Showing posts with label Religion Bias. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion Bias. Show all posts

August 24, 2018

Only Trump Will Give us A Vice President As Bad as He Is- Meet V.P.Pence


Democrats may not like President Donald Trump, but do they want the alternative?
“That is probably what we hear most from Democrats,” said Kevin Mack, lead strategist for the “Need to Impeach” President Donald Trump campaign. " 'Well, if we get rid of Trump, then we end up with (Mike) Pence.' "
As Trump’s presidency became more endangered this week with the conviction or guilty plea of two of his former aides, a new book about the vice president will stoke concerns about Pence.

1. Is he a 'Christian supremacist'?

In “The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence,” on sale Tuesday, authors Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner cast Pence's background – congressman, Indiana governor, Trump VP – in a harsh light, arguing that “the most successful Christian supremacist in American history” is already functioning as a “kind of replacement president” and is preparing to “fashion a nation more pleasing to his god and corporate sponsors.” A flattering preview of the book by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni – that ran under the headline “Mike Pence, Holy Terror” – already has religious leaders and other Pence supporters accusing Bruni and the book’s authors of religious bigotry. Saying he’d “never heard such hatred poured out against such a good man,” evangelist Franklin Graham urged supporters to pray that God will put a “hedge of protection” around Pence and his family.

2. It's not the first Pence warning

The authors are not the first to raise alarms about who is waiting in the wings should Trump leave office – voluntarily or involuntarily.
Arguing Pence has taken advantage of the chaos of the Trump administration to amass “enormous power” under the radar, the Human Rights Campaign launched a campaign earlier this year to highlight Pence’s record on issues important to the LGBTQ community.
Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman writes in her new memoir that Pence is biding his time until Trump resigns or is impeached.
“As bad as you think Trump is, you should be worried about Pence,” she said on "Celebrity Big Brother" in February after leaving the White House. “He thinks Jesus tells him to say things.”

March 14, 2018

House Republicans ReIntroduce Bill Pitting Religion Against LGBT

The First Amendment Defense Act, commonly known as FADA, has been reintroduced in Congress by Senator Mike Lee of Utah and 21 other Republicans — despite being called “harmful,” “discriminatory” and the “vilest anti-LGBT religious freedom bill of our time" by gay rights advocates. The bill, Lee said, is “designed to prevent the federal government from discriminating against individuals or institutions based on their beliefs about marriage.”
“What an individual or organization believes about the traditional definition of marriage is not — and should never be — a part of the government’s decision-making process when distributing licenses, accreditations or grants,” Lee said in a statement. “The First Amendment Defense Act simply ensures that this will always be true in America — those federal bureaucrats will never have the authority to require those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage to choose between their living in accordance with those beliefs and maintaining their occupation or their tax status.”
The bill was last introduced in the House and Senate in 2015 but did not make it out of committee. Jeff Sessions, now attorney general and then a senator from Alabama, was one of FADA’s original sponsors, and in December 2016, President-elect Donald Trump said he would support the legislation.
Donald Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, said the reintroduction of FADA may be more of a political calculation by Republicans than a real attempt at getting the bill passed.
“It gets them on the record in favor, and they get a ‘no’ vote to pin on those Democrats in the general election," Haider-Markel said, adding that "it’s just as important for some Republicans to get a ‘yes’ vote on the record” to enhance their conservative credentials to stave off primary challengers from the right.
“There are plenty of analysts who are saying this is now Trump’s party, but there is still a divide in the party between hard-core (social) conservatives, and those that are more moderate, and the conservatives seem to mostly be behind Trump,” Haider-Markel said. “Their only chance to show their conservative chops on social issues is to get votes on social issues even if they won’t ultimately be successful.”
Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay conservative group, said his organization opposes the legislation.
“This is legislation that the evangelical lobbyists have prioritized,” Angelo said. “Outside of evangelical lobbyists, you're not hearing a clarion call for action on FADA from rank-and-file voters.” 
The current bill makes two notable changes compared with an earlier version. It excludes from the bill’s protections publicly traded for-profit entities, federal employees, federal contractors and certain health care providers. The bill also expands its scope to protect those whose religious beliefs put them in opposition to same-sex marriage or any marriage recognized under federal law. The new bill retains text, however, which frames the bill as responding to “conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious liberty.”
LGBTQ advocates say the legislation is not substantively different from previous versions and would roll back anti-discrimination protections for the community.
"The First Amendment Defense Act is harmful legislation that would legalize state-sanctioned discrimination and undermine key civil rights protections for LGBTQ people,” said David Stacy, government affairs director for the national LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC). “Supporters of this legislation are using religious liberty as a sword to hurt LGBTQ families rather than staying true to our long tradition of it serving as a shield to protect religious expression from government overreach."
According to HRC, FADA would, among other things, permit individuals, nonprofits and many businesses using taxpayer funds to refuse service to same-sex couples; allow nonprofits and some businesses to deny gay and lesbian employees time off to care for a sick spouse, and permit government-funded shelters from housing same-sex couples.
Ian Thompson, a legislative representative with the American Civil Liberties Union, raised similar objections, saying FADA “opens the door to a wide range of taxpayer-funded discrimination.”
“It would let private companies and nonprofit government contractors — which includes a significant portion of social services providers — refuse to provide a service or benefit to people because they do not fit their definition of family, from same-sex married couples and their children, a single parent and their child, or an unmarried couple who are living together,” Thompson said in a statement. “Whatever the sponsors of this shameful legislation may say, this is a blatant example of using religion as a justification to discriminate.”
While Haider-Markel said the updated FADA bill could gain some traction in the House, he said it would likely fail in the Senate. Plus, he added, the expanded scope of the revised bill would make it nearly impossible to enforce.
“The language in this version seems so incredibly vague and very unlikely to stand up in any way, shape or form,” he added. “The whole thing just seems like a performance.”
by Julie Morea
NBC News
It is adamfoxie's 10th🦊Anniversay. 10 years witnessing the world and bringing you a pieace whcih is ussually not getting its due coverage.

December 21, 2017

Pastor Dave Welch Primary TX. Anti Gay Mobilizer of Churches Vs. LGBT Community

Houston made international news in 2009 when it became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor. Six years later, Houston voters made a stunning about-face by repealing a city ordinance shielding LGBT people from discrimination.
Behind that electoral backlash was Dave Welch, a sturdy, serious-looking man. He is the executive director of the U.S. Pastor Council, a group that’s adept at mobilizing churches to participate in loud, ugly campaigns against LGBT rights. Welch and the Pastor Council were instrumental in peddling the “No Men in Women’s Restrooms” message that has animated Texas social conservatives in recent years.
Welch, who calls himself a “pastor of pastors,” formed the Houston Area Pastor Council in 2003 with a dozen other Houston-area clergy. As more church leaders joined the cause, he established the Texas Pastor Council and the U.S. Pastor Council, umbrella groups that have pushed the limits of what churches are allowed to do as tax-exempt organizations. They challenge pastors to distribute election guides, register congregants to vote and discuss political issues with churchgoers. By 2008, Welch was writing screeds against abortion, gay rights and Barack Obama for WorldNetDaily, a conspiracy-laced progenitor of alt-right media. In one column he declares war on the “radical sexual-diversity jihad.”
But it was Welch’s years-long grudge match with former Houston Mayor Annise Parker that really raised his political profile. In 2013, a pastor with his group sued to block Parker from extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples who work for the city. That the lawsuit even survived the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in 2015 hints at the reach of Welch’s message. After first tossing the case, the Texas Supreme Court agreed to rehear it at the urging of Governor Greg Abbott and other leading Texas Republicans. In July 2017, the court issued a brain-wrinkling rulingconcluding that same-sex spouses of government employees still aren’t guaranteed the benefits of marriage in Texas.
Dave Welch
The defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was an even bigger success. Welch stood before TV cameras to warn of “biological males, with no alterations, entering a woman’s restroom” when Parker pushed HERO, as the ordinance was known, during her final term in office. After City Council passed the law, Welch helped organize a ballot referendum to overturn it. When Parker’s administration made the face-plant move of subpoenaing sermons from pastors involved in the effort, Welch called it “as close as anything I’ve ever seen to Nazi Germany on our soil.” Anti-LGBT activists eventually convinced 61 percent of Houston voters to repeal HERO after a campaign featuring TV ads of men stalking little girls in public bathrooms. Earlier this year, Abbott signed a bill pushed by Welch that shields sermons from government subpoenas. 
Fran Watson, a Houston LGBT rights activist, says Welch’s ability to blend politics and religion makes him a particularly potent force. He “faith-washes” the anti-LGBT message for congregations but also brawls like a political operative. “He was able to get away with saying a lot of ludicrous, hurtful things in public because he masked it with faith,” she said. In one public forum over the equal rights law, when a trans woman asked Welch what bathroom she should use, he asked her about her genitals. When she said it wasn’t his business, he replied, “You’re making it my business.” The 2017 legislative session was both a sign of Welch’s influence and a hint at what may curtail it. Notably, the Pastor Council failed to help pass a bathroom bill amid opposition from a cadre of corporate interests and resistance from fellow believers, including dozens of progressive faith leaders. Welch dismisses his opponents as tools of powerful interests. “This isn’t about discrimination,” he told the Observer. “This is about political correctness being shoved down our throats by corporate fat cats pushing a radical agenda.” 
Welch says his group will continue to mobilize with other anti-LGBT activists against anything that “normalizes the gay lifestyle.”
As the lingering Houston court case shows, just because the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage doesn’t mean people like Welch will stop fighting it. “We have not changed our position that God created marriage, and that long preceded this country and its laws,” Welch said. Marriage equality, he added, “is no more settled than Roe v. Wade.”
Michael Barajas is a staff writer covering civil rights for the Observer. You can reach him on Twitter or at

September 16, 2017

Minister Cancels Straight Couple's Wedding Because The Bride Approves in Gay Marriage for Gays

 Where do so-called Christians get their moral values? I guarantee you not from Jesus if you read everything he is known to have said. What a crooked association which is what the Gestapo did in their days. If you believe a jew should not terminate you did not go enough to be a German 'and you should then joined your friend the jews. Same thing this man and his church is doing. There is a name for it: Guilt by association and Jesus was very guilty of it.

A Victorian church refused to marry a young couple and cancelled their wedding plans because the bride-to-be expressed support for same-sex marriage on Facebook.
The 26-year-old bride and 25-year-old groom were to be married in November at their Presbyterian church, Ebenezer St John's in Ballarat, by minister Steven North. 

After a bride posted a comment on Facebook supporting same-sex marriage, a Victorian Minister called the couple to say he can't marry them anymore.

In early August, when the Turnbull government announced the postal survey on same-sex marriage, the bride posted a Facebook status declaring her support for change.
"I know it's something not everyone will agree on and that's fine but this is what I stand for and frankly it doesn't affect [sic] my relationship with [my partner] one bit," she commented. 

Days later, the couple was summoned to Mr North's office and were told he would no longer marry them, nor would they be allowed to hold their ceremony at the church.
In a letter to the bride, provided to Fairfax Media, Mr North said the views expressed in the Facebook post had "practical consequences" for the wedding.

"After the pre-marital counselling that you attended and the sermons delivered at Ebenezer on this subject, you must surely appreciate that your commitment to same-sex marriage opposes the teaching of Christ Jesus and the scriptural position practised by the Presbyterian Church of Australia and by me," he wrote.

"This conflict of views has practical consequences in relation to your upcoming wedding.
Minister Steve North, pictured in 2014, refused to officiate the wedding and banned the couple from getting married at his church.

Minister Steve North, pictured in 2014, refused to officiate the wedding and banned the couple from getting married at his church.

"By continuing to officiate it would appear either that I support your views on same-sex marriage or that I am uncaring about this matter. As you know, neither statement is correct.

"Also, if the wedding proceeded in the Ebenezer St John's church buildings, the same inferences could be drawn about the Presbyterian denomination. Such inferences would be wrong." 

Fairfax Media has spoken to the couple but has agreed not to name them, in line with their wishes. The couple did not seek media attention about the case – Fairfax Media was informed by a friend of the family.

Ebenezer St John's did not return multiple calls. John Wilson, clerk of assembly at the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, said decisions about officiating marriages were at the discretion of individual ministers. He did not wish to comment further.

But Presbyterian ministers and churchgoers are under clear directions to oppose same-sex marriage. Mr Wilson, who is also moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, published a blog post committing the church to the "no" case and calling on attendees to campaign actively.

"There are many powerful voices clamouring to tear down what God declares to be holy. The church must not be silent on this," Mr Wilson wrote.

However, other church sources suggested the Ballarat experience was uncommon. Darren Middleton, convenor of the Church and Nation committee and a Geelong minister, said it was the first such case he had encountered.

"This is a decision for individual ministers to make. My guess is most probably would have let the wedding go ahead," he told Fairfax Media.

"It's not normally a requirement to get married that you subscribe to particular views. I would want to talk to them about their views … but that wouldn't be a bar to them getting married. That's a separate issue in my mind."

David Burke, the moderator of the Presbyterian church in NSW, also said these were matters for individual ministers but his approach would be to talk it through with the couple.

The Ballarat couple had already sent wedding invitations to friends and family but were able to find an alternative, secular venue for their November wedding. The ceremony will be officiated by a retired minister.

In an emotive written response to Mr North, the couple said they would no longer attend Ebenezer St John's church as a result of the minister's decision.

"We feel this decision is absolutely disgraceful and is a disgrace to you and all the church, especially when we have been loyal and valued members of this congregation for 10 years," they wrote
"You were made aware from the beginning of our proceedings that we had gay friends and also that people in our wedding party were gay. How could you assume that we would abandon them or degrade them with regards to same-sex marriage?

"We understand we did agree with the teachings of the church in our marriage counselling but just because we agree with that for our own lives, doesn't mean that we have to push those beliefs on others."
The church's decision had caused "a great deal of stress and upset" to both families, the couple wrote. 

Michael Koziol is the immigration and legal affairs reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in Parliament House

Sydney Morning Herald

September 3, 2017

New Report from Pews: "LGBT Reject Religion and That is a Good Thing"

When a book such as Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian becomes a smash hit it might lead you to think that there is a large contingent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians out there clamoring for acceptance.
But a new report from the Pew Research Center suggests that this is not the case.
As it turns out Vines’ book (and others that seek to reconcile LGBT lives with fundamentalist Christian teaching) is only a big deal to insiders—or to a voyeuristic public that doesn’t have any real skin in the game.
As for the LGBT community, Pew researchers found that at least 41% could give a rip if the evangelical church welcomes them in their pews because they’ve given up on religion anyway—at least that type of religion.
Given the media’s attention to LGBT people and religion, it might come as a shock that such a large bloc of the LGBT community does not identify as religious. But within the community, it’s simply confirmation that Christianity has already fouled its nest when it comes to trying to attract LGBT people back to church.
The reason so many LGBT people have fled the church tracks closely with why millennials, in general, have abandoned sanctuaries across the country—a perception that churches are filled with judgmental and hypocritical people.
survey last year by Pew found that 73% of LGBT people perceived evangelical churches to be unfriendly and 79% said they felt unwelcome in Catholic churches.  As for non-evangelical mainstream churches, the survey found that only 10% of LGBT folk viewed such churches as friendly while 44% perceived them as unfriendly.
However, according to last year’s data, one-third of LGBT people who are religious said there was a conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity. This, I believe, shows that many LGBT people continue to go to unwelcoming churches simply because they do find religion important—or they remain conflicted about their own sexuality or gender identity because of the mixed signals coming from the pulpit every Sunday.
This year’s survey found that among the 24% who say they believe nothing, in particular, 10% say religion is still somewhat or very important to them. This opens a huge opportunity for LGBT religious communities to offer alternative forms of spirituality to this community in particular. Those whose beliefs have slipped, as well as those who are still searching for something—anything—are in desperate need of communities of faith to serve them.

It’s not the churches that LGBT people are leaving, it’s Christianity in its current form that repels them.

Sadly, what they find too often in the LGBT religious landscape is what I call “evangelical lite” churches that offer the same theology, liturgy and worship styles as most non-welcoming evangelical churches, minus the judgment. Having been involved in many of these evangelical lite churches over the years, though, I can affirm that there are still many who remain conflicted about their faith and sexuality or gender identity even in a more welcoming environment.
I believe that’s so because while evangelical lite churches may be missing the judgment they still perpetuate the overall sexual shame that is inherent in much of traditional Christian theology. Even though it may not be overt, that shame is still being taught even in predominantly LGBT churches—so it’s not really the churches that LGBT people are leaving, it’s Christianity in its current form that repels them.
Much of this style of worship and theology continues even in the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Churches—which makes sense, I would argue, because founder Troy Perry was raised in a fundamentalist tradition. His influence remains strong in the MCC and other gay-friendly evangelical churches that still exist (and continue to thrive in some places such as the south) today.
This, however, is where I see a ray of hope for LGBT people of faith. There is an opportunity here, for any faith community up to the task, to truly reform the Christian church into what it was meant to be in the first place—a community that accepts people where they are and offers them genuine love and support.
There are many independent churches that are already doing this. And even some mainline churches are flying under the denominational radar to give LGBT people of faith the connection and community they crave.  My own small congregation, Jubilee! Circle, in Columbia, S.C., is offering an alternative theology centered in the Creation Spirituality of Matthew Fox, that attracts both LGBT and straight people who may otherwise describe themselves as “nones.”
I think the key is to begin our theology in a different place—not in the dark place of original sin (a doctrine cooked up by Augustine to rid himself of the guilt of his own sexual dysfunctions)—but with what Matthew Fox calls original blessing, in which our bodies are “dwelling places of the Divine.”
How revolutionary it would be for the LGBT community, which has already led massive social reforms around marriage, to become the new reformers of Christianity—turning it from a religion of shame and guilt into the living embodiment of God’s beauty and unconditional love.
As Mark D. Jordan has powerfully offered, in these pages: “There is no gay church, there is only church—which is never reformed, only reforming.”
Much respect to Vines and his supporters, but why must we in the LGBT faith community beg for acceptance in an already theologically bankrupt institution when the time for reformation is ripe?

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)

August 31, 2017

[3] Reasons Why So Many People Hate Joel Osteen and His Mega Church in Houston

Twitter is loathing Houston’s megawatt-smile, mega-pastor Joel Osteen. What gives? 
For Myself, the main reason(the are others) is that He is against Gay Marriage but for others:

Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch transforms into shelter
Lakewood Church, a 606,000-square-foot megachurch in Houston where Joel Osteen preaches, is being used as a shelter from the flood. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)
The question over whether Osteen’s 38,000-member Lakewood Church has sufficiently aided in the disaster relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey has, once again, made America’s prince of the prosperity gospel into an object of social media contempt.
With his yachts and jets and endlessly-smiling mouth offering promises of “Your Best Life Now” (that’s the name of his best-selling book), Osteen was already a subject of contempt among Americans, in general.
But in the past few days, he has been lambasted as being, at best, sluggish in providing emergency aid to those suffering from the disaster and, at worst, a hypocrite who cares more about people’s wealth than welfare. In fairness, the city of Houston has more megachurches than any other metropolitan area in the country, with dozens of big-church celebrities to thrust into the spotlight at a time like this. So what is it about America’s grinning preacher that everyone hates so much? 
I’ve been studying the American prosperity gospel for more than a decade, and I have come to the stunning conclusion that Joel Osteen seems to be a pretty nice guy. He is the cheery advertisement for the 606,000-square-foot Lakewood Church and, with the gorgeous Victoria by his side, tours the country in packed-out arenas to bring “A Night of Hope” — a religion-lite, inspirational speech set to music. And, for those who don’t mind waiting a few minutes after the service, he will shake your hand and tolerate your comment about how his hair looks even better in real life. It does.
But there are three main reasons long after this controversy passes, Joel Osteen will still be the preacher America loves to hate — and perhaps for Christians more than others.
Number 1. Joel Osteen represents the Christian 1 percent. From aerial views of his jaw-dropping mansion to the cut of his navy suits, he always looks like a man with a good reason to be smiling. He is a wealthy man who unapologetically preaches that God has blessed him, with the added bonus that God can bless anyone else, too. 
The promise of the prosperity gospel is that it has found a formula that guarantees that God always blesses the righteous with health, wealth, and happiness. For that reason, churchgoers love to see their preachers thrive as living embodiments of their own message. But the inequality that makes Osteen an inspiration is also what makes him an uncomfortable representation of the deep chasms in the land of opportunity between the haves and the have-nots. When the floodwaters rise, no one wants to see him float by on his yacht, as evidenced by the Christian satire website the Babylon Bee’s shot Tuesday at Osteen: “Joel Osteen Sails Luxury Yacht Through Flooded Houston To Pass Out Copies Of ‘Your Best Life Now.’ ” 
 Number 2. There is a lingering controversy around prosperity megachurches and their charitable giving. When a church that places enormous theological weight on tithes and offerings is not a leader in charitable giving, the most obvious question is about who is the primary beneficiary of the prosperity gospel? The everyman or the man at the front?
Number 3. For many Christians, in particular, the prosperity gospel has an unpopular answer to the problem of evil in the world. Its central claim — “Everyone can be prosperous!”—contains its own conundrum. How do you explain the persistence of suffering? It might be easier to say to someone undergoing a divorce that there is something redemptive about the lessons they learned, but what about a child with cancer? 
This week, the prosperity gospel came face-to-face with its own theological limits. It was unable to answer the lingering questions around what theologians call “natural evil.” There is a natural curiosity about how someone like Osteen will react in the face of indiscriminate disaster. Is God separating the sheep from the goats? Will only the houses of the ungodly be flooded? The prosperity gospel has not every found a robust way to address tragedy when their own theology touts that “Everything Happens for a Reason.”  
The good news is that the prosperity gospel, as a movement, is still young. It still has time to be ready when the next natural disaster strikes and people want to be assured that their religious giants are offering more than their thoughts and prayers.

August 21, 2017

Some Liberty U. Grads Returned Their Diplomas-Graduates Not Aware What "Falwell" Represents?

 Anti Gay, Anti black, anti equality Rev. Falwell honors Trump in this picture as he is invited to speak at Liberty University. Some politicians like Ronald Reagan whose presidency gave roots to the "Silent Majority" formed by Jerry Falwell Sr.  became visibly close to Falwell while running but distanced some after winning. At the time of Falwell Sr
 anti gay and so called family values gained strength in the South. The closeness to the clan at the time was a well known secret but Reagan ignore it. By the time Trump won the Presidency, this fact was well known as some went to some of his rallies wearing the dunce hats. Trump felt they had contributed to his winning and that he owe them. It is clear Trump wanted to be President so bad and found it so unreachable at times (he himself has said as much) he was willing to accept help from wherever he could get it. Be Russia or be the Clan. After all he had always like Russia who helped him when his casino's starting going bad to pay some of his debt to keep investing and making money and with the Ms.Universe Pageant. Trump hated the name and the man Barack Obama. He could not believe a black man and then a black whose father was born outside of the US would become President. He started the birther movement (a racist organization making it clear a black should not be president, he was not a real American) knowing better than most people Obama was born in Hawaii and had been born a US citizen thru birth and family of his mother which were whites. But he knew if he could break up the political voting habits of poor blacks and poor whites he could split up the black and white collision. He eventually did not only got the poor white vote but the more educated white men vote. Still not enough to win, still he needed more help and it would come from outside the US.  The bigger issue here is not why students returned their diplomas but why a religious , homophobic anti black University got its accreditation? Through political contributions, which is wrong.

 This University which pay no taxes is the best example of why they should.  No religion should be preaching and teaching anti American rhetoric on the American dime. Allowing Islamic, or Protestant, or followers of any religion should not have accreditation for Universities and schools when they are teaching against the values of the Constitution and its amendments. Free speech is fine but accrediting a teaching institution is not a right but a privilege controlled by requirements. 
Adam Gonzalez

A group of alumni from one of the country's most influential evangelical Christian universities is condemning their school's president for his continued alignment with President Trump.

A small but growing number of Liberty University graduates are preparing to return diplomas to their school. The graduates are protesting university President Jerry Falwell Jr.'s ongoing support for Trump. They began organizing after Trump's divisive remarks about the deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va.

Chris Gaumer, a former Student Government Association president and 2006 graduate, said it was a simple decision.

"I'm sending my diploma back because the president of the United States is defending Nazis and white supremacists," Gaumer said. "And in defending the president's comments, Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit."

Liberty graduate Chris Gaumer said that "Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit," with President Trump's comments about white supremacists.
Courtesy of Chris Gaumer

Trump has been criticized — including by many Republicans — for a series of statements after an anti-racist counterprotester was killed by an alleged Nazi sympathizer who drove his car into the crowd.

Trump initially responded by blaming "many sides" for the violence, and then made a statement condemning white supremacists, before eventually giving an off-the-cuff statement in which he claimed that there were "very fine people on both sides."

Falwell responded the next day with a tweet praising Trump's statement and adding, "So proud of @realdonaldtrump."

Falwell later followed up with a tweet calling white supremacists, Nazis, and other hate groups "pure evil and un-American."

In January 2016, Falwell became one of the earliest evangelical leaders to endorse the billionaire candidate, at a time when many conservative Christian leaders were expressing concern about Trump's multiple marriages and past support for abortion rights.

Last October, some Liberty students circulated a petition opposing Trump after the release of a 2005 Access Hollywood video where he could be heard bragging about groping women without their consent. Students also criticized Falwell for defending Trump.

Falwell invited Trump to give the first commencement speech of his term as president to Liberty University graduates. During his remarks, President Trump thanked evangelicals for their support at the voting booth last November.

Falwell isn't alone among his evangelical peers in continuing to stand with the president. In recent days, multiple members of Trump's evangelical advisory board have publicly condemned white supremacy, though most have stopped short of criticizing the president by name.

Trump's Evangelical Advisers Stand By Their Man
Trump's Evangelical Advisers Stand By Their Man

A university spokesman told NPR that Falwell "wants to make it clear that he considers all hate groups evil and condemns them in every sense of the word."

In a group letter being prepared to be sent to university officials, several alumni declare their intention to return their diplomas and call for Falwell to repudiate Trump's remarks:

"While this state of affairs has been in place for many months, the Chancellor's recent comments on the attack upon our neighbors in Charlottesville have brought our outrage and our sorrow to a boiling point. During the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, white supremacists, nationalists, and neo-Nazis perpetrated brutal violence against anti-racist protesters, murdering one woman and injuring many. Instead of condemning racist and white nationalist ideologies, Mr. Trump provided equivocal and contradictory comments. 

The Chancellor then characterized Mr. Trump's remarks, which included the claim that some of the persons marching as white nationalists and white supremacists at the rally were 'very fine people,' as 'bold' and 'truthful.' This is incompatible with Liberty University's stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness."

"We're asking that Liberty University return to its stated values and accept that the pursuit of power is leading it into some dark places, and really repudiate that," said Georgia Hamann.
Courtesy of Georgia Hamann
Georgia Hamann, a 2006 alumna and an attorney in Phoenix, Ariz., helped pen the letter.

"We're asking that Liberty University return to its stated values and accept that the pursuit of power is leading it into some dark places, and really repudiate that," she said. "The word in Baptist and evangelical circles is 'repent.'... You know, truly a turning away from wrong conduct."

Alumni who can't find their diplomas are being asked to sign the group letter or write individual letters to Falwell expressing their concerns.

Some Liberty graduates see Falwell's association with Trump as both a personal liability and a moral embarrassment. Rebekah Tilley graduated from Liberty in 2002 and now works in higher education in Iowa.

"I was to the point where I didn't even want to include my alma mater on my resume when I was applying for jobs, just because I think that can be so loaded," Tilley said. "There's such a strong affiliation now between Liberty University and President Trump that you know that reflects badly on all alumni."

For Doug Johnson Hatlem, a 1999 graduate who now works as a Mennonite pastor in Ontario, Canada, Charlottesville feels like a tipping point for many alumni who have been concerned about the university's association with Trump.

"It really is a watershed moment to have people openly chanting Nazi chants ... holding white supremacist signs, and carrying weapons along with all of that, and killing somebody, injuring many in the process," he said. "For there not to be an unconditional condemnation of that kind of action and behavior is just completely anathema."

Johnson Hatlem said returning diplomas is an important symbolic statement.

"I'll have to have my mom dig it out of storage," he said. "But I do plan to send back my diploma to Liberty."


May 9, 2017

Reasons to Worry on Trump’s Religious Liberty Order and LGBT Rights

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community read between the lines in what seemed like a harmless executive order last week on religious liberty — and now is concerned it could restrict hard-fought rights.
Notably: A provision that directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue guidance to federal agencies “interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law.”
President Donald Trump signed the order last week, and initially it drew muted criticism from the LGBT community.
But upon further inspection this week, the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay-rights organization, predicted that the executive order could be used to shield federal employees who refuse to process veterans or Social Security benefits for same-sex spouses,or their children.
Or allow hospitals to deny visitation to same-sex spouses or permit emergency shelters to turn away gay or transgender individuals even if they receive federal funding.
“No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith,” Trump said last Thursday in a Rose Garden ceremony, surrounded by faith leaders. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.”
The Justice Department declined on Monday to comment on the executive order or how the department would carry it out.
LGBT groups are pledging they’ll take Trump to court if necessary.
“We are watching and we will challenge any effort by Jeff Sessions or other agencies of Trump’s administration to license discrimination,” said Sarah Warbelow, the Human Rights Campaign’s legal director.
So will groups that oppose same-sex marriage and LGBT rights on religious groundsSome of those organizations were disappointed that Trump’s order didn’t explicitly allow government employees to deny services or benefits to LGBT Americans for religious reasons. A draft version of the executive order leaked in February contained much stronger language that some preferred.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, said Trump had “punted” the issue to the Justice Department.
“While he may sincerely believe in protecting religious liberty,” Brown said, “his actual executive order does not do so in any meaningful way for the vast majority of people of faith.”
Doing so in other cases has kicked off all sorts of legal action.
Mississippi’s governor signed a law last spring that would have allowed private citizens and public officials to deny services to LGBT people because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Citing the 1st and 14th amendments, a federal judge later struck down the statute as “state-sanctioned discrimination.” The state has appealed the judge’s ruling. 
A 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide spurred a raft of legislation at the state and federal level aimed at giving cover to individuals who opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
Advocates for protecting the religious beliefs of government workers found a hero in Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who was ordered to jail in 2015 for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
A bill introduced in the last Congress, called the First Amendment Defense Act, would “prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.” It had 172 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, including one Democrat, and 37 in the Senate, all Republicans.
The bill has not yet been reintroduced in the current Congress.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, one of the most prominent conservative religious organizations, said it supports that legislation. But for now, Perkins called Trump’s executive action an intermediate step in reversing what he calls “an eight-year war on faith” waged by Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama.
“Is it exactly what I wanted? No,” Perkins said of Trump’s executive order. “But it’s a good first step.”
Perkins said Trump’s order enables Sessions to create a consistent policy on religious liberty across federal agencies.
“The benefit of this is there will be uniformity throughout the federal government,” he said.
Some legal experts, however, said Trump didn’t need to issue an executive order to empower Sessions to issue guidance to federal agencies.
Steve Sanders, an associate professor of law at Indiana University, said the move was largely a symbolic gesture designed to please a core part of Trump’s base.
Religious conservatives helped deliver Trump the White House. His vice-president, Mike Pence, is an evangelical Christian who signed a religious freedom law as governor of Indiana. But he had to back off on language state business leaders and newspaper editorial pages considered discriminatory to LGBT Hoosiers.
“This is a payoff to a constituency he thinks he has to take care of,” Sanders said of Trump.
Doug NeJaime, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and faculty director of the Williams Institute, which studies sexual orientation and gender identity in public policy, said the executive order doesn’t give explicit cover to federal workers.
However, he said, legal challenges to the order will hinge on what Sessions does.
“It doesn’t explicitly do very much,” he said. “At this point, it’s a wait-and-see.”
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union, which has not been shy about taking Trump to court over his immigration and refugee policies, declined to file suit over the executive order. 
Still, James Esseks, an ACLU attorney who oversees litigation for LGBT people and those living with HIV, said just because Trump’s order doesn’t single out LGBT people specifically doesn’t mean it wouldn’t enable discrimination against them.
“That doesn’t mean there’s no threat,” he said. “There’s a big threat. We remain very worried about what this administration will do.”

Read more here:

Religious Freedom Opens Door for Discrimination and Bias

An executive order issued by President Donald Trump on May 4, 2017, opens the way to overriding regulations that protect women’s health, Human Rights Watch said today. While media attention has largely focused on the order’s efforts to roll back limits on political speech by religious leaders, its other and less sensational provisions could harm the rights of millions of women.

President Trump described the executive order on promoting free speech and religious liberty as an effort “to defend the freedom of religion and speech in America.” Its signing was timed to coincide with the National Day of Prayer. But the order also invites agencies to issue regulations that would allow the “conscience-based objections” of employers and insurers to override regulations that protect women’s health.

“It’s shameful to target life-saving women’s health services and call it an act of ‘conscience,’” said Amanda Klasing, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This order will take away many women’s access to affordable family planning options.”

It’s shameful to target life-saving women’s health services and call it an act of ‘conscience.' This order will take away many women’s access to affordable family planning options. 
The Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty invites the secretaries of the treasury, labor, and health and human services departments to consider issuing amended regulations to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate as it pertains to women – and women only.

The mandate was introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act. It states that: “A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall, at a minimum provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for…with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings not described in paragraph (1).”

Preventive care and screenings under this provision currently include breast cancer screening for average-risk women; breastfeeding services and supplies; contraception; screening for cervical cancer, gestational diabetes, HIV, and interpersonal and domestic violence; counseling for sexually transmitted infections; and visits to health facilities for preventive care, known as well women visits. Religious employers are already exempted from the contraceptive mandate while religious non-profits and certain closely held corporations have also been extended accommodations to address religious objections to contraception. Yet, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price quickly responded to the order by welcoming the opportunity to re-examine the contraception mandate, promising swift action.

The order also instructs the attorney general to issue guidance to all agencies interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law. This vague provision seems to invite new interpretations of existing law that recognize new religious exemptions, which is deeply alarming given that both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have signaled support in public statements for broad religious exemptions aimed at facilitating discrimination.

As the governor of Indiana, Vice President Pence signed a religious exemption law that drew widespread criticism from the LGBT community. On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly indicated he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would prohibit the federal government from taking action against those who discriminate or refuse service based on their opposition to same-sex marriage or sex outside of marriage. In South Dakota and Alabama, state governments have recently enacted religious exemptions that facilitate discrimination against LGBT people in adoption and foster care.

“This order attacks the rights of women using religion as a pretext,” Klasing said. “Even as the House guts health care, the President struck a real and immediate blow with this order, giving free reign to restrict the contraceptive mandate that benefits millions of women in the US.”

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