Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Drawing fire from NOM

The group calling itself NOM -- the National Organization for Marriage (more accurately the National Organization for Some Marriages, but that's another blog) --has taken umbrage at the piece I posted about bigotry over on The Huffington Post. In the piece I responded to a reader who challenged my naming what Governor Chris Christie did in vetoing marriage equality as bigotry. Of course I think you should read the whole piece here ... but here's the short version:
I did not call Governor Christie "a bigot" ... I said he chose bigotry over equality. It may seem a fine linguistic point but there is an important distinction between critiquing one's behavior and attacking one's personhood. I do not believe that people are ontologically bigots or racists or homophobes or sexists, or ... (the list goes on.)

However, I know that bigotry and racism and homophobia and sexism exist -- and I believe they are on the list of things that keep us from living up to our high calling to love our neighbors as ourselves. And so I believe it is our responsibility to challenge the behavior when we encounter it in order to overcome it.
I thought that was pretty clear.

Evidently not clear enough for whoever wrote Episcopal Priest "Proud" to Call You and Chris Christie a Bigot over on the NOM Blog.

Seriously. Did they even read the piece they're critiquing? Or does it not matter that the blog title is literally untrue? In which case, I wonder, when did lying become a Traditional Value? Or is there some loophole I missed that makes the 9th Commandment optional if you're in the marriage discrimination business?

I've gotten a number of emails from folks suggesting if I'm drawing fire from NOM I'm doing something right and to all of you I'll just say thanks. As for NOM ... well, I'll just say I'm invoking The Gospel According to My Mom with nothing nice to say just won't say anything at all.

Grandparents for Marriage Equality

Married for 70 years, this Lutheran clergy couple make their case for marriage equality. Don't miss this 2 minute 56 second witness to love, justice and REAL family values!

Some Lenten Perspective from Bishop Steven Charleston

Did the minds behind the hands that raised Stonehenge imagine their reality would go on forever? Did the citizens of Sumer or Chichen Itza or Harrppa believe theirs was the way the world would stay? Each culture claims its moment. Each age assumes reality. But even the foreheads of nations are marked with the ashes of time. Do not despair, Ozymandias, for loss of the ephemeral. Even the Pleiades may be passing, but the God who spins the seasons and knits the threads of time will offer a gift eternal to let love the last Word be.
~ Bishop Steven Charleston

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reflections on The Feast of Saint Oscar of Hollywood

Yes, L.A. is an "industry" town and so Oscar Day really is a big deal here.

It's not only about glitz and glamour and who wore what. Around here it's also about road closures and traffic alerts and how to get across town on Sunday without getting gridlocked by limos. But more than than, it's also about our local economy and jobs for everybody from the catering trucks servicing the location shoots to the lights-camera-action people to the publicists, ad agencies and theater owners to the "stars" themselves.

And then -- for me -- there's the "family angle" to Oscar Night. I didn't just grow up in L.A. -- I grew up in a family where "the industry" was our industry -- it was our family business. My dad worked for Metropolitan Theaters ... an L.A. based, family owned company that ran a chain of theaters including the great old movie palaces in downtown L.A.: The Los Angeles; The Orpheum; The Palace.

My parents actually met when my dad came back from "The War" and returned to the job he'd left when he enlisted in December 1941: Manager of the Los Angeles Theater on Broadway between 6th & 7th. My mom -- who had come west to Los Angeles from her native Minnesota soon after graduating from high school in 1943 -- was the Head Usherette and, as the family story goes, they disliked each other at first sight. So of course before long they were "an item" and eventually she went from Usherette to Cashier to Mrs. Manager ... because that's how it worked in the 50's.

Here's a picture I have of my mom in the lobby of the Los Angeles ... probably 1948 or 1949 ... decked out in her "greet the patrons" best. (Yes, it was another era altogether.) Anyway ... so I grew up with a daddy who went to work in a tuxedo and as far as I could tell, his job was to stand in the lobby and talk to people. And eventually he went from manager to district manager ... and then it was about bookings and ads and out of town previews and ... well, suffice to say movies were our family business.

And so I remember "Oscar Night" being a big deal for us ... because based on which picture won what there'd be much last minute shuffling around with newspaper ads and decisions about what was going to run in which theater.

Lots of folks would come to watch the Oscars at our house ... and in the den there would be a couple of long, folding tables set up with newspaper tear sheets ready to glue in ad copy and then have the designated driver schlep down to the night editor who would be waiting for it. There'd be an Oscar pool ... and I felt ever so grown up when I got old enough to put in my dollar and guess the winners. And every once in awhile we'd have a personal stake in one of the nominees -- my dad's army buddy Davey Quaid would be up for an editing award or someone married to someone's brother would know the art director on another. I know I mentioned L.A. is an industry town, but it can actually be a pretty small town in some ways. Yes indeed, Oscar Night was definitely a Major Feast Day in our family!

And all of that was a long time ago in what seems like a galaxy very far, far away. Talking about managers in tuxedos in lobbies with chandeliers instead of video games in a time before multiplexes and Netflix is hard to even imagine. And yet it all kind of came rushing back to me last night when we were watching the Oscars with friends in Santa Monica and I listened to Billy Crystal talking about how "we all grew up watching movies in movie palaces."

And I thought, "No, 'we all' didn't, Billy. You and I did -- maybe. But my kids ... hardly kids at 30 & 27 ... didn't. The majority of the folks gathered at the Santa Monica Oscar Party we attended last night didn't. In fact, those of us who remember those halcyon days of movie palace yesteryear are closing in on dinosaur status ... as anachronistic as the black & white silent films our own parents described in their "back in the day" stories.

And yet, the art of movie making lives on. The power of cinema to move us, change us, challenge us, engage us ... to make us laugh and to make us cry ... continues in spite of the changes and challenges of venues, formats, contexts and constituencies. Maybe at the end of the day what makes the movies great has less to do with how we experience them than that we experience them. And maybe, just maybe, underneath all the glitz and glamour and silliness of celebrity, Saint Oscar of Hollywood actually has something to teach the church about the challenge of moving beyond a "movie palace mentality" that seduces us into idolizing our buildings as monuments to the past rather than reimagining them as instruments for mission for the future.

Because the mission of the Gospel lives on. The power of the Good News of God in Christ Jesus to move us, change us, challenge us, engage us ... to make us agents of love, justice and compassion ... continues in spite of the changes and challenges of venues, formats, contexts and constituencies. Maybe at the end of the day what makes that Good News powerful has less to do with how we experience it than that we experience it -- and then that we invite others to come and do likewise!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just for the record:

There is a critical difference between feeling discriminated against because you’re disagreed with and being discriminated against ecause of who you are.

And there is a critical difference between people who feel that their marriage is being threatened if the lesbian couple next door can get married and the lesbian couple next door whose marriage is being threatened by ballot initiatives taking away their fundamental right to marriage, by a governor vetoing marriage equality passed by their elected representatives and by a “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) that denies them 1138 federally protected rights their next door neighbors claimed the moment they said “I do."

(excerpt from blog on bigotry, Coming Soon to a Huffington Post page near you)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BREAKING DOMA NEWS: Another Federal Court rules "Defense of Marriage Act" Unconstitutional

From the Lambda Legal statement:
"The Court recognized the clear fact that a law that denies one class of individuals the rights and benefits available to all others because of their sexual orientation violates the constitutional guarantee of equality embodied in the Fifth Amendment."
From Think Progress:

Bush Appointee Finds DOMA Unconstitutional

Moments ago, Judge Jeffery White of the District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause in a case brought by Karen Golinski. Golinski, represented by Lambda Legal, “was denied spousal health benefits by her employer, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.” White was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush in 2002. The decision represents a serious setback for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), whose Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) defended DOMA after the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the law.

Full ruling here

The Court has ruled that considerations of discrimination against people based on sexual orientation should be held to heightened scrutiny for all four factors that determine such scrutiny:

HISTORY OF DISCRIMINATION: The first factor courts consider is whether the class has suffered a history of discrimination. There is no dispute in the record that lesbians and gay men have experienced a long history of discrimination.

ABILITY TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY: Similarly, there is no dispute in the record or the law that sexual orientation has no relevance to a person’s ability to contribute to society.

IMMUTABILITY: Regardless of the evidence that a tiny percentage of gay men or lesbians may experience some flexibility along the continuum of their sexuality or the scientific consensus that sexual orientation is unchangeable, the Court finds persuasive the holding in the Ninth Circuit that sexual orientation is recognized as a defining and immutable characteristic because it is so fundamental to one’s identity.

POLITICAL POWERLESSNESS: The Court finds that the unequivocal evidence demonstrates that, although not completely politically powerless, the gay and lesbian community lacks meaningful political power… Although this factor is not an absolute prerequisite for heightened scrutiny, the Court finds the evidence and the law support the conclusion that gay men and lesbians remain a politically vulnerable minority.

The Court rebuked Congress for BLAG’s argument that caution should be taken with issues that can be socially divisive:

Here, too, this Court finds that Congress cannot, like an ostrich, merely bury its head in the sand and wait for danger to pass, especially at the risk of permitting continued constitutional injury upon legally married couples. The fact that the issue is socially divisive does nothing to relieve the judiciary of its obligation to examine the constitutionality of the discriminating classifications in the law.

Mark us with your love

O God,
you have made us for yourself,
and against your longing there is no defence.
Mark us with your love,
and release in us a passion for your justice
in our disfigured world;
that we may turn from our guilt and face you,
our heart's desire,
[Collect for Ash Wednesday: Janet Morley]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In His Own Words: President Barack Obama on his not-even-remotely phony faith

Daniel Burke offers this just-in-time-for-your-Lenten-reading pleasure piece on the Huffington Post.
(RNS) In recent days, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has criticized President Obama for having a "phony theology" not based on the Bible, and prominent evangelist Franklin Graham has said he does not know if Obama is a Christian.

"You have to ask him. I cannot answer that question for anybody," Graham said Tuesday (Feb. 21) on the MSNBC program "Morning Joe." On the other hand, Graham said that he believes Santorum is a Christian because "his values are so clear on moral issues."

Even as a significant percentage of Americans falsely believe Obama is Muslim, the president has spoken of his Christian faith with increasing fervor during his three years in the White House.

Here's a sample, in reverse chronological order, of five of Obama's most personal statements on Christianity:
Read them all here.

This was my favorite:
"I didn't become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God's spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose -- His purpose."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Evangelism Op?

Is Rick Santorum giving mainline Protestants an Evangelism Op???

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Margaret Mead, The Mountaintop & The War Against Women

Sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany
February 19, 2012 - All Saints Church, Pasadena

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

In seminary I learned from Fredrica Harris Thompsett
that the reason we back up to learn from our history
is to get a running start on our future.
That framing warmed the cockles of this history major’s heart then
and continues to speak to me now -- nearly 20 years later

A recent case in point
is the celebration we had here at All Saints Church
marking 20 years of the blessing of same sex unions.
In taking time to back up
and learn from what happened in 1992
we were not only celebrating our history
we were mobilizing for our future.

Because, as it turns out,
George Regas did not wake up one fine day and say
“Mary Regas, I think I’ll bless some gay people today.”
Rather it was a small group
of thoughtful, committed people
thoughtful, committed, persistent people
thoughtful, committed, DOGGEDLY persistent people
who would not take no for an answer
who – in George’s words –
continued to love him and challenge him
through his hesitation and anxiety
and in the end their changing George
changed All Saints into an agent of change for equality
in the church, the state, the country and the communion

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The Gospel According to Mark
tells us about another small group
of thoughtful, committed people
who went up the mountain with Jesus
It is the Last of the “Epiphs” of the Season of the “Ahas!” of God
the season we celebrate not the fact that God “showed up”
but the times we were given the grace
to notice that God was here

And this is the “Big One” –
the mountain top one – the best for last one –
the Big Finish One:
the one we always hear on this Last Sunday of Epiphany
before our Lenten pilgrimage begins on Wednesday
with the ashes on our foreheads as outward and visible signs
of the 40 day journey to Easter Day
(never mind that Ralphs already has a whole aisle of Easter candy)

The church has a name for the story we just heard
of Jesus, Moses & Elijah
on the mountain with James & Peter & John
It’s called The Transfiguration
and one definition is:
“transformed or changed into something more beautiful or elevated.”

During Lent
we will learn from our Lent Event speaker Richard Rohr
about “The Change that Changes Everything”

He writes:

“Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change.”

Jesus was so in alignment
with the inherent experience of the love
of the one who created us ALL in love
and then called us to walk in love with each other
that he was transformed – transfigured –
in front of the very eyes of the awestruck disciples
who heard again
the words that had been spoken at the River Jordan
when Jesus was baptized by John: Beloved.

The engine of change –
the inherent experience of love –
was not only the engine of the Transfiguration …
it is the engine of change
that down through the ages
has empowered those thoughtful, committed people
to change the world.

The prayer that we prayed this morning –
that we “be changed into Jesus’ likeness from glory to glory”
had nothing to do with being changed into
the physical likeness
of the radical rabbi from Nazareth
and everything to do
with being transfigured
by the change that changes everything
into radical bearers
of the light of God’s inclusive love.

And from here this sermon was supposed to go on
to some more examples of how small groups
of thoughtful, committed people have changed the world
and how we’re called to go and do likewise
and it was supposed to end with some encouraging words
about using this upcoming Season of Lent
to be a time of reflection and preparation
to be changed by the change that changes everything.

With maybe an amusing story
about one of my children thrown in
if I could figure out where to fit it in
and still get you to the Forum in time to hear Kenny Turan.

And then that thing happened.
The thing where you have the Bible in one hand
and the newspaper in the other
(or more accurately the online lectionary in one hand
and my iPhone in the other)
and what is happening in the news
causes the homiletic GPS to recalculate
and the road you thought
was going to take you from
“May the words of my mouth
and meditation of our hearts …” to “Amen”
ends up being a road not taken at all
and you end up going somewhere
altogether different
and you end up taking on
The War Against Women.

Oh Lord
Not that again
Didn’t we do that in the 70’s
when we were women and you heard us roar
and we got in touch with our bodies and ourselves
and we grew up to be priests and bishops
and doctors and lawyers
and Secretaries of State and Studio Heads
and here we are again
watching our rights be questioned
and our choices be challenged
in the name of religious liberty
and in response to a fictitious
War on Religion.

Yes, that again.
Because it is not a "war on religion"
when 1st Amendment protections
are employed to protect both freedom of religion
and freedom from religion –
and it is not a "war on religion"
when someone points out the fact
that nobody has the right
to write their theology into our Constitution.

It is not a "war on religion"
when courts recognize that
the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment
equally protects all Americans –
as the 9th Circuit Court did in ruling
Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

And it is not a "war on religion"
when the White House "just says no"
to efforts to make women's health care
a sacrificial lamb on the altar of partisan politics
by politicizing equal access to insurance for contraception.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote those words
long before twitter and facebook
helped mobilize small groups of people
into large groups of people
committed to changing the world.
And if there was a silver lining
in the whole sorry Planned Parenthood mess
it was the elevation of the issue
of access to women's health care
for underserved populations
to the top of the news -- for a moment –
with the good news of a victory against the politicization of health care.

It was, however, a short-lived victory
in a long running war
as a new front opened up on Capitol Hill this week
with hearings on whether the White House compromise
providing women who are employed by institutions
with religious affiliations
(like universities and hospitals)
with direct access to insurance companies for contraception coverage
threatened the religious liberty of those institutions.

Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures
of the panel of witnesses
called to testify to the House committee
The panel of men. Yes, all of them. All. Men.

Called to testify about their religious liberty being infringed
by women in their employ
having direct access to contraception
they are neither being asked to approve of nor to pay for.

A ranking committee member
asked the chair to include a female witness.
His request was denied.
The reason given was that the hearing
wasn’t about “birth control,”
it was about “freedom of religion and conscience.”
Which begs the question:
Don’t women have consciences?
Don’t women have religious freedom too?

No matter WHAT "the issue" is
to bring forward ONLY male voices
is Systemic Sexism Incarnate.

AND if the issue is "religious liberty"
the fact that the leadership is so blind
to the fact that women do indeed have a voice
in protecting our collective religious liberty
is the other side of shocking.

Because the First Amendment
guarantees the freedom to exercise religious beliefs
to every American.
It does NOT
guarantee the freedom to impose religious beliefs
on other Americans.

And whether the target is health care for women
(which is under direct attack in Virginia)
or marriage for same-sex couples
(which was vetoed on Friday in New Jersey)
all Americans suffer collateral damage
when the fundamental rights of some Americans
become sacrificial lambs
on the altar of patriarchal partisan politics. Yet …

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

And even as we speak
thoughtful, committed, DOGGEDLY persistent people
like those who changed George Regas’ mind
about blessing the union of Mark Benson and Phil Straw
are hard at work changing other minds
and transfiguring other hearts
to align with the inherent experience of love
in the service of the change that changes everything.

And there are some who will argue
that issues like women’s health and marriage equality
and what happens on Capitol Hill or in Virginia or New Jersey
are best left to the others
while the church
focuses on “higher things”
holier things
more important things

In fact this very week
a bishop in the Episcopal Church
wrote on a list-serve
for bishops and deputies to our General Convention
“if we spend time debating and perfecting resolutions
on subjects like these,
we will certainly never accomplish
the goal of streamlining General Convention”

And I wrote back
“if the goal of General Convention
is streamlining General Convention
then I say we all do Jesus a favor and stay home”

To be changed by the change that changes everything
and then make the goal of General Convention
streamlining General Convention
is the 21st century version
of Peter’s 1st century response to the Transfiguration:
to build three booths
and stay on the mountain.

In seminary I learned from Fredrica Harris Thompsett
that the reason we back up to learn from our history
is to get a running start on our future.

And so what I know from our history
is that we are not a booth building people.
What I know from our history is that we are a
thoughtful, committed, DOGGEDLY persistent people
called to make God’s love tangible 24/7
as we work to turn the human race into the human family.

And what I know from history
is that what fuels us to keep taking that running start on our future
is returning to this sanctuary
to this table
to this mountain top
week after week
year after year
to be fed by the bread and wine made holy
and to align ourselves with the inherent experience of love
not to build booths and hide from the world
but to be sent down off the mountain
into the world
to BE the change that changes everything.
Because …

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

And let all God’s people say “Amen.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happy Anniversary to us! ("the primates notwithstanding")

Today is the sixth anniversary of Louise & Susan's Excellent Adventure of officially living happily ever after. Six years ago today we gussied up and stood up in front of God, the rector (and rector emeritus!), our families (my 83-year old mother & son home-on-leave-from-the-army and both of our brothers, among others) and about 400 of other assorted fabulous folks for "the happiest day of our lives."

I blogged about the day the morning of the day here ... a piece that started out:

Well, today's the big day. The family is gathered, the rehearsal is behind us, the flowers are being arranged as we speak and the last minute call to the rental place has scored the in-case-it-rains-on-our-parade party tent to shelter the patio for the reception following the service.

And this afternoon -- God willing and the primates notwithstanding -- my partner Louise and I will with much joy and a church full of people celebrate the blessing of the covenant of our relationship promising to love and cherish each other until death do us part.
That blog landed our wedding in the Anglican American Council's timeline of straws that broke the back of the Anglican Communion camel. (Seriously -- check out February 2006!)

And yet here we are -- six years later -- a very FULL six years later ... busy loving, honoring and cherishing ... and still working, praying, lobbying, strategizing and organizing so that others might have the same opportunities we have had to have our love celebrated, our relationship blessed and our life together upheld and supported by the community of faith we call our spiritual home.

(And we're still working on the equal protection for the civil rights of civil marriage ... but increasingly hopeful on that front with two steps forward in Washington and Maryland one one step back in New Jersey!)

It's called "having a life" ... not to be confused with "choosing a lifestyle" -- and today we're celebrating the joy of having someone to share that life with ... the good and the bad, the in sickness and in health, 'til death do us part.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chris Christie Stands on the Lester Maddox Side of History

Placing himself firmly on the Lester Maddox side of history, today Governor Chris Christie made good his promise to veto the marriage equality bill passed by both houses of the state legislature in New Jersey.

For Californians this is déjà vu all over again as we recall that our elected representatives twice legislated marriage equality which was twice vetoed by then Governor Schwarzenegger. And as we continue on the journey toward equality here in California, we count not just the cost of the damage done to gay and lesbian families and those who love them, but the cost of years of litigation to defend what shouldn’t need defending: the equal protection guaranteed all Americans.

We know the arc of history bends toward justice and we trust that the core American values of “liberty and justice for all” will prevail in the struggle for marriage equality as they have on other historic fights for civil and human rights. In the meantime, however, those like Chris Christie who choose to stand where Lester Maddox stood – blocking some Americans from equal access to the equal protections guaranteed all Americans – should be called to account for the cost of this culture war being waged as part of a wider political agenda.

Whether the target is health care for women or marriage for same-sex couples, all Americans suffer collateral damage when the fundamental rights of some Americans become sacrificial lambs on the altar of partisan politics.

And so when the flags fly at half-staff tomorrow in New Jersey, they won’t just be marking the sad fact of Whitney Houston’s untimely death. They will also be marking the sad fact that the Governor of New Jersey chose to stand for bigotry rather than equality. New Jersey deserves better. America deserves better. And Governor Christie should know better.

Just askin' ....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yep ... that pretty much says it all:

h/t Amy Cox

Surprise, Surprise! Some back story on the contraceptive insurance coverage

Rachel Maddow points out that contrary to recent Republican outrage, requiring insurance coverage of contraception has been an idea Republicans have historically supported.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Meet the woman who Republicans wouldn't let testify today on Capitol Hill

The Breaking News from Capitol Hill is once again Republicans behaving badly ... but this time they are behaving SOOOOO badly that it really is almost enough to make your head explode. Seriously.

The long story short is Congress held a hearing this morning on the health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives, considering whether the provision violates religious liberties. Here's what Sarah Kliff reports on the Washington Post Wonk Blog:
The hearing has gotten a lot of attention not necessarily for what happened there, but what didn’t. Namely, no one testified in favor of the contraceptives mandate. Moreover, no women participated in the first, three-hour panel (two women did testify against the provision in the second panel.)

The Democrats did, however, invite one woman to speak: Sandra Fluke, a third-year student at Georgetown Law and past president of the school’s Students for Reproductive Justice group. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chaired the hearing, said the minority party had submitted her name too late to be considered (Democrats contest this). I caught her outside the hearing room, and we spoke about what she would have told the committee.

Fluke came to Georgetown University interested in contraceptive coverage: She researched the Jesuit college’s health plans for students before enrolling, and found that birth control was not included. “I decided I was absolutely not willing to compromise the quality of my education in exchange for my health care,” says Fluke, who has spent the past three years lobbying the administration to change its policy on the issue. The issue got the university president’s office last spring, where Georgetown declined to change its policy.

Fluke says she would have used the hearing to talk about the students at Georgetown that don’t have birth control covered, and what that’s meant for them. “I wanted to be able to share their stories,” she says. “My testimony would have been about women who have been affected by their policy, who have medical needs and have suffered dire consequences.. . .The committee did not get to hear real stories I had to share, about actual women who have been dramatically affected by this policy.”

I asked Fluke what she’s learned about reproductive health politics over the past few months, as the nation has debated the role of contraceptives coverage in health reform. “Sadly, I think what I have learned is how willing some members of our government are to play political football with women’s health,” she says. “That has been heartbreaking to watch."
I'm preaching on Sunday ... and the sermon was titled about two weeks ago "The Gospel According to Margaret Mead." It's a good thing I haven't had time to write it yet because -- based on the events of the last 48 hours -- methinks Ruach will be taking it somewhere it didn't know it was going when I picked the title. Stay tuned!

What's Wrong With This Picture: The Sequel

These are the witnesses testifying on the birth control benefit right now on Capitol Hill.
What is wrong with this picture? [h/t Planned Parenthood]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What's Wrong With This Picture?

It may be hard to see, but let me make it easier for you.

This is a screen capture of the "contact us" page for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie -- the one who is all over the news about his intention to "swiftly veto" the marriage equality legislation coming his way from the New Jersey State Legislature.

I went there in response to my own advice for people of faith to step up and speak out ... like Episcopal Bishop Mark Beckwith did in this Star-Ledger piece with his Lutheran and Jewish colleagues ... and urge Governor Christie to stand on the right side of history -- not the Lester Maddox side of history -- on marriage equality.

But it's kind of hard to do that when the only "contact us" option is a drop down menu of issues that [a] does not include marriage equality in specific or anything LGBT related at ALL and [b] there is no "other" category to choose!

Seriously! Is this the 21st century or what???? In the entire State of New Jersey there is not enough interest, concern or investment in the issues that face LGBT citizens to "make the list" ... and we don't even rate falling into the "other matters" category because there isn't one????

Now, before the emails and comments start flooding in -- of course I don't think we're going to change Chris Christie's mind. But that doesn't mean we can't hold his feet to the fire about being a governor for the WHOLE State of New Jersey -- including its LGBT citizens. And whatever he ultimately does or doesn't do about marriage equality it's important to stand up and say WE ARE NOT INVISIBLE!!

So since there's not an email option ... I say we give him a call: 609-292-6000

Ready. Set. GO!

War on Religion or War on Democracy?

Watching the CNN evening news, the "crawl" along the bottom of the screen read: "Catholic bishops denounce contraception compromise." My comment on twitter was:
Seriously???? That qualifies as NEWS??? Enough with theocratic war on democracy
Because here's the deal: It's time to call foul on the much ballyhooed "war on religion" and call it what it is ... and it IS a theocratic war on democracy.

It is not a "war on religion" when 1st Amendment protections are employed to protect both freedom of religion and freedom from religion -- because nobody has the right to write their theology into our Constitution.

It is not a "war on religion" when courts recognize that the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment equally protect all Americans -- because as the 9th Circuit Court put it when it ruled last week: "The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry."

And it is not a "war on religion" when the White House "just says no" to efforts to make women's health care a sacrificial lamb on the altar of partisan politics by politicizing equal access to insurance for contraception.

Which brings me back to "Catholic bishops denouncing contraception compromise." Catholic bishops notwithstanding, there are plenty of good people of deep faith all over the map on a whole variety of issues who are yearning for ways to claim their own First Amendment protected right to free exercise of their religion without trampling on their neighbor's free exercise of a religion different than theirs. And to do that, compromises are called for.

The case in point this week is the compromise the White House crafted on the issue of women's access to insurance for contraception. It was -- as ABC News reported -- a compromise that satisfied both Carol Keehan and Cecile Richards: no small feat.
Though they're on opposite sides of the birth control and abortion debate, both Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued statements Friday morning applauding the compromise, which allows religious organizations to keep contraception out of its coverage while requiring the insurance companies to step in and offer contraceptive coverage to the female employees.

"The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions," Keehan said. "The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance. This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy."

Richards said in a statement: "In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women's health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work. We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman's ability to access these critical birth control benefits. However we will be vigilant in holding the administration and the institutions accountable for a rigorous, fair and consistent implementation of the policy, which does not compromise the essential principles of access to care.

The individual rights and liberties of all women and all employees in accessing basic preventive health care is our fundamental concern. Planned Parenthood continues to believe that those institutions who serve the broad public, employ the broad public, and receive taxpayer dollars, should be required to follow the same rules as everyone else, including providing birth control coverage and information. As a trusted health care provider to one in five women, Planned Parenthood's priority is increasing access to preventive health care. This birth control coverage benefit does just that."
Not for Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler. He writes ...
This controversy concerns the deepest convictions held by millions of Americans, and these convictions are rooted in over two thousand years of religious teaching. Anyone who celebrates this "compromise" as a victory is hiding behind an accounting trick. That accounting trick cannot hide the great moral tragedy at the heart of the President's policy -- a policy that leaves religious liberty in peril.
... making Chicago Theological Seminary's Susan Thistlethwaite's point:
There's the difference between the way progressive people of faith pursue issues in the public square, and those on the far right. Creative compromise, like the recent decision by the Obama administration, that builds common ground, we regard as a good thing and something that finally will produce a "cease-fire" through negotiation.

We are open to a cease-fire, though not when it means our values are demeaned and violated. Negotiated settlements have to represent the real interests of each side and be made in good faith for there to be genuine and lasting peace. Conscience and common ground. It's possible for there to be peace between us over religious differences.
It is not only possible -- it is essential if we're going to win the theocratic war being waged on our democracy. So let's all "Just Say No" to the myth of war on religion -- whether it comes from a bishop or a Baptist -- and get busy making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge but a reality.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Some "truth to set you free" about religious freedom

Love this piece -- Religious Freedoms Are Limited -- by the brilliant Tobias Haller:
It is fine for the Roman Catholic Church to teach against contraception, and to insist its adherents make no use of it, but completely specious to claim that they are morally compromised by providing insurance coverage that happens to include this benefit to people who are under no obligation to use it, nor, in some cases, under any obligation to adhere to the teaching.

Otherwise, any Jehovah Witness-sponsored organization should have the right to insist that its secular employees not be covered for blood transfusions; 7th Day Adventists should be able to forbid their non-church employees from being fed hospital food containing meat, and Jews and Muslims, pork. And let's not even get started with the Christian Scientists, who ought, under this understanding, to be able to refuse the need to provide health insurance to anyone who works for them.
Read the rest here

The Arc of History Bends a Little More Toward Justice: Marriage Equality

Got to watch this live streaming on wtv-3 ... great moment for Washington State and another inch of the planet reclaimed for liberty and justice for all. Tick Tock Equality!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dean Katherine Ragsdale "Stands Firm" on Fox News ...

... yes, I said FOX NEWS ... in this segment on the White House compromise on contraception insurance. Now the Dean of Episcopal Divinity School I've known Katherine since she was a deacon-in-waiting many years ago ... and what a privilege to count her a friend, colleague and sister in the struggle.

If you ever want to point to an Exhibit A of how to stay on message with grace, confidence and clarity in the face of a REALLY obnoxious interviewer, then bookmark this one for future reference. Brava, Katherine!

Diane & Diana

Remember "Julie & Julia" -- the film from a couple of years back? Well, tomorrow it'll be "Diane & Diana" at All Saints Church as we welcome Bishop Diane Bruce and Dr. Diana Butler Bass. +Diane will preach at the 9, 11:15 & 1:00 services -- Diana will speak about her new book "Christianity After Religion" at 10:15 in the Rector's Forum. Join Us if you're in the neighborhood ... or online for the Forum - live streaming at 10:15am if you're not!

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Is That All You Got?"

How the proponents of a gay marriage ban just ran out of arguments.
by Dahlia Lithwick

Just found this one on ... check it out:
One of the most remarked-upon aspects of the first round of Prop 8 litigation, that concluded this week with a 2-1 defeat for the initiative at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, was the weakness of the case against gay marriage. As Andrew Cohen explained at the time, at every turn Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the trial, expressed frustration at the fact that the opponents of gay marriage either had no case or couldn’t be bothered to make one.

Arguing for the gay marriage ban, seasoned attorney Charles Cooper called only two witnesses (the plaintiffs called 17), one of whom was not deemed qualified to testify as an expert. As Cooper finally explained in his closing argument, "Your honor, you don't have to have evidence for this. … You only need to go back to your chambers and pull down any dictionary or book that defines marriage," Cooper told the judge. "You won't find it had anything to do with homosexuality."

This defense satisfied almost no one. Ted Olson, the plaintiff’s attorney, was absolutely flummoxed by Cooper’s claim that he had no burden to do anything beside assert the immutability of traditional marriage. In his closing argument, a perplexed Olson replied, “You can't take away the rights of tens of thousands of persons and come in here and say 'I don't know' and 'I don't have to prove anything.' ”

An equally maddened Judge Walker agreed, railing in his opinion about how the Prop 8 proponents had failed to produce promised evidence and testimony. Even conservative groups wrung their hands, questioning whether Prop 8 had been “adequately defended” at the hearing. Then again, perhaps punting on Prop 8 was a strategic decision. Doing so allowed the supporters of Prop 8 to argue that the fix was in. Judge Walker, who is gay, and the Hollywood appeals court would never have given them a fair shake in the first place.

Or, perhaps, there was another explanation. Perhaps, as many speculated at the time, it reflected the deeper reality that there was no factual or empirical case to be made: The evidence, the data, and the experts overwhelming agree that gay marriage does not harm children. And that leaves opponents of gay marriage to argue a tautology: Gay marriage is wrong because it’s wrong.
You'll want to read the whole piece here ... but I wanted to post this excerpt here because it so resonates with some of the dialogues we've had in comment-land on this blog over the years with those whose bottom line is "don't confuse me with facts -- I have Sole Possession of The Absolute Truth and so have no need of your data." Happily, for all its flaws, our system of jurisprudence does not operate out of that paradigm. Something to rejoice and be glad in on a Friday morning!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A Washington Republican Weighs in on Marriage Equality

I watched a portion of the debate in the Washington state House yesterday before the vote on marriage equality and I was so very moved by the words of Republican Representative Maureen Walsh. Now you can be, too -- as her testimony is making the rounds on YouTube:

Proudly, Prayerfully Pro-Choice

With the flurry of activity around here because of the Prop 8 decision I neglected to cross-post this blog that went up on the Huffington Post on Tuesday:
I woke up last Friday morning to the "breaking news" that the Susan G. Komen Foundation had reversed its decision to pull funding for breast cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood.

My reaction was that this was not just good news for the women needing the services that Planned Parenthood provides and the Komen Foundation funds -- it was good news that the power of public outrage can actually have an impact on the anti-abortion zealot driven politicization of women's health issues. And the bad news was that the outrage was even necessary -- and that women's health care continues to be exploited as a wedge issue in our polarized partisan politics.

Speaking out on this issue -- which of course I did because, well, because I'm me -- I unleashed a flurry of responses from folks who were unable to reconcile my position as a pro-choice advocate with my vocation as a priest and pastor. One commenter summed it up tersely: "What kind of religion do you represent, lady?"

The answer is that I represent one which gives me room to be both proudly and prayerfully pro-choice. In 1988 the Episcopal Church went on record with a powerful statement affirming its commitment to both the sanctity of life and a woman's right to reproductive freedom. From the resolution:
All human life is sacred from its inception until death. The Church takes seriously its obligation to help form the consciences of its members concerning this sacredness. Human life, therefore, should be initiated only advisedly and in full accord with this understanding of the power to conceive and to give birth which is bestowed by God.

We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community. While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.
And then, in 1994, as the anti-abortion movement mobilized to restrict reproductive freedom of American women, we added this "further resolve":
"The Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision."
That's the "religion I represent" -- one that acknowledges there is tension between the sacredness of life we affirm and the freedom of choice we support. And the parish I represent -- All Saints Church in Pasadena -- is one that has been officially "prayerfully pro-choice" since 1989.

And so as a proudly and prayerfully pro-choice priest and pastor, I rejoice that there's a silver lining in the whole sorry mess of the Susan G. Komen Foundation vs. Planned Parenthood story. That silver lining is the elevation of the issue of access to women's health care for underserved populations to the top of the news and -- for the moment -- the good news of a victory against the politicization of health care in general and women's health care in specific.

My prayer is that we learn from this that our voices can count, that our mobilizing can make a difference. And my hope is that together we can protect women's reproductive freedom by blocking the efforts of the anti-abortion zealots to make women's health care a sacrificial lamb on the altar of partisan politics.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Traditional Values Arguments for Marriage Equality

When I read the Prop 8 decision yesterday, the words "human dignity" jumped out at me as an Episcopalian -- begging the connection between our Constitution and our Common Prayer.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Celebrating in the L.A. City Hall Rotunda

I had the honor of representing California Faith for Equality at the AFER hosted Prop 8 celebration in the rotunda of Loa Angeles City Hall. And yes, I was stoked to be in the speaker line-up with Mayor Villaraigosa, Rob Reiner, Dustin Lance Black, Gil Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Bill Rosendahl and other luminary leaders.

[photo credit: Kristin Bedford]

Today's 9th Circuit Court decision is not just a victory for gay and lesbian couples in California – it is a victory for all Americans who believe that the liberty and justice for all in the pledge we teach our children really means ALL.

It is also a victory over those who erroneously believe that the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment gives them freedom to dictate those beliefs into the Constitution.

And make no mistake about it: There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the days to come from those in the marriage discrimination business about how their freedom of religion is being trampled on by today’s decision for equality. I don't have an app for that -- but I do have a Bible verse for that -- John 8:32 "the truth will set you free."

Because the truth is they are just as free today to decide for themselves whether God equally our marriages – what the 9th Circuit Court said today is that they are NOT free to decide whether the Constitution equally protects them.

The truth is a Roman Catholic priest is just as free to NOT marry a gay and lesbian couple as he is to NOT marry a divorced couple – and in my congregation – All Saints Pasadena – we can now get back to the business of offering equal pastoral care for ALL couple who come to us for the sacrament of marriage.

And the truth is for all the joy in today’s decision, let us not forget however that when I sign a marriage license for an opposite sex couple they immediately receive 1138 federally protected rights that the same sex couple next door don’t have – and won’t have until we Dump DOMA.

So tonight is a night for celebration -- and tomorrow is a day for mobilization as we continue to work to make justice roll down like waters -- until marriage equality is not just a goal but a reality in this city, this state and this nation. California Faith for Equality is committed to that goal as we work with our partners to support a Protect Marriage Movement that protects ALL marriages and Family Values that value ALL families.

BREAKING NEWS: Justice Rolls Down from 9th Circuit Court

Today's ruling by the 9th Circuit Court that Prop 8 was unconstitutional is not just a victory for gay and lesbian couples in California – it is a victory for all Americans who believe that the “liberty and justice for all” in the pledge we teach our children really means ALL.

From the ruling:
"Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status andhuman dignity of gays and lesbians in California."
It is also a victory over those who erroneously believe that the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment gives them freedom to write their theology on marriage – or anything else – into our Constitution.

And make no mistake about it: There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the days to come from those in the marriage discrimination business about how their freedom of religion is being trampled on by today’s decision for equality. But the truth of the matter is they are just as free today to decide for themselves whether God equally blesses our marriages. What the 9th Circuit Court said today is that they are NOT free to decide whether the Constitution equally protects them.

A Roman Catholic priest is just as free to NOT marry a gay and lesbian couple as he is to NOT marry a divorced couple. Meanwhile, and in my congregation – All Saints Pasadena – we can now get back to the business of offering equal pastoral care for ALL couples who come to us for the sacrament of marriage – because today’s ruling affirms that the First Amendment protects not just freedom of religion but freedom from religion.

But for all the joy in today’s decision, let us not forget however that an opposite sex couple married in California immediately receives 1138 federally protected rights that the same sex couple next door doesn’t have – and won’t have until we Dump DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act.)

So today is a day for rejoicing here in California. And tomorrow we get back to work making marriage equality happen for all Americans.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Prop 8 Decision Day: February 7th

Just a few minutes ago, the 9th Circuit Court posted this announcement that they will file their ruling on the Prop 8 case tomorrow, February 7th, by 10:00 a.m.

Tomorrow’s ruling will be another step toward putting California back on the right side of marriage equality history and undoing the shameful act of allowing a bare majority of voters to write discrimination into our constitution.

At All Saints Church in Pasadena we have taken the principled stand of refusing to participate in state sponsored discrimination by signing marriage licenses for some couples until we can sign them for all couples. We are hopeful that tomorrow’s decision will not only return marriage equality to California but will return to our clergy the ability to equally minister to all those in their pastoral care. Justice has been both delayed and denied – it’s time for it to roll down like waters and end marriage discrimination.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

"20 Years of Blessing:" The Event that Keeps on Blessing!

Eventually all the speakers, sermons and forums from the 20 Years of Blessing weekend will be up on the All Saints website, but for now ... here's a look at what's up so far ... in case you missed any of it or you want to see it or hear it again!

First here's "Chapter One" -- the story of the journey to "God, Sex & Justice" and how George Regas came to the place where he felt called to step out in faith and bring blessings for same-sex couples to All Saints Church:

Then there's the moving "vintage footage" of the Benson-Straw Blessing ... beginning with a reflection from then-vestry member Cathy Clement about being part of the decision making process to "Say Yes to Bless:"

And here are "the next generation" represented in the story of Jamie Hebert & Alec Mapa and how their family found (or, as they tell it, were found by) All Saints Church:

And you can watch Bishop Robinson's Sunday, January 29th sermon here ... and Bishop Glasspool's Rector's Forum presentation here.

Finally, in what is arguably the most spontaneously "blessed" part of the whole weekend, here's a story of the ripples of blessing being sent out from the blessing anniversary we celebrated January 28/29:

One of the tables on the lawn just outside the main church door was an information table for the Blessing Event weekend. By the end of the 11:15 service all the flyers, sign up sheets and materials had been cleared off and the table was empty: save for a piece of paper with the word "Blessings" written on it.

Two young All Saintsers sat themselves down ... and when a parish member walked up and said "What's your ministry?" they answered: "Blessings! Do you want to be blessed by a kid?" And they proceeded to take her hands and bless her ... "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit Forever."

A line formed and one after the other the girls blessed the folks who lined up ... a moment caught on video here:

Blessed to be a blessing these young All Saintsers are "Exhibit A" of making God's love tangible 24/7 as they put their faith into action on the All Saints lawn.

"Never doubt," said Margaret Mead, "that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." And if you ever do (doubt), remember this moment. And take heart.

For the record ...

Friday, February 03, 2012

Once upon a time ...

From our 20 Years of Blessing Event: The "back story" of how All Saints Pasadena came to the decision to start blessing same-sex unions in 1992. And no, George Regas did NOT just wake up one morning and say, "Mary, I think I'll bless some gay people today!" Here's hoping this little bit of history will be an encouragement to those still working to make all the sacraments available to all the baptized.

Once Upon a Time ...

BREAKING NEWS: Susan G Komen proves "It's never too late to do the right thing."

The Susan G. Komen Foundation announced this morning the reversal of their decision to end funding breast cancer screening through Planned Parenthood ... demonstrating that the power of public outrage can actually overcome the anti-abortion zealot driven politicization of women's health issues.

From the statement issued by the Komen Foundation:
We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives. The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not. Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.
Which of course illustrates that the decision to defund Planned Parenthood was indeed "political" as it was based on an "investigation" which was politically motivated and a strategic part of an ongoing agenda of attacking Planned Parenthood and making women's health issues a wedge issue in a presidential election year.

So what's that quote? Oh yeah ... "It's never to late to do the right thing." And if there's a silver lining in this whole sorry mess it has been the elevation of the issue of access to women's health care for underserved populations to the top of the news -- for a moment -- with the good news of a victory against the politicization of health care.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Spirit vs Letter of the Law: Thoughts on the 9th Circuit Ruling Against Release of Prop 8 Tapes

Count me as one of those disappointed by the ruling today that the video recordings of the Prop 8 trial will not be released.

The ruling ... available in its entirety here ... was summarized in the L.A. Time piece:
“The trial judge on several occasions unequivocally promised that the recording of the trial would be used only in chambers and not publicly broadcast,” the panel said.
I totally "get" that the original commitment about the trial tapes was a clear articulation that they would not be released to the public and I can understand how the panel came down on the "letter of the law" side of the argument. And ...

My wondering is: Where does that original intent rub up against the orchestrated post-ruling effort by supporters of marriage discrimination to vacate Judge Walker's ruling with the specious argument that he ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional because he's gay when the truth of the matter is he ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional because it is ... and because supporters utterly failed to make their case during the trial?

If Jesus was right and "the truth will set you free" don't the people of California deserve to see for themselves the truth of the lame argumentation presented to defend the efforts of a bare majority of Californians to write discrimination into our Constitution?

AND if the court is going to hold to the letter of the law on this one let's trust that they are equally disposed to hold to the letter of the equal protection part of the law when they rule on the constitutionality issue next. Tick Tock!

President Obama @ The National Prayer Breakfast Today

"Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel -- the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action -- sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance. This is no different today for millions of Americans, and it’s certainly not for me."

"For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others."

Read the rest here.