Category Archives: Signs of the Times

Annals of Homophobia: Don’t Cry For Kim, Rowan County

Annals of Homophobia: Don’t Cry For Kim, Rowan County

Remember the “Rainbow Tour” song from the movie version of “Evita”, the rock opera about Eva Peron? (If not, listen to it here right away.

It follows (and deconstructs) Evita’s supposedly triumphal European tour in the late 1940s:

A 1947 cover of TIME Magazine, featuring Eva “Evita” Peron, on the occasion of her “Rainbow Tour” in Europe.

The third verse from this stunning ensemble piece came back to mind on Wednesday:

More Bad news from Rome — 
She met with the Pope;
She only got a rosary, a kindly word–
I wouldn’t say the Holy Father 
Gave her the bird,
But papal decorations, never a hope . . .”

Who else met with the pope, more recently, and came away with only a rosary and some kindly words?

Yeah, Kim Davis.

News of the brief September 24 encounter was “leaked” by her lawyer.

It happened at the Vatican embassy in Washington, the day before Davis visited the Values Voter Summit, put on annually by Family Research Council Action. 


FRCA is an ultra-rightwing lobby which has specialized in homophobia, plus anti-divorce, anti-same sex marriage and lots of other anti-stuff in the U.S., as well as support for draconian antigay laws in African countries. It has been named a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

FRC-hate-groupIn presidential years, the farther-right GOP candidates line up at the FRCA “Summit” to preen and toss red meat. This time most of them showed up, even Trump (but not Jeb!?) The Summit also runs a straw poll, of course, and this time ted Cruz, perhaps the nastiest of them all (but it’s a tough choice), won.

Still, despite the flurry of media attention that followed the disclosure, the visit turns out to be not exactly a big deal.

To be sure, Francis is on record as being against same sex marriage, and LGBT issues generally (even if he said “Who am I to judge?”); and has repeated the “religious liberty” meme which the American right (including its large Catholic wing) has been turned into a dog-whistle for protecting homophobic discrimination. None of this is new, even if he went out of his way to NOT repeat any of it in public while he was here.

In all his public, to-the-country statements repeatedly (& honestly) trashed the right wing Catholic political agenda, and the bishops’ alliance with them. If I was scoring all this, it would go: 20 for Francis’s good stuff, 1 (so far) for bad. In sports or politics, that would be a landslide or a rout. And in Vegas, betting on the pope saying progressive things while in the USA would have been a very big, loud winner. 

Compare: the Davis meeting was held in private, with no papal aides, news media,  or Davis’s lawyer; it lasted  only a few minutes; the pope’s reported pleasantries were boilerplate; and when asked later, he did not seem well-briefed on her case

Further, the fact of the meeting was embargoed until the pope was safely back in Rome. And late on September 30, the Vatican was still declining to comment on it, sounding embarrassed and blindsided. Some ballyhoo.

Of course, homophobic crusaders like Davis’s “Liberty Counsel” and the “Alliance Defending Freedom” were ecstatic at the news leak, and insisted that it showed that Francis was on board with their campaigns. They can’t be stopped for grabbing this patronizing shred of recognition.

But time to cue the Evita sound track again:

She only got a rosary, a kindly word–
I wouldn’t say the Holy Father 
Gave her the bird,
But papal decorations, never a hope . . .”

Papal decorations? Yeah, there are lots of them. They weren’t likely in this case; but just so you know.

Papal decorations: the order of St. gregarious (above) and the Order of Pope Pius the Ninth. There are several more.

papal-decoration-3-GoodYet Davis didn’t go back to Kentucky unrewarded. Family Research Action gave her a “Cost of Discipleship Award”; its president compared her to Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.  So don’t cry for her, Rowan County.

But the rest of us could shed a tear for Parks, King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose witness and martyrdom  were twisted by a creepy group whose worldview would have all of them spinning in their graves. 

PS. Update: Jesuit editor Fr. James Martin adds his well-informed insider perspective here. His verdict also: NBD




Why is NC Quakerism Vanishing While Baltimore YM Flourishes?

Why is NC Quakerism Vanishing While Baltimore YM Flourishes?

Saw a stunning number yesterday. It was in The Interchange, the newsletter from Baltimore Yearly Meeting. It’s a number that’s especially timely for Quakers from North Carolina YM-FUM.

That number is 7000. It came up in an article by Bob Rhudy. Bob is the interim General Secretary for Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

And 7000 is now the overall membership number he reported for Baltimore YM. (or BYM). 


Continue reading Why is NC Quakerism Vanishing While Baltimore YM Flourishes?

The “Savvy” “Apolitical” Pope & Dingbat “Experts”

The “Savvy” “Apolitical” Pope & Dingbat “Experts”

In today’s NYTimes (09-28-2015, the front-page article on the pope’s visit quotes a so-called expert in “Catholic Studies”:

<< “I was frankly taken aback at how savvy [pope Francis] was,” said Stephen Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. “He was clearly aware of all the very divisive issues for Catholics in American public life but talked about them in a way that didn’t give ammunition to either conservatives or progressives in the United States to use in their political wars.” >>


Continue reading The “Savvy” “Apolitical” Pope & Dingbat “Experts”

Carolina Quakers: Is The Potboiler Season Over Yet?

Carolina Quakers: Is The Potboiler Season Over Yet?

Has this happened to you too?

I put a pot on the stove, turned the burner up to get it going.

Then that kinda urgent phone call came. Or a supercute cat video popped up on Facebook.

I was laughing at the paws, or getting the phone business done, when–
That smell! Something was burning! And the hissing sound–

If I didn’t get to the kitchen in time, the smoke alarm started shrieking, and–

Crazy! Not to mention a big mess, and dangerous to boot.

But relief is close at hand.


Continue reading Carolina Quakers: Is The Potboiler Season Over Yet?

Carolina Quakers’ “Grand Plan” II: Gotta Do Better, Friends

Carolina Quakers’ “Grand Plan” II: Gotta Do Better, Friends

Following up yesterday’s post, “The Plan” for North Carolina Yearly Meeting, lists four “steps forward.” (The full text is here. )

I’m not sure why they’re referred to as “steps,” though; they are more like propositions, which meetings are called on to “approve,” “reaffirm,” “faithfully pledge to”, and other synonyms for submission. And considering them, most look like “steps” in the wrong direction.

Well, not entirely. “Step” Number 4 is reasonable. It says meetings should pay their dues. (In NCYM dues are called “Askings”; which is a misnomer, because the YM doesn’t really “Ask” for the money, anymore than the IRS does. They expect it, and if a meeting doesn’t pay, it will eventually be in trouble. But I digress.)

Continue reading Carolina Quakers’ “Grand Plan” II: Gotta Do Better, Friends

Carolina Quakers & “The Way Forward” — Or Is It The Way Backward?

Carolina Quakers & “The Way Forward” — Or Is It The Way Backward?

Okay, Carolina Friends (and others who’ve been following our NCYM-FUM soap opera), let’s talk about The “Grand Plan,” from the Task Force, and its “Recommended Way Forward.” (The full text is here. )
What’s that? Thee don’t want to?
Well, me neither. But we kinda have to.  (Sorry.)
‘Cause there it is. Dumped in our laps at annual sessions. And all our meetings are under orders to submit detailed comments on, and/or pledges of compliance with it (honestly, I’m not sure which; more on that in a moment) by Twelfth Month 1 (December first, for the rest of thees).
And the clock is ticking; it’s autumn already, for petes sake.

December-calendar Continue reading Carolina Quakers & “The Way Forward” — Or Is It The Way Backward?

Another North Carolina Meeting Bails Out. Who’s Next?

Another North Carolina Meeting Bails Out. Who’s Next?

A year ago, on August 30, 2014, Friends from Pine Hill Meeting of Ararat, NC, were at North Carolina Yearly Meeting-FUM’s annual session, demanding a purifying division in NCYM, to banish the iniquity of “dual affiliation.”

The “dual affiliation” which was so repugnant was membership by a handful of NCYM meetings in Piedmont Friends Fellowship (PFF). A loose regional network of meetings from various YMs (and none), PFF was founded in the 1960s, and is connected to the liberal association, Friends General Conference (FGC). 

NOTE: At the request of Pine Hill’s Ministry & Counsel, I have fuzzed out the faces of the children and youths in this photograph who appear to be under eighteen. The unretouched version of this photo remains on the Pine Hill website.

Continue reading Another North Carolina Meeting Bails Out. Who’s Next?

Who’s More Scared of Free Speech? Baltimore Friends School, Or The N.Y. Times?

Who’s More Scared of Free Speech? Baltimore Friends School, Or The N.Y. Times?

[A Clue: It’s NOT the Times.]

Yesterday the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by one Ryan Anderson, titled, “We Don’t Need Kim Davis to Be in Jail.”

Three quick points about it; then we’ll get to BFS:BFS-Logo

  1. Anderson is the main apparatchik still beating the dead horse of opposition to same sex marriage for the rightwing Heritage Foundation. He’s also a handsome, well-spoken, Ivy-league Millennial — and a proud grad of the 231-year old Baltimore Friends School.
  2. His piece urged state or federal officials to create an exemption for Kim Davis, who is just out of jail. Davis, you will recall, is Clerk of Rowan County in Kentucky, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Her defiance of federal court orders upholding her duty to do so, since the Supreme Court same sex marriage decision in June, landed her behind bars last week. (But you probably knew that.)

Anderson wrote, in part:

Because each marriage license issued by the clerk’s office bore her name and title, Ms. Davis concluded that her religious beliefs meant she could not have her office issue licenses to same-sex couples. So she had the office stop issuing them entirely.

Ms. Davis felt she had to follow her conscience. And whether or not we share her Christian faith, and its particular positions about issuing civil marriage licenses, is beside the point.

. . . Federal anti-discrimination law requires a reasonable accommodation of religious belief where it does not place undue hardships on the employer. . . . So it was incumbent upon the government to try to work out a solution. Ms. Davis wasn’t trying to prevent same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses at all; she just didn’t want her name or title on the paperwork. . . .

Perhaps a similar solution could be found in Kentucky, by removing an individual clerk’s name and title from a marriage license. 

3. I’m half-persuaded by his argument. Why not change the form to remove Davis’s name, and identify only the Rowan County Clerk’s office as the official issuer? 

Why keep the office on the form? It’s a matter of “ownership.”  Davis’s conscience is her own; no human authority gets to dictate what it says. Her name is also her own. She and Ryan Anderson are right about that.

But not the County Clerk’s office: she doesn’t “own” that; no way.  It belongs to the people of Kentucky; and even though Kim Davis’s mother held the same post for a long time, neither of them inherited it as a family heirloom. They were elected to it, for a specified term.

The County clerk’s office in Kentucky issues marriage licenses; so to be legal, that office’s name and certification need to be on them. But the specific Clerk’s name? Maybe not; the state could let one of her assistants sign it. As Ryan points out:

“The state already amended licenses from “Bride” and “Groom” to “Party 1” and “Party 2.” Why not make another change?”

Another change is worth considering.  Would she accept an office-yes, skip-your-name option? Would Anderson? Interesting questions.

But minor ones. Ryan Anderson’s piece is not a big deal. Kim Davis can get out of jail whenever she wants, by complying with the law as it applies to to her job, or working out some sort of accommodation deal that is still compliant. Either way, her conscience is still her own, and the office is not. And same sex marriage is legal, in Rowan County Kentucky, and the USA. 

Ryan Anderson, right-winger to watch.

BREAKING: Tuesday afternoon a federal judge ordered Davis to be released, but also ordered her not to interfere with clerks in her office who are issuing licenses for same sex marriages. So something like this “accommodation” may be about to happen; or at least there will be a media frenzy. Son we’ll find out of Davis will abide by the latest “non-interference” order.

Now, about Baltimore Friends School. 

In April, Ryan Anderson was featured in a profile piece in the Washington Post [“The right finds a fresh voice on same-sex marriage”, said the headline]. In it he touted his argument that the Supreme Court should leave same sex marriage to the states. 

The piece was articulate — but in vain of course, as far as the  court went. Nevertheless it was a great brand-builder for Anderson as a conservative comer: if/when right-wingers occupy the White House again, watch for him to pop up in some highly visible post.

It also mentioned the Baltimore Friends School, which Anderson praised. Good publicity for the school, right? In the Washington Post? Of course. So Matt Micciche, the school head, posted a link to it on the BFS Facebook page.

For a few hours.
Then Micciche deleted it and put in its place an abject, cringing apology, extensively excerpted in our earlier post.

The apology itself was embarrassing enough; but what made this reversal worse was that the BFS website also trumpets an educational philosophy that poses as being fearless in facing tough, controversial issues:

Quaker education is a pilgrimage–a continual seeking after Truth. The search for truth requires a willingness to listen openly to the ideas of others, even in fields of controversy.”

BFS Head Mark Micciche.

 Except they were not about “to listen openly to” THIS controversy:

“At Friends, we work together to build and sustain a community that is inclusive, respectful, and supportive of all people; we value diversity and cherish differences.” With this ideal in mind, the celebration of divergent viewpoints is not, and cannot be, without boundaries.” 

And linking to an article in which Anderson argued for leaving same sex marriage decisions to the states was, he determined, beyond the boundary; it was evidently in the same league with organizing a lynch mob or shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Oy vey. There’s no blinking it: 

The BFS head’s actions and statements were incoherent, anti-intellectual, cowardly, and un-Quakerly. If this sounds harsh, so be it. Right-wing blogs and pundits had a field day, and who could blame them? “Friends, This Is Not Tolerance” crowed the National Review. Micciche deleted his apology; a right-wing blogger reposted it.

The NY Times Op-Ed piece yesterday proves how lame the BFS panicked response was. Anderson’s anti-same sex marriage crusade has gone down in ignominious defeat. He’s reduced to haggling over photocopied signatures on a marriage license in one Kentucky County (out of 3100+ in the U.S.). The Times piece again burnished his conservative-comer brand, but beyond that was no big deal. 

I’ve sent Matt Micciche an email asking if BFS plans to make any use of this new BFS alum’s article, in the most prestigious national newspaper. If there’s any reply, watch for updates.

Meantime, I hope he’s taking some time today to ponder the BFS philosophy which was so humiliatingly dumped the last time around. Because the philosophy is a good one. And another occasion to put up or shut up about it is sure to come.

Besides, he & BFS have brands to burnish too; and Friends, they still need it.


Carolina Quakes: One Crisis Past; more To Do

Carolina Quakes: One Crisis Past; More To Do

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In fact, when it came before the NCYM annual session, facing close to 200 Friends in a well-filled meeting room, the Executive Committee and its expulsions never had a chance.
As Friends gathered, word was spreading that the Greensboro News & Record had featured NCYM on its front page that morning, with an article featuring the headline, “Dissension Among Local Quakers Is Civil War Stuff.”

Only one Friend rose to endorse the EC report.






Continue reading Carolina Quakes: One Crisis Past; more To Do

Breaking: NCYM Expulsions Overturned!

Breaking: NCYM Expulsions Overturned!

Details to follow. (Session still underway.)

One big step forward–then half a step back.

Here we go again??

Scarcely an hour after loudly overturning its Executive Committee’s over-reach, the North Carolina YM session agreed to have distributed among its meetings a new “Plan” to “deal with” the divisive issues that have dogged the body, a plan that is highly like to stir more dissent.

it was presented by a Task Force called for in June, after a previous “New Committee,” charged with almost exactly the same mission, was unable to  agree on any actual proposals. After nearly a year of contentious meetings, the New Committee presented three “options,” without recommendations, and was then “laid down,” in Quaker jargon (tho “collapsed” might be more accurately expressive). Its irresolute end reflected the continuing lack of anything approaching  consensus or “unity” on such matters as doctrinal stance,  views on LGBT rights & same sex marriage, dual affiliation, and more.

Just how the new Task Force will resolve them is far from clear. And much in the plan presented today sounds like déjà vu all over again. “We slew a dragon at 11:30,” one Friend commented, “and then resurrected it as a zombie by lunchtime.”