What is change? Exodus and the Our America segment

I still haven’t seen the whole thing, but I will later.

By request of a commenter at the Exodus blog, I want to link Alan Chamber’s response to the segment.

During the segment I linked to yesterday, Alan acknowledged that he continues to experience same-sex attractions. At one time, this would have seemed like a betrayal of the “change is possible” mantra. However, Alan defines change as an ideological experience, first and foremost.

Diminishing or elimination of same-sex attraction can occur to varying degrees, but Exodus does not believe that an absence of same-sex attractions is necessary in order to live a life in harmony with biblical principles. Like I said during the interview, God wants our hearts more than he wants anything else.  When He has our heart then and only then can He begin the transformation process.

Change is possible.  For Christians change is ultimately about embracing a new identity. This new identity is rooted in what God says is His best plan for individuals, humanity and sexuality.  This involves a personal decision to reject behaviors and an identity that conflicts with biblical truth about life and relationships.

There may be a few people, mainly women, who have experienced an elimination of same-sex attraction, but I have only met a handful who claim it. I have met more who once claimed it and but then later experience SSA again.

Alan’s statement, to be consistent, needs to be understood not as a statement of science but one of faith and belief in the primacy of self-definition. Gay, to many evangelicals, means approval of homosexual behavior. And since they do not believe that is right, they change everything they can to achieve congruence with their beliefs. However, they have not changed their automatic attractions in ways that would meet categorical definitions of change.

And of course, for purposes of identity, this is just the way it is for some. According to the 2009 Task Force report, this is a defensible objective. Task Force chair Judith Glassgold told the Wall Street Journal:

“We’re not trying to encourage people to become ‘ex-gay,'” said Judith Glassgold, who chaired the APA’s task force on the issue. “But we have to acknowledge that, for some people, religious identity is such an important part of their lives, it may transcend everything else.”

Exodus has of late come much closer to clarity about what changes when they say change is possible. With the OWN segment, they have come another step closer.

Bam! George Will on Huckabee, Gingrich and the coming GOP apocalypse

I am coming late to this party, but I am just glad to be here.

George Will explained concisely in his Sunday column why any Republican with a set of working neurons is really nervous about 2012. Let me start where Will finishes:

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.

Notice that Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich are not on that list. Will delineates with precision that these two men have fallen on the Obama-is-not-a-real-American sword in such a way that they may not only impale themselves but also the rest of the party. 

Huckabee disappoints the most as he first panders to two far right talk show hosts about Obama’s birth place. Huckabee first told Steve Malzberg that the current President grew up in Kenya, then later after being called on the error, said he simply meant Indonesia and went on a bit to the second, Bryan Fischer, about Obama and community madrassas. Will dismisses the excuses and notes that such episodes have consequences:

Republicans should understand that when self-described conservatives such as Malzberg voice question-rants like the one above and Republicans do not recoil from them, the conservative party is indirectly injured. As it is directly when Newt Gingrich, who seems to be theatrically tiptoeing toward a presidential candidacy, speculates about Obama having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” mentality.

Let’s pull over and park here a minute. There in a nutshell is my point about why GOP candidates are digging themselves a hole by doing puff interviews on the American Family Radio network with Bryan Fischer. The current crop of contenders is so intent on injuring Obama that anything goes, and in the process, the critic is injured more than the target.

Will then dismisses Gingrich’s affair with Dinesh D’Souza’s theories about Obama.

To the notion that Obama has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview, the sensible response is: If only. Obama’s natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America’s academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson. A question for former history professor Gingrich: Why implicate Kenya?

Reading Gingrich further, he calls Obama’s world view “factually insane” and says the President “is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works.” In addition to Will’s correction of Gingrich’s picture of Obama, I offer this. Gingrich’s hyperbole obscures any serious consideration of his ideas from those he most wants to reach. He is talking trash to the choir; most others dismiss him after the first sentence or two. Gingrich, Huckabee, Malzberg and Fischer almost make Obama look appealing by comparison, even to some of the choir.

Now let me end where Will began:

If pessimism is not creeping on little cat’s feet into Republicans’ thinking about their 2012 presidential prospects, that is another reason for pessimism. This is because it indicates they do not understand that sensible Americans, who pay scant attention to presidential politics at this point in the electoral cycle, must nevertheless be detecting vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the party.

Color me pessimistic.

Donald Trump for President?

March Madness is here.

And I don’t mean NCAA basketball.

GOP suits are in Iowa testing the waters for a run at the nomination. The most entertaining aspect has to be the potential for Donald Trump to enter the fray. Although Trump was not there, he sent a water tester along to find out what Iowa is.

Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Trump’s company, met with Iowa Republicans.

“We do understand that Iowa is the first stop if anyone is interested in the presidential election. Certainly … we are very anxious to learn about Iowa and be able to report back to Mr. Trump when he hopefully decides to run in June,” Cohen said.

Always good to do due diligence prior to a big purchase.

If Trump gets the nomination, I think he should choose his VP like he runs his reality show The Apprentice; call it Vice-President Apprentice. Put Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrinch on a team and Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and Mike Huckabee on another team. Trump could fire someone after each challenge and end up with his Veep. Watching the board room antics would be must see TV.

Bryan Fischer sees silver lining in Phelps ruling

First, Ed Brayton beat me to this observation:

No irony meter could survive this blow:

Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas are all wrong in their ruling on the reprehensible Westboro Baptist Church protests at military funerals. Alito alone is right. As he says, the First Amendment is “not a license for vicious verbal assault.” The gay-haters at Westboro have plenty of free speech avenues open to them – books, articles, video, audio, TV, radio, public forums, internet postings, emails etc. But they do not have a right to “intentionally inflict severe emotional injury on private persons.” The Supremes in this 8-1 decision have taken ugliness off its leash, turned it loose, and legitimized the most vile forms of public verbal attack. They have cried havoc and let slip the dogs of vitriol.

Seriously? The guy who claims that gays are responsible for the Third Reich and the Holocaust because only gays could be as savage as the Nazis and who demands that gays be sent to mandatory reeducation camps to turn them straight is complaining that the Supreme Court protects the only slightly more barbaric rhetoric of the Phelps cult? Words fail.

Despite his criticism, Fischer finds a silver lining in the court ruling:

The only upside here is that if the Supreme Court says it’s okay to say “God hates fags” – something that’s not even true, since the truth is the God loves homosexuals enough that he sent his only Son to die for them – then it certainly must be okay for students in a classroom, for public officials, and for radio talk show hosts to express reasoned and rational criticism of homosexual conduct without any kind of penalty whatsoever. We just need to tell heterophobes and Christophobes to get a grip, lighten up, back off, and read the Supreme Court’s Westboro ruling and go away.

Pretty much it is open season on gays now which is a good thing if you engage in Fischer’s version of “reasoned and rational criticism.” Blaming gays for “six million dead Jews” and saying that “there is no quicker way to assign the United States to the scrap heap of history than to normalize homosexual behavior in our military” is actually pretty close to some of Westboro theology. The reason the Phelps clan pickets the funerals of soldiers is because they believe God is allowing soldiers to die to punish the US for tolerance of gays. Here is the description of these beliefs from Snyder v. Phelps:

For the past 20 years, the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church has picketed military funerals to communicate its belief that God hates the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality, particularly in America’s military. The church’s picketing has also condemned the Catholic Church for scandals involving its clergy. Fred Phelps, who founded the church, and six Westboro Baptist parishioners (all relatives of Phelps) traveled to Maryland to picket the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq in the line of duty. The picketing took place on public land approximately 1,000 feet from the church where the funeral was held, in accordance with guidance from local law enforcement officers. The picketers peacefully displayed their signs—stating, e.g., “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Fags Doom Nations,” “America is Doomed,” “Priests Rape Boys,” and “You’re Going to Hell”—for about 30 minutes before the funeral began.

Perhaps the main difference between the Phelps message and Bryan Fischer’s views expressed on the American Family Association website is their differing opinions about the timing of God’s wrath on American – now or later. Phelps believes that God is now punishing America; Fischer believes it will come sometime in the future based on the same cause.

But never fear, such “reasoned and rational criticism” is now safe whether provided by the Phelps or the American Family Association. 

BYU, Utah professors rebut LDS gay change group

Last Friday, the Salt Lake City Tribune published an opinion article by members of a Latter Day Saint group called Foundation for Attraction Research. This group, co-founded by National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality leader, Dean Byrd, claims that science validates their religious view of homosexuality. Among other problems, the article last Friday misrepresented the views of National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins.

A week later, today’s SLC Tribune has an effective rebuttal from Wiliam S. Bradshaw, professor emeritus of molecular biology at Brigham Young University; David G. Weight, professor emeritus of clinical and neuropsychology at BYU; and Ted Packard, professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Utah. The authors sent the article to me directly:

First, the authors’ manipulations of quotations from Dr. Francis Collins distort and misrepresent his views. They first cite Collins about possible genetic influence on homosexuality. After several intervening paragraphs they introduce separate comments about “individual free will” and “playing the hand dealt to us,” which they represent as his “additional insight on homosexuality.”

This juxtaposition is a deception. The “free will” comments actually refer to genes and intelligence or criminal and antisocial behavior, not homosexuality. Collins has responded to this corruption of his statements by A. Dean Byrd as incoming president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH.

Collins sets the record straight as follows: 1) “The words quoted by NARTH … have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion than I intended”; 2) The fact that there are other factors that influence how information in DNA is expressed “certainly doesn’t imply that those other factors are inherently alterable”; 3) Even though the actual genes contributing to SSA have yet to be identified, “it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years.”

Here is the full text of Collins’ unequivocal denunciation of others who, like Byrd and the three authors, have recently misappropriated his scientific views: “It is disturbing for me to see special interest groups distort my scientific observation to make a point against homosexuality. The American College of Pediatricians pulled language out of context from a book I wrote in 2006 to support an ideology that can cause unnecessary anguish and encourage prejudice. The information they present is misleading and incorrect, and it is particularly troubling that they are distributing it in a way that will confuse school children and their parents.”

Regular readers here may recognize the source of this information about Collins – Exgaywatch and then here and here. Read the rest at the link above, I think the authors have made a quality rebutal.

Why is Huckabee using the madrassa attack on Bryan Fischer’s show?

Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, Fox talk show host, and probable GOP presidential contender got himself into some trouble when he said Obama learned anti-American ways growing up in Kenya. Later he said he misspoke and meant Indonesia. Kenya. Indonesia. Practically next door neighbors. Whatever.

Anyway, he had just about come through the storm of his birther-speak when he appeared on Bryan Fischer’s Focal Point show to complain about Obama’s childhood some more. On Fischer’s show, Huckabee said:

And I have said many times, publicly, that I do think he has a different worldview and I think it is, in part, molded out of a very different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas. (emphasis supplied by Salon’s Steve Kornacki)

A madrassa of course is a Muslim school, with recent associations to radical elements of Islam. While nasty, Huckabee is not terribly original in his attack. Properly or not, Hillary Clinton was credited for unearthing this fact early in 2007.

Terry, this is appearing on a Web site today, Insight magazine, which is a subsidiary of The Washington Times. Here’s the question. I’ll put it up on the screen: Barack’s madrassa past. He says that “during the five years that we would live with my stepfather in Indonesia, I was sent first to a neighborhood Catholic school and then to a predominately Muslim school.” That’s from his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”

Now in the meantime, this is what Democrats are saying, according to Insight magazine. They’re looking into his background. They’re saying: He was a Muslim. He concealed it. His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign.

Now, we have heard about dirty politics before. Republicans aren’t involved in this one. What do you think about what’s going on over there?

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: John, the last time I checked, there was still a freedom of religion in this country. And this is either a despicable act by an absolutely ruthless Clinton political machine. We know that they are capable of doing this. But it wasn’t directly linked to Hillary Clinton. If it wasn’t her, then certainly she should disavow it because I think we have spent an awful lot of time in this country trying to tamp down anti-religious sentiments.

Note what Republican Holt said about the effort to paint Obama as a radical Muslim – “a despicable act.” As Holt pointed out later in the interview, when Obama went to school, a madrassa was similar to any other parochial school associated with a religious view.

Now beyond Huckabee’s confusion of Kenya with Indonesia and his below-the-belt attack on Obama’s childhood is the fact that he is again propping up Bryan Fischer and the American Family Association. As regular readers here know, Fischer believes homosexuals are responsible for “six million dead Jews” during WWII, wants to ban construction of new mosques, and believes that Native Americans got what was coming to them in the near eradication of their tribes during the American settlement and expansion. The American Family Association has been silent on their official position on any of these matters and offers a considerable platform for Fischer’s supremacist views.

Is Huckabee so desperate for an audience that he needs to make news in that fringe-right environment? As Salon’s Kornacki points out, Huckabee is now making this ugly, and I add that he found one of the ugliest places to do it.

Committee chair says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered

Stephen Tashobya, the Chair of the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee in Uganda’s Parliament told me yesterday that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered during this sesssion of Parliament.

By phone, Tashobya told me that the committee still has many important bills to get through and when asked about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, said, “I am not sure if we will get to that one now.”

He did not know when Parliament would be called back to session but felt it would be next week at the earliest. He said he would know more at that time but was now uncertain that there would be time to move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill given the number of other bills to be considered.

This disclosure stands in contrast to Hon. Tashobya’s earlier prediction that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be considered very soon after the elections.

For additional posts on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, click the link.

Note: For the record, Tashobya, nor I, said the bill has been shelved, if by shelved one means it is no longer possible to bring it up before the end of Parliament’s current session in May. While his statements indeed represent a positive development, it is premature to make a final conclusion based on a couple of sentences from the committee chair. I will have a follow up with Tashobya in a couple of weeks. Then, I think we will know more certainly where things are.

Supreme Court: Westboro Baptist allowed to protest funerals

Today, in Snyder vs. Phelps, the Supreme Court ruled that Westboro Baptist Church could protest funerals of members of the armed services. In a case which unites free speech advocates from the Liberty Council to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the hateful church can continue spewing venom at grieving friends and family who have lost dads, sons, and brothers.

The Court wrote:

Held: The First Amendment shields Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case. Pp. 5–15.

(a) The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment can serve as a defense in state tort suits, including suits for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

So no matter how disgusting the speech, if it relates to a matter of public interest, there is special protection. More from the Court:

Whether the First Amendment prohibits holding Westboro li-able for its speech in this case turns largely on whether that speech is of public or private concern, as determined by all the circumstancesof the case. “[S]peech on public issues occupies the ‘ “highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values” ’ and is entitled to special protection.” Connick v. Myers, 461 U. S. 138, 145. Although theboundaries of what constitutes speech on matters of public concern are not well defined, this Court has said that speech is of public con-cern when it can “be fairly considered as relating to any matter of po-litical, social, or other concern to the community,” id., at 146, or when it “is a subject of general interest and of value and concern to thepublic,” San Diego v. Roe, 543 U. S. 77, 83–84. A statement’s argua-bly “inappropriate or controversial character . . . is irrelevant to the question whether it deals with a matter of public concern.” Rankin v. McPherson, 483 U. S. 378, 387. Pp. 5–7.

While a victory for free speech, the decision could hurt the fund raising efforts of far right groups who may have trouble convincing donors that religious speech will soon be penalized because of the gay agenda. If the Supreme Court can uphold Westboro’s claims to free speech, then there is no threat to the nation’s preachers, and advocacy groups.

Pakistani Minister for Minority Affairs killed

Pakistani continues to fall closer to anarchy it seems as now extremists have killed another moderate leader

Gunmen killed Pakistan’s minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, Wednesday, in the second attack this year on a high-profile figure who has opposed the country’s blasphemy law.

Witnesses say the attackers fled the scene in their car without hurting Bhatti’s driver, who then rushed him to the nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.  City Police Chief Wajid Durrani spoke to reporters outside the hospital.

The police officer said the attackers intercepted Bhatti’s official car shortly after he left his residence for work and shot him several times at close range.

The slain minister belonged to the ruling party of President Asif Ali Zardari and was the only Christian member of the federal cabinet.

Bhatti had been threatened by Muslim extremists for speaking out against Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

Police are reported to have seized Taliban-linked leaflets from the scene of the attack warning opponents of the Islamic law of blasphemy will meet Bhatti’s fate.  In a VOA interview last month, the Pakistani minister had spoken about threats to his life, but vowed not to bow down before the extremist forces.

“This extremism is dangerous for the stability of the country,” Bhatti said. “It is the time that the people of different faiths and the Pakistani nation stand united against the forces of intolerance, against the forces of violence. The blasphemy law is being misused to victimize the innocent people of Pakistan.”

Read the rest of the story at the link above.