Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Poison Pen Pal Scott Lively Writes Gay People: “I Love You, But You Deserve Hell”

Anti-LGBTQ Activist Scott Lively

Springfield, Massachusetts – In an example of the worst religion-based bigotry of this generation, a longtime promoter of violent rhetoric against the LGBTQ community published an open letter claiming to love gay people with a message of hate.  Scott Lively, founder of Abiding Truth Ministries in Springfield, Massachusetts, has targeted gays and lesbians for criminalization on three continents, and is on the Montgomery, Alabama Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of Hate Groups.  The SPLC in its “Hatewatch: Keeping an Eye on the Radical Right” bulletin reports that Lively posted an RSVP letter to “LGBTs” on his DefendtheFamily.com website on Monday. Lively says he “loves” gays, but they are all bound for hell, and need help.

As the SPLC notes, Lively has worked feverishly for three decades to defame and outlaw gays and lesbians in his speaking and publishing.  His only work of note is The Pink Swastika, a thoroughly discredited screed in which Lively contends that the Nazi movement was a homosexual plot.  By implication, Lively accuses LGBTQ people of instigating World War II and the execution of untold millions. While no reputable historian credits a thing he says, right wing Slavic Christian extremists have promoted the book throughout the old Soviet Bloc and beyond.  Lively has been influential in the Watchmen On the Walls ministries, which has calls gays and lesbians a disease that requires an “divine penicillin” and expressions of “muscular Christianity” to cure.  He is one of the prime advocates of reparative therapy in sub-Saharan Africa.  In Uganda, Lively testified before lawmakers as the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill was making its way through Parliament.  Now that the Ugandan government is reconsidering the stalled bill, which makes homosexual activity punishable by death, Lively’s pseudo-science and religious distortions will come into play again, urging state-sanctioned violence and oppression against LGBTQ people.

In this country, Lively excused the hate crime murder of gay immigrant Satendar Singh by Slavic Christian fundamentalists in Sacramento.  Singh’s murder heightened tensions between the LGBTQ community and Russian and Slavic fundamentalist churches, as reported at chapter length in the recent book by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Unfinished LivesIn effect, Lively has declared war on the LGBTQ community  time and time again. In a letter to the Washington Times on June 23, 2003, Lively wrote: “No clear-thinking person believes that the homosexual sexual ethic and that of the family-based society can peacefully coexist. …One must prevail at the expense of the other.”  At a Russian conference in Novosibirsk in August 2007, Lively’s violent metaphors came out in the open: “There is a war that is going on in the world. There is a war that is waging across the entire face of the globe. It’s been waging in the United States for decades, and it’s been waging in Europe for decades. It’s a war between Christians and homosexuals.”

In Lively’s RSVP letter to the LGBT community, though he changes his tone, there is no reason to believe he has moderated any of his virulent, anti-gay intentions for outlawing and criminalizing people based on their sexual orientation and gender variant identity.  He claims that God gave him a “Word” in March to speak directly to the gay community.  He writes to LGBTQ people: “I am appealing to you to begin to agree with God about homosexual sin, and to turn away from the seductive lie that God approves of homosexuality and wants you to embrace a homosexual identity . . . You must repent to be saved.”  Lively particularly singles out Open and Affirming Churches, which welcome LGBTQ people and celebrate their lives and loves, and reduces Christian faith to a condemnation of anyone who deviates from Lively’s norms.  Lively also condemns any attempt from the gay and lesbian community to do theology at odds with his own: “’Gay theology’ turns the logic of the Bible on its head, and tries to make the sinner “good enough” to earn heaven . . . This is a dangerous lie that leads straight to hell.”  The solution for LGBTQ people is to rush to Exodus International for anti-gay aversion brainwashing.

In an astonishing attempt to prey upon LGBTQ people who suffer from internalized homophobia, he finishes his letter with a simpering self-justification: “In publishing this letter I know that I will be subjecting myself to ridicule, abuse and hatred. You know very well how nasty some of your peers can be. Yet I am doing it anyway, because in Jesus I love you and I want you to be saved . . . Frankly, as I sit here at my computer, I wonder whether my entire career against your political and social agenda, and all of the notoriety I have achieve in your community might all have occurred so that I would be a person whose letter you would read today.”

Scott Lively is an example of the worst religious bigotry active in America today.  SPLC’s Ryan Lenz writes that Lively began his career in bigotry in 1992 seeking to classify homosexuality on a par with pedophilia and sadomasochism.  He has not changed, nor are his motives ever to be trusted.  Ask Satendar Singh’s family. 

October 27, 2011 Posted by | "Kill the Gays Bill", Alabama, Anglo Americans, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, California, gay men, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Internalized homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Massachusetts, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Russia, Russian Federation, Scott Lively, Social Justice Advocacy, Southern Poverty Law Center, transgender persons, transphobia, Uganda | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Combatting Church Homophobia in Toledo with Love: Equality Toledo’s “Born This Way” Event

Rev. Cheri Holdridge, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, and Rev. Ed Heilman at Equality Toledo Event Monday (Kurt Young photo).

Toldeo, Ohio – A packed auditorium heard an out gay Baptist scholar from Texas challenge the Toledo Christian Community and the LGBTQ and Allied Community of Northwest Ohio to move toward reconciliation on Monday night.  Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, and Theologian in Residence of Cathedral of Hope, Dallas, the world’s largest LGBTQ predominant congregation in the world, spoke on “Born This Way: Why faith communities are welcoming LGBTQ people.”  Dr. Sprinkle is the founder of http://unfinishedlivesblog.com and the Unfinished Lives Project which seeks to tell the stories of hate crimes victims in the United States. A coalition of progressive Christians and Muslims, as well as Equality Toledo responded to homophobic signs posted around Toledo by a mega church in Maumee pastored by a well-known detractor of the LGBTQ community.  In April 2011, a small open and affirming United Methodist Church collected money enough to put up a large billboard proclaiming, “Gay Is A Gift From God.” The purpose according to the leadership of Central United Methodist Church was to start a conversation in Toledo about healing and inclusion at a time of dire economic crisis and social stress.  Then, in September, the 2,500 member Church on Strayer, pastored by Evangelist Tony Scott, decided to bombard Toledo with nine billboards countering, “Gay is NOT a Gift from God,”  with the word “NOT” in scare-caps and blazing red.  Adweek called this “a church ad battle over God and Gays.” The Toledo Blade reported that Scott believes sexual orientation is a choice, and an evil one.  But Central UMC’s members were not discouraged by the homophobic mega church attacks. Lynn Braun, chair of the Methodist Church’s lead team said to the Blade: “I’m somewhat surprised it didn’t happen earlier. We felt it important to express our faith this way. I think people have the right to express their faith the way they see fit, and I think it helps the community to know where churches stand.”

In a bold move, progressives reached out this week with a positive response to the attacks.  Fox News Toledo led its evening news with the story, “Controversial Billboards Spur Positive Response.”  Fox interviewed Rev. Cheri Holdridge, pastor of the Village Church in Toledo, and one of the organizers of the University of Toledo event.  She countered the homophobia with an affirming message of God’s love.  “Two churches put billboards up and one particular church feels that it is the word of God that gay people are not welcome in churches,” Holdridge said to Fox News. “We wanted to be clear to the people of Toledo that there are many churches that do welcome gay people and that we don’t believe it is a sin to be gay.” Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, an openly gay faculty member at Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School told Fox, “There is a spiritual movement afoot that includes everyone. Including LGBTQ people. There are literally hundreds of thousands of faithful people who are gay or lesbian or transgenders, who have come out in their congregations’ lives and we’re not going back in the closet again,” Dr. Sprinkle went on to say. “Because of that, then, there is a conversation about what the role of faith communities needs to be towards us.” Joni Christian, a member of the United Church of Christ who attended the event at UT, said she was thankful for the message of truth and reconciliation at the meeting.  Speaking to Dr. Sprinkle, she said, “Thank you for your message in Toledo. You brought it in such a way that we should remember WWJD (What Would Jesus Do).”

The last word on homosexuality and Christianity has not been delivered in Toledo, yet.  The leadership of the Church on Strayer will surely load up and shoot back.  But Dr. Sprinkle said, “They are shrill in their condemnation of LGBTQ people because they know they have lost the cultural and moral argument about inclusiveness and diversity.  Homophobia is still potent in the Midwest and throughout America.  But the balance is tipping toward justice for marginalized people, the sorts of people Jesus himself was most comfortable around in his own day. Equality Toledo is on the right track,” Sprinkle added. “Answer hate with love.  We do not have to treat our adversaries as they have persecuted us. We have a God who turns enemies into friends.”

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Bisexual persons, Cathedral of Hope, Central United Methodist Church Toledo, Equality Toledo, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Ohio, Public Theology, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pittsburgh Suburban Man Set On Fire for Being Gay

Steven Iorio, 37, victim of deadly attack with fire (WXPI photo).

Heidelberg, Pennsylvania – A gay man in a southwest suburb of Pittsburgh woke up screaming with his leg set afire by a couple of one-time “friends.”  Steven Iorio, 37, of Heidelberg, fell into a deep sleep in the early hours of  September 22 after a night of drinking, only to feel his left leg burning after two local men set it ablaze with a bottle of Bacardi 151 Rum, according to WXPI Channel 11 News. Iorio came back to an apartment complex on West Railroad Street and passed out on a couch to sleep off the effects of too much to drink at the Heidelway Bar and Restaurant. An eyewitness identified  Brandon Washington, 25, and David A. Blair Jr., 31, of writing anti-gay epithets on Iorio’s jeans, and drawing on his face while he was sleeping.  Then the pair soaked Iorio’s leg with the highly flammable rum, before Blair allegedly set the liquor on fire. Two other people from the apartments ran to see the source of the commotion after being roused by Iorio’s yells of pain.

Iorio’s friend, Tina Cook, told WXPI that she received a frantic early morning call, summoning her to the scene. After a look at the severity of the second and third degree burns on the back of Iorio’s leg, Cook insisted that he go to the hospital for treatment.  She is clear on the anti-gay motivation for the immolation. “They wrote disturbing [anti-gay] things on his pants and drew on his face,” Cook said. Heidelberg Police Chief Vernon Barkeley told Chartiers Valley Patch blog that his department has been investigating the attack for the better part of a month to determine the identity of all the people inside the apartment living room when Iorio’s leg was set alight. Chief Vernon said that the attack could have endangered everyone present in the 13-unit apartment complex that night, had the blaze spread to draperies and the building. He described the continuing suffering the victim faces since the potentially fatal crime: “[Iorio] is still seeing doctors for these injuries while racking up numerous medical bills,” Barkley said. “He will have permanent scarring and is in pain daily.”  Iorio will probably carry scars for the rest of his life as a reminder of the way his Allegheny County drinking buddies treat gays. As of this writing, he wounds have still not healed.

No news source to date says that the two alleged perpetrators of this deadly prank have been arrested for the crime.  Instead, the pair was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, conspiracy,  ethnic intimidation, and risking a catastrophe, and allowed to go home.  Nor has there been any comment about what the eyewitness was doing when the two men who proved to be anything but friends, were setting Iorio afire.

When Steven Iorio was asked by a WXPI reporter if he considered Blair and Washington “friends,” he answered with a resounding “No!”

October 22, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay Center Vandalized at NC State University

Technician photo of hate attack on NC State LGBT Center

Raleigh, North Carolina –  A perp with an anti-gay agenda vandalized the North Carolina State University GLBT Center on Monday.  Though the university was quick to obscure the slurs spray painted on the outer door and display case of the center, the campus newspaper, The Technician, got a good photograph of the message the hate tagger sent to LGBTQ staff and students at State.  The words “Fags Burn” and “Die,” along with a broad slash across a wall display were sprayed in purple paint across the whole front of the center, which is in Harrelson Hall on the main campus.  Campus Police Sergeant Jeff Sutton told The Technician that the hate act took place between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm, when the vandalism was discovered. Adam Ward, a graduate advisor for the GLBT Center, and a graduate student at State in comparative biomedical science, wrote on a Facebook post, “No one was able to see who sprayed-painted this, but believe me, there will be a University response. We will continue working with University Police, and I thank all of our community members and allies for standing up for equality and what’s right.”  On her Facebook page, Center Director Justine Hollingshead posted this assurance to the LGBTQ community on the State campus: “We are working on some positive follow up and of course education. Just wanted to keep folks in the loop. Thanks for all of the messages of support.”  Hollingshead was employed to lead the GLBT Center in 2008, and has built it into a vital player in forming campus opinion about diversity and inclusiveness issues.

Sergeant Sutton said that since this was an act of vandalism against property, it would be considered a hate incident, rather than a hate crime against an individual.  Campus police are reviewing video surveillance tapes for the identity of the perpetrator.

On Tuesday evening, a public meeting was called by the GLBT Center leadership to generate ideas about a proper response to this act of hatred.

Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, has been the guest of the NC State GLBT Center on two occasions, most recently in April of this year.  Dr. Sprinkle said, “This act of hate is not an isolated incident, in my opinion. North Carolina faces a divisive anti-same sex marriage ballot measure due to the work of extremist elements who took over the State Legislature in Raleigh for the first time since Reconstruction.” He continued,  “Radical, right wing homophobia is more likely to be unleashed against the LGBTQ community during times of high publicity on sexual orientation and gender expression issues.  Vigilance and swift action to identify and prosecute the vandal or vandals is necessary to send the counter message that gays and lesbians will are no longer viable targets for violence in the South.  The leadership of the NC GLBT Center should be commended for working so quickly to involve the campus community in education for justice and moderation in the wake of this disturbing incident.  Hate speech links up to hate violence, and words like “Fags Burn” carry the situation to a whole new level in Raleigh.”

The anti-LGBTQ vandalism occurred a month after the North Carolina General Assembly moved its same-sex marriage ban for state-wide vote to the May 2012 primary ballot.  If passed, the provision pushed by the Republican majority in the Legislature not only would ban same-gender marriage, but would also strip domestic partner benefits from North Carolinians. Adam Miller, interim director of Equality North Carolina, issued this statement in response to the NC State vandal attack: “The passage of this amendment clearly sanctions other discriminatory acts against LGBT people and, in the process, creates a climate of fear for LGBT people, their families, their children, and all who love them,” Miller said. “This hateful act will only serve to draw attention to our efforts and push us to work even harder to inform the public about the dangers of anti-LGBT legislation to our state, our communities, and our young people.”

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bisexual persons, Equality North Carolina, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, NC State GLBT Center, North Carolina, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, vandalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Waymaking Gay Rights Pioneer, Frank Kameny, is Dead at 86.

Washington, D.C. – Frank Kameny, pioneering gay rights advocate, is dead of natural causes at 86 years of age.  The Dallas Voice and the Washington Blade reported the details of Kameny’s passing, and began the assessment of his leadership to the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States.  A full decade before the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, Kameny was strategically planning and leading the nascent gay rights movement, along with a handful of other brave women and men.  He co-founded the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society, the first gay rights organization in the nation’s capitol.

Kameny was a combat soldier in World War II, and used the G.I. Bill to earn a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard University after the war.  He worked for the U.S. Army Map Service in the 1950s until his superiors learned he was gay, and fired him for it. Kameny contested the firing, taking his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court–making him the first person to bring a gay-related issue to the high court.  The Supremes held in favor of the lower court, setting aside Kameny’s suit, but his experience before the court confirmed him as a lifelong gay rights activist.  He launched the first gay rights demonstrations at the White House in 1965, and was the first gay person named to the D.C. Human Rights Commission.

Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign, said of him, “From his early days fighting institutionalized discrimination in the federal workforce, Dr. Kameny taught us all that ‘Gay is Good.’ As we say goodbye to this trailblazer on National Coming Out Day, we remember the remarkable power we all have to change the world by living our lives like Frank ­— openly, honestly and authentically.” 

In later years, Kameny fell on hard times, running short of money for food and housing.  Friends and activists spearheaded an effort to raise funds to make his later years more secure and worry-free.  As the movement for LGBTQ rights evolved, Kameny became something of an artifact–honored for his role in the past, but paid less attention than he deserved, in the opinion of many.  Recognition, however, came to him beyond any of the neglectfulness he suffered.  A younger generation of activists discovered him, and celebrated him.  Official notoriety came to him, as well.  As the Washington Blade reported in another article detailing the response of the LGBTQ community to his passing: “In 2007, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History included his picket signs from the White House demonstration. Papers documenting his life were added to the Library of Congress in 2006. In 2009, Kameny received the Theodore Roosevelt Award.”

I met Kameny at a 2009 wreath laying for Sgt. Leonard Matlovich at the Old Congressional Cemetery in Washington City.  He spoke to the hundred or so in attendance on a beautiful October day, just prior to the National Equality March.  He beamed with pride, recounting his days as a soldier in the U.S. Army, as an astronomer, and then as a fighter for our rights. Sitting with Rev. Troy Perry, the Founder of the MCC Church, Kameny was no museum piece.  He was strong and determined to win 21st century freedoms for his people.  In death, his influence and inspiration have every prospect of increasing with the passage of time.

So, Frank Kameny, student of the stars, passed quietly from this life at his home. Before him, there was no way.  Thanks to him and his colleagues in the equality movement, a way was made out of no way.  Rest in peace, Frank.  We will not forget you.  ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

October 12, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Frank Kameny, gay men, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Mattachine Society, military, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall, U.S. Army, U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Waymaking Gay Rights Pioneer, Frank Kameny, is Dead at 86.

Matthew Wayne Shepard: Honor and Educate in His Memory


Thank you to the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center. Never forget!

Laramie, Wyoming – Wednesday, October 12 will be the thirteenth anniversary of America’s archetypal gay hate crimes victim.  Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked and beaten into a coma by two locals who targeted him for abduction, robbery, and murder at the Fireside Lounge on the night of October 7, 1998.  They left him trussed to the base of a buck fence, exposed to the freezing cold after stealing his shoes.  When Matt was discovered the next day by a passing mountain biker, he was so brutally disfigured that his discoverer at first assumed what he was looking at was a broken down scarecrow that had been put out for Hallowe’en.  Matt’s injuries were too severe to be treated at the local hospital emergency room, so he was transported to Fort Collins in neighboring Colorado where a state of the art trauma center fought to save his life.  For five agonizing days, Matt lay close to death with an injured brain stem–a terrible wound from which he could never recover.  His family, mother Judy, father Dennis, and younger brother Logan stood vigil beside him while the life force ebbed.

For thirteen years, Matt’s memory has been honored, invoked, and ridiculed by a nation wrestling with heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia–a culture of anti-LGBTQ violence that has claimed the lives of over 13,000 queer folk whom we know about (and God knows how many others whose murders have never been reported to anyone keeping records).  Nothing will ever bring any of them back to us.  They are gone, but to memory.

Those of us who labor for the better angels of our national character to emerge have a responsibility to remember Matt and all the rest, to honor them by never forgetting the cost of being sexually different in these United States, and to take up the mission of educating the LGBTQ community and the general public that difference of any kind is no warrant for ignorance,prejudice, and violence, but rather is an occasion for understanding and neighborly solidarity.  The anniversary of Matt’s untimely death is a good time to erase hatred from the American psyche.

In that spirit, I offer this short excerpt from “The Second Death of Matthew Shepard,” Chapter One of my recently published book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims:

“Matt Shepard died in a Fort Collins, Colorado hospital in the wee hours of October 12, 1998 with his parents by his side. Ironically, it was the day after America’s observance of National Coming Out Day. His team of doctors and nurses, professional as they were, could not undo what hate had done to Matt.  He never woke up from his coma. His heart gave out. The ventilator switched off, and Matt was gone. Our memory of him,however, cannot rest in peace. Not yet” (page 3).

Our memory of all the dead whose “unfinished lives” calls out to us to do the work of justice.  May Matt and the 13,000 rest in peace. God being our strength, we must not.  Grace and peace to all on this National Coming Out Day 2011.  ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle

October 11, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bludgeoning, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Matthew Shepard Foundation, Native Americans, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Larry King’s Killer to be Retried in California; Hate Charges Dropped

Brandon McInerney to be retried for the murder of gay classmate, Larry King

Ventura County, California – Prosecutors announced on Wednesday they would retry teen Brandon McInerney for the execution-style murder of his gay classmate, Lawrence Fobes “Larry” King in adult court.  This time, however, all hate crimes charges are being dropped.  Maeve Fox, chief prosecutor in the case, said that the trial would begin on November 21 in Ventura County Superior Court. KABC in Los Angeles reports that defense attorneys for McInterney hope the case will be settled by plea bargain before the trial begins.

A mistrial was declared on September 2 when the nine-woman, three man jury in Chatsworth could not agree on a verdict.  Some jurors have contended that McInerney, who was 14 at the time of the shooting, should never have been tried as an adult.  They also have said they were not convinced by the prosecution that white supremacist, anti-gay prejudice led McInerney to kill his gender variant classmate, whom McInerney knew as “the little fag.”  The defense successfully used a version of the outworn “gay panic defense” to switch sympathies of the jury and the public in the case, putting Larry King’s dress and habits on trial at least as much as the criminal act of their client, the brutal in-class shooting.  Defense has consistently denied using the gay panic defense, and just has consistently employed it to insinuate that their client’s actions were mitigated by the intimidation he felt coming from a smaller, bullied gay teen.

In order to get a conviction, the prosecution has deleted all hate crimes charges, raising the ire of LGBTQ rights advocates around the nation.  Once again, a courtroom in Southern California will be the arena for the validity of the gay panic defense in the most notorious anti-gay hate crime since the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998.

October 5, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, gay panic defense, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Church-Led Gay Bashing in Tennessee: WWJD?

Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee (L to R), attacked by church members in West Tennessee

Humbolt, Tennessee – In the quiet outskirts of rural Humbolt, Tennessee, a church with a Fruitland address was the scene for a violent attack on two young gay men simply for arriving at Wednesday evening services.  What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) about Church-and-Pastor instigated gay bashing?  On September 28, Jerry Pittman Jr. and his boyfriend, Dustin Lee, arrived at Grace Fellowship Church where his father, Jerry Pittman Sr., is the pastor.  Just before the gay couple got out of their car, Jerry Jr. heard his father cry, “Sic ’em!,” as a hunter would address a pack of dogs.  Two deacons from the church, and Jerry Jr.’s uncle who is also a deacon, attacked the pair while they were still trying to get out of the parked vehicle.  WBBJ Eyewitness News interviewed Jerry Jr. soon after the church gay bashed the couple: “My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request,” young Jerry said. “My uncle smashed me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back.”  The men kept yelling homophobic insults and slurs at the couple even after a Gibson County Deputy Sheriff arrived on the scene.  The couple attempted to press charges with the officer, who refused to allow them to do so, implying that they were the cause of the attack themselves.  Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold defended the actions of his deputy to the press, saying, “I haven’t talk to him but that would be out of character for my deputy to say unless they were causing a problem themselves.”  Media attention has caused the sheriff to temper his remarks in subsequent interviews.

Pittman and Lee did press charges the following Friday against Deacons Billy Sims and Eugene McCoy, as well as Rev. Jerry Pittman Sr. and Deacon Patrick Flatt, the younger Pittman’s uncle.  When WBBJ reporters contacted the pastor, he refused comment and demanded that the station not try to communicate with him again.

Evan Hurst of Truth Wins Out gives the latest details on this story that has shocked Christians and non-Christians alike, awakening them to the presence of virulent, anti-gay prejudice in America’s pulpits and pews.  Hurst spoke to Jerry Jr. by phone on October 5, who said, “The church acted as four people, instead of as a congregation.”  Pittman explained that he and his boyfriend had attended the church before, though they knew the condemning stance of the elder Pittman, who preached anti-gay sermons “when the couple wasn’t there.”  Lee had even been invited to sing at Grace Fellowship once when he attended services alone.  But marital trouble broke out between Pittman Sr. and Jerry Jr.’s stepmother, and, in Hurst’s words, “the floodgates opened and the church no longer felt the need to stay silent about Jerry, Jr. and his boyfriend.”   The charges and counter charges in this case are still being sorted out.  All parties are remanded to court on November 22.  Meanwhile, Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee are left to pick up the pieces of their lives and shattered faith.  Jerry Jr. has already lost his job because of the days he has spent pursuing justice for himself and his boyfriend.

West Tennessee is a tough place to be gay or lesbian, much less transgender.  Hurst relates a “man-on-the-street” interview in Jackson, in which the reporter asked a passer-by about what he would do if his son brought a boyfriend to church with him.  The man candidly said he would shoot them.  The culture of hatred, religious intolerance of LGBTQ people, and church-sanctioned violence remains undisturbed in America’s heartland, no matter if there is a federal Matthew Shepard Act to offer some protection legally to marginalized gay people.

Would Jesus condone anti-gay violence?  If not, then why is such prejudice overtly and covertly incubated in the nation’s communities of faith, like Grace Fellowship?  While it may be simple for many Christians to dismiss the Grace Fellowship hate crime as an aberration in an embarrassing, Pentecostal byway, the silence from every other church in the surrounding area is deafening.  The Unfinished Lives Project has shown the link between religious intolerance, religious hate speech, and deadly anti-gay violence.  Nine out of ten fatal hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTQ people in the United States were sparked, by admission of the killers, by Bible or Church teaching.  If churches cannot speak out against an attack against a young gay couple simply for arriving at a church for services, what will they remain silent about next?  WWJD about Christians and Churches who gay bash or stand by silently while others do?  Read John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Gender, Sexuality, and Justice Initiative Launched in the Southwest

Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall, Director of the Carpenter Initiative at Brite Divinity School

Fort Worth, Texas – Brite Divinity School, on the campus of Texas Christian University, launched a ground-breaking program set on changing the role of theological higher education in the human rights struggle in the Southwestern United States.  At Chapel on Tuesday, Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling, preached to inaugurate the Carpenter Initiative on Gender, Sexuality, and Justice, made possible by a grant of $250,000 over five years by The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.  Dr. Marshall headed the effort to gain the grant from the Carpenter Foundation, which is the leading grantor of funding for sexuality, gender, and justice concerns in the nation.  She has been named the Director of the Carpenter Initiative in addition to her professorial duties.

The Rev. Ann B. Day, daughter of the originators of the Carpenter Foundation and an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, was instrumental in reviewing Brite’s proposal, and advising the foundation to make the grant.  The Disciples News Service reported that “the Carpenter Initiative will not only help cover the salary costs of the faculty member who directs the program, but will also support courses at Brite that address these issues, and fund programmatic initiatives in the wider community.”  These programmatic initiatives will engage matters of human rights, articulation of a public theology of full inclusion in the faith community of those marginalized because of gender, gender variance, and sexual orientation, and the development of resources local congregations and denominational offices need to move their membership toward long-lasting acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, a member of the Brite faculty and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, said, “This initiative is the next vital step in Brite’s ‘coming out’ process as a center for the full inclusion of all God’s children, especially those who have formerly been shunned by churches, synagogues, and mosques because of their actual or perceived sexual difference.”  Over the course of several years, Dr. Marshall and Dr. Sprinkle, together with allies in the faculty, staff, board of trustees, and alumni of the school, have worked for the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community, along with the commitments Brite has also made to Black Church studies, Asian/Korean Church studies, and Latina/o Church studies.  By vote of the Board of Trustees, Brite has officially acted to welcome students, faculty and staff regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression, making it unique in the Southwestern United States.  The roots of Brite’s shift toward this progressive stance reach back at least to 1992, when administration opened married student housing on the campus to partnered same-sex couples, and to the hiring of the first openly gay faculty member in 1994.

At a community conversation held immediately after the inauguration service, members of the Brite community voiced a whole bevy of vibrant ideas about the directions the Carpenter Initiative could take, including an institution-wide process to become Open and Affirming, a center for civil discourse on issues of human rights in North Texas, resources on homosexuality and the Bible, a history project to record and preserve the story of the LGBTQ movement on both the Brite and TCU campuses, and a think-tank to delve into the sources of violence and fear in American religious life.  Brite’s Office of Advancement is actively seeking support for the expansion of Brite’s developing leadership in public theology and social justice.

October 5, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Asian Americans, Bisexual persons, Brite Divinity School, gay men, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Native Americans, Popular Culture, Public Theology, Queer, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gender, Sexuality, and Justice Initiative Launched in the Southwest

   

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