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Religion, P8TT and housekeeping

Community/Meta

By Adam Bink

A few housekeeping items of note here.

First, thanks to all who made suggestions on community dialogue and improvements. Many of them are helpful. The good news is that we are transitioning to a slightly different blog platform, one that will make things better for you on the user end regarding content (for example, I will be able to display/embed videos in posts that I cannot currently) and some things on the commenter end, as well. Look for this transition in the next two weeks, probably less.

If you have not made suggestions regarding how to improve community dialogue — or a wish list for technology — please use this thread to do so. I cannot promise that we can do each and every thing because of technology limitations, but as someone who has co-run a blog now for nearly four years, I always seek to improve the user experience, since you are what makes P8TT. I genuinely mean that.

Second, there have been a lot of discussions on what the site has evolved to while the trial is in limbo, many of them thoughtful. I’ll be writing some thoughts on all of that likely tomorrow.

Now, onto the messy topic: religious discussions on the site.

Yesterday’s thread devolved into another series of attacks over the role of religion in one’s personal life. Yes, I use the word attacks because by and large, those engaging were not engaging in healthy discussion of the intersection of religion and LGBT equality. I know this because not one single comment contained the word “LGBT” “gay” “lesbian”, quoted religious verse to reference how different religions deal with queer individuals, discussed how more people of faith can be reached to support equality, or anything that related in any way, shape or form to the mission of this site: covering the Prop 8 trial and discussing news, actions, and ideas to further LGBT equality for all.

Stop and think about that for a second. Feel free to re-read the thread and past threads. Then, there are two points I have to make on this topic.

The first is that what this blog is a place for is discussions of all topics that closely relate to LGBT equality.

What this blog is not is a religion blog, forum, AOL/Yahoo chat room, e-mail listserv, or any other kind of space that exists for discussions of “your” interpretation of “my” religion, or whether there is a divine power, or whether atheists are “militant”, or whether rank-and-file Catholics are supporting an anti-gay diocese, or anything like it. If you are looking for that kind of discussion, you best find it elsewhere. To quote my colleague Markos Moulitsas at DailyKos, “it’s a big internet.” It certainly is, and I guarantee you can find those kinds of discussions in, or take them to, any number of different spaces for it.

The second is that even if this were a religious forum, the level of heated rhetoric and attacks here on the subject of religion and religious fervor or lack thereof is appalling and not the best use of moderators’ time. I try not to individually name commenters when making these kinds of points, but on this I will need to point to what Ray in MA wrote on yesterday’s thread (selectively and with my bolding). Here’s Ray:

Something to keep in mind…

We can’t have the incredibly talented folks at P8TT babysitting us.

1. It’s very expensive.

2. It takes time away from doing what they do best: engaging the real enemy and keeping us informed.

We need creative technology to keeps things in check.

Technology is expensive. There has been a substantial investment in the technical architecture of this SITE, and as with any software it has it’s limitations.

[…]

And we are all grown-ups here.

While I must admit I am probably not as incredibly talented as Ray thinks I am (modesty!), his point is spot-on.

Here’s what we can agree on. We can all agree that we are here to advance LGBT equality (“engaging the real enemy”) and cover the Prop 8 trial (“keeping us informed”). Every minute I have to scan the comments to see who called who a “militant atheist” or “religious proselytizer” or accused someone of “pointing out inaccuracies about my faith” or “pushing religion on me” is a minute I cannot work to find the next Ed and Derence and get them in the Los Angeles Times so the next Louis can read about them and be touched right on his heart. Or blog on the trial. Or organize to pressure a Senator to support DOMA repeal. Or ensure that certification of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal doesn’t take months longer. Or work with our field team on our 50-state DOMA repeal project. Or start what often are really thoughtful community discussions on pressing issues of equality. I am fortunate enough to do this in a job that I love, and I have repeatedly stated how in awe I am of this community and its enthusiasm and willingness to be put to work (how many times have many of you asked who’s next to call last December on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, or how you can help on DOMA repeal?). 153 of you just paid to keep this site operating, and you did so because of the work we do together to bring about LGBT equality, not the work we do together to foster flame wars on religious fervor.

That is my, and our, central mission, and one on which we must remain focused. It is one, to Ray’s first point, that you are paying me to spend my time on, and paying for the space in which we do it, and so distractions must be taken seriously.

A full set of guidelines will come soon, but the flame wars are such that things have to change now.

1. If you are engaging in a discussion on religion, the discussion must be directly related to improving LGBT equality. Examples would be how our community can do a better job of reaching devout African-Americans, or improve the Catholic Diocese’s position on certain issues, or what people of faith do in their own congregations. When having these discussions, you must refrain from personal attacks on whether it is right or wrong that one is religious or atheist and keep the discussion focused on improving equality.

2. If the discussion diverts towards arguments over how “LGBT people would all be better off if there were no religion” or “if atheists didn’t try to attack people’s religion, we could make progress”, or any kind of personal attack, take it off this blog. You will receive one public warning in the comments, and one only, to shut it down and take it elsewhere. If you don’t, I will have to start moderating your comment ability and/or banning. This warning system applies to each separate discussion but I will also be watching for troublemakers who repeatedly hijack threads to have these arguments and who will be treated as such. The point is to ensure that everyone knows what is in-bounds and out-of-bounds so we can gear towards the central mission of this site. I want everyone to stay and make helpful contributions towards the mission of this blog.

3. There are any number of ways to take it off this blog. One is to go to a mutually agreed upon a different forum, chat room, listserv, blog, what have you, to have the discussion. A personal suggestion would be Street Prophets, a progressive blog community on faith and politics, which also has the ability to write in a public diary yourself. A second recommendation is to exchange e-mails, whether your regular personal one or one you set up especially for this purpose, such as “talkaboutreligion@gmail.com”. A third is to exchange Twitter usernames and direct message each other. A fourth is to set up your own blog — easily done on WordPress. A fifth is to chat via Skype, or even phone or in person if you feel comfortable. Whatever your level of privacy, there is an option available for everyone.

To those who say you shouldn’t “have to” set up an e-mail or use Skype or whatever just to engage in an argument, well, then, I’d suggest your argument isn’t important enough to be having in front of the people who come here looking for news on the Prop 8 trial, and discussion/actions on how to improve the lives of LGBT people. It’s a big internet, folks. Find the appropriate space for it.

Look, I prefer self-moderation. I don’t like having rules and having to police comments. If I wasn’t typing this post right now, and then having to read and respond to the responses to it on my Saturday afternoon, I would be organizing Wisconsin members to ask Sen. Kohl to become the last vote we need to repeal DOMA in the Senate Judiciary Committee (stay tuned on that). Or reading through a transcript of the Prop 8 trial to use in a new video project. Or filming the heartbreaking story of a bi-national same-sex couple, one member of which is about to be deported because he’s gay. I think we can all agree those tasks are a better use of my time. So consider this both a warning and a request to enable me to make this the space you asked for it to be, and to do the work for furthering LGBT equality we have done together successfully and will continue to do.

And thanks for making P8TT the strong community it is and can continue to be.

59 Comments

  • 1. BK  |  April 9, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Thanks for posting this. I didn't notice how far a few responses went. Hopefully everyone is (at least a little) more thoughtful now before posting whatever's on their minds.

  • 2. Sagesse  |  April 9, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Thanks Adam, for taking the time to work this through.

  • 3. Ann S.  |  April 9, 2011 at 4:35 am

    §

  • 4. Kathleen  |  April 9, 2011 at 4:42 am

  • 5. Linda  |  April 9, 2011 at 4:42 am

    Well written, Adam. Thank you.

  • 6. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  April 9, 2011 at 4:43 am

    subs

  • 7. Paul in Minneapolis  |  April 9, 2011 at 4:52 am

    I've been able to lurk here a little from work (where I can't post) and not so much from home due to an extremely busy winter/spring schedule, but I would like to make a couple of technology suggestions that may help make this site even better. Apologies if I'm repeating suggestions already offered.

    1. Is there a way to reorganize posts? I like that we can reply to specific posts, but when I come back to a thread I must work my way through the entirety of the comments to ensure I haven't missed replies, replies to replies, replies to replies to replies, etc. Is there a way to sort the comments chronologically while still keeping the reply chain intact? Could there be a way to switch between views (chronologically vs. what we have now) so everyone can view the dialog as they prefer?

    2. The comment numbering would be more useful if the numbers didn't change. Replies to earlier posts renumber all posts displayed after that reply. For me, I would prefer typing "this is in reply to comment #3," or even copying a quote to which I am responding and pasting it in my reply, instead of hitting a Reply link.

    3. A search feature (by keyword, author, etc.) would be very helpful.

    Thanks to everyone at P8TT and Courage Campaign for the fantastic work you're doing!

  • 8. Michelle Evans  |  April 9, 2011 at 4:57 am

    It's a tough world out there for LGBT people right now (and has been for some time). Even with some advances, it can be argued that things are worse now in many ways than they have been previously. I say this because of the groups such as NOM, the FRC, etc, that are out there actively attacking us daily. They have won victory after victory in denying us our equality under the law. What they do is despicable, horrible, and hateful. All of it comes out of fear because they don't want to know about things outside their own comfort zone, so they push back, and hurt us. Deeply.

    My point here is that with all this hatred and fear being directed against us, I can understand why things may get heated here at the P8TT from time to time–even amongst friends–not just when an occasional troll shows its face.

    It is a matter of being frustrated, angry, and afraid of these attacks against us that put us in the mood to lash out. Sometimes that means we may say something to a friend or loved one that we wish we had not said. Things boil over, and since we are a close community, it is the people here that will feel that heat.

    I would hope that I would speak for pretty much anyone and everyone here that has been involved in the vitriol that sometimes occurs, that we must remain friends. To take that away just fuels the opposition. My best suggestion would be to try to sit back for a moment, take a big breath, then say one simple thing to everyone here (even if you may not believe you said anything wrong):

    I apologize for anything I have said which may be construed as an attack on anyone for any reason who is a LGBT person or our ally. You all mean a great deal to myself, and also my wife Cherie. We do not want to lose anyone who is here with us. We are ALL valuable, and ALL needed! Thank you ALL for being here, and for being our friends.

  • 9. adambink  |  April 9, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Thanks for the thoughts, Paul. I will add it to the list.

  • 10. Straight for Equalit  |  April 9, 2011 at 5:21 am

  • 11. Chris in Lathrop  |  April 9, 2011 at 5:22 am

    I, too, apologize for anything I have said which may be construed as an attack on anyone for any reason. I try to be reasonable, logical, and compassionate in pointing out contradictions and fallacies, and sometimes I fail. If I have hurt anybody, even our opponents, I am truly sorry.

    All of us on the side of equality mean so much to me! And even to those who oppose us I have never meant any harm by any of my comments.

    Michelle, thank you for this post! You are such a voice of reason here, and for that I look up to you!

  • 12. Straight Ally #3008  |  April 9, 2011 at 5:36 am

    I didn't see those comments, but I'm very familiar with religious arguments overtaking and eclipsing the discussion: I see this in working with religious leaders to advance evolution education. You get it from both sides: those who dismiss would-be allies as delusional and mentally ill, and while the creationists claim those who disagree are hellbound heretics. Creationists won't be won over by those dismissing all religion, but a solid bloc of pro-science theologians and clergy would go a long way to nullifying their attacks on science education. I think much the same can be said for pro-LGBT equality faith organizations – or even religious groups that simply agree not to push for restrictions on civil marriage. Yes, having someone think you're going to hell isn't pleasant, but if they can't stop you from being employed or getting married, it's mainly their problem, not yours.

  • 13. Straight Ally #3008  |  April 9, 2011 at 5:47 am

    And as an addendum, as painfully slow as progress might seem, the marriage equality side is clearly winning. What I wouldn't give for the evolution education side to be doing as well: even as I write this – in 2011! – there are pro-creationism bills under consideration in Tennessee, Texas, Florida, and Missouri.

  • 14. Rhie  |  April 9, 2011 at 6:18 am

    I second this. It just makes it easier to read to have these advances.

    Paul, do you subscribe to comments by email? If so, you can click on the person's name above each comment to take you to that point in comment thread.

  • 15. Rhie  |  April 9, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Agreed.

    Personally, I find agree to disagree to be a great phrase to end arguments. Even if I am factually correct or even morally right and I get angry and rude, I've lost. I might have hurt an ally and that's just plain wrong.

    I think limiting religious discussion to how it directly relates to LGBT issues is a good way to go.

  • 16. JeffreyRO5  |  April 9, 2011 at 6:25 am

    It's a shame minorities have to learn the hard way that their civil rights are not guaranteed by the US Constitution but rather, depend on permission from the majority. That sux, big-time. On another note, did you know that NOM's Brian Brown gets a salary of $154,000 to run that hate group??? For that kind of money, I could learn to hate gays and lesbians, too!

  • 17. Rev. Will Fisher  |  April 9, 2011 at 6:29 am

    Given how much abuse my lgbt brothers and sisters have sustained at the hands of my co-religionists, I understand where a lot of people in the P8TT community are coming from. I don't take any criticism of Christianity personally.
    As far as addressing the issues of lgbt rights in the mainline Protestant churches (like the Episcopal Church), I just want to add that we are dealing with it. Denial of civil marriage rights is an issue of Social Justice. Prejudice against lgbt people usually stems from fear (lack of faith) and ignorance. These are spiritual issues that I often address from the pulpit, even if not specifically talking about lgbt issues. Tomorrow morning I'll be preaching how Jesus' raising of Lazarus invites the church to work to bring life out of death. When the Church has been at it's best it does this (disaster relief, civil rights, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, etc.). When we've been at our worst we've been doing the opposite: bring death into life (the Crusades, witch burning, and most recently a lot of anti-lgbt prejudice). In Lent, were invited to repent of death and embrace life.
    Anyway, the last thing I want to say is that were often dealing with a serious generation gap. At my first congregation, I was usually ministering to a flock forty years my senior. That generation is not very understanding of lgbt issues, no matter how much teaching we do. I preached one sermon (on Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah) where I explained that the Bible really doesn't condemn homosexuality. One elderly couple walked out on me and never came back. I'll keep teaching that because I believe it's the truth, but I wish other people would walk through the doors and take the places of departing homophobes.
    Anyway, I think I speak for a lot of affirming clergy, when I say were trying to change hearts and minds. It's just been hard and sometimes costly.

  • 18. the lone ranger  |  April 9, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Adam, I think it's going to be challenging to separate your guideline #1 from your guideline #2. In some cases there might be a clear distinction (for example, a discussion on the merits of civil marriage vs. a Church marriage should be pretty cut and dry and non-controversial), but I suspect in some cases (perhaps many?) the boundary will be a lot fuzzier. Even the title of a thread like the previous "Can Catholics be pro-homosexual?" doesn't seem clearly within the realm of guideline #1, and seems to flirt dangerously with guideline #2… it begs a "yes" or "no" answer (that of course no two people will agree on) that draws on people's differing personal beliefs and interpretations. And we've seen that can be very contentious, whether originally intended so or not. So while commenters have to be conscious to not fan the flames, you as a moderator have to be cognizant to not provide us with gasoline-soaked rags and a match.

    You said you plan to address the scope of this site in the context of the major pro-equality trials being currently in limbo, and I look forward to reading that thread. I don't recall any significant pro- or anti-religious animosity back during the P8 trial days, so maybe the simplest solution is just to re-focus this site on the original core mission of this website: keeping the community fully abreast of the latest judicial and legislative developments related to gay equality (had to make sure I used the word "gay" somewhere in this post… heheh). There's still a lot going on out there, on the federal, state, and local levels. And some posters here have made wonderful contributions to helping make the subtleties, and complexities, of these legal proceedings comprehensible to us laymen out here.

  • 19. Rhie  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I agree with you. Perhaps part of the solution here would be to look at the posts with the most contentious discussions and see if there is anything in the tone or the title of the post that could invite it.

    Titles like "Can you be a pro-gay Catholic" or stories Westboro protesting LGBT issues pretty much invite vitriol against religious people.

    Obviously, the onus is not all on the moderators, but they aren't all the commenters either. Leaders are part of the community, and set the tone for it. I understand that you don't want to babysit, Adam. To that end, make sure you don't leave the kids with matches and tinder.

  • 20. Linda  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:18 am

    The problem is the anti-LGBT crowd can find no constitutional defense for their prejudice, so they use God as a trump card–touting religious fervor and the corresponding moral elitism as their license to hate. They believe their spiritual superiority has earned them the right to be bullies; and to argue against them is to argue against God, Christianity, and all things American.

    I refuse to honor them with a religious identifier. They are not Christian (Protestant, Catholic, or Mormon); they are not Jewish; they are not Muslim. They could not possibly be of any of those faiths and spew such lies and hatred. They are deceivers and manipulators whose actions are in direct contradiction to the doctrines they claim to espouse. And THEY are our enemies, not the faiths they have hijacked to cloak their actions.

    jmho

  • 21. draNgNon  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:19 am

    I swapped a while ago to reading P8TT through Google Reader, so I've not really been participating in comment threads. But this post made me think you might want a little feedback.

    1) Regarding content of the site – Adam, you say: "The first is that what this blog is a place for is discussions of all topics that closely relate to LGBT equality."

    I don't quite agree. Well, sure, if it's your blog. er, Courage Campaign's blog. But if so, perhaps you should rename it something other than "Prop 8 Trial Tracker." IMO what you say there is the site's very important secondary purpose. The first purpose is, to track the prop 8 trial.

    for example, it's nice that NOM's Louis flipped his opinion, and has a big impact. It is relevant to the interests of this blog and its readership. But it's NOT more topical to the P8TT than the 4 April filing in CA Supreme Court by AFER. But while we see 4 posts about Louis in the last week, we see not one post on AFER's filing in Prop 8. Not even a very short post with a link. I should not have to troll the comments for posts from Kathleen to pick that up. (and I didn't, I got it from Stop8.org.)

    2) perhaps a tech suggestion, perhaps super low-tech – if you could tag or categorize posts that would be super. DOMA, Prop 8 Trial, NOM news, etc. that would help with going back and picking up timelines. I think that was happening with the NOM tour following. o wait! I see categories on the side nav, but it's not really obvious on the post itself, and of course it's not picked up by Reader, which makes me think it's not picked up by the RSS feed. it'd be super if that could be more obvious, and picked up by feeds. maybe simply having the post name that goes out to a feed say something like category: title, so this one would be "Community/Meta: Religion, P8TT and housekeeping"

    3) I suggest you change the comment form to link to these (and any other) rules, like a lot of news sites do. Basically something like "posting a comment consists of agreeing to the rules/community standards (link)". That will prevent trolls from whining about free speech suppression, which will be an annoying waste of time.

    that's all! hope these are helpful and not repeating the suggestions of others. but I'm going to avoid previous comment threads lest I be tempted to make matters worse.

    oh – very few blogs have this, but I'd love a preview on the comments. I hope the above is OK…

  • 22. adambink  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Yes, and as a moderator, fewer threads like that will go up, although that was not my post, but content matters.

    On the distinction between guideline #1 and guideline #2, I will be clear: the err will be on the side of less religious-based discussion. Too many spiral out of control. So it's important to be cognizant of the need to focus on the ties to equality as a commenter and I will refocus comments as necessary.

    Regarding the core mission, the site is kept abreast of the latest judicial and legislative developments. Going back to December, 90% of the posts here at on the Prop 8, DOMA, or DADT trials, and on the legislative progress with DADT (per my writing and this community's actions in December); marriage in NH, on which a victory was achieved; DOMA, which we played a lead role getting the bill introduced with Sen. Feinstein; and smaller updates in other states like civil unions in Colorado and Hawaii. Go back through the threads, and you'll see that will be the case. I think the other 10% focus on NOM, principally because this community has a closer focus on them because of the two bus tours, and in part because of survey responses back in December.

    I'll get into this more when I write about it, but I rarely, rarely, rarely write about religion (Jeremy occasionally does). In fact, I can't remember the last time I did. I write about legislative, judicial, and meta-level work on LGBT equality. Many of the discussions start because of the occasional post on religion, but more often than not, they start with an "OT=off-topic" post here in the comments and things spiral out of control. That has to stop.

  • 23. adambink  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Well, first, that's not what I wrote at the top. What I wrote was:

    "to the mission of this site: covering the Prop 8 trial and discussing news, actions, and ideas to further LGBT equality for all."

    So I appreciate the mission. It's expanded since we originally started, but that's the core mission.

    Two, yes re more posts on filings.

    Three, post tags have always been on the right side of the page, under "Categories". Being a longtime blogger, I am rather a heinous tagger. I suggest you set to Prop 8. But I'm not going to change the title for each post, partly because some are multiple tags, and having a post titled "Prop 8/Trial Analysis/Right-Wing: Andy Pugno publishes lengthy book on Prop 8 trial" makes for headaches for those who receive notice of posts in the inbox and publicizing things over Twitter.

    Four, I wrote earlier that guidelines will be published and made available in a permanent, noticeable link. That will still be the case.

    Five, I'll have to check on comment preview. It's something I'd like too!

  • 24. adambink  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:29 am

    I'm headed offline for a few hours, but I just want folks to know I'm reading each comment and responding as appropriate this evening.

  • 25. adambink  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:33 am

    I also pointed out the importance of the trial in a different place:

    "Here’s what we can agree on. We can all agree that we are here to advance LGBT equality (“engaging the real enemy”) and cover the Prop 8 trial (“keeping us informed”)."

    I just want to emphasize how core it is in what we do, and we can't stray from it. That's why I appreciate feedback on coverage.

  • 26. Michelle Evans  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Adam,

    A new post came up: "Of course NOM's misrepping Louis' role…" I have clicked on the link to this thread on several occasions and all I get is an error. I am curious if the link in the email may be incorrect. I've also seen that if I go to the primary web page for the P8TT, the new thread also does not appear.

    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

  • 27. Sagesse  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Incendiary headlines can be avoided, but if I recall correctly, most of them were quotes or paraphrases of anti-gay rhetoric.The posts were calling the message into question. The headlines could perhaps (unintentionally?) been baiting.

  • 28. Rhie  |  April 9, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Oh I assume it was unintentional. But, unintentional fires can still cause damage.

  • 29. Sagesse  |  April 9, 2011 at 8:04 am

    This is an important point. Religion in the context of LGBT equality is not so much religion as people of faith (or people of no faith) experience it, but rather religion as a cold blooded cynical political tool. Religion as a political tool is not personal, and is a legitimate topic for dispassionate discussion in the context of achieving equality and ending state sponsored (political) discrimination.

  • 30. the lone ranger  |  April 9, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Linda, I partly agree with you, but not all of these anti-gay people of faith are the equivalent of evil NOM-ites or Westboro clan members. Some are our kindly grandparents, or the local orphanage charity director, or other such folks we know from our families or the neighborhood. I doubt many of us, even a "militant atheist" as myself, would consider these people, in general, to be bullies, or deceivers, or our enemies. We might personally believe they're misguided in their anti-gay stances, but when they point to all the infamous passages in their various religious texts, they genuinely and sincerely believe these passages to be true as explicitly written. Since even religious scholars and leaders often don't agree on the intended or original meanings of many of those passages, how can we objectively say that our dear ole grandma's (or even Fred Phelps', in the extreme and "devils-advocate" case) religiously-based anti-gay stance is wrong? These people ARE Christian, and Muslim, and Jewish, and so forth. They simply interpret their religious texts differently (in some cases markedly so) than some people here would. We can be judgmental and say we're right and they're wrong, but is that strictly defensible when even hundreds of years scholarly research may not have unequivocally come to that conclusion?

    That's one of the biggest problems about bringing these subjective topics into these threads. And it's always going to be a source of friction. That's why I continue to advocate that this site return to its information-based roots. As Adam correctly points out, there are plenty of other places on the web where subjective discussions on religion and homosexuality can be had.

  • 31. Joe  |  April 9, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I agree, for every Phelps and his ilk, there are many people of all faiths that fully and with a clear conscience support and fight for the equality that everyone should be able to enjoy. It's sad that, many times they are the loudest of us, but no one group speaks for the whole of any religion.

  • 32. Sarah  |  April 9, 2011 at 9:13 am

    just watching

  • 33. Paul in Minneapolis  |  April 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I do not subscribe to comments by e-mail. I understand why people do, but for me it would either be too interruptive as the e-mails came through to my BlackBerry or just too much to go through in my mailbox — it's easier for me to read posts on the site. But perhaps I should give it a try and find out; who knows maybe it would be a better solution.

    In a technologically ideal world, everyone would have an option that works well for them. I love that technology can offer lots of options!

  • 34. Rhie  |  April 9, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Ah, fair enough :)

    And yes, technology is awesome.

  • 35. JonT  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

  • 36. Linda  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:07 am

    "That's why I continue to advocate that this site return to its information-based roots."

    While this site may have started out as simply that, information-based, it quickly took on it's own life as our community formed and developed. And central to that community has been the freedom to communicate….to express our feelings, our joys and hurts, our anger and resentment. This was especially the case last summer.

    I'm not advocating for more religious discussion. But I do recognize that it is impossible to not discuss it, since it is the platform many of our enemies have chosen to use to combat us. There is a difference between 'dear ole grandma's' fervent desire to be the best Christian she can be, and Brian Brown, Maggie Gallagher, et al using religion as a tool to manipulate and control public sentiment concerning civil rights issues. That's what I was attempting to point out. Religion, in and of itself, is not necessarily our enemy. It's the people who use religion to manipulate and legitimize their prejudice that are the enemy. To clarify that further, I'm speaking of those who have made a platform encouraging hatred towards LGBTs and using their religion as their justification; those people are our enemies–not because of their religion, but because of their hatred.

    Religious freedom (and the freedom FROM religion) has been a cornerstone of our secular democracy. But in this fight, our fight for full equality, religion freedom has undergone a mutation. According to Brian Brown, Maggie Gallagher, Focus on the Family, etc. etc. it infringes on their religious freedom to allow us to live as equals.

    I accept that many devoutly religious people are going to believe that I am wrong; that I can change, etc. But I refuse to accept that Brian Brown can warp that individual religious freedom into government mandated restrictions on how I can live my life and enjoy my freedom as an American citizen.

    That is the distinction I was trying to make.

  • 37. Ann S.  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Well put, Linda.

  • 38. the lone ranger  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:16 am

    you're entirely right, but my point was that there are also many kind-hearted, generally fair-minded folks out there who, without intentional conscious malice, sincerely believe their religious texts condemn homosexuality because often, that appears to be explicitly written. We might feel they're misguided based on our personal beliefs, but when even religious scholar can't agree on some of those passages, can we objectively say that their interpretations are wrong?

    Fortunately, our laws are nominally supposed to be based on the Constitution, not on any religious text. And, I would still hope that many of these otherwise kind-hearted, fair-minded folks who think homosexuality is a "sin" would still nonetheless believe that everyone should be treated fairly and equally. Some undoubtedly do, but from the P8-style votes that have happened in CA and ME, from the 30 out of 31 failed marriage equality votes (AZ got a do-over, which we lost), and from even some of the non-marriage-related civil rights-focused proposals that have fallen around the country, I question how much support we really have from that large, silent community.

    I know Fred Phelps will never bless my gay "lifestyle", but I had always sort of hoped grandma might (& I'm speaking figuratively here… my grandparents passed away many years ago).

  • 39. adambink  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:30 am

    There was an weird error in publishing. It's live now.

  • 40. truthspew  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:44 am

    You guys are using WordPress, and you can put videos on a post on WordPress.

    If it's a YouTube video just put:
    [youtube=link]

    And edit the word "watch" to be "w" Easy, easy.

    Plus you can upload videos and pix.

    Email me if you need help.

  • 41. the lone ranger  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I actually agree with you, Linda, but even as we do here, many people publicly advocate for or against some cause. That's the nature of politics. Grandma might not feel so strongly about "the gay agenda" that she feels compelled to start her own NOM-like group, but if she did, I guess we would have anti-grandma posts on here. In the case of Brian, we don't know how strongly he really feels about gay marriage or gay rights. But for whatever reason (be it true animus, or perhaps he discovered he could gain money, power or fame from advocacy), he's now the face of NOM. It seems to be simply a matter of degree… Brian might reach a larger audience through the media than grandma might through her knitting circle, but I'm not sure the end result is really much different… both have one vote on election day. I guess NOM is just an easier and less controversial target (i.e. if we publicly called out grandma, the vast silent majority with undetermined affiliations might not be silent anymore).

  • 42. Jerry  |  April 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I do agree on guidelines. But, one request please… Please do NOT use Captia immages to send comments. As a blind user, using a screen reader program, screen readers cannot read the immages. And, the audio versions are uninteligable. We cannot participate in anything using Captia.

  • 43. JohanfromNL  |  April 9, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    sub

  • 44. Ronnie  |  April 10, 2011 at 12:08 am

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  • 46. Don in Texas  |  April 10, 2011 at 1:41 am

    I hope that Adam's first steps at limiting religious discussion on this site does not put us on a slippery slope. Wide-open discussion has been one of the main attractions here. As Justice Douglas pointed out:

    "A function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view."

    Of course, we all know that two of the most contentious topics of conversation are religion and politics. One hopes that limits on discussion of either would not limit discussion of the other.

  • 47. Don in Texas  |  April 10, 2011 at 1:50 am

    The quote by Justice Douglas in my previous post is from his unanimous opinion for the Court in Terminello v. City of Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949).

  • 48. grod  |  April 10, 2011 at 1:58 am

    @the lone ranger
    Unintended Consequence, a Eureka Experience
    Thank you for bringing up the role of header and topics. Although I asked myself more than once why the divisive topic "Can Catholics be pro-homosexual” was chosen, as it progressed, I thought the whole dialogue was instructive on 1) the baggage each and all of us carry and 2) how that baggage informs the way we response to one another, indeed the language we use.
    I also wondered what we could learn from our own language and mindset that could be applied to the wider dialogue. Prior to that blog, I had begun to shift my language from same sex marriage to marriage equality without grasping the significance. From the pro-homosexual dialogue, I learned that I must refer to civil marriage equality if I hoped to influence the still to be persuaded. Yes, I know that some faiths provide religious marriage equality. But as a person of faith that’s a tempting distraction at this time.
    Adam, if there is one thing that is constructive and instructive for CC from Jeremy Hooper's "Catholic" lead comments and subsequent exchange, it is "always refer to civil marriage equality". That’s the focus, that’s the message! Indeed, cede to NOM and its proxies religious marriage. Knowingly fence and box them into that turf. Train our advocates to do the same, always. Keep NOM dancing on that turf. Get them to acknowledge that it's their turf.
    In message management, analysis and reanalysis how NOM shifts the ground. If CC needs a linguist to pinpoint how they do it, get one. It’s imperative… It was so easily, so unintentionally done to and by themselves, the faithful and informed contributors [friends] to this blog. Us.
    This is indeed the fundamental and precious insight about the 'dialogue' about "Can Catholics be pro-homosexual". Useful! Worthwhile! Significant! Unintended. Each CC supporter could learn, practice, inoculate themselves from being co-opted into the religious frame of reference. Practice here! Indeed CC supporters ought to learn, and be skilled in 'shifting' the focus onto or back to CIVIL MARRIAGE EQUALITY. Why??
    NOM mixes the religious and civil in every engagement and just like many of the contributors to that discussion on Catholics, legislators, and the general public become fuzzy in their focus. Soon NOM has people adopting their frame of reference. Not sometime, not frequently. Apparently always! With great success.
    It is therefor imperative that civil marriage equality be the language and lens that LGBT community and CC frame and reframe and frame again, the debate. Can there be any other frame for advancing civil rights. I seriously doubt it.
    And I am not anticipating that supportive religious denominations will be any less enthusiastic in their support of social justice. G

  • 49. adambink  |  April 10, 2011 at 3:37 am

    Well, we've done that, as you can see by the YouTube videos embedded in many posts. But it's not so simple when it comes to other formatting types. New version will change that.

  • 50. Ronnie  |  April 10, 2011 at 3:45 am

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  • 51. Bob  |  April 10, 2011 at 3:51 am

    very interesting case Don,,, thanks for bringing this to the discussion,,,,

    although I'm confused about the actual verdict in the tiral,,,, it offers insight into the history of grappling with the notion of free speech…

    which the above quote states is protected against censorship or punishment, unless!!!!!!!!!!!!

    it raises the issue about the balancing of speech and public safety,,,,

    it points to difference in powers between congress and states , on dealing with the issue,,,

    obviously none of that applies to moderators of this site,,,
    who are free to make their own guidelines,,,

    I was thinking about my discussion with Rhie the other day,, and somehow got the notion that more speech including hate speech is necessary, but I question that,,, and wonder if quality of the speech is more important than the quantity of speech,,, even that case mentions that certain speech does nothing to promote the public good but rather the opposite even encouraging evil, and the stifling of the public good..

    I think that is what was happening on this site, which created a danger of self distruction,

    although uncomfortable these are things we grapple with too on the road to equality, when emotions run high and egoes become inflamed,,,,, it's a very tough call to set guidlines,,,, and I look forward to actuallly seeing them,,,, I'm sure the purpose or intention is to improve the quality of the discourse, and lead us away from bashing each other , and towards our common goal of equality ……

    what of course would be interesting to see is if that could of happened without intervention,,,, and if the personal affronts would have worn themselves out before turning a lot of people away from the site in disgust,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    I don't envy Adam for being placed in the position to deal with it , but I do believe the choice he made is in the interest of everyone, and to enhance the agenda of equality and the continued work being done collectively……

  • 52. Don in Texas  |  April 10, 2011 at 6:38 am

    You make some interesting points with which I agree generally. My concern, based on experience elsewhere, is that some moderators are quick to hit the "BAN" button and, instead of moderating, simply censor.

    It should be noted that even speech which does nothing to promote the public good — for example, the harangues of Fred Phelps/Westboro Baptist cult members — enjoys constitutional protection.

    Having said that, I recognize, as stated above, that this is a private site that belongs to the Courage Campaign which can set whatever rules of use it chooses.

  • 53. the lone ranger  |  April 10, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Adam, I've given more thought to these guidelines, and I'm wondering if they can really applied in a fair and unbiased manner that will satisfy everyone.

    Take your example of "how can we do a better job of reaching devout African-Americans".

    A person of faith might suggest that we encourage influential African-American religious leaders to read "What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality". An atheist might alternatively suggest we encourage those same religious leaders to read "Letter to a Christian Nation" or "The God Delusion", both of which contain key sections on homosexuality (I'm not aware of a secular work that would be directly analogous to "What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality").

    Admittedly, the atheist's suggestion might be expected to fall on unreceptive ears, and thus ultimately be less effective in changing hearts and minds (although maybe not?). But nonetheless, it's certainly no less valid an idea to put forward.

    At face value, it's unclear whether the atheist's suggestion would violate the guidelines. The suggestion certainly doesn't personally attack anyone. But it does gets closer to that red flag line of whether religion should be considered "good" or "bad", although the suggestion in itself doesn't explicitly address that. The question for you is whether such a suggestion would be considered offensive or inflammatory (either by the moderators or the commenters), and whether it would subject it's author to a "public warning". If it would indeed result in censure, then there's a major problem in ensuring an unbiased environment where all poster's viewpoints can be equally considered.

  • 54. adambink  |  April 10, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for raising it.

    Neither suggestion would violate the guidelines. Both are good-faith efforts to move a person towards supporting equality.

    What is not acceptable are efforts to convince EVERYONE on this blog that religion is not okay, or that one must have faith in order to reach religious people or Heaven, or arguments in general about the value of religion.

    In other words, keep the focus on reaching the person of faith who does not support equality, and not on religion itself.

    I would also encourage those who find fault with another person's suggestion to not find it absolutely necessary to engage. Debate is healthy, but it can easily branch far off-topic. For example, if I were to suggest reading "What the Bible Really Says", and another person were to suggest reading "The God Delusion" and gave his or her reason, then we both made our point and suggestion, and that's it. Move on. Too many of those healthy discussions devolve.

  • 55. the lone ranger  |  April 10, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • 56. Michael  |  April 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I've always been very involved in news and the gay community and I've always prided myself on keeping up on the latest news and events. However, after last year's election, I was so disgusted by the Democrats total surrender to radical conservatives, that I stopped watching the news, visiting most gay activist or news sites and generally being involved. I'm currently trying to decide whether I will ever vote again. I'm even considering moving from the US as this empire (under the Republicans) slides into oblivion and the Democrats allow it to happen.

    Through it all, this is one of the few sites I've continued to visit. Sadly, that is about to change. I'm extremely offended by your comments about religion and your suggestion that it has nothing to do with our struggle. IT is the thing keeping us down and IT is the thing that can free us. As a Christian gay man, I'm not going to be silent about my faith for you or anyone else.

    This is my last post. I will not visit this site further and you and others can continue to not involve pro-equality people of faith and continue to lose your marriage battles. Good luck.

  • 57. IT  |  April 11, 2011 at 3:14 am

    I have a few points to make.

    1) There are many people of faith and faith communities that support equality. WE should be building bridges, always– not closing doors.

    2) If the LGBT community allows those opposed to equality to frame the discussion as us being against religion, we will never win. And it is simply not true, in any case.

    3) Whether you have faith or not, you should always respect the beliefs of others– whether THEY have faith or not. Even if they don't respect you.

    4) I used to post over at Kos but got tired of the religion bashing that appears to go along with so much progressive politics. I'm an atheist myself, but married to a devout CHristian (Episcopalian flavor) and I found it ironic that I spent much of my time over there defending people of faith, whom I live among and who openly celebrate my wife and me. Why is it so many progressives feel it is okay to be intolerant of religion?

    This site will be useful if it can build those bridges to communities who can (and in many cases, do) actively support us. We won't win without them.

  • 58. IT  |  April 11, 2011 at 3:16 am

    There is such a bloc building at Evolutionary Christianity

  • 59. adambink  |  April 11, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Please explain where I wrote that religion has nothing to do with our struggle.

    I specifically wrote that many discussions on how religion IS related to equality ARE appropriate. Here's what I wrote:

    "1. If you are engaging in a discussion on religion, the discussion must be directly related to improving LGBT equality. Examples would be how our community can do a better job of reaching devout African-Americans, or improve the Catholic Diocese’s position on certain issues, or what people of faith do in their own congregations. When having these discussions, you must refrain from personal attacks on whether it is right or wrong that one is religious or atheist and keep the discussion focused on improving equality."

    These are healthy discussions and ones I support having on the site. So I welcome your comments on them.

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