Mar 162015
 
This entry is part 1 of 14 in the series Gay Marriage

Chuck_StromWe’re starting to see the backlash against LGBTQ people as the likelihood of nationwide marriage equality increases, and LGBTQ people achiever equality under the law. One of the main ways the Christianists are trying to keep us in our place, is to pass these bogus, and clearly unconstitutional, religious liberty bills. We saw how cowardly they are in Oklahoma this week.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma Republican state Rep. Chuck Strohm (pictured) introduced his ‘Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act’ (HB1371). If passed, this would allow businesses to deny services to customers if they felt that such services were ‘against the person’s religious beliefs’. (Make no mistake, these have been introduced, and some passed already in a number of states, including North Carolina.)

Unfortunately for the bigots in the Oklahoma legislature, they were outsmarted by a fair-minded Democratic Representative, Emily Virgin. Virgin introduced an amendment to the bill. Basically, the amendment stated that if you were planning on refusing to serve LGBT people on religious grounds, then you must display a public notice and own your bigotry.

“Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites,” said the amendment. “The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.”

Most thinking and fair-minded people would never want us to return to the days of “No Coloreds” signs, but that is precisely where the conservatives want to take us, only without the signs. Virgin explained that she was adamantly opposed to the bill, but thought this a reasonable accommodation to help lessen the embarrassment that could be caused to people if they went into a business where the owners intended to refuse service. Makes sense to me.

Well, once that amendment got on the bill, that was the end of that. It seems the Christianists are all fine with being bigots, so long as they don’t have to do it publicly. They are learning there is a price these days for bigotry in most places. They’d rather it stay quiet between themselves and the gay couple they just embarrassed and inconvenienced. They know if they have to advertise, on their website they are bigots, there will also be some straight people who stay away. This is just like the battles to try to keep secret those who sign anti-gay ballots initiative petitions, and give to anti-gay causes. They are righteous enough to sign, and write checks, but not righteous enough to own the consequences of their bigotry.

Maybe this would be a good time to poll Deep’s readers.

Should businesses be able to discriminate against a person in the provision of their services and/or products?

View Results

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Jan 042015
 
This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Gay Marriage

Paula O'Neil Pasco ClerkSame-sex marriage has arrived in Florida a midst great wailing and gnashing  of teeth. While arriving sooner than expected, it wasn’t an easy delivery thanks to the political aspirations of our twice married and living in sin Attorney General, Pam Bondi. However, some Court Clerks are doing all they can to prove that, despite having to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, they still hate gay people as much as ever.

They’re doing this in several counties by deciding to no longer provide solemnization ceremonies in the Clerk’s office. This is a non-mandated service that’s been traditionally provided, but since, if they provide it to straight people, they’d have to provide it to same-sex couples, they have elected to discontinue the service. One of the counties making that choice is the county just north of Tampa, Pasco County, and their Clerk, Paula O’Neil offered the money quote, “”The problem is we can’t discriminate…”1

As I am wont to do, I’ve prepared a letter to fax to Ms. O’Neil, and since she’s a public official, we’ll consider it an open letter.

Paula S. O’Neil, Clerk & Comptroller
38053 Live Oak Avenue
Dade City, FL 33523-3894

Dear Ms O’Neil:

It was with a great deal of interest that I read your statements from a Tampa Bay Times article of January 2, 2015.

Let me ask you a question. Were I visiting Pasco County, and violated some law or regulation, would I avoid prosecution and accountability if I claimed that violating the law was based on a “consciously held religious belief,” or if it simply made me “uncomfortable?” Or, is that particular “get out of jail free card” explicitly for people who happen to think that LGBT people are icky, and/or are court officials in your office?

If one of your Clerks had ever come to you (or did) saying they were “uncomfortable” conducting services for people who had been divorced, or multi-racial couples, would you have given them a pass from performing their duties.

You see Ms O’Neil, we both know this is not based on some biblical understanding of marriage. Trust me, I can refute every single verse your Clerks might offer for justifying their hate for LGBT people. Some knowledge of Greek and the context of the times goes a long way to an intelligent understanding of the Bible.

However, we know that this bigotry really isn’t about the biblical view of marriage. Otherwise  your oh so evangelical Clerks would also be refusing to marry divorced people. While Jesus never had anything at all to say about homosexuality, he spoke explicitly about divorce, and he was, as we southerner’s like to say, “agin it.” Since I don’t see your Clerks asking for accommodations relative to marrying divorcees, then we can be certain this is not about a biblical interpretation of marriage rights.

Now I understand that Florida law doesn’t require you to provide solemnization ceremonies, and as with any government agency you are free to start or stop providing un-mandated services any time, but the blatant display of bigotry on the part of you and your staff is, even by Florida standards, breathtaking.

Your actions remind of some local governments in the south during the civil rights era, when courts determined that African-American children had the same right to use the municipal pool as white children, some cities just filled in the pool, rather than accept equal rights. This is what you are doing, and this is how history will judge you.

The religious freedoms of you and your clerks are not being violated by performing same-sex marriages, just as they are not violated when performing marriages for divorcees or multi-racial couples. They still have the right to hate gay people. They have the right to go to any church this Sunday morning, and pray to any god they choose, and say whatever prayer they want. Please don’t justify what you are doing using Christianity of religion, just admit you and your clerks are bigots, and move on. The truth shall set you free Ms. O’Neil.

But you Ma’am ought to be ashamed of yourself. You statement, “The problem is we can’t discriminate,” is beyond hateful. It is disgusting coming from an elected official who swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. I’m sorry to hear that you and your religious beliefs have a problem with no longer being able to discriminate. It must be a horrible life you lead now that you no longer get to.

As if Florida were not already a joke, you just decide to pile on to the rampant stupidity that permeates Florida government.

Sincerely yours,

UPDATED: January 9, 2015 — I was surprised to receive a telephone call from Ms. O’Neil Monday after, and had a long discussion about the topic. I believe she was honest and genuine in her concern, and I appreciate the effort she made. Click here to read more details about the conversation.


  1. Tampa Bay Times, “As gay marriage approaches, several counties’ clerks opt out of wedding ceremonies,” Friday, January 2, 2015 

Jul 142014
 
This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Daily Douche
Robert Jeffress (R Pharisee)

Robert Jeffress (R Pharisee)

Perhaps nothing is more troubling to me at this time in my life than the insertion of religion into politics. Mega-Church pastors become political pundits, and it never comes to a good end.  Thomas Jefferson himself wrote in 1813, “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” Robert Jeffres, appearing on Fox News, suddenly decides he’s a border security expert, and that whole thing about “suffer the children to come unto me,” well, that’s just for white protestant children.

We have an influx of children making their way to the U.S. from a number of embattled Central American countries. These are countries with grinding poverty and raging drug wars in which it is nearly impossible for children to hide from. In most of these cases, the parents are sending these children, knowing the dangers of the journey, but believing that what lies on the other side is better enough to be worth the risk.

It is stunning how today’s “godly folk” use the Christian moniker yet act in a ways diametrically the opposite of the principles announced by Christ and the behavior he exhibited if one believes the Gospel narratives.  Christ’s focus was the poor and down trodden and he socialized with the outcasts of the society of his day.  The main targets of Christ’s condemnation?  The Pharisees who we see reincarnated in today’s conservative Christians who are best known for their hypocrisy and utter hatred towards anyone who doesn’t think, look and love like they do.  Continue reading »

The Coke Super Bowl Ad

 Culture, Entertainment, Featured, Media, Television  Comments Off on The Coke Super Bowl Ad
Feb 122014
 

I’ve meant to comment about the Coca Cola Super Bowl Ad for a while. I’ve never seen such a disgusting exhibition of hate and bigotry as erupted on social media from some Uhmerikans after this beautiful ad aired. Americans (especially conservative Americans) have proven they don’t know a damn thing about American history or what it is to be an American.

This ad had nothing (let me repeat that NOTHING) to do with politics, immigration, or official languages. Glenn Beck tried to say it was a statement to “divide” people.  He tried to perpetuate this idea that this was an “in your face” statement where, as Beck said, “…if you’re offended by it, you’re a racist.  If you do like it, you’re for immigration.  You’re for progress.  That’s all this is: to divide people.” (We can’t be for progress for God’s sake.) Continue reading »

Response to Bishop Carter’s Ruling

 Featured, Gay Issues, Methodism, Religion, Society  Comments Off on Response to Bishop Carter’s Ruling
Feb 052014
 

Last year, I was forced to file a complaint with the Bishop about hateful and dishonest actions by Bruce Toms, the newly appointed Pastor at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church. At the time, I was told by several Methodist Ministers to not have high expectations; that the Bishop’s first reaction would be to protect the institution; and his second would be to protect the elder. That came true, with a letter from the Bishop making some intellectual contortions that defy belief.

In the end, the Bishop concedes the statement of welcome adopted by the Church in 2011 was not a violation of the Discipline; that a Pastor cannot unilaterally undo the “legal” actions of a Church Council; but still, somehow, managed to find an excuse to side with Toms. Below, is my response to the intellectual gymnastics.

Bishop-Ken-Carter-2-300x202

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Florida Episcopal Area, United Methodist Church

Dear Bishop Carter:

I know you are aware that I am not at all satisfied with the response you have provided. It’s less about your findings, and more about the logic on which you seem to have based the determination. Much of the reasoning stated in your letter would call into question the integrity of the recollections of me and the other lay members involved in the 2011 process, and that’s just not acceptable to me. I know these people to be of the highest moral character, and I know Bill Josey’s recollection of many events to be substantially different than that of everyone else involved. So that’s just not going to go unanswered.

Therefore, I intend to respond to your letter of findings in some detail. You can disregard it if you wish, obviously, but it is important to me and the others involved to respond.

“The question of justice and grace in relation to gay and lesbian Christians is a matter of great importance. It can be approached missionally, pastorally, judicially and legally. Our Book of Discipline affirms the sacred worth of every person (161f) and our commitment to be in ministry “for and with all persons (161f). These affirmations are placed in the context of the Social Principles, which, “while not to be considered church law”, are nevertheless “a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit” (Preface).”

We all know that 161f is part of the Social Principles and therefore not church law. However, Bruce Toms used it in his now “classified” and secret PowerPoint presentation to make his point that the former (as you call it) statement was in violation of the Discipline. So, since he did nothing wrong, the other sections of 161f would carry the same weight he seemed to give, would they not? In other words, use of the Social Principles was a door opened, not by me, but by Toms. Continue reading »

The Discomfort of Faith-My Experience at the Methodist General Conference

 Gay Issues, Methodism, Religion, Society  Comments Off on The Discomfort of Faith-My Experience at the Methodist General Conference
May 192012
 

Candle in the darkI’ve been thinking back over the time I got spend recently at the quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church held here in Tampa this year. It was a big event, and it was a mess from a church polity standpoint. Like Congress, little of great substance was accomplished, and few longstanding issues were resolved, but that may be a good thing.

I’d like to take some time to reflect on some of my experiences as a volunteer there, and as someone who wound up being involved in a demonstration that resulted in one of the morning plenary sessions being cancelled.

Among some other things I did, I especially liked handing out the daily newspaper, and was approached two of those days by female ministers (interestingly enough) who wanted to know how I got involved with RMN, and then tried to “straighten me out.” They had apparently been to some program where they had some musician give testimony about coming out of “the lifestyle.” I also think they had been provided a script because they both started the conversation with the same question, “How did you get involved with that group?”

I explained to one of the ministers that I understood someone could decide to get married and not have sex with a member of the same-sex, but that did not mean that person had changed. She said, “Well, he has nine children now, so I think that says something.” I responded with, “Well, you know, that’s just a skill, and we gay people are very talented. We can pick up skills quickly.” That’s when she decided she’d talked to me long enough.

The other female minister rocked my world with an unexpected response. My primary response to people who talk about it being a choice is to explain to them that there have to be at least two options for it to be a “choice.” So that means, if they believe I could wake up tomorrow morning and decide to find women attractive, they could wake up the next morning, and decide to find people of the same sex attractive to them. That would constitute a choice. Well, believe it or not, this Minister responded that, yes she could, she could even remember the exact summer and the girl with whom she could have made that decision, but she resisted. I decided to let that one slide, because all I could muster at that moment was a feeling of sadness for her, for having made the choice to deny who she was for her entire life.

I just as well get in my 2 cents worth, as everyone else, friend and foe, has expressed an opinion about the protest. The difficulty is, they all are, to some degree, correct. Some thought it wrong and disruptive and possibly turned off some people. On the other hand, sometimes you have to call something out for what it is. I don’t think I would have crossed the bar, had it not been for the African Delegate comparing my life to that of an animal. Sadly, I think the net effect of the protest action could be zero, but I just really don’t know.

I’d like to note a personal campaign I’ve been waging of late. Whenever I read stupid things the hate crowd spouts about gay people, I try to find a way to contact them, and ask them to “say it to my face.” (You can read about my favorite one here.)

I had a conversation with the Bishop presiding at the time. I walked up to the daïs before he could leave and called him out. I told him that I was not raised to sit in the back of the church bus, and that he should not expect I would sit by and watch as a delegate from that same church stood up on the floor of a General Conference and compared my life to that of an animal, and worse, that the presiding officer would not gavel him out of order, and remove him from the hall altogether. I pointed out that had I been a delegate and said the same thing about the Africans, he would most certainly have called me out of order. (Personally, I think there should be some consideration of a letter writing campaign to that Bishop providing personal stories, and pointing out a disappointment in his lack of leadership.)

For me, one of the good things that came from this experience was a lot of thinking about the future of the Methodist Church, my place in it personally, and what I need to do about it. On the day after the action I was discussing it with my partner. He’s not Christian. He asked me, as he often does, a challenging question. He asked, “So why do you stay in a Faith that makes you uncomfortable?” He’s a master of the obvious.

After having to think about that for a while, the answer I gave him was that a sound faith doesn’t make one comfortable. That faith is, in fact, there to make us uncomfortable. It’s that uncomfortable state that drives me to be my better self; that makes me want to change the world; to make things better for others; and especially as people called Methodists, to take a stand for social justice. It is my faith that makes me so uncomfortable I have to work to do justice. It’s my faith that makes me uncomfortable when I see injustice, or people hurting, and it is that uncomfortable feeling that moves me to act.

I spent four weeks teaching a Sunday School study on Micah 6:8. One of the things I learned in preparing the study (We teach best what we most need to learn is a fundamental truth in my experience.) is that all the commandments in it are actions…things we are supposed to “do,” not things we are supposed to believe. When you think about Micah 6:8 and the Great Commandment from Jesus, it’s never about doctrine, it’s about something you are expected to do, and it’s often something hard, and something that makes you uncomfortable…”do justice; love mercy, walk humbly with God; love your neighbor; turn the other cheek; love God; pull the splinter from your own eye.” “In as much as you have DONE it unto the least of these.” It’s always about having to do something. That’s faith. Faith isn’t a belief God will take care of us, it is faith that calls us to do right, even (maybe especially) when it’s hard. It is in true faith we are called to take care of others.

Paul wrote about this in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:3) Paul’s not a big fan of “works,” but here’s one time when he talked about “work produced by faith.”   And it’s written about in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” If one has faith, one can DO. True and honest faith is always causing us to do something, working to make us uncomfortable with the status quo.

Dr. Martin Luther King was an obvious person to inform my thoughts these past weeks, and he said this about faith, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

I believe too many people today are looking for religion to make them comfortable. So, we bend the gospel to talk about prosperity, when faith really calls us to relinquish our material wealth and follow Jesus (follow, another of those darned action words). We bend religion so that we can exclude people we imagine to be different from us…women, slaves, people of color, Muslims, and of course LGBT people, even when the Bible tells us, “come unto me all ye…” I always thought God actually did mean “all.” We bend religion to justify yanking away the social safety net, when Jesus says, “in as much as you have done it unto the least of these…” Continue reading »