Archive for freedom of religion

Has God Joined Elvis And Left The Building?


Rev Frank Schaefer

Well, leave it to the United Methodists. A crisis in the church arises and they take immediate action. Well, immediate's a relative term. Six years can seem like an eternity or a snap of the fingers, in biblical terms. And this story is about biblical issues, so let's stick with immediate. But it's a crisis of faith, family and public opinion that converge right now. Did Rev. Frank Schaefer violate his faith when he officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding?

Six years ago, the Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa., officiated his gay son's same-sex wedding in a private ceremony in Massachusetts. That legal action in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts led to a trial that concluded yesterday by the United Methodist Church. This serious matter was adjudicated by the church after one of the reverend's own flock filed a complaint.

Yesterday the trial ended with a verdict. The rare jury of 13 Methodist pastors had found Schaefer guilty on two charges: “conducting a ceremony that celebrates same-sex unions” and “disobedience to order and discipline of the Methodist Church.”


Testifying in his own defense, the 51-year-old pastor said he decided to break church rules out of love for his son. He said he might have lost what he called his 'ritual purity' by disobeying the Methodist Book of Discipline, but that he felt he was obeying God's command to minister to everyone.

'I love the United Methodist Church. I've been a minister for almost 20 years and there are so many good things about the United Methodist Church except for that one rule,' said Schaefer.

So Methodists don't condone homosexuality. They take the words of Christ to minster to everyone yet create their own book of rules and disciplines to limit the Lord's teachings.Words of mortal men are seeming given more weight over those credited to Christ, the Savior to the modern day Methodists.

"Just quote Jesus when it serves your fears and bigotry," seems to be their holy mantra.

Evidently the current thinking of the Methodist Church is that the bible only sets up commandments for some people, not others. The do unto others as you'd have them do unto you doctrine doesn't apply here. What's next for them? No Asians? Or Blacks? Or converted Jews? Or what about short people? We all know what heathens they are. Incorrigible.

That fact is religions that discriminate on any level, risk being called a true religion. This trial  is a huge slap in the face of the United Methodist Church. And it's shameful when one of it's ministers, a Reverend, has to chose religious dogma -- really only an interpretation of those -- over family. Is Christ the son of God? Is Tim Schaefer the son of Rev. Frank Schaefer? Are we not all made in the image of our maker? Christ broke rules when he felt it necessary -- can't Reverend Schaefer be allowed to do the same?

What this boils down to is literalism versus scripture.

Schaefer is the first among five Methodist ministers to be accused by church officials over the past year of possibly violating church doctrine on gay rights. The other four could also face church trials. The cases, which are being closely watched by advocates on both sides, represent perhaps the biggest flare-up in recent years in mainline Protestantism over the issue of homosexuality. At 8.3 million members, Methodists are the second-largest group of Protestants in the United States.

I propose they are this second largest group of Protestants are demonstrating hate and malice. Rather than convert or accept, they condemn. They are perhaps the real lost wandering tribe as they show no relationship to the God I learned about in Sunday School. He welcomed all. He didn't discriminate. He may have turned water into wine (John 2:1-11), but he didn't curse the water.

water into wine

If someone is gay, bi, lesbian, transsexual it's not their choice. Just like a bird being a bird and not a bear. LGBT is not a choice. It's the maker's selection. So why not accept it?

The leadership must stop cherry picking what to believe to make themselves comfortable. When even Pope Francis, arguably an opposing faith leader, tells his flock that gays are people too, than why does his flock, larger than the Methodists, interpret the bible as a doctrine of love and tolerance -- not exclusion and hate? Where did the Methodists go wrong? Isn't Christ, if you believe in Christianity, the same Christ to all?

So what lies ahead for Pastor Schaefer? The penalty in past similar cases has ranged from a short suspension to defrocking.

We'll see how much the church wants to make an example of this compassionate man. Hopefully for the Methodists, they simply voice that that don't approve of this, and issue a warning. Then it'll be up to Schaefer, father of three other gay children, what he wants to do should any of them express a desire to have the pleasure and privilege of their father officiating over their service.


What is Conscience Creep And How's It Affecting All Of Us?


new wordsDahlia Lithwick in her recent essay for Slate, describes the new term that we should all be aware of:

The problem isn’t conscience clause legislation so much as what we might call conscience creep: a slow but systematic effort to use religious conscience claims to sidestep laws that should apply to everyone. 

Recalibrating who can express a right of conscience (i.e do corporations have a conscience?) and what the limits of that conscience might be, may well be the next front in the religious liberty wars being waged in courts around the country.

So what does that really mean to all of us. We know there are always provisions written into our US laws, specifically the 1973 Church Amendment, that makes exceptions for considering one's religious beliefs in how and to what extent laws affect them.

Recently and with more frequency religious and moral convictions became a catchphrase and explanation for law violations. It can be understandable when used legitimately. But therein lies the rub. Lately right wing organizations, under the guise of religious beliefs, have called upon this clause to stop just about anything that they don't like. The justification is the gray area.

Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, have all applied the church amendment. There it's much more cut an dry as they stand and exist for religious reasons only. But what about colleges, hospitals and prisons? Do they get the same religious protections. They don't deal primarily in an orthodoxy that these laws might violate. And they receive federal funds.

Last year, for instance, a prison guard withheld an abortion pill from a prisoner who’d been raped on the grounds that it violated her personal religious beliefs. And it hasn’t stopped at abortion, birth control, or sterilization, but may include activities like counseling rape victims or teaching AIDS patients about clean needles.

What about with adoption agencies claiming for religious reasons they won't allow a same sex couple to adopt or give a black child to a white family? Here again, the doctrine of religious conscience is being used to circumvent the thrust of the law.

Now this doctrine of religious conscience is moving into corporate headquarters. For cost saving purposes, but under the "excuse" of religious beliefs, companies are determining which laws they want to observe, and which they wish to void. These are not entities that by their identity are religious, but rather their owners are.

It doesn't stop  there. The military. Our military, made up of every race, creed, religion. States have passed laws that ban same sex marriage based on religious dogma. Yet same sex marriages by National Guardsmen/women are acknowledged by the federal government but not by the states. So to get ID cards, medical care, family counseling, other military benefits, the same sex couples must travel to Federal bases. They're denied their rights within the states. And the basis is religious conscience creep, not national security.

military silhouette

This past summer, Republicans in the House tried to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to "protect inappropriate, defamatory, and discriminatory speech and actions" in the military. The amendment broadened a "conscience clause" that protected the right of troops and chaplains to hold anti-gay views so long as they did not actively discriminate against gay service members.

Are corporations, the military, fast food chicken outlets, hospitals, colleges, liquor store chains, burger joints, qualified to get these exemptions. Are corporations people? Do they have a conscience? The Supreme Court will ultimately decide as more and more conscience creep is experienced.

But ask yourself this, where do we draw the line?

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @Linzack


"God-- I Love The Guy But The Fan Clubs Freak Me Out"



What happens when you have a debate between an Atheist, and a Christian? You get fireworks, a surprising argument and some wide-eyed discussion. Oh, and believe it or not, lots of laughs.

One of the points brought up by John Fugelsang, representing the Christian point of view, is his own background. He describes his family this way, "my mother was an ex-nun and my father was a Franciscan brother.

I'm the whitest guy in this room but you could say my mother was a Sister and my father was a Brother.

That's religion for you. It makes for some pretty strange bedfellows.

Fugelsang argues that those who hold the bible so dear to themselves would have trouble these days with electing Jesus for public office. After all, he was:

...a socialist. peaceful, radical non-violent revolutionary, hung out with lepers, hookers and crooks, never spoke English, wasn't an American citizen, was anti-wealth, anti-death penalty, anti-public prayer (Matthew 6:5) never anti-gay, never anti-abortion, never anti-premarital sex, long haired, brown skinned and a Jew.

And that's the Christian making that argument. Does make you pause.

On the Agnostic side, you get Jamie Kilstein who explains his disappointment with creationism by referring to how the majestic beauty of Niagara Falls wasn't part of the God's original plan. Sort of an afterthought.

So for sure you'll be entertained and enlightened with this humorous debate. You don't have to agree or disagree with either side -- but listening to it is fun. At least I hope you find it so.


Yowsers, Y'all


Rick Perry, not a Homo

Oh, c'mon, Cowpoke, Rick. You can't be serious. Only someone with a grudge could be so cold hearted, biggoted, and out of his mind. You have some pretty outrageous stands on many issues, but there's almost a sense that you believe in what you're saying, when you can remember what that is. Forget those three cabinet posts you'd do away with.  It's the one that you might add that scares me and a lot of others.

What the hell is the new proposed cabinet post on Anti-Gay Activities? Are your serious, Cowboy? Jingle your spurs, grab your reins and settle down to a trot, big boy. You got some little doggies to do some 'splainin' about.

Rick Perry's long reign as governor of Texas is ending and he's considering a run for president. (How did that work out for you last time, Rick?) Here's some things America will be remembering when you start out on the journey for the 2016 nomination.You have long been one of the most vocally anti-gay governors and political figures in American history. The cream rises to the top -- depending on the cream.

In 2003, you lambasted the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down the Texas sodomy ban, and all sodomy bans in the states, calling the court "nine oligarchs in robes." How enlightened for a man who thinks we provide too much public education, health benefits and food subsidies for the poor. You're also a man who doesn't want a path to legal citizenship for immigrants despite your state's huge numbers of undocumented residents. I guess you're no stranger to taking an unpopular cowboy stance.


In 2005, as governor, you championed a draconian constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions in Texas, and signed it into law in a ceremony held in a church.  Nothing like blurring the lines between church and state.

During your 2012 presidential run you had the audacity to cruelly tell a 14-year-old bisexual girl on the campaign trail that gays shouldn't serve in the military because "homosexuality is a sin," and he demeaned gay service members in a political attack ad that which became the most parodied ad of the election season.

Only someone with a grudge or something to hide would go to all those extremes to hurt god-loving, honest, hardworking people. Are you gay? Are you trying to hide it with this smokescreen? You wouldn't be the first. Rock Hudson, Liberace,  Ken Melman, Lance Bass,  Ricky Martin, Richard Chamberlain, and Cheyenne Jackson. They all went through stages of public denial before admitting the truth.  Nobody cared. It didn't matter. But lying about it left a bad taste in the public's mouth. So do you have something to tell us?

Ordinarily, I'd say you should give up a presidential run with a stand like that, and kiss your ass goodbye. But two things -- you'd have to take your head out of your ass first, and kissing it might turn you on. Not a picture America  wants to see.