Why The Ongoing RFRA Battle Is About Far More Than Wedding Cakes

SOURCE: ReligionDispatches

Author: Sarah Posner

Emphasis Mine

Now that both Indiana and Arkansas have enacted their Religious Freedom Restorations Acts, with each altered in response to an unprecedented and swift-moving opposition, it’s worth taking a look at what the landscape looks like going forward.

First, laws designed to provide a defense to businesses who refuse to serve LGBT couples, or who refuse to cater or photograph same-sex weddings, are not popular. One poll, from the Public Religion Research Institute, found that just 16% of respondents supported such laws. Jeb Bush, who had initially defended Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the RFRA that caused the vociferous backlash (albeit with little apparent understanding of how RFRAs function in the legal system), later said he would have preferred a “consensus-oriented” approach to a law that would not allow discrimination against LGBT people.

The Indiana fix–adding language that the law couldn’t be used to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation–addressed the major issue that had generated the backlash. But its still legal under Indiana law to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, even though some municipalities in the state bar it. The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said in a statement, “we still don’t believe these nondiscrimination provisions go far enough.”

But there are legitimate concerns beyond how these new RFRAs could be used to treat LGBT people. As the American Civil Liberties Union has said, while the new provision in the Indiana RFRA is a “major improvement, ” the law as now enacted “still poses a risk that it can be used to deny rights to others, including in education, access to health care, and other aspects of people’s lives.” Although the new law’s religious freedom claims and defenses are no longer available to for-profit entities, they still are available to non-profit entities who can invoke its provisions to raise religious objections to providing service.

While Indiana lawmakers supporting the RFRA were, as documented in this well-reported piece in the Indianapolis Star, motivated to provide legal protections to businesses that refuse to provide services to same-sex couples or for same-sex weddings, other comments by lawmakers show their intent was broader. Republican Rep. Bruce Borders suggested anesthesiologists who oppose abortion should not have to anesthetize women undergoing the procedure. The Indianapolis Star reported that “Borders said he believes the Bible’s command to ‘do all things as unto the Lord’ means religious believers need to be protected not just in church, but in their workplaces as well.” If that workplace is a religious non-profit, like a hospital or university, the new language appears to give those entities the right to assert a religious exemption if they object to the services required for a particular patient or person.

In Arkansas, by contrast, the law was changed to ensure that it could only be invoked in cases in which the government is a party, just as in the federal version.

Proponents of these new RFRAs have continually argued that the federal RFRA, enacted in 1993, had widespread and bipartisan support. They frequently ask why those who supported RFRA’s passage in 1993 now protest the new RFRAs go too far.

The answer lies in how the courts have interpreted the federal RFRA. At the time, it looked like a needed fix to protect individuals who, for example, were barred from receiving employment compensation after being fired for smoking peyote, an essential part of a Native American ritual.  In 20 years, though, it has been expanded, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, to confer rights on closely-held corporations seeking to deny their female employees the benefit of no-cost insurance coverage for birth control.

The debate on these laws is far from over. While the focus over the past week has been on their impact on LGBT people, Supreme Court precedent points to a wider reach. The innovation, if you will, of Hobby Lobby was not just allowing a closely-held corporation to invoke religious freedom rights. It was how the Court assessed, in favor of the corporation, the impact of religious freedom claims on third parties generally.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email


See: eligiondispatches.org/why-the-ongoing-rfra-battle-is-about-far-more-than-wedding-cakes/?utm_source=Religion+Dispatches+Newsletter&utm_campaign=273da07227-RD_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_742d86f519-273da07227-42427517

Exodus “Ex-Gay” Ministry Closes Up Shop

Source: Religion Dispatches


“I long for the day when a gay or lesbian kid feels like the first place, the best place, to call or go for help is the church,” said Exodus leader Alan Chambers, in his opening remarks at the ex-gay ministry‘s 38th annual convention in Irvine, Calif., Wednesday night.

To the ears of most gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, that sounds like nails on a chalkboard.

Church has in fact been the very last place for LGBT people to seek help—a claim validated by the Pew Research Center who recentlyfound that nearly half of LGBT people claim no religion at all. Not a surprise considering that many LGBT folk spent a chunk of their childhood sitting through homophobic sermons and Sunday school lessons wondering if God really did hate and condemn them.

But, and most significantly, Chambers also delivered the dramatic news that Exodus would be shutting its doors. Earlier this year, in an appearance at the Gay Christian Network conference, Chambers admitted that “99.9%” of those in ex-gay ministries never change their sexual orientation.” A short time later Chambers swore that Exodus would no longer use “reparative therapy,” or the notion that you can “pray away the gay,” in their programs.

This week, Chambers issued an apology to the LGBT community, saying he never saw it as the “enemy.”

“I am sorry I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him, I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

“More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religiousrejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.

What has emerged to fill the void is a fledgling organization called “Reduce Fear,” that seeks to offer “safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.” When LGBT people hear “safe” and “welcoming” and a new organization from Exodus, it’s natural to be suspicious. 

Julie Rodgers, a speaker for Exodus who has been with the ministry for ten years, since she was 17, says she understands that.

“Time will reveal as we begin this new venture,” she told Religion Dispatches. “Alan coming out with this apology and this move is already an enormous step. We’re saying that gay people matter and where we’ve caused them harm we’re going to own that and work to end that pain.”

When asked if a “safe and welcoming” place would include those who may come to the ministry and may still decide that God calls them to live fully as a gay or lesbian person, in relationship with someone of the same gender, Rodgers said, “We would walk with them toward Jesus and continue to listen together. Ultimately we believe it’s God’s job to convict and it’s our job to love.”

Indeed, LGBT people are used to the love that hopes they will one day agree that the ex-gay ministry is right and their desire to live into their sexuality is wrong. But, Rodgers is adamant that, though they readily admit they hold to a “traditional view of the Bible” on homosexuality, the new organization has no hidden agenda of “change.”

“We recognize our beliefs are not a trump card,” Rodgers explained. “We realize many, many churches hold a more liberal view on this issue and we believe it’s time for us to come to the table and value one another in the midst of our differing beliefs.”

Rodgers also noted that the new organization would probably not seek to change other ex-gay ministries that continue to use “reparative therapy” or other harmful “treatments” on LGBT people.

“We’re not interested in fighting anymore,” Rodgers said. We want to work on suicide prevention and anti-bullying causes. We’re more concerned with seeing human flourishing.”

It’s all very promising and conciliatory talk from an outfit that has done much harm to the LGBT community in the past. But if the new iteration of Exodus is truly committed to dialogue—which invites both sides to be open to changing opinions and ideas—they will be a welcome partner in fostering understanding of LGBT people both inside the church and out.

However, my own suspicion as a theologian is aroused by the new Reduce Fear’s reliance on the Prodigal Son parable as the foundation for its mission. Chambers says Exodus has, in the past, been the older brother who resented the father’s extravagant welcome of his returning son with open arms and a feast instead of condemnation. Now, they seek to be the father, who runs to greet the wayward son as he returns.

I have two problems with this. First, it paints LGBT folk as “wayward” people who have squandered the gifts the father gave them—gifts we LGBT Christians see for what they are and in no way squander. Secondly, even though the son is welcomed back, no questions asked, it’s understood that he’s not going to go out and do it again. The message to LGBT people is clear:—you’re welcome and forgiven, but going back to that “lifestyle” is forbidden.

I hope my reservations are unfounded, because so much is at stake in this move. If time reveals this new organization to be nothing more than a shuffling of the Titanic’s deck chairs then it will only reinforce the LGBT belief that the church is the very last place they can turn to for support.

Emphasis Mine 

see: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/sexandgender/7160/

Gingrich, in S.C. Debate, Shows Religious Right is About Patriarchy, Not Family Values

From: AlterNet

By: Adele Stan

N.B.: If hypocrisy were money, the Republican field could retire the National Debt.

” At the final GOP presidential debate before Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, the crowd response to Newt Gingrich‘s fury when questioned about his ex-wife’sexplosive allegation yanked the veil from the driving force of the religious right: patriarchy, not family values.

Earlier in the day, ABC broke the story that Marianne Gingrich, the former House speaker‘s ex-wife, alleged that, while the two were still bound by the marriage contract, Newt asked her for an “open marriage” — which would allow him to continue his affair with Callista Bistek, the former congressional aide who is his current wife, and, perhaps, other women.

In South Carolina, Gingrich, when taking a break from race-baiting in a state that still flies the Confederate flag on the grounds of its state capitol, is campaigning on a platform of family values, helping to propel him to frontrunner status in the race in the closing days of the Palmetto State campaign.

Evangelical Christians comprise about 60 percent of South Carolina’s pool of likely GOP primary voters. These are not just your generic religious Protestants; these are the people who make up the religious right. You know, the people who are so concerned with the “sanctity of marriage” as a rationale for opposing equal rights for LGBT people. The people who say abstinence is the only acceptable way to avoid pregnancy.

But when CNN Chief National Correspondent John King opened the debate by asking Gingrich to respond to his ex-wife’s allegations, the fury of Gingrich’s response — directed at media in general and King in particular — was met with a standing ovation by the crowd in the auditorium.

Here is Gingrich’s response to King:

I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country harder to attract decent people to run for office. I’m appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.

Gingrich went on to say that his two daughters by his first marriage (Marianne was his second wife; Callista is his third) wrote to “the head of ABC” to demand that the story be pulled. He categorically denied the allegation, and said that ABC refused to talk to long-time friends of the couple who would have backed him up.

Then he made an allegation of his own: that the news media was engaged in a giant conspiracy to support Obama and destroy Republicans.  “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” Gingrich said.

The crowd roared its approval.

Now, let’s break this down a bit, starting with, “To take an ex-wife…”

If anyone took Newt’s ex-wife, it would appear to be Newt, who, according to the ex-wife, asked for an open marriage and/or a divorce just after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. (He dumped his first wife while she was undergoing treatment for cancer.) It was Marianne Gingrich who stepped up to the media today to make the allegation that her ex-husband was not morally fit to be president, so it’s hard to see where anybody “took” her.

Next, let’s examine, “…and make it two days before the primary…”

When, one wonders, would have been a more appropriate time?

Then, “…a significant question in a presidential campaign…”

Apparently when campaigning on a platform of traditional morality, questions of one’s own sexual morality are not permitted. At least, if your name is Newt Gingrich. But if your name is Bill Clinton, your sexual morality is fair game for the morally-exempt Newt Gingrich.

And, finally, “…is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine…”

We all know there are no limits to the vast imagination of the self-described big-ideas candidate that is Newt Gingrich. (Gingrich himself, in Thursday night’s debate, embraced former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum‘s description of the former speaker as “grandiose”.) He’s not only imagined some pretty despicable things, but put them into practice. If Gingrich’s jihad against Bill Clinton for the president’s adultery — while the married speaker himself was bedding a congressional aide who was not his wife — doesn’t qualify as despicable, there may be more where that comes from.

Marianne Gingrich alleges that her former husband committed adultery with that congressional aide in the marriage bed of the couple’s Washington apartment while Marianne traveled, calling her from the bed with Callista lying silently under the covers. If that’s true, it doesn’t take much imagination to come up with the word “despicable.”

But to many good Christians in the debate hall, Gingrich’s behavior toward his wife is beyond question. It’s all rather biblical. The big men of the Bible had their harems, after all.”

Emphasis Mine

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. She also writes for the AFL-CIO Now blog. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/addiestan