Saturday, September 28, 2013

Annual Membership Meeting --Americans United for Separation of Church & State--OKC Chapter

 
 
 
 

Annual Membership Meeting --

Americans United for Separation of Church & State--

OKC Chapter


Dear First Amendment Supporters,
The 2013 annual membership meeting of the Oklahoma City chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State will be held on Thursday, October 17, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm.  The location is Ingrid's Kitchen at 3701 North Youngs,  Light refreshments will be served.  Attendees are invited to order from the menu should they wish. 
website--  http://www.ingridskitchen.com/     
 
All four officer positions will be voted on, the treasurer's report on finances and the past year's activities will be given and we will have, subject to confirmation, a special guest speaking to us about a very public separation issue in Oklahoma.
Be sure to have your membership status up to date.  This can be done from the National website at https://au.org/donate/donate-now

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reason To The Rescue


Reason To The Rescue: Members of Congress, Scholars and Faith Leaders Voice Opposition To Coercive Sectarian Prayer Before Local Board Meetings

A group of 40 scholars of law and religion said that just because Congress has long opened meetings with prayers doesn’t mean the framers of the Constitution intended government meetings to be used for religious coercion.
Last week we told you about our disappointment that the Obama administration plans to side with the Religious Right in Americans United’s upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case involving coercive prayer before local board meetings. Today, we’re pleased to share that a number of high-profile groups are on our side in this important matter – including some members of Congress, scholars and members of the faith community.
This week was the deadline for allies of Americans United to file amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in Town of Greece v. Galloway. Fortunately we’ve got friends in high places, and many of them stepped up to explain why the court should rule that overwhelmingly Christian prayer offered before local government meetings is unconstitutional.


It’s a shame that the Obama administration isn’t with Americans United, but it’s reassuring to know that not everyone in the federal government shares the administration’s interpretation of the Constitution.
Twelve members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed onto a brief arguing that local board meetings are fundamentally different from sessions of Congress, which begin with prayers.


“The Greece Town Board is not a purely legislative body, however, and its citizens do not observe its proceedings in a purely passive capacity,” the brief argued. “Rather, the Board makes quasi-adjudicatory decisions regarding the property rights of individual citizens appearing before it (e.g., by granting or denying business licenses and zoning permits) and the citizens advocate their views directly to the Board on legislative issues. Private citizens are therefore active participants in Board meetings.”

(The 12 signers are Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York, John Conyers of Michigan, Bobby Scott of Virginia, Ted Deutch of Florida, George Miller of California, Alcee Hastings of Florida, Robert Andrews of New Jersey, Michael Honda of California, Diana DeGette of Colorado, Mark Takano of California, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C.).

Our opponents frequently cite historical precedent as a reason to allow sectarian prayers to open government meetings. In fact, the Department of Justice justified its support for the Greece Board’s prayer practice with that reasoning, insisting, “Throughout its history, and dating back to the first session of the Continental Congress in 1774, the United States Congress has appointed chaplains to open each legislative day with a prayer.”

But a group of 40 scholars of law and religion said in their brief that just because Congress has long opened meetings with prayers doesn’t mean the framers of the Constitution intended government meetings to be used for religious coercion.

“Many Founders, including [Thomas] Jefferson and [James] Madison, steadfastly opposed any official government religious proclamations directed to the public,” the brief reads. “Even those Framers, like [George] Washington, who accepted some form of government religious speech believed that it should never have the purpose or effect of endorsing a sectarian position or excluding members of the political community based on their religious beliefs, because such outcomes were also inconsistent with individual rights of conscience.”  

We’ve always said that the framers supported church-state separation, but it’s good for the high court to hear that (again) from a large group of respected scholars.

We’ve also said that this case is about protecting religious minorities as well as non-believers from feeling unwelcome by their own local governments. Fortunately a group of minority faith leaders agrees with us. A brief signed by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, Union for Reform Judaism, Muslim Advocates, Hindu American Foundation, National Council of Jewish Women, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism, Blue Mountain Lotus Society and Rabbis Simeon Kolko, warned of dire consequences for minorities if the town of Greece wins this case.

“[C]itizens who wish to participate in their local governments could be forced to accede to overtly sectarian prayers that are not a part of their own faith tradition,” the groups assert. “Nothing would prevent local governments across the country from sponsoring prayers that ostracize religious minorities. It would be acceptable for local governments to invite prayer givers to offer prayers invoking specific Christian names for God, asking for forgiveness for sins, and proselytizing. Attendees could be asked to stand and participate in the religious ceremony by bowing their heads and saying ‘amen.’ But members of minority religious faiths should not be forced to participate in another faith’s religious observance just to attend a local-government meeting.”

In all there were 13 briefs in our favor, and we’re grateful for this support. Now it’s just a matter of the Supreme Court not only reading these wise words submitted on our behalf, but actually taking them to heart.


https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/reason-to-the-rescue-members-of-congress-scholars-and-faith-leaders-voice

Friday, September 20, 2013

Holy Freeloading!

Holy Freeloading! 10 Ways Religious Groups Suck on the Public Purse



Religion is big business, especially with the help of your tax dollars.

 
 

Have you ever thought about starting a new religion or perhaps a hometown franchise of an old one? Perhaps you’re just looking for a career ladder in a religious enterprise that already exists. No? Maybe you should.

Religion is big business. There are lots of options (over 30,000 variants of Christianity alone), and if the scale is right it can pay really, really well. Creflo Dollar, founder of World Changers Church, has an estimated net worth of $27 million. Benny Hinn comes in at $42 million. Squeaky clean tent revival pioneer Billy Graham bankrolled around $25 million. Even Eddie Long who has been plagued by accusations of sex with underage male members of his congregation can count his bankbook in the millions.

You say you don’t have star power? No worries. Millions of ordinary ministers, priests, missionaries, religious hospital administrators and other church employees earn solid middle- or upper-middle-class incomes in the God business. The pay is good, and for most positions it doesn’t matter what race you are or what grade you happened to get in chemistry.

complete at:

http://www.alternet.org/belief/holy-freeloading-10-ways-religious-groups-suck-public-purse?page=0%2C1&paging=off

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

For-Profit Corporation Is Not A Person

For-Profit Corporation Is Not A Person With Ability To Exercise Religious Freedom Rights, Federal Court Says

Americans United Advised Court To Rule Against Secular Firms Seeking Exemption From Birth Control Mandate

A Michigan-based for-profit business that manufactures fuel systems, power-steering systems and medical devices does not have the right to an exemption from the Obama administration’s birth control mandate, a federal appeals court ruled today.

In a unanimous opinion, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Autocam Corporation is not entitled to an exemption from the contraceptive mandate, which requires most businesses to provide workers with health insurance that includes no-cost birth control. The court said a secular, for-profit company is not a person that can exercise religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Americans United Executive Director the Rev. Barry W. Lynn said the court made the right call. Secular corporations are not people with religious liberty rights, Lynn said.

“Religious liberty is for people, not Big Business,” Lynn asserted. “No corporation should ever be able to tell its employees that they can’t have access to contraceptive coverage simply because it offends the boss’ religious views.”

RFRA’s legislative history, the court said, “makes no mention of for-profit corporations. This is a sufficient indication that Congress did not intend the term ‘person’ to cover entities like Autocam when it enacted RFRA.”

The court added that Autocam’s Roman Catholic owners, John Kennedy and his family, do not have standing to bring claims on behalf of the company.

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in March urging the 6th Circuit Court to uphold the birth control mandate.

The decision in Autocam Corporation  v. Sebelius was written by Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, who was named to the federal bench by President Ronald W. Reagan in 1983 and elevated to the appeals court by President George W. Bush in 2003.

The case is one of dozens of court challenges brought by secular, for-profit corporations seeking exemptions from the birth control mandate. The issue is expected to eventually come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/for-profit-corporation-is-not-a-person-with-ability-to-exercise-religious
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Trouble In Paradise: Tax Aid To Sectarian School Nixed In Hawaii

Trouble In Paradise: Tax Aid To Sectarian School Nixed In Hawaii

Oklahoma has a similar Constitutional restriction called Article II, sec 5--

Public Money or Property - Use for Sectarian Purposes

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Article_II,_Oklahoma_Constitution

Monday, September 16, 2013

Supreme Court Should Not Permit Sectarian Prayers

Supreme Court Should Not Permit Sectarian Prayers Before Local Board Meetings, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Urges High Court To Require Town Board To Respect Religious Minorities’ Freedom of Conscience

Citizens should not be required to participate in prayers – let alone prayers that are faith-specific – in order to participate in local government, Americans United for Separation of Church and State told the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a brief being filed today with the high court, Americans United argues that many citizens have no choice but to attend these meetings when they are seeking board action on local issues or must take an oath of office or receive public honors.

“Town board meetings are often intimate affairs,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “If prayers are delivered in that sort of setting, it’s plain to see who participates and who doesn’t, and that can easily lead to coercion or ostracizing.”

Americans United brought the litigation on behalf of two community residents, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens. They objected to the Greece Town Board’s practice of inviting clergy to open its meetings with sectarian prayers.

The board does not require that the invocations be inclusive and non-sectarian. As a result, the prayers have almost always been Christian. Official records showed that between 1999 and June 2010, about two-thirds of the 120 recorded invocations contained references to “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus,” “Your Son” or the “Holy Spirit.”

In a unanimous May 2012 decision, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the town’s prayer policy. Judge Guido Calabresi said “a given legislative prayer practice, viewed in its entirety, may not advance a single religious sect.” Greece officials appealed to the Supreme Court.
The brief asserts that the official prayer practice puts religious minorities in a difficult spot: They can either betray their conscience by participating in a prayer that conflicts with their religious views or single themselves out by declining to take part.

“Prayer is a religious act, not a passive symbol or display,” argues the brief. “Here, citizens face pressures to observe and participate.”

Elsewhere the brief observes, “The great majority of petitioner’s prayers use overtly Christian terms, and many invoke specifics of Christian theology. Such prayers cannot be thrust upon citizens assembled to participate in their local government.”

AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, who directed the Town of Greece v. Galloway case for Americans United, said, “Americans United believes that citizens should have the right to participate in local government without being pressured to take part in sectarian prayers. We hope the high court agrees.”

The brief contains numerous weblinks to prayers offered before the Greece Town Board. It was authored by Khan as well as Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia School of Law, attorneys Gregory M. Lipper and Caitlin E. O’Connell of Americans United and Charles A. Rothfeld and Richard B. Katskee of the Mayer Brown law firm. 

The case will be argued Nov. 6.
https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/supreme-court-should-not-permit-sectarian-prayers-before-local-board-meetings

Read some background about the case here. https://www.au.org/church-state/julyaugust-2013-church-state/featured/greece-is-the-word


Read a Bloomberg News story about Greece v. Galloway here.http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-07-26/let-us-pray-before-town-begins-business-is-supreme-court-battle

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

News Review of Religion Posing as Science Instruction

OKLAHOMA EVOLUTION/CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS
September 2013
[Clickable links in BLUE and underlined.  Oklahoma specific items in GREEN.  Comments [in brackets] by list manager Victor H. Hutchison do not necessarily represent the views of any organization or institution.  Each state and some Canadian provinces have similar list serves and this list is NOT a sponsored activity of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE).  All costs are paid by the list manager.  Posts are usually one per month. Subscribers:  924]                                            
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--------------------------------------
In This Posting:
1. Creationists Have a Bad Year!
2. Senator Coburn is a Climate Change Denier.
3. Textbooks Under Assault in Texas – Again.
4. OESE Awarded Grant for Teacher Workshops.
5. Common Core Teaching Standards.
6. Two More Oklahoma Colleges Adopt Evolution Statements.

1. CREATIONISTS HAVE A BAD YEAR!

Now that most state legislative sessions for the year have concluded we can state that the creationists, including the Discovery Institute that works to support creationist legislation around the country, have not had a very good year. As reported earlier two creationist bills were defeated in the Oklahoma Legislature, thirteen years in a row that we have been able to stop anti-science bills that proposed anti-science teaching in public schools.  This success has been led largely by efforts of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, but with huge help from many individual citizens and national and state organizations.  Several legislatures in other states, as well as in Oklahoma, now write bills that include opposition to evolution, climate change, stem cell research, etc.

The so-called ‘academic freedom acts’ pushing creationism have been defeated not only in Oklahoma, but also in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Missouri (two bills), Montana, and Texas. We can expect more attempts next year, especially in an election year. The bills have passed only in Louisiana (where a major repeal effort continues) and in Tennessee two years ago.

Creationists have failed in other than legislatures. David Coppedge, a former Jet Propulsion Lab employee, claimed he was fired due to his religious activities, including trying to pass creationist DVDs to other employees, etc. He lost in Court where it was clear that he was fired for other causes. The Discovery Institute was a big supporter of Coppedge John Freshwater, who was fired from a public high school for religious activities, has lost in court trials, but keeps appealing; it is not likely that he will win. A teacher at Ball State University, who covered religion and creationism in his science course, was exposed and President Jo Ann Gora, after a faculty committee considered the problem, banned faculty from indorsing intelligent design in their classes and even raising the topic in the classroom.

Creationism has cropped up in several public schools and is being challenged.  These local problems need to be watched and attempts to place religious material into science courses need to be challenged.  Several national organizations can come in to help.

2. Senator Coburn is a Climate Change Denier.

Coburn has joined Sen. Inhofe and other Oklahoma legislators, stating “I am a global warming denier. I don’t deny that.” He also claims to be a ‘man of science”

From The Daily Caller, August 27, 2013
[…]” Despite the scorn of environmental activists, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn admitted that he does not believe that human activity is causing the planet to warm.
[…]
The Tulsa World reports: “The climate is changing, and has been as long as there has been a climate, he said. … As a physician and a man of science, Coburn said he thinks the evidence points that the Earth is moving into a ‘mini-ice age.’”
In the wake of Obama’s unveiling of his new plan to tackle global warming, liberal groups have been putting pressure on Republican politicians who have expressed skepticism of the theory that human activity — mainly from burning fossil fuels — is causing the planet to warm.
[…]
Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity awarded Inhofe the Rubber Dodo Award  for being one of Congress’ “staunchest deniers of climate change and stalwart human obstacle to federal action on this unprecedented global crisis.”
“As climate change ravages the world, Senator Inhofe insists that we deny the reality unfolding in front of us and choose instead to blunder headlong into chaos,” said KierĂ¡n Suckling, CBD’s executive director. “Senator Inhofe gets the 2012 Rubber Dodo Award for being at the vanguard of the retrograde climate-denier movement.””

Copyright 2012-2013 The Daily Caller.

3. Textbooks Under Assault in Texas – Again.
 [From NCSE, 9 September, HERE. ]
“Ideologues on official state textbook review teams are attacking the treatment of evolution and climate change in science textbooks under consideration in Texas, charged the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education in a joint press release issued on September 9, 2013. "Once again culture warriors on the state board are putting Texas at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education," TFN's president Kathy Miller warned.
As the press release explains, documents obtained by the TFN show "that reviewers made ideological objections to coverage related to evolution and climate change in textbooks from at least seven publishers, including several of the nation's biggest publishing houses. Failing to obtain a review panel's top rating makes it harder for publishers to sell their textbooks to school districts or can even lead the State Board of Education (SBOE) to reject the textbook altogether."
"The arguments in these reviews are the same discredited claims anti-science activists have pushed for years," commented NCSE's Joshua Rosenau. Among those claims, various reviewers:
  • called for the inclusion of "'creation science' based on Biblical principles"
  • asserted that "no transitional fossils have been discovered"
  • insisted that there is no evidence for a human influence on the carbon cycle
  • claimed that there is no evidence about the effect of climate change on species diversity
  • promoted a book touting "intelligent design" creationism as a reliable source of scientific information
  • denied that recombination and genetic drift are evolutionary mechanisms
  • mischaracterized experiments on the peppered moth as "discredited" and as "fabrication[s]"
“This is scary because of Texas'[s] big influence on publishers and on textbooks used across the country," Rosenau said. "Publishers should listen to real experts, not unqualified reviewers who don't seem to understand even basic scientific terms.”
TFN's president Kathy Miller agreed, commenting, "What our kids learn in their public schools should be based on mainstream, established science, not the personal views of ideologues, especially those who are grossly unqualified to evaluate a biology textbook in the first place. What we see in these documents makes it imperative that the board finally establish genuine qualifications for those entrusted with reviewing textbooks or curriculum standards for our kids."
As the press release observes, it was members of the state board of education who nominated the reviewers, including the evolution and climate deniers. Few of the reviewers critical of the inclusion of evolution and climate change possessed any scientific credentials. Among those who did, several — Ide Trotter, Walter Bradley, and Ray Bohlin — are active in state or national antievolution organizations such as the Discovery Institute.
What's next for Texas? According to the press release, "Negotiations between publishers and the reviewers are ongoing. TEA officials say they cannot release documents showing what changes — if any — publishers are offering to make to their textbooks before the only scheduled public hearing on the books on September 17. A final vote on whether to approve or reject the textbooks for Texas schools is set for November."

Also see the posting on The Sensuous Curmudgeon HERE.

4. OESE AWARDED GRANT FOR TEACHER WORKSHOPS.

The DELTA Foundation has again granted OESE $ 16,339 for two years (2014, 2015) of teacher workshops on climate change and variability to be offered over a weekend at the University of Oklahoma Biological Station.  Earlier support from this family foundation was very important in allowing OESE to offer workshops for science teachers and helped make them highly successful. The Board of Governors of OESE expresses our gratitude for this important support that will help advance science education of high school teachers.

The workshop this fall on Climate Change and Variability at the Biological Station attracted many applicants.  To accommodate the demand the original limit of 30 was increased to about 38. The workshop this year is supported by an NSF grant to Dr. Cecil Lewis, an OU anthropologist.  This is the last year of the NSF grant support.  Thus the DELTA grant allows a continuation of the workshops.

5. Common Core Teaching Standards

National K-12 common core teaching standards are being considered in most states. Not unexpectedly, there is controversy in Oklahoma on adoption The Oklahoma Gazette had a detailed analysis of the problems HERE.  It is worth reading, if one wants the details. If adopted, the new standards would have major changes.  It is supposed to be fully implemented in one year in all state schools.  BUT, it is a major political controversy with some conservatives calling it national government interference and control, etc. House Speaker T. W. Shannon filed a bill to repeal Common Core in Oklahoma (in 2010 the OK legislature voted to adopt Common Core). Part of the controversy is over testing.  On 1 July Supt. of Education announced that Oklahoma would develop its own tests and mode of application. In Norman training for Common Core is pushing ahead, and teachers so far appear to like it, according to Dr. Joe Siano, Superintendent.

 Opponents of common Core include Rep. Gus Blackwell, a perennial author and supporter of anti-science (evolution, climate change, stem cell research, etc.) bills. In 2010 he voted for Common Cure, but now believes Common Core threatens to place Oklahoma education in the hands of a Federal agency... Jenni White, of the right wing ‘Restore Oklahoma Public Education’ group, stated that adoption of the Common Core “… will lobotomize education in America.”  This has become the usual battle between progressive educators and tea party type conservatives that abhor most Federal-level programs.

For the Oklahoma Academic Skills for Science (OASS) a revision process is underway.  It began last spring and continues through a number of forums and reviews (non-public).  The OASS should be approved by the State Board of Education by the start of the next calendar year.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has now been adopted by six states:  California, Kansas, Kentucky (pending legislative final approval), Maryland. Rhode Island and Vermont.  See NCSE post HERE on California adoption notes.

6. TWO MORE OK COLLEGES ADOPT EVOLUTION STATEMENTS.

Biology Departments at the University of Central Oklahoma and Southwestern Oklahoma State University have adopted statements supporting evolution These statements will be added to NCSE’s ‘Voices of Evolution’ [HERE}. The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa have adopted similar statements earlier.  NCSE coverage follows:

””The Department of Biology at the University of Central Oklahoma's statement in part reads (PDF), "Evolution is defined simply as the change in allele frequencies (genetic makeup) in a population through time. ... The theory of evolution explains the mechanisms that lead to these changes. ... The theory is modified as new information is acquired through these tests; however, the overall theory of evolution continues to be upheld. Support for this theory comes from a variety of disciplines (e.g., paleontology, morphology, genetics, molecular biology, ecology, developmental biology, and biogeography). The theory of evolution is the unifying theory in biology and the fact of evolution is not controversial in the scientific community."

“The Department of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University's statement reads (in its entirety), "Evolution is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. It is fundamental to understanding all areas of biology, including medicine and conservation. Therefore the Department of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University teaches evolution throughout the biology curriculum. We are in accordance with the American Association for Advancement of Science's statement on evolution. We are a science department, so we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously."
OESE has encouraged all Oklahoma colleges to do the same.  Such statements show  commitment to proper science and shows local citizens and legislators that colleges consider the topic of major importance.”

OESE continues a program to encourage all Oklahoma colleges to adopt such statements.  These signify the commitment to correct science to students, patrons, citizens and, especially, local legislators.

-------------------------  END  OF  POSTS ----------------------------------------







Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Russian Caravan: Religious Right Groups Latch Onto Nation’s Extreme Anti-Gay Laws

 

A faction within the Religious Right has put aside its historical distrust of the former 'evil empire' to lavish praise on the country’s efforts to curtail the gay rights movement.
 
Larry Jacobs and Scott Lively are certainly voices from the fringe, but their diligence and passion in the pursuit of culture war shouldn’t be underestimated. Their efforts have real consequences, both in the United States and overseas, and although equality is marching forward in this country, these bills are a timely reminder that these culture warriors won’t surrender the fight so easily.
Russia’s harsh new anti-gay laws have drawn global outcry – but they’re also receiving support from some unexpected quarters. A faction within the Religious Right has put aside its historical distrust of the former “evil empire” to lavish praise on the country’s efforts to curtail the gay rights movement.

The Advocate reports that six American organizations have joined an international coalition of far-right groups to publicly signal support for the Russian government’s vicious crackdown on equality activists. They’re particularly fond of the so-called “gay propaganda bill,” which criminalizes the distribution of any material that promotes “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors. The bill also forbids anyone from “equating the social value” of traditional and nontraditional relationships.

Violation of this law can be punished by a spectacularly large fine. Some activists have even been jailed. The response from the human rights community has been understandably harsh, as these laws freeze free speech and forcibly render LGBT Russians silent and invisible.

Yet some social conservatives outside of Russia are hailing this as social progress. Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress of Families, wants us to think of the children. “All the law does is to prohibit advocacy aimed at involving minors in a lifestyle that would imperil their physical and moral health,” he said.

To Jacobs, this is evidence the Kremlin can be “redeemed,” and to prove it, he’s holding the next World Congress of Families in the Kremlin itself. The theme? “Large Families: the Future of Humanity.”

That’s disturbing enough. But the bill’s latest American supporter is even worse.

Last month, evangelist Scott Lively published an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin that expressed his gratitude for Putin’s “principled stand.” The letter reads in part, “Already Lithuania, Moldova, Hungary and the Ukraine have begun to follow your principled example, and you have engendered real hope in the international pro-family movement that this destructive and degrading sexual agenda might finally begin to be brought to a halt across the globe.”

This isn’t the first time Lively has addressed Russia on the subject of gay rights. In 2007, the anti-gay activist wrote another open letter that advised the country to adopt a prohibition on the “public advocacy of homosexuality.”

Lively’s latest missive repeats his pet conspiracy theory: that the Nazi Third Reich was organized and subsequently controlled by a secret cabal of gay men. He first articulated this outlandish theory in his book, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. The book is nearly as credible as the tomes that claim that the Nazis built secret UFO bases at the South Pole, but Lively stands by it and has pledged to send the first Russian translation to Putin himself.

Lively’s comments came the same month that a Massachusetts judge ruled he can be sued for his anti-gay work in Uganda. The suit, brought by Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), holds Lively accountable for his explicit endorsement of the country’s discriminatory anti-gay laws. Lively lobbied for the same prohibition on gay rights advocacy in Uganda, and the restriction was later adopted as part of the country’s infamous “Kill the Gays Bill.”

As the name suggests, Uganda’s bill punishes certain expressions of same-sex activity with the death penalty. Lively characterizes this as “harsh” – yet he has continued to support the politician who sponsored it.

The Religious Right’s support for global anti-gay bills shouldn’t surprise anyone. If you genuinely believe you’re engaged in a holy struggle, borders are irrelevant. Larry Jacobs and Scott Lively are certainly voices from the fringe, but their diligence and passion in the pursuit of culture war shouldn’t be underestimated. Their efforts have real consequences, both in the United States and overseas, and although equality is marching forward in this country, these bills are a timely reminder that these culture warriors won’t surrender the fight so easily.

https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/russian-caravan-religious-right-groups-latch-onto-nation-s-extreme-anti-gay