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Posts Tagged ‘Focus on the Family’

His Holiness [sic] and the “Pro-life” Canard

March 20th, 2010 1 comment

I was Catholic, but only by circumstance, and that was a very long time ago. I didn’t so much leave the Catholic Church as I lost interest in all churches and in organized religion, generally. But it should be said that my experience growing up in the stultifying, boring Church didn’t exactly awaken whatever religious feeling I might otherwise have had. And my family was very low-key about it: No Catholic school, limited instruction in doctrine, little evidence of it at home. We went to Church most Sundays, unless there were swim meets in the way. But that’s about it.

For me, then, leaving the Church was easy and not even so much the product of a conscious decision. It’s more like I would have needed to decide to be a Catholic, rather than not to.

Yet growing up around all of that ritual and history had some effect on me, notably that I follow and in some way care about what the Church is doing more than I otherwise would. Most of the time, I’m either amazed or appalled (or both), but then there are the occasions when the socially progressive, charitably inclined part of what the Church is supposed to champion reminds me that it’s not all one-way traffic to Hell (to use one of their favorite scare words, among many).

Lately, the Church has been in the news and mostly for terrible reasons. The unfolding horror of the sex scandals in Ireland and Germany,1 which have — let’s face it — implicated His Holiness [sic] in the cover-up is just the most dramatic of the stuff coming through the wire. There’s also the benighted response by the Diocese in D.C. in response to marriage equality (ending health benefits to employees’ spouses, discontinuing their foster care program), and the expulsion of pre-schoolers from the Sacred Heart of Jesus (remember him?) because their parents were lesbians. Add to that the bishops’ opposition to the Senate health care reform bill on the ground that it doesn’t do enough to make abortion even more difficult to obtain, and I’m left to say: Enough already.

Just in time, other voices in the Church have come forward to call the bishops on their slick, “pro-life” (read: anti-life) rhetoric. The Catholic Health Association (CHA), which describes itself as “the nation’s largest group of not-for-profit health care sponsors, systems, and facilities,” has taken on the bishops’ abstract, disembodied, and disconnected opposition to the health care reform effort. Here’s why:

The insurance reforms will make the lives of millions more secure, and their coverage more affordable. The reforms will eventually make affordable health insurance available to 31 million of the 47 million Americans currently without coverage.

CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.

There is a requirement that the insurance companies be audited annually to assure that the payment for abortion coverage fully covers the administrative and clinical costs, that the payment is held in a separate account from other premiums, and that there are no federal dollars used.

In addition, there is a wonderful provision in the bill that provides $250 million over 10 years to pay for counseling, education, job training and housing for vulnerable women who are pregnant or parenting. Another provision provides a substantial increase in the adoption tax credit and funding for adoption assistance programs.

An association of nuns, representing 59,00o sisters, agrees and amplifies, from the point of view of those actually providing health services to the poor (compare the bishops):

We have witnessed firsthand the impact of our national health care crisis, particularly its impact on women, children and people who are poor. We see the toll on families who have delayed seeking care due to a lack of health insurance coverage or lack of funds with which to pay high deductibles and co-pays. We have counseled and prayed with men, women and children who have been denied health care coverage by insurance companies. We have witnessed early and avoidable deaths because of delayed medical treatment.

The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans. While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all. It will invest in preventative care. It will bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children.

[T]his is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it….

Did this get Bark Stupak to rethink his position? What do you think? Perhaps because of unpleasant experiences with Catholic nuns in school (write your own joke), he blathered about getting his “pro-life” guidance not from them but from the bishops and organizations like Focus on the Family — the same group that has this advice for parents who find that spanking isn’t working: “The spanking may be too gentle. If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t motivate a child to avoid the consequence next time. A slap with the hand on the bottom of a multidiapered thirty-month-old is not a deterrent to anything. Be sure the child gets the message….”

If health care reform doesn’t pass tomorrow, it will be because Stupak has been able to hold on to enough fellow slavish devotees of the simplistic pro-life legislators. They should listen to the people who actually deliver health care services. If they did, they might take a position that is actually pro-life; instead of “pro-life,” complete with ironic quotations.

  1. There’s been great coverage of the issue over at the Daily Dish.

What’s Wrong with CBS, the Super Bowl, and Football

January 29th, 2010 No comments

This will be the official Grouch Post for January. One of them, anyway.

Maybe you’ve heard by now about CBS’s decisions on ads for the Super Bowl. They’ve decided to “relax” their policy against advocacy ads to allow one from Focus on the Family that uses NFL star Tim Tebow and his mother to condemn  abortion. (The message: “He wasn’t aborted! Therefore no one should be, ever!” What were you expecting in thirty seconds, sophistication?) It turns out that their policy had been evolving, but we just didn’t know it until now. Very convenient.

Meanwhile, an ad from an entity known as ManCrunch has been rejected, with the following explanation: “the creative is not within the Network’s Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday.” It might help to know what those standards are, but CBS isn’t saying.  Here’s the rejected video:

No, the Super Bowl isn’t being aired on April 1 this year. There’s a great deal that can be said about CBS’s decision. I begin with the obvious question: Would they have rejected a similar dating service ad for an opposite-sex couple? But that’s the easy observation. I’ll bet that the real reason had something to do with the way the ad brings to the surface the simmering homoeroticism in male contact sports (and here extended to the jersey-wearing couch potatoes who watch them).

I can’t say I’m sorry to see the ad go, though. I have no idea why a gay dating site would want to run this ad. The two guys don’t seem to know they’re even gay until they find their hands together in the chip bowl (yuck, btw). Worse, it closes with a pan over to the flummoxed friend who, one thinks, might be checking out other Super Bowl parties within the next few minutes. And do not get me started about the production values. I’m not the first to suggest that ManCrunch is offended like a fox, as they (never) say. They couldn’t have expected CBS to actually run this thing; but now they’re getting tons of free publicity. My tastless ad submission for this blogsite will soon follow.

As the Janet Jackson warbdrobe malfunction moment that will live forever reminds us, the Super Bowl has long been an uneasy mix of family entertainment, statement on the current culture, and — lest we forget — controlled violence.

It’s this violence that makes me so not a fan of professional football. As I’ve written before, distressing numbers of pro football players sustain long-term neurological and physical problems,  often leading to early death and disability. (One might say, uncharitably, that it’s too bad that Tim Tebow’s mom’s concerns about her son don’t seem to extend to his life after football.)  And watching the level of aggression that leads to such serious issues is itself a producer of violence: Domestic violence, fueled by alcohol and the negative emotions sustained by the fans of the losing team, spikes on Super Bowl Sunday. Enjoy the game, everyone!

The AMA v. Focus on the Family

November 16th, 2009 No comments

Last week’s resolution by the American Medical Association that supported overturning the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was widely praised. Somewhat less noticed was the AMA’s conclusion that barring same-sex couples from marrying has negative health consequences. Since employers often tie health benefits to marriage, same-sex couples (like other legally unmarried couples) are left out.

It’s not surprising that married folks live longer and have better outcomes; the deck is stacked in their favor through a host of legal, institutional, and corporate practices. It might also be that entering into a long-term, committed relationship changes behaviors in ways that lead to better health outcomes for both members of the couple; the point is disputed by social scientists, and wasn’t the basis for the AMA’s statement. I’ve written about the issue in this law review article.  One of the central arguments there is that if marriage does good things for people’s behavior (on the average), there’s reason to think the same would be true for gay and lesbian couples, as well.

The AMA’s position elicited the usual response from Focus on the Family. According to spokeswoman Jenny Tyree, this health insurance problem should be fixed without “messing with marriage.” But how? Not by granting benefits to partners of gay and lesbian employees under any circumstances, apparently. Here’s what the organization had to say about Obama’s recent memorandum extending a paltry few benefits (not even including full health care, but extending some health-related benefits) to same-sex partners of federal employees:

“The president thumbed his nose at the rule of law and continues to undermine marriage as society’s most pro-child institution,” said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy for Focus on the Family Action.

“It’s a settled principle of moral tradition and social science that says children do best with both a mom and a dad who are married to each other.

It never changes. According to Focus on the Family: “Marriage by same-sex couples undermines society. Solve problems in some other way.”

But then it turns out that any other way you might come up with is objectionable, too. Except the ex-gay movement, of course, which Focus on the Family supports and defends (in a “kinder, gentler” guise these days). The AMA has now taken a position next to the AARP now on the wing-nut hit list (which, I regret to say, has been expanded by the actions of John McCain, if this report is accurate). Will marriage equality opponents stop seeing doctors after they “tear up” their AARP cards?

Death-Defying! Equality-Denying!

July 9th, 2009 No comments

Today, as I was preparing for my gig on local TV (WHYY in Wilmington’s Delaware Tonight) to discuss the recently signed sexual orientation non-discrimination bill I discovered that the governor, Jack Markell, had delayed the signing by a week because the date originally chosen conflicted with a memorial service for a recently deceased state senator, Thurman Adams. Thus did Adams, who’d single-handedly prevented the bill’s passage for the past decade, reach back from the afterlife and delay the legislation one more time.

This oddity reminded me of a conversation with a friend years ago. We were discussing the efforts of reactionary forces to hold back the tide of equality for the LGBT community, even as most of them realized that their efforts were doomed to Canute-like failure. After a lifetime in opposition, what would they think, as they lay dying? Maybe something like: “I held them back…for a little…while….”

Well, why stop at death? Thurman Adams managed to delay the inevitable for another week even after he’d passed on. Might he have started something? Here are some irreverent suggestions, along the lines of an old Monty Python skit (scroll down to interview about a ‘new’ film starring Marilyn Monroe):

  • Rabid anti-marriage equality spokeswoman Maggie Gallagher can direct that her ashes be kept in a safe place until the next state permits same-sex marriages. Then, as the first couples make their way into City Hall, a high-speed fan can disperse  them into the crowd, temporarily (and fittingly, metaphorically speaking) blinding some couples, and ruining plenty of hair-dos and natty get-ups. Equality delayed!
  • James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” needn’t stop with his death. His body can be placed, at least for a few minutes, in the way of athletes trying to work out with their “predominantly gay” sports teams. Fun and fairness frustrated!
  • South Carolina Governor (and gay marriage opponent) Mark Sanford can direct that his rambling press conferences on the subject of his Argentine mistress/”soulmate” be recorded and played at ear-splitting levels whenever same-sex couples approach an adoption agency. On second thought, normal levels should do.