Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

New York Gay Man Attacked by Hasidic Jewish Safety Patrol Members; Five Arrested So Far

Taj Patterson, 22, gay man savagely attacked by Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg, NY shouting anti-gay slurs (NY Post images).

Taj Patterson, 22, gay man savagely attacked by Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg, NY shouting anti-gay slurs (NY Post images).

Williamsburg, New York – A gang of Hasidic Jews, some identified as members of the Satmar Hasidic Shomrim (Safety Patrol), shouted homophobic  and racial slurs as they brutally beat a gay black man in Williamsburg on December 1.  The victim, 22-year-old Taj Patterson, suffered multiple injuries including a crushed eye socket, a torn retina, and cuts to his right knee and hip.  This week, five hasidim were arrested for the attack by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.  They have been charged with Gang Assault in the First Degree and a variety of other charges, though at this point a hate crimes charge has not been lodged, even considering the report of witnesses that a barrage of homophobic slurs accompanied the assault.  The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years for each assailant proved guilty.  Failed Messiah, a blog covering news in the Hasidic community since 2004, identified those arrested as  Pinchas Braver, 20, Aharon Hollender, 28, Abraham Winkler, 39, Mayer Herskovic, 21, and Joseph Fried, 25. Two of the alleged assailants fled from the United States to Israel immediately following the incident, but were apprehended there.

The five suspects and a number of other hasidim who allegedly participated in the attack are all members of the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community, a large and influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect with pre-World War II roots in Hungary.  According to A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, the Satmar Hasidim number at least 45,000 in Williamsburg today.  The Shomrim is a volunteer neighborhood watch drawn from the Satmar community.  Activists in Williamsburg quickly denied the involvement of the Shomrim in the attack, but according to the Brooklyn Paper, the denials left room to conclude that some of the attackers were indeed members of the watch group.  An Orthodox rabbi who decried the attack did not mention the  participation of the Shomrim in the December attack.  Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, said, “The bedrock of the Williamsburg community is tolerance for one and another. Any act of violence by any individual, against anyone, for whatever reason, is condemned in the strongest possible terms.”  

EDGE on the Net reports that Patterson is a fashion student studying at the New York City College of Technology.  While he says he does not remember much from the attack that occurred with swift savagery, he clearly recalls at least one of his assailants shouting, “Stay down, faggot, stay the fuck down,” as he kicked Patterson in the face.  Since the horrific incident, Patterson has undergone surgery to repair his torn retina.

The true heroine of the whole bloody affair was the driver of Bus 57 who slammed on her brakes and stepped out of her bus snapping pictures of the assault with her cell phone, according to the New York Post.  The NYPD say that the attacking gang fled the scene when they realized she was taking their pictures.

April 25, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Brooklyn, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hasidic Jews, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Israel, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, Racism, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Bashing and the Bible: The Issue That Won’t Go Away

Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, MCC Global Leader, one of many ministers calling for the reinterpretation of the Bible (Adam Bouska photo).

Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, MCC Global Leader, one of many ministers calling for the reinterpretation of the Bible (Adam Bouska photo).

Dallas, Texas – Gay bashing associated with death-dealing interpretations of the Bible is not over—not by a long stretch. In the tonier precincts of North American society, queer and straight trend setters deal with the old “scripture wars” as if they are tired remnants of a fight no longer worth dignifying with comment. But nothing could be further from the truth for millions of LGBTQ people in North America and around the globe, especially the young, who are routinely being judged as “abominations” by Christians and Jews who fatally misinterpret scripture.

Three current articles on Huffington Post and elsewhere on the web are bringing the issue of the harm bad interpretations of Bible passages from the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament into sharp focus. The publication of Matthew Vine’s book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships (Convergent Books 2014), a passage-by-passage refutation of homophobic interpretations of the six or seven “clobber passages” so often marshaled to denigrate and dehumanize queer people and their relationships, has raised a fire-storm of howling protests by conservatives on the web. Michael Brown, the right wing pundit, is in high dudgeon over the decision of a previously reliable gay bashing, evangelical press conglomerate, the WaterBrook Multnomah Group, to publish Vine’s book and to defend it in the evangelical community. In Brown’s screed, “A Shameful Day in Evangelical Christian Publishing,”[1] he condemns anyone who would defend interpretations of the Bible that contravene the total damnation of LGBT people. Brown decries the defense publisher Stephen W. Cobb[2] makes of Vine’s book, writing, “Have we totally lost our bearings as the people of God? Are we now debating the undebatable and trying to sanction the unsanctionable?”

Brown cannot imagine that the time honored, blood soaked history of interpreting the Bible as a “no homo” bulwark against what evangelicals used to solidly oppose as an abomination is now being contested in his own community of faith. Declaiming anyone who challenges these clobbering passages as a traitor, Brown writes: “…Those who want to revise biblical sexuality and morality have moved away from the Word of God….They have muddled the waters of the faith, and brought reproach on the gospel, further confusing a very lost society, and become propagators of deception in the church. And they will answer to God for all this one day.”

On the moderate and liberal Christian front, the issue of harm done by Bible bashing and misinterpretation is back on the front burner, too. Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, global leader of the Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), challenges world church leaders such as Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to distance the church from using scripture and tradition to bring about the deaths of African LGBTQ people like David Kato of Uganda. Dr. Wilson writes on behalf of queer people of faith in the Huffington Post[3]: “Archbishop Welby, … Will you use your power to defend those who writhe under the heel of Christians who selectively cite the Bible? Or will you huddle by the fire in the courtyard and deny us over and over? Remember, it was Jesus himself who said, ‘When you have done it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.’”

None of the current voices in the “gay bashing and the Bible” debate carry more moral energy, however, than the Easter article published in the Huffington Post by Jane Clementi, “Loving All God’s Children Equally.”[4] Clementi is the mother of Tyler Clementi who committed suicide in September 2010, after his intimate encounter with another young man was broadcast to the world by his Rutgers classmates who spied on him in his own dorm room. Reconsidering the experience of church through the eyes of her child who died from the shame and horror of anti-gay bullying, Clementi writes:

After Tyler’s death, in the silence of my shattered world, as I looked deeply into God’s Word and listened, God continually and clearly spoke of His unconditional love for all and how we should exhibit God’s love to others with kindness and compassion, always seeking unity, giving life, being respectful and welcoming with hospitality and inclusion, always allowing everyone to be at peace with who they are and how God has created them, perfectly and wonderfully made in God’s image. Why have we lost this message? The church must start to embrace these truths and stop preaching hate.

“Sadly, as I look back — almost as if through Tyler’s eyes — I see things so very differently now. Looking through the eyes of a far-less-mature believer, a child with many uncertainties, and a vulnerable youth with much less confidence in how his sexual orientation fit into God’s plan or God’s kingdom, I now see the harm and pain that is caused by the misinterpretation of scripture that homosexuality is a sin.

“Regrettably, Tyler received a clear message from our faith community, whether it was in youth group, Sunday school, the infrequent short sentences that were spoken on rare occasions in the sermon, or maybe even the silence — the shameful, silent disapproval and judgment of how God created him to be different. But Tyler got the message loud and clear, and clearly that is not a message of love for a young person sitting in the pews next to you.”

For Jane Clementi, the matter of scriptural interpretation is not about the finer points of the ancient languages, or doctrinal and moral purity, or even about the unity of church fellowships and ideologies. It is simply about life and death—the life and death of victims of lethal assumptions about the Bible. She concludes her call to the churches on Easter Sunday:

“We must reexamine those six scriptural passages with open hearts and minds and understand that what Paul was saying to first-century Christians does not translate to what we understand today in 2014 about loving, committed same-sex relationships. We must stop judging; we must stop imposing shame. The church, the Body of Christ, needs to acknowledge that homosexuality is not a sin. The church should apologize, put up a rainbow flag on their church sign and welcome all to God’s family. That is how to love our gay Christian brothers and sisters: Love them like God does.”

BashersJane Clementi’s crie de coeur should touch a nerve of concern and compassion, and help LGBTQ people and their allies to re-engage the issue of how the Bible is used in relation to queer people. This issue is not going away. When even one child or gay adult in the USA or around the globe falls into despair because of shame and condemnation linked so intimately with how communities of faith use the Bible, that is one person too many. The use of the Bible, any portion of it, for purposes of dehumanizing and demeaning LGBTQ people must no longer be tolerated by communities of faith, biblical scholars, preachers, priests, rabbis, and theological seminaries. Marriage equality, no matter how currently successful an issue for human rights, will not secure a safe future for queer people until the theological justifications for violence against them are faced squarely and changed to interpretations of life, tolerance, and acceptance.

Evangelical Christians are no longer of one mind about same-sex loving people. The distress of Michael Brown and other right wing purists to the contrary, dissenting evangelical voices are opening their Bibles to new, exciting interpretations that make room for life and varieties of human experiences. Faithful queer religious leaders like Nancy Wilson are chiding their heterosexual counterparts to read their Bibles in the contexts of love and acceptance, and some of them are doing so with new attention to how the “Church’s Book” can become the word of life again. Jane Clementi’s appeal to church and synagogue to open their scriptures to a more just, inclusive, and loving embrace of LGBTQ people puts the reinterpretation of the Bible on the side of marginalized people everywhere—where it should have been all along. It is simple, Clementi reminds all of us: as simple for the faith community of today as it has always been for readers of the Bible throughout history who opened the Book and found the words of life there—not death.

[1] Michael Brown, “A Shameful Day in Evangelical Christian Publishing,” http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/43537-a-shameful-day-in-evangelical-christian-publishing. Accessed 4/18/14.

[2] Stephen W. Cobb, “Why Publish God and the Gay Christian?” http://www.convergentbooks.com/why-publish-god-and-the-gay-christian/. Accessed 4/21/14.

[3] Nancy Wilson, “A Tale of Three Bishops,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-nancy-wilson/a-tale-of-three-bishops_b_5162843.html?utm_hp_ref=religion. Accessed 4/21/14.

[4] Jane Clementi, “Loving All God’s Children Equally,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-clementi/loving-all-gods-children-equally_b_5176554.html. Accessed 4/21/14.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, religious intolerance, Tyler Clementi | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Perp Sentenced for Beating Disabled Brother and Threatening Castration to “Push the Gay Out of Him”

(L to R) Lawrence Featheroff, Jamie Smith, and Brent Disbennet abused a disabled man for "sexual thoughts about men."

(L to R) Lawrence Featheroff, Jamie Smith, and Brent Disbennet abused a disabled man for having “sexual thoughts about men” (NBC4 image).

Lancaster, Ohio – A Central Ohio man charged with threatening to slice off his disabled brother’s genitals with a butcher knife for being gay, and repeatedly punching him to “beat the gay out of him,” has pleaded guilty to felonious assault and abduction.  On Monday, Fairfield County Judge Chris A. Martin sentenced Lawrence L. Featheroff to 30 months in prison and 3 years subsequent probation for bashing, tormenting, threatening, and beating the younger brother he agreed to care for, because of loathing his brother’s “sexual thoughts about men.”  Featheroff, 38, had taken charge of his disabled younger brother, Jason A. Meyers, 26 after reports of alleged abuse in a group home for developmentally disabled people.  According to The Columbus Dispatch, Meyers is developmentally disabled, but relatively high-functioning.

Featheroff virtually imprisoned Meyers in a house where they lived with an uncle and aunt, and Featheroff’s girlfriend. He admitted to the charges back in January when police, following a tip that abuse might be going on in the house, found Meyers suffering from a concussion, multiple facial bruises including an injured eye socket, and a sprained ankle.  The older brother, a convicted ex-con who had served time for domestic violence, said that his motive for the abuse was to intimidate his younger sibling into becoming heterosexual.  Gay Star News reports that Detective Brian Lowe testified at the sentencing hearing that Featheroff claimed he “wanted to toughen him up to push the gay out of him and make him a normal person.” 

Investigators uncovered a pattern of torture, physical and psychological abuse against the younger man by Featheroff, Featheroff’s girlfriend Jamie R. Smith, and Brent M. Disbennet.  The trio routinely punched and kicked Meyers, limited him to one small meal a day, and forced him to run up and down a hill carrying a heavy wooden railroad tie.  On at least one occasion, Featheroff held a butcher knife to Meyers’s genitals and swore that he would castrate him if he didn’t stop fantasizing sexually about men.  Meyers was removed by officials to a safe location and is now living in adult foster care.

The brothers were part of a family of eight siblings by different fathers who were removed from their mother’s care for reports of neglect or abuse.  The remaining siblings have banded together in a family group of their own. One of the other brothers is believed to have tipped off police about the abuse he feared was going on in his brother’s home.  At the sentencing hearing, some of the siblings showed up to support Featheroff, and claimed that Meyers could be difficult to live with.

Smith, 40, has pleaded not guilty to complicity to commit felonious assault and abduction.  Disbennet, 25, has admitted guilt for felonious assault.  Their court dates are pending.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Disabled persons, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Ohio, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Four-Year-Old Boy Murdered Because His Mom Thought He Was “Gay”

Jessica Dutro (l), and boyfriend Brian Canady "systematically tortured" and killed her 4-year-old she believed was "gay."

Jessica Dutro (l), and boyfriend Brian Canady “systematically tortured” and killed her 4-year-old she believed was “gay.”

Hillsboro, Oregon – An Oregon mother was found guilty by a Washington County Circuit Court for the murder of her four-year-old-son she thought was gay.  Gay Star News reports that it took a jury less than two hours yesterday to convict Jessica Dutro for the August 2012 beating death of her child, Zachary Dutro-Boggess.  Dutro showed no emotion as the verdict was read.  She was found guilty of murder and five counts of murder by abuse and one count of second-degree assault.  The little boy’s intestines were torn in two places by the brutal beating his mother and her boyfriend, Brian Canady, inflicted on him, but the couple allowed the child to suffer for two days before calling 911 to get him some help.  As the toxic contents of his bowels had leaked into his body, Dutro had searched the internet for sex online and anger management classes, according to Oregonlive.com. Zachary was dying as he was transported to a Portland Hospital where he was put on life-support until he died on August 16.

Brian Canady had pled guilty in a pre-arranged plea deal to testify against Dutro.  He admitted to kicking Zachary.  Canady will serve 12-and-a-half years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault.

The evidence against Dutro for the slaying of her young son was damning.  Prosecutors shared Facebook messages with the court that detailed her loathing for gay people in general and her fear that her child was going to grow up to be one.  In one message, she demanded that Canady “work on” Zachary for being gay.  In another, after using a homophobic slur in reference to her child, she wrote, “He walks and talks like it.  Ugh.”  

Undoubtedly, the most damaging evidence against Dutro came from her own seven-year-old daughter.  The little girl, speaking to a counselor, said (in reference her mother and her boyfriend, Canady), “They beat my brother up, and he died. I seen them.”  Prosecutors presented evidence during the trial showing “systematic torture and abuse” used by the couple as “discipline” against Zachary, his sister, and his three-year-old brother. Zachary’s siblings were covered in bruises, and the three-year-old boy was found to have five cracked ribs.

Jessica Dutro’s sentencing has been scheduled for April 18.

April 4, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Child abuse, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Oregon, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four-Year-Old Boy Murdered Because His Mom Thought He Was “Gay”

Gay Hero and Martyr Postage Stamp Design Revealed

Harvey stampWashington, D.C. – The long-awaited Harvey Milk commemorative postage stamp is now a reality, according to Linn’s Stamp News.  A black-and-white photo image of Harvey Milk will be the central feature of this non-denominated U.S. Postage “Forever” Stamp.  The stamp design includes the colors of the Rainbow Flag in six differently colored squares stacked vertically in the upper left corner.  First day of issue is planned to be May 22, 2014, Harvey Milk Day, to celebrate the San Francisco gay politician, activist, and city supervisor.  Cities likely to be chosen as first issue sites are Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California.

Milk, who is recognized throughout the world as a hero and martyr of the LGBTQ and human rights struggle, was a U.S. Navy veteran, and one of the earliest openly gay elected officials in the United States, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of City Supervisors in 1977.  Though gay rights was a major emphasis of his political career, Milk also championed affordable housing, city sanitation, expanded child care, and public transportation. He was shot to death in his City Hall office on November 27, 1978 by Dan White, his one-time colleague who blamed his actions on momentary insanity and disorientation from eating too many sugary desserts.  White also shot and killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone the same day.  The appearance of this commemorative stamp marks the first time a gay hate crimes murder victim has been publicly honored in this way.

EDGE on the Net reports that The stamp, likely to be issued in a pane of 20, will be used to mail a one-ounce letter regardless of when the stamp is purchased or used and no matter how future prices fluctuate.  The current value of the stamp is 49 cents.

According to SF Gate, the U.S. Postal Service selects only 20 persons per year to be honored with a commemorative stamp, out of the thousands nominated by people all over the globe, and vetted by a citizens’ advisory committee.  Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle in October 2013 at the announcement of the Postal Service’s decision to develop and issue the stamp, Milk’s nephew and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk said, “We’re excited. We think this will represent my uncle’s message, which is hope and courage and authenticity, very well.” 

April 2, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, gay men, GLBTQ, Harvey Milk, Harvey Milk Commemorative Postage Stamp, Harvey Milk Day, Harvey Milk Foundation, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, San Francisco, U.S. Postal Service (USPS), Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hero and Martyr Postage Stamp Design Revealed

   

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