Indiana Defines Stupidity as Religion – The New Yorker

INDIANAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—In a history-making decision, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana has signed into law a bill that officially recognizes stupidity as a religion.

Pence said that he hoped the law would protect millions of state residents “who, like me, have been practicing this religion passionately for years.”

via Indiana Defines Stupidity as Religion – The New Yorker.

Fox News: You can oppose non-discrimination law because being LGBT is just a ‘belief’ | The Raw Story

Fox News anchor Bret Baier suggested to his viewers on Wednesday that a good reason to oppose a law to prevent discrimination against LGBT people was that “beliefs” like sexual orientation could “conflict with a company’s goals.”

During a segment on Fox News’ Special Report, Baier noted that Democrats were pushing to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and that meant “religious freedom” would “take a backseat to another kind of freedom.”

Reporter Shannon Bream pointed out that many religious institutions opposed the bill because they could be forced to “hire a transgender teacher.”

via Fox News: You can oppose non-discrimination law because being LGBT is just a ‘belief’ | The Raw Story.

Mormons join Hawaii’s gay-marriage fight, but with a new approach | The Salt Lake Tribune

In a letter dated Sept. 15 and read to congregations, LDS leaders across the state urged Mormons to “study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation.”

The letter did not tell members which side of the issue to take, only to study the church’s “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” a document that endorses one man/one woman as the ideal for marriage.

Whether Mormons favor or oppose the potential change, the letter said, they should push for “a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith” that would protect religious groups “from being required to support or perform same-sex marriages or from having to host same-sex marriages or celebrations in their facilities; and protect individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages.”

via Mormons join Hawaii’s gay-marriage fight, but with a new approach | The Salt Lake Tribune.

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For most Americans, gay equality trumps religious objections

In the wake of two favorable Supreme Court decisions, gay rights proponents got another boost this month with the release of “State of the First Amendment: 2013,” a public opinion survey supported by the First Amendment Center.

According to the new poll, a majority of Americans (62 percent) now agrees that religiously affiliated groups receiving government funds can be required to provide health benefits to same-sex couples, even if the group has religious objections to same-sex marriage or partnerships.

Support for equal treatment of gay couples is highest among young people ages 18-30 (68 percent) and among Americans who identify as liberal (82 percent).

But a surprising number of evangelicals (41 percent) and conservatives (44 percent) – groups usually identified as opponents of same-sex marriage – also favor requiring religiously affiliated groups receiving tax dollars to provide health benefits to same-sex partners.

When government funds aren’t involved, public support for equal treatment of gay couples drops to a slim majority.

Fifty-two percent of Americans believe that businesses providing wedding services to the public can be required by government to provide services to same-sex couples, even if the business owner has religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Here again, support for nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is highest among people under 30 (62 percent) and liberals (70 percent) and lowest among conservatives (34 percent).

Non-religious (59 percent) and Catholic (61 percent) Americans are more likely than Protestants (39 percent) to support requiring businesses to serve gay couples on the same basis as other couples.These findings suggest that the gay civil rights movement has reached a tipping point in the United States. For a growing majority of Americans, sexual orientation is fast joining race and gender as a human trait that should not subject any person to discrimination..

via For most Americans, gay equality trumps religious objections.

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Baptist Church marriage policies being tightened

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) — Churches are beginning to add a stipulation in their bylaws that their ministers perform only traditional marriages on their premises, in response to the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decisions in late June.

Greg Erwin, a Baton Rouge attorney who represents the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the Baptist Message state paper and several Louisiana Baptist entities, said it is hard to speculate on what the decisions may mean for churches.

“The ruling means the same for Louisiana churches as for churches in all states except that in states where they have banned discrimination based upon sexual orientation, churches are more at risk than churches in states that would not pass such a law,” Erwin said.

If the Supreme Court becomes reliably liberal by losing one conservative judge to a liberal, Erwin said, the court in a future decision could require that churches marry homosexuals.

“It would seem that the law now is that churches do not have to perform marriages that violate its beliefs,” Erwin said. “However, if a church rents out its facilities for weddings to anyone but same-sex couples, then a court could find that the church is discriminating in violation of law by only refusing to rent to homosexuals.

“The free exercise of religion guaranteed by our Constitution is subject to future restriction by Congress, legislatures and the courts under the guise of balancing competing rights,” the attorney said. “We are at risk by staying true to our biblical principles.”

Stacy Morgan, a church administration strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, is working with Erwin to develop a standard policy that churches may adopt regarding the use of facilities and church membership.

Morgan advised churches to start a conversation on how they will address the issue.

“Specifically, we need to examine how we can continue to be a good neighbor in the community and honor God with the resources He has entrusted to us,” Morgan said. “How can we uphold a high standard of holiness that honors God and still be integrated with the community? That is what we’ll have to deal with.”

Some churches acted before the Supreme Court rulings to include wording in their bylaws that they would recognize marriage as only between a man and a woman.

“We did it because we saw this coming several years ago,” said Tom Carlton, pastor of Grawood Baptist Church in Keithville, which made a change four years ago. “Many churches have been preparing for this for a while. It’s sad but necessary.”

Airline Baptist Church in Bossier City added a policy in May that addresses weddings, receptions and other events.

“Our culture is changing and the standards are being lowered,” said Chad Mills, Airline Baptist’s pastor. “We wanted to be proactive and address the church policies and to put something into action that would protect our church and our values.

“We don’t want to be legally forced to recognize, to allow or to host any kind of marriage that is not a marriage as defined by the Bible as one man and one woman,” Mills said.

Ridge Memorial Baptist Church in Slidell decided in June to recognize only traditional marriage and said no one is allowed to perform a same-sex marriage on their property.

“It is a shame that we have to vote on something like this,” said Paul Dabdoub, Ridge Memorial’s pastor. “But for protection, it is a must.”

First Baptist Church in Blanchard changed its bylaws in June after reading a Baptist Press article on the need to include a traditional marriage definition.

Randy Davis, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Hammond, said he planned to meet with other pastors in his area to discuss making proper bylaws changes dealing with marriage.

“Whatever statement we make, I want to affirm human dignity, which applies even to homosexuals, who like all of mankind [are] made in the image of God,” Davis said. “Homosexuality is more than a sin; it is a degradation of the image in which we are made.”

Neil Caver, pastor of Cedarcrest Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, said the church’s bylaws already define marriage as between a man and a woman, but the church is considering adding a stipulation that no pastors affiliated with the church will be allowed to perform gay weddings.

First Baptist Church in Calhoun plans to add relevant language to its bylaws in the near future.

“Our bylaws will state the biblical teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman and that marriages outside those parameters will not be performed by church ministers or on church property,” said Neil Everett, First Baptist Calhoun’s pastor.

The current policy at First Baptist Church in Westlake requires premarital counseling with the pastor. Wayne McEntire, the church’s pastor, said they’re adding a precaution for the same reasons as other churches — “to protect ourselves from the possibility of having a possible scenario where someone joins the church and demands use of the facilities for a same-sex ceremony.”

“As it is now, our policy would prevent that because it requires premarital counseling sessions and I would deny access to an unbiblical wedding,” McEntire said. “A stated bylaw would further articulate the position of the church should it ever be challenged in a legal manner.”

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LGBT Global Church Celebrates Marriage Equality and Addresses Violence

Known globally as the “The Human Rights Church,” Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) convenes in Chicago, July 1-5, to mark 45 years of marriages and human rights for LGBT people and to support MCC’s ministries in 40 countries. Their 25th General Conference is at the Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel—200 North Columbus.

Celebration of the historic US Supreme Court decisions is on the docket, but MCC leaders are committed to lifting up ongoing persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the US and in the more than 70 countries where being gay is illegal and sometimes punishable by execution.

On Wednesday, at 1 p.m. (Central), Bishop Christopher Senyonjo – ardent opponent of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill – and US Ambassador Dan Baer will join top MCC leaders in a press conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the worst arson attack against LGBT people in US history. Thirty-two people – almost all MCC members – died, but it was ignored for decades. Through recent documentary, theatre and television productions, this fire is becoming a milestone in the history of violence against LGBT people. If you cannot join in person, please call in: (605) 477-3000, Access Code: 774241#

MCC has been a driving force for decades to provide an alternative to shame-based churches. Nearly two thousand members and supporters from the USA and around the world will build on the 45 years of MCC ministries under the 2013 banner, “Believe!”

Keynote speakers and workshop leaders include:

  •     Daniel Baer, US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE);
  •     Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who is fighting Uganda’s proposed “Kill the Gays” bill;
  •     Rev. John Thomas, retired head of the 3 million member United Church of Christ;
  •     Rev. Dr. Bob Johanson, Distinguished Fellow, author of Leaders Make the Future;
  •     Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson, Moderator of the United Church of Canada;
  •     USA Marriage Equality leaders, Rev. Candy Holmes, Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Rev. Dr. Neil Thomas;
  •     Rev. Cristiano Valero, leader in Brazil where the country looks to MCC for marriage leadership;
  •     Eastern Europeans leaders: Florin Buhuceanu (Romania), Leah (Moldova) – high risk areas;
  •     Rev. Jim Mulcahy (working in Ukraine) and Yuri (Moscow) face Orthodox Church resistance;
  •     Rev. Elder Hector Gutierrez speaks to marriage equality in Argentina, Brazil and Latin America;
  •     Leaders of the Global Justice Institute, Rev. Pat Bumgardner and Pastor Joseph Tolton.

MCC was the first to marry same-gender couples in 1968, first to legally wed a Colorado couple in 1993, and provided key leadership for marriage equality in Canada. MCC has been in the White House and on the steps of courthouses for over four decades. MCC leaders are still risking their lives in Eastern Europe where they have been attacked and arrested at pride events. They are on the ground in Uganda, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc. living out the future of equality before God and the law.

MCC’s human rights and justice work addresses the rights of women, people of color, sexual minorities and other groups facing challenges. MCC members and leaders work to empower and effect change by building bridges that liberate and promote sacred respect for all people. Calls to action and global dignitaries will drive the agenda for this policy-setting meeting, which now happens once every three years.

“Metropolitan Community Churches are on a bold mission to transform hearts, lives, and history…. Just as Jesus did, we are called to: Do justice, show kindness, and live humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8) – From MCC’s Statement of Vision.

For more information about the MCC and their affiliates, please visit www.mccchurch.org.

via LGBT Global Church Celebrates Marriage Equality and Addresses Violence.

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Marriage equality does not infringe on religious freedom | Reno Gazette-Journal | rgj.com

When news came last week that the Nevada State Senate stood up for the freedom to marry, I was overjoyed. As bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, I support marriage equality.

I support marriage equality not in spite of my religious beliefs, but because of them. As Christians, we are committed to cultivating love and compassion within our church and community. The moral imperative to respect and care for other people compels us to insist on their right to form loving relationships sealed in the legal bond of marriage. That right is part and parcel of being human.

Our ability to fall in love, commit ourselves to another person and build a life together is a gift of God. However different churches may view same-sex relationships, we should all agree that the state has no right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples the way it once did against mixed-race couples. A basic sense of justice, found in all religions, stands against such discrimination.

I respect my fellow Christians who do not believe a same-sex relationship can be a sacramental marriage. They have a right to their convictions. But this law is not about sacraments. It is not about what constitutes a “Christian marriage.” That is a question for churches, not the state, to decide. This is about civil law. It is about the right to enter into the legal relationship of marriage. That right is fundamental and should not be denied to gay and lesbian citizens who are as capable of maintaining stable family relationships as straight couples.

Lawmakers took extra steps to ensure that this bill protects religious freedom. Let me make this crystal clear: Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will not change how each religion defines marriage. This proposal specifically protects the rights of clergy and religious organizations that choose not to perform marriages for same-sex couples.

via Marriage equality does not infringe on religious freedom | Reno Gazette-Journal | rgj.com.

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Wayne Besen: Gay Bashing by Churches Is Why a New Pew Poll Shows America Losing Its Religion

A new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveals that a record number of Americans (19.3 percent) have abandoned faith and now consider themselves unaffiliated with any particular religion. According to USA Today:

If you want to understand the reasons behind this trend, take a moment to read a disturbing letter that Twin Cities Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt sent to the mother of a gay son. In it, the holy man told the mother that her “eternal salvation” might depend on whether or not she embraced the anti-gay teachings of the Catholic Church, thus rejecting her own child. Talk about family values!

Such a callous admonition might have worked in the past, when people had little education. It might have resonated in bygone eras, when gays and lesbians were invisible and easy to demonize as the “other.” It might have held sway had the Catholic Church’s credibility not been left in tatters after the church spent more than $2.5 billion to clean up the wreckage wrought by pedophile priests and their enablers.

via Wayne Besen: Gay Bashing by Churches Is Why a New Pew Poll Shows America Losing Its Religion.

‘No Religion’ on the Rise: 19.6% Have No Religious Affiliation – Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 –are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).3

via ‘No Religion’ on the Rise: 19.6% Have No Religious Affiliation – Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Twin Freedoms | Center for American Progress

Religious liberty—the ability to freely exercise one’s religious beliefs—is a cornerstone of American democracy. It is a right woven throughout the legal fabric of our nation, one that is espoused in state laws, state constitutions, and most importantly in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Unfortunately, however, conservative lawmakers have increasingly turned to misusing religious freedom as a political tool to obstruct policies they oppose. With regard to marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, for example, conservatives are charging (and misleadingly so) that laws and policies that level the playing field for same-sex couples threaten the free exercise of religion in the United States.

An increasing majority of Americans, including President Barack Obama, believe that we should afford the freedom to marry to all couples. And Americans from all faith backgrounds support the ability to practice one’s religion free from government interference. These twin freedoms—the freedom to worship and the freedom to marry—are both important American values, and they are wholly compatible with one another.

But opponents of marriage equality would like to think otherwise. They disingenuously argue that marriage equality will unduly require clergy to officiate weddings between same-sex couples even if doing so violates their religious beliefs. Opponents similarly claim that marriage equality laws violate the religious freedom of shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and private citizens by compelling them to provide goods and services to same-sex couples, even if they already must do so under existing nondiscrimination public accommodations laws.

We’ve seen much of this show before. Opponents of interracial marriage employed similar arguments and tactics as a way to gin up opposition to laws and court rulings that advanced equal marriage for couples of different races. Of course, following these laws and rulings, no religious leader has been forced to officiate a wedding ceremony that violated his or her faith, including ceremonies for interracial couples. The only thing that changed with the legalization of interracial marriage is that governments were no longer able to deny these couples a marriage license or the benefits that come with marriage. The state of religious liberty remained and continues to remain unchanged with respect to interracial marriage. The same rings true in those states that have legalized marriage equality for same-sex couples.

via Twin Freedoms | Center for American Progress.

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