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Exposing the moral bankruptcy of the unraveling professional 'family values' crowd

At the religious right's Family Impact Summit this past weekend, a brave woman took on the self-righteous, prevaricators at the event. Cathy James, a lesbian, who has a child and is in a committed relationship with a partner, stood up and politely challenged the anti-gay statements of the panelists and John Stemberger and Peter Sprigg were guffawing to address her.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin was there as she brilliantly framed her questions to the panel.

Hi. My names is Cathy James and I would like to challenge all of the individuals here listening today to really take a look at some of the rationale and some of the comments that speakers have given in regard to things such as ?why government gets involved with personal relationships, that is, for the procreation of children. I think as most of the attorneys will tell you, that civil marriage was created for one purpose only, and that was property and how to divide property.

And so I am a lesbian, I live in the Riverview area with my partner of thirteen years and our son who is seven. And I go to work Monday through Friday and attend church weekly, I volunteer at the school, I volunteer at the homeowners association. And what I have a hard time understanding is why you are interested in keeping a legal framework from us in being able to handle the same things as heterosexual couples and such things as visitation, and hospital?. And how to divide our property in the same way, and how to parent our child?

The stunned silence was amazing. John Stemberger thanked her for coming and tried to stammer out an answer. He said that some forms of discrimination are perfectly legitimate (“home ownership benefits society in the way renters do not.”) and ended by saying, “marriage uniquely benefits society in the way same sex couples do not.” But Cathy remained calm and firm:

  But in what way? What's the difference in the benefit? How does your marriage benefit society more than my relationship with my same gender partner does not?

Peter Sprigg jumped in to assert that “without question” the best family structure was headed by a man and a woman. But Cathy persisted:

“But now you're devaluing, what, over fifty percent of the children who live with one parent or that one parent as died or that they're divorced and now they're just living with one parent. You're devaluing them and that's not fair.

By now the panel was speechless, leaving Peter Sprigg to stumble around trying to get his footing. “Each person's relationship choices serves as an example to the rest of society – and if that example becomes more widespread, more people will make the same choice, more children will suffer.”

You have to go read the rest.  I wish there was video of that one.

***

And here's another drop kick to that fundie crowd:

Joe Murray, a former columnist and former staff attorney for the American Family Association, Don and Tim Wildmon's “family values” machine, is now supportive of LGBT rights (my interviews with him are here and here). He has written up a great piece on the recent Values Voter Debate that was held last week. When you read this snippet, imagine how it was received by the Base.

It is not coincidental that the road to Hell is paved with the best of intentions, thus while one hopes that conservative leaders, such as Don Wildmon, began their crusade motivated by morality, it appears that a number of them have been hypnotized by the siren song of the almighty dollar.

Christian activism has become a lucrative business. According to its 990 form, the AFA took in millions. Arguably, such revenue was made possible by sending out “Action Alerts” warning homosexuals will throw Christians in jail under the hate crimes bill. Such rhetoric is misleading a best, dishonest at worse.

How does one protect Christianity? Send money. Call it cash-back Christianity, and the VVD was no different.

The VVD had an opportunity to restore sanity to Christian public activism, but it quickly became a political sideshow to see which candidate was the political Christian of choice.

The result? A conservative carnival.

Alan Keyes channeled his inner Benny Hinn, while John Cox mused about transvestite teachers. Sam Brownback stated that Bush should have the spent the political capital earned in 2004 on the Federal Marriage Amendment, not Social Security Reform, and Mike Huckabee proclaimed that if the U.S. leaves Iraq, it loses.

Oh my. Let's put it this way — there were probably not love letters from the AFA flowing into Joe Murray's inbox for simply sharing the truth about how and why the family values crowd has placed itself on shaky moral ground.

Actually, I have to say, since Joe has been writing columns of this nature, I've been Googling to see reaction from the Wildmons or the rest of that crowd for a response of some kind. Nada.

More after the jump.

I guess the Wildmon and Co.  think by ignoring the columns that no one will notice what's going on — that someone who worked in their ranks has opened his eyes to see how extreme the movement has become.

We're noticing that silence, Don and Tim. The walls of your movement are tumbling down; the anti-gay conferences and forums held by organizations like yours are increasingly poorly attended. Only the rabid among you continue to get together for those non-stop pious circle-jerks of intolerance. What a sad, small world you live in. 

If anyone tuned into that Values Voter debate, it was indeed a scary sight to behold. These people are so stewed in repression, self-loathing and fear; they gain strength from irrationally lashing out at tax-paying, law-abiding citizens that happen to be LGBT, or anyone who dares to think that the government belongs out of the bedrooms of America.

To see so many of the GOP presidential candidates pander so shamelessly before this unhinged crowd shows how hijacked the party is to the far right fringe. It's a recipe for political disaster, and it's quite enjoyable watching them drive themselves off the cliff.

***

The endless lies about ENDA continue, btw, illustrating Joe's points quite well. Look at the latest email “action alert” from Don Wildmon of the American Family Association that Joe passed along. A snippet:

ENDA (H.R. 2015) could enshrine “sexual orientation” in federal law

Call Your U.S. Representative today to oppose ENDA

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) H.R. 2015 is likely to be voted on this week in the U.S. House. ENDA is aimed at providing heightened protections for a particular sexual behavior- homosexuality. It would grant special consideration on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” that would not be extended to other employees in the workplace. That could spell trouble for Christian business owners, churches and faith-based groups. Proponents of the bill quickly point to “religious exemptions” in the bill, but most agree that it is a sham.

Here is more information about ENDA H.R. 2015 from our friends at the Family Research Council:

  * ENDA affords sp
ecial protection to a group that is not disadvantaged.

  * The issue is not job discrimination: It is whether private businesses will be forced by law to accommodate homosexual activists' attempts to legitimize homosexual behavior.

  * The first “religious exemption” clause is very narrow and offers no clear protection to church-related businesses: Religious schools or charitable organizations, religious bookstores, or any business affiliated with a church or denomination fall outside this narrow definition, and could presumably be required to hire homosexual applicants.

  * The second “religious exemption” clause fails to offer protection for all hiring by church-related organizations or businesses. The position of a teacher of religion at a church-related school would be exempt, but, e.g., that of a biology teacher would not. Thus, most of the teachers and staff at a religious school would be covered by ENDA, which means that the church would be forced to hire homosexual applicants for such positions-despite the fact that their lifestyle would be in direct opposition to the religious beliefs of the organization or company.

  * It is unlikely that the “religious exemption” included in the bill would survive court challenge: Institutions that could be targeted include religious summer camps, the Boy Scouts, Christian bookstores, religious publishing houses, religious television and radio stations, and any business with fifteen or more employees.

  * ENDA violates employers' and employees' Constitutional freedoms of religion, speech and association. The proposed legislation would prohibit employers from taking their most deeply held beliefs into account when making hiring, management, and promotion decisions. This would pose an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into people's lives.

  * ENDA would approvingly bring private behavior considered immoral by many into the public square. By declaring that all sexual preferences are equally valid, ENDA would change national policy supporting marriage and family.

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Clearly, this is an enormous threat to the freedom of religion and also places unfair burdens on businesses, which should be allowed to make employment decisions based on their religious convictions and business needs.

In 31 states, it's legal for an employer to fire you because of your sexual orientation; in 39 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgender.

If fairness in the workplace for LGBT employees under ENDA is the nightmarish proposition Don outlines above, why do so many businesses, large and small, support ENDA? HRC:

[A] total of 124 Fortune 500 companies now include transgender people in their policies; this is more then 10 times the number that had such policies in 2001. In addition, exactly 49 of the Fortune 50 companies include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. (Exxon Mobil Corp. is the only company in the Fortune 50 that does not.) In fact, 433 companies in the Fortune 500 – or nearly 90 percent – include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies as of spring 2007.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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