Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Freedom From Religion Foundation sues over prayer at inauguration
Samara Kalk Derby — 12/30/2008 5:52 am
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing to stop prayer from being part of the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.
The Madison-based foundation, its co-presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor and several of its members are among the 29 co-plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit, Newdow vs. Roberts, filed Monday by attorney Michael Newdow in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit seeks to stop the Presidential Inaugural Committee from sponsoring prayers at the official inauguration.
The 34-page legal complaint said for most of the country's history, clergy has not led prayers at inaugurations.
Similarly, the lawsuit seeks to stop U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts from using the religious phrase, "so help me God," in the presidential oath of office.
Roberts is among the defendants, along with inaugural committee officials -- such as chairperson Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- and Revs. Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery, who have been invited to deliver the invocation and benediction.
"Interlarding those ceremonies with clergy who espouse sectarian religious dogma does not unite, but rather divides, our citizenry," Newdow's complaint reads. "Similarly, instead of instilling confidence in our governmental structure, it tears at the very foundation upon which that structure is built."
This is Newdow's third lawsuit over the issue, so Gaylor said she is not holding her breath about getting the court to agree in time for the inauguration.
"But even if we don't get the injunction, it is also asking to have a judge declare this practice unconstitutional," Gaylor said. "The lawsuit could continue after the inauguration. We think we should win. Whether we will win in today's current climate, I don't know."
Of the nation's 57 public presidential inaugurations, Newdow pointed out, 39 were devoid of clergy-led prayers and only 18, spanning the last 72 years, have included them.
The notion that "so help me God" was added to the presidential oath by George Washington is a myth, Newdow said. Not until 1881 can the first use of "so help me God" as an addition to the presidential oath be traced. The phrase was apparently used only intermittently until 1933, according to the complaint. That unauthorized alteration has been used by the Chief Justice since then.
The complaint points out that the Bible that is traditionally used in the inauguration, not only calls atheists fools, but says atheists as blasphemers should be put to death, Gaylor said.
"There is good reason for those of us who are nonreligious to be offended by the Bible, by God being brought up at an official inauguration," she said.
Gaylor takes great joy in naming Rev. Warren in the lawsuit, knowing that he will be served.
"There's been a great deal of concern about the unsuitability of his selection for the invocation and we concur wholeheartedly. But we think it's unsuitable for any clergy to pray at the inauguration," Gaylor said.
"We are First Amendment purists. It's not just that we think he is politically incorrect. It doesn't really matter which clergy you have. They have all been Christian since this became a custom in 1933. And that is exclusionary to those of us who aren't Christian, to those of us who aren't religious," she said.
"We aren't against free speech, but what we are against is religion in government, and we are against the constitution being meddled with," she said.
It was significant that the Founding Fathers chose to put the entire oath of office for the president into the Constitution, Gaylor said, noting that a lot of people don't realize it's in there.
"And yet the first action we see Inauguration Day is to have that Constitution basically violated by a religious oath," she said.
Gaylor said it is fine for the president-elect to have clergy pray over him in a ceremony when he becomes president, but it shouldn't be done publicly. It should be done at a private inaugural event and be privately paid for, she said.
"We think it is very important to keep our nation secular," she said.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national association of atheists and agnostics that has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
...if we must have an officiating priest, let it be some dignified old hypocrite with no factional allegiance and not a tree-shaking huckster and publicity seeker who believes that millions of his fellow citizens are hellbound because they do not meet his own low and vulgar standards.
There seemed to be no end to Mr. Bush’s talent for destruction. He tried to hand the piggy bank known as Social Security over to the marauders of the financial sector, but saner heads prevailed.
Yes, imagine if Bush had gotten his wish and "privatized " social security. Then comes the implosion of the U.S. economy. Presto! We would then have the end of the safety network for our seniors.
Herbert continues on Bush:
When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don’t think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country.
Damage indeed! Bush is a war criminal and he and his vice president, and that creep Rumsfeld should be prosecuted and jailed.
Monday, December 29, 2008
This is the Waterworks Cafe restaurant with the Cira Center Building in the background. The Cira building has display lighting all year long, but the holiday colors are particularly pretty. The Cira building is actually on the other side of the Schuylkill River from this vantage point. We having dinner with friends at the historic Waterworks restaurant on New Year's Eve Eve, and staying home giving a friend dinner on New Year's Eve.
"President Elect Obama, your victory was made possible in no small part to the votes and wallets of the gay and lesbian community along with our supporters. Turning your back on us does not make you more mainstream American. It just makes you a coward."
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Warren’s defamation of gay people illustrates why, as does ourpresident-elect’s rationalization of it. When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a “viewpoint” defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
A bitter recession is not the most opportune time to ratchet up the price of energy. But if the Obama administration is to meet its twin objectives of reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and cutting its emissions of greenhouse gases, it needs to start thinking now about mechanisms to curb the nation’s demand for energy when the economy emerges from recession in the future. This also would serve as a signal to American automakers and American drivers that the era of cheap gasoline is not going to last.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
by Jeff Goode (Californian)
About a decade ago, as a young playwright, I was hired to write a script for the Renaissance Festival of Kansas City. It was a period piece about knights and jousts and intrigues of the court, building up to a lavish royal wedding between a prince and a princess, restoring peace to the troubled land.This was one of my first professional writing assignments, so I was really excited about doing all the research and making sure that everything was historically accurate, especially the royal wedding which needed to follow all the traditions exactly.Over a summer of research, I learned a lot of surprising facts about the history of marriage and weddings, but by far the most shocking discovery of all was that the tradition of marriage-as-we-know-it simply did not exist in those days. Almost everything we have come to associate with marriage and weddings - the white dress, the holy vows, the fancy cake and the birdseed - dates back a mere 50 or 100 years at the most. In many cases less.And the handful of traditions that do go back farther than that are, frankly, horrifying. The tossing of the garter, for example, evolved from a 14th Century tradition of ripping the clothing off of the bride's body as she left the ceremony in order to "loosen her up" for the wedding night. Wedding guests fought over the choicest bits of undergarment, with the garter being the greatest prize. Savvy brides got in the habit of carrying extra garters in their bodice to throw to the male guests in hopes of escaping the ceremony with some shred of modesty intact!It turns out that marriage, in days of old, was a barbaric custom which was little more than a crude exchange of livestock at it's most civilized, and a little less than ritualized abduction at it's worst. That's why you'll find no reference to white weddings in the Bible, or the union of one man and one woman. Because up until fairly recently, there was nothing religious about it.You will of course find plenty of biblical bigamy, practiced by even the most godly of heroes - Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon - because that's what marriage was in those days. Even in more enlightened New Testament times, the only wedding worth mentioning (the one at Cana) is notable only for the miraculous amount of wine consumed.In the 21st Century, we've heard a lot about the sanctity of marriage, as if that were something that has been around forever, but in reality the phrase was invented in 2004. Google it for yourself and see if you can find a single reference to the "sanctity of marriage" before the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions in that state. The proverbial Sanctity of Marriage sprang into being because opponents of gay marriage needed a logical reason to overturn an established legal precedent. And the only thing that trumps the Constitution is God himself. Unfortunately, God is still pretty new to the whole marriage game (or he might have made an honest woman out of the Virgin Mary, am I right? Try the veal!)The truth is that marriage has always been more a secular tradition rather than a religious one. Up until the early Renaissance, in fact, couples were traditionally married on the church's front doorstep, because wedding ceremonies were considered too vulgar to be performed inside the building: After all, there was implied sex in the vows and shameless public displays of affection. No clergyman in his right mind would have allowed such an unholy abomination on the premises.But as times changed, ideas and attitudes about marriage also changed. So when people became religious, matrimony became holy. When people became nudists, clothing became optional. And so on throughout history.And the wonderful thing about the institution of marriage - the reason it has remained strong and relevant through thousands of years of ever-changing times - is its unique ability to change with those times.Marriage is, and always has been, a constantly evolving tradition that never fails to incorporate the latest shifts in culture and climate, changing social habits, fashions and even fads. (Because, seriously, that chicken dance is not in the Bible.)Thus, in the 1800s when the sole purpose of marriage was procreation and housekeeping, marriage between an older man and a hard-working tween girl was considered perfectly normal. Today we call it pedophilia.For thousands of years marriage was essentially a business transaction between the parents of the bride and groom. But in the last century or so, we've finally seen the triumph of this new-fangled notion that marriage should be about a loving relationship between two consenting adults.Followers of the Mormon faith can tell you that the traditions of their forefathers included a devout belief that polygamy was appropriate and sanctified. But modern Mormons generally don't support that vision of happiness for their daughters.And during the Civil Rights era, when opponents of interracial marriage tried to pass laws making such couples illegal, we came to realize that they, too, were wrong in trying to redefine marriage to prevent those newfound relationships.Always marriage has triumphed by becoming a timely celebration of our society, rather than a backlash against it. It's strange, then, to see "tradition" used as a weapon against change, when change is the source of all its greatest traditions. Just ask the white dress:In 1840, Queen Victoria of England married Prince Albert wearing a beautiful white lace dress - in defiance of tradition - in order to promote the sale of English lace! The image was so powerful that practically overnight the white wedding gown became de rigueur for the well-heeled bride. And then it became de rigueur for every bride.By the dawn of the 20th Century, the white dress had also inexplicably come to symbolize chastity. (Even though blue was traditionally the color of virginity - "something borrowed, something blue...")And the new equation of white with virginity eventually achieved such a rigid orthodoxy that older readers may remember a time when wedding guests who happened to know that the bride was not perfectly pure would have felt a moral obligation to demand that she change into something off-white before walking down the aisle.Fortunately, as cultural norms eased during the Sexual Revolution, a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" policy took hold where all brides were required to wear white regardless of their virtue and the less said about it the better.In recent years, as a generation of divorcees have remarried and a generation of young people have entered wedlock with some degree of "experience", the pretense of a connection between literal virginity and the bridal gown has become entirely obsolete. A colorful journey for a custom which has always seemed iron clad, even as it was evolving over time.And not all traditions have to do with changing sexual standards. The long-time custom of pelting the newlyweds with birdseed did not exist before the 1970s when animal-lovers realized that songbirds were bloating on dried rice that they found on the ground after the former custom.Economic times have caused families to rethink the age-old convention of the bride's father paying for the entire ceremony - a last vestige of the days of dowries when a young man had to be bribed to take a free-loading daughter off her parents' hands - that well-established custom has gradually given way to a more humane approach to sharing the financial burden.Even religious traditions of marriage have experienced constant metamorphosis over the years. As more interfaith couples have wed, we have seen the emergence of multi-disciplinary ceremonies where couples have chosen not to follow the out-dated tradition of rejecting one or both of their faiths as a prerequisite of holy matrimony.One of the most beautiful weddings I ever attended was between a young Jewish fellow and his Catholic fiancé, whose mother was born in France. The ceremony was performed by both a rabbi and a priest with intertwining vows in English, Latin, Hebrew and French. A perfect expression of the union of their two families, yet one which would have been unthinkable just a generation before.But, again, marriage has such a long history of changing with the ever-changing times, that the last thing we should expect from it is to stop growing and changing. We know today that marriage is not a rote ritual handed down by God to Adam & Eve and preserved verbatim for thousands of years. It is, rather, an expression of how each community, each culture, and each faith, chooses to celebrate the joining of loved ones who have decided to make a life together.Christians do not expect Jesus to be central to a Buddhist wedding, nor do Jews refuse to acknowledge Lutheran unions because they didn't include a reading from the Torah. Marriage is what we each make of it. And that's the way it always should be.Perhaps the greatest irony of the traditional marriage argument is that it seeks to preserve a singular tradition that has, in fact, never existed at any point in history.Because, honestly, which traditional definition of marriage do we want our Constitution to protect?* The one from Book of Genesis when family values meant multiple wives and concubines?* Or the marriages of the Middle Ages when women were traded like cattle and weddings were too bawdy for church?* Since this is America, should we preserve marriage as it existed in 1776 when arranged marriages were still commonplace?* Or the traditions of 1850 when California became a state and marriage was customarily between one man and one woman-or-girl of age 11 and up?* Or are we really seeking to protect a more modern vision of traditional marriage, say from the 1950s when it was illegal for whites to wed blacks or hispanics?* Or the traditional marriage of the late 1960s when couples were routinely excommunicated for marrying outside their faith?No, the truth of the matter is, that we're trying to preserve traditional marriage the way it "was and always has been" during a very narrow period in the late 70s / early 80s - just before most of us found out that gays even existed: Between one man and one woman of legal age and willing consent. Regardless of race or religion (within reason). ...Plus the chicken dance and the birdseed. Those are okay.But there's something profoundly disturbing about amending the Constitution to define anything about the 1970s as "the way God intended it."
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
From today's New York Times:
Dan Doubleday, who had 22 years on the job, broke down in the plant’s snowy parking lot afterward. I was a fork lift driver,” he said, glancing at his watch through welling tears. “Until about seven minutes ago.”
“For a while we had it made,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “I just wish it would have lasted.”
And perhaps it could have lasted, if America was not first and foremost a country where the god of unfettered market capitalism, run on the backs of workers for the benefit of greedy executives and shareholders, is worshipped. No, we don't want Socialism here. We don't want the workers to have any say, any input into production and the way corporations are managed. Socialism comes though, in the end, in the form of billions of dollars in government bailouts, except that the bailouts go to the corporations, not the workers.
Wake up America!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
"I think Rick Warren's comments, comparing same-sex relationships to incest, is deeply offensive, wildly inaccurate, and very socially disruptive," Frank said. "And I'm glad he is talking to the Muslims. I'm glad everybody's talking to everybody. We're not here talking about not having conversations. We're talking about singling somebody out for a great honor. And I think the president-elect made a serious mistake in doing that."
Frank thinks that Obama overestimates his own ability to charm the right wing into being nice and being cooperative. I think Barney is right and Obama is deluded. But Obama is not alone. Andrew Sullivan, and even Melissa Ethridge think we ought to be talking nice with bigot Warren and his ilk. Do we never learn?
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
QUESTION 2: Same-sex marriage. Do you support the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry? Do you think it's appropriate that Rick Warren, who campaigned to ban gay marriage, is delivering the invocation at Obama's inauguration? If not, have you expressed that to the president-elect?
ANSWER: "Caroline supports full equality and marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples."
Saturday, December 20, 2008
"Think of the fate of the young Catholic boy who, early in adolescence, begins to figure out his sexuality and discovers, to his dismay, that he is totally oriented towards other boys and men. His church tells him over and over again that he is intrinsically morally disordered and that it is a mortal sin to engage in anything other than marital heterosexual sex. The church commands a life of celibacy and physical isolation for him..."
Art Leonard blogging about the movie "Doubt" nicely sums up the way I was brought up in a good Catholic household, and taught that I was not normal and a sinner. It took me many years to overcome the damage done by the Catholics. It bred in me a genuine hatred of all religion.
“I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” Bishop Robinson said, “but we’re not talking about a discussion, we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”
Obama doesn't care, Bishop Robinson. Obama is a politician and this is a calculated political move. The gay community needs to understand this in terms of politics and respond to it in a political fashion. The best way to do that is to light such a fire under Obama that this sort of political calculation (the gays will just have to swallow this) is too costly for him to make in the future.
Friday, December 19, 2008
For Obama, gay people remain the only remaining minority that it's still OK to demonize. I find this outrageous. I won't be watching the Obama inauguration. Gay people should not participate. The gay and lesbian marching band that is supposed to march in the inaugural parade should stay home. The gay community should rise up in anger over this. For the gay community there should be anti-Rick Warren demonstrations on inauguration day, not celebrations.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Is there someplace on the web that has the opinions, thoughts and ideas of real auto workers? How about the non-union folks that everyone seems to be jabbering about working in the South? How's that working out?
"President-elect Obama campaigned on a theme of inclusivity, yet the selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation is a direct affront to that very principle. This was a divisive choice, and clearly not one that will help our country come together and heal. We urge President-elect Obama to withdraw his invitation to Rick Warren and instead select a faith leader who embraces fairness, equality and the ideals the president-elect himself has called the nation to uphold."
"It is appalling that President-elect Barack Obama would invite California Pastor Rev. Rick Warren, an ardent supporter of Prop 8 and someone who is opposed to the equality of LGBT Americans, to give the invocation at his inauguration. It is a slap in the face to the millions of LGBT Americans who supported his historic candidacy. Would President-Elect Obama invite someone to give the invocation who supported eliminating the civil rights of a minority other than the LGBT community? Of course he wouldn't!"President-elect Obama should immediately rescind this invitation. It would be impossible for any self-respecting LGBT person to be expected to participate in the inauguration where a vocal opponent of our equality is given such a prominent role."EQCA is asking its members to sign the following petition to President-elect Barack Obama at www.eqca.org/takeaction: Dear President-Elect Obama:We the undersigned demand that you revoke the invitation of California Pastor Rev. Rick Warren due to his opposition to equality for LGBT Americans and his active support of Proposition 8 which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to civil marriage in California and put discrimination into the California Constitution.EQCA works to achieve equality and secure legal protections for LGBT people. To improve the lives of LGBT Californians, EQCA sponsors legislation and coordinates efforts to ensure its passage, lobbies legislators and other policy makers, builds coalitions, develops community strength and empowers individuals and other organizations to engage in the political process. www.eqca.org
He will then be reborn
From 1970's porn
Wearing tubesocks with style
And such an innocent smile
Better pray for your sins
Better pray for your sins
'Cuz the gay messiah's coming
He will fall from the stars
And appear on the sand
Of Fire Island's shore
Better pray for your sins
Better pray for your sins
'Cuz the gay messiah's coming
No it will not be me
Rufus the baptist I be
No I won't be the one
Baptized in cum
What will happen instead
Someone will demand my head
And then I will kneel down
And give it to them looking down
Better pray for your sins
Better pray for your sins
'Cuz the gay messiah's coming
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In preparation for his new commander in chief, Admiral Mullen is overseeing the final stages of a comprehensive military strategy review of the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan — one of four such studies in the government — to guide Mr. Obama in his first days as president. More quietly, he has also had initial conversations with his top commanders about potential changes in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret.
That's good news. Obama has indicated that he wants an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but it will be difficult unless the military top brass are on board. Admiral Mullen seems to be more sensible than Colin Powell, whose current position on DADT is that is should be reevaluated. Reevaluated? Powell is a backward jackass.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
"What this is is the Southern conservative senators trying to destroy the United Auto Workers, trying to destroy unions," said Mike O'Rourke, president of a UAW local at a GM factory in Spring Hill, Tenn., Corker's home state. "It's a sad day in America when the senators turn their back on Main Street."
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
American workers, those "Reagan Democrats," a lot of them, have supported the Republican Party to their own detriment. Too bad that it's too late now to reverse the trend, even if they finally wake up and see what has been done to them by the very people they voted for.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
..."I'll tell you this: Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality. And the protections that we have for religion? We protect religion -- and talk about a lifestyle choice -- that is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay. At what age did you choose not to be gay?"
- John Stewart to presidential wanabee and religious bigot Mike Huckabee
I can't believe the arrogance and stupidity of the Democratic governor of Illinois, getting busted for pedaling a senate seat. That is really disgusting. Someone who is elected ought to be held to the highest standards of conduct, but apparently in Illinois there must be something in the air or on the water or somewhere, because a whole series of governors there have ended up in jail. This current elected criminal ought to be sent to the pen for a long, long time.
Another Democrat, our president elect, continues to mold his new administration in a fashion not too comforting to progressives who supported him. I do not approve of keeping Gates at Defense. That's not change, that's more of the same. Most of the rest of his appointments including Hillary are to his right politically. Oh I know he has said that these experienced hands will implement his new agenda of change, but I"m skeptical. The transition has already leaked stories to the effect that Obama will delay his promises to raise taxes on the wealthy and end "Don't Ask; Don't Tell." This seems like more of the same political crap to me. I hope I'm wrong.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
In the late afternoon we spent some time around the luxurious pool at the Fountainebleau. It's fun to live the life of the rich and famous, if even only for a weekend!
We spent the evening in South Beach. We had dinner in a fine Japanese restaurant that offered some of our favorite sake and foods. They went went for a stroll on Ocean Drive, which was busy as always. If I had a choice of places to have a getaway apartment in Florida, South Beach would be my pick hands down. I don't care for Ft. Lauderdale. It's boring and there's nothing to do there. South Beach is always fun!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Mr. Díaz is now confident that there will be no vote in the Senate next year on legislation to legalize gay marriage, something which most Senate Democrats support but which Mr. Diaz strongly opposes.
Religious bigots like Diaz continue to be able to subvert the rights of the gay community in this country. It's an outrage. The gay community seems powerless to fight back, whether it's against the Mormons in California, or their ilk in New York State.
What would Harvey Milk do in this case? He'd be out there yelling at the top of his lungs for every complacent, closeted, comfortable gay and lesbian to come out, and if they are out to then get involved in the fight. But we have no Harvey Milk today, we have only the Human Rights Campaign, which takes the approach that it's best to raise money and funnel it to politicians who are all to eager to abandon us for political expediency. When you see the film "Milk" you are impressed with the leadership of Harvey Milk as so beautifully portrayed by Sean Penn. Thirty years ago he helped defeat an anti-gay proposition in California. This year we lost Prop 8 in California. And we lost it for the very reasons Milk rejected the strategy of conservative gay activists in 1978: we can't win if we have no pride in ourselves, if we hide who we are.
As Larry Kramer wonders: "Where is the outrage?" How long will gays and lesbians continue to accept second class status or worse? Forever? I also read a headline that states: "Prop 8 Sundance protest fizzles." Really? Another blow. We gays must enjoy being beaten up, that's all I can figure. We take it and take it, and then come back for more. When will we say enough is enough?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The depiction of Harvey Milk's scorn for the milquetoast media campaign
that the gay "powers" were running against the Briggs Initiative is very timely,
in light of the scorn many of us have expressed for the similarly evasive and
"closeted" campaign that the No on 8 people ran, without success, in
Too bad we didn't learn any lessons about coming out in 30 years!
I was concerned, when I first read about this film being made, that
stocking the leading cast with ostensibly straight actors would mean a lack of
poetic truth in the result.... but they all enter into the enterprise such gusto
that this is never really a concern. When Harvey and Scott first link lips
in the subway, you know that Hollywood has finally seemed to get over the qualms
about "playing gay" on screen.
We're set to see the film this evening with friends.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008