Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NCR Contributor: "The Law in Russia Is Actually Quite Moderate"; Steve Benen: "The Crackdown in Russia Is Stunning in Its Scope"

One of the United States's leading Catholic newspapers, the National Catholic Reporter, has permitted a contributor to a discussion thread to inform her fellow Catholics that Russia and nations in Africa want to criminalize homosexuality in order to protect children from an abuse by rich gay Western men that is not happening. The same Catholic newspaper has allowed this Catholic blogger to tell her fellow Catholics that the anti-gay laws now eliciting serious violence against gay citizens of Russia are benign, and are all about protecting young people from sexual abuse by gays:

The law in Russia is actually quite moderate. There is a fine of less than $200 (depending on currency fluctuations) for discussing homosexuality with a minor. This includes propositioning a minor, showing a minor homosexual pornography, telling a minor homosexual acts are OK. 
I do not think this is a bad law. Just leave kids alone. There is no good reason to be messing with a kid. Ever. Any kid. Even in the USA, people get very annoyed if you pester their kids. Kids don't have good judgement and they are vulnerable to exploitation. 
Homosexual acts between consenting adults are legal in Russia.

But in the larger world--the real world--beyond the walls of Catholic parochialism in which outright homophobic lies are still casually taken for granted (while similar lies told about any other targeted minority group would quickly be removed from the threads of Catholic blog sites), here's what credible witnesses are saying about events in Russia right now:

The crackdown on gay rights on Russia is stunning in its scope, and offers a reminder that Russia "remains a country where discrimination and even violence against gay people are widely tolerated." But while much of the West has condemned Vladimir Putin's new efforts, the offensive is not without American backers. 
Voice of Russia is the government's official international radio broadcasting service, and last week, it ran a report touting comments from the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, a prominent leader of the religious right movement here in the U.S., who spoke to VOR at some length.

Fischer, whose American Family Association has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, tells VOR that Russia is being homorealistic rather than homophobic in enacting laws targeting its gay citizens, because gays are diseased and must be kept from impressionable young people, since "heterosexuality is God's design." As Benen notes, also in bed with Fischer in praising the Russian laws making life hell on earth for those who are gay are the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, the World Congress of Families (which has decided to hold its 2014 conference in the Kremlin), and Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries, also classified by SPLC as a hate group.

If the preceding list of religious right activists who are gleeful about the violence now sweeping over the lives of gay Russians, and who have long engaged in hate speech designed to promote violence against those who are gay, makes you wonder why a leading Catholic publication permits that same hate speech to stand on its blog threads, you're right to wonder. 

The only possible conclusion that can be drawn when a journal like NCR allows a Catholic to defend what Russia is doing to its gay citizens while she spreads toxic homophobic lies is that NCR is not intently concerned about such homophobic hate speech and its effects. It's impossible to avoid that conclusion when NCR can and does censor comments--as it did when I left comments some weeks back stating that the top leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are owned lock, stock, and barrel by the GOP and its super-rich handlers. Those comments were expunged from the NCR site. 

But hateful lies about gay human beings, which make gay folks susceptible to violence? They are allowed to stand at NCR. Along with defenses (attended by lies) of countries deliberately targeting those who are gay and precipitating serious violence against their gay citizens . . . .

I am nauseated at the approval I am seeing from certain religious circles over Russia's crackdown on its gay citizens.  
Did you know: that if a child knows you're gay, you can be prosecuted? 
Did you know: gay pride parades, festivals, and education of any kind is prosecutable? 
Did you know: that any kind of "openness" about one's sexuality- if it is not heterosexual- will be prosecuted? 
Being honest about who one is at all, under the terms of this new legislation, is a crime. 
Supporters say that they are "protecting children." In reality, they are teaching children that it is OK to treat someone badly because of who they are.

And more: here's historian Joseph Pearson of New York University, at his The Needle blog:

Russia’s laws are not the same as the Nazi Nuremburg laws. The former outlaw the visibility of homosexuality in literature and public life, the latter deprived Jewish-Germans of citizenship and legal protection. But they are similar in the way that they socially exclude a long-suffering minority. You don’t need to be a historian to be suspicious of broad comparisons with the Nazis, used conveniently to counter your opponents, but in this case I think careful parallels are quite justified. We should all be wary of where hate legislation might lead.

As Aravosis points out, when groups of human rights activists in many places called for a boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics because of what Germany was doing to its Jewish citizens, the International Olympics Committee chairman Count Henri Baillet-Latour stated that human rights activists were lying about what was going on in Germany. He added that no one should curb the freedom of individuals to decide how they want to respond to situations like the one that had developed in Germany--about which the world would become critically and definitively aware when the carnage of the concentration camps was finally filmed following the end of the war. But about which many people already knew by 1935 . . . .

We who are Catholic today have quite a burden of conscience because of our failure to see, as the situation in Germany developed--the failure of many of us to see--what was really happening there. And because of our refusal to speak out and our refusal--the refusal of many of us--to push back against the kind of hate speech in which some of our fellow Catholics like Father Charles Coughlin engaged in that tragic period of history.

Some days, I think we're not very intent on learning from our history, we who are Catholic.

(My thanks to Thom Curnutte for the link to the article by Professor Joseph Pearson.)

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