New Report Reveals Conservatives’ Misuse of Religious Liberty Claims

March 20, 2013

Dr. Jay Michaelson

A new report on religious liberty details the impact conservative Christians, especially Catholics, have had in opposing LGBT rights. A project of the Political Research Associates, the report , entitled Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights, was authored by Dr. Jay Michaelson,who identifies Catholic far right organizations and the US bishops as primary players in suppressing LGBT equality.

Writing on The Daily Beast, Dr. Michaelson undercuts claims that expanding civil rights is a curtailment of religious liberty by exposing the true purpose of this conservative campaign:

“Today a far-right coalition of conservative Catholics and evangelicals perceive that they have lost the moral battle against LGBT equality, particularly same-sex marriage. And so…they are waging a multi-pronged battle against LGBT rights, not on substantive moral grounds but on the premise that equality for gays restricts the religious liberty of Christians to discriminate against them…

“And today religious-liberty activists claim that bullies are the real victims because they cannot ‘express their views about homosexuality.’ They claim that businesses who say ‘No Gays Allowed’ are being oppressed because they are forced to ‘facilitate’ gay marriages. And they claim that the real targets of discrimination are not gay people, who in 24 states can be fired from their jobs simply for being gay, but employers who can’t fire them…

“Religious liberty is being used to mask a conservative Christian agenda—the same agenda that’s been pushed for half a century now. Some on the far right may sincerely believe their liberties are being threatened, but they believed that about desegregation too. A belief does not make something so.”

Countering this religious liberty argument has been a challenge for progressives.  Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, examines this challenge in the foreword he wrote for Michaelson’s report.  DeBernardo also published an op-ed about the report on Alternet  which how progressives, especially Catholics, might respond to religious liberty arguments:

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

“The power of this [religious liberty] message comes not from the truth or validity of their [conservatives’] claim, of which there is very little to be found, but from the fact that this puts progressives into a quandary. Yet when leaders on the right make that claim, progressives often tread too delicately, for fear that they will be forced to choose between falsely competing values of liberty and equality…

“As a Catholic who works for LGBT equality, my own loyalties to faith and justice sometimes pull me in opposite directions when an argument for religious liberty is raised. As a practicing Catholic, I want to be sure that the government is not going to interfere with my church’s ability to govern itself. As an advocate for LGBT issues, I want to make sure that equality is served…

“One of the most important recommendations in this report is that a strong faith-based response to the religious liberty argument is needed. And long overdue…A faith-based response to religious liberty would help to unearth the hidden gems within faith traditions, which value conscience, equality, and justice.”

Moving forward politically, LGBT advocates can expect this religious liberty argument to remain active given previous successes nationwide. This report, which you can read here, provides one tool that progressive people of faith can employ in reorienting a distorted narrative.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


New Report Identifies Catholic Suppport for Africa’s Anti-Gay Movement

July 25, 2012

A new report from a Boston-based political research group identifies the key conservative U.S.-based Christian organizations that are supporting the anti-gay movement in Africa, including the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

Political Research Associates yesterday released their report, “Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa,” and identifies a key Catholic organization, Human Life International, as one of the key players in supporting anti-gay activity.

According to an Associated Press report in The Boston Herald:

“The report’s main author, the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, said that while such evangelical groups are in the minority in the United States, they are able to punch way above their weight in Africa, where many oppose homosexuality. Here, many believe the religious right’s contentions that gay men are ‘recruiting’ in schools, Kaoma said.

” ‘Those kind of lies, when presented in Africa, become factual, so we need to worry that they are misleading people with these lies,’ Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, said in a telephone interview from Boston.

“And conservative groups have access to powerful politicians, including the presidents of many countries.

“Kaoma’s report identifies groups belonging to a loose network of right-wing charismatic Christians. They include Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Catholic Church’s Human Life International (HLI) and the Mormon-led Family Watch International. All have launched or expanded offices in Africa over the past five years. . . .

Rev. Kapya Kaoma

” ‘By hiring locals as office staff, ACLJ and HLI in particular hide an American-based agenda behind African faces, giving the Christian Right room to attack gender justice and (the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people) as a neocolonial enterprise imposed on Africans and obstructing meaningful critique of the U.S. right’s activities,’ the report said.

“Anti-gay laws passed in Burundi in 2009, Malawi in 2010 and Nigeria in 2011.

“Uganda’s so-called ‘Kill the Gays’ law, which would levy the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ was thought to have been defeated after Kaoma and Political Research Associates exposed the legislation’s American instigators in 2009. But it was reintroduced in Uganda’s Parliament this February.”

Bondings 2.0 attended a teleconference yesterday with Rev. Kaoma and Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the recipient of the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.   Kaoma and Mugisha elaborated on the role of the Catholic church in these activities.

“It’s not true that they [Roman Catholics] are not involved,” said Rev. Kaoma, noting that Human Life International has good relationships with the Catholic hierarchy. “Together with Anglican archbishops, certain Roman Catholics demanded the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda be passed.”

Frank Mugisha

Mugisha noted that the Catholic archbishop in Uganda did ask that the death penalty be removed from the bill, but that the Catholic Church still has not taken an official position on whether the bill should be passed.

“In Uganda, they [Roman Catholic Institution] haven’t stepped up to say anything or challenge the bill,” Mugisha said.  He added that in fact, the Catholic bishops have joined with other Christian groups to support the bill.

Rev. Kaoma also noted that the Ugandan Catholic bishops had a hand in inviting Ed Silvoso of the International Transformation Network, a reparative therapy group, to speak at a conference in Africa.

At the conclusion of the teleconference, it was suggested that the best way that people of faith in Western countries can help the African situation is to ask their church’s leaders to make public statements against the anti-gay legislation.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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Previous Bondings 2.0 posts on Uganda:

June 15, 2012: More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 11. 2012: Uganda’s Catholic Bishops Reverse Their Stance to Support Anti-Homosexual Bill

March 29, 2012: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s ‘Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church’

March 4, 2012: When Will the Pope Speak Out, Too?

December 26, 2011: Breaking the Catholic Silence on LGBT Human Rights Violations

December 23, 2011: A Gay Catholic in Uganda Speaks; Cardinal George Should Listen

 

 

 


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