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Pastor Fired for Linking to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Story on Facebook

14 Oct

With so many stories of anti-gay teachers posting hateful things on their facebook walls, and a new campaign launched by the National Organization for Marriage, aiming to make victims out of bigots and defending their right to practice hatred towards LGBT people, you’d expect better when the tables were turned.

Blogger John Shore received a troubling email a few nights ago. A straight pastor who is married with 3 kids (and one on the way) was fired after posting a link to an article about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on his facebook wall. The pastor is receiving a severance package from the church, but that will end should he speak out publicly about his firing. With a large family and a baby due in December, unfortunately, losing his severance is not an option.

The pastor’s email said (in part):

“…Four weeks ago the discriminatory law of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was finally abolished. Even though no one in my church community was aware of my views on homosexuality (I have been intentionally tight-lipped about it, knowing how divisive that issue is), and I’ve never talked about it, I felt like it was good to celebrate the end of discrimination. So I posted a link to an article about the end of DADT on my Facebook page. I made no commentary on the article–which was not about the “issue” of homosexuality at all…”

“Over the next few hours, several people from my church started commenting on my wall: “How can a Christian be pro-homosexuality?” “Why is a pastor actively promoting the gay-lifestyle?” and so on. Even more people were calling/texting/emailing our lead pastor and the chair of our elder board.”

“What resulted over the next six days was not fun. The chair of the elder board called for an emergency board meeting to deal with me. I was summoned to the board meeting, where I was forced to give my stance on homosexuality (even though the church has no official stance on the matter, and has never before talked about the issue). And even though I reminded them that we all agree on our church’s statement of faith, ultimately, when they learned that I don’t view homosexuality as a sin, and that I would be in favor of two gay people being allowed to get married, they came to the conclusion that I was unfit to be a pastor at [Name of Church]. And within a week of posting the article on FB page, I was fired from a church I’d served faithfully and helped to build for five years…”

“…Right now, three weeks after being fired, I have so many conflicting emotions. I’m devastated at being fired. I’m angry at the process by which it was done. I was just eliminated almost immediately. In the eyes of the church body and the staff I essentially just disappeared. I was there one week, and not the next. It’s made me feel like a leper, like someone who committed some heinous sin and had to be “dealt” with. I’m disappointed that the church I’d loved and served and believed in ultimately came up short. I desperately wanted [Name of Head Pastor] to stand by me, and say to the board and to the negative people in the church, “[Guy's Name] and I agree on what it means to follow Jesus. We agree on the essentials of the faith. And we have done ministry together for five years, and I want to continue to serve alongside him. We disagree on things, on non-essential elements of the faith–and you know what? That’s okay! We celebrate our unity in the faith, and we welcome different viewpoints and beliefs.” That’s what I wanted; that’s what I hoped for…”

I can’t help but wonder (if the pastor could come forward) if Maggie Gallagher and the National Organization for Marriage would stand up for this man’s 1st amendment rights? Or are they only committed to those rights if they are protecting bigots who refuse to do their jobs and teach children intolerance and hatred?

DADT Repeal Stay Lifted – “No Reason to Delay Certification” Says Former Marine

6 Jul

DADT Repeal Rally at The White House - May 2, 2011 (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, Equalityphotography.com)

Last year, before Congress voted to repeal the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, there was a federal district court which had already found the policy to be unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed by the Log Cabin Republicans was what lit the fire under the Administration and Congress to pass the repeal as quickly as possible.

This was all happening while the highly controversial and very questionable “study” on military readiness was being handed out to service members and their families. Among the questions in the study were:  “If don’t ask, don’t tell is repealed and you are working with a service member in your immediate unit who has said he or she is gay or lesbian, how would that affect your own ability to fulfill your mission during combat?” Respondents answered with a range of responses from “very positively” to “very negatively,” as well as “no effect” or “don’t know.” What I always found most interesting is that troops were being polled about who I have a relationship with and how that affects their daily routine, but when it comes to something actually important, like…say…”Do you believe we should send you off to an unjust war for which the country can find no actual motivation – where you will more than likely lose your life or at least one of your limbs?” the military sees no need to poll troops.

Either way, the government asked for a stay so that the legislative  moves could be made and that the law could be repealed. But what happened is that many concessions were made on the repeal and the condition on which final repeal would be approved would be that the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Secretary and the President would need to sign off on the repeal once the necessary training was completed to allow for gays and lesbians to serve openly. Naturally, they’ve been dragging their feet on this certification.

But today, an order from the lower court that initially found in favor of the Log Cabin Republicans and found DADT to be unconstitutional has lifted the stay on implementation of repeal.

Alex Nicholson, Executive Director for Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and the lead plaintiff in the Log Cabin Republicans vs. USA case told Talk About Equality:

“With the wait for certification dragging out beyond a reasonable time frame, the Court has once again stepped in to require the Pentagon to stop enforcing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and this time it very well may be for good. I am proud to have worked personally worked with Log Cabin on this case for more than five years now and to have represented the gay military community as the sole named veteran in this lawsuit. Despite the criticisms and years of waiting, this case has yet again successfully eviscerated this outdated, harmful, and discriminatory law.”

Fmr US Army Captain Tonya Domi and Fmr Marine Justin Crockett Elzie (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

And Justin Elzie, the first Marine to be fired under the discriminatory law, and author of “Playing By the Rules” told us:

“I think it is a great thing and since DADT Training is nearly complete, then now is the time for the Obama administration to do the right thing and not continue to fight against repeal in the courts and let this stand and certify repeal immediately.  There is no reason to delay certification or fight this ruling.”

Nicholson added:

Nicholson added, “Servicemembers should still remain extremely cautious with information regarding their sexual orientation for the time being. The issue remains in a state of flux, although guarded optimism is certainly warranted.”
For more information about Servicemembers United and the gay military community, please visit their new home on the web at www.servicemembers.org.

Status Update Reveals Story of Fallen Gay Soldier

11 Mar

Some of you may have caught this recent status update on facebook in the past 24 hours, pitting the media coverage of Charlie Sheen’s mental deterioration against it’s lack of coverage of fallen soldiers this week. It reads something like this:

“Charlie Sheen is all over the news because he’s a celebrity drug addict,” it said, “while Andrew Wilfahrt 31, Brian Tabada 21, Rudolph Hizon 22, Chauncy Mays 25, are soldiers who gave their lives this week with no media mention. Please honor them by posting this as your status for a little while.”

CNN Blogger Wayne Drash decided to do some research and hopefully give some of these brave heroes their due in whatever way he could. He began by calling the father of Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, who agreed with the viral posting.

Cpl. Andrew Charles Wilfahrt

Jeff Wilfahrt agreed with the viral posting and gave the blogger a little backround on his son. He told him of some of Andrew’s likes and dislikes, including the fact that he was anti-war among other things. and then he added: “He was a gay soldier.”

“He didn’t have a child and a wife,” Jeff Wilfahrt said. “In a way, he went over so that somebody with a young family wouldn’t die.”

“I’m so proud of him and his service.”

His voice breaks. It’s likely his son is among the first gay soldiers to die in combat since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed in December. “I’d do anything to honor my son.”

Please take the time to read this entire piece and share the background and story behind this supposedly innocuous facebook status update.

 

h/t: TAE Friend, Kappy Griffith

Fertilizing the Roots – Photos and Video from Rootscamp 2010

12 Dec

Rootscamp 2010 is drawing to a close after it’s second day of incredible grassroots progressive organizers joined in DC to discuss and digest the work of the past year.

Last night, following a full day of workshops, participants let loose and did some networking to make sure we are all communicating about how to move our ideas forward.

This morning, some of the organizing sessions we were able to attend included one on direct action as well as a session on how to use our storytelling to advance our individual goals. Being one of the main purposes of Talk About Equality, the ideas presented on storytelling were extraordinarily moving and helpful in finding our equality. It’s through these stories that we have come as far as we have.

Using stories to convince a voter to vote for a candidate is indeed helpful and effective. Personal stories usually make the biggest difference in winning a vote, as we saw with the election of Obama. But when it comes to the monumental changes and shifts in the LGBT movement, there is no denying that storytelling and our personal narratives have created the most positive change. When telling our parents, friends and family who we are, and coming out to those we love, we are telling our story. If we fail to tell those stories, we in fact are not only failing ourselves, but every generation of LGBT people that follows.

We’re very grateful to have been able to take part in the New Organizing Institute’s Rootscamp 2010 and can’t wait to see all these incredible organizers and their work over the course of 2011. Enjoy a few more photos as well as the incredible video from NOI.

Should We Give a Megaphone to the Bigots?

7 Dec

Over the past few years, we’ve seen all the nuts falling from the trees. Nowadays, it’s difficult to find a news program from CNN, MSNBC, Fox or anywhere else that doesn’t offer differing viewpoints on the topics of the day – no matter how bigoted those viewpoints might be.

But how far should the media go in giving a platform to bigots, racists, homophobes and the like? Julie Bolcer at The Advocate points out a brief interview with Tom Brokaw on a red carpet recently. Brokaw pointed out the fact that sometimes it’s outrageous anti-gay viewpoints that spark conversations nationwide. “You just say that they’ve got strong opinions. You treat like them like anyone else. You cross-examine and ask them the right questions.” Brokaw said.

As a journalist, one would think that you should be fairly removed from the topic you are reporting on, but it would seem with the evolution of news programs from most of the major cable networks, that commentary on these issues has become standard.

Anderson Cooper joined the fray earlier this year when he interviewed former Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell after Shirvell had harrassed and stalked openly-gay University of Michigan student body president, Chris Armstrong. Cooper was less-than-kind to Shirvell stopping just a few inches short of calling him a lunatic on national television.

And our beloved Rachel Maddow used her bully pulpit to eviscerate ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen, when he tried to explain his methods of “curing” homosexuality. While never being rude to Mr. Cohen, it was clear that Maddow found all his techniques to be…let’s say “outside the box.”

But do these appearances help in the struggle for civil rights by pointing out the shameless bigotry and hatred being displayed by individuals like The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown or Maggie Gallagher? Or does it hurt us by giving a national platform to these otherwise fairly anonymous individuals?

There’s also the bigger question of freedom of speech – which is the usual line of defense for the networks when questioned as to why they allowed these people on their shows. This argument doesn’t hold a lot of water for me really though, as you can still speak out without being handed a national platform to do so.

I tend to believe the former, but I live in a major metropolitan area where most of the people I know share similar politics with me. With such a huge influx in LGBT stories in the media the past few years, is it necessary to offer a counterpoint, even when it’s as offbeat and bigoted as some of these examples?

Straight to the Gay Bar: Friendfactor Makes a Splash

2 Dec

Most out LGBT people I know, can recall coming out to their best straight friend or their straight brother or sister or even their parents. When we recall that moment, it’s hard not to also remember the awkward questions that followed…

“So…have you ALWAYS been this way?”

“Do you like musicals now?”

and the ever-famous…

“So…how do you…do…it?”

What many of us don’t really notice is just how easy it becomes to communicate with our straight friends and family once the big questions have already been asked. Of course this isn’t ALWAYS the case and some of us are dismissed and disowned outright, and sometimes the conversation never moves past the awkward. But for those relationships that are lucky enough to move beyond that, Brian Elliot and his pals at Friendfactor want you to take the next step.

Having started a Facebook group called “Give Brian Equality,” Brian succeeded in getting 600 of his friends to join – to learn about the inequalities he faces. Brian was shocked to see that in just four weeks, the group had grown to 19,000 people. So he started Friendfactor, a new online platform designed to assist LGBT people in communicating with their straight friends about equality. We announced the launch of the app and website just a few weeks ago.

It’s time to move past “Does this belt go with this dress?” and on to “Did you know I can be fired for being gay in 29+ states?”

Tonight, Friendfactor had it’s first Friendraiser, encouraging LGBT people to attend and bring along a straight friend or two. The event, titled “Straight to a gay bar” was a huge success with over 200 attendees and a little education mixed with a few drinks. The approach was subtle and even featured a gameshow where the straight friend had to guess if the title read by the host was the name of a gay bar or a steakhouse, and the gay friend had to guess between straight bars and day spas. Needless to say, “Mantini” and “Touch” were among the stumpers. Visit www.Friendfactor.org to find out more information. Here’s a few photos from tonight’s event:

Patty Buckley, COO and Brian Elliot, Founder of Friendfactor

 

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal; EqualityPhotography.com

Bradlee Dean: He’s a muslim, just thought you should know.

2 Dec

As we’ve written before the xenophobia and paranoia of evangelical groups, shock jocks, and extremist G.O.P. members is sometimes so extreme as to border hilarity.  Take for example Bradlee Dean (who?) of the religious ministry You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International.  On his AM radio show Saturday he ranted about Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to us Congress. Rep. Ellison is a strong supporter of LGBT rights. He supports Marriage Equality, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Hate Crimes Legislation, and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But WAIT, he’s a muslim:

“What is Keith up to? I think we have to ask the question, Keith,” said Dean. “I’m just asking the gay communities what’s up with Keith Ellison because they are so foolish, blind and stupid not to figure out that their vice chair is a Muslim. This is no hidden secret, folks. This is in America. Who is this guy working for?”

“Why is this guy advocating the overthrow of the United States Constitution in the state of Minnesota?”

He goes on to say that Ellison is opening the door to Sharia Law (which he mispronounces as “sharee”) by advancing the homosexual agenda.  Setting aside, for the moment, that some interpretations of Sharia Law are consistent with Dean’s own views, the idea that the LGBT community would turn on an ally simply because of his religious heritage is absurd. Simply put, there is no way that advocating for LGBT equality would usher in extreme interpretations of any religious doctrine into the U.S. Constitution.

Normally this type of speech would go unnoticed.  It is increasingly the common language of the far right and is not particularly newsworthy.  What is unsettling is how close to the actual stance of the current GOP Dean’s views are, from the Minnesota Independent:

Dean and his ministry have close ties to the Republican Party and GOP elected officials and candidates including gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Secretary of State and current state Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, and state Rep. Dan Severson. Rep. Michele Bachmann has fundraised for the group extensively in recent years as well.

Read Bradlee Dean’s views for yourself and decide.

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