Christian schools allowed to discriminate

When word spread this month that George Fox University had received an exemption to Title IX, allowing it to discriminate against a transgender student by denying him the housing he requested, many advocates for transgender students were stunned. Federal regulations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 do in fact require the Education Department to exempt colleges from rules that violate their religious beliefs. During the debate, George Fox officials noted that they were objecting to a housing request only, and that they haven’t kicked the student out of the university.

But now the Education Department has confirmed that it has since awarded two more exemptions to Title IX to Christian colleges that want to discriminate against transgender students. These colleges assert (and the Education Department agreed) that they should be exempt from more of Title IX than just housing equity. These colleges have policies to punish transgender students for being transgender students, apparently up to expulsion — and they can now do so legally. The two institutions are Spring Arbor University, in Michigan, and Simpson University, in California.

Spring Arbor is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church and its traditions. It requested exemption from Title IX with regard to issues of admissions, behavioral rules, housing, access to restrooms, athletic participation and more.

The university’s student handbook says: “Spring Arbor University reserves the right to terminate or deny enrollment of those whose influence upon our community should prove to be in our judgment intractably contrary to the best interests of our students, and commitments to our university and to our Lord. Therefore, Spring Arbor University will not support persistent or conspicuous examples of cross-dressing or other expressions or actions that are deliberately discordant with birth gender, and will deal with such matters within the appropriate pastoral and conduct processes of the university.”

Continue reading “Christian schools allowed to discriminate”

How the Christian Right exploits adoption

When you think of adoption, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Maybe it’s the vague, rosy notion of a happy ending — of rescue, salvation or (more likely) some do-gooding Hollywood mouthpiece like Angelina Jolie adding kids of various ethnicities to her big, colorful brood.images

Salon.com carries a story that tells a different tale: “What probably doesn’t automatically come to mind is coercion, racism and a conservative Christian agenda that extends beyond mere abortion prevention. Award-winning journalist Kathryn Joyce describes all these issues — and, sadly, many more — as being shockingly rampant in the multi-billion-dollar adoption industry. And she delves into them, in somewhat jarring investigative detail, in her new book, “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.”

“Joyce details how the adoption industry has become overly enmeshed with the Christian right — how evangelical, pro-adoption church leaders have, in recent years, been creepily urging followers to adopt en masse, often internationally and from war-ravaged countries. Christian adoption booms are common in countries like Haiti and Indonesia after natural disasters and other crises — remember Laura Silsby, the Baptist church leader from Idaho who was charged with child trafficking after illegally attempting to smuggle 33 unauthorized Haitian children across the Haiti-Dominican Republic border in 2010? Continue reading “How the Christian Right exploits adoption”

Pat Buchanan calls for anti-LGBT civil disobedience

“What happens if the gay rights movement, as it appears it may, succeeds politically on same-sex marriage, but many Christians refuse to recognize such unions and continue to declare that American society has become ungodly and immoral? Gay rights advocates often compare their cause to the civil rights struggle of half a century ago. But there is a fundamental difference,” blogs Joe.My.God, reporting on Buchanan’s recent writings in World Net Dailyimages

“Priests and pastors marched for civil rights. Others preached for civil rights. But if the gay rights agenda is imposed, we could have priests and pastors preaching not acceptance but principled rejection. Prelates could be declaring from pulpits everywhere that the triumph of gay rights is a defeat for God’s Country, and the new laws are immoral and need neither be respected nor obeyed.

“The issue is acceptance. We know of how America refused to accept Prohibition and, in good conscience, Americans broke the laws against the consumption of alcohol. Imagine the situation in America today if priests and pastors were telling congregations they need not obey civil rights laws. They would be denounced as racists. Church tax exemptions would be in peril. Continue reading “Pat Buchanan calls for anti-LGBT civil disobedience”

Media non-violence trumps violence

Young children who are encouraged to watch TV programs that depict kindness, respect, and cooperation are more likely to express those traits than kids who watch everyday TV fare that includes fictional violence.

Setting the media violence debate upside  down, researchers have found that low-income boys, who tend to watch the most television, benefited the most in displaying empathy after watching nonviolent shows, reports the Christian Science Monitor.imgres-2

“And many of the parents who were guided on what kind of pro-social content to watch and how to avoid violent shows asked that such advice continue even after the study. Continue reading “Media non-violence trumps violence”

eHarmony blues

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The Christian co-founder of the popular dating site eHarmony is no stranger to sparking controversy in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.Now, however, Neil Clark Warren has gone even further, saying he’s “tired” of the same-sex marriage debate and what he perceives as its negative impact on eHarmony, reports Huffington Post.

“’I think this issue of same-sex marriage within the next five to 15 years will be no issue anymore, Warren told Yahoo! Finance. We’ve made too much of it. I’m tired of it. It has really damaged our company.’ Continue reading “eHarmony blues”

Conservative Christian opinion shifting

imgresBiblical scholars have for some time noted that the good book doesn’t itself equate homosexuality with sin. Subsequent proselytizers have done that work.

Now it seems that even within stalwart anti-LGBT Christian groups, opinion seems to be shifting. As Huff Post reports today,

“Bad news for the Westboro Baptist Church and other right-wing groups: the percentage of Americans who sincerely believe that homosexuality is a sin has decreased significantly, a new poll has found.

“The Nashville-based LifeWay Research organization revealed that just 37 percent of Americans surveyed in November said they believed homosexual behavior was a sin, a seven point drop from the previous year’s survey. Interestingly, respondents who did not believe homosexuality was a sin increased by a mere two percent, while a greater number of those surveyed said they were now unsure of what they believe. Continue reading “Conservative Christian opinion shifting”

“Nones” still growing, but more slowly

imgresLast year the “rise of the nones” made headlines, as pollsters noted significant increases in the number of Americans who checked “no religion” on surveys. As the Gallup organization today summarized:

“The percentage of American adults who have no explicit religious identification averaged 17.8% in 2012, up from 14.6% in 2008 — but only slightly higher than the 17.5% in 2011. The 2011 to 2012 uptick in religious ‘nones’ is the smallest such year-to-year increase over the past five years of Gallup Daily tracking of religion in America.”

Apparently the number of nones continues to grow, but recent data show the increases are beginning to plateau. To measure the phenomenon, Gallup asked:  “What is your religious preference — are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, another religion, or no religion? (If respondent names ‘another religion,’ ask:) Would that be a Christian religion or is it not a Christian religion? Religious ‘nones’ are those who respond ’no religion’ as well as those who say they don’t know or refuse to answer. Continue reading ““Nones” still growing, but more slowly”

Stepping up the marketing of God

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It seems that this year’s omnivorous expansion of “Christmas” isn’t quite enough.  A national decline in church attendance, the struggling economy and the challenges of converting millennials have all led to a new movement to market God.

Apparently, The U.S. is witnessing a wave of experimentation by evangelicals to reinvent “church” in an increasingly secular culture. The mega-church boom of recent decades is winding down, along with it’s trappings of stadium seating, Jumbotrons and smoke machines. So churches are trying new tricks.

As reported in today’s New York Times, “’It’s unsettling for a movement that’s lasted 2,000 years to now find that, ‘Oh, some of the things we always assumed would connect with the community aren’t connecting with everyone in the community in the way they used to,’ ” said Warren Bird, the director of research for the Leadership Network, a firm that tracks church trends. Continue reading “Stepping up the marketing of God”

God withdraws support for christian right

From today’s The Onion:  “THE HEAVENS—Responding to inflammatory remarks made by Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock during a debate Tuesday night, Our Lord God the Almighty Father sought today to distance Himself from both Mourdock and the entire right-wing fundamentalist Christian movement, sources confirmed.

“’I want to make one thing absolutely clear: Mr. Mourdock’s comments from last night in no way reflect my position on this or any other issue,’ said the Divine Creator, speaking at a press conference this afternoon to address Mourdock’s remarks that rape-induced pregnancies were God’s intent. ‘And furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to say definitively that I, God, do not officially sanction or condone the words or actions of anyone involved in the fanatical, conservative Christian faction that Mr. Mourdock represents.’ Continue reading “God withdraws support for christian right”

Gaga feminism

“In Gaga Feminism, instead of pitting bodies with vaginas against bodies with penises, I argue that we are living in a new world where the categories of male and female are rapidly being updated all around us,” writes Jack Halberstam is an essay in the  Los Angeles Review of Books. As Halberstam puts it, “Truth be told, gender and gender politics nowadays have little to do with simple genitality and are much more connected to new social arrangements, diverse households, and innovative classifications of identity, community, and desire …  In a world of sperm banks, in vitro fertilization, queer families, butch daddies, transgender men and women,  and heteroflexible women, pretending to be offended by the use of the word “vagina” in a public speech or making insupportable claims about rape and pregnancy are not just quaint and old-fashioned: they signal a deep ignorance about the world we live in and the enormous changes that have taken place within it in the last two decades. Continue reading “Gaga feminism”