Vote For This Movie

My friend Greg Louganis is the subject of this new documentary which is up for Project Of The Month from Indiewire:

“Greg Louganis Back on Board”

When Greg Louganis hit his head on the diving board at the 1988 Seoul Games, it was an unforgettable moment. But when, despite his injury, he earned the highest single score for his next dive and win the Gold, it was among the most incredible feats in history.

BACK ON BOARD is an engrossing story about an American legend and his comeback. Film reveals Louganis’ evolution from childhood prodigy to Olympic champion, from pioneering openly gay athlete with HIV to an overlooked sports icon. His return to diving as mentor to USA divers at Olympics provides new chapter of life-story.

Greg has been an inspiration for what I do. He has also been personally very supportive of me and  HIV prevention and treatment work in Montana- and throughout the world. His story is one of pain and humility, determination, compassion and trust. It deserves to be heard, and this film’s wide distribution will be a beacon for a lot of people- including kids- who could use a dose of inspiration.

You can vote to get this film a consult from the Tribeca Film Institute. It’s the last day to vote, so…

Vote here!

State Tells Yakima Diocese “No Collection” For Anti-Marriage Equality Group

From New Ways Ministry:

Last week, we reported that Bishop Joseph Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima, Washington State, had instructed parishes to distribute collection envelopes in its parishes to raise money for Protect Marriage Washington, the state’s main organization working to defeat Referendum 74, a ballot initiative to uphold a law guaranteeing marriage equality.

This week, however, the Associated Press reports that the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has ruled that for parishes to collect the envelopes would be illegal and has informed the diocese of its decision:

“. . . Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, says no organization can be an intermediary for a contribution. She says the church can hand out envelopes, but either a member of Preserve Washington has to be on hand to collect them or parishioners must send them in individually.”

The diocese appears to be ready to dispute the PDC decision. Diocesan Chief of Staff Monsignor Robert Siler claims that the procedures are not a “collection” :

” ‘As far as I know, the procedures we sent to the parishes meet the requirement of state law,’ he said, noting that the envelopes are preaddressed to the campaign.

” ‘We’re not collecting and counting money,’ he said. ‘We’re just collecting envelopes and forwarding them.’ “

KIMATV.com quotes Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson’s comments on the PDC decision:

“Bishop Tyson says it’s just one big misunderstanding. In fact, he told KIMA that he has yet to see one of the donation envelopes.

“In the letter, where the Bishop specifically asked parish staff not to open the donation envelopes, but instead place them into the addressed security envelope and mail them directly to Preserve Marriage Washington. It says the collection is supposed to take place September 8th and 9th.

“ ‘It’s not our collection, we’re not collecting the money, it’s not our envelope. We’re not banking the money, we’re not rolling the money, we’re not collecting the money and we’re not taking the money. Preserve Marriage Washington is doing that…we’re going to follow the state law and I’m going to make sure that we’re doing that,’ said Bishop Tyson”

Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington State, the statewide Catholic organization working to support marriage equality in the referendum, praised the PDC’s decision.  Spokesperson Barbara Guzzo said:

“We are delighted by this ruling because we represent so many Catholics in those pews who not only find political fund raising inappropriate for their Sunday services, but also strongly disagree with the Bishop’s stance.

“We believe we should all be able to practice our faith without pressure from our Bishop or our parish priests to support an effort we oppose. “

Legal questions aside, the moral question remains:  why are church institutions raising money for a political organization?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Raging Against The Hate Machine

In light of this:

“the Republican platform included language rejecting not just same-sex marriage but also the watered-down alternative that many elected officials find more palatable: civil unions. The GOP platform committee also defeated a proposed amendment that said all Americans should be treated “equally under the law” as long as they’re not hurting anyone else.”

I present this:

What If Jesus Had been A Republican?

Jesus Christ in Capernaum (study)

Jesus Christ in Capernaum (study) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A peek:

The Lazy Paralytic

1. When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at his home. 2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5. When Jesus saw this he grew angry, “Why did you wreck my roof? Do you have any idea how much that cost to install? Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof? The reeds alone cost five talents. I had them carted in from Bethany.” 6. The disciples had never seen Jesus so angry about his possessions. He continued, “This house is my life. And the roof is the best part.” The disciples fell silent. 7. “It’s bad enough that you trash my private property, now you want me to heal you?” said Jesus, “And did you not see the stone walls around this house?” “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “Are these not the stone walls common to the towns and villages of Galilee?” 8. “No,” Jesus answered. “This is a gated community. How did you get in?” The man’s friends grew silent. 9. Then Jesus turned and said to the paralytic, “Besides, can’t you take care of your own health problems? I’m sure that your family can care for you, or maybe the synagogue can help out.” 10. “No, Lord,” answered the man’s friends. “There is no one. His injuries are too severe. To whom else can we go?” 11. “Well, not me,” said Jesus. “What would happen if I provided access to free health care for everyone? That would mean that people would not only get lazy and entitled, but they would take advantage of the system. 12. Besides, look at me: I’m healthy. And you know why? Because I worked hard for my money, and took care of myself.” The paralyzed man then grew sad and he addressed Jesus. “But I did work, Lord,” said the paralytic. “Until an accident rendered me paralyzed.” “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “He worked very hard.” 13. “Well,” said Jesus, “That’s just part of life, isn’t it?” “Then what am I to do, Lord?” said the paralytic. “I don’t know. Why don’t you sell your mat?” 14. All in the crowd then grew sad. “Actually, you know what you can do?” said Jesus. “You can reimburse me for my roof. Or I’ll sue you.” And all were amazed. 15. “We have never seen anything like this,” said the crowd.

More here.

FDA Approves new HIV Treatment

English: Logo of the .

The FDA approved “the Quad”- a four-medication-in-one-pill treatment for controlling HIV. Two of the medications comprising Stribild, tenofovir and emtricitabine, have been previously combined and sold under the brand name Truvada (itself approved a few weeks ago as a preventative or prophylactic for HIV, see related articles below).

Two of the medications are new, and – as a condition of approval- will require greater testing in women and children, as well as studying possibilities and occasions of resistance.

This is good news.

Simplifying regimens is a helpful strategy in helping keep HIV-infected persons faithful to their medication schedules, a key in effectively treating HIV. Cost is yet to be determined- and most HIV regimens cost in excess of $18,000.00 a year (mine cost $24k).

Still no picnic- but good news for those who need a simpler med schedule.

Hard Truths (About Gay Men & HIV)

From NAPWA’s Positive Voice Newsletter:

National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – NGMHAAD – is coming September 27, three months to the day after National HIV Testing Day, and hard on the heels of July’s landmark International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Washington, D.C. We have two messages this year: Be aware, know your risk, and, Let’s end this epidemic! Because we matter – and we can.

Speaker after speaker at IAC returned to this year’s good but challenging news: yes, we still need more science to stamp out HIV – more and better antivirals, an effective vaccine, and a functional cure - but we already have all the biomedical tools we need to make new HIV infections a thing of the past. The hard part is reaching “key populations” – groups with high rates of existing infections and new infections because they have been marginalized, stigmatized, denied civil rights, and excluded from health care.

NGMHAAD is for one of those “key populations:” this country’s men who have sex with men (MSM). NAPWA founded NGMHAAD in 2008 because we want them to know the epidemic isn’t over. We want them to know how high their HIV risk really is – because so many are already infected, and too many don’t know it. And we want them to know that we’ve come a long way since AIDS was first reported in 1981, and even further since Stonewall, but stigma is still driving this epidemic and gay men don’t have to take it anymore.

So let’s look at some numbers and see what that the gay men’s HIV epidemic looks like in the U.S.

The July 28 issue of The Lancet opened an admirable series of articles on HIV among gay men worldwide with a look at epidemiology, and reported that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in its North American region is a jaw-dropping 15.4% - almost one in six. The real prevalence may be a little lower - The Lancet assumes that only 3.7% of American men are MSM, a number we think is too low, and raising the estimated number of MSM would reduce the calculated prevalence a little – but it’s still clear that prevalence is breathtakingly higher among MSM than in the rest of the population.

Let’s calculate just how much higher.

About 251 million Americans are 15 or older. If 5 percent of the men are MSM, we have 6.3 million MSM and 245 million “others” 15-and-older in this country. We’re all familiar with the CDC’s estimates that 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, and 60% of them are MSM. That gives us 480,000 infections in 245 million “others,” for a prevalence of 0.2% – one in five hundred. It also gives us 720,000 infections in 6.3 million American MSM, for a prevalence of 11.5% – just shy of one in eight. HIV prevalence among American MSM is almost 60 times what it is in the rest of the population.

That means HIV-negative MSM who are active with partners whose status they don’t know are at much higher risk than many realize. So the first and most important message of National Gay Men’s Awareness Day is – simply - be aware. Know your status. Know your risk. If you aren’t absolutely sure you know your own and your partner’s status, keep your condoms handy.

In September 10′s Positive Voice, we’ll write about how we got to where we are and what’s needed to deal with the MSM epidemic on the ground. Why near-universal testing is so important when prevalence is already so high. The need to confront stigma and talk frankly about sex in communities where this is deeply uncomfortable. The need for pride and love. The need to have culturally competent and welcoming health care for MSM.

And in the September 24 issue, just three days before NGMHAAD, we’ll remember the quarter-million (at least) American MSM who have died of AIDS and examine our responsibility as their survivors to demand action to end this epidemic once and for all. Now that we can, we must.

Washington State Catholic Pastors’ Refusal Continues to Inspire

From New Ways Ministry

While we were in Washington State last week doing educational programs on Catholic support for marriage equality in anticipation of that state’s referendum on the issue in November,  Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and I met with several pastors and parish leaders who earlier this year had refused the local archbishop’s request to use their parishes to collect signatures for petitions  to put the new marriage law to a ballot test.

Our discussion was lively and encouraging.  For one thing, we learned that there were many more parishes that had refused to collect signatures than had made the news accounts back in April.  We knew about a handful, but it turns out there were probably close to twenty that abstained from the collection.  In fact in one deanery (a geographic division) of the diocese, the pastors of all twelve parishes had met and agreed corporately not to allow signature collection.

The pastors we met  said they mostly had two reasons for their refusal:  1) they believed that collecting signatures would cause great divisions in the parishes; 2) many of the parishes have an explicit welcome to LGBT parishioners and their families, and they felt that collecting signatures would be a sign of inhospitality.

Response from parishioners has been universally positive about the decision not to support the signature campaign.  A number of the priests said that the announcements of the decision received standing ovations from their congregations.  The few parishioners who disagreed expressed their thoughts quietly and respectfully, and the priests felt that the decision helped to open up avenues of dialogue.

Fr John Whitney, SJ

During our discussion, we learned about one pastor, in particular, who has been very public and vocal about not supporting measures to defeat marriage equality.  Fr. John Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph Parish, Seattle, has added a section to the parish’s website about the upcoming referendum.  In that section, he includes a letter describing his decision as well as his perspective on Referendum 74.    He begins:

“Many of you may have read in the media that St. Joseph, among other parishes, has decided not to allow the gathering of signatures for Referendum 74, which aims at repealing the marriage equality bill passed by the State of Washington. This referendum is supported by the Archdiocese of Seattle, who has asked the Knights of Columbus to collect signatures at various parishes. Although many of you have offered support for the decision not to allow signature gathering here, I believe all of you deserve an explanation of the reasoning behind the decision.

“The primary reason for not allowing this petition is the nature of the worshipping assembly. Women and men of all opinions, orientations, backgrounds, and motivations are welcomed at this altar, and are encouraged to pray for wisdom and unity, even as we all work to create social policies that respect our faith and support each other. The Church should not be a place of coercion, but of discernment, as each member of the Church (as well as each citizen), decides whether a proposal such as Referendum 74 makes us more or less like the Kingdom described by Jesus. To have petitioners at the doors seems to me inappropriately coercive and contrary to the mission of the Church, especially in the Sunday assembly.”

Fr. Whitney goes on to describe why he feels the church is not the place to debate the referendum:

“Further, the nature of the piece of legislation makes it inappropriate to be brought into the context of our worship, I believe, since Referendum 74—like the marriage equality act it seeks to overturn—concerns civil marriage, not the covenant of Catholic marriage, which is a matter of faith and exists in the Church through the ministry of every couple. Although the Archbishop has the right and responsibility to speak and educate the community about legislation, I believe that this level of involvement around the issue of civil marriage is ill-considered, and risks placing the Church on the side of injustice and the denial of civil rights. Thus, I cannot in conscience allow such signature gathering at St. Joseph. I am not telling others how to vote, but I think that a Catholic, in good conscience, can oppose this referendum and should not be pressured to support it in the context of Sunday mass.”

In addition to his statement on the parish website, the pastor also posted Archbishop Peter Sartain’s letterrequesting signatures,  and an FAQ sheet from the  Washington State Catholic Conference on why Catholics should oppose marriage equality.  Fr. Whitney explained his approach:

“Finally, I want to be clear that the Archbishop empowered pastors to make the decision about whether or not to allow signature gathering, and that we are not acting in opposition to his leadership. I am committed to offering his words directly to this community, when that is requested, and to encourage all members of the community to read them respectfully and thoughtfully, as part of the formation of conscience for any Catholic. In those rare situations where I may disagree with the Archbishop’s conclusions, I do not intend to use the pulpit or bulletin to debate, since that is not the place. As I have said, I think such debates belong outside the Church.”

He closes with a hope and prayer for unity among Catholics, even those divided by the marriage equality issue:

“It is of primary importance in all this, however, that we know we can be one community, united in heart and mind, only if we believe that every person is loved by God and valued in his or her humanity. We must listen to one another with respect—to the reality of our experiences and the grace of our call, in Christ. Hearing and loving each other is the root to true discernment, for it is in this communion that the Spirit is present and the Church—the true Church, for whom Christ was crucified and to whom he gave his body and blood—made flesh.

“May we hear God in our midst and always live to do God’s will in our world.”

On the website, Fr. Whitney provided a link for people to easily respond to him and/or to the archbishop.

We need more pastors like Father Whitney who speak forthrightly and who encourage respectful dialogue among their parishioners and between parishioners and their pastoral leaders.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Bible and Homosexuality: Does it Matter?

From Queering The Church:

August 26, 2012

By 

For Christians, the Bible is obviously important, but on homosexuality, responses differ. For traditionalists, it is a given that scripture “obviously” condemns all forms of same – sex activities, and that sodomy is “the sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance”. For an expanding pool of revisionist biblical scholars, this is a false reading of scripture, based on mistranslations or mistranslations of the original texts, and distorted by a heteronormative interpretive bias. Canon Derrek Sherwen Bailey first questioned the traditional readings back in the 1950′s, have challenged the traditional interpretations of the clobber texts, even labelling them as textual abuse, and more recently begun to promote affirmative, LGBT inclusive passages as an alternative.

But there’s another view,  that even if it is true that the Bible really does condemn homosexuality, it could be simply wrong – just it has been wrong on slavery.

The argument is neatly put by Dan Savage, in his widely reported debate with Brian Brown, of the NOM:

The Atlantic reports it so:

The Bible, if it got something as easy and obvious as slavery wrong, what are the odds that it got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? I put those odds at about 100 percent. Pat Robertson was recently asked about this. He was asked, “If America was founded as a Christian nation why did we allow slavery?” And his answer was, “Like it or not, if you read the Bible, in the Old Testament slavery is permitted.” That’s a half-truth. In both testaments slavery is permitted and sanctioned. But then Robertson said something uncharacteristically profound: “We have moved in our conception of human beings until we realized that slavery was terribly wrong.” And so what he’s saying there is not just that we realized slavery is terribly wrong. Also, we realized the bible was wrong about slavery. I don’t think LGBT Americans are asking American Christians to do anything that you haven’t already done.

Move in your conception of the value of human beings.

Here’s the full debate, courtesy of YouTube:

Pacific NW PFLAG Conference Comes to Hamilton, MT

This Western Montana town of 5,000 people better known for its conservative religious and political beliefs than its embrace of gay people will play host to the annual Pacific Northwest Regional PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Conference for three days, September 21 through 23. Pride Foundation is a sponsor of this event, and regional development organizer Caitlin Copple will present during the Saturday breakout sessions.

“We are thrilled to bring PFLAG chapters from all over Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and Montana together, as well as other allied groups, in Hamilton for a fun-filled weekend that will inspire them to renew their commitment to advocating for equality and dignity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community,” said PFLAG’s volunteer regional director and Pride Foundation board member Kathy Reim, who will travel to the conference from Skagit County, Washington.

The conference kicks off Friday, Sept. 21, at the Bitterroot River Inn (http://www.bitterrootriverinn.com/) with Dr. Robert Minor, professor emeritus of religion at University of Kansas, on how to diffuse religious arguments misused to justify discrimination of LGBTQ people.  Following his speech, there will be a hospitality room with wine and beer and other entertainment by local talent.

Saturday’s offerings begin at 9 a.m. and include workshops on how to avoid volunteer burnout, how to better engage straight allies in the movement, as well as a panel on transgender experiences and how to have a more fulfilling relationship geared toward LGBTQ couples. Lesbian icon, singer-songwriter Cris Williamson will perform a benefit concert for the Bitterroot PFLAG chapter at the Victor Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m.

Conference sessions continue Sunday morning exploring how to build more successful boards of directors and how to carry forth the hope and inspiration of the conference back to the various communities represented from across the region.

For a full schedule and registration information, visit www.pnwpflag.org. For local information on the Bitterroot Valley’s tourist offerings, visit www.pflaghamiltonbitterroot.org.  Those needing a ride to and from the Missoula airport to the conference should email John at cummings1@bresnan.net.

Founded in 1985, Pride Foundation is dedicated to inspiring a culture of generosity to connect and strengthen organizations, leaders, and students who are creating LGBTQ equality across the Northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. To learn more, visit www.pridefoundation.org or email Caitlin@pridefoundation.org.