Saturday, October 11, 2008

News of the Week: Sally's Baaack; Church of the Two Kevins, etc.

Strands that connect to topics I’ve discussed earlier this week:

There’s a lot more evidence of (and commentary about) the hate now bubbling around through the Palin-McCain rallies this past week. I won’t link to the articles, since readers can easily retrieve them through web searches.

In a way, I’m conflicted about even giving attention to them. A superstitious part of me feels that noticing rising social hatred, and pointing out its possibility to elicit actual violence, actually help feed the hatred.

On the other hand, when the sub rosa hatred that is always there in any society claims an open hearing in the rhetoric of people vying for the highest offices in the land, how can one justify not speaking out? There are too many clear historical precedents that show us how little it takes to produce actual physical violence, once such hate unmasks itself and comes out into the open,

If now is not the time to speak out, when will that time be?

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Connecticut legalized gay marriage yesterday. It is now the third state to recognize the right of gay citizens to marry. Commentary on the state supreme court decision to equalize marriage rights in Connecticut notes that the majority opinion recognizes that the decision to withhold marriage rights from gay citizens is inherently discriminatory ( Withholding the right of marriage from gays continues historic structures of discrimination that turn gays into second-class citizens. The court notes that the tendency of American jurisprudence is to keep extending rights over the course of history to groups shut out of the structures of participatory democracy by unjust discrimination, including people of color and women.

I’m disappointed to hear that Republican governor M. Jodi Rell disagreed with her state’s supreme court decision, noting, "I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut.” In looking at Rell’s biography, I find she was born in Virginia in 1946. She was educated in Virginia.

She’s roughly my contemporary. Like me, Governor Rell came of age in a Southern state during the Civil Rights crisis. It cannot have escaped her attention that the majority of citizens in her state, as in mine, as in all Southern states, bitterly resisted the rights of African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s.

We had to be brought kicking and screaming into the land of liberty and justice for all. We had to be forced to do the right thing. It took the U.S. Supreme Court to make us begin to reconsider our longstanding history of discrimination.

Equal rights for all should not be determined by popular vote. They should be determined by fundamental principles that are essential to the constitution of a humane body politic. They should be defended by courts even when those rights are not popular with the majority—defended because it is right to defend equality in a society based on the contention that all people are created equal.

Governor Rell should know this, from her experience growing up in the South in the Civil Rights period. I am disappointed that she defends a denial of equal rights in the case of gay citizens that I doubt she would any longer defend in the case of African-American citizens.

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Two more U.S. Catholic bishops have come out this week. That is, have come out overtly for the Republican ticket in the coming election.

Whispers in the Loggia blog today reports on a joint pastoral letter released yesterday by the bishops of Dallas-Ft. Worth, Kevin Farrell and Kevin Vann ( The two Kevins argue that a “vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or 'abortion rights' when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil -- and, therefore, [is] morally impermissible."

As American Catholics have learned, this is codespeak for, “Good Catholics vote Republican.” I’ve long been appalled that Catholic bishops are willing to pimp for candidates who in key respects betray central Catholic values. The “pro-life” record of the candidates some bishops have promoted in election after election is abysmal. It completely contradicts the claim that the party being endorsed by the bishops is authentically pro-life.

Since we have sufficient evidence now that the candidates for whom some bishops have been pimping have absolutely no intent to be pro-life, why do bishops like the two Kevins keep up the pro-Republican game? Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that they do so because some of the “values” of the candidates they’re promoting—including some of the most dubious of those candidates’ “values”—are actually more in line with what bishops like the two Kevins really want than are gospel values. “Values” like the subordination of women to men. “Values” like the subordination of secular society to church control. “Values” like the racism that is at the dark heart of those screams to kill Obama at recent Palin rallies.

To say I am disappointed in bishops like the two Kevins would be an understatement. I’m repulsed by them. Ultimately, I am repulsed most of all because they are willingly informing a large number of good, conscientious Catholic voters that we are not welcome in the Church of the Two Kevins. That Church is Republican, thank you very much. Democrats need not apply.

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I reported earlier this week that the city of Orlando has just extended benefits to partners of city workers living in same-sex unions. I also reported (in my posting about “Camp Out”) about one church that is seeking to provide safe places, sanctuary, in which LGBT youth can deal with questions of sexual orientation without fear.

As a follow-up to both of those postings, I’m happy to note an article in today’s Daytona Beach News Journal which highlights a gay-affirming fraternity at Embry Riddle University ( The article reports that Delta Phi Lambda fraternity on the campus of this Florida aeronautical school welcomes gay members.

Embry Riddle’s decision to allow safe spaces for LGBT students is not without a price. As the report indicates, after news of the fraternity broke (as well as news that the school had begun a Gay-Straight Alliance and had celebrated National Coming Out Week), at least one angry parent called to say that he/she did not want “gay things” going on at the university.

Despite the anger of that parent, the school’s administrators continue to support these gay-affirming developments on the campus. I applaud their courage. During the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, it was often not easy to do the right thing. It is not easy today, in the midst of the struggle for equal rights for gay Americans. When university administrators defend the core values of civil society in the face of prejudiced pressure groups, they deserve our admiration and support.

The right thing remains right, even when people exert pressure to make us betray our instinct for fundamental human decency. Young people moving towards adult identity deserve safe spaces in which to claim their adult identity. They deserve good adult role models to guide and counsel them. This is a large part of what college education is about: adult role models helping emerging adults find their way in the world, their unique identities, their calling in life.

Just as universities provide countless support groups for students of every background imaginable, they have a responsibility to offer support and safety to LGBT students. After all, parents who do not want such support offered to their youth can always find universities that still engage in overt discrimination. Church-owned schools have tested their legal right to discriminate on religious grounds in the courts. Surely there are such schools around for those angry Embry Riddle parents to find, if an environment of discrimination is what they want for their young people.

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Speaking of discrimination, I haven’t mentioned Oklahoma state legislator Sally Kern in a while. As readers will recall, Kern was in the news earlier this year when someone attending a secret meeting she held with supporters leaked audiotape of the meeting to the media. The tape has Kern stating that gay people are a greater threat to America than terrorists.

Kern is back in the news. This week, she held a debate with opponent Ron Marlett, in which she sticks to her guns ( She continues to promote her claim that gay citizens pose a greater threat to the United States than terrorists. She backs this astonishing claim with statistics: terrorists have 3,000 people in the U.S. in the last 15 years; gays have killed 100,000.

Kern is, readers will recall, the wife of a Baptist minister. And she’s an educator. Her opponent Ron Marlett finds her ideas “chilling.”

Indeed. Question for Governor M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut: after listening to Sally Kern, do you have second thoughts about wanting to submit the rights of some marginalized citizens to popular vote? Question for the bishops of the Church of the Two Kevins: is this kind of hatefulness—in the name of Christ—really what you want us to support by our votes?

As always, just asking.