God Says “It Getteth Better”

It’s turning out to be YouTube Friday… Maybe in light of the remarkable silence by some Christian denominations to participate in the “It Gets Better Campaign”, God makes a (perhaps cynical, certain-to-be-offensive-to-some) point: It Getteth Better.

So You Want To Live In Montana…

 

I think this is actually what some people think…. Thanks, Jeannie!

Study: LGBT Inclusive Policies Good For Business

Over ninety percent of the country’s largest companies state that diversity policies and generous benefits packages are good for their corporate bottom line, according to a new study from UCLA’s Williams Institute.  The study finds that more than half of these companies specifically state that their policies prohibiting LGBT discrimination or extending domestic partner benefits are good for business. The study is based on a review of statements issued by the top 50 Fortune 500 companies and the top 50 federal contractors when they first put these policies in place.

“This study highlights that economic benefits are a significant incentive when companies adopt LGBT-inclusive policies,” said Christy Mallory, Williams Legal Research Fellow.   “As employers consider adopting similar polices, and as legislatures consider codifying such policies into law, this research informs the economic consequences of their decisions,” stated Mallory.

The past decade has seen a large increase in the number of corporations adopting LGBT-related workplace policies.  Among the top 50 Fortune 500 companies, 48 now include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies and 70% include gender identity. Additionally, 88% extend domestic partner benefits, including health insurance to the same-sex domestic partners of employees.  Among the top 50 federal contractors, 81% include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies and 44% include gender identity. Over half extend domestic partner benefits, including health insurance, to the same-sex domestic partners of employees.

“The specific reasons why these companies felt their LGBT inclusive policies had a positive business impact went  beyond improving their efforts to recruit and retain the most talented employees,” said Brad Sears, Roberta A. Conroy Senior Scholar of Law & Policy and Williams Institute Executive Director.   “Companies linked these policies to improving employee morale and productivity, to meeting the needs of their diverse customers, and to sparking ideas and innovation through employees, including LGBT employees, who bring different perspectives and experiences.”

Beyond business justifications, the study also notes that companies adopt LGBT inclusive policies because they are consistent with their corporate values of fairness and respect and because doing so is simply “the right thing to do.”

Full study here.

Today, I Wear Purple

Via GLAAD:

Millions of Americans wear purple on Spirit Day as a sign of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and to speak out against bullying. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by teenager Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Observed annually on October 20, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. Getting involved is easy — participants are asked to simply “go purple” on October 20 as we work to create a world in which LGBT teens are celebrated and accepted for who they are.
Haz clic aquí para ver información en español.

Show Your Spirit on October 20, 2011! How you can participate in #SpiritDay: Click Here!

Hope for MT? : Commonwealth Countries Asked To Decriminalize Gays

Leaders of Commonwealth countries will be asked to decriminalise homosexuality to help to stop the spread of HIV, an Australian official has said.

Forty-one of the 53 Commonwealth countries – including Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana – still criminalise gay sex and HIV campaigners say such laws are seriously hampering safe sex initiatives.

The 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Perth, Australia from 28-30 October.

CHOGM 2011 will bring together more than 50 world leaders representing approximately one-quarter of the world’s countries and one-third of the world’s population. The meetings originated with the of the leaders of the self-governing colonies of the British Empire in 1887- and still has great influence in setting human rights policy throughout the world.

Sodomy laws in the US were invalidated by The U.S. Supreme Court in the ruling of Lawrence vs. Texas in 2003. However, several states- including Montana- still keep these shameful and impotent laws on the books- despite reasonable efforts to remove them– presumably as a slap in the face to the “Uppity Gays”. And yes, I will mention (Again!) that the Official Montana Republican Platform still calls for the criminalization of homosexual acts.

Will this meeting in Australia have an effect in Montana?

Probably not- at least not directly. I suspect this will not be seen as a discussion of human rights, but as a discussion of disease and epidemics- at least at first. And if the last legislative session is any indication, the zenophobes in charge of Montana’s legislative agenda will see it as unimportant (and non-applicable) world politics that don’t apply here.

But any progress is good progress- and this is progress- this discussion has never happened at this world level before- and it eventually filters through. Even to Montana.

I just hope I live to see it.

Reasonable Evangelicals Disavow “Fundamentalist Rejection Of Reason”

Today’s Op-Ed piece in by Karl Giberson and Randall J Stephens in The NYT is a piece well worth reading.

For many people, “Evangelical Christian” has become code for “Christian, anti-scientist”. The writers of todays column point out that this isn’t necessarily so- or fair. The vocal minority who claim Evangelical Christianity are, in fact, not so. They are Fundamentalists. Excerpt:

Like other evangelicals, we accept the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ and look to the Bible as our sacred book, though we find it hard to recognize our religious tradition in the mainstream evangelical conversation. Evangelicalism at its best seeks a biblically grounded expression of Christianity that is intellectually engaged, humble and forward-looking. In contrast, fundamentalism is literalistic, overconfident and reactionary. (emphasis mine)

Fundamentalism is dangerous. In case you have forgotten, Fundamentalists were the ones who hijacked and piloted planes into the World Trade Center. Of a different religion, yes, but adhering to the same principles. The writers haven’t forgotten, and they are reminding the rest of the world that these few don’t speak for the rest:

Americans have always trusted in God, and even today atheism is little more than a quiet voice on the margins. Faith, working calmly in the lives of Americans from George Washington to Barack Obama, has motivated some of America’s finest moments. But when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even if it means criticizing fellow Christians.

Amen.

CDC: More Teenage Boys Using Condoms

Birth control- it’s not just for girls anymore.
A study by the CDC indicates boys are taking a more proactive role in accountability when it comes to sex. Excerpt:

More teenagers are using a condom — by itself or along with a partner’s hormonal contraceptive — according to a new teen sex survey from the CDC.

The survey shows sexual activity and contraceptive use among U.S. teenagers have remained relatively stable over the last decade. But condoms gained among teenage boys as the preferred method.

Also, the teen birth rate has resumed a gradual decline that was briefly interrupted in 2005-2007.

“The slight increase from 2005 to 2007 generated concern that progress over the past two decades in reducing teen pregnancies could have stalled,” researcher Gladys Martinez, PhD, of the CDC’s division of vital statistics, and colleagues write in their report. “However, data for 2008 and 2009 show that the teen birth rate again declined from the rate in 2007.”

The study showed the teen birth rate for girls aged 15-19 was 39.1 births per 1,000 females in 2009. That’s 37% lower than its peak of 61.8 per 1,000 in 1991. Researchers say that is a historic low for the U.S., but still higher than many other developed countries, including Canada.

And that means that STD/HIV rates will be affected- for the better.

On a side note, I believe the surge in birth rates to be the direct result of Bush era abstinence-only education- something Denny Rehberg wants to bring back.

Sigh.

But a surge in personal responsibility on the part of people with penises? Applause.

A Commentary on the “Reform of the Reform” of The Catholic Church

I like Vatican II- The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, which occurred in Rome between 1962 and 1965. It brought in “fresh air” and strived to create a sense of unity- and the beginning of the effort of understanding between the church and the modern world. Relevancy being no small thing back then.

It seems to be a small thing now. Especially for those in charge of the Roman Catholic Church.

The wagons are circling. And the Pope is the one drawing them in- followed closely by the fanatics who use communion as a weapon, have no (and want no) understanding of the sciences of psychology or sociology or biology and simply want to hold on to the illusory power that disappeared with the Borgias….

Over at Enlightened Catholicism is discussed Eugene Cullen Kennedy’s piece at The National Catholic Reporter:

 

The Reform of the Reform may be better understood not as an exaggerated exercise in nostalgia as much as the debilitating side-effect on being unable to adjust to the Space/Information Age that has ended the division between the earth and the heavens that was the theoretical basis for hierarchical structures. By healing the centuries old presumed rift between earth and the heavens the Space/Information Age also healed the separation of the human person into antagonistic elements of body and soul, flesh and spirit. It is difficult for hierarchs to adjust to the Space/Information Age because they cannot get their bearings easily unless they sit atop an hierarchical array; they fear going into free fall in the universe in which there is no center, no up and no down, and so they want to reconstruct the times and places, the Time and Again of an age before Vatican II in which they feel that they will be comfortable again.

There is something poignant about these would-be time travelers who pull back from the future that is already enveloping them. They remind one of the travelers in the desert described by Freud in explaining the difficulty many people have in letting go of the past. When the sun goes down and the air turns bitter cold, such pilgrims long to return to the remembered warmth of campfires they had left behind them. They cannot return to them because they have cooled to ashes and the winds have mixed them with the billowing waves of sand. The Reform of the Reform is built on just such understandable but misplaced longing, is bound to disappoint those who invest their hearts in its success, may generate centrifugal pressures in the heart of the Church, and one day, long after it has failed, be judged not as an inviting oasis worth a long journey but a cruel and seductive illusion of the unforgiving sands of time.

But the blogger at EC speaks for me when she says:

 It’s very very sad to me, that at a time when the collective consciousness of this planet is finally choosing to see that we are all inner connected and no culture can pretend to live in a hermetically sealed vacuum, the Vatican is attempting to recreate Catholicism’s own hermetically sealed vacuum.  As Kennedy says, this is a cruel and seductive illusion of the long ago shifted sands of time.  It really is destined to fail.

The last gasps of social relevancy seem to be coming long and hard right now….

Breakdown Of The House HHS Appropriations Bill

Yep, it’s awful. They are funding $4 billion less than last year. $4 Billion.

From NASTAD:

The Republican majority of the House Appropriations Committee released their draft version of the FY2012 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill with a budget that was $4 billion less than FY2011.  There is no markup scheduled for this bill, thus members of the Subcommittee will not be able to weigh-in on the proposed bill. The funding levels contained in this bill will serve as the House marker when in conference negotiations on final spending levels with the Senate. As this is a draft bill, there is no report language, so some details on funding levels are not known.  NASTAD has included an updated chart. (link is below)

The bill includes many policy riders, targeting funding for syringe exchange programs, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood. The bill bans the use of federal funding for syringe exchange programs. The bill also includes language that prohibits funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including the elimination of the Prevention and Public Health Fund. In addition, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates can only receive funding after certifying that the organization will not perform abortions with non-federal funds.

Both the House and the Senate have voted on a continuing resolution that will fund government programs through November 18.

Some of the House draft bill highlights include:

Department of Health and Human Services:

Health Resources and Services Administration

Ryan White Program

The House bill flat funds all parts of the Ryan White Program, including ADAP. The Senate bill includes a $15 million increase to ADAP bringing the total to $900 million and it flat funds all other parts of the Ryan White Program.

Family Planning

The Title X Family Planning program was eliminated in the House bill. The program was flat funded at $299.4 million in the Senate version of the bill.

Community Health Centers

Community Health Centers received a decrease of $4.7 million from FY2011 in the House version of the bill. The Senate bill increased funding for Community Health Centers by $200 million from FY2011.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB

In the House bill, funding for the Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention was reduced by $32.7 million.  There is not detail about how these cuts will be divided among the Divisions or if DASH will be included in the Center.

The Senate bill level funds CDC’s HIV/AIDS and STD prevention programs, including HIV prevention by health departments, HIV surveillance, the Enhanced HIV Testing Initiative and Improving HIV Program Effectiveness Program. DASH was flat funded as well. The Division of Viral Hepatitis received an increase of $10 million for testing.

Needle Exchange

The House version of the bill bans the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs, whereas the Senate version of the bill maintains current law on the use of federal funding for syringe exchange.

Immunization

The House bill does not provide detail about funding of the Section 317 Immunization Program. The program received a $50 million increase from FY2011 in the Senate bill.

Prevention Block Grant

The Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant was funded at $100 million, a $19.1 million increase from FY2011 in the House version of the bill. The program was eliminated in the Senate version of the bill and the President’s budget proposal.

Prevention and Public Health Fund

In the House version of the bill, all funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund was eliminated. In the Senate version of the bill, the Prevention and Public Health Fund received an increase of $135 million.

Agency for Children and Families

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative

The House bill reduced funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative by $84.7 million to $20 million. In addition to this reduction, the House bill provides $20 million for the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grant program, which was previously not funded and the bill removes language requiring the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative programs to be evidence based.

The Senate bill level funds the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, maintains language requiring programs to be evidence based, and does not provide any funding for the CBAE program.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The House bill’s funding of SAMHSA is still being determined. In the Senate bill, SAMHSA Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration was level funded at $63 million. The Senate Committee also encouraged SAMHSA to develop a demonstration project on hepatitis education and testing for patients and providers.

 National Institutes of Health

NIH received an increase of $1 billion in the House bill, bringing their total funding to $31.7 billion. The House bill also eliminates the transfer of $297 million from the NIH to the Global HIV/AIDS Fund. The Senate decreased NIH by $190 million from FY2011 levels and requested a transfer of $299 million to the Global HIV/AIDS Fund.

Department of Housing and Urban Development:

 Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS

The House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill flat funds the HOPWA program, while the Senate bill reduces the HOPWA program by $4.3 million, for a total of $330 million.   

State Department:

Global HIV/AIDS

The House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill provided $7.1 billion for global health programs, but does not specify a funding amount for the Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria. The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill eliminated the $300 million transfer from NIH to the Global HIV/AIDS Fund.

The Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill provided $5.6 billion for global HIV/AIDS programs. The Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria was flat funded at $750 million (and $299 million in the Senate Labor HHS bill) and Bilateral HIV/AIDS received $50 million less than FY2011.

FY2012 Appropriations Chart 10-6-11

Harris Himes, Obsessed Culture Warrior or Victim of “Homosexual Agenda”: Decide for Yourself

 

More verses for the Bittersweet Ballad of Harris Himes….

From The Montana Human Rights Network:

Harris Himes, a self-proclaimed pastor from Hamilton, has a history of ranting about the LGBT community’s responsibility for many things, including the supposed moral collapse of America and the eventual destruction of Western civilization.  Therefore, it shouldn’t really be surprising that he is blaming the LGBT community, along with reproductive justice advocates, for the six felonies which he currently faces.

In late September, Montana’s Insurance Commissioner charged Himes with fraud and theft for an investment scheme that tricked a man in the Bitterroot Valley out of $150,000.  After posting bail, Himes called a talk radio program and went on the attack.  He said pro-gay activists were likely behind the charges.  He also claimed the Insurance Commissioner was going after him for political disagreements they’d had in the past.  Callers to the radio program responded by denouncing his baseless accusations.  However, Himes was merely singing from the same hymnal he has used since appearing on Montana’s political scene.

Connected at the State and National Levels

Formerly an attorney in California, Harris Himes frequently identifies himself as both an attorney and pastor.  The media recently reported on his claims to ordination by the Calvary Chapel.  After a few years, he split from the chapel and proclaimed himself pastor of Big Sky Christian Center.  A pastor with Calvary Chapel recently told the press: “But to call him a pastor isn’t accurate because he doesn’t have a church. There are accountability structures built into a church. He’s a self-proclaimed pastor….”

Regardless of his real or perceived pastor credentials, Himes has been active with a laundry list of Religious Right organizations in Montana.  He’s been a board member for the Montana Family Coalition (which originally was the Christian Coalition of Montana).  He is currently listed as a speaker for the Montana Pro-Life Coalition’s upcoming “Personhood Conference” in October.  He’s testified at the Montana Legislature on behalf of the Big Sky Christian Center, Montana Values Alliance, and Montana Eagle Forum.

At the national level, Himes has served as voluntary counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which was founded by Religious Rights icons including James Dobson to “keep the door open for the Gospel in America.”  Himes has also worked with the Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.  In other words, Himes isn’t just a rank-and-file member of Montana’s Religious Right.  His connections reach into national circles, and he has been a leader and prominent lobbyist for its issues in Montana.

Over the past decade, Himes has frequented the Montana Legislature and testified that America was “founded on biblical principles” and that legislators needed to “have a bias to stand for God.”  In other forums, he has stated America was better when people had to be Christian to run for office. He has also encouraged churches to get rid of their tax-exempt status so they can engage in open politicking.

While he has worked closely with numerous Religious Right activists in Montana, he has been most closely aligned with Ravalli County’s Dallas Erickson.  He has been integral to Erickson’s attempts to pass anti-obscenity/censorship ordinances in Ravalli County.  In 1999, the county passed the ordinances.  However, a district court judge ruled they were unconstitutional.  The Liberty Counsel represented the county, with Himes acting as the liaison.  In 2002, the Montana Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Ravalli County that sought to uphold the ordinances.  The county has had to pay damages and court costs of some $70,000 in defense of Himes’ and Erickson’s religious campaign.

Hating the LGBT Community

During the 2011 Montana Legislature, Harris Himes told a legislative committee that the Bible commanded that gays be put to death, saying:

“The religious reason [to discriminate against the LGBT community] is God himself, who says that homosexuality is an abomination, and he has punishments for that…The punishment is this.  If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.  They shall surely be put to death.”

He was testifying for House Bill 516 (Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre) which would have repealed the Missoula Anti-Discrimination Ordinance and prohibited other localities from passing similar measures.  The Missoula Ordinance outlaws discrimination against the LGBT community in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations.  It is notable that, when Rep. Hansen submitted her initial file to Montana Legislative Services for drafting the bill, it included a handwritten letter from Dallas Erickson to the bill drafter.  The note stated, “Rep. Kristen Hansen has given Harris Himes and I permission to work with you on LC1865 [which became HB 516].” Himes and Erickson were vocal opponents to the Missoula Ordinance, even testifying against it although they didn’t live in the City of Missoula.  The note with the bill-draft request makes it clear that they were instrumental in bringing HB 516 to the legislature.

Himes’ “death to gays” comment was shocking to many people.  However, it just echoed the many previous anti-LGBT comments he’s made.  The following is nowhere close to being a comprehensive cataloging of his anti-gay diatribes.  However, they provide a good overview.

  • During a 2003 legislative hearing to repeal Montana’s deviate sexual conduct law, which had been ruled unconstitutional a decade earlier, Himes compared the LGBT community to imprisoned drug dealers.  He said neither group wanted the law to apply to them.   He said homes where LGBT Montanans lived should be raided like drug dens.
  • Himes opposed attempts at the Montana Legislature to require the adoption of comprehensive bullying-prevention policies.  In 2003, he said such a bill contained the words “sexual orientation” and, since being gay violated the Montana Constitution, it should be treated as a crime.  In 2005, he said a bullying-prevention bill was part of the “homosexual agenda” to take over schools.
  • While opposing a 2003 hate crimes proposal, Himes stated that the protections in the bill would be a “sword against Christians who take the Bible seriously.”  In opposing a 2009 hate crimes bill, Himes said he preached God’s word, and the bill would make him a “potential prison inmate” if it passed.  Himes frequently mischaracterized hate crimes bills as attempts to limit his freedom of speech.
  • Himes has told legislators that there needs to be some discrimination against gays.  He’s told them that “God is watching” and would punish them for their leniency toward “sexual deviants.”
  • During a 2006 Board of Public Education meeting about bullying-prevention policies, Himes claimed the policies create “whispering indictments” like the ones used to kill Jews during the Holocaust.  He also stated the Montana Legislature defeated the proposed legislation, because the entire goal of preventing bullying was to advance the gay agenda.

Himes has a history of demonizing LGBT Montanans and blaming them for pretty much everything.  He’s even done this in the absence of the LGBT community.  During the 2005 legislative session, he opposed a bill and tried to link it to the “homosexual agenda.”  His supposed proof—that LGBT supporters weren’t in the room.  His claim that the LGBT community is somehow responsible for him facing felony charges has a similar level of “credibility.”