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AVN Responds to American Family Association

<i>AVN</i> Responds to American Family Association

James L. Lambert, a self-described "former pornography addict" who now sells mortgages, posted a column Tuesday on OneNewsNow, the American Family Association's successor to its daily AgapePress e-mailer, which covers the news (and occasionally makes it up) from a conservative religious perspective.

Lambert's column, "Perspectives: Left's hysteria growing in closing months of the Bush administration," ("closing months"? Try 21 of them!) charges that "Editors of Adult Video News, the porn industry's advocacy magazine, claim the 'religious right' and President Bush are drawing America into a theocracy."

That's a pretty strange way to phrase it, since what "Editors of Adult Video News" have actually claimed is that the religious right and President Bush have declared full-scale war on secular America. They're attempting to turn the executive and judicial branches of the government into arms of the Southern Baptist Convention through everything from federal judge and Supreme Court nominees to the establishment of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives which reports directly to the president.

But since Lambert apparently denies that this is going on, we thought we'd take a short stroll through the religio-conservative emails we received that same day to see what evidence they might contain that might bolster AVN's contention.

First, there's a special email from Family Research Council (FRC), exhorting its readers to "Thank President Bush Now for Defending the Unborn!" Bush, you see, has "courageously" sent a letter to the majority leaders of both houses of Congress "vowing to veto any legislation that would force U.S. taxpayers to fund the destruction of human life." Now, you might think – well, hope, anyway – that the Prez was referring to some promise to veto any bills that would continue funding the war in Iraq, where over 3200 American human lives have been snuffed and tens of thousands wounded ... but no; FRC wants readers to thank him for promising to veto federal funding for "research that requires the killing of human embryos" a.k.a. embryonic stem-cell research.

"Unfortunately," notes FRC, "due to the change in who controls Congress, we can expect leftwing efforts to undermine pro-life provisions in several spending bills." Since FRC's definition of "pro-life" stops at a woman's labia, we think it's safe to classify its advocacy for "pro-life provisions in several spending bills" as yet another attempt to bring conservative (if not fundamentalist) religious views to bear on the supposedly secular federal budget process.

OneNewsNow itself is another reliable advocate for more religion in government, and for the past several weeks, various articles have railed against federal "hate crimes" legislation, which would make it a crime for anyone to "willfully cause[] bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempt[] to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person," but would exempt "any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution." [Emphasis added]

In other words, clergy can rail all they want from the pulpit about how Leviticus 20:13 prescribes that, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death" – that's protected speech. What the Act doesn't protect is those parishioners then going to their local bar and beating the shit out of one of its patrons because those good Christians (or Jews) think that person is a "fuckin' queer."

But, notes a story on OneNewsNow, "Representatives from groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, Concerned Women for America, Vision America, and Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation held a press conference in Washington, DC, to voice their displeasure with what they view as an attack on Christian expression."

Hey, "press conference ... to voice their displeasure" – no problem! It's the American way! But then, as so often happens with these articles, the lunatic fringe takes over:

"Janet Folger of the ministry Faith 2 Action says the hate crimes bill passed by the House is aimed at pastors or anyone else who has the 'audacity' to disagree with the homosexual agenda," the article recounts. "'Mike is standing at a football bar, or he's standing at a restaurant, watching a game,' she posits; 'Bruce comes out of the restroom, and he's touching up his makeup. He's a cross-dresser with red-nail polish and a five o'clock shadow. He comes out and hits on Mike. Maybe he puts his arm around him or maybe he brushes or puts his hand through his hair.' The average man would 'maybe want to push off such unwelcome advances,' Folger observes. However, she warns, 'That, if you touch him, is a hate crime.'"

Um ... no, Janet, it isn't. The law requires that the person "willfully cause bodily injury to" the person, and just pushing them away – in the 10 or 12 times this century that that scenario has actually played out in real life – would not cause the required injury. The bill in no way "attack[s] ... Christian expression"; in fact, it protects it.

What Folger and her ilk want is the carte blanche to beat up gays because their religion encourages them to do so, and not suffer any additional penalty for that; in other words, a religious exemption for bigotry that results in violence.

And when religious bigotry gets special protection from government, that's a problem.

Another OneNewsNow story that caught our attention is headlined, "Coral Ridge Hour launches campaign to improve nation's public schools."

Well ... we here at AVN are all for improving our nation's public schools ... but we're also a little suspicious when the guy who bankrolled the placement of a two-and-a-half ton rock engraved with the Ten Commandments in the Montgomery, Alabama federal courthouse – it was, of course, later ordered removed at taxpayer expense by a federal judge – claims he knows how to do that.

"Throughout May," the article announces, "three television programs will be aired during The Coral Ridge Hour, the weekly show produced by the Florida-based ministry of Dr. D. James Kennedy. The programs will investigate problems with the U.S. public school system, including the role and influence of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union."

Religio-conservatives have had a hard-on for the NEA for several years, since the teachers' union has generally supported Democratic politicians and has had the temerity to suggest that school kids could use less proselytization of religion in the classrooms rather than more.

And sure enough, "Senior producer Jerry Newcombe says ... Dr. Kennedy, for years, has been 'banging the drum that we should apply the mind of Christ and the Bible to all of life, not just our spiritual life – and that would include education.'"

It has, of course, escaped Dr. Kennedy's attention that not all public school children believe in Christ, and that facilities already exist where kids can get all the Christian upbringing they can stand.

They're called "churches."

The attempt by religionists to "apply the mind of Christ and the Bible" to public school instruction is an attempt to meld religion with a primary governmental function: Public school education. If one needed an example of the dangers of that "unholy alliance," one need only look at the recent hubbub surrounding Monica Goodling, graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School, who's about to be offered immunity to testify before Congress as to the Justice Department's attempts to pad its ranks with religio-conservative Republicans.

But speaking of churches, "A Florida Christian has filed suit to block the construction of a Muslim mosque in an area of Pompano Beach where very few Muslims live," write OneNewsNow "reporters" Chad Groening and Jody Brown, further noting that, "He is concerned that the imam has ties to terrorism and that the facility will pose a threat to his neighborhood."

"Attorney Larry Klayman says his client" – Rodney Wright, a member of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church – "believes the relocation of the Islamic Center of South Florida 'presents a substantial harm to the well-being, safety, and health of the community' ... Klayman, founder and former chairman of the watchdog group Judicial Watch, says the lawsuit demonstrates that the mosque 'has ties to radical Islam and [that the imam] invites terrorists and people who support terrorism to the mosque.'"

Perhaps it's just poor reporting on the part of Groening and Brown, but nowhere in the article do they state just what evidence Klayman or Wright have that the mosque either has ties to "radical Islam" or that its leader "invites terrorists" and their supporters to the mosque. That evidence would be kinda important in a new story like this, wouldn't you think? Otherwise, someone might suggest that this was simply another turf war between Christians and Muslims, with the Christians trying to bring the power of government to give their faith a legal edge over the equally valid beliefs of the Muslims.

And if they succeed, that might be viewed as another instance of the government establishing Christianity over Islam, which the Constitution says is a big no-no.

Another favorite daily email is the Alliance Alert, from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), one of the small group of law firms or associations that represents Christian organizations (no Muslims need apply, and Jews are scarce to non-existent as well) in lawsuits against government entities. The organization was founded by Alan Sears, formerly best known as the executive director of the Meese Commission.

On Tuesday, the Alliance Alert alerted us to Dick Otterstad and his son Luke, leaders of the 20-member Church of the Divide, which has "staged dozens of demonstrations in recent years to expose what they view as Christian persecution," according to a linked article in the Sacramento Bee.

Most recently, the Otterstads have organized rallies against Dave Terwilliger, the principal of the San Juan High School in Sacramento, for having suspended 35 students for wearing t-shirts bearing anti-gay slogans and Bible verses on the April 18 "Day of Silence," an annual student protest in support of gay rights – and in an amazing coincidence, the Otterstads own a store, No Gay Gear Inc., that sells the shirts!

"Trent Allen, a spokesman for the San Juan Unified School District, said the problem with the shirts worn by San Juan students isn't that they espouse religious beliefs, it's that they target a particular group or refer to a sexual act," wrote Tod Milbourn for the Bee.

But that wasn't good enough for the Otterstads, who decided to follow Terwilliger home and pass out flyers to his neighbors reading, "Your neighbor is persecuting Christians. You need to confront him over his tyrannical behavior at a public high school." They also picketed outside Terwilliger's church, carrying signs calling him a hypocrite and calling for his excommunication.

While ADF rarely comments on the articles it links to, after several months of reading the Alliance Alert, one can't help but suspect that ADF supports such attempts by Christians to figuratively yell [anti-gay] 'fire' in local public schools.

Another ADF link brought an article titled, "NC Supreme Court Upholds Crimes Against Nature Statute." Seems a 14-year-old kid and his 12-year-old partner were discovered engaging in oral sex and intercourse in the back of the girl's mother's SUV, and eventually, the county district court ruled that he was a "delinquent" for committing a "crime against nature." One might think that all such "crime against nature" laws were thrown out after the Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, but the boy's lawyer never argued that point, and the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that, "Besides the goal of promoting proper notions of morality among our State's youth, the government's desire for a healthy young citizenry underscores the legitimacy of the government's interest in prohibiting the commission of crimes against nature by minors."

Frankly, we suspect that ADF just gets off on the court referring to consensual sodomy as a "crime against nature."

"ACLU Asks Government to Investigate Evidence of Taxpayer Dollars Funding Religion in Oregon Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program" was another ADF link. The article refers to the ACLU calling on the federal Department of Health and Human Services to investigate grants given to an abstinence-only "sex ed" program called "Stop and Think." According to its own contracts, the Stop and Think program required its presenters and supervisors to "possess an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ; possess knowledge of the Word of God, and the ability to communicate it's [sic] truth; exhibit a loving and merciful spirit; [and] attend a Bible believing local church or fellowship" – which the ACLU took as evidence that the program was religiously based, and objected to taxpayer funds going to the program. This is exactly the sort of program that ADF defends.

All in all, we found about a dozen articles just on Tuesday depicting religious organizations and their supporters attempting to influence government or government-funded entities in favor of religion – in fact, in favor of Christianity, and often in favor of the fundamentalist variety of that religion. There were swipes at presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's having made personal donations to various chapters of Planned Parenthood, a particular boogeyman of the religious right; applause for John McCain's assertion that although it's not impossible for a Republican candidate who favors abortion rights to win the nomination, such a candidate would "face long odds"; claims that government-mandated TV ratings are a "sham" when it comes to notifying parents of sexual content in those shows; and outright lies about a Zogby poll that supposedly showed that parents of public school students overwhelming support programs that preach sexual abstinence over programs that promote safe sex with condoms.

Yes, Mr. Lambert, America is fast falling toward theocracy – a state where religious beliefs dictate government policy – and the articles on the website that publishes you, as well as similar sites, prove it rather dramatically. The only question is, why don't you see that?

Or is it possible that you just don't want to?

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Mark Kernes

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