claiming to support kids who are same-sex attracted but also supporting reparative therapy interventions which pathologize them. How ironic. Initially, Cohen claimed that gays were using the schools to advance ideological ends and now he is doing it for the same purpose.

Here is a description of the initial showing of their video to public school staff:

The event also featured a talk by Betsy Gallun, Supervisor of Health Education, Prince George’s County, MD and a panel discussion of middle and high school students from the Washington, DC area that was moderated by WHUR’s Molette Green.

Here is the trailer for the video:

In the curriculum booklet which accompanies Acception is this gem which is supposed to be discussed with students:

Group 5: Innate and Developmental Characteristics. – We are all born with unique personalities. We also develop specific characteristics through familial and environmental factors. In Acception, the cartoon “Are People Born Gay?” examines the scientific evidence surrounding homosexuality, and concludes with the American Psychological Association that: “Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”49 With your group, discuss some of the characteristics people are born with, as well as other characteristics that are acquired. What do you think we can and cannot change about ourselves? Share your thoughts with your classmates, and remember to accept and appreciate everyone’s opinion.

And then this claim is made regarding sexual orientation change:

Group 9: Respecting Choices. – While most people experience little or no choice in their sexual attractions, many people make decisions based on their personal, religious, and/or cultural values when it comes to their sexual behavior. For example, some individuals who experience same-sex attraction may find their feelings are at odds with their values and choose not to engage in homosexual behavior. Others, still, may actually experience a shift or change in their sexual feelings throughout their lives due to a variety of experiences; in fact, emerging research is finding that sexuality is somewhat fluid for certain individuals, and should not be viewed as fixed or permanent.52,53,54,55,56

I think it will be clear to most long time observers of IHF that this video is simply a means of getting the “change is possible” message in the schools. While I have no problem with the idea that some people choose to align their behavior with religious beliefs, it is another thing entirely to give students false hope and then route them to religiously oriented ex-gay programs which use bizarre methods to try to reorient sexuality.

Hat tip to David Hart.

Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill: This does not look good

If indeed the speaker of the Parliament wants to bring the bill forward and the committee involved cooperates, backroom intervention from the President will be needed to stop it.

Last time I spoke to Stephen Tashobya (the parliamentary committee chair involved), he said he had better things to do than to bring the bill forward. We shall see how much clout the speaker really has in this situation.

Unification Church President Says Richard Cohen is Foremost Expert on Gays in Their Movement

From 2007 through 2008, I wrote a series of posts which revealed ongoing ties between the Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation and the Unification Church (aka Moonies). Initially, Cohen’s staffer Hilde Wiemann denied she was a member of the movement but then later admitted she had been in the movement long after Cohen said there were no ties between his organization and the church.

This week I have come across video which again links Cohen with the Unification church. On October 7, 2012, Moon’s son and president of the Unification Church Hyung Jin Moon held a town hall meeting at the Unification Bay Area Family Church. Sun Myung Moon recently died, but in 2008, he appointed Hjung Jin to be the leader of the church.

The full three hour video is here. Below is a brief excerpt of Hyung Jin’s answer to a question about homosexuality (at about 2 hours and 40 minutes into the session):

Moon says:

Richard Cohen is a member in our movement who has worked on this tremendously, the whole issue. Even as you mentioned, you said that people are gay through no fault of their own. But of course this is debatable; that’s an assumption. Richard Cohen actually debates that assumption. He’s actually an expert on this issue and so maybe we can connect you to him, Richard Cohen. If you could, give your contact information to Dr. Grubb, we will try to connect you to Richard Cohen. I think in our movement he is probably the foremost expert on that whole issue, and hopefully he can contribute and helping us with programs in the future as well.

I have asked IHF for comment with no immediate response. The mention of Cohen by Unification Church President Hyung Jin Moon does not conclusively prove that Cohen is member of the church. Perhaps Cohen is the only person Hyung Jin knows who claims expertise regarding homosexuality. However, the way he describes Cohen and the ease with which he indicates he can connect the questioner with Cohen again raises questions about Cohen’s earlier denials.

Cohen said he left the Unification Church in 1995. Hyung Jin was about 16 years old at the time.

The Founders’ Bible: Did Thomas Jefferson Base the Declaration of Independence on the Bible?

The authors of the Founders’ Bible want readers to believe that America was established to be a Christian nation. By that, they mean that the basis of civil law is Christianity. One important claim in support of the Christian nation theory is that the Declaration of Independence was based on the Bible.

In an article titled “Inseparably Linked: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” editors Brad Cummings, Lance Wubbels and Paul Jehle describe their view of what Thomas Jefferson did when he wrote the Declaration.

In writing the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson staked the legal claim for lawful separation from England on “the Laws of Nature,” which were widely understood as the will of God revealed in nature, “and of Nature’s God,” being God’s will revealed in the Bible — those two entitled America to be a free and independent nation. The Declaration is America’s birth certificate and legal basis that is bedrocked in Christian principles.

Also, in the Declaration’s second paragraph, Jefferson declared that we “are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Clearly, he was stating facts the Founders already knew. God’s charter for the nations via Creation (Genesis 1:28; 9:1), with mankind’s God-given rights of life, liberty and property, is the foundation upon which the charter or the mission statement for the United States stands.

Perhaps you can see where this is going. The Founders’ Bible authors want you to believe that Thomas Jefferson was writing in code. Instead of explicitly basing the Declaration on the Bible, he wrote general words that really meant something else. The authors conclude:

As was true for the Jamestown Charter and the Mayflower Compact, the same is true for the Declaration of Independence — the basis of law in our civil society is Christianity, as based on the Word of God. This is the foundation and blueprint that informs our purpose and destiny. It is out nation spiritual birthright. To conclude otherwise is to ignore the basic history anchored in fact. (p. 1248)

What is ignored by the Founders’ Bible is Jefferson’s own words about the Declaration. He wrote several times about the reasons and source of the document. When Jefferson wrote about the Declaration, he did not credit the Bible or Christianity.

First, to Henry Lee on May 8, 1825, Jefferson wrote:

But with respect to our rights, and the acts of the British government contravening those rights, there was but one opinion on this side of the water. All American whigs thought alike on these subjects. When forced, therefore, to resort to arms for redress an appeal to the tribunal of the world was deemed proper for our justification. This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles or new arguments never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before: but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c. The historical documents which you mention as in your possession ought all to be found, and I am persuaded you will find to be corroborative of the facts and principles advanced in that Declaration.

Who wrote the “elementary books of public right?” Moses? The Apostle Paul? No, Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney contributed to the “harmonizing sentiments of the day.” A case could be made that some of that harmonizing sentiment derived from religious sources with religious references, but Jefferson did not mention them or appeal to them as primary influences.

In 1823, Jefferson told James Madison (referring to Lee’s theories about the source of the Declaration):

Richard Henry Lee charged it as copied from Locke’s treatise on government. Otis’s pamphlet I never saw, and whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection, I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before.

According to Jefferson (and in contrast to what the authors of the Founders’ Bible want you to believe), he did not turn to the Bible when writing the Declaration of Independence. Christian historians Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, and George Marsden got it right when they wrote in 1989:

Here then is the “historical error”: It is historically inaccurate and anachronistic to confuse, and virtually to equate, the thinking of the Declaration of Independence with a biblical world view, or with Reformation thinking, or with the idea of a Christian nation. (p. 130).

The Founders’ Bible is full of these kind of errors. While I don’t know if the authors intend to do so, it seems clear that the idea of Christian nationalism has so captured them that claims are assembled (some with some truth, some completely false) in order to prove an ideological position.

Related posts:

Founders’ Bible Rewrites Exodus 18 to Fit Christian Nation Narrative

Confirmed: David Barton’s Founders’ Bible Cites Pro-Slavery James Hammond as Proponent of America as Christian Nation

David Barton’s Founders’ Bible is Wrong about the Aitken Bible

Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President

Who Are the Paleo Evangelicals?

Last week, historian Thomas Kidd described a subset of evangelicals who are reluctant Republicans. Inspired by the term paleoconservative, he calls them paleo evangelicals. These evangelicals, according to Kidd, are suspicious of American civil religion, and skeptical that much good comes from allegiance to any political party. Although conservative, paleos do not agree with the modern GOP on all issues. On balance, the GOP may be the party that gets their votes, but they are not enthusiastic that voting one’s values is the salvation of the nation.

Kidd specifically raises the differences between paleo evangelicals and the Christian nation movement led by David Barton. He writes

Our faith needs to be focused on Christ, the paleos say, and rooted in the deep, wide tradition of orthodox church history. We do not base our faith, in any sense, on the personal beliefs of Jefferson, Washington, or Adams. Especially when viewed from the perspective of the global church, American civil religion looks peculiar, at best. Yes, Christianity played a major role in the American founding, but that fact does not place the founding at the center of Christianity. The paleos admire many of the founders, but do not wish to read the founders alongside Scripture, as Barton would have us do in his new Founders’ Bible.

Kidd does not speculate about the size of this group but I think he is correct that such evangelicals exist. I certainly would be close to this camp. Picking up on his ideas, Bart Gingrich and Anna Williams see paleos as being more prevalent among younger people.  I hope they are correct.

One leading voice among evangelicals in the younger generation is Jonathan Merritt. His book A Faith of Our Own finds fault with the culture war and the conflation of Christianity with politics. Merritt’s experience may give insight into the making of paleos. About his peers and the church, Merritt writes

Having come of age during the first aftershock period, young people today seem especially dissatisfied. A culture-warring church is the only one they’ve experienced, and they are running away as fast as they can. (p. 77)

Merritt seems to be describing paleos when he writes:

Today’s Christians are rising up to rediscover the faith in a world that is, not a world that was. They desire to reclaim the faith from the partisan spirit so pervasive among some Christians in America…These Christians aren’t consumed with a platform or a party or a policy; they are devoted to a person who emptied Himself to rule supreme over a new kind of kingdom. (p. 86)

I hope Merritt and the others are correct about a rising group of evangelicals who reject the conflation of religion and politics and who want to reclaim the faith. To me, it is interesting to consider what it would look like for this group to become the majority within evangelical circles. Would new leaders take existing groups (e.g., Family Research Council, Focus on the Family) in a new direction? Or would these groups disband? Currently, evangelicals are known more for what evangelical para-church organizations are against than what they are for. Surely, the paleos would go in a different direction.

Although leaning toward cynicism, the following serves as the soundtrack for this post:

When the GOP promoted secular public schools

Texas Governor Rick Perry is supporting cheerleaders at a middle school in Beaumont who want to lead cheers with Bible verses.  According to the Houston Chronicle, the cheerleaders post banners with verses and Christian phrases during sporting events. One such verse is “if God is for us, who can be against us?” I wonder if the team has lost any games this year.

A complaint has been lodged in court by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Yesterday, a judge handed down a temporary injunction allowing the girls to continue displaying their Bible banners.

Perry is a Republican and it is generally true that Republican leaders have favored mixing religion in schools. At least that is often true of current Republican leaders. However, it was not always so.

Researching the GOP through the Reconstruction era, I was surprised to see the GOP on record against sectarian aims in public education. For instance, in the presidential campaign of 1876, President Grant said in a speech in Iowa

Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar of money appropriated to their support no matter how raised, shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian schools.*

The Republican platforms were quite clear in this regard through this period. Here is the 1876 platform statement on public education:

7. The public school system of the several states is the bulwark of the American republic; and, with a view to its security and permanence, we recommend an amendment to the constitution of the United States, forbidding the application of any public funds or property for the benefit of any school or institution under sectarian control.

Then again in 1880:

3. The work of popular education is one left to the care of the several States, but it is the duty of the National Government to aid that work to the extent of its constitutional power. The intelligence of the Nation is but the aggregate of the intelligence in the several States, and the destiny of the Nation must be guided, not by the genius of any one State, but by the aggregate genius of all.

4. The Constitution wisely forbids Congress to make any law respecting the establishment of religion, but it is idle to hope that the Nation can be protected against the influence of secret sectarianism while each State is exposed to its domination. We, therefore, recommend that the Constitution be so amended as to lay the same prohibition upon the Legislature of each State, and to forbid the appropriation of public funds to the support of sectarian schools.

And then in 1892, the platform became quite specific about not mixing church and state in education (or anywhere else for that matter):

The ultimate reliance of free popular government is the intelligence of the people, and the maintenance of freedom among men. We therefore declare anew our devotion to liberty of thought and conscience, of speech and press, and approve all agencies and instrumentalities which contribute to the education of the children of the land, but while insisting upon the fullest measure of religious liberty, we are opposed to any union of Church and State.

Now GOP culture warriors go to court to allow sectarianism in the schools. I think the GOP had it right the first time around.

*Charles Calhoun. Conceiving a new republic: The republican party and the southern question, 1869-1900.  Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2006, p. 84.

Nicolas Cage to remake the Left Behind series: Spoof or not?

I really can’t tell if this article is a spoof or for real.

The breathless beginning:

Once in every generation, a moment comes that is so defining, so paradigm-altering, so world-shaking, that you spend the rest of your life telling people where you were when you heard it. It goes beyond making history to shaping the future, and yes, even giving a generation a rallying point and identity. For our generation, that moment came today when Variety announced Nicolas Cage is in talks to star in the reboot of the apocalyptic Left Behind film franchise.

If I start telling people in my circle of friends where I was when I heard this, they will think I had brain surgery not heart surgery.

If true, then a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Daily Beast: The Rise and Fall of Dinesh D’Souza

David Sessions briefly chronicles Dinesh D’Souza’s rise and recent fall within conservative circles this morning at the Daily Beast. At this point, it is hard to tell whether or not the title of the article is wishful thinking. After watching the conservative response to David Barton’s disgrace over The Jefferson Lies, I am not so sure that D’Souza is done among the conservatives and the religious right.

Even so, Sessions points us to this 2010 Weekly Standard article about D’Souza’s book on Obama’s “rage”:

On the evidence of his new book, we can’t be sure if Dinesh D’Souza is a hysteric or a cynic. Newt Gingrich, for his part, thinks D’Souza is a visionary, and he’s been praising the visionary and his book with the patented Gingrichian intensity. D’Souza is the possessor of a “stunning insight,” Gingrich said recently, in an interview with National Review Online’s Robert Costa. This insight is “the most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama,” Gingrich continued, while poor Costa looked for a table to duck under. “Only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior can you piece together [Obama’s actions]. That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

As a professional partisan with a Ph.D., Newt Gingrich will take anything seriously if it suits his immediate purpose and has the necessary intellectual pretensions (whatever happened to the Tofflers anyway?). D’Souza’s thesis, with its exoticism (Kenya) and its scholarly tags (anticolonial behavior), looks tailor-made for the former speaker. The insight with which D’Souza has stunned him is purely abstract and syllogistic: (1) Barack Obama really admired his father, Barack Obama Sr., and wanted to be like him; (2) Obama Sr. grew up in Kenya and became an anticolonial agitator; therefore (3) Obama Jr. wants to be an anticolonial agitator, too, and since he’s simultaneously president of the United States, he gets to be anticolonial in a very big way and drag us along with him.

Note the date – 2010 – D’Souza took that conservative licking and kept on ticking, now out with a wildly successful documentary based on the book panned by the Weekly Standard. Disgraced conservative commentators are like cats – fluid with nine lives. Even with the latest scandal (being engaged while still married) and his utterly implausible excuse (“I didn’t know it was wrong”), he will probably land on his feet and live to conspire another day.

Sessions ends his piece with a similar realization:

But D’Souza’s excommunication isn’t likely to keep him down. Obama’s America is already the second most successful political documentary ever. D’Souza long ago cast his lot with political entertainment, and at the right-wing box office, a lack of scholarly qualifications may be the best qualification he could have.

And here we have a core evangelical problem stated well – poor scholarship will get you farther than good scholarship. It is a maddening fact that the right wing thought leaders elevate “experts” who cleverly peddle politically useful untruths over nuanced arguments made with documentation and reflection. The masses trust the AFAs, and FRCs of the world. Then when those “experts” are caught up short, there is massive private and internal pressure to prop up the experts, no matter how much evidence exists demonstrating their errors.

Sadly, I think Sessions is correct and while D’Souza may see some bumps in the road, my guess is that many religious right leaders will choose pragmatics over principle.

 

Bryan Fischer finds a gay he can like

Bryan Fischer is out for vindication. He was dismissed from a CNN broadcast by Carol Costello after ranting away at gays and failing to discuss the SPLC Mix It Up Day honestly. Now he has found himself a gay person who Fischer believes speaks the truth and thinks like he thinks. And as if to shout, “I told you so!” he presents this gay man as an authority in his most recent column. Fischer cites Johann Hari who penned what Hari portrays as an expose of sorts for Huffington Post on the subject of gay fascists. No matter that most gays aren’t fascists, or that most neo-Nazis, especially in the U.S., hate gays or that Johann Hari is just one gay person. Hari says some things Fischer can agree with, so Hari is an authority.

The problem for Fischer is that the consensus among historians is that the idea that gays are always at the center of fascism is inaccurate. In Fischer’s world, the majority has been co-opted by the gays whereas the few people who see a vital link between homosexuality and fascism are seeing the gospel truth. All it takes is one person, expert or not, saying what Fischer says and voilà, the man is a genius.

I think Hari fails to make any case other than gays as well as straights can be fascists. However, in his piece he makes some other points that Fischer leaves out. Hari suggests that extreme homophobia on the right may be a defense against latent homosexual urges. He writes:

At first glance, our Nazis seem militantly straight. They have tried to disrupt gay parades, describe gay people as “evil”, and BNP leader Nick Griffin reacted charmingly to the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in 1999 with a column saying, “The TV footage of gay demonstrators [outside the scene of carnage] flaunting their perversion in front of the world’s journalists showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures repulsive.”

But scratch to homophobic surface and there’s a spandex swastika underneath.

Describe gay people as evil? People think gays are repulsive? Who says stuff like that? Mr. Fischer overlooked that theory from his new authority on the relationship between the negativity toward gays and homosexuality. Wonder why.

In the end, Hari presents a mish mash of theories, vignettes and fractured history that confuses more than it enlightens. He criticizes The Pink Swatiska but fails to recognize that he has used the same kind of hyperbole in his own piece. In the service of being sensational, he has played into the hands of the historical revisionists he criticizes.

Honestly, some gays are racial bigots. Some Christians are too. Does that make all Christians racial bigots? Or does the fact that some Christians are neo-Nazis mean that Christianity is the breeding ground of fascism? In his zeal to get vindication, Fischer throws logic out of the window and opens himself to the same charge he levels.

 

For more on The Pink Swastika by Scott Lively, see The Pink Swastika.