After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured and torn by infighting, and the far right Tea Party faction as represented by Chris McDaniel is definitely not in a conciliatory mood.
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring notarization, one of the bank’s assistant managers claimed she couldn't witness the signatures or attach the State's official notary seal to the documents because of "personal reasons."
The Christians later related the story in a Facebook post saying, “Even though we had a valid, legal document and valid, legal identification —she was legally able to refuse me service.”
Wait…what? No. It didn't happen that way at all.
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years. Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible for that rightward swing. Last week, I mentioned that John Benefiel stopped by Cindy Jacobs' webcast show and claimed that the United States was under satanic control because ancient Egyptians came to North America and dedicated the entire continent to Baal. Well, just yesterday Benefiel stopped by again and claimed that for the last decade, he's been doing his part to reverse that curse in his home state of Oklahoma. People for the American Way got a clip.
Benefiel said that back in 2004, he and a team from his Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network were prayer-walking in the Oklahoma State Capitol and casting out demons. Wen the sergeant-at-arms of the state house found out what they were doing, he invited them to come into the state house chamber and pray over it as well. They spent an hour in there praying and "making our declarations about Baal." Later that year, the Republicans gained a majority in the state house for the first time ever--and according to Benefiel, much of that majority was made of "born-again, conservative Christians." They did the same thing just before the 2006 elections in the state senate--with similar results even as the Republicans were getting their heads handed to them nationally. Needless to say, Jacobs and her husband, Mike, were delighted.
They were even more delighted when Benefiel told them that the state's four highest elected officials--Governor Mary Fallin, Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, state attorney general Scott Pruitt and state house speaker Jeff Hickman--all have longstanding relationships with him. He even claims that he helped lead Fallin in the baptism of the Holy Spirit several years back.
Friends, this is a BFD. The NAR believes that it can bring about the Second Coming by taking over the world. A major part of that task is taking control of government--one of the "seven mountains" that influence our society. So a significant number of Oklahoma's elected officials may be in bed with an overt fascist. And not only that, one who thinks the Statue of Liberty is a demonic idol, that homosexuality is an Illuminati plot and that the 2012 DC earthquake was divine punishment for Masonry. Even for a state that has foisted the likes of Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn on us, this is freaking scary.
Watch the whole thing here.
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures. One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle." He heads up the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, one of the numerous prayer networks that is at the grassroots of the NAR. Among other things, he thinks that the Statue of Liberty is an idol, that homosexuality is being used by the Illuminati to control the world and that his prayers caused DC to be hit with an earthquake in 2012 to punish us for the influence of Masonry. Well, this weekend he paid a visit to Cindy Jacobs, the mentally unhinged "prophetess" who is one of the NAR's top leaders. Benefiel claimed that the entire North American continent, including the United States, is under satanic influence because ancient Egyptians dedicated it to Baal. People for the American Way got a clip.
Benefiel and the Jacobses were talking about the need to do "spiritual archeology" in order to better understand how to break demonic curses over our nations. Benefiel then discussed an "assignment" that God had given him. He claims that thousands of years ago, ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians came to North America and left scads of rock art, or petroglyphs, claiming it for Baal. One problem--Baal was not an Egyptian god. I know that these fundies think that anyone who isn't a Christian is a closet satanist, but this is ridiculous. Watch the whole thing on Vimeo, if you can stand it.
PFAW thinks that Benefiel may have based a lot of his "research" on the findings of Barry Fell, a marine biologist who delved into the origins of numerous inscriptions found all over North America. Fell claimed that several of these inscriptions are proof that several Old World civilizations visited North America years before Columbus. That claim has been completely debunked by several better-versed scholars, and some of his claims have been called outright fraudulent.
That being said, I have to wonder--is this claptrap being taught in Christian schools and Christian homeschool curricula? Wouldn't surprise me if it was.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators.
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble. Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half a century. He was one of the pioneers of the Christian homeschooling movement, but is probably best known to us as one of the leaders of the Quiverfull movement. Indeed, the most famous Quiverfull family of them all, the Duggars, are big fans of his. He's rubbed noses with the likes of Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee and Sonny Perdue. Back when Sarah Palin was just the mayor of Wasilla, she attended one of Gothard's conferences and had Wasilla adopt his "Character Cities" program.
But that's in jeopardy after the board of the ministry he founded, the Institute for Basic Life Principles, placed him on administrative leave amid allegations that he sexually harassed female employees and failed to report child abuse. The bulk of these claims, which go back as far as the 1970s, have been posted at Recovering Grace, a Website run by former Gothard followers.
The allegations against Gothard dovetail with financial woes. In recent years, IBLP’s net revenue has dropped significantly, and the ministry is losing money. In 2009, it reported a net income loss of $1 million. It lost $4.1 million in 2011, and $3.5 million in 2012, according to its most recently available tax forms. Its net assets dropped from $92 million in 2010 to $81 million in 2012.
Since it started as a class at Gothard’s alma mater, Wheaton College, in 1961, more than 2.5 million people have gone through his “basic seminar” training on authority, success and other issues. IBLP held 504 seminars in 2010, but that number dropped to fewer than 50 in 2012.
The financial decline came around the same time that the whistle-blowing website Recovering Grace was formed in 2011. A string of allegations has been posted on the website, including one alleging Gothard molested a woman who was underage in the early 1990s. Four articles allege Gothard engaged in sexual harassment, and four articles allege his failure to report child abuse to Child Protective Services.
Calls placed to IBLP Thursday and Friday were not immediately returned.
Some of the stories are absolutely gut-wrenching. Among them:
- "Ruth," who worked for Gothard from 1970 to 1980--the last seven years as his personal secretary--reports that Gothard not only interfered with all of her relationships, but also frequently peeked in on female staffers in their nightgowns on retreats. She died of breast cancer in 1994, and her husband Larne shared her story.
- "Lizzie,"who worked for Gothard from 1994 to 1998, claims that Gothard touched her, stroked her hair and played footsie with her on numerous occasions. She also claims that Gothard had been warned as early as 1997 by his own board about taking girls as young as 15 on trips and acting inappropriately on those trips--and yet, his behavior didn't change.
- "Annette" was taken in by Gothard after fleeing from an abusive environment at her home. She claims Gothard took advantage of her in a sordid and despicable way--touching and petting her in much the same way that "Lizzie" experienced.
- ""Charlotte" writes that not long after she started working for Gothard at age 16, he began playing footsie with her. It progressed to hand-holding and hugging, and then to touching her breasts. On one occasion, they were coming home from a conference, and he put his hand up her legs and felt her all the way up. Incredibly, this was actually the second time she's been molested like this--her preacher father had been molesting her since she was seven years old. Two fellow staffers, "Dixie" and "Ryan," corroborated Charlotte's account of what happened to her.
- "Grace" writes that soon after she came to work for Gothard in 1999, he deliberately tried to get her to play footsie with him. It continued for her entire yearlong commitment to work for him. When she told her parents--who had been devoted to Gothard's teachings since she was six--they didn't believe her. As she put it, "they chose to believe that the man they followed and trusted with their lives — and the life of their first-born daughter — was infallible."
- "Rachel" says that when she went to work for Gothard, he stroked her hair, rubbed her legs and played footsie with her. She said that what happeed to her was similar to what other girls experienced, and can also vouch for what happened to "Charlotte."
This isn't the first time that Gothard has been under fire. Back in 1980, his ministry was almost destroyed when it emerged that his brother Steve had been having sex with students and staffers. It was a lot easier for fundies to survive dumdum bullets back then, though.
IBLP board chairman Billy Boring says that the board will respond "at an appropriate time" once the review is complete. The only acceptable response, if it hasn't happened already, is to call the police. And if this is at all true--and there's little reason to doubt it is, based on reading what Recovering Grace has gleaned--it doesn't matter if Gothard is 79 years old. He needs to go to prison.
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job. Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate of the United States. You may remember that he stole a wedding picture and used it on anti-gay flyers in Colorado two years ago. At last report, a lawsuit against both Delgaudio and his organization is still pending. But Delgaudio may have concerns nearer and dearer than that lawsuit. Since 1999, Delgaudio has been a member of the Board of Supervisors (county commission) in Loudoun County, representing the Sterling area. But several of his constituents are trying to use a little-known Virginia law to have him removed from office for gross misconduct--including using county money to run Public Advocate.
The story began in September 2012, when one of his former aides, Donna Mateer, claimed Delgaudio forced her to raise money for his campaigns on Loudoun County's dime. She also claimed Public Advocate footed the bill for several courses she attended, as well as fundraising lists she was told to use. She also claimed that at one point while she worked for Delgaudio, Public Advocate essentially took over his office. Mateer also said the working environment in that office was extremely hostile--to the point that several people quit.
Mateer's allegations were serious enough to trigger a criminal investigation by Theo Stamos, the commonwealth's attorney (district attorney) for nearby Arlington County. The investigation concluded last June. Ultimately, the grand jury declined to indict Delgaudio--but only because Loudoun County supervisors serve part-time, and therefore aren't covered by state laws governing misuse of public money. Read the full report here. When Delgaudio's colleagues on the all-Republican Board of Supervisors read the report, they dropped the hammer on him. Delgaudio was formally censured, stripped of his committee seats (though he got one of them back in January) and lost control of his district budget to the full board. One of the supervisors, Ralph Buona, said--rightly--that Delgaudio had only escaped being brought up on criminal charges due to a technicality.
That didn't go far enough for several of Delgaudio's constituents. Two weeks ago, a group called "Sterling Deserves Better" filed a petition asking the Loudoun County circuit court to remove Delgaudio from office. Under Section 24.2-233 of the Virginia Code, constituents can petition a court to remove an elected official from office for "neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties when that neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office." The text of the petition largely echoes the grand jury's findings. In essence, Sterling Deserves Better is saying that even if Delgaudio's actions didn't technically break the law, based on the grand jury report he is manifestly unfit for office. The case is currently on hold because the judge slated to preside over it wants the entire bench of Loudoun County recused.
Delgaudio has, true to form, played the persecution card. In a story on OneNewsNow, he claims that those evil libruls are trying to boot him out because he opposes gay rights. No, Eugene. You're fighting for your job because your constituents don't want to be represented by someone who's corrupt.
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland.
Cross posted from the HRC blog.
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
January 21, 2014 by Dan Rafter, Associate Director of Communications
The city of Starkville, Mississippi today passed an inclusivity resolution recognizing the inherent worth of all its city's residents - including those who are LGBT. This is the first time any municipality in Mississippi has recognized the dignity of its LGBT residents. HRC President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:
"The city of Starkville, Mississippi is sending a message to its residents that all people - regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity - are worthy of respect and equality. These are fundamental American values, and Mayor Parker Wiseman and the Starkville City Council are setting an inspiring example for their fellow lawmakers in surrounding cities and towns. While we must continue pushing for ordinances that codify these values into law across the state, the impact of this resolution on LGBT people - particularly youth - will be powerful."
"I want to thank the Board of Alderman and all those involved with the equality resolution," said Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman. "The resolution makes it clear that Starkville is a community that works proactively to prevent workplace discrimination before it happens. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that "we must learn to live together as brothers..." I hope the equality resolution lives up to the beliefs of Dr. King and sends a message that Starkville is a city that is intolerant of discrimination against anyone and in any form."
Public opinion on equality in Mississippi is ahead of the law in the state. A poll conducted last summer found that nearly 60 percent of Mississippians under the age of 30 support marriage equality, while 64 percent of residents back workplace non-discrimination protections for LGBT employees.
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into the waiting arms of the GOP. Robert Knight, a frequent columnist at Town Hall and the Washington Times, tells OneNewsNow that the GOP could reap a major windfall if it runs on--wait for it--opposition to evolution! He was heartened by that Pew Research poll that shows only 43 percent of Republicans believe in evolution, and thinks this could potentially be a winner both in 2014 and in the long run.
"Evolution is at the core of a left-wing, secular, humanist worldview that has been breathing down everybody's necks in America for years [and telling us that] the best we can do is empower government to make our decisions for us," he offers. "That leads to terrible things like socialism and communism and fascism and Nazism and the more extreme forms of liberalism in this country."
The political commentator is encouraged that more Republicans reject the concept – and believes it could bode well for the GOP at election time later this year.
"The Republicans have a great opportunity to say Look, we've witnessed the collapse of a lot of lies that liberals have told over the years, and now we're questioning evolution more than ever as a basis for people's worldviews," Knight suggests. "So the dynamics are fascinating – and I think they could add up to an enormous conservative revival in this country."
So let's get this straight. Knight thinks that if the GOP declares itself the party of scientific ignorance, it will not only win in 2014 and beyond, but win big. Apparently Knight's forgotten that the reason any competent Democrat starts out with at least 245 electoral votes is that moderate suburbanites in the Northeast, Midwest and West turned on the GOP when it started running hard right on social issues. This demographic swung hard to Clinton in 1992, and have been solidly in the Democratic column ever since. Knight also seems to forget that a significant bloc of younger evangelicals aren't as hung up on social issues as people of Knight's generation. So he wants to take the GOP into fantasyland? Please proceed.
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached to it. That priest, William Avery, later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an altar boy at his new parish. To prosecutors' minds, that was child endangerment--and a jury agreed, sentencing Lynn to three to six years in prison. Yesterday, an appeals court threw out Lynn's conviction, saying that the law under which he was convicted didn't apply to him at the time.
In their 43-page ruling, the judges - John T. Bender, Christine L. Donahue and John L. Musmanno - sided with Lynn's attorneys, who argued that the child-endangerment law that was on the books in the state when Avery held his position only applied to people who had direct supervision of children, like parents and other caregivers.
The law was changed and broadened in 2007 to include employers whose employees end up harming children.
"I'm happy. This is very rewarding," Thomas Bergstrom, one of Lynn's attorneys, said yesterday.
"This was a labor of love. We fought long and hard, so it's nice to know that you were right."
Bergstrom said he hopes that Lynn will be released from a state prison in Wayne County in the next few days.
Prosecutors were not so pleased.
"I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the court's decision," District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement distributed to the news media.
"While we are deciding what our next course of action will be, we most likely will be appealing this decision."
Read the full ruling here
. It found that while Lynn put the archdiocese's reputation above protecting children, it was not enough to prove intent to endanger kids. In essence, it found that while Lynn's actions ultimately ended up putting kids at risk, the law didn't apply to him at the time.
Lynn's lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, appeared on CNN's New Day earlier, and claimed that the acquittal happened mainly because prosecutors knew they were prosecuting the wrong man. When CNN's Chris Cuomo wondered how Lynn wasn't responsible by way of transferring Avery, Bergstrom said that in order to get a conviction, Lynn said that Williams and his team would have had to prove Lynn was the equivalent of a parent, a guardian or a supervisor--and Lynn was merely a supervisor of a supervisor. Incredibly, though, Bergstrom maintains that Lynn did the right thing--even though he didn't report Avery to the police. Watch here.
Incredibly, church officials are actually considering whether to let Lynn back into the ministry again.
Kenneth Gavin, the Archdiocese's director of communications, said church officials would have to decide whether Lynn will return to active ministry.
"I know the monsignor would like to be able to serve in some capacity," Bergstrom said.
Lynn most recently had served as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, which opened a new $9 million facility earlier this year.
Apparently there are some in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who forget that the bar for acceptable behavior is a much lower one than the bar below which you go to jail. The fact they're even considering letting Lynn preach again shows just how much cleaning up needs to be done in the higher levels of the church.
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the American right (e.g. Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly
) and the evangelical right (Sarah Palin, Bill Donohue
, The American Family Association
and the Family Research Council
, etc.) and anti-pluralist themes to be found within overtly Christian anti-Jewish propaganda that was originally written by Americans and published in America, and then distributed by Hitler and his Nazi Party in the early 1920s.
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests
The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the Vatican of the enduring problem of abusive priests, and fit with Francis’ pattern of willingness to set a new tone in the governance of the church nine months into his tenure.
Whether the new commission portends a significant change in how the Vatican deals with abusive priests and their protectors remains to be seen, experts on the church said. Yet the timing of the announcement, two days after a United Nations panel criticized the Vatican over its handling of abuse cases, suggested that the pope and his closest advisers wanted to at least be seen as tackling the issue with greater firmness.
Had it not been for the death of Nelson Mandela yesterday, this likely would have been THE major story yesterday. No word yet on who will be on this commission, but according to Sean Cardinal O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston and one of the main fixers in the abuse scandals, it will include priests, men and women from religious orders and laypeople and will have a sweeping mandate to develop "norms, procedures and strategies for the protection of children and the prevention of abuse of minors."
However, in what can only be described as a disappointment, it will focus mainly on pastoral care rather than judicial functions. And that gives two groups serving as watchdogs on this issue pause.
(T)he Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, the leading United States-based support group for clergy abuse victims, called the news a disappointment that reflected badly on the new pope. David Clohessy, executive director of the group, said the announcement suggested that the Vatican remained strongly resistant to making sexually abusive members of the clergy and their church protectors accountable to external criminal prosecution.
“A new church panel is the last thing that kids need,” Mr. Clohessy said in a telephone interview. “Church officials have mountains of information about those who have committed and those who are concealing horrible child sex crimes and cover-ups. They just have to give that information to the police.”
BishopAccountability.org, an organization that has amassed an enormous collection of documents on the abuse problem in the church, gave a cautious welcome to the announcement, but also expressed skepticism.
“It’s good that the Vatican will be giving this terrible problem high-level and focused attention,” Anne Barrett Doyle, the group’s co-director, said in a statement. “But we are concerned that the commission will be toothless and off-target.”
In a press conference, O'Malley claimed that it was important to focus on pastoral care as well as the judicial aspect. The problem with that argument is that there are quite a few bishops who turned a blind eye to abuse, and one word from Francis would end their careers on the spot. Most notably, Robert Finn, who knew or should have known as early as 2010
that one of his priests, Shawn Ratigan, was a pedophile--and yet didn't do anything until the issue was essentially forced on him.
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy. An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different. On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition of Praise the Lord that aired on November 1. On this show, Hagee claimed that the Jewish people will make a deal with the Antichrist just before the End Times start. As a result, they won't accept Jesus until he returns. Watch here.
When Hagee said this, another "prophecy" snake oil salesman, David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries, claimed that two-thirds of Jews won't survive the End Times, and the one-third that will survive will "come to the end of themselves" before accepting Jesus.
Watch the whole thing--if you can stand it--here. Hagee also claims that the 2008 financial crisis and the 9-11 attacks were both divine retribution.
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."
Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating,
There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance. I have confessed my sin to my wife and family, my local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries. I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not "know" each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.
Phillips, who founded Vision Forum in 1998, is one of the biggest names in the world of homeschooling as well as Biblical patriarchy, Quiverfull ideology, and the Family Integrated Church. He is the son of the late Howard Phillips, founder of the Conservative Caucus and U.S. Constitution Party.
Since it's only two weeks from Halloween, I made my usual foray into Christian Right Country to find out what their plans are for this Halloween. I don't know where to be sad or just bored that there is nothing original to report. The same folks are still claiming that if you let your child dress up as Spiderman or a Disney princess and collect candy from the neighbors, that child will wind up killing cats and murdering babies as offerings to his or her Dark Master Darth Vader--er, Lucifer. Or at the very least they'll end up sneaking copies of Harry Potter books which will lead them into corruption and Satanism, with usual cat killing and baby murdering along the way. You do get the usually advice that you should give out Jack tracts warning of the dangers of Halloween (dead cats and babies, and eternal damnation, natch) to the poor misguided innocents who expect candy, not a cheesy cartoon pamphlet designed to lure them into Dominionism . Funny how these people are always screaming "parental rights" when it comes to their kid being exposed to the theory of evolution or accurate info on birth control and STI prevention--but have no qualms about foisting their values on the children of people who don't buy into their rather unpleasant version of Christianity.
I thought I had nothing to write about this year, and then I remembered something that gave me chills. Back in 91-94, we were living in Brunswick, ME, and we often visited friends near Boston. One afternoon, we decided to head over to Salem. There are number of great museums there, from the House of the Seven Gables, where Nathaniel Hawthorne's ancestor and one of the judges of the witchcraft trials, lived to the Peabody Essex Museum, home to many exhibits of historical interest but particularly rich in the China Trade. The first time we went we concentrated on that museum and having a late lunch. We avoided the more touristy aspects like the plague.