Thursday, March 16, 2017

Religious Right Figures Among U.S. Delegation to U.N. Commission on the Status of Women

The 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will take place at United Nations headquarters in New York City on March 13-24. The Commission on the Status of Women brings together representatives of U.N. member states and non-governmental organizations to promote women's empowerment and equality around the world. To the horror of LGBTQ and women's rights groups, Religious Right figures will be representing the U.S. at the meeting.

According to a March 13th press release, the U.S. State Department will include representatives from two right-wing organizations in its delegation to the 61st session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. Lisa Correnti, executive vice-president of the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) and Grace Melton, Association for Social Issues at the U.N for the Heritage Foundation, will be part of the delegation. (Hat tip to Reuters.)

C-FAM and its president, Austin Ruse, have a long history of opposing LGBTQ equality and women's reproductive rights at home and at the United Nations. As recently as March 9th, C-FAM issued a statement criticizing U.N. staff for their resistance to the newly reinstated "global gag rule".

The Heritage Foundation's resume is more varied, but its right-wing credentials are solid. For decades, the Heritage Foundation has been a major mover-and-shaker of the American right, and is currently active in the push for "religious freedom" (which, as interpreted by the Religious Right, would allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs). Right Wing Watch has documented the anti-LGBTQ activism of Heritage Foundation senior fellow Ryan Anderson. The organization has also engaged in troubling activism to undermine reproductive rights and oppose Planned Parenthood.

I doubt that representatives of C-FAM and the Heritage Foundation will have the best interests of all women -- women seeking reproductive health services, lesbian women, bisexual women, transgender women -- at heart during the 61st session meeting. By appointing representatives of these two organizations to its delegation, the U.S. State Department has signaled its indifference to women's reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights to the world.

Activists have condemned the decision. In a March 15th open letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Human Rights Campaign urged the State Department to rescind the appointments of Correnti and Melton.
"If the United States is truly committed to improving the lives of women, including LBTQ women, in the U.S. and beyond, then Lisa Correnti and Grace Melton and the organizations they represent should not be the public face of our delegation. We urge you to immediately rescind the appointment of these delegates who do not represent our shared American values."
In a March 15th press release, Out Right International observed that it is "a bad sign that two organizations that have tried to delegitimize the United Nations and human rights internationally now sit on the official US delegation."
"In their Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Tillerson and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley repeatedly pledged to uphold the right to be free from discrimination as an American value. The appointment of these organizations to the official US delegation undermines their positions. I urge Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley to ensure that the US delegation maintains non-discrimination at the CSW in the face of obvious pressure from these newly appointed members of the delegation.

Fundamentalist notions about how women and girls should behave should never be the basis of advising or negotiating US foreign policy."
These delegation choices are another example of how the Trump administration is choosing foxes to guard the hen houses. Rest assured, women's rights activists and LGBTQ equality activists will continue to teach the world about the needs of their communities -- and remind the world that the Religious Right doesn't speak for them.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Right Wing Watch: Trump Names C-Fam, Heritage To U.S. Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women

Dallas Voice: Trump administration embarrasses U.S. again by appointing hate group members to U.N. women’s rights meeting

Human Rights Watch: U.S. Sends Group Rejecting Rights to UN Women’s Commission

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

Bloomberg: Trump to Drop Climate Change From Environmental Reviews, Source Says

New York Times: Donald Trump Budget Slashes Funds for EPA and State Department

Washington Post: President Trump's first budget proposal

Washington Post: From ‘fake news’ to no news: Tillerson leaving press behind on Asia trip could send message to China

Reuters: Hawaii judge halts Trump's new travel ban before it can go into effect

CNN: Trump admin to appeal travel ban rulings 'soon'

Huffington Post: Cherokee Nation Members Troubled By Trump’s Visit To Andrew Jackson’s Tomb

Stay hopeful! People continue to stand up against Trump.

The Tennessean: More than 2,500 protest Trump rally

The Tennessean: Meet the protester who interrupted Trump's rally

Sexual Assault Victim Unhappy After Group Uses Her Attack to Promote "Bathroom Bill"

2017 has produced a bumper crop of transphobic "bathroom bills", which would prohibit transgender persons from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in 15 states have introduced bathroom bills during the 2017 legislative session, with legislation pending in 12 of those states.

Bathroom bill proponents defend their work as an effort to protect women and children from alleged transgender predators. Such claims are ridiculous, as multiple commentators have noted. Bathroom bill proponents fail to provide any evidence that transgender persons are more likely to commit sex crimes. Furthermore, they ignore ample evidence that transgender people experience disproportionate rates of bullying, harassment, and sexual victimization  -- including in restroom settings -- due to transphobia. For example, The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that out of a national sample of over 27,000 transgender adults, 9% indicated that someone denied them access to a restroom in the past year, and 12% experienced verbal harassment while accessing a restroom. Over half of respondents admitted to avoiding using a public restroom in the past year due to fear of confrontations.

Anti-sexual violence services recognize that bathroom bills have nothing to do with protecting women and children and reject the myth of transgender restroom predators. Last year, multiple victim service organizations signed a joint letter supporting equal restroom access for the transgender community. Now, a sexual assault victim is also raising her voice against bathroom bills.

According to MyNorthwest, Kelly Herron fought off a male attacker in a public Seattle restroom this year. ABC News states that her reported attacker, Gary Steiner, has a record of multiple assaults against women and is facing attempted rape and assault charges.

Herron was disgusted when Washington's Just Want Privacy campaign campaign used her attack to promote an anti-transgender policy measure. Just Want Privacy supports I-1552, a ballot initiative that would require separate restroom facilities for males and females, as well as preventing transgender people from using facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

Herron described her shock upon seeing her assault used to promote I-1552. "I’ve been pretty even keeled throughout this recovery time," she told Dori Monson at KIRO Radio. "I haven’t really cried very much or been angry. When I opened up this link to a newsletter that went out for the bill ...the Yes on I-1552, and it’s got my bloodied face on the cover of this newsletter that's coming out, and on their Facebook page, using my violent sexual assault to promote an initiative that discriminates against transgender people. What?!"

Herron emphasized her respect for transgender people as well as her outrage at having her image used without her permission.
"I have transgender friends. I work with transgender people. They are people. They identify differently and I don’t care where they use the bathroom. When I see a transgender person in the bathroom, we talk about lip gloss ... Now my face is being used to promote discrimination. This is outrageous. One issue has nothing to do with the other."
Just Want Privacy issued an apology in a March 14th Facebook post.
"Last week a Seattle woman was attacked in a bathroom at Golden Gardens by a level III sex offender.

Because our campaign exists to help create safe spaces, we referenced her story—as we have many others before her—to highlight the need for common sense public policy to minimize danger to women and children from those who seek to harm others.

We have recently learned through several media outlets that the woman objected to our reference to her story in our communications.

Since many of the volunteers that comprise this campaign are themselves survivors of sexual assault, the last thing we want to do is make anyone feel exploited.

If our actions have inadvertently failed in this effort, we are sincerely sorry.

Our campaign would welcome the opportunity to apologize to her in person if she would like to reach out to us or provide a way for us to reach her."
According to Washington Won't Discriminate (an initiative opposed to I-1552), Herron has since joined efforts to fundraise for its Decline to Sign I-1552 campaign. "Using Kelly’s story to promote I-1552 is pure propaganda," the group wrote on its website. "I-1552 would not have done one thing to prevent the attack on her, and it’s already illegal to enter a restroom or locker room to harm someone, period."

I applaud Kelly Herron for speaking out against bigotry and the misuse of her story. Sex crime victims deserve respect and support, and their struggles should never be used as cheap propaganda. Society must realize that the struggle against sexual violence and the struggle for transgender rights are entwined, not mutually exclusive.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Today's Orange Horrors, and Glimmers of Hope

CNN: Reporters, White House debate whether Trump can be trusted

The Guardian: 'A gift to human traffickers': report warns of dangers of Trump immigration policy

Los Angeles Times: UCSD scientists worry Trump could suppress climate change data

Washington Post: Scientists are conspicuously missing from Trump’s government

NorthJersey*com: Kellyanne Conway alludes to even wider surveillance of Trump campaign

GOOD: Kellyanne Conway Suggests Obama May Have Spied On Trump Through His Microwave

New York Times: White House Says Trump’s Wiretap Claim Was Meant More Broadly

The news gives us reasons to be hopeful.

Huffington Post: Over 150 Civil Rights Groups Call On Trump To Denounce Hate Crimes

The Hindu: Pramila Jayapal, Joe Cowley introduce resolution asking Trump to end hate rhetoric

Washington Post: ACLU is leading a million-dollar resistance effort against Trump’s policies

Techcrunch: Omidyar Network and the Anti-Defamation League are launching a center to combat cyberhate

Reuters: Obama lawyers move fast to join fight against Trump

News Tidbits

Daily Beast: ‘Ex-Gay Therapy’ Leader Joseph Nicolosi Dead at 70

ABC News: Undercover at a so-called gay conversion camp

San Diego Gay & Lesbian News: Location of San Diego ex-gay therapy conference revealed: LGBT ally starts protest

On Top Magazine: NOM Urges Trump To Sign Anti-LGBT Executive Order

The Independent: Republican Steve King suggests Muslim children are stopping ‘our civilization’ being restored

Washington Post: The ‘mother and baby home’ at Tuam, Ireland, where friends just ‘disappeared, one after the other’

Irish Examiner: Irish Health Minister Simon Harris: Church must 'pay over and pay up' on sexual abuse redress

Wisconsin Public Radio: Bill Banning Aborted Fetal Tissue Research Resurfaces At State Capitol

Raw Story: ‘I’m not at all sorry’: Woman admits blowing whistle on Josh Duggar to protest family’s anti-LGBT work

Commentary Tidbits

Salon: Southern Baptist leader’s role in question because of his ardent Trump opposition

Refinery29: I Found Something Suspicious In The Duggar Family Scrapbook

Religion Dispatches: “He Got Away With It”: Conversion Therapy Survivor on Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s Legacy

The Nation: This House Republican Just Endorsed a White Nationalist

Vice: A Short History of Congressman Steve King Saying Racist S**t

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Cindy Jacobs Promotes Prosperity Gospel, Makes Tone-Deaf Statements About Jews

New Apostolic Reformation preacher Cindy Jacobs of Generals International recently spoke at the King of Kings Worship Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Right Wing Watch brought attention to her controversial comments about Jews during the event, but I'd also like to bring attention to the rest of the event's content. Jacobs spent her sermon promoting prosperity theology and making tone-deaf comments about racial and ethnic groups, as she has done in the past.

"I'm a seer, really," Jacobs told the audience as she delivered prophesies to the congregants. Jacobs told one young man that he wanted to help people and prevent suffering, and delivered a prophesy to another congregant about their church getting a bigger facility. At the 25:05 mark, however, she expressed her desire to give a prophesy to some Asian congregants. "I want to prophesy over an Asian couple," she said. "I love these Asians. I may be part Asian. Of course, my hashtag is #whitechocolate, so I think I'm part black. I don't know."

Awkward, I thought.

At the 29:44 mark, she bragged about how she converted a Mongolian man to Christianity by name-dropping a famous Mongolian actor.
"I was just eating at the Monocle Restaurant. You know what that is in Washington D.C.? Anybody been to the Monocle? It's where a lot of the Congress people go, and a guy came up to me ... I looked at his name tag, and I said, 'Oh, are you a Mongolian?'. He goes 'yes!' 'cause nobody ever pegs him for Mongolian, and I said, 'I've been in Mongolia ... By the way, I know like the top movie star in Mongolia named Anwar.' And he said, 'You know Anwar?' I mean, he's like famous, like the president will pay a million dollars to have a picture with this guy, you know. I go 'Yeah!'. And he said, 'Did you know he was in Marco Polo?'. I said, 'Not only do I know that, but I prophesied over him in Mongolia that he would go to Hollywood and that Hollywood was going to look for him and that he was going to open the door for other Mongolians, and I'm the one that made the contact in Hollywood so he would make that film.' He is freaking out right in the Monocle.

And I said, 'And not only that, why am I here talking to you when I talk to presidents all over the world, and I was in Mongolia? Now I'm talking to you, Mongolian. God loves you." And I just started witnessing salvation to him, and he goes, 'My wife watches Joel Olsteen!' I go, 'And I'm telling you what, then you need to receive Jesus!'"

I found her story puzzling. I could find no Mongolian actor by the name of "Anwar" during a Google search. Neither the 2007 Marco Polo film nor the 2014 Marco Polo series featured a man named "Anwar" among its cast members. Did I misspell the actor's name?

Jacobs proceeded to promote the prosperity gospel, telling the audience that Christians can reach a "state of blessing" if they believe God's word and donate to charity. Christians can enjoy "abundance" in every aspect of their lives, including their financial lives, she argued, urging listeners to abandon "poverty mentality".

"Poverty in the church should be an exception, not the rule, because we are the ones that are the change agents of society," Jacobs said at the 40:37 mark. She stressed the importance of money for her ministry at the 44:26 mark.
"I have learned to both abase and abound, but I much prefer abounding. I don't have to have those things to follow Jesus, but in order to do my job description in the Earth, I need money so I can do the works I'm supposed to do. You understand this?"
As reported by Right Wing Watch, Jacobs had unsettling things to say about money and Jews. After quoting Bible passages suggesting that born-again Christians are the spiritual heirs of Judaism, Jacobs argued that the Holy Spirits empowers Christians more than Jews. At the 41:57 mark, she claimed that Christians could convert Jews by gathering wealth, thereby making the Jews jealous and demonstrating that God has rewarded them for obedience.
"What the Jews have, we have. However, we have more when we’re in Christ because the Holy Spirit is inside us, empowering us to do the good works we’re called to do ... I want to say to you that one of the things I believe that’s going to bring a great harvest of Jews is the Christians becoming so profoundly wealthy ... that it’s going to make them jealous. The wealth and the riches that we’re able to obtain is going to make them jealous. Do you think our poverty is going to make a Jew jealous? Come off it! No, we are meant to prosper. Why? Because they understand, in their culture, that obedience to God brings blessing. We're called to live a blessed life, not a cursed life."
I was stunned. Jacobs was not only promoting stereotypes about Jews as money-lovers, but making rash assumptions about Jewish culture. Somehow, I don't think promoting Jewish stereotypes and adopting condescending attitudes toward Jewish culture will earn her any new Jewish converts. I would like to remind Cindy Jacobs that people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are not feathers in one's cap, not storytelling elements, and especially not walking stereotypes.

Jacobs shared a childhood story of how her family lived in a tar paper house and the soles of her father's shoes had holes, despite his fervent piety. This story seemed to contradict everything she'd preached about obedience to God resulting in material abundance. Soon thereafter, Jacobs told listeners a crass story about how God wanted her to have $600 leather shoes at the 45:53 mark.
"One day I was in Hong Kong ... and somebody said, 'I want to buy you a pair of shoes for your birthday. I said 'Okay. I know what I need. I want some black patent leather flats, okay? If my feet get tired, I want to have these black patent leather flats.' So we went shopping, and we got home, and I didn't know what the exchange rate was, you know. She said, 'I want to buy you these,' and she chose them. So I go back to the hotel, and I looked, and those were $600 shoes. I was like [gasps]. I mean, I'd never had $600 shoes before.

Actually, this poverty thing came in and said, 'I'd better sell those shoes and give that money to the poor.' And the Lord said, 'That's scarcity thinking! Don't you think I can give you what I want to give you and help you feed the poor too? You think I have a limited budget? Come on! We're not of this world!'
And then the Lord said to me, "Your daddy died when he was 49. Don't you think I saw your daddy's shoes and don't you know I knew he couldn't buy you shoes? Wow. Don't you think I want to give good gifts to my children? If I want to buy you a pair of $600 shoes, you'd better wear those shoes!'"
Why the Almighty couldn't provide Jacobs and her loved ones with shoes when she was a child was unclear. For that matter, why her God, who supposedly wants to give "good gifts" to his earthly children, allows poverty to afflict anyone was unclear.

At the 50:09 mark, Jacobs speculated that poverty exists because Christians have a "poor church". God expects Christians to address poverty in their communities, she explained.
"Maybe there's a reason there's so many people poor, because we have a poor church and we're not doing our job! ... There's a problem with food poverty, systemic poverty. Children in America go to bed hungry, no food in their bellies, and there's a church in America? What is wrong with that picture? That makes me upset. It should make you upset! I hope to upset you! Prophets kind of do that."
Why Jacob's desire to lift people out of poverty was admirable, a sound blueprint for ending poverty has no room for prosperity theology nonsense. Furthermore, her statements do not paint a picture of a compassionate, reassuring God. If the Creator can provide Jacobs with overpriced shoes, why can't he feed "children in America [who] go to bed hungry"? Many people cultivate faith in their God, but they remain poor.

Jacobs may hope to draw people to her version of Christianity by promising prosperity in exchange for piety, but these promises are empty. Prosperity theology might sound seductive to people who have suffered hardship, but they will soon discover that religiosity does not bring wealth.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Cult Next Door

The Cult Next Door (Official Short Film) from Youngman Films on Vimeo.

Jake Youngman directed a new documentary on Bill Gothard, the Advanced Training Institute, and the Institute of Basic Life Principles, The Cult Next Door. The short film features commentary from former Gothard followers such as Julie Anne Smith and Micah Murray.