Saturday, February 27, 2010

Door Closed for Now on West Virginia Marriage Amendment

CHARLESTON — Consider the marriage definition amendment a dead issue in this legislative session.

Democrats blocked a Republican-led motion in the House to bring the bill out on the floor for a vote.

And Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, says he isn’t going to bother with it, given the crush of major issues left in the final two weeks of the session and the absence of a floodtide of homosexuals seeking marriage permits in West Virginia.

“It’s a highly contentious issue,” Kessler said Friday. “It would lead to a lot of floor debate. I just don’t think it’s necessary at this point.”

In Democratic caucuses, Kessler said, the general sentiment has been to let the matter drop.

More than 100 people waving placards and shouting, “Let us vote,” rallied this week at the Capitol in a demonstration orchestrated by a Christian group known as Family Policy of West Virginia.

Proponents of the proposed amendment that would define marriage as an act between one man and one woman maintain the existing Defense of Marriage Act is vulnerable to a court challenge.

Kessler doesn’t share that opinion.

“I think we’ve got an adequate law with DOMA on the books,” he said.

“So I don’t know if we need to go out and worry about what they may be doing in Delaware or Minnesota or anywhere else to guide or influence unnecessarily West Virginia public policy.”

During the floor session, one of the sponsors of a Senate floor session seeking the constitutional amendment, Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, handed Kessler two boxes crammed with more than 5,416 signatures of voters seeking a chance to decide the issue.

Other sponsors included Sens. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, and Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas.

“There doesn’t seem to be any march to the courthouse by any gay couples to try to get married in this state,” Kessler said afterward.

“It doesn’t seem to be a problem. It appears to be more of a manufactured problem or crisis than it is to be one of actuality.”

Kessler said he is yet to see anyone turned down at the courthouse seeking a marriage license, or even any homosexuals asking for one.

“I just don’t see it being worthy of the limited time we have left to fight that battle,” he said.

Lawmakers are due to wrap up the session March 13. Bills must leave their house of origin as of Wednesday.

“I’ve always been very skeptical of making discriminatory behavior constitutional,” Kessler said. “The Constitution, as I view it, protects the rights of the minority.”

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Charleston, West Virginia Crowd Asks Politicians "to Let us Vote" on Gay Marriage

By Alison Knezevich

About 150 people gathered outside the state Capitol on Thursday to say they want voters to decide whether the West Virginia Constitution should ban same-sex marriage.

"We are here today to say, let us vote," said Jeremy Dys, president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, which organized the rally.

Earlier this week, Democrats in the House of Delegates blocked a Republican move to force a vote on the "Marriage Protection Amendment." That bipartisan resolution calls for a statewide referendum on whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Now, opponents of same-sex marriage are focusing on a similar measure (SJR14) in the state Senate

People at the rally stood and chanted, "Let us vote!" They waved signs with the same slogan.

Some said they wanted politicians to stand up on the issue.

"We don't feel they're representing us by not allowing this to come to a vote," said Terri McCormick of Cross Lanes.

West Virginia already has the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the state from recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere. Those who want a constitutional ban say the existing law could be challenged in court.

McCormick's brother, Michael Kidd of Hurricane, fears that if voters don't amend the constitution, judges will allow same-sex marriage.

"Just the very thought that homosexuals cannot procreate is proof enough that [gay marriage] is not in God's will," he said.

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, was the only legislator to address the rally, saying that lawmakers must respond to people's desire to vote on marriage.

The crowd also heard from Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, and Randy Wilson of the Family Research Council.

The nation is in a crisis "between life and death, truth and lies, chaos and order," said Wilson, who frequently quoted the Bible.

He urged people to "stop the plague that is the destruction of marriage today."

"Will we stand for the children who are watching, or will the plague take them as well?" he asked.

Fairness West Virginia, a gay and lesbian civil rights group, called the rally "a cynical attempt to write discrimination into our state's constitution."

The group is asking state senators to reject the marriage amendment.

"These attacks on gay people have real results," group president Stephen Skinner said in a statement. "Gay and lesbian families in our state and gay teenagers struggling with their identity already feel at risk and stigmatized and these relentless attacks have only made the situation worse."

State law already bans gay marriage in West Virginia, and legislators should concentrate on economic issues, Skinner said.

"If these groups are so concerned about threats to Mountain State families, then they should focus their energy on legislation to boost our economy and put people back to work," he said.

Reach Alison Knezevich at or 304-348-1240.


See also: Gay-Marriage Ban Fails in House ( 02/23/2020


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Croat Scientist Vladimir Paar Warns Europe that Ice Age Could Start in Five Years

A leading scientist has revealed that Europe could be just five years away from the start of a new Ice Age.

While climate change campaigners say global warming is the planet's biggest danger, renowned physicist Vladimir Paar says most of central Europe will soon be covered in ice.

The freeze will be so complete that people will be able to walk from England to Ireland or across the North Sea from Scotland to northern Europe.

Professor Paar, from Croatia's Zagreb University, has spent decades analysing previous ice ages in Europe and what caused them.

"Most of Europe will be under ice, including Germany, Poland, France, Austria, Slovakia and a part of Slovenia," said the professor in an interview with the

"Previous ice ages lasted about 70,000 years. That's a fact and the new ice age can't be avoided.

"The big question is what will happen to the people of the Central European countries which will be under ice?

"They might migrate to the south, or might stay, but with a huge increase in energy use," he warned.

"This could happen in five, 10, 50 or 100 years, or even later. We can't predict it precisely, but it will come," he added.

And the professor said that scientists think global warming is simply a natural part of the planet.

"What I mean is that global warming is natural. Some 130,000 years ago the earth's temperature was the same as now, the level of CO2 was almost the same and the level of the sea was four metres higher.

"They keep warning people about global warming, but half of America no longer believes it as they keep freezing," he said.

And he added: "The reality is that mankind needs to start preparing for the ice age. We are at the end of the global warming period. The ice age is to follow. The global warming period should have ended a few thousands of years ago, we should have already been in the ice age. Therefore we do not know precisely when it could start – but soon."

The Zagreb based scientist says it will still be possible for man to survive in the ice age, but the spending on energy will be enormous.

"Food production also might be a problem. It would need to be produced in greenhouses with a lot of energy spent to heat it", commented the professor, who remains optimistic despite his predictions.

He said: "The nuclear energy we know today will not last longer than 100 years as we simply do not have enough uranium in the world to match the needs in an ice age. But I'm still optimistic. There is the process of nuclear fusion happening on the Sun. The fuel for that process is hydrogen and such a power plant is already worked on in France as a consortium involving firms from Marseille and the European Union, the US, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea. The head of the project is a Japanese expert, and former Japanese ambassador in Croatia", Vladimir Paar revealed.

He said the building of the new technology power plant will take at least another 10 years.

"In 40 years we'll know how it functions. That would be a solution that could last for thousands of years. We have a lot of hydrogen and the method is an ecological one", the professor concluded.



Russian President Medvedev Says NATO is Not the Main Military Threat to Russia

NATO is not seen as the main military threat in the Russian military doctrine, but Moscow is concerned that the Alliance keeps approaching the Russian borders, President Dmitry Medvedev has said.

"It is not NATO that is an issue. NATO is not seen as the main military threat [to Russia] in the military doctrine," Medvedev said in an interview with the French magazine Paris Match.

Medvedev gave a negative answer when asked whether the new Russian military doctrine is a rollback to the Cold War era. "No, I don't think so," he said.

"The issue is that NATO's relentless enlargement by taking in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, or are our nearest neighbors, is creating certain problems, because NATO is a military block after all," he said.

"We have our own defense strategy and our own armed forces, which are intended for a definite configuration. But if a military bloc, with which we maintain partnership relations in general, keeps approaching our borders all the time, if a reconfiguration of missiles is taking place, or other things are happening, we cannot stay indifferent, of course," Medvedev said.

"This is an absolutely open and correct position and it does not mean we are returning to the Cold War era. We just must take this into account," the Russian president said.



A West Virginia Citizen Against a Proposed Marriage Definition Amendment to the West Virginia Constitution

Open Letter to West Virginia Senators

Evan Jenkins and Robert H. Plymale

Concerning the Proposed Marriage Definition Amendment to the West Virginia Constitution


Senator Evan H. Jenkins
State Capitol - Building 1, Room 216-W
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25305

Senator Robert 'Bob' H. Plymale
State Capitol - Building 1, Room 417M
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25305

February 25, 2010

Dear Senators,

As your constituent, I'm asking you to say "no" to an amendment to our state's constitution that
would define marriage as between one man and one woman. An amendment would be a devastating and unnecessary addition to existing legislation, and a public vote on the issue would
be bad for the state.

Federal and state constitutions protect citizens' rights not remove them. "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" for all human beings, enshrined in our inspired Declaration of Independence and then strengthened and elucidated in our federal Constitution, is what I believe in.

It is marriage; not civil unions, that our society and law respects; not to mention the attending 1,136 federal benefits and state benefits that are available to married couples and denied to those who are not married. Currently, the state of West Virginia is already denying those benefits to its gay and lesbian citizens, by not allowing them civil marriage recognition. Reinforcing this discrimination by writing it into our state's constitution would only add insult to injury; would disgrace our state's image, and have likely negative long-term economic repercussions. Like it or not, the world is moving rapidly toward embracing full equality for all people. West Virginia must avoid placing itself into the same category as anti-equality states such as Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

To be married means to everyone that you have made a sacred and serious commitment to love and care for another human being. By defining marriage to between one man and one woman, the state would be engaging in deliberate discrimination against its gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens, and would be saying "We forever deny the same rights to you!" Why, other than for the promotion of a particular religious creed, would the state of West Virginia permit such an amendment?

My vote goes to my state representatives who guard and protect the rights of all citizens, and maintain the wall of separation between religion and state.

Montani Semper Liberi! That means ALL West Virginians!

Madison Reed
Huntington, WV 25703

See also: Crowd asks politicians to 'let us vote' on gay marriage (


Everything Anyone Needs to Know about the Roman Catholic Church

Listen to Stephen Fry describe perfectly well, the endless corruption and absurdities of the Roman Catholic Church, and its ruling body of hypocrites.


How Muslim Inventors Changed the World

From coffee to cheques and the three-course meal, the Muslim world has given us many innovations that we take for granted in daily life. As a new exhibition opens, Paul Vallely nominates 20 of the most influential - and identifies the men of genius behind them

1 The story goes that an Arab named Khalid was tending his goats in the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia, when he noticed his animals became livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries to make the first coffee. Certainly the first record of the drink is of beans exported from Ethiopia to Yemen where Sufis drank it to stay awake all night to pray on special occasions. By the late 15th century it had arrived in Mecca and Turkey from where it made its way to Venice in 1645. It was brought to England in 1650 by a Turk named Pasqua Rosee who opened the first coffee house in Lombard Street in the City of London. The Arabic qahwa became the Turkish kahve then the Italian caffé and then English coffee.

2 The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser, which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th-century Muslim mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haitham. He invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters. The smaller the hole, the better the picture, he worked out, and set up the first Camera Obscura (from the Arab word qamara for a dark or private room). He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one.

3 A form of chess was played in ancient India but the game was developed into the form we know it today in Persia. From there it spread westward to Europe - where it was introduced by the Moors in Spain in the 10th century - and eastward as far as Japan. The word rook comes from the Persian rukh, which means chariot.

4 A thousand years before the Wright brothers a Muslim poet, astronomer, musician and engineer named Abbas ibn Firnas made several attempts to construct a flying machine. In 852 he jumped from the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts. He hoped to glide like a bird. He didn't. But the cloak slowed his fall, creating what is thought to be the first parachute, and leaving him with only minor injuries. In 875, aged 70, having perfected a machine of silk and eagles' feathers he tried again, jumping from a mountain. He flew to a significant height and stayed aloft for ten minutes but crashed on landing - concluding, correctly, that it was because he had not given his device a tail so it would stall on landing. Baghdad international airport and a crater on the Moon are named after him.

5 Washing and bathing are religious requirements for Muslims, which is perhaps why they perfected the recipe for soap which we still use today. The ancient Egyptians had soap of a kind, as did the Romans who used it more as a pomade. But it was the Arabs who combined vegetable oils with sodium hydroxide and aromatics such as thyme oil. One of the Crusaders' most striking characteristics, to Arab nostrils, was that they did not wash. Shampoo was introduced to England by a Muslim who opened Mahomed's Indian Vapour Baths on Brighton seafront in 1759 and was appointed Shampooing Surgeon to Kings George IV and William IV.

6 Distillation, the means of separating liquids through differences in their boiling points, was invented around the year 800 by Islam's foremost scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, who transformed alchemy into chemistry, inventing many of the basic processes and apparatus still in use today - liquefaction, crystallisation, distillation, purification, oxidisation, evaporation and filtration. As well as discovering sulphuric and nitric acid, he invented the alembic still, giving the world intense rosewater and other perfumes and alcoholic spirits (although drinking them is haram, or forbidden, in Islam). Ibn Hayyan emphasised systematic experimentation and was the founder of modern chemistry.

7 The crank-shaft is a device which translates rotary into linear motion and is central to much of the machinery in the modern world, not least the internal combustion engine. One of the most important mechanical inventions in the history of humankind, it was created by an ingenious Muslim engineer called al-Jazari to raise water for irrigation. His 1206 Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices shows he also invented or refined the use of valves and pistons, devised some of the first mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, and was the father of robotics. Among his 50 other inventions was the combination lock.

8 Quilting is a method of sewing or tying two layers of cloth with a layer of insulating material in between. It is not clear whether it was invented in the Muslim world or whether it was imported there from India or China. But it certainly came to the West via the Crusaders. They saw it used by Saracen warriors, who wore straw-filled quilted canvas shirts instead of armour. As well as a form of protection, it proved an effective guard against the chafing of the Crusaders' metal armour and was an effective form of insulation - so much so that it became a cottage industry back home in colder climates such as Britain and Holland.

9 The pointed arch so characteristic of Europe's Gothic cathedrals was an invention borrowed from Islamic architecture. It was much stronger than the rounded arch used by the Romans and Normans, thus allowing the building of bigger, higher, more complex and grander buildings. Other borrowings from Muslim genius included ribbed vaulting, rose windows and dome-building techniques. Europe's castles were also adapted to copy the Islamic world's - with arrow slits, battlements, a barbican and parapets. Square towers and keeps gave way to more easily defended round ones. Henry V's castle architect was a Muslim.

10 Many modern surgical instruments are of exactly the same design as those devised in the 10th century by a Muslim surgeon called al-Zahrawi. His scalpels, bone saws, forceps, fine scissors for eye surgery and many of the 200 instruments he devised are recognisable to a modern surgeon. It was he who discovered that catgut used for internal stitches dissolves away naturally (a discovery he made when his monkey ate his lute strings) and that it can be also used to make medicine capsules. In the 13th century, another Muslim medic named Ibn Nafis described the circulation of the blood, 300 years before William Harvey discovered it. Muslims doctors also invented anaesthetics of opium and alcohol mixes and developed hollow needles to suck cataracts from eyes in a technique still used today.

11 The windmill was invented in 634 for a Persian caliph and was used to grind corn and draw up water for irrigation. In the vast deserts of Arabia, when the seasonal streams ran dry, the only source of power was the wind which blew steadily from one direction for months. Mills had six or 12 sails covered in fabric or palm leaves. It was 500 years before the first windmill was seen in Europe.

12 The technique of inoculation was not invented by Jenner and Pasteur but was devised in the Muslim world and brought to Europe from Turkey by the wife of the English ambassador to Istanbul in 1724. Children in Turkey were vaccinated with cowpox to fight the deadly smallpox at least 50 years before the West discovered it.

13 The fountain pen was invented for the Sultan of Egypt in 953 after he demanded a pen which would not stain his hands or clothes. It held ink in a reservoir and, as with modern pens, fed ink to the nib by a combination of gravity and capillary action.

14 The system of numbering in use all round the world is probably Indian in origin but the style of the numerals is Arabic and first appears in print in the work of the Muslim mathematicians al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi around 825. Algebra was named after al-Khwarizmi's book, Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, much of whose contents are still in use. The work of Muslim maths scholars was imported into Europe 300 years later by the Italian mathematician Fibonacci. Algorithms and much of the theory of trigonometry came from the Muslim world. And Al-Kindi's discovery of frequency analysis rendered all the codes of the ancient world soluble and created the basis of modern cryptology.

15 Ali ibn Nafi, known by his nickname of Ziryab (Blackbird) came from Iraq to Cordoba in the 9th century and brought with him the concept of the three-course meal - soup, followed by fish or meat, then fruit and nuts. He also introduced crystal glasses (which had been invented after experiments with rock crystal by Abbas ibn Firnas - see No 4).

16 Carpets were regarded as part of Paradise by medieval Muslims, thanks to their advanced weaving techniques, new tinctures from Islamic chemistry and highly developed sense of pattern and arabesque which were the basis of Islam's non-representational art. In contrast, Europe's floors were distinctly earthly, not to say earthy, until Arabian and Persian carpets were introduced. In England, as Erasmus recorded, floors were "covered in rushes, occasionally renewed, but so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed, sometimes for 20 years, harbouring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs and men, ale droppings, scraps of fish, and other abominations not fit to be mentioned". Carpets, unsurprisingly, caught on quickly.

17 The modern cheque comes from the Arabic saqq, a written vow to pay for goods when they were delivered, to avoid money having to be transported across dangerous terrain. In the 9th century, a Muslim businessman could cash a cheque in China drawn on his bank in Baghdad.

18 By the 9th century, many Muslim scholars took it for granted that the Earth was a sphere. The proof, said astronomer Ibn Hazm, "is that the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth". It was 500 years before that realisation dawned on Galileo. The calculations of Muslim astronomers were so accurate that in the 9th century they reckoned the Earth's circumference to be 40,253.4km - less than 200km out. The scholar al-Idrisi took a globe depicting the world to the court of King Roger of Sicily in 1139.

19 Though the Chinese invented saltpetre gunpowder, and used it in their fireworks, it was the Arabs who worked out that it could be purified using potassium nitrate for military use. Muslim incendiary devices terrified the Crusaders. By the 15th century they had invented both a rocket, which they called a "self-moving and combusting egg", and a torpedo - a self-propelled pear-shaped bomb with a spear at the front which impaled itself in enemy ships and then blew up.

20 Medieval Europe had kitchen and herb gardens, but it was the Arabs who developed the idea of the garden as a place of beauty and meditation. The first royal pleasure gardens in Europe were opened in 11th-century Muslim Spain. Flowers which originated in Muslim gardens include the carnation and the tulip.

For more information about the exhibition at London's Science Museum go to: science

Original Source:

Additional News:

Muslim Inventions that Shaped the Modern World (,

Science in Islam (

Science in Al-Andaluz (


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"I am the Royal Falcon..."

Part I: About the Treatment of Homosexuals and Bisexuals by the Institutions of the Bahá'í Faith and the Recent Co-Sponsorship of the Uniting American Families Act by U.S. Representative Maxine Waters

Photo of the Mansion of Bahjí,
Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, Akká, Israel

Alláh'u'abhá dear friends worldwide,

I haven't said 'Alláh'u'abhá happily to anyone for years! I've been lonely, and profoundly disappointed with what's happened to Bahá'u'lláh's faith - and I include most of all, the group of believers who support Jacques Soghomonian, a very wonderful man whom I believe to be the only living successor to Shoghi Effendi, as well as the Guardian of Bahá'u'lláh's faith. Our community overall has lost its center, and it's spinning off into a God knows what controlled by a who knows what.

But the purpose of this letter to all of you, is to begin what I hope becomes a cross-discussion about the disgraceful treatment of homosexuals and bisexuals by the Bahá'í institutions. To initiate the dialogue, I've copied below a comment I made today in response to the recent good news that U.S. Representative Maxine Waters has become a Co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, a bill in Congress that will allow the foreign spouses/life partners of American citizens or permanent residents to immigrate to the United States, in the same way that heterosexual Americans sponsor their foreign fiance(és)/spouses to live with them permanently in the United States.

Please think about this question: If Bahá'u'lláh is the Manifestation of God, would He advocate the way the Bahá'ís-at-large and their community institutions have treated gays, bisexuals and lesbians - especially their dishonest, hypocritical and self-serving loud silence while we are suffering?

Have they said anything about the execution of gays in Iran, for instance? Since so many Bahá'ís are involved in the operations in Iraq, have they spoken out in defense of the innocent Iraqi gay men who have been raped, hung and hacked to death by hate-mobs? You'd think that they would use their influence with U.S. Congress, the UN and other international institutions, to speak out on behalf of our oppressed gay and lesbian brothers and sisters worldwide, since they routinely raise the cry of the persecution against Bahá'ís by Muslim regimes.

You all know the answer to all of these questions is a loud resounding "No!" And we all know that Bahá'u'lláh had nothing negative to say about homosexuality in the 'Aqdás or elsewhere, yet the institutions of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh are some of the most insidious anti-gay religious institutions in the world. But they're masters of glossing over their raw bigotry with the Robe of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and an eloquent tongued pseudo-science-speak that keeps the believers comforted and assured that the Bahá'í treatment of homosexuals and bisexuals is infallibly guided and sanctioned by God. They say,

"God loves your homosexual sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, and friends. If they pray, God may heal them of their affliction. Or they can seek medical help. And in the meantime, if they flaunt their perverted sexual orientation, we have no choice but to punish their behavior with community sanctions."

But according to Baha'u'llah, the Holy Spirit, speaking to the world through His Revelation, said,

"I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge. I cheer the faint and revive the dead. I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way. I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty. I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight."

Quite different than what we're experiencing, isn't it? Aren't you craving to live in a world that cares about the drooping wings of every broken winged bird who wants to fly?

The crap from the Bahá'í institutions, and the deafening silence from the believers worldwide reminds me of something akin to the dynamics between the Watchtower Society and the Jehovah Witnesses worldwide. The institution issues forth an "ex cathedra" pronouncement and the believers fall in line without question. Same energy, just a different name.

I have much more to say, but the purpose of this note was to leave you a copy of my comments about the good news about Maxine Waters' sponsorship of the Uniting American Families Act.

Bahá'u'lláh's blessings to all of you!

Brent Madison Reed
Founder of Heart of the Bahá'í Faith


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Iranian State TV Spreads Disinformation Denying Neda Soltan's Murder by the Basij Militia

Photo: Neda Agha Soltan and Caspian Makan

The Iranian regime's propaganda machine is in full swing doing everything it can to confuse people and to deny that Neda Agha Soltan was murdered by a member of the Iranian theocracy's militia (the Basij), according to recent news that has reported that Iranian State Television has produced a documentary that denies that the Iranian freedom heroine was killed last summer by a regime bullet, Neda Soltan is a thorn in the regime's flesh because she is a symbol of the Iranian youth's resistance movement.

Neda Agha Soltan was indeed murdered by a member of Ayatollah Khamanei's Basij Militia. Ask her
, Caspian Makan, who has visited her grave, and reports that Ahmadinezhad's monster supporters have vandalized her tombstone. According to a recent report yesterday by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the photo of another Iranian woman, Neda Soltani was circulated on the Internet by mistake and confused with the heroine Neda Soltan. Soltani, the woman who is reportedly alive in Germany, has applied for asylum.

The Iranian government needs to confuse the world and to deny that Neda Agha Soltan was murdered by the Ahmadinezhad regime, because Neda is such a powerful symbol for freedomo. Let's make sure they're not successful, and that the world never forgets.

Further information about the Iranian State TV documentary:

Neda's Death was Faked Says Iran State TV
Iran State TV Suggests Iconic Protest Death Faked (
Neda Soltan's Grave Defaced as Iran Issues New Internet Restrictions (
Grave of Neda Soltan Desecrated by Supporters of Iranian Regime (


Christian realism seems to be in short supply today

Not even the nation's highest-profile Christian gets much credit or traction for his beliefs. President Barack Obama has been called Muslim, socialist, non-American — everything but what he considers himself, a Christian realist influenced by an eminent theologian of the last century, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).

Bringing up Niebuhr sounds like a seminar is under way. Niebuhr's ideas about "Christian realism" are subtle. Yet, he basically restates convictions millions of churchgoers believe, or used to believe — a healthy suspicion of human self-deception and the corruptions of power, yet also the duty to hope for redemption and reject cynicism. Obama has praised Niebuhr for inspiring real-world action and hope despite the persistence of real-world evil.

Prominent during the Cold War, Missouri-born Niebuhr was an anti-communist liberal who also warned against our own fantasies of national innocence and our spiritual arrogance. In The Irony of American History (1952) he wrote: "Even the most 'Christian' civilization and even the most pious church must be reminded that the true God can be known only where there is some awareness of a contradiction between divine and human purposes, even on the highest level of human aspirations."

Where are the warnings?

Do religious leaders today warn against such spiritual and political hazards? The impression left by many Christian conservatives is they get far more excited about tax cuts than about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Many Christian liberals leave an impression, too: that they are fast losing confidence in the Bible, preferring to rage against Republicans rather than contemplate the Trinity.

Christian realism could speak to today's enormities — the wealth inequities, terrorism, the tumble of millions into low pay and dire prospects. It would denounce the conventional economic view of human beings, who are considered robotic "profit maximizers" pursuing happiness in a rational free market. This kindergarten view of life has been exposed as a fraud. The "rational" pursuit of profit, relying on a reckless financial system incapable of policing itself, became insane and catastrophic. It deserves sustained public ridicule. People of faith ought to lead the way.

But Christian realism — any spiritual realism — has a publicity problem. It doesn't soar. It rejects simple optimism. It is wary of our exaggerated self-importance at the very time when shrewd exaggeration is vital to self-promotion and success. Unless Lady Gaga starts quoting Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society, it's not likely he will go prime time anytime soon.

But these days demand a tough-minded balance between self-honesty, pragmatism and vision. I hope the Christian realist is in the White House keeps his Niebuhr books handy.

Please add your comments to the orginal article that appeared in the Tennessean:


Friday, February 5, 2010

California's Prop 8 Trial Spotlights Clash of Cultures in the United States

“In the confrontation between an irrefutable religious standard and a worldly empirical survey, the challenge to California’s prohibition on gay marriage reveals a fissure that runs throughout American history: Are we modern or are we medieval?” ~Linda Hirshman

Everyone packed into U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s courtroom in San Francisco on Jan. 11 knew they were watching history.

On one side of the court sat lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, partisan foes in Bush v. Gore. Now the straight pair pledged to prove that same-sex couples deserved the fundamental right to marry. For them, the meaning of the U.S. Constitution is at stake.

On the other side sat Republican attorney Charles Cooper and a handful of supporting lawyers. It was what some might consider a strange sight. After the passage of Proposition 8 in California, the loss of same-sex marriage in Maine, New York and New Jersey and the gloating by ProtectMarriage affiliates such as the National Organization for Marriage, the anti-gay forces looked weak. In fact, throughout the trial, they portrayed themselves as David fighting Goliath.

Retired philosophy professor Linda Hirshman, reporting for The Daily Beast web site, pronounced the matchup a modern day Scopes trial.

“In the confrontation between an irrefutable religious standard and a worldly empirical survey, the challenge to California’s prohibition on gay marriage reveals a fissure that runs throughout American history: Are we modern or are we medieval?” Hirshman wrote. “Do Americans live together in a social contract for our material well-being, or are we following ancient traditions of how to live, because tradition is a better teacher than reason? This issue does not surface often in the United States, but it did most powerfully almost 90 years ago in Scopes vs. the State of Tennessee, the ‘monkey trial.’ And it did so again this week.”

The Scopes trial pitted the teaching of secular science and intellectual freedom against traditional Bible-based Christian fundamentalism. It’s a clash as old as St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologiae” and as fresh as the 2005 debate over whether creationism should be taught alongside the theory of evolution in the Kansas public school system.

For Prop 8 supporters, the trial is now posited as if freedom of religion itself is at stake. In a Jan. 26 column, “Putting Religion on Trial?”, NOM president Maggie Gallagher wrote that Olson and Boies are trying to invalidate the religious beliefs of millions of voters who hold that homosexuality is a sin and marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman.

“The stakes are high. And the argument they will be asking the Supreme Court to endorse is this: Only bigotry, hatred and unreason explains why anyone cares about the idea that to make a marriage you need a husband and a wife — religious views of marriage are just anti-gay bigotry,” Gallagher wrote.

Anti-bigotry is one of the central elements to proving the case that lesbians and gays have historically been subjected to discrimination and deserve equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution. Walker, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if the plaintiffs proved that gays are a “discrete” minority, possess an “immutable” characteristic and are powerless to protect themselves in the political process.

“We said on the first day of [the] trial we would prove three things,” Boies said at a news conference after the evidentiary trial testimony ended Jan. 26. “Marriage is a fundamental right; that depriving gays and lesbians the right to marry hurts them and hurts their children; and there was no reason, no societal benefit, in not allowing them to get married.”

Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, said the arguments were compelling.

“Our side powerfully showed that California’s selective stripping away of the fundamental freedom to marry from a vulnerable minority lacked any legitimate reason, and harms families while helping no one,” he said. “Fourteen years and tens of millions of dollars after our Hawaii case, the anti-gay opponents had literally nothing new to put forward to defend the discriminatory denial of marriage.”

Olson and Boies entered reams of documents into evidence and put 17 witnesses on the stand. The plaintiffs spoke movingly about their loved ones and a slew of expert witnesses contributed a wealth of knowledge to the evidentiary record.

In some cases, the testimony was almost ironic. For instance, in his opening statement, Cooper said “the purpose of the institution of marriage, the central purpose, is to promote procreation and to channel narrowly procreative sexual activity between men and women into stable enduring unions. … [Marriage] is a pro-child societal institution.”

But Harvard University professor Nancy Cott noted that, “There has never been a requirement that a couple produce children in order to have a valid marriage. … And known sterility or barrenness in a woman has never been a reason not to allow a marriage. In fact, it’s a surprise to many people to learn that George Washington, who is often called the father of our country, was sterile.”

ProtectMarriage only called two of their five witnesses to the stand. So Olson and Boies introduced the depositions of the dropped witnesses into evidence, which appeared to bolster the plaintiffs’ case.

New Yorker contributor Margaret Talbot wrote that Boies’ cross-examination technique “was a little like watching your cat play with his food before he eats it.”

Indeed, Boies seemed to make mincemeat of official Prop 8 proponent Hak-Shing William Tam, who was called as a hostile witness. Tam stood by claims that gays were 12 times more likely to molest children, “based on the different literature that I have read.”

ProtectMarriage called California’s Claremont McKenna College political science professor Kenneth Miller, whose credibility as an expert on gay political power was mightily challenged by Boies on cross examination. Boies also read from a book Miller co-authored that ballot initiatives or “direct democracy can actually be less democratic than representative democracy.”

ProtectMarriage’s second witness, David Blankenhorn, was so combative, the judge reprimanded his demeanor. Boies had Blankenhorn, author of “The Future of Marriage,” go down a list of “possible positive consequences” of same-sex marriage and mark the statements with which he personally agreed.

Among the many positive statement with which Blankenhorn agreed were, “gay marriage would extend a wide range of the natural and practical benefits of marriage to many lesbian and gay couples and their children,” and “same-sex marriage would likely contribute to more stability and to longer-lasting relationships for committed same-sex couples.”

Chad Griffin, chair of the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said he was thrilled that the trial put “those who attempt to provide justification for discrimination” under oath for the first time.

“I think they found in a court of law, it’s quite different from on a political campaign where you can say anything and get away with it,” Griffin said. “In a court of law, you’re under oath and you actually have to tell the truth — and you have to answer to those truths under oath. And I think that proved difficult for the defendant-interveners in this case.”

Visit American Foundation for Equal Rights to learn more about the Proposition 8 trial and to keep posted as post trial developments continue to unfold.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

First Openly Gay Episcopal Bishop Says St. Paul Was Condemning Homosexual Acts by Heterosexuals

In a section of his New Testament letter to the Romans (1:22-27) dealing with God’s admonitions against same-sex relations, St. Paul was actually writing about heterosexuals who engage in same-sex acts and not homosexuals, said the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal church.

“We have to understand that the notion of a homosexual sexual orientation is a notion that’s only about 125 years old," Bishop Robinson told "That is to say, St. Paul was talking about people that he understood to be heterosexual engaging in same-sex acts. It never occurred to anyone in ancient times that a certain minority of us would be born being affectionally oriented to people of the same sex.”

At the National Press Club on Tuesday, asked Bp. Robinson: “St. Paul wrote in the Book of Romans, ‘Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. … Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. … Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.’ So my question is, was St. Paul right in—about engaging in homosexual acts as being against nature?”

Bishop Robinson answered: “The question you ask takes about two days to answer, but I’ll try to give you the Cliffs Notes version which is: One of the things we have to understand is that any piece of scripture needs to be understood in its own context. We have to understand that the notion of a homosexual sexual orientation is a notion that’s only about 125 years old.

“That is to say, St. Paul was talking about people that he understood to be heterosexual engaging in same-sex acts," said Bishop Robinson. "It never occurred to anyone in ancient times that a certain minority of us would be born being affectionally oriented to people of the same sex. So it did seem like against their nature to be doing so.”

“The other thing about St. Paul,” Robinson said, “is that he was also speaking out against a practice known to him and both the Roman and the Greek world, and would have been known in the Palestinian culture there of an older man taking a younger boy under his wing, using him sexually, and so on. No one’s—that’s child abuse. No one is arguing for that today. We would all be against that. We would all agree with St. Paul on that.”

“So the real question when you look at scripture is, ‘What did it mean to the person who wrote it?’” said Bishop Robinson. “’What did it mean for the audience to whom it was written?’ And only then can we ask, ‘Is it eternally binding?’ And in this case, I would say, the things that St. Paul was against, I’m against, too.”

Robinson added, “The question is, are there any answers there for what we’re asking today, which is the rightfulness of faithful, monogamous, lifelong-intentioned relationships between people of the same sex, and the Bible simply does not address that.” asked the follow-up question, “So you would say then that St. Paul is incorrect in this passage?”

Bishop Robinson said, “No. I think St. Paul was absolutely correct in his own context given what he knew, and given the behavior which he was describing. The questions we’re asking today are about a completely different set of circumstances.”

Bishop Robinson was asked by President Barack Obama to deliver the invocation at the opening presidential inaugural ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18, 2009.

Bishop Robinson spoke with following a press conference to announce the “American Prayer Hour,” a new, multi-city event designed to “affirm inclusive values and call on all nations, including Uganda, to decriminalize the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

Other panelists at the press conference included Harry Knox, member of Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and director of the religion and faith program at Human Rights Campaign; Bishop Carleton Pearson, senior minister at Christ Universal Temple in Chicago; Frank Schaeffer, author and journalist; Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, pastor at Metropolitan Community Church; Rev. Barry W. Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State; and Moses, a Ugandan citizen seeking asylum in the United States to escape abuse in his own country based on his sexual orientation.