“Going Clear”: Suppressive Persons vs. Xenu’s Defenders

Michael Kinsley was no doubt delighted to get his latest NYTimes book review assignment:

… Wright’s book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” makes clear that Scientology is like no church on Earth (or, in all probability, Venus or Mars either). The closest institutional parallel would be the Communist Party in its heyday: the ruthless struggles for power, the show trials and forced confessions (often false); the paranoia (often justified); the determination to control its members’ lives completely (the key difference, you will recall, between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, according to the onetime American ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick); the maintenance of something close to prison camps where dissenters, would-be defectors and power-struggle rivals were incarcerated in deplorable conditions for years and punished if they tried to escape; what the book describes as mysterious deaths and disappearances; and so on. Except that while the American Communist Party, including a few naïve Hollywood types, merely turned a blind eye to events happening in faraway Russia, Scientology — if Wright is to be believed, and I think he is — ran, and maybe still runs, a shadow totalitarian empire here in the United States, financed in part by huge contributions by Tom Cruise and others of the Hollywood aristocracy. ­“Naïve” doesn’t begin to describe the credulousness and sense of entitlement that has allowed actors, writers and directors to think they were helping themselves and the world by hanging around the Scientologists’ “Celebrity Centre,” taking “upper level” courses and gossiping about who was about to be labeled a “Suppressive Person” (bad guy). Read more

Stay Classy, FRC

Maybe Chris Matthews will ask Tony Perkins about this the next time he is on to spew bile about homosexuals:

The former director of women’s and reproductive health at the Family Research Council, a prominent Christian conservative advocacy group, is suing the organization, claiming it retaliated against her and fired her after she filed a sexual harassment complaint against her boss.

According to court documents first obtained and reported by journalist Evan Gahr, former FRC employee Moira Gaul, 42, filed a complaint in 2009 with the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission in which she accused her supervisor of gender discrimination. She claimed that her boss, the director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics at the time, referred to the use of birth control pills as “whoring around,” addressed emails to her with the words “hi cutie,” pressured her to attend parties, and referred to her as a “young, attractive woman.”

“His attitude toward me and other women was rude, belittling, and at times, angry,” she wrote in the complaint.

Gahr identified Gaul’s former supervisor as prominent anti-abortion lawyer William Saunders, who now works at the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life. Saunders and his attorney, William J. Hickey, did not respond to requests for comment on the case.

I’m more shocked that the Family Research Council has a women’s reproductive health division than I am that these religious nutters are sexist assholes.

Our Big Fat Gay Election

I thought witnessing the Great PUMA Tantrum of Aught-Eight in real time was fun, but it turns out that was just the bagged crudité tray before the grand schadenfreude banquet that is the Colossal Wingnut Bed-Shitting of 2012. Good times!

But among all the very many reasons to be happy today, one of my favorite things is the stunning progress we’ve made on LGBT equality, symbolized by a few of last night’s election results. NOM has a sad today, and that’s a Good Thing. They used to crow about their “36-0” record, and to give the devil their due, they were remarkably successful in advancing the cause of bigotry and defacing various state constitutions with anti-gay graffiti.

That streak is broken. Marriage equality won in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota (and maybe Washington state too). Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay senator elected in US history.

This particular moral arc of the universe has been bending toward justice for a long time, thanks to the brave and tireless efforts of millions of people over decades. And although it has bent more sharply recently, we still have a long way to go.

But is there any doubt that having a sitting president come out in favor of marriage equality made a difference? Is there any doubt that President Obama’s successful drive to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell changed things?

Thank you, President Barack Obama. Well done, sir.

[X-posted at Rumproast]

The Totalitarian Mind

From the great state of Oklahoma (Oklahoma judge refuses to let men planning sex-change operations have feminine names):

District Judge Bill Graves has denied name changes in two such cases so far — last year and again in August. The judge ruled both times the requests were made for a fraudulent purpose.


“A so-called sex-change surgery can make one appear to be the opposite sex, but in fact they are nothing more than an imitation of the opposite sex,” the judge wrote in a seven-page order last year.

“Here, petitioner has not even had the surgery by which his sex purports to be changed. Thus, based on the foregoing and the DNA evidence, a sex change cannot make a man a woman or a woman a man all of which, the Court finds is sufficient in and of itself to deny petitioner’s request for a name change,” Graves wrote.

“To grant a name change in this case would be to assist that which is fraudulent,” Graves wrote. “It is notable that Genesis 1:27-28 states: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth …’ The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female.”

There is literally no issue that these guys won’t use to impose their “values.” A name change request is absolutely routine. The ability to call yourself what you want is, I would argue, a pretty basic freedom. And that’s the thing. None of this is about freedom. It is all about imposing a worldview by whatever means are available.

Monday Evening Open Thread: The Jeebus Card

(Ben Sargent via GoComics.com)

While we’re on the topic of religion and its place in the public realm, don’t miss Mr. Charles P. Pierce speaking for us People of Faith:

Over the weekend, Willard Romney, a most preposterous man, gave one of the most preposterous speeches ever delivered by an American politician. The presumptive nominee of the Republican party went down to Liberty University, the late Jerry Falwell’s old diploma mill, to deliver the commencement address, because that is what presumptive Republican nominees do…

[T]he speech was seen as Romney’s chance to “cement his relations” with a vital part of his constituency, albeit one that believes he regularly cuts up goats on a rock in his magic underwear in order to pay homage to St. Jesus of Polynesia. The quite obvious ridiculousness of the whole moment was the only story worth covering. Romney went before an audience and argued that, because they share common opinions on various political issues of the moment — in particular those involving sexy sexytime and the people to whom the Deity has granted permission to have it — their “faith” will bind them together. In other words, speaking to the graduates of a institution of Christian theocracy, Mitt Romney told them that, because they’re all against marriage equality, they’re all brothers in the spirit. I can’t think of anything any politician ever has said that has denigrated the allegedly exalted status of “faith” more than that. It is fashioning religion into a form of ward-heeling….

I think that Mr. James Madison, because he was a fk of a lot smarter than all of us are, was dead right when he pointed out that involving your religion in politics, and your politics in religion, works only to unreasonably secularize religious belief and unreasonably sanctify profane secular power…

Self-governing people have to be wary of religious establishments that ally themselves to attain secular political goals, not merely because they do themselves damage, but also because they threaten the very safeguards that have allowed them to flourish in the first place. Willard Romney was a preposterous man even by his own standards over the weekend. He was a special pleader, asking a group of post-adolescents to ignore the fact that they believe different things about what he calls “something far greater than ourselves” because he wants them to vote for him so he can eliminate the Affordable Care Act and eviscerate some tepid Wall Street reforms.

Apart from Republicans making themselves ridiculous (but I repeat myself), what’s on the agenda for the evening?