Monday, February 1, 2016

In the News: ACLU and Colleges Discriminating Against LGBT Students; Anti-LGBT Bills in State Legislatures; Pakistan Censors Gay Times Photo; Anglican Leaders Out of Touch; Dancing Priests and Nuns in Italy

Here's an omnium gatherum of stuff — related in my strange head, but perhaps it won't appear that way to you — that has caught my magpie's sharp eye in recent news: 

1. In December, I posted information about reports that were circulating at that time, showing that a growing number of church-affiliated colleges and universities have covertly applied for "right-to-discriminate" exemptions from federal guidelines prohibiting discrimination in institutions receiving federal funds. As I noted, though the majority of these colleges and universities are Southern Baptist ones, a number of Catholic schools, including Belmont Abbey College, at which Steve and I used to teach, have applied for such "right-to-discriminate" exemptions.

This discussion continues. As Ian Thompson reports several days ago, the ACLU thinks LGBT students have a right to know whether their college or university has applied for such "right-to-discriminate" exemptions, and is calling on the federal government to publicize the names of institutions applying for these exemptions.

2. At a state level in the U.S., the anti-LGBT bills, "religious freedom" ones and others, continue to proliferate. At SlateMark Joseph Stern reports about what's going on in Oklahoma right now, where state legislator Sally Kern, wife of a Southern Baptist minister, has cooked up some "fascinatingly cruel" proposals, one of which would punish LGBT young people who are depressed and suicidal from seeking a gay-affirming therapist.

3. Did you see last week's New York Times front-page photo of a gay couple in China who have filed a pioneering marriage-equality lawsuit? Well, you certainly didn't see it if you live in Pakistan and bought the Times there, as Natasha Norman reports for

4. As I noted here recently a number of times, the Anglican Communion chose, at its Primates 2016 meeting, to slap at the Episcopal Church USA for supporting marriage equality. As Harriet Sherwood reports for The Guardian, a poll conducted following the primates' meeting shows the top leaders of the Anglican Communion (and the Church of England) seriously out of touch with the views of the people in the pews in England. The poll shows 45% of people who define themselves as Church of England members approving of same-sex marriage, and 37% thinking it is wrong. As Sherwood notes, "The lowest levels of support for same-sex marriage – 24% – were found among Anglican men over the age of 55, a group that dominates the church leadership."

5. And speaking of the Anglican church's own version of emangelization: Candida Moss has wonderful commentary at Daily Beast right now about the lumbersexual look being adopted by some Church of England priests, with the blessing of the bishop of London, ostensibly to appeal to the largely Islamic culture in which these priests minister. As Moss notes, given how frequently beards have been praised over the course of Christian history by church leaders or theologians touting male power and privilege and putting women down, church leaders might want to take a second look at a trend that could communicate to many people their support for (heterosexual) male dominance and power more than reaching out to people of non-Christian cultures and religions.

6. They marched. They sang. They congaed. Italians demonstrating on behalf of "the" family did all that this past weekend, that is to say, in a huge demonstration at the Circus Maximus in Rome to which dioceses across Italy bussed folks in some 1,500 chartered busses, according to Tom Kington in Los Angeles Times

Though the Circus can hold about 350,000 people and it was not entirely full according to many reports online, the conference organizers and right-wing websites put the attendance at 2,000,000, while various journalistic sources (see, e.g., Greg Botelho and Barbie Latza Nadeau at CNN) state that "a survey of the crowd suggests a far lower figure, perhaps tens of thousands."

At CruxJohn Allen (never one to yield an inch to gay rights) chooses to see the demonstration as an assertion of lay Catholic self-expression, though as MarkWilliam notes in response, this interpretation totally overlooks the organizing role played by the church itself in the event. Did I mention those 1,500 busses chartered by dioceses around the country?

As the widely circulated photos of congaing priests and dancing nuns at the event also signal to us: the church certainly played a significant role in organizing this event, even when it sought to do so behind the scenes and on the sly . . . . A curious thing I noticed in all the photo coverage of dancing priests and nuns at the event: all the nuns danced with other nuns and other women, since, heaven forfend, they could hardly dance with a man, now could they?

And if that doesn't underscore the strange sick irony of the Catholic understanding of "the" family and human sexuality, with its loud insistence that male tab A fits in female slot B, and every child needs a mother and a father, and it's all complementary and mystically symbolic in its neat mathematical befittingness, and God jubilates in what a man and a woman do in the sanctitiy of their marital boudoir while "He" is sickened by the thought of same-sex intimacy, etc., etc., I don't know what does!

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