Pakistani Islamic parties call for a strike on New Years Eve in support of blasphemy laws

Spokesman Abdul Ghafoor Ahmed calls himself a professor, but he is not teaching truth if this news report is citing him accurately. He says the US and UK also criminalize blasphemy. Sadly, many of his listeners probably believe him and assume efforts to change blasphemy laws in his country are reflections of a religious war.

Addressing a crowded press conference at Idara Noor-e-Haq, Professor Ghafoor Ahmed said that Holy Prophet Hazrat Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is the blessing of Allah to whole humanity. He said Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is the most respected person ever born on earth. He regretted anti-Islam elements and their local agents were out to repeal the blasphemy law in Pakistan to achieve their malicious goals against Muslims. Dispelling the misconceptions about the blasphemy bill, he said it was drafted by the clerics hailing from all schools of thought and passed by National Assembly, unanimously. He said that the noble personality of Mohammed (PBUH) is the center of love and respect for the Muslims, adding anti-Islam elements were jealous of this huge respect and love. Citing the laws in the US, UK and other western countries, Professor Ghafoor said that that sentences have also been incorporated in laws of these countries on blasphemy of Hazrat Essa (AS), adding no religion in the world allows blasphemy of the True Messengers of Almighty Allah.

These parties are set to strike on Dec. 31.

KARACHI: Religio-political parties including Jamaat-e-Islmai (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Jamait Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), Jamiat Ahle-Hadith, Tanzeem-e-Islami, Tahreek-e-Islami and others would observe a complete shutter down strike across the country on 31st December 2010 against the conspiracies of present rulers to repeal blasphemy law, said Deputy Chief JI Pakistan Professor Abdul Ghafoor Ahmed on Tuesday.

I am becoming convinced that Asia Bibi and her family will require asylum in the US or UK if she is released.

Young conservatives and DADT – So What?

If RenewAmerica has a Christmas party, I want to attend just to watch Jamie Freeze take on the good ol’ boys. Jamie is a young conservative woman and a student at Regent University law school who thinks the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a good thing. Elsewhere, on the 17th, the ACLJ’s Jordan Sekulow essentially yawned at the repeal. I will discuss his WaPo column after I briefly excerpt Freeze’s article titled, “General George S. Patent Leather: Conservatives and DADT,” Freeze counters fellow Renew America  columnist Bryan Fischer’s effort to link the lunar eclipse with the repeal of DADT.

Freeze is a traditional evangelical regarding sexuality but she does not believe government should require citizens to adopt her views. She says:

…as one Christian associate said, “For us to feel appointed to execute some sort of cosmic justice on the Lord’s behalf is the height of hubris.”

Our government governs Christians and non-Christians. America was founded on Christian principles by Christians and non-Christians. It was not an exclusively Christian nation or else the 1st Amendment would have been nullified from the start. Our founders quickly realized that mandating church attendance and tithing were futile attempts in changing the hearts of men. That is why the Baptists were the forerunners of separation of church and state in colonial America — they did not want a state church because God did not need the state to accomplish His plan. The state interfered with God’s work. As a Baptist, I am proud of the tradition that Isaac Backus and John Leland gave America, and I seek to preserve it.

I would add Roger Williams to the list as well. Williams and then later the early Baptists Backus and Leland stood for a state that protected the rights and conscience of all. I really like this quote attributed to Leland by Wikipedia:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” – A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia.

Freeze then addresses several arguments social conservatives have raised against DADT, in one case citing a soldier friend who believes sexual orientation is irrelevant to service. She adds that we need all hands on deck while fighting two wars and channels Barry Goldwater’s observation that people who shoot straight need not be straight.

In what has passed for conservatism in recent years, Freeze rightly notes that the divide over social issues is growing.

As a conservative, I have already received much criticism for the views expressed in this article, and I anticipate more. One man, a prominent local Republican clearly offended by my views, told me I held no claim to the ideology of conservatism. However, I will share with you what I told him: “If by conservative, you mean valuing life, liberty, and property above all other rights, then yes, I am conservative. I am a Lockean to the core. However, if, by conservative, you mean I want the government to mandate our lives to the smallest details all for the sake of public morality, then no, I am not a conservative.”

I agree with Freeze here but I do not dismiss the concerns of social conservatives lightly, especially those who are not working for advocacy groups. Many people I know are afraid that the government is going to make them believe things they can’t believe. They are afraid that the kind of philosophy espoused by Williams and Leland will require them to adhere to views they cannot accept. Not so. When laws are judged fairly, protecting the freedom of others does not remove mine. In a society where equal protection is for everyone, it is to my advantage to stick up for the rights of all. By doing this, I am sticking up for my rights to pursue my conscience as well. Where rights seem to be in conflict, we can try to work it out as citizens or involve the judiciary.

Another young conservative who has probably raised some eyebrows is Jordan Sekulow with the conservative ACLJ. Started by Pat Robertson, ACLJ does not have any pro-gay cred, and yet Mr. Sekulow writes, No DADT, No Problem:

The outdated, unworkable “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law will likely be repealed in the next few days. As a Christian conservative broadcaster, attorney, and activist who recently discussed DADT and my opinion about it on-air, I can say that for the most part, social conservatives are not enraged about the end of DADT. In fact, the grassroots has not been engaged on this issue for a long time.

I feel pretty sure that the Family Research Council or the American Family Association will not agree with this assessment since they have been on a full court press to stop the repeal. Sekulow locates his attitude at least partially in his youth, saying

We live in a new time. As a young member of the “religious right,” if a gay friend or family member came to me and said they wanted to join the military, I would gladly be the first to congratulate and thank them. I do not believe they should be barred from serving because of their sexual orientation.

For all those who believe social conservatism is a monolithic mass, one needs to contrast Sekulow’s statement with Bryan Fischer’s “homosexuals in the military gave us six million dead Jews” rant.

I do not want to make too much out of two young conservatives and their views on DADT, but I am inclined to think they are part of what other observers see as a moderating trend among youth toward homosexuality. These young people do not view homosexual behavior as an option within their religious views, but they also seem to be rejecting the strident, stereotyping rhetoric and policies of their elders.

Was Ronald Reagan anti-gay?

Context: Tea party successes make the movement attractive to GOP politicians because of the energy of the members in opposition to the sitting President. To define the movement, conservatives are fussing over whether or not social issues (read: abortion, gay marriage, sex education) should be a part of the agenda. Some say yes (e.g., Bryan Fischer and the Values Voters group) and others say not so much (e.g., Dick Armey).

Tomorrow night, Ann Coulter is speaking to GOProud, a gay GOP group and this has caused some social conservatives to blast her decision as selling out. On Wednesday, she wrote a column (a pre-GOProud shout out?) contrasting Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater on abortion and homosexuality and urged readers to follow Reagan and not Goldwater. Goldwater wanted government to stay out of personal choices and, according to Coulter, Reagan believed government should resist giving legitimacy to gays. Then yesterday, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, chimed in with his revisions and extentions.

About gay issues, Coulter provided an unsourced quote attributed to Reagan:  

“Society has always regarded marital love as a sacred expression of the bond between a man and a woman. It is the means by which families are created and society itself is extended into the future. … We will resist the efforts of some to obtain government endorsement of homosexuality.”

Looking for a source, all references to the quote I can find point to a 1984 edition of Presidential Biblical Scorecard, a publication from the Biblical News Service. I can’t find any current website for this publication, but have contacted some people for leads about the accuracy of the quote. It may be that the quote is a paraphrase of Reagan’s perceived position.

One reason I wonder if the quote reflects what Reagan’s views were at the time is because he was instrumental in helping to defeat a California anti-gay ballot measure in 1978. Proposition 6, also called the Briggs Initiative after GOP state Senator John Briggs, would have forbidden schools from hiring gay teachers and allowed schools to dismiss teachers who promoted homosexuality.

Despite his desires to run for President on a conservative agenda, Reagan met with David Mixner and Peter Scott to discuss the merits of the initiative. Opposing the tidal wave of Anita Bryant inspired anti-gay legislation might have caused some conservatives to think twice. However, Reagan agreed to a secret meeting. In his book, Stranger Among Friends, Mixner describes the occasion:

Peter and I were escorted into a bright office with windows overlooking West Los Angeles. Reagan rose from his desk, gave us his famous smile, extended his hand, and said, “How nice of you boys to come over to chat with me about this issue.”

He made us feel more at home than most Democrats did. He directed us to chairs and offered us soda. It was hard to believe that this smiling gentle man was the same person who had sent in three thousand bayoneted National Guardsmen to ‘protect’ People’s Park in Berkeley.

He opened the discussion, “I understand you boys have a case you want to make to me,” he said.

Mixner and Scott made a libertarian case against Proposition 6 and Reagan agreed. Reagan made a public statement opposing the ballot initiative and then wrote an op-ed detailing his views. Writing in National Review, Deroy Murdock describes the op-ed and the outcome of the statewide vote:

Reagan used both a September 24, 1978, statement and a syndicated newspaper column to campaign against the initiative.

“Whatever else it is,” Reagan wrote, “homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” He also argued: “Since the measure does not restrict itself to the classroom, every aspect of a teacher’s personal life could presumably come under suspicion. What constitutes ‘advocacy’ of homosexuality? Would public opposition to Proposition 6 by a teacher — should it pass — be considered advocacy?”

That November 7, Proposition 6 lost, 41.6 percent in favor to 58.4 percent against. Reagan’s opposition is considered instrumental to its defeat.

As Aaron Goldstein noted in the American Spectator, Reagan had nothing to gain by intervening in the Prop 6 fight in 1978 and a lot to lose.

Reagan stood absolutely nothing to gain by getting involved in this fight. After all, he did want to take one more stab at becoming the GOP standard bearer for the White House in 1980. In opposing Proposition 6, Reagan ran the risk of alienating a conservative base that had been the bedrock of his support in two terms as Governor of California. This would be especially true in Orange County, the cradle of California conservatism. It was also the home base of State Senator Briggs, who had ambitions to follow in Reagan’s footsteps to Sacramento.

According to journalist Kenneth Walsh, Reagan’s attitude toward gays were more consistent with his Prop 6 stance than the quote attributed to him by Coulter.

“Despite the urging of some of his conservative supporters, he never made fighting homosexuality a cause,” wrote Kenneth T. Walsh, former U.S. News and World Report White House correspondent, in his 1997 biography, Ronald Reagan. “In the final analysis, Reagan felt that what people do in private is their own business, not the government’s.”

Coulter correctly cites Reagan’s consistent opposition to abortion in her article and about that, there can be no debate. Reagan’s 1984 book, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, provided a passionate defense of the pro-life position. There is nothing comparable from Reagan on gay issues.

Some might argue that Reagan demonstrated his views on homosexuality  via his AIDS policy. However, National Review’s Murdock makes a compelling case that Reagan’s record on AIDS has been seriously distorted, noting that AIDS funding increased substantially every year from 1982 to 1989.

In any event, those seeking the mantle of Reagan need to deal with all of what he did and said.

Paul Kengor: God Gets His Healthcare Bill

Note: The recent healthcare reform certainly is historic, in the sense that it most likely will be considered an important, perhaps defining, event in the Obama Presidency. Whatever eventually happens politically as a result, there are important elements of public discourse which marked the debate. One of those elements –religious rhetoric– is the subject of Dr. Kengor’s column.  

God Gets His Healthcare Bill

By Dr. Paul Kengor 

The most frustrating thing I’ve dealt with in professional life was eight years of outrageous, baseless charges against President George W. Bush on matters of faith. Even when Bush was simply asked about his faith, and responded with utterly benign statements, like saying he couldn’t imagine surviving the presidency “without faith in the Lord,” or noting he prayed before committing troops, echoing every president from Washington to Lincoln to Wilson to Carter to Clinton, he was viciously assaulted.

“We are dealing with a messianic militarist!” thundered Ralph Nader.

“He should not be praying,” intoned Lawrence O’Donnell to the MSNBC faithful.

Repeatedly, I was called to respond to this nonsense. My retort was agonizingly simple: I merely ran through example after example of American founders, presidents—Democrats and Republicans—saying either precisely what Bush said or something far more extreme, like Woodrow Wilson claiming God called upon him to found the League of Nations, or FDR mounting a battleship leading troops in a rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

What I said rarely mattered. Every Bush mention of God was a signal, somehow, that this Bible-quoting “simpleton” was trying to transform America into a “theocracy.”

Alas, there was another tactic I used: I quoted current Democrats on the campaign trail, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, invoking the Almighty. I knew that if these politicians reached the White House, they’d say the same as Bush, or much worse—with no backlash from the secular media. Quite the contrary, liberals would roll out the red carpet, enthusiastically welcoming faith into the public square.

All of that is prelude to my point here today:

The Religious Left, from “social justice” Catholic nuns and Protestant ministers to the Democratic Speaker of the House and president of the United States, have been incessantly claiming God’s advocacy of their healthcare reform. That’s no surprise, just as it’s no surprise that the press is not only not outraged but silently supportive. There’s nary a whimper, let alone howls, of “separation of church and state!”

Consider a few examples, most telling in light of passage of the healthcare bill:

Last August, President Obama addressed a virtual gathering of 140,000 Religious Left individuals. He told them he was “going to need your help” in passing healthcare. Obama penitently invoked a period of “40 Days,” a trial of deliverance from conservative tormentors, from temptation by evildoers. He lifted up the brethren, assuring them, “We are God’s partner in matters of life and death.”

Like a great commissioning, in the 40 Days that followed the Religious Left was filled with the spirit, confidently spreading the word, pushing for—among other things—abortion funding as part of an eternally widening “social justice” agenda. The Religious Institute, which represents 4,800 clergy, urged Congress to include abortion funding in “healthcare” reform, adamantly rejecting amendments that prohibited funding. To not help poor women secure their reproductive rights was unjust, declared the progressive pastors. As the Rev. Debra Hafner, executive director of the Religious Institute, complained, federal policy already “unfairly prevents low-income women and federal employees from receiving subsidized” abortions.

Here we see the Religious Left’s continued perversion of “social justice.” Behold: social justice abortions.

Early last week, a group of 59 nuns sent Congress a letter urging passage of the healthcare bill. This came in direct defiance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which insisted the bill “must be opposed” because of its refusal to explicitly ban abortion funding. What the bishops said didn’t matter, one nun told Fox’s Neil Cavuto—supporting the bill is what “Jesus would do.”

The liberal media cheered on the nuns, gleefully exaggerating the sisters’ influence. In a breathtaking display, the Los Angeles Times beamed, “Nuns’ support for health-care bill shows [Catholic] Church split.” Quoting the nuns, the Times reported that the letter represented not more than 50 nuns but over 50,000. (I’m not kidding, click here.) Like Jesus with the loaves, the militantly secular/liberal Times had displayed miraculous powers of multiplication.

Finally, last Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, invoked the Solemnity of the Feast of St. Joseph on behalf of the healthcare bill. She urged American Catholics to “pray to St. Joseph”—earthly guardian of the unborn son of God. Such overtures are hardly new for Pelosi, who routinely exhorts Democratic disciples to vote the liberal/progressive agenda as an “act of worship.”

All of that is prelude, of course, to what happened the evening of March 21, 2010, A.D., with a rare vote not merely on a Sunday—God’s day—but the final Sunday in Lent, the week before Palm Sunday that initiates the Lord’s Passion. To President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and the Religious Left faithful, Jesus, presumably, has gotten his healthcare package.

Amid that process, secular liberals got religion, as their political soul-mates spearheaded this “change” in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s a quite radical departure from eight years of scourging George W. Bush every time he confessed he prayed. At long last, there is room for Jesus in the inn, so long as the Savior “supports” a certain agenda. Who says conversions don’t happen?

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include “God and George W. Bush,” “God and Ronald Reagan,” and“God and Hillary Clinton.” The topic of this op-ed will be discussed at length by several speakers at our coming April 15-16 conference on “The Progressives.” Click here for more information.

Christianity, homosexuality and the law

I am repeating in full a post from August, 2008 regarding religious arguments for the separation of church and state. I do this in response to the calls from Stephen Langa, Caleb Brundidge and Scott Lively to maintain laws criminalizing homosexuality in Uganda (and elsewhere). First the post:

Sally Kern, with help from my friend and colleague at Grove City College, T. David Gordon provides today’s open forum discussion.
Mrs. Kern is in the news today about a speech she gave in Norman, OK about her entrance into government and her role as a “culture warrior.” She says:

“I started praying about whether or not the Lord wanted me to run,” Kern said. “And the more I prayed, the more I felt He did.”
Kern said she expected to “run, lose and just be a much better government teacher.”
“But lo and behold I won,” she said. “And so here I am, and I’m not the typical legislator. The Lord showed me right off the bat that I’m not supposed to be. As a matter of fact, my Lord made it very clear to me that I am a cultural warrior. And you know I tried to say ‘no’ to that, too, ’cause that’s pretty hard. But, anyway, that’s where I am.”

I cannot discern however, what Mrs. Kern believes government should do. On one hand, she talks about preserving the founders reliance on “one true religion” and on the other she indicates that

“Government cannot force people to change, and yet we see that’s what government is doing,” she said. “Every time government passes another law, they are taking away some of our freedoms.”

I do agree that government cannot force people to change, but I am unclear how government is making people change. If homosexuals pursuing the democratic process to elect legislators and pass laws is more threatening than terrorism, then what would winning the culture war against homosexuality look like? I have a clearer picture in my mind about winning over a foreign aggressor would look like. But if homosexuals are using the democratic process (elections, laws, courts) to pursue their interests, then how will the Christian culture warriors win? What will victory look like?
I fear that many colleagues on the religious right want the coercive power of the state to enforce a particular view of morality, one that comports with their understanding of Christianity. I might like others to believe like me but I surely think it is futile to seek the state to bring it about. Closer to the therapy world, where I usually labor, I do not believe that counselors should use the coercive power of the counseling relationship to attempt to inculcate religious fruit. We can provide information but the results are not in our hands.
On this point, last school year, Religion prof at GCC, T. David Gordon presented a paper titled, “Religious Arguments for Separating Church and State” at our annual Center for Vision and Values conference. I was edified by this presentation and link to it here. A couple of excerpts gives the tone and direction of the paper:

In the so-called “culture wars” of the late twentieth century, one commonly hears allegations that the separation of church and state reflects and promotes a “secularist” agenda. It is certainly true that most secularists (such as Paul Kurtz, in the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II) wish to separate church and state. However, many religious individuals and societies favor such separation also; therefore it is misleading to refer to separation of church and state as a secular or secularist idea. The purpose of this brief survey is to list some of the religious arguments that have been presented in favor of separation, so that religious people may consider those arguments as “friendly” to their faith-commitments, rather than hostile to them.

and regarding individual liberty:

For Protestant Christianity, the doctrine of the conscience plays a very important role. Unlike the Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church, where conscience normally appears only in sections dealing with Penance or Confession, some Protestant confessions have an entire chapter devoted to it, such as the Westminster Confession’s chapter on “Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience.” Within this understanding, an action or belief is only morally approved when it is a sincere act, an act that accords with conscientious faith. The conscience is thus “free” from false authority to serve God, the true Authority. Any professed faith or outwardly religious act that is merely done to avoid civil penalties is not an act of any true moral worth. When the beliefs and practices of the church are prescribed by the State with its coercive powers, this does not promote true religion, but hypocrisy. For many Protestants, therefore, one of the best ways to preserve true liberty of the individual conscience is to leave that conscience entirely free, in religious matters, from considerations of civil consequences.

Some laws which coerce moral behavior are needed to protect us all from each other. I am very glad when going to my car at night at the mall that the threat of punishment from the state might prevent some would be attackers from carrying out the desires of their evil hearts. However, as T. David states so well, some (many, which ones?) matters of personal liberty should be off limits from the state.
With that background, I will turn it over to the forum. I encourage you to read Dr. Gordon’s well-crafted paper. What is the proper role of a Christian in governance? How are legislators to govern in a plural society? Given that Christians were so involved in the founding of the nation, why did they create such protections for pluralism of belief, including the ability to believe nothing and pursue happiness via that worldview? How do we best advance the mission of the church? In which vision of governance is personal and religious liberty best achieved?

Here is another quote from Dr. Gordon’s paper which speaks to how religious people ordinarily confuse criminality and immorality.

Confusion on this point often centers around a misunderstanding of Paul’s comments about the civil magistrate in Romans 13, where he refers to the magistrate as one who is a terror to evil conduct. Many religious people conclude, therefore, that the magistrate’s duty is to punish all evil conduct, as the Bible describes “evil”. In its historical context, however, this interpretation is unlikely. The particular magistrate to whom Paul refers is the Roman authority, who knew nothing of the law of Moses or the commands of Christ, and yet Paul referred to this pagan Roman magistrate as a “minister of God for your good.” The “evil” spoken of by Paul is societal evil, evil of a public nature that threatens the well-being of the commonwealth or its
individual citizens. From what we know of first-century Roman law, it appears that Paul rightly assumed that the magistrate would punish crimes against persons and crimes against property. If the magistrate did this, Paul was content that he was serving his divinely-instituted role fine.
Many other behaviors might well be sinful and immoral, but they are not and need not be criminal. In the late eighteenth century, John Leland, the Massachusetts Baptist, addressed this important distinction:

What leads legislators into this error, is confounding sins and crimes together — making no difference between moral evil and state rebellion: not considering that a man may be infected with moral evil, and yet be guilty of no crime, punishable by law. If a man worships one God, three Gods, twenty Gods, or no God — if he pays adoration one day in a week, seven days or no day — wherein does he injure the life, liberty or property of another? Let any or all these actions be supposed to be religious evils of an enormous size, yet they are not crimes to be punished by laws of state, which extend no further, in justice, than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.

Leland reflected common views in his day: That states exist to preserve the natural or inalienable rights of humans, frequently considered to be life, liberty and property as referred to by Leland. Thus, an act is criminal when it harms another’s person or property, or restrains his liberty; but other acts are tolerable by the state.

It will not impair the Church for homosexuality to be legal but nations which attempt to coerce moral sexual behavior will impair the free exercise of conscience by same-sex attracted people. To repeat from Dr. Gordon’s paper:

Any professed faith or outwardly religious act that is merely done to avoid civil penalties is not an act of any true moral worth. When the beliefs and practices of the church are prescribed by the State with its coercive powers, this does not promote true religion, but hypocrisy. For many Protestants, therefore, one of the best ways to preserve true liberty of the individual conscience is to leave that conscience entirely free, in religious matters, from considerations of civil consequences.

Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.

1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.

2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.

3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.

4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.

5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.

6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.

7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.

8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.

9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.

10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.

I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)

Happy New Year!

Top ten posts by number of comments and page views – 2008

Time to wrap up 2008 with a review of the stories told and topics covered. I also will give the top ten posts based on page views.
By far the election was the broad topic which generated the most page views. Aside from the Berg vs. Obama thread, readers prefer to comment on the sexual identity related posts. As in past years, I will pick out my top ten themes in a later post.
Top ten by number of comments (fluctuation should be minimal since most of these threads are quiet now)
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1 (796)
2. New study casts doubt on older brother hypothesis and reparative drive theory (460)
3. Gay City News prints letter clarifying sexual identity therapy (282)
4. New Direction for Exodus? (277)
5. Day of the Golden Rule? (264)
6. Sally Kern: What should she do? (248)
7. Study examines brain differences related to sexual orientation (239)
8. Multiple factors involved in sexual orientation, part 2 (221)
9. Sexual orientation theorizing: Is change possible? (219)
10. 60 Minutes Science of Sexual Orientation: An update from the mother of twins (217)
Top ten by page views are:
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1
2. Hey Florida, is this ok with you?
3. Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher talks about his dialogue with Obama and spreading the wealth
4. Berg vs. Obama: Update and current status
5. Michelle Obama likes upscale clothes too
6. Donofrio vs. Wells: NJ Obama citizenship case slated for SCOTUS conference
7. What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade, Part two
8. Some light on Sarah Palin’s church affiliation
9. Did Barack Obama vote to withhold treatment to infants surviving abortion?
10. Day of Silence and Golden Rule Pledge on Appalachian State University
The top post has been viewed over 15,000 times with the other posts gradually decreasing from there. These numbers are constantly changing.

Now Obama is a bigot?

We are most likely at an impasse of sorts in the culture. The Rick Warren prayer is the kind of event which brings into bold relief the issues which divide. We have discussed on this blog before whether or not the gay-evangelical divide is a zero-sum situation — for one side to prevail, the other side must be defeated. John Cloud at Time magazine gives me evidence to think the divide continues to be wide. About Barack Obama, he writes:

Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships.

John Cloud here redefines bigot. Bigot means someone who is intolerant of others opinions and actions. Seemingly unaware of the contradiction, Cloud calls Obama a “very tolerant sort of bigot.”
I am thinking out loud here, but I wonder if the impasse comes down to beliefs and how these are properly lived out in a democracy. I don’t think it is about “being” gay/straight or being wired to experience opposite- or same-sex attraction. I say this because one may experience same-sex attraction and find that experience something unacceptable for reasons of morality, or for more pragmatic reasons. One may not value some impulses which rightly or wrongly are believed to lead to undesireable consequences. Thus, the divide may be more about ideology than ontology.
If I am right about the basic difference being ideological, then how do we regard people who disagree with us on matters of belief? Do we call them bigots? Do we say you disagree with me so you hate me and all that I am? Let’s leave “do” and go to “should.” Should conservatives say to liberals, you are bigots because you disagree with my beliefs? I do not think so. When John Cloud (who in my contacts with him seems quite tolerant of those who he apparently considers bigots) calls Barack Obama a bigot, does he not invite the same treatment? John you are a tolerant sort of bigot, I might say, when you come to an Exodus conference and converse cordially with the ex-gays.
In the newspeak, bigot means someone who disagrees with me. I doubt this will be good.

Gay leaders angry over inaugural invocation by Rick Warren

Huffington Post and Politico.com have stories about this.
Here is HuffPo’s Sam Stein’s take on it:

Ever since Barack Obama was elected president, the media has been pining to write a story about liberal dissatisfaction with his transition efforts. By and large, the meme has been blown out of proportion, as the press overestimated how divisive Obama’s cabinet choices were for progressives.
The press may now have its conflict moment. And it comes in the form of the spiritual leader chosen to launch Obama’s inauguration.
On Wednesday, the transition team and Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that Rick Warren, pastor of the powerful Saddleback Church, would give the invocation on January 20th. The selection may not have been incredibly surprising. Obama and Warren are reportedly close — Obama praised the Megachurch leader in his second book “The Audacity of Hope.” Warren, meanwhile, hosted a values forum between Obama and McCain during the general election. Nevertheless, the announcement is being greeted with deep skepticism in progressive religious and political circles.

Gay leaders are furious.

“Picking Rick Warren to give THE invocation,” wrote John Aravosis on AmericaBlog, “is abominable.”
“Let me get right to the point,” Joe Solomnese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a harsh letter to the president-elect, “Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans.”

Just yesterday, Obama picked Chicago’s Arne Duncan as Education secretary. The same Duncan who favored an all gay high school in Chicago. Clearly, Obama is more pro-gay than pro-social conservative but this choice is especially galling because Warren supported Proposition 8 in California.
I suspect pro-choice advocates are none too happy either.
I think Obama likes Warren even though he disagrees with him on many issues. Warren clearly brings together evangelical doctrine with social compassion in a way that is attractive. I suspect Obama would like to change Warren’s mind on issues but knowing he cannot, he wants to reinforce the good he sees in Warren and those likeminded.
In any event, we all have to live together even though we disagree on how to even frame up the issues. I doubt Obama will back down on this and may use it as a means to get across a message of co-existence.
UPDATE: 12/18/08 – Sam Stein has the Obama talking points regarding Rick Warren.

• This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.
• In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world’s most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.
• Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He’s devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren’s leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.
• The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what’s important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America’s promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.
• As he’s said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That’s the only way we’ll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.
• The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.
• And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

UPDATE: 12/18/08 – Rick Warren just issued a statement via the Christian Newswire. Here is the entire statement:

Statement by Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church Regarding the Invitation from President-elect Obama to Deliver the Inaugural Invocation
LAKE FOREST, Calif., Dec. 18 /Christian Newswire/ — “I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony.
“Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.
“The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Media Contact:
A. Larry Ross 469.774.6362
Kristin Cole 615.289.6701
media@rickwarrennews.com

MSNBC asking questions about Obama and Blagojevich

UPDATE: Illinois high court will not remove Blagojevich.
Surprising to me to see MSNBC report the possibility of 21 calls between Rahm Emanuel and Team Blago. Even MSNBC reporters think Obama could be more transparent and still honor the Federal prosecutor’s request to hold information.

Obama news conference at 11:45am.
UPDATE: First question from CBS News is about Blagogate. Paraphrased: You ran on a platform of transparency, how difficult is it for you to wait until next week to reveal results of your investigation? Obama replied that next week is not that far away and you’ll have answers to all your questions at that time.
He took 3 questions total.
UPDATE 2: Blago might break his silence today or tomorrow. Here is the video: