By Doug Porter
Media Matters for America has posted an insiders account of presentations by the country’s most prominent anti-LGBT activists during a recent conference at San Diego’s Skyline Church.
Organized by Skyline Pastor Jim Garlow, the 2015 Future Conference was called in response to “the thorniest and most challenging issues in the current cultural landscape.”
While the four day gathering featured presentations covering a range of issues, the alleged rise of Christian persecution stemming from the growing acceptance of LGBT people was the unifying theme.
Strategies for resistance to court decisions concerning same sex marriage, combating LGBT influence in the media and legislative proposals to fight advances in equality disguised as protections for religious freedom were discussed.
All quotes are from the Media Matters blog:
The list of over 50 speakers spanned the conservative political landscape and included members of Congress, Fox News contributors, and prominent right-wing activists. Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich submitted video remarks. There was even a presentation from Suzan Johnson Cook, former Obama administration Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
The conference also featured speeches from some of the most prominent anti-LGBT groups in the country, including several organizations designated as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center: the Family Research Council (FRC), Liberty Counsel, and Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM).
Shielded from the eyes and ears of major media, speakers at the Future Conference expressed the kind of casual homophobia that would otherwise offend mainstream audiences. More importantly, they discussed their plans for dealing with a country seems increasingly determined to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
Resisting the Courts
One of the recurring themes at the Future Conference, especially in reference to Obergefell [the subsequent Supreme Court decision], was the suggestion that Christians are not obligated to obey the laws of man if they contradict the laws of God.
In a video message to the conference. Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver compared a Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality to Dred Scott, the infamous Supreme Court decision that found African Americans were not American citizens. “Our highest respect for a higher law,” Staver said, “requires that we not give respect to an unjust decision.” He explicitly suggested that religious adoption agencies should refuse to place children in households headed by same-sex couples, adding that the Supreme Court lacked the power to enforce its decisions.
Influencing the Media
Ted Baehr, Chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, touted efforts to inject Christian themes and imagery into mainstream television and film. Shows like “Will & Grace,” he argued, had gotten society comfortable with an “illegal, demonic form of marriage.” Using Hollywood to expose the public to Christian values is, according to Baehr, a key step in turning the tide in America’s culture war.
Other speakers were more concerned with coverage of LGBT issues in news outlets. In a presentation titled “Dealing With Media,” conservative author and right-wing activist Jason Mattera suggested that the key to winning public opinion was to invert the dominant media narrative about LGBT equality by decrying LGBT activists as intolerant bullies while painting religious conservatives as the real victims in the culture war.
Undermining LGBT Advances
Speakers also touted efforts to undermine and sidestep non-discrimination laws that would prohibit them from discriminating against LGBT people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Steve Riggle, a Houston pastor at the center of the national controversy surrounding Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) earlier this year, decried the city’s attempt to extend “special rights” to LGBT people, peddling the myth that sexual predators would exploit the law by pretending to be transgender and sneaking into women’s restrooms.
In a session titled “Homosexual Marriage – Obliterating Religious Liberty,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Kevin Theriot warned audience members that non-discrimination laws threaten the freedom of churches and businesses to act out their faith. ADF has been at the forefront of representing business owners who refuse service to gay customers, arguing that religious businesses should be exempt from non-discrimination protections. It’s also the group behind the national push for state “religious freedom” laws, which would give business owners a legal defense for refusing service to gay customers. He offered audience members copies of ADF’s booklet “Protecting Your Ministry,” which offers advice on how for-profit businesses and churches can avoid non-discrimination lawsuits.
Pastor Jim Garlow’s Skyline Church was a leader in the 2008 measure seeking to ban same sex marriage in California. Having essentially lost that battle in recent months, the political agenda emerging on the religious right has become defensive. Look for the strategies and tactics discussed at this conference to define the anti-LGBT agenda in the coming months.
San Diego’s 41st Annual Pride Weekend
The Skyline conference should serve as a reminder to LGBT activists that the struggle for equality is far from over.
This coming weekend tens of thousands of people will celebrate the accomplishments of the struggle for acceptance and equality in the streets of Hillcrest.
The multi-day event, with the theme “Liberty + Justice for All.” kicks off on Friday, July 17 with the annual Pride of Hillcrest Block Party.
The San Diego Pride Parade will be on Saturday, July 18, starting at 11am at Normal Street and University Avenue, running west to 6th Avenue, south to Balboa Drive and Quince.
You can get more information on Pride weekend here: https://sdpride.org/
Stadium Environmental Hearing Lasts 10 Minutes
The rush to civic stupidity continued last night with a state-mandated “scoping hearing” to gather public input for the $2.1 million Environmental Impact Report on redeveloping the site of Qualcomm stadium.
Attorney Cory Briggs tweeted out an image of an empty room shortly before the meeting was supposed to take place. It turns out that the notice of the hearing gave the wrong location, not that it made any difference.
From the Union-Tribune:
The meeting was a required step in city efforts to complete environmental studies that could help convince the NFL that San Diego is capable of building a new stadium.
Excluding media and city officials, only a handful of people attended the meeting and only one person actually submitted the kind of feedback the event was designed to solicit.
Slated to begin at 6 p.m. in a Qualcomm Stadium luxury suite, the meeting was delayed nearly half an hour and then ended abruptly after less than 10 minutes because no one else wanted to offer suggestions about what issues the city should consider in the stadium environmental impact report.
No doubt supporters of the stadium were exhausted after stretching the truth while making their appeals before the City Council on Tuesday. As Liam Dillon at Voice of San Diego reported (as have many others), their arguments claiming the project would benefit the local economy were bogus.
Public subsidies for sports stadiums do not benefit a region’s economy. The consensus on this point is stunning. A whopping 85 percent (!) of economists believe sports subsidies are bad.
Pizza Sauce as a Vegetable (Con’t)
The Union-Tribune added some “reporting” to the ongoing campaign by House Republicans to roll back nutrition requirements for federally subsidized school lunches. Their goal appears to be eliminating the half-cup inclusion requirement for fruits and vegetables.
The School Nutrition Association just finished their annual convention in Salt Lake City, and the UT story focused on ‘concerns’ the standards for lowering sodium, fat, and sweetener levels, as well adding more lean meat, dairy products, and fruits and vegetables were too expensive for local school districts.
I’m sure the $2.58 reimbursement rate for free lunches allotted by law isn’t part of the problem, right? More than 60% of students attending San Diego Unified Schools qualify for free or reduced price lunches. I’m all these other stories around the country complaining about the cost of a (somewhat) healthy school lunch are simply a coincidence.
And I’m sure the fact that these standards are part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity have nothing to do with GOP opposition. (I’m also sure our Congressional chickhawks are proud of the fact that one in three young adults are considered too fat to qualify for military service.)
But perhaps the real bottom line to this story has to do with the bottom line of the School Nutrition Association, source for many of the quotes in the UT story.
AlJazeera’s coverage of last year’s SNA convention yielded a clue as to where this push may be coming from:
The answer may lie — at least partially — in the SNA’s complicated connections with the food industry. Let’s take a closer look at one of SNA’s patrons (and top donors): Schwan. The Minnesota-based company’s pizza products can be found in 75 percent of the nation’s 96,000 K-12 schools. Of course, Schwan’s products meet the new rules, as pictures from its booth boasting “regulation ready” food indicate.
According to the Star Tribune, the company says it has not taken a position on the controversy. But Schwan has a seat on the School Nutrition Foundation’s board (as does PepsiCo); through it, Schwan offers scholarships to SNA members for professional development. More importantly, as the Washington Post explains:
At a 2012 SNA meeting, a Schwan executive and other industry advocates pushed for the group’s leadership to be more aggressive in asking for changes in the school lunch program, according to a person who witnessed the exchange but requested anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it.
Remember when Congress declared pizza a vegetable? Schwan was behind that too. As the Star Tribune explained in 2011, without pizza sauce counting as a vegetable, schools would have “a difficult time serving pizza without spending more on other vegetables to serve with it — a potential blow to Minnesota’s Schwan Food Co.” On the SNA’s current agenda (PDF) is the removal of the requirement that schools serve a half-cup of either fruit or vegetables to children, which can cause strain on tight school budgets. That sounds exactly like the earlier concern that led to the absurd pizza-sauce-as-vegetable-serving outcome.
On This Day: 1920 – Martial law declared in strike by longshoremen in Galveston, Texas 1945 – The United States detonated the first atomic bomb in a test at Alamogordo, NM. 1969 – Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Kennedy, FL, and began the first manned mission to land on the moon.
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