Despite new law, Ugandan cleric ministers to gays

In this photo taken Sunday, March 16, 2014, Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, 82, gives a sermon on human sexuality at his makeshift church, the size of a small office, in Kampala, Uganda.

Dressed in a purple shirt and white collar that highlight his Anglican faith, Bishop Senyonjo doesn’t organize his Sunday evening prayers for homosexuals only. But his sermons attract many gays who are familiar with his sympathetic views in a country where other Christian preachers have led Uganda’s anti-gay crusade.

For ministering to homosexuals, Senyonjo has become estranged from Uganda’s Anglican church. He was barred from presiding over church events in 2006 when he wouldn’t stop urging his leaders to accept gays. The parish that he once led doesn’t even acknowledge his presence when he attends Sunday services there, underscoring how his career has suffered because of his tolerance for gays in a country where homosexuals —and those who accept them — face discrimination.

“They said I should condemn the homosexuals,” he said, referring to Anglican leaders in Uganda. “I can’t do that, because I was called to serve all people, including the marginalized. But they say I am inhibited until I recant. I am still a member of the Anglican church.”

In a statement earlier this year, the head of the Anglican church in Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, said the church was committed to offering “healing and prayer” for individuals “who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness.”

Senyonjo disagrees with that stance, arguing that because “in every society there is a small number of people who have homosexual tendencies,” gays can’t be expected to change their sexual orientation.

The short, stocky 82-year-old cleric is a reassuring presence for Ugandan homosexuals pummeled by rampant anti-gay sentiment across the East African country. Many gays in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, have fled their homes to places they deem safer, Senyonjo said on a recent Sunday as he waited for the first congregant to arrive at his makeshift church, the size of a small office. One man quietly took a seat, then two more. In the past, Senyonjo noted, many more people have been in attendance, perhaps indicating that some gays are now too afraid to even attend his service.

Homosexuality was largely an unspoken subject in Uganda before a lawmaker, saying he wanted to protect Ugandan children from wealthy Western homosexuals, introduced a bill in 2009 that originally proposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts. The legislation, widely popular in Uganda but condemned abroad as draconian, allows up to life imprisonment for homosexual acts. In signing the bill last month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he wanted to deter the West from promoting homosexuality in Africa.

Ugandan homosexuals say the new law was encouraged by some United States evangelicals who wanted to spread their anti-gay agenda in Africa and Senyonjo says that it isn’t a baseless allegation. One day in 2009, he said, he attended a workshop at a Kampala hotel where he heard an American evangelical, Scott Lively, speak strongly against homosexuality. Lively, who has previously told The Associated Press he advised therapy for gays but denies urging severe punishment, has since been sued in federal court under the Alien Tort Statute that allows non-citizens to file suit in the U.S. if there is an alleged violation of international law.

The enactment of Uganda’s new anti-gay law has spread fear among homosexuals, forcing many to flee to so-called “safe houses” where their new neighbors don’t know they are gay. Such houses tend to be single rooms that are more likely to be locked up day and night because of safety concerns. One gay couple, playing cards inside their room, said they fled an angry mob in their former neighborhood. Another couple, bored from spending so much time indoors, plotted how to flee Uganda when their travel documents are ready. Many are jobless and without prospects in the Kampala slum where they live.

Ugandan gay leaders say the anti-gay measure has encouraged public anger against homosexuals. One Ugandan cleric who strongly opposes homosexuality has announced plans to hold a mass rally in Kampala on Monday to thank Uganda’s leaders for passing the anti-gay measure despite Western pressure. The day after the measure was enacted, a Ugandan tabloid printed the names and some photos of people it said were Uganda’s “200 Top Homos.” That list included Senyonjo as an alleged gay “sympathizer,” but he says he wasn’t rattled by the publication and is urging gays not to be “intimidated.”

Senyonjo’s opposition to discrimination against gays has earned him the status of “an elder” in the eyes of the country’s beleaguered gay community, said Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent gay leader in Uganda who has known Senyonjo for many years. “Our relationship is one of giving support to each other. The backlash that we receive is equally the same,” said Onziema, who added that Senyonjo has taken “a very courageous and brave stand.”

Senyonjo said he lives off “gifts” from his children and friends after his pension was severed as “a kind of punishment” over his pro-gay activities.

“They (church leaders) cut off my pension,” he said. “It is very difficult even for my family. But I know the truth and it has made me free.”

The father of 10 children, Senyonjo sometimes finds it necessary to assert his heterosexuality. A young man recently testified in an Anglican parish that Senyonjo had been a witness to his homosexual past. The man, who now says he is heterosexual, said Senyonjo was part of a group with whom he traveled to neighboring Kenya to attend a workshop on gay rights. That “humiliating” event, Senyonjo recalled, may have led some people to believe he is secretly gay, and the cleric said he was glad his wife wasn’t in church that day.

“I am heterosexual,” he said on the recent Sunday he ministered to three young men.

Senyonjo’s sermon that day focused on what he said was the lack of knowledge about human sexuality. “You counsel them and you find that’s what they really are … homosexuals,” he said. “You can’t say, ‘Don’t be that.’ If someone is an African and you say that they are not African, then you are not doing something right.”


Associated Press journalist Rebecca Vassie in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report.


Fred Phelps, the Prophet Who Turned Into a Clown


Fred Phelps, the longtime leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, is dead. He’d been ailing for days, giving his critics—a group that includes most of humanity—plenty of time to write obits and judge whether he was a tragic figure or an accidental gay rights hero.

We can agree on this: He was hilariously stupid, and stupid people provide good copy. For a generation, ever since his flamboyant “God Hates Fags” signs went viral (before there was even a modern Internet for things to go viral on), journalists would explore Phelps’ sad little world and bait him. Michael Moore, after Roger and Me but before the Oscar, set the standard for Phelps-trolling by hiring a “sodom-mobile” to trail him around.

The video now looks quaint. Moore reported it in the years before Lawrence v. Texas, when states still could enforce sodomy laws, and the sodom-mobile went on a road trip to find victims. Decorated with signs like “US out of My Anus” and “Sodomy on Board,” the bus eventually made it to Topeka, where Phelps himself was finishing an interview about Matthew Shepard’s murder and his decision to protest the funeral.

“Every fag group in the country was using that boy,” said Phelps. “He’s in hell now.”


Phelps never figured out what to do with the media. They’d dutifully write up his press releases and talk to the politicians who (successfully) passed a ban on protests of military funerals. But when they encounterd the church itself, its arguments were so arcane and bigoted that its members inevitably came off as buffoons. Louie Theroux figured this out when he visited the compound for a BBC special.*


Phelps retreated from the spotlight, but the next generation of his family changed up the media strategy. They realized how brittle they looked and how easily people could score points on them. So they made fun of themselves, with parody songs like “God Hates the World,” rewriting pop culture as a twisted endorsement of the church’s theory that God would wreak judgment on those who tolerated sodomy.


This generation of Phelpses and fellow travelers is divided, and a few media outlets were fooled last week when a faction that’s turned against them (but captured an official-looking Twitter account) claimed that the church would protest Fred Phelps’ own funeral. Still, the church will endure, growing more desparate for media attention, in a country that long ago stopped seeing them as threatening as started recognizing them as clowns.

Hobby Lobby Wants to Stop Doctors From Talking to Its Employees About Contraception

Hobby Lobby wants to control what a woman’s doctor can say to her during her visit.

Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP/GettyImages

Arguments in front of the Supreme Court start next week in the Hobby Lobby case. Hobby Lobby is suing for a religious exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring that employer-provided health insurance cover contraception. Most of the coverage of the case has focused on Hobby Lobby’s objection to the contraception itself and how, if the business prevails, its employees will have to pay out of pocket for things like birth control pills or IUDs. But, as Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress explained on Wednesday, Hobby Lobby and their co-plaintiff, Conestoga Wood Specialties, are also objecting to insurance plans covering “related education and counseling” for contraception. In other words, these for-profit businesses aren’t just asking their female employees to pay for their own contraception, even though they are already paying for their own contraception by paying for their insurance coverage. These companies want to elbow their way into doctor’s offices and call the shots on what doctors can and cannot say to Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood employees.

“Essentially, if Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are successful, they’ll win the right to refuse to extend coverage for doctor’s visits that include discussion about certain forms of contraception, like IUDs or the morning after pill,” Culp-Ressler writes. That would probably be something insurance companies could deal with if there was such thing as a specialized doctor’s appointment to only discuss contraception. In the real world, however, most women receive their contraception counseling at general gynecological appointments or annual checkups. You go in, get your blood taken, get a Pap smear, get your breasts squeezed, and then your doctor asks what you use for contraception, and you walk out with a prescription in hand. If Hobby Lobby has its way, by merely acknowledging the birth control pill during that appointment, your doctor would render your entire visit ineligible for coverage by your health care plan.

“This isn’t something that generally is billed separately from a health care visit,” Adam Sonfield, a senior public policy associate for the Guttmacher Institute, explained to me over the phone. “As far as we can tell, the only way to implement this objection would be to say that if your visit is going to be reimbursed by your health care plan, then your doctor can’t talk to you about certain topics your employer objects to.”

It’s unclear if the plaintiffs just haven’t considered how unworkable their ask is, or if marginalizing contraception consultation by making it too fraught to be discussed during a standard doctor’s appointment is the intention here. Either way, it demonstrates how radically intrusive the demands of these companies are. This isn’t just a matter of wanting to “opt out” of paying for a standard service that insurance plans usually cover. This is about giving your employer broad powers to butt into your private business, including micromanaging what you can and cannot discuss with your doctor.


Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily BeastAlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

Susanne Atanus, Who Blames Gay Rights For Tornadoes, Wins GOP Nomination For Congress

Posted: 03/19/2014 1:52 pm EDT Updated: 03/20/2014 11:59 am EDT

A Republican candidate who believes that God dictates weather patterns and that tornadoes, autism and dementia are God’s punishments for marriage equality and abortion access won the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) in the Chicago-area 9th Congressional District.

Susanne Atanus, of Niles, Ill., garnered 54 percent of the vote in her Tuesday win over David Earl Williams III.

“I am not in favor of abortions, I am not in favor of gay rights,” Atanus told the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper, in January.

She blamed natural disasters and mental disorders on recent advances in LGBT equality and legal abortions.

“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military, it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

Atanus also reached out to the Windy City Times, an LGBT publication, in an attempt to explain her views.

“Everybody knows that God controls weather,” she told the news site in January. “God is super angry,” she added. “Gay marriage is not appropriate, and it doesn’t look right, and it breeds AIDS.”

Jack Dorgan, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, and Adam Robinson, chairman of the Chicago Republican Party, both condemned Atanus’ comments and distanced the party from her candidacy.

How Franklin Graham Hijacked His Father’s Brand to Preach Homophobia


Franklin Graham.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Prominent evangelical figure Franklin Graham made headlines this week afterpenning a column in Decision magazine commending Russian president Vladimir Putin for his brutal stancetowards that country’s LGBTQ community. In it, he declares “Putin is right … he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda,” suggesting that Russia’s moral standard has eclipsed that of the United States. Even more disturbingly, Graham praises Putin’s support of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, warning that efforts to overthrow him will result in “wholesale slaughter of Christians” there. For those familiar with Graham’s father, legendary evangelist Billy Graham, this overtly partisan political language is stunning. Where is the vitriol coming from?

Across much of the South, Billy Graham was, in his heyday, revered by many as the leader of the evangelical right—a deep-fried papacy, if you will. His rallies and revivals, known as “crusades,” were a fixture on radio dials and televisions, often attracting tens of thousands to outdoor venues across the globe. While his message has always been conservative, it was, until recently, delivered in a moderate tone. In the 1950s, Graham spoke against segregation, once telling an all-white audience “we have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride.” In 1960, the elder Graham posted bail for an imprisoned Martin Luther King, Jr.

To be clear, Billy Graham undoubtedly believes that homosexuality is a sin. But his message overwhelmingly focused on love and forgiveness rather than condemnation. He insisted that belief remain an individual choice, and that judgment was reserved for God. At a 1997 “crusade”, he even asked of followers focusing on homosexuality: “Why do we jump on that sin as though it’s the greatest sin?” While far from a ringing endorsement of gay believers, Graham chose not to focus on condemnation.

Billy Graham’s legacy rests in his efforts to reach across aisles and to treat others with respect and dignity. In 1979, Graham refused to join Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, explaining “Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left.” Though these efforts, Graham became a trusted spiritual advisor to US Presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush. His bipartisan legacy established, Graham’s last major public appearance took place in 2006.

Then, in 2012, despite being in very frail health, unable to speak publicly, and retired from ministry for several years, Billy Graham shocked many followers when his website featured a note endorsing Republican candidate Mitt Romney. That same year his organization also bought ads in local newspapers espousing North Carolina’s marriage equality ban. It would appear that Graham’s commitment to bipartisanship is no more.

Of course, there have long been signs that the Graham brand was moving in this direction, the majority of them emanating from the new generation. In the early 2000s, Franklin began to appear where his father used to, delivering prayers from the Pentagon to the White House. In 2003, he was an ardent supporter of the US invasion of Iraq—primarily as a vehicle for proselytization. (It would appear that he took his father’s use of “crusade” a bit too far.) In addition to promoting armed conflict, he preached a particularly hateful rhetoric towards Muslims: as recently as 2010, he suggested that Islam leads its believers to kill their own children. In other words, Franklin Graham’s support of Putin and his vicious anti-gay ideology is just the latest in a string of increasingly divisive, highly political statements from the Graham camp.

Clearly, as his elderly father fades from the spotlight, the younger Graham wants to appeal to an increasingly conservative base rather than attempting to expand his flock. But his partisan crusades against marginalized communities may forever tarnish his father’s original mission. As the elder Graham quietly approaches the end of his life, the fundamental message of his namesake ministry has changed dramatically, and not for the better.

Update, March 20, 4:58 p.m.: This post has been revised for clarity.


Tyler Lopez is a writer living in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

Federal Judge in Michigan struck down state ban on Same Sex marriage

A federal judge in Michigan today struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in a closely watched case that challenged both the state’s marriage ban and its restrictions on adoption by same-sex parents. Judge Bernard A. Friedman of Federal District Court in Detroit, a Reagan appointee, ruled that the anti-gay law “impermissibly discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the provision does not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest.”*

The ruling marked the 14th consecutive court loss for anti-gay advocates in nine months, adding to an emerging constitutional consensus that gay marriage bans are clearly unconstitutional. But its real significance is broader. The trial laid bare the dishonest strategy that religious conservatives have tested in recent years to battle gay equality—and the court’s rebuke is yet another major failure for the forces of anti-modernity.

The strategy is for sociological experts to sow just enough doubt about the wisdom of change such that preserving the status quo seems the only reasonable path. As theNew York Times recently reported, in 2010 the conservative Heritage Foundation gathered social conservatives consisting of Catholic intellectuals, researchers, activists and funders at a Washington meeting to plot their approach. The idea was for conservative scholars to generate research claiming that gay marriage harms children by placing them in unstable gay homes and by upending marital norms for straights. A solid consensus of actual scholarship—not the fixed kind being ginned up at Heritage—has consistently found that gay parenting does not disadvantage kids, and no research has shown gay marriage having any impact on straight marriage rates. But trafficking in truth was not the plan. The plan was to tap into a sordid history of linking gay people with threatening kids, and to produce skewed research that could be used as talking points to demagogue the public.

In attendance were scholars such as Mark Regnerus, a sociologist who sparked controversy after he published a 2012 journal article funded by religious conservatives arguing that children of same-sex parents fared worse than others—even though he never studied children of same-sex parents. Regnerus’ study wascondemned in a letter by 200 scholarly peers and his own university departmentissued a stern rebuke calling the study “fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds.” An internal audit found “serious flaws and distortions” and concluded the paper never should have been published.

But the Heritage plan was not to get invited to the cocktail parties of tenured radicals. It was to get Regnerus and other conservative thinkers on the witness stand to combat the airing of real research with enough fake research to create the illusion of a genuine debate. They hoped to avoid an embarrassing repeat of the 2010 Prop 8 trial in defense of California’s gay marriage ban, wherein the state’s witnesseswithered under cross-examination. At one point, an expert witness was nearly disqualified after acknowledging he had never done any research on same-sex marriage and had only published two scholarly articles ever, one on Victorian cabinetmakers.

The grooming of conservative experts appeared to be falling into place when Michigan called Regnerus and three other witnesses to describe research allegedly showing gay marriage and parenting harms kids. Regnerus testified that, based on his research, he believed “we aren’t anywhere near saying there’s conclusive evidence” that children of gay parents fare as well as others, and that, “until we get more evidence, we should be skeptical” of any such claims. “The most prudent thing to do,” he concluded, “is wait and evaluate some of these changes over time before making any radical moves around marriage.”

But on cross-examination by the ACLU’s Leslie Cooper, Regnerus’ testimony quickly broke down. Cooper forced Regnerus to admit that he had sought to conceal the role of conservative funders and of his religious faith in influencing his research, both of which were later revealed with smoking gun evidence from his prior words. He acknowledged that he was “not a fan of same sex marriage” before he started his research and that his opposition to it was not primarily based on his research conclusions. And he had to concede that he had singled out gay couples in opposing their right to marry based on alleged family instability: Aware that African-Americans, the poor, step-families and divorced people are all at higher statistical risk of marital collapse and family instability, he nonetheless had no strong opinion on whether those folks should be banned from marrying—just gays, strongly suggesting his views are rooted in bias above all.

Other witnesses fared no better. Canadian economist Douglas Allen, who produced a study with the exact same flaws as Regnerus’ study, told the court he believed that “without repentance,” gays are going to hell. Still, ignoring the clear scholarly consensus on child outcomes, he tried to pass off his opposition to same-sex marriage as a product of his research, echoing the talking point that “The state should be very cautious in making such a fundamental change to such a fundamental issue where there’s no evidence on the child outcome issue.” A third witness was disqualified altogether.

Despite (or perhaps because of) a clownish showing by the expert witnesses, the defense’s legal team pressed on with its effort to project doubt about what we know of gay parenting outcomes. “The evidence shows that there are benefits to a child being raised by a mom and a dad,” said the state’s attorney, Kristin Heyse, in her closing argument (abandoning the superlative “best climate” claims in favor of the much vaguer “there are benefits” claim). “Social science is just too uncertain.” At times, Heyse’s claims sounded like a parody of some bozo grasping at rationales she once heard uttered by the learned: “It’s about science and data,” she stammered at one point. “It’s about what’s best for the children of the state of Michigan.”

After the trial, the state sought to amplify the message that the science on gay parenting is disputed, and caution is in order. Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General Bill Schuette, said, “The trial ended on Dr. Allen’s comment that the science on this remains unsettled.” Sheadded, “The strongest argument we have is that [voters] decided it’s best for kids to be raised by a mom and dad.” If that’s the strongest argument the state has, buckle up for change: The question of optimality in child-rearing is not something voters can decide—that’s the whole point of bringing in experts on what the research says. As the old adage goes, you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

Judge Friedman didn’t fall for any of it. “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration,” he wrote in what must be one of the most stinging and decisive repudiations of an expert witness in memory. He cited evidence that the conservative research was “hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder” which clearly expressed its wish for skewed results. Dismissing the defense’s other witnesses just as strongly, the judge wrote that “The Court was unable to accord the testimony of Marks, Price, and Allen any significant weight.” He concluded that “The most that can be said of these witnesses’ testimony is that the ‘no differences’ consensus has not been proven with scientific certainty, not that there is any credible evidence showing that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by heterosexual couples.”

The facts-are-disputed-so-let’s-wait strategy that failed today in Michigan comes from an old playbook that’s also failed in the past. At both the front and tail ends of the battle over “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the gay ban’s defenders deployed an elaborate plan to spread the message that too little was known about gay service to risk the nation’s security. When Bill Clinton tried to lift the gay ban in 1993, Georgia Senator Sam Nunn took what I call a “thorny questions” approach, throwing dozens of repetitive questions at his fellow senators to make change seem impossibly risky. The military must be able to “study this for whatever time they’d like,” he said, so we can determine “what would be the impact of changing the current policy on” recruiting, retention, morale, discipline, combat effectiveness, housing, pay, benefits and entitlements. Delaying change wasn’t prejudice, Nunn insisted, but “prudence.” The Pentagon commissioned a RAND study on the issue that concluded it would be just fine to let open gays service, but by then Nunn’s doubt had infused Congress, the study was ignored, and we got “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Nunn re-emerged in 2010 as DADT was being debated again to call, again, for “a Pentagon study.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed, seeking to delay repeal bysaying, “The truth is, we don’t have any facts” even though more than 50 years of government and academic studies had shown openly gay service worked just fine. Conservative religious foot soldiers backed up the plan, seeking gay “horror stories”to turn the public against openly gay service, even though leaked emails showed that such stories would be “very difficult to find”—more evidence that the horrible consequences social conservatives claim gay equality will have must be routinely made up.

The right wing’s playbook is wide open. It failed in the past, and it failed today in court. But the religious right is not going away, and clearly the plan is to keep churning out skewed research to create the illusion of a good-faith debate where none actually exists. At a certain point, delaying justice when you know you’ll lose becomes bitter and even vengeful. Were I funding this petty nonsense, I’d start to think twice about where to invest my dollars and my heart.

Westboro Baptist Church Fred Phelp’s Deathbed Confession “I’m Gay”

Westboro Baptist Church Case to be Heard by Supreme Court

Posted about 1 day ago

The 84 year old founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church is barely clinging to life at a Midland hospice house in Topeka Kansas. The man who seemingly dedicated his entire life to tormenting homosexuals allegedly made a startling confession while at death’s door. He announced to a roomful of stunned family members that he was indeed, a homosexual.

“We were just all sitting there because grandpa said he wanted to tell us something really important”, said Genevieve Phelps. Genevieve, along with several of her aunts and uncles sat huddled around the dying old man to hear him out. “He just looked at us all and smiled and said, I’m sorry. I’m gay. Our jaws just dropped, I mean… It doesn’t make any sense. We’re all just praying that this is somehow related to his illness or the medication he’s on. He’s really delirious and half the time he’s not making any sense at all. Regardless, it was very hard to hear after he spent his entire life fighting the scourge of homosexuality in the name of the Lord our God.”

This shocking proclamation is likely to throw a permanent monkey wrench in the works of the already scandalous Kansas church. The 84-year-old preacher established the small Kansas chapel in 1955 and made it a household name by picketing funerals, public events and businesses with hateful signs attacking gay people, Jews and others who he deemed sinners.

Several estranged relatives revealed that Fred had been excommunicated from his own house of worship in August of 2013 over matters that still remain a mystery.

Now, after protesting at the funeral’s of multiple fallen soldiers, the Phelps family requested that the rest of the world grant them privacy and respect while their nefarious leader finishes his journey to meet his maker.

Several gay activists have reportedly been gleefully celebrating the impending demise of the spiteful old codger.

A man named Nathan McDaniels was spotted dancing gracefully on the lawn in front of the Phelps compound last night sporting a full length scarlet gown embroidered with the Latin phrase “debitum naturae”. When we inquired what he was doing there, he gave us a wry smile and responded “Oh, you know… Just waiting for God to flush the toilet..”

Church Jane M. Agni Jane M. Agni is a professional journalist residing in the rain-soaked city of Portland, Oregon. She has written for such fine websites as Modern Woman Digest and Civic Tribune. Her book entitled “The States Of Shame: Living As A Liberated Womyn In America” appeared on Oprah’s Book Club and quickly went bestseller shortly thereafter. She’s currently at work on the follow up tentatively named “Sisters Of Shame: The Why In Womyn” . Jane M. Agni now writes full-time for National Report, giving her unique perspective on the latest world events. – See more at:

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When Pro-Marriage Becomes Anti-Gay

A long-term same-sex couple in Oregon, on May 9, 2007. Does this picture violate your religious beliefs?
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

For the last week, several writers with diverse views on gay marriage—Ross Douthat,Mark SternConor FriedersdorfHenry FarrellRod DreherDamon Linker, and others—have been debating the case of Elaine and Jon Huguenin, the New Mexico photographers who were found guilty of discrimination for refusing to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony. On Friday I joined the debate on Friedersdorf’s side, arguing that the email exchange in which Elaine Huguenin declined to photograph the ceremony showed no ill will.


Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right. Follow him on Twitter.

Huguenin said she had no problem photographing gay clients; she just couldn’t participate in a same-sex marital ceremony, since marriage, in her view, could only be between a man and a woman. I disagree with that view. But because her policy was not anti-gay beyond the context of marriage, I concluded that it was not inherently bigoted.

But I didn’t feel comfortable with the limited information we had about the Huguenins. To me, the most important thing in a case like this one is to grapple with the real-life complexity of the story. So I asked the lawyers in the case for a transcript of the 2008 hearing in which the Huguenins explained themselves to the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.

Last night I read the transcript. It taught me something interesting: The Huguenins might not be entirely on the same page.

Both spouses say their opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the Bible. Jon quotes Matthew 19:4 and Genesis 2:24, which say a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Those verses are specific to marriage. Jon doesn’t quote Leviticus 20:13, which says it’s an abomination for a man to have sex with another man. But if his objection to gay marriage is based on this kind of Bible-reading, it’s highly plausible that it extends to homosexual behavior in general.

Elaine doesn’t quote Scripture. She just cites the Bible as her basis for believing “that marriage is between one man and one woman.” And she distinguishes between gay relationships and gay marriage. At one point, her attorney, Jordan Lorence, reads from the 2006 email exchange in which she declined a request from the plaintiff, Vanessa Willock, to photograph Willock’s lesbian commitment ceremony. Lorence notes that Willock asked Elaine Huguenin, “Are you saying that your company does not offer your photography services to same-sex couples?” In her email reply, Huguenin rephrased the question: “Yes, you are correct in saying we do not photograph same-sex weddings.”

In the hearing, Lorence asks Huguenin, “Why did you put it that way?” She responds:

I just felt like I needed to rephrase it, because the original was to “same-sex couples.” But, you know, if somebody has a same-sex preference, like a same-sex sexual orientation, then, you know—again, I don’t have a problem, you know, shooting portraits, whatever. But it’s just the … the weddings, the messaging-the-wedding-has part of it, I declined.

Willock’s attorney, Julia Sakura, cross-examines Huguenin:

Q: So, in this email, you declined your services to Ms. Willock. Is that correct?

A: Yes, correct.

Q: And you did so because it was a same-sex relationship, is that correct?

A: No. For a same-sex wedding.

Maybe Elaine Huguenin would refuse to photograph a gay couple in a nonmarital context. But at no point in the hearing does she say that. Again and again, she confines her objections to marriage.

That’s not true of Jon Huguenin. Under Sakura’s cross-examination, he goes further:

Q: You just testified that … [y]ou would take a picture of two women from a different country if they were very heterosexual-looking. Is that correct?

A: Not [heterosexual]-looking. I said we wouldn’t take a picture, regardless of their sexual preference, if the image implied that, you know, if they were holding hands or showing affection and implying that something other than one woman and one man in marriage is okay. …

Q: I believe your example was two women from a different country, if they were heterosexual—you used that term—and they were holding hands, you would take that picture.

A: We would not take that picture.

Q: You would not? Why is that?

A: Because the message of the picture communicates—regardless of the sexual orientation of the people in the photo—the message of that communicates something other than what we believe marriage should be. …

Q: What you’re saying is, even outside the context of a traditional wedding, if it were merely two women holding hands, and it did not convey a message that you believed, then you would not take that picture? Is that correct? … What you’re saying is, just two women holding hands, you would not take that picture, because it may convey a message that you do not believe in, even if that picture was just two women holding hands?

A: I can’t answer you absolutely … but if that picture was taken, and the message could be construed or conveyed—or we felt it was being conveyed—as support for anything other than one woman and one man in marriage, then we would not take that photo.

Throughout this exchange, Sakura is pretty clear that she’s not talking about a wedding photo. She’s talking about two women holding hands outside that context. And Jon Huguenin’s answer is that he wouldn’t take the picture “if they were holding hands or showing affection and implying that something other than one woman and one man in marriage is okay.” He wouldn’t take any picture if “the message could be construed or conveyed” as supporting gay marriage.

If I understand him correctly, Jon Huguenin is saying that any overt display of homosexual affection could be construed as endorsing same-sex marriage, and therefore he reserves the right to refuse to photograph any such display.

From my reading of the transcript, I wouldn’t call the Huguenins bigoted or hateful. But they’re certainly ignorant—they refer to homosexuality as a preference, lifestyle, and choice—and their ignorance seems to explain their misguided belief that gay marriage is some kind of cultural illness that can be managed by sending the right “messages.”

The more acute problem, legally, is that Jon Huguenin’s claims go well beyond Elaine’s. In the name of avoiding anything that could be perceived as promoting same-sex marriage, he seems to be asserting a right not to take any picture of a gay couple being gay. Imagine a photographer telling you that he’ll do your portrait but won’t take a picture of you doing anything heterosexual: no kissing, hugging, holding hands, or even meaningful glances. That’s more than a doctrine of marriage. It’s a denial of who you are.

Elaine Huguenin’s position, noxious as it is to many people, can be accommodated in a decent society. I’m not so sure the same is true of her husband’s. Refusing to photograph someone with the person she loves—indeed, with anyone she might love, given her orientation—is oppressively broad. It’s suffocating. It rejects too much of her, too much of what she can’t change. If the Huguenins recognized homosexuality for what it is—an orientation, not a choice—they’d understand that.

US Evangelical Forces at work in Uganda – and Pro LGBT protestors

Uganda president signs anti-gay bill into law
By Robin Abcarian
March 14, 2014, 8:08 p.m.
Eventually, the idea that it’s OK to be against gay marriage because of your religious beliefs is going to seem as silly as opposing interracial marriage because you weren’t raised that way.

Eventually gay marriage will be as normal as interracial marriage, which, don’t forget, was  illegal in many states until 1967.

Even conservatives, despite the pronouncements of party elders, are coming around.

Last week at the CPAC conference, the generational divide was on vivid display. Ben Carson, 62, a surgeon who is popular with the tea party, told his audience: “Of course gay people should have the same rights as everybody else. But they don’t get extra rights, they don’t get to redefine marriage.”

And Sarah Palin, 50, delivered a robust defense of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robinson, 67, who was briefly suspended by A&E in December after spouting to a magazine reporter about the evils of homosexuality. (“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman … and those men.”)

It’s pretty clear that the young conservatives coming up after Carson and Palin do not exercise themselves too much over gay marriage and gay civil rights. In some circles, gay marriage is even being described as an intra-party “wedge issue” for Republicans.

But some Christian evangelicals, having basically lost the fight at home, have exported intolerance overseas.

On Friday, the editor Tina Brown, who has reinvented herself as a conference impresario, hosted a luncheon for about 200 women in Beverly Hills featuring conversations with a number of international women activists as part of her “Women in the World” series.

Speakers included Clare Byarubaga, a gay Ugandan activist, who discussed the draconian anti-gay measure signed into law last month by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. When the law was first proposed, it was dubbed “Kill the Gays,” as it called for the death penalty. The new law calls for up to 14 years in prison for homosexuality.

Byarubaga was joined by American filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, whose 2013 “God Loves Uganda” correlated the explosion of homophobia in Uganda to the missionary work of American evangelical megachurches. After Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was overthrown in 1979, American missionaries poured into the country, building schools, orphanages and hospitals. And of course, spreading their interpretation of the gospel. This Guardian story explores the phenomenon.

Williams singled out American pastor Scott Lively, who has called himself the “father” of Uganda’s anti-gay movement. Lively is president of the Massachusetts-based Abiding Truth Ministries, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2009, he spearheaded an infamous conference in Uganda that helped inspire the country’s current homophobic fervor.

(At least three American evangelicals, including a representative of the now-defunct Exodus International were there. This New York Times story elucidates their role in helping poison the atmosphere against gays, despite their denials.)

Just as in the U.S., where gay rights have been used so often as a wedge issue between the parties, there is a convenient political component at play in a place like Uganda.

“This is a dictator using the gay community as a scapegoat,” Williams said. “Museveni is up for reelection in 2016, so this is kind of a smart political move on his part to distract the public from the real issue, which is corruption and survival, and focus it on a vulnerable population. Everyone in Uganda is frustrated, so they can take out their frustration on the LGBT community.”

In January, a federal judge in Massachusetts allowed a lawsuit filed against Lively by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of a Ugandan gay rights group to proceed. The suit contends that Lively, who has also written a book claiming the Nazi movement was inspired by homosexuals, has aided and abetted crimes against humanity by encouraging the persecution of Uganda’s gay minority.

“That’s about as ridiculous as it gets,” Lively told the New York Times in 2011. “I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue.”,0,3968884.story#ixzz2w13ByGW3

Church drops case against NY pastor who performed son’s gay wedding

United Methodist gay marriage: ​Rev. Thomas Ogletree speaks to the media during a news conference following the announcement that a case against him for breaking church law by officiating his son's same-sex marriage had been dropped: ​Rev. Thomas Ogletree speaks to the media during a news conference following the announcement that a case against him for breaking church law by officiating his son's same-sex marriage had been dropped, Monday, March 10, 2014, in White Plains, N.Y.AP Photo: John Minchillo

​Rev. Thomas Ogletree speaks to the media during a news conference following the announcement that a case against him for breaking church law by officiating his son’s same-sex marriage had been dropped, Monday, March 10, 2014, in White Plains, N.Y.

Reuters11 hr ago  By Victoria Cavaliere of Reuters

The church said a trial over the actions of the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, a former dean at Yale University’s divinity school, could cause “harmful polarization” during the ongoing debate over the church’s stance on gay unions.

The move came three months after a Pennsylvania pastor was defrocked after a church judicial proceeding found him guilty of officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding. Instead of facing trial, Ogletree will participate in a series of conversations about the church’s policy toward homosexual unions, a church official said.

“Church trials produce no winners,” Bishop Martin McLee, the leader of the church’s New York Annual Conference, said in a statement.

“Church trials result in harmful polarization and continue the harm brought upon our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” the bishop wrote.

Methodist doctrine welcomes congregants regardless of sexual orientation but maintains that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teachings.” Under church policy, same-sex marriages cannot be performed in Methodist churches or by ordained ministers.

But like other mainstream Protestant denominations, the church faced increasing pressure to amend its stance on same-sex couples. Over the past three years, advocates have urged Methodist clergy to defy church policy and conduct gay weddings as a sign of protest.

Ogletree said he could not refuse when asked to officiate at his son’s 2012 wedding to another man in New York, a state that recognizes gay nuptials. A fellow Methodist clergyman saw the wedding announcement in a newspaper and filed a complaint against Ogletree.

“It is a shame that the church is choosing to prosecute me for this act of love, which is entirely in keeping with my ordination vows … and with Methodism’s historic commitment to inclusive ministry embodied in its slogan ‘open hearts, open minds, open doors,'” Ogletree said in a statement in January.

Ogletree, a noted scholar on Christian ethics and a member of the clergy for 60 years, said he was relinquishing his right to a trial and had accepted the resolution agreement and its “intention to …offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical reflection.”

The United Methodist Church is the second-largest Protestant group in the U.S. after the Southern Baptist Convention. It has about 12.5 million members worldwide.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Amanda Kwan)