Short Takes
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 29, 2007 at 03:57:13 PM EST
When ex-gay ministries turned to dominionist politics; Anti-abortion militant Randall Terry plans to drive the demon Giuliani out of the GOP -- and then turn his attention to the Democrats; The Pope is raising exorcism squads, and has declared gay marriage, abortion and birth control threats to world peace; The Institute for Creation Research is seeking accreditation to award graduate degrees in Texas; Two men have been arrested for the torching of a abortion care clinic in Albuquerque; and an urban legend lives on.
Alternet has an interesting interview between journalist Casey Sanchez and former ex-gay ministry leader Scott Harrison. One part deals with the shift from ex-gay ministries functioning primarily as "conversion therapy" to being overtly political.

Scott Harrison desperately tried to change his sexual orientation in various "ex-gay" ministries for eight years, three of them as a ministry leader in Southern California. Most of his experience with ex-gay groups -- Christian organizations that see homosexuality as a choice that can be changed with proper therapy -- was with Living Waters and Desert Stream, two curricula of a national ex-gay network that has more than 80 branches today. When Harrison joined in 1982, he felt ex-gay ministers were then a band of compassionate outsiders attending to the first AIDS victims. But by the end of that decade, Harrison had taken note of the movement's increasing radicalism, symbolized for him by the minister at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in San Pedro, Calif., who performed an exorcism on him in an attempt to cast out the "demons" said to be the cause of his homosexuality. Harrison finally quit the movement in 1990 after deciding he could, after all, reconcile his sexuality with his Christian faith. Today, he speaks to parents of gay and lesbian children about the dangers he sees in the ex-gay movement. Harrison says the relatively recent alignment of Exodus International, one of the largest ex-gay groups with some 120 ministries in North America alone, with anti-gay Christian "dominionists" -- people who want to impose Christian rules on the secular institutions of society -- has led to ex-gay ministers pursuing a hard-line message with young people that can only end in mental anguish and failure.

Sanchez: Since you left in 1990, the ex-gay movement has become much more political, hiring lobbyists and meeting with lawmakers. How did this come about?

Harrison: Around 1997, the ex-gay movement started to get funding from Focus on the Family [a huge Christian Right group led by James Dobson and based in Colorado Springs, Colo.] and from what I'll call other fundamentalist Christian organizations. Exodus International began receiving a lot of their funding from these organizations. As a result, [the ex-gay groups] began to tell a different story. Ex-gays became a vital part of the battle against gay and lesbian civil rights in society.

Sanchez: At the Exodus Revolution ex-gay conference this summer, you saw a speech by Michael Brown in which he encouraged people to "give up their lives" in the fight against homosexuality. What do you think of that?

Harrison: When you have a keynote speaker like Michael Brown, to me that's unacceptable. It's preaching a message of Christians not just simply opposing gay civil rights and believing a spiritual revival is necessary for this country, but actually calling on Christians to lay down their lives in a spiritual revolution to set up civil laws based on one extreme interpretation of biblical laws from the Old Testament [that calls for the death penalty for homosexuals]. It's Christian Reconstructionism [a doctrine that calls for imposing harsh Old Testament laws on civil society], Christian dominionism. It's abhorrent, and it's dangerous, not just for LGBT people but for our entire society. Because if civil laws are based on [Brown]'s interpretation of the Bible, it's not going to be a democratic society.

Longtime antiabortion militant, recent Catholic convert, and relentless publicity hound Randall Terry, plans to dog the GOP presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani:    

We are asking God to wake the faithful from their stupor, and 'strengthen what remains and is on the point of death...' within the GOP and the religious right. We invite all who recognize our peril to join us.

Some ask: What about Hillary Clinton and Barak [sic] Obama?

We must not let our preoccupation with enemies outside the camp blind us to the enemies within. An enemy in the camp can cut our throats, poison our food, or engineer a 'palace coup' - a coup which could be far worse in the long run than the temporary victory of an enemy from without. We must cast out our own demons, then focus on the Democrats.

The Daily Mail reports

The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism.

Vatican chiefs are concerned at what they see as an increased interest in the occult.

They have introduced courses for priests to combat what they call the most extreme form of "Godlessness."

Each bishop is to be told to have in his diocese a number of priests trained to fight demonic possession.

The initiative was revealed by 82-year-old Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican "exorcistinchief," to the online Catholic news service Petrus.

The Vatican is particularly concerned that young people are being exposed to the influence of Satanic sects through rock music and the Internet.

Meanwhile, according to Religion News Service, the Pope has also issued a statement  

Nuclear arms proliferation, environmental pollution and economic inequality are threats to world peace -- but so are abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage

The Institute for Creation Research, an organiztion that promoted "creationism" long before it was renamed "intelligent design," has moved its HQ from California to Dallas, Texas and is seeking accreditation as a legitimate graduate school providing online degrees.

Two young men have been arrested for the recent arson at an abortion care clinic in Albuquerque,  New Mexico. There are no suspects in the Christmas arson and vandalism at two Albuquerque Planned Parenthood facilities, respectively. Meanwhile,

Ricky Lee MacDonald will be released in February after serving five years in prison for setting fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Albuquerque in 1999, said Michelle Featheringill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New Mexico...  Featheringill said since she's worked at Planned Parenthood for the last 10 years, she's seen waves of violence against abortion clinics that are cyclical with rashes of serious attacks interspersed with smaller incidents.

She said Planned Parenthood gets phoned-in hate messages and has been spray-painted with graffiti. On Friday, about 50 protesters were picketing Planned Parenthood, she said.

"We completely recognize and understand people's First Amendment right to conduct themselves in a peaceful protest. We have no problem with that," she said.

Featheringill said Planned Parenthood patients have not called with specific concerns related to the attacks, except to ask whether the offices would remain open.
But that doesn't mean the events in recent weeks doesn't worry patients and clinic professionals.

"It's very upsetting for the staff and I'm sure for patients as well to have these kinds of incidents occur," Featheringill said. "I can't think of another way to phrase it, which is intimidation through domestic terrorist activities."

Finally, the Legend of the Life and Death of the Religious Right according to Bill Press... lives!  

New emphasis on exorcism? Vatican denies report

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sat Dec 29, 2007 at 05:25:14 PM EST
Hard to know now, who is right.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Dec 29, 2007 at 07:24:17 PM EST

Fred, do you know of a reliable source for total numbers of abortion clinic/provider arsons, vandalisms, and violent attacks?
Author of THE FAMILY: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (Harper, May 20)
by Jeff Sharlet on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 09:02:16 AM EST
The National Abortion Federation stats are good and conservatively drawn, based mostly on data from ATF and law enforcement sources. Poke around the NAF web site, and you'll find a pretty comprehensive history with charts and such.

Then there is ATF itself, which has kept stats on bomings and arsons -- but I am not sure the current status of their record keeping. It seems to have gone shall we say, lower profile during the Bush years.

The Feminist Majority Foundation does an annual survey of violence against and harrassment of abortion providers which can be useful too depending on your purpose.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 10:06:45 AM EST

It is a must see to see the story of the man who grew up 15 miles north of me.  His name is Charlie Wilson and the Tom Hanks movie about him sheds light on a man the Religious Right would have liked to oust from office.

by wilkyjr on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 09:50:35 AM EST

Re: speech by Michael Brown in which he encouraged people to "give up their lives" in the fight against homosexuality.

This is one of the times when the phrase means different things according to the listener and the listener's style of Biblical interpretation. I have heard this used to mean anywhere from "get over yourself, dude, put down that beer and do something constructive" to "Join God's army and blow up abortion clinic or gay bar or ...." . The ambiguity of the phrase enables it to be used as code phrase interpretable by its context, yet plausibly deniable.

by NancyP on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 04:49:39 PM EST

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