Category Archives: LGBT Equality

Capital Pride Festival 2013

My meetup group, Capital Region Atheists & Agnostics, will be at this year’s Capital Pride Festival on June 9 at Washington Park in Albany. If you’re in the area, drop by and say hello! I’ve got a bunch of atheism and LGBT-related goodies to give away to people at the event.

Last year, we had a few delightful religious nutjobs protesting the Pride Parade. One of them was even someone I recognized from the Reason Rally! The kooks sure do get around.

P.S.: I’m still alive! I don’t update this nearly as much as I ought to because I’m getting most of my atheism-related frustration out on Reddit nowadays…

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Give them the exemptions–it will backfire.

The New York state Senate is currently mulling over a bill to legalize gay marriage in New York, finally bringing marriage equality to one of the most famously liberal states in America. There’s just one little nit to pick first: religious groups, like the Catholic church, are insisting that lawmakers write exemptions into the law allowing them to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

I say we should give them what they want.

Despite the stereotype of hard-core conservative Catholicism, recent polling shows that as many as 43% of American Catholics support the rights of same-sex couples to marry, with another 31% supporting civil unions that are equal in all but name. Imagine nearly half of the Catholic population suddenly being legally at odds with their own church. This organization that they’ve made such a central part of their identity suddenly becomes a caricature of itself, sticking dogmatically to old, hateful moral ideas they’ve long since discarded.

And it’s not just the Catholics. Part of what keeps people in organized religions is the idea that they’re a part of some great force of moral authority. Hundreds of thousands of liberal Christians officially ally themselves with anti-gay groups without even recognizing it. But when a gay Christian couple approaches their church to ask them to perform a marriage ceremony, only to find themselves tossed aside as immoral garbage because of the bigoted teachings of the larger church, they’ll become disillusioned with the body of the church and may start to question the claims of authority it makes on other issues.

So as I said before, let the bigoted religious groups refuse to perform marriage ceremonies. It’ll be a good way to sort out the hateful fools from the more reasonable folks, and it’ll push people to leave organized religions and thus force church officials to come to grips with just how out of touch they are with the rest of humanity.

If God be for us, what is forbidden?

Romans 8:31-33 says:

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

I’ve often thought of these verses whenever I hear about the latest hypocrisy and theocratic nonsense to emerge from the fundamentalist Christian set. To believers and to atheists, they have two very different meanings. For most of the believers I know, it’s a source of comfort. It means that no matter what the world throws at them, God will be on their side, offering defense and protection. It’s reassurance that God is obviously willing to do anything to help them out, since he’s willing to sacrifice his son (himself) for our sake.

As an atheist, I read it differently. It’s essentially saying that anything a believer does is justified and above repute; that since God is the one who justifies actions, non-believers have no right to question anything a believer does. I’m pretty sure that some believers see it this way, too – specifically, the kind of hardcore fundamentalists who are just slightly closer to the sane end of the spectrum than Fred Phelps.
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Should the Boy Scouts be allowed to recruit in public schools?

It’s always interesting to me when I run into a situation that I have to reconsider for the first time since becoming an atheist.

A mother in King, North Carolina recently wrote a letter to the editor in the Winston-Salem Journal:

On the second day of school, a representative from the Boy Scouts of America came to my son’s school to recruit new members. My son came home so excited, and cried when I had to tell him no. I feel he is too young to understand BSA’s homophobic and discriminatory policies, so I told him we already had too much on our plate. The BSA is prejudicial (it doesn’t accept atheists or agnostics) and homophobic (no gays allowed). My son will never be a Boy Scout and I wish that I had been notified that valuable learning time was going to be spent promoting a homophobic hate group.

Recently President Obama made a 15-minute speech to children about working hard and staying in school. I got a verbal message from the teacher, a note and two calls letting me know about the speech.

Is the president’s message that scary? Why does a positive message from the president require so much parental warning, while a discriminatory organization gets free rein to recruit during the school day with zero parental notification?

From now on, I expect notifications of future speakers at my son’s school and the topic of discussion. I expect a verbal message from his teacher, a letter from the principal and two auto calls. I would also like the opportunity to send in a signed note to excuse him from said speaker.

The BSA, in case you didn’t know, has official anti-LGBT and anti-nontheist policies, which have led to Eagle scouts being stripped of their awards and scout leaders being removed from their positions.

I’m an Eagle scout. I received my award from a scout troop where religion and sexuality were never discussed. Maybe there was an undercurrent of religion in some of the things we said (like the Scout Oath, which mentions doing duty to god and my country), but apart from the routine recitations it was never really raised as an issue. (Come to think of it, that’s kind of surprising, considering that I grew up in a pretty conservative area of Michigan…)

But I know that troops do exist where just believing in the wrong god (e.g. being a Hindu) is enough to keep you out. And I’ve seen dozens of cases of scouts and scoutmasters having their awards and positions stripped away after publicly coming out of the closet.

So it’s clearly not enough for me to apply my own personal experiences to this issue. If I say that it’s okay to allow some scout troops into schools since not every scout troop discriminates on the basis of sexuality or religion, it would be equivalent to saying that since not all Christians are like Fred Phelps we should allow the more accepting groups to recruit in schools.

I can see the mother coming at this question with two different approaches:

  1. She doesn’t want her kids to be potentially indoctrinated into anti-LGBT, anti-nontheist beliefs.
  2. She doesn’t want to support an organization that discriminates the way the BSA does.

From the first viewpoint, it would seem a bit hasty to prejudge the practices of a local troop based on the policies of the national troop. The second viewpoint recognizes that things like membership dues and subscriptions to the Boy’s Life magazine would be giving financial backing to a group with an official policy of hate, and I absolutely agree that such discriminatory groups shouldn’t be given the platform of the classroom to seek new sources of income and new members.

Now I’m torn between turning in my Eagle badge to officially renounce the BSA and keeping it to pad my résumé…

The Friendly Atheist Under Attack

Hemant Mehta, one of the most tolerant, genial, and patient atheists I’ve ever seen, is currently under attack from a thinly-veiled far-right Christian hate group calling itself the Illinois Family Institute, which has a history of saying some pretty nutty stuff. And I’m not just calling them a hate group, either; for a while, the Southern Poverty Law Center had them listed as one, specifically for their strident anti-gay stance, comments, and leadership. Continue reading

Glad I’m not in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern has proposed what she calls the “Oklahoma Citizen’s Proclamation for Morality.” The proposition, which can be read in its entirety here, is truly comedy gold. She claims that “our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis,” which (of course) can be blamed entirely on abortion, same-sex marriage, pornography, divorce, illegitimate births, and other favorite canards of the fanatically-religious right.

She whines and moans about how President Obama didn’t officially recognize the National Day of Prayer, but he did recognize a month of tolerance for the LGBT community.

But the real juicy idiocy is at the very end:

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we the undersigned elected officials of the people of Oklahoma, religious leaders and citizens of the State of Oklahoma, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, solemnly declare that the HOPE of the great State of Oklahoma and of these United States, rests upon the Principles of Religion and Morality as put forth in the HOLY BIBLE; and

BE IT RESOLVED
that we, the undersigned, believers in the One True God and His only Son, call upon all to join with us in recognizing that “Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord,” and humbly implore all who love Truth and Virtue to live above reproach in the sight of God and man with a firm reliance on the leadership and protection of Almighty God; and

BE IT RESOLVED
that we, the undersigned, humbly call upon Holy God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, to have mercy on this nation, to stay His hand of judgment, and grant a national awakening of righteousness and Christian renewal as we repent of our great sin.

Signed on the second day of July in the year of our Lord Christ Two Thousand and Nine.

Yowza. This from a woman who says she understands separation of church and state… and who has, in the past, said that homosexuals were a worse threat to America than terrorists. Does anything really need to be said here? She needs to be gone. Fast.

This kind of stuff needs to be shoved forcibly into the light of day. Thanks to the folks at Right Wing Watch for this one.

Hating Gays for Jesus (also, they’re icky)

The following is from a letter to the editor in my local newspaper:

Bible clear in opposition to homosexuality

Re May 7 letter, “Don’t use Bible to oppose gay marriage”: Mr. Hunt’s ideology is exactly what is wrong with our country today.

First and foremost, our country was built on Christian values. Second, Mr. Hunt mentions how we should keep the Bible out of our lawmaking. This is where our country has been misguided in the worst way. Without God in our lives, there are no laws, morals or family values. What we would then have is a type of society in which there are no consequences.

Whether or not Mr. Hunt or Bill Maher want to accept it, there is a God, and there are rules he wants us to follow. One may interpret some things differently, but without any reasonable doubt, in no way is gay marriage an acceptable lifestyle. It is not normal or acceptable behavior for two of the same sex to be engaged in a sexual relationship. To be honest, it is flat-out disgusting.

This does not make me a bigot, hatemonger or bad person.

The opposition for gay marriage is a force to be reckoned with. I, for one, strongly support a normal marriage, which is between a man and a woman.

Sean Dufresne

Amsterdam

Mr. Dufresne is, of course, entirely wrong. Let me explain how.

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