Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

12/7/12: Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty

Gil Bailie writes:

Today, one has to love slow moving things. But when the blessedly slow moving Catholic Church moves this fast and begins with this level of moral seriousness, one familiar with its history will immediately realize that She (the Church) is preparing for a long and painful period of persecution, even as such a thing seems preposterous to many inside and outside the Church. The graver the prospects of the coming assault by the state, the more promptly the Church turns to prayer in preparation.

“The pastoral strategy is essentially a call and encouragement to prayer and sacrifice—it’s meant to be simple,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “It’s not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which engages the New Evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith. Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are not only foundational to Catholic social teaching but also fundamental to the good of society,” he said.

Ernest Karam responds:

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco

I just finished reading the USCCB’s FAQ about the defense of marriage, to which their article (above) is linked. In the subsection on religious liberty, they list five possible threats posed by same-sex marriage, followed by a section entitled, “Have any of these threats come to pass?”

Their first example of a threat that has come to pass (that of “compelled association”) is the obligatory provision of married student housing for same-sex married couples at a Catholic college in Massachusetts. Since we are not told which college this is, we cannot investigate the claim without a great deal of searching. But same-sex marriage is legal in MA, and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was illegal even before the 2004 law legalizing SSM.

The problem for the Church seems to be that whatever exemptions exist apply only to churches, but not to other institutions that they may own and operate. This is probably because these institutions both serve and employ non-Catholics, and so it seems perfectly reasonable that they should not be exempt. If private institutions were allowed to discriminate against whomever they pleased, then whole classes of people could be relegated to second-class status by virtue of being disadvantaged in seeking housing, employment, and insurance.

The USCCB’s second example of a “threat that has come to pass” concerns the state’s requirement that institutions extend benefits to same-sex married couples just as they do to others. The argument here is the same as before: Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation precedes SSM legalization. The institution involved in this case, Catholic Charities of Oregon (CCO), was apparently not exempt from the law as churches are. Anyway, I don’t know why they’re citing CCO, as Oregon has not yet legalized SSM.

Punishment for speech: Again, the Bishops make a vague claim without identifying the parties involved. Apparently someone in Montana suffered some tax penalties. I have no idea what that was about.

Two threats that have not come to pass are (1) exclusion from accreditation and licensure, and (2) exclusion from government funding. There is a real possibility that Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH could lose accreditation if it persists in teaching medical and social sciences students that homosexuality is a disorder in spite of scientific evidence that it is not. The University would of course also lose its accreditation if it taught medical students Phlogiston theory instead of modern science. As for government funding, an institution that fails to meet the requirements for government funding can hardly expect to receive it. In principle, the government represents all the people, not just one religious group.

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12/13/12: The Population Bomb

by Dean Hansen

Gil Bailie writes:

In my youth I was much involved in the environmental movement. I remember with chagrin how Paul Ehrlich’s book “The Population Bomb” captured everyone’s attention and almost complete credulity. What’s even more amazing is that many people still believe it, when it is now perfectly clear that population decline—and the related aging of the world’s population—is the reality facing us today.

Here’s a minute-and-a-half video to that effect. [Doughlas Remy notes: The video is produced by the Population Research Institute, a non-profit organization which describes itself as “pro-life” and is funded by right-wing foundations.]

Behold one of Mr. Bailie’s endlessly recurring (and pet) monomaniacal themes.

Those nasty population bomb hysterics, according to the film, “thrive on an imagined crisis that has been both imminent and re-scheduled again and again over the past two centuries.”

Second Coming of Christ

The “imminent” return of Jesus

Hmmm … that sounds oddly familiar. I guess “imagined crises” have nothing on the return of Christ, do they?  Oh wait…. That has been both “imminent” and “re-scheduled” again and again … over the past twenty centuries, if you believe the hundreds of false prophets called on by God to declare the approaching and glorious advent.

So, does the fact that over-population hasn’t destroyed the planet yet mean we don’t need to re-schedule Christ’s return? Or does it happen independently of whether there are any people left to care?

I wonder how Mr. Bailie’s credulity stacks up against anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming? I’m sure the extra four billion people we’ve added to the earth since he and I were born in the 1940’s has had no appreciable impact on our carbon footprint or his mathematical certainties. Let’s try some actual math here: With 99% of scientists affirming in unison the reality of global warming, poor Paul Ehrlich is outclassed trying to compete very effectively as a lone voice in the wilderness on a related topic.

Climate consensus pie chart

According to Gil’s epic little 90-second public service announcement, every family on the earth could live “comfortably” in Texas (with their own house and yard!)  Really?  Explain to me how they intend to survive in the midst of a two-year drought and oppressive triple digit temperatures? Where will they get water? Food? Air Conditioning? A record number of cattle ranchers in Texas have had to auction off their herds of cattle at a steep loss to keep them from dying of starvation and thirst and to avoid bankruptcy and complete financial ruin. Now, imagine a city with a density like Tokyo, Shanghai or Hong Kong, filling up every nook and cranny of a land mass the size of Texas. Buildings, people, neon, cars, noise, and pollution as far as the eye can see.  No more trees, grass, flowers or animals … especially cattle. Just us. I guess those little details don’t matter much when you live in a fantasy world dominated by church doctrines that teach it’s “morally wrong” to give condoms to people in Africa suffering from AIDS.

Overpopulation babiesYes, let’s make more babies!  What have we got to lose?  Just our sanity, and the world we hope to bring them up in.

Of course what this marvelous and laughable pretense of a film overlooks is that physics trumps economics. Finite resources = dying populations.  According to scientists (those secular bastards!) population ignores the demographic transition model alluded to in this film, and exponential growth will continue until we hit an unsupportable load capacity which doesn’t even factor in the added disaster of climate warming. But why be dismayed by simple facts? Efficiency leads to even more consumption because it drops prices and allows faster extraction from ecosystems. If making babies is all you want to do, pump away and let the devil take the hindmost. But be prepared for a very rough ride.

Overpopulation in China Crowded Beach in BeijingNo sense worrying about over population. Malthus was such a jerk anyway. Never mind that he lived in an Empire where most of the population were either slaves or serfs, there was no education, thinking got you branded as a heretic, and most of the agriculture was for subsistence (that is what wasn’t stolen for the lords and dukes). We’ve already destroyed 95% of old growth forests since “taming” the new world. Bah! Who needs pristine environments with pure water and silent majesty? They just block the flow of traffic.  Let’s cut down the rest of the trees young and old to make way for more highways and more post-modern millennial Levitowns. Let’s increase fossil-fuel production to sustain growth and secure market profitability, plutocratic excess and endless bottom lines.

Overpopulation Catholic church and birth controlLet’s build more ribbons of concrete to connect all the inner-city infrastructure so we can have one massive, squalid ghetto-plex running from Mexico to the Tehachapi mountains, and from New Jersey to Maine. Just think of a large loaf of bread covered in expanding green mold. We’re the mold. Give us more graffiti and less saw grass. More smog and fewer dandelions. Don’t forget the advertising signs, strip malls, cyclone fences, and phone poles. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Strip mining for silver, diamonds, and coal enhances the natural beauty of the land. Excavate those troublesome mountains for gold and leave the rubble behind. Poison the rivers with mercury, arsenic and raw sewage. Spew more chemicals and industrial waste into the atmosphere as we ramp up for the miracle baby boom of the future that will save us from the Muslim hordes and immigration problems. Cancel licensing restrictions on Nuclear plants and build them near cities close to the ocean like those clever Japanese folks did. Fish the seas dry until the entire marine ecosystem collapses from overuse. Look for new oil exports by exploiting the Northwest passage, which fortuitously has opened for the first time in recorded history as a result of burning fossil fuels from the same oil that caused the melt. (This is roughly the equivalent of being overjoyed to discover thousands of flopping fish when the tide mysteriously rolls out and getting caught collecting them when the ocean comes crashing back as a tsunami wave to kill what’s left).

Coal plantPipe in petroleum through the Alaska and Canadian wilderness. What’s a spill or an Exxon Valdez now and then? Frac for oil reserves and risk the further contamination of declining agricultural land. Suck the last potable water from the worlds aquifers. Burn more coal to light houses no one can afford to buy with their junk mortgages. Be sure to remind the public that coal is “clean” energy. No one gives a shit if you’re telling the truth anyway. Just remember that sage advice from Rhett Butler, “There’s money to be made in the collapse of civilization.” Destroy the remaining habitat of endangered species of wildlife. Cut down the rest of the Brazilian rain forests to graze cattle so we can slaughter them and eat more hamburger. Build more airports close to suburbs, eliminate noise and perimeter restrictions. Pass laws protecting people’s right to own guns and carry concealed weapons into bars. Build more bars, gas stations, fast food franchises and WalMart stores. The future is bright.  Especially if the sun novas.

We are the only species that soils its own nest and takes real pleasure in doing it. God forbid that we should ever have to inventory our own foolishness and be honest about the resulting consequences. No! Let’s bury our collective heads in the sand and keep repeating the faithful refrain, “This isn’t really happening!  This isn’t really happening!” until there’s no one left to keep it from happening. After all, God gave us the plants, trees, animals and land to subdue and strangle into obedience. How can we go against the sovereign word of the Lord?  After all, he did promise to come back, didn’t he?

12/14/12: Going off the anthropological cliff

David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron

Today, the day of the Newtown, CT school shootings, Gil Bailie finds much to lament in British Prime Minister David Cameron’s support of same-sex marriage. “The consequences of going off this cliff are orders of magnitude greater than those associated with our fiscal irresponsibility,” he writes, and he would have us read (1) a letter from Rt. Rev. Philip A. Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth, and (2) an article by Brendan O’Neill in The Telegraph. There is remarkable overlap between their three viewpoints about this matter.

Smother

Smother

The Bishop, apparently unable to think of anything new and interesting to say about same-sex marriage, reminds us that it undermines the very nature, meaning, and purpose of marriage. He doesn’t explain how this happens, but he feels certain that it does.

The changes Cameron is proposing, he claims, are of “immense significance,” and will “smother the traditional Christian ethos of our society and in time strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission.”

Strangle

Strangle

In other words, he doesn’t like the proposed changes.

Brendan O’Neill sees in gay marriage the triumph of selfishness, expressed in the notion that marriage is about “two people” and nothing more. “That’s it,” he writes. “It’s about you and your lover, nobody else.” And he really resents being called a dinosaur for holding this view.

Selfishness

Selfishness

Well, I hasten to point out that, in civil society, couples seeking to marry have never been required either to have children or to attempt to do so. Women who are past child-bearing age get married all the time, as do busy professionals who need intimacy, companionship, and love, but not 24-7-365 commitments to child care. So the bottom line is that marriage may or may not be about the raising and socializing of children, depending on a couple’s own private values and priorities. Gay marriage doesn’t change that one iota. Many gay couples, in fact, are crazy about kids and make wonderful parents. So what’s the beef?

Dinosaur

Dinosaur

Two adult individuals may marry for a variety of reasons, and it may be a matter of total indifference to them whether or not the Catholic Church approves. Considering the levels of church attendance in Britain, I wouldn’t imagine that too many Brits give a hoot.

Are gay-affirming therapists biased against clients’ religious beliefs?

NARTH, a professional organization for ex-gay profiteers, says yes. Read the story here.

NicolosiDrawing adjusted

12/10/12: The Tolerance Vigilantes Again…

Gil Bailie writes on 12/10/12:

Let’s say a man with same-sex attraction—having reviewed the dismal physical and mental health statistics associated with a sexually active homosexual lifestyle—decides to try to avoid these dangers with the help of psychotherapy. If he lives in California, and if a law recently passed by the state legislature is upheld, he will be out of luck. For therapists would be violating the law if they consent to a request to counsel someone wanting to overcome his same-sex attraction.

How’s that for diversity and tolerance? If you want to change your sexual orientation from straight to gay, heaven (religious scruples) and earth (anthropological reality) will be moved in order to make it happen. But changing one’s sexual orientation in the other direction is so ideologically unthinkable that laws must be passed to prevent it. It’s just one more indication of the totalitarian mentality of the sexual Left now that its goals seem within reach.

My initial reaction to this was a protracted groan that caused my sleeping cat to look up at me in alarm. Once again, Mr. Bailie has shamelessly exhibited a level of cluelessness that can only take one’s breath away, considering the ready availability of accurate information on the Internet. His lack of diligence barely conceals an underlying malice toward homosexuals and an eagerness to denigrate them at any opportunity. For not only does Mr. Bailie persist in claiming that homosexuality causes physical and mental health problems—in spite of all the evidence to the contrary—but he appears to believe that the “sexual Left” is bent on converting straight people to gayety. In all my years of following gay political culture, I’ve never heard of such a project. Nevertheless, to be fair, I decided to investigate. You can do it, too. Try googling “straight-to-gay conversion therapies” and see what you come up with. Make sure you type “straight-to-gay,” not “gay-to-straight.”

See what I mean? All you get is the opposite of what you searched for. Google thinks you made a mistake. Yes! You must have been thinking of “gay-to-straight.”

I actually have never known a gay person who thought that heterosexuals should (or could!) become gay. I have never heard of children being taunted by their classmates for being straight. I have never read a news story about a man who committed suicide after his friends and family rejected him because was straight! I have never heard of a religion that teaches the sinfulness of heterosexuality and encourages straight people to live lives of abstinence.

Mr. Bailie’s grotesque misconceptions, which verge on the hallucinatory, are symptomatic of a severe mimetic capitulation to the Groupthink of the religious right. Time for a reality check, and here it is:

First, some background. The new California law that Mr. Bailie is referring to is known as the ban on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, or SOCE (SB1172). The law was challenged in two separate cases: Welch v. Brown and Pickup v. Brown.

In the first of these, the plaintiffs were two mental health professionals, Mr. Donald Welch and Dr. Anthony Duk. Mr. Welch is a licensed marriage and family therapist and an ordained minister. Dr. Duk is a medical doctor and board certified psychiatrist. Both men stated that their views about homosexuality were based on their religious beliefs (remarkably enough, not on science!) and that the SOCE ban violated their first amendment rights. On 12/3/12, the judge in this case, William Shubb, blocked SB1172 temporarily, but only for these two plaintiffs.

In the second case, Pickup v. Brown, the judge concluded that the law did not violate the plaintiff’s first amendment rights because it did not prohibit them from mentioning SOCE or referring patients to out-of-state conversion therapists. Furthermore, he found that the law imposes a reasonable restriction on what sorts of treatments mental health professionals may provide. The purpose of such restrictions is to protect the public from damaging or ineffective therapies.

So, are conversion therapies actually damaging and or ineffective? Yes, say this country’s medical and social care associations. Homosexuality is not a mental illness. It is not a disorder. Many of what Mr. Bailie calls the “dismal physical and mental health statistics associated with a sexually active homosexual lifestyle” are the effects of stigmatization by churches such as his own Catholic Church, whose catechism describes homosexuality as “objectively disordered” in spite of a broad-based scientific consensus that says otherwise.

Mr. Bailie finds SB1172 to be an expression of the “totalitarian mentality of the sexual Left.” But Mr. Bailie sees totalitarianism everywhere, even where it’s not. (More about that another time.) SB1172 is simply California’s effort to protect its citizens from costly-but-ineffective therapies that are often damaging to patients. There’s nothing sinister here, unless you take the view that all government decisions are by definition sinister. (I am currently working on the hypothesis that Mr. Bailie does indeed think this.)

To paraphrase Mr. Bailie, let’s say that an unusually tall young man, attending school in California, is constantly taunted and ridiculed for his height—so much so that he decides to seek professional help. Let’s say that his “mental health professional” turns out to be an unrepentant quack whose religious beliefs take precedence over his scientific training and whose religion tells him that abnormal height is a sign of a satanic spell that can only be broken by surgically shortening the legs. What if he persuades his young patient that this will solve his problem? Should the state of California tolerate such therapies? (See the illustration in the next post, above.)

I cannot elaborate on this more persuasively than Truth Wins Out, which issued the following statement concerning Judge Schubb’s ruling:

We are disappointed, but not deterred by the initial ruling by judge William Shubb. This is the beginning of a process that we feel confident will end in our favor. We have a powerful and incontrovertible case that reparative therapy is a dangerous practice that brazenly stands in direct opposition to standard mental health guidelines and procedures. It erroneously portrays homosexuality as a mental illness, gay people as mentally ill, and is consumer fraud by definition because its practitioners offer false hope and empty promises to their clients for a fee.

The idea that SB1172 is a violation of First Amendment rights is unfounded and wrongheaded. Medical and mental health professionals are held accountable for their speech and simply can’t say whatever they want if the results bring harm to their clients. For example, a doctor can’t tell a patient who is recovering from a recent heart attack to run a marathon. To do so would be to engage in speech that leads to malpractice. Similarly, a reparative therapist should not be able tell a 14 year old client that he or she is suffering from a mental illness and needs psychiatric care to transform from gay to straight. Therapists in clinical settings have always been expected to uphold professional standards and are held accountable for dangerous advice or deceptive practices that harm clients, or have the clients harm themselves.

Reparative therapy is social engineering with no medical basis and operates in an alternative reality. It was founded and solely based on the anti-gay prejudices of primarily deeply religious therapists who cruelly project their unscientific views onto vulnerable clients at a considerable financial price, as well as a significant cost to mental health. Rather than do what is in the best interest of their clients, such unethical ‘therapists’ routinely treat their clients as guinea pigs and have them in engage in bizarre treatment regimens that would be laughable if they weren’t so psychologically harmful.

For these reasons, we view the temporary ruling as a speed bump in the inevitable process of protecting LGBT youth and their families from quacks. We look forward to the next round. The simple fact is, the more people learn about what reparative therapy truly is and what such therapists actually do in the clinic, the less they support it.

Finally, here, not to be missed, is Stephen Colbert’s take on the recent ruling.