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On the November 4th Ballot: Religion versus Reason
Sunday, 02 November 2008 10:03
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

For a decade I’ve been studying the exploits of the Christian Right, especially their pathological need to deny gay and lesbian American equal civil rights. In their campaigns against gay people these so-called “Christians” have distorted research, employed bogus stereotypes, used the most heinous scare tactics, concocted illogical, irrational arguments and, more often than not, simply lied when all else failed.

But that’s probably to be expected. Western religions – especially fundamentalist versions – are predicated upon US vs. THEM thinking. For the holier-than-thou the ends always justify the means, even if those means are antithetical to the basic principles of the religion they say they’re following and defending.

Needless to say, when the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on October 10, 2008 that all citizens have the civil right to a civil marriage, the usual cast of characters immediately bellowed their nonsensical rhetoric. James Dobson, the big kahuna of Christian bigotry who, in his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire claimed God would destroy the earth – “as it was in the days of Noah” – if gay people were allowed to marry, regurgitated his usual rant:

Today’s ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court to impose same-sex ‘marriage’ adds another tragic example of runaway judges trampling on citizens’ right to decide public policy for themselves. In doing so, the court has placed the desires of adults over the needs of children, who, social science research proves, do best when they are raised by their married mom and dad living in the same home.

We decry this decision by justices unelected and unaccountable to the people, and will do whatever is necessary to oppose it. Not only have these judges knowingly deprived Connecticut children of a mother or a father, but they have usurped the role of the legislators to create law. … [italics added]

“Impose”? On whom? Does Dobson really think heterosexual men and women will suddenly feel compelled to marry someone of the same sex? That was also the nonsensical notion conservative commentator Bruce Fein posited in 1990 when he wrote, “Crowning homosexual relationships with the solemnity of legal marriage would wrongly send social cues that male-female marriages are not preferable” for anyone considering getting married.

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“Runaway judges.” A slight chance of vocabulary here. Dobson and the rest of the leaders of the Christian Right had previously dubbed them “activist judges” and “black-robed tyrants” except, of course, when they handed down a ruling Dobson et al agreed with, then they were “heroes.”

“The court has placed the desires of adults over the needs of children.” The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on a case involving the rights of adults to marry. They were not hearing a case that involved children. But Dobson et al love to beg the question by injecting “children” into what is a matter involving the civil rights of adults. That’s also the scare tactic – and bogus argument – of choice being used by those campaigning in California to take away an existing civil right by passing Proposition 8, also known as the “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act.” The official title and summary prepared by California’s Attorney General reads as follow



Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.

Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Summary of Legislative Analyst’s Estimate of Net State and Local Government Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly from sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments.

In the long run, likely little fiscal impact on state and local governments.

Who would have thought that in the first decade of the twenty-first century Americans in the populous state would be voting on whether or not to eliminate an existing civil right from some of its citizens. Only bigots want to that, right?

The first definition in the Oxford English Dictionary for “bigot” is “a religious hypocrite.” A “hypocrite” is “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion; a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” A “good Christian” is supposed to tell the truth, right?

The Christian Right’s “Yes on 8” campaign has been flooding Californians’ television screens with ads claiming that if the Proposition fails, kindergarten children will have to be taught about homosexuality and gay marriage. Therefore, people must “protect children” by passing Proposition 8.

A lesson about Prop. 8: Despite what proponents say, its defeat would not change what California's schools teach

Californians tend to be an open-minded crowd that wouldn’t take kindly to a campaign attacking homosexuality or attempting to strip away people's rights. So the well-financed and savvy backers of Proposition 8 have produced waves of advertising aimed instead at making voters believe that supporters of same-sex marriage are intent on stripping away everyone else’s rights, and that this ballot measure is the only way for traditionally religious people to retain them.

With the defeat of this proposed ban on gay marriage, they say, schools would begin indoctrinating children as young as kindergartners to be wholehearted supporters of such marriages. …

This is emotional stuff for many parents. But the dry reality of California education law tells a different story. Under SB 71, which passed in 2003, the Legislature set out the framework for comprehensive sex education, which includes the brief reference to marriage from which these dire Proposition 8 warnings are drawn: "Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships." Schools aren't required to teach comprehensive sex education, but if they do, this is one of many rules they must follow. The law also gives schools the option of discussing gender, sexual orientation and family life, though that's not required as part of the more comprehensive program.

Most important, the law contains paragraph after paragraph guaranteeing parents the right to review the material being taught and to have their children excused from all or any part of it. …

Proposition 8 would change none of that. The measure would do one thing: use the state Constitution as the device to take away an existing, fundamental right from a particular group of people, so that a loving adult in that group could not marry the person of his or her choice. …

On October 21, 2008, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin further exposed the deceptions – and lies – being propagated by the Christian Right:

State Education Officials Slam New Ads For Prop. 8

State education officials spoke out Tuesday against a series of ads released by the “Yes on 8” campaign that claim same-sex marriage would be taught in public schools if the statewide initiative fails. …

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and his predecessor Delaine Eastin spoke out against the campaign today, along with California State Board of Education president Ted Mitchell, saying the proposition is not tied to public schools.

“There is nothing about Prop. 8 that is connected to public education in any way,” Mitchell said. “There is nothing in California state law that would require the teaching of marriage in any of its forms.”

Mitchell said state law allows parents to opt students out of lessons they find to be out of keeping with their personal beliefs. The “Yes on 8” advertisements suggesting that students will be taught about same-sex marriage if the proposition fails are untruthful, he said.

Mitchell said he is “disgusted” by the “Yes on 8” campaign, “in particular this misleading set of advertisements about the impact of Prop. 8 on education. This is political campaigning at its worst,” he said.

According to Ballotpedia.org, the largest contributors to the pro-discrimination “Yes on 8” campaigns in California are all religion-based, so-called “pro-family” organizations:

National Organization for Marriage, $785,750.

James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, $411,000. Don Wildmon’s American Family Association, $500,000 Knights of Columbus, $1,300,000

The “pro-family” lie is among the most offensive. While these organizations claim to be “pro-family,” they do everything in their power to disenfranchise and hurt the families of gay and lesbian Americans. An estimated 52,000 children are being raised by two mothers or two fathers in California.

New York state Justice Lucy Billings said it well when she wrote in her ruling, “When partners manifest the commitment to their relationship and family, by solemnizing that commitment elsewhere, through one of life’s most significant events, and come to New York, whether returning home or setting down roots, to carry on that commitment, nothing is more antithetical to family stability than requiring them to abandon that solemnized commitment.” In that case the legal minions of the Christian Right – the Alliance Defense Fund – were trying to stop the state of New York from giving benefits to same-sex couples and their families. How very “Christian” of them: trying to prevent families from having heathcare.

“Social science research proves [children] do best when they are raised by their married mom and dad living in the same home.” Dobson’s Focus on the Family as well as Don Wildmon’s American Family Association, “Lucky Louie” Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition and Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council have been known to cite as legitimate “social science research” the writings of Paul Cameron, a discredited “psychologist” who was expelled from the American Psychological Association and condemned by the Nebraska Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. Cameron has advocated facial tattoos for AIDS victims and the castration, deportation to a former leper colony, and even the extermination of homosexuals:

At the 1985 Conservative Political Action Conference, Cameron announced to the attendees, “Unless we get medically lucky, in three or four years, one of the options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals.” According to an interview with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Cameron was recommending the extermination option as early as 1983.

– News-Telegraph, March 10, 1995

James Dobson is notorious for misrepresenting legitimate social science research and for ignoring or dismissing academic studies that disprove his arguments, such as that conducted by Dr. Armand Cerbone and the study done by Dr. Virginia Patterson that demonstrate children reared in same-sex households do as well, and sometimes better, than children reared in opposite-sex households. The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, as well as the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, have all stated that the children of same-sex parents develop just as well as those of opposite sex couples and that a parent’s sexual orientation is irrelevant to his or her ability to raise a child.

“Justices unelected and unaccountable to the people.” In many ways that’s a good thing. Judges should not be in the pocket of political parties, nor should they be governed by the whims of public opinion. Civil rights are not a popularity contest. In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all laws barring interracial marriage. A nationwide Gallup in 1968 poll found that 72 percent of Americans opposed interracial marriage and wanted it recriminalized. Should the Court have revered its decision based on popular opinion?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about the marriage issue. He couldn’t understand why gays weren’t happy with “civil unions.” I sent him this article about the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Interesting argument” he replied, but then called civil unions a “magnanimous compromise.” I found those words arrogant and condescendingly offensive. As Richard Just, managing editor of The New Republic, noted, the Connecticut Supreme Court laid “bare the absurd illogic at the heart of civil unions.” Separate but equal always separates, but is never equal. To repeat the obvious: Civil rights are not a popularity contest. And civil unions are not a “magnanimous compromise.”

“Not only have these judges knowingly deprived Connecticut children of a mother or a father.” What is Dobson talking about? All children have a biological mother and a biological father. If he’s referring to the tens of thousands of children awaiting adoption, then he should be attacking their absentee heterosexual, biological parents rather than the same-sex couples who are willing to adopt and give homeless children a loving home.

Often it is divorce that, as Dobson put it, deprives a child of a mother or a father. On September 8, 2004 – during the height of a previous pre-election campaign to “save traditional marriage” – the Barna Group, a Christian marketing-research organization, issued a report titled “Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians.” It documented that “among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.” Barna also documented that “nearly one-quarter of the married ‘born agains’ (23%) get divorced two or more times.” No doubt more than a few of those divorced “born-again” parents had children.

Dobson regurgitated yet another of the Christian Right’s bogus arguments when he claimed the Connecticut Supreme Court “usurped the role of the legislators to create law.” The Court interpreted and ruled based on existing law, in this case the Connecticut state constitution. How does that usurp “the role of the legislators to create law? It doesn’t, no more than judges “create” laws. Legislatures create laws. The courts interpret and rule based on existing laws.

Dobson and the rest of the leaders of the Christian Right never had any legitimate arguments against same-sex marriage. They argue against civil equality based on a cobbled together, jaundiced version of religion. According to Time magazine, James Dobson has absolutely no theological training or credentials. But many of those who do are speaking out against Dobson and the pro-discrimination Christian Right that’s campaigning for a constitution amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Florida, even those such unions are already illegal in that state:

“Hatred and bigotry are the motivations behind this [Amendment 2],” said Father Frank Corbishley, an Episcopal Chaplain at the University of Miami, during a conference call with reporters Thursday [October 16, 2008] morning. “It’s sending a dangerous message about intolerance.” …

“To pass Amendment 2 is to use religion to demonize another human being,” [Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel in Tallahassee] said. “That is simply unjust and immoral.”

“Unjust and immoral.” Pastors in California are saying the same thing, but “unjust and immoral” are indeed appropriate descriptors for Dobson, Perkins, Sheldon and their pseudo-Christian organizations’ campaigns against gay and lesbian Americans. Another appropriate descriptor would be “fanatical, fear-mongering bigots.” Enter Don Wildmon, founder and chairman of the grotesquely misnamed “American Family Association”…

In his latest e-mailed rant, Wildmon once again used “the children” scare tactic and screeched,

Please vote! Our children’s future depends on it!

If the liberals win the upcoming election, America as we have known it will no longer exist. This country that we love, founded on Judeo-Christian values, will cease to exist and will be replaced by a secular state hostile to Christianity. This “city set on a hill” which our forefathers founded, will go dark. The damage will be deep and long lasting. It cannot be turned around in the next election, or the one after that, or by any election in the future. The damage will be permanent. … [italics added]

Love it or not, the United States was not “founded on Judeo-Christian values.” More than a few of America’s Founding Fathers – Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson to name but a few – were Deists, not Christians. Then as now, Deists accept the notion of “a Creator” and respect Jesus as a teacher, but do not believe in the second-hand, politically-motivated “revealed word” attributed to Moses and Old Testament prophets, or New Testament authorities such as Peter, Paul and John.

Moreover, in the eighteenth century Deists and all students of the Enlightenment were particularly skeptical of “God given” dogma created by politically motivated church leaders and propagated by their willing sycophants in political positions. They were also keenly aware of how the bigotry and hate that underwrite theopolitics had ravished Europe. Hence, there is absolutely no mention of “God” in the U.S. Constitution. None. Zero. Nada. In fact, the first treaty entered into by the new United States – completed by John Adams and ratified by the Senate in 1797 – explicitly stated “the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”

“A secular state hostile to Christianity.” America has never been “hostile to Christianity.” What America and all Americans should be is hostile toward is the bastardized version of Christianity Don Wildmon and James Dobson use to further their own self-serving agendas.

Wildmon claimed “this ‘city set on a hill’ which our forefathers founded, will go dark.” Perhaps he was referring to Jerusalem as the “city set on a hill,” but more likely he was referring to Civitate Dei – the "City of God" – a concoction of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.), perhaps the most influential of the early Church dogmatist and the one largely responsible for setting Christianity on its bloody path of “convert them or kill them.” Augustine contrasted his “City of God” with an earthly city. The two roughly equate to the Church Militant (on earth, filled with imperfect people) and the Church Triumphant (in heaven, where everyone is perfected through God's love). Of course, with Augustine’s non-stop emphasis on predestination, not everyone is going to gain entry to the City of God. In Wildmon’s view, only his type of pro-bigotry “Christians” are worth of the City of God. Damn everyone else. The definition of “bigot” again applies.

Ironically, Wildmon’s “city set on a hill” reference has an American counterpart. San Francisco is our city set on a hill by the bay. It shines and welcomes all, especially the disenfranchised… something Jesus was fond of doing. Its mayor had the nerve to stand up to religious bigots and declare all citizens have equal civil rights, including the civil right to a civil marriage. The Pharisee of the Christian Right, true to form, tried to crucify him. But he, his city, and America are moving in another direction: equality for all citizens and their families regardless of their religion, race, or sexual orientation. Wasn’t that supposed to be the promise of America?

Not any more if the Christian Right has its way. They want America to be a theocratic state based on beliefs and superstitions right out of the twelfth century:

“Support for the right of gays to marry is a move against Christians by the homosexual lobby, the devil’s strategy to destroy the church, a confrontation between light and darkness.”

That was the view from the pulpit at a “Protect Marriage” rally on Sunday night [October 19, 2008], hosted by Skyline Church near San Diego. It was beamed via satellite to 170 churches and thousands of voters across California.

In her October 21, 2008 article in the Los Angeles Times, Sandy Banks recorded some of the other statements by “believers” at the Protect Marriage rally at Skyline Church: “‘We love them as people, but it is sin,’ one speaker told the crowd. ‘When same-sex marriage becomes legal, a lot of us become illegal,’” said another.

How same-sex marriage makes anyone “illegal” is beyond me. And the other assertion – “We love them [homosexuals] as people, but it [homosexuality] is sin” – represents the epitome of “Christian” irrational doublespeak. If they “love” homosexuals as people, why are they trying to cause them as much mental, emotional and physical harm as possible?

New findings uncover harms that ballot initiatives and marriage-denial can cause…

Denial of marriage and exposure to negative messages during ballot initiatives affect all gays and lesbians – not just those seeking marriage – say new findings released today by the Sexuality Research and Social Policy journal, a project of the National Sexuality Resource Center.

Three research studies, two of which were to be published in March 2009, came to striking conclusions that moved the authors to release the data early. Findings show that same-sex couples want marriage more than other forms of partnership; that exposure to negative messages in states in which marriage amendments are on ballots negatively impact all lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons; and that the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships creates fears for and uncertainty about the future among lesbian and gay persons – both single and coupled.

The outcomes of marriage amendment votes may have an impact beyond just restrictive legislation; they may serve to alienate persons from democratic participation and serve to impair public health. “The absence of recognition for same-sex relationships conveys a sense of second-class citizenship and a stress associated with such an unwelcomed status,” concludes journal editor and contributor Dr. Brian deVries. “All gay, lesbian and bisexual persons – not just those who want to get married – can experience negative impacts when initiatives like this get put on the ballot.”

Without marriage, the choices of committed same-sex couples are not necessarily or automatically respected. Brian deVries’ article, “State Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships and Preparations for End of Life among Lesbian and Gay Boomers,” established that without marriage, fears of the future and one’s independence for gay men and lesbians far exceed national averages. In states in which same-sex relationships are not formally or legally recognized, gay men and lesbians were more likely to have created a will and living will. They were also more likely to report fearing a death in pain, and fear of discrimination at the end of their lives because of their sexual orientation. These effects were evident for both coupled and single gay men and lesbians – an important finding highlighting the role that relationship recognition has on one’s sense of well-being as lesbian or gay person whether or not one is in a relationship.

· Negative messages become even more pronounced during state elections in which there is voting on constitutional amendments that restrict marriage rights. “Marriage Amendments and Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Citizens in The 2006 Election,” by Ellen D.B. Riggle, Sharon S. Rostosky, and Sharon Horne, reveals that lesbian, gay and bisexual persons report higher levels of exposure to negative messages about lesbian and gay issues with associated higher levels of reported negative affect, stress and depressive symptoms. Anti-gay and lesbian and marriage initiatives have a negative impact on the well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual state residents. Lesbian, gay and bisexual state residents report increased political participation and increased voting behaviors, and simultaneous feelings of political alienation. …

One survey respondent decried effects of initiatives, saying that “These amendments make you feel like less of a person. They make you a second class citizen and make it seem that you aren’t worthy of having the same rights as other people,” and NSRC Director Gil Herdt agrees, “The physical and mental health benefits of marriage for heterosexual adults have been firmly established – benefits derived, at least in part, from the tangible resources, federal benefits and legal protections offered to spouses by society. Clearly, society favors marriage over other forms of intimate relationships – and all gays and lesbians suffer without it.”

Is that what Jesus would want? Is that what America is all about now? Schadenfreude?

Sandy Banks also noted something else most telling: “The loudest applause came when action hero Chuck Norris appeared by video: ‘I’m angry that four judges overturned the will of the people.’ He lauded Proposition 8 for ‘maintaining the union between man and woman’ and promoted his book, ‘Black Belt Patriotism,’ featuring a photo of him clad in martial arts gear” [italics added].

Chuck Norris? What are his credentials, academically or theologically, to be an “authority” on these matters?

But his promotional video appearance did confirm one thing: the business of religion and theopolitics IS the business of hate and bigotry. A marriage made in hell.

Will America embrace religion-based bigotry or reason-based equality?

We’ll know on November 4, 2008.

If religion-based bigotry wins the day in California and Florida, you might want to ask yourself, “What group will be next to be singled out and targeted,” and then recall the words of Rev. Martin Niemoeller.
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Comments (3)add comment

Ratgirl said:

Very well-written article. But the "city on a hill" allusion was most likely to John Winthrop's sermon (I believe on the ship Arbella) in which he said the Puritans came to New England to found such a city for the glory of God.

As you so aptly point out, however, the founders of the republic wanted no such theocratic nonsense and founded a country not at all based on what the Puritan Calvinists had in mind, but rather on Enlightenment ideals. God bless 'em!

Penny Culliton
Temple, NH
November 03, 2008 | url
Votes: +0

HollywoodKen said:

Nice job!
Beautifully written and intelligent article on a complex issue. Well, not that complex. Simple to most of us, but complex to those who choose arrogance over ethics. As you now know, people chose religion-based reason, a slap in the face to the principals of our founding fathers. But it's done wonders for the gay community, which has since organized and come together in a way not seen since the AIDS-driven activism of the early '90s. It's actually been a good thing for us, since now we are motivated and pissed. And that's a very good combination to bring change about.
November 17, 2008 | url
Votes: +0

qk23Amelia said:

Usually different persons do know the correct way to accomplish the already written essays. But if you’re not master paper writer, you will have to seek the trustworthy order an essay service to buy your term paper with the goal to show your writing ability.
January 08, 2010 | url
Votes: +0

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