Canadian P.M. to Apologise for Military Homophobia

Apology to Canadians persecuted for being gay coming Nov. 28: Trudeau

Montreal PridePrime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, right, participate in the annual pride parade in Montreal, Sunday, August 20, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press 

Published Sunday, November 19, 2017 4:11PM EST 
Last Updated Sunday, November 19, 2017 9:25PM EST

OTTAWA — Martine Roy was just 20-years-old and less than a year into her chosen career as a medical assistant with the Canadian Armed Forces at CFB Borden when military police suddenly showed up at her workplace to arrest her.

They brought her to an interrogation room and demanded she admit she was a lesbian. They put her through psychological testing. Within a year she had been dishonourably discharged from the army.

Thirty-three years later she cannot hold back the tears as she prepares to hear an apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons.

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“It’s amazing,” Roy told The Canadian Press on Sunday afternoon, from her home in Montreal. “Even though if you fight all your life for that it’s always hard to believe it will happen.”

Trudeau confirmed on Twitter he will offer the apology to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited people who were forced out of the military or public service and some who were even prosecuted criminally for “gross indecency.”

“On November 28, the Government will offer a formal apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians in the House – for the persecution & injustices they have suffered, and to advance together on the path to equality & inclusion,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

Starting in the 1950s and lasting until 1992, thousands of Canadians in the military, RCMP, and across the civil service were fired. Roy refers to it as “the purge” by which the government tried to weed out people that it felt were susceptible to foreign intimidation and blackmail because of their sexual orientation.

The government developed a homosexuality test known as the “fruit machine,” which measured arousal to pornographic images in order to provide proof of sexual orientation to back up the reason for firing, or denying someone a promotion.

Roy said when the military police showed up at her door she didn’t even know what her sexual orientation was and the firing “entirely changed my life.” She said she tried for five years to fight back but eventually she decided she wasn’t going to put any more energy into it. “You really think you did a big big crime,” she said of the ordeal. “Sexual orientation has nothing to do with your skills.”

She said in 1992 when Canada changed the law she expected an apology but that didn’t happen until now. “It means a lot,” said Roy, fighting tears. “It means even more coming from (Trudeau) because I know it’s going to come from his heart.”

Trudeau promised to issue the apology more than a year ago after Egale Canada, a group that advocates for the rights of sexual minorities, released a report on the matter and made a number of recommendations including that a formal apology be issued.

The government has been consulting with Egale and others to determine the best way to approach the apology. A spokeswoman for Egale said on Sunday that having a date is “exciting.” “We think it’s long overdue,” said Jennifer Boyce.

Canada is also facing a class action suit from more than 2,000 people who say they were persecuted by the federal government for their sexual orientation. Negotiations to settle that suit are underway.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leads the world’s nations in accepting the fact that LGBTQ people are entitled to redress of their grievances against institutionalised homophobic persecution in the military over many years.

The experience of Martine Roy, as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, graphically demonstrates the fervour with which she – and others in the Armed Services who were suspected of being gay – were hunted down and subjected to humiliating treatment by the Military Police. This experience of rampant homophobia in the Armed Forces has now been criticised by Canada’s Prime Minister, who promises to deliver a full apology to the likes of Ms.Roy on November 28th in the Canadian House of Parliament – marking a new era in the righting of institutional injustice towards LGBTQ people in Canada.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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U.A.E. Mosque re-named “Mother, Mother of Jesus”

United Arab Emirates renames mosque ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus’

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince ordered the change to ‘consolidate bonds of humanity between followers of different religions’

A mosque in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital, has been renamed “Mary, Mother of Jesus”.

Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Abu Dhabi crown prince and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, ordered that the mosque be renamed to “consolidate bonds of humanity between followers of different religions.”

Mary plays a prominent role in the Christian and Islamic traditions.

Reverend Canon Andrew Thompson of St. Andrew’s Church, an Anglican parish near the newly renamed mosque, expressed is gratitude in an interview with Gulf News.

“We are delighted that we are celebrating something that we have in common between both our faiths,” he said.

Rev Thompson also said that Mary “symbolises obedience to God” in both faiths, and that he looked forward to “growing in deeper understanding” with members of the Islamic faith.

The move to rename the mosque – which was formerly known as the Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Mosque – reflects the UAE’s efforts to appear as champions religious tolerance in the region.

Although the UAE’s official religion is Islam, the nation’s constitution includes a clause guaranteeing the freedom to practice any religion. The International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland also ranked the UAE first regionally and third globally for religious tolerance.

In 2015, the Roman Catholic Church in Abu Dhabi opened its second church, according to the State Department of the United States. The UAE also granted land to construct the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi.

Jeramie Rinne, senior pastor of the Evangelical Community Church in Abu Dhabi, said in an interview with The Cable that the mosque’s renaming indicates the importance of the UAE’s stance on religious tolerance.

“The UAE continues to set the pace in this region for peaceful coexistence and cooperation,” he said. “We are very encouraged and feel blessed to be a part of this nation.”

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Thanks to CATHNEWS (NZ) for this press release.

Not only local Anglicans in Abu Dhabi (UAE), but also Roman Catholics and the local Reformed Evangelical Church leaders are welcoming the decision by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince to re-name the former Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Mosque with the title ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus‘. The local Anglican priest greeted this news with a welcoming note:

‘Reverend Canon Andrew Thompson of St. Andrew’s Church, an Anglican parish near the newly renamed mosque, expressed his gratitude in an interview with Gulf News. “We are delighted that we are celebrating something that we have in common between both our faiths,” he said. Rev Thompson also said that Mary “symbolises obedience to God” in both faiths and that he looked forward to “growing in deeper understanding” with members of the Islamic faith.” ‘

What is sometimes forgotten by Christians is that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is venerated by both Christians and Muslims in the Arab world. I was reminded of this on visiting the House of Mary in Ephesus, which was looked after by both Christian and Muslim people.

For those Protestants, whose devotion to the mother of Christ (“All generations will call me Blessed” – Magnificat) may be less than that of Orthodox Catholic and Anglican Christians; this recognition of the place of the Mother of Jesus in the Muslim Faith may be something of a surprise. However, in the more Westernised territory of the United Arab Emirates, this latest move to dedicate a mosque to  Christ’s Mother can only be applauded as a definitive movement towards inter-Fath dialogue and solidarity.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!”  

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Clergy and Claims of Abuse

My Confusion Regarding Claims of Sexual Harassment

by the Revd Canon Simon Butler, Prolocutor for the Province of Canterbury

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Part of my partner’s job is to deal with disciplinary complaints in his workplace. Among the matters he has to investigate are allegations of sexual harassment and other forms of inappropriate behaviour. As an outsider to his working environment I can easily see how people get themselves into trouble on this matter. Close working relationships blur professional boundaries, signals are misinterpreted, social media compound the problems, and sometimes personal slight, hurt, mental health issues or even a desire for revenge become the pretext for launching formal complaints. In the complexity of human relationships, genuinely bad, dangerous and harmful behaviour clearly occurs. Scripture reminds us that “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God”. We do well to remember that all of us leave behind us a trail of damaged human relationships of some sort or another.

In my naivete I like to think that such matters are black and white, and that anyone who has been harassed or assaulted will want to come forward and make their allegations known to be dealt with by due process. But it doesn’t seem to be as straightforward as that. I recognise that there is a power dynamic that exists between (mainly but not exclusively) powerful men and less-powerful women, often compounded by seniority in the workplace/parish, that makes coming forward or challenging bad behaviour hugely risky. I also see that there needs to be robust enough processes to ensure that there is confidence to know that allegations, when made, will be dealt with appropriately.

When matters are not addressed formally, for often understandable reasons, we find ourselves in a very unsatisfactory situation, where claims of harassment are shared between friends and supportive colleagues outside of due process, in a way that make them entirely unsubstantiated rumour. In such cases one is naturally forced to assume that the person who claims harassment is telling the truth, or has understood what can often be a complex situation accurately. Hence the large amount of rumour swirling around, with very little firm allegation. This is deeply confusing to me and I fear it easily poisons the wells of reliability when it comes to formal processes.

ViaMedia has recently published anonymous testimony of two clergy people who told stories of harassment in church contexts. None of us are in a position to judge the claims made because they are by their nature anonymous and as such there is only one side of the story known. This is made more complicated by inadequate institutional responses which diminish the seriousness of the accusations, or the bad advice of sympathetic friends, who advise a complicit silence.

Having been the victim of serious false allegations of an entirely different sort myself – whether malicious or foolish I don’t think I’ll ever know – I have a degree of human sympathy for those who are accused without proper process. But I am acutely aware that I have, culturally and by dint of my personality, a lot of power, which can prevent me being as aware as I perhaps need to be about the problem. Therefore, I feel genuinely confused about the current swirl of concern about sexual harassment in the church and in wider society. I need some help.

If I’m brutally honest what won’t help is inverse mansplaining about how I don’t understand the problem because I’m a man. But if I and others who are as confused as me can show our willingness to understand better, then we should take a stand by providing safety and support to those who need to come forward and turn their silent suffering and often their sense of shame and humiliation into empowered formal complaint. Without that, I fear I’ll just remain confused!

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As a clergy-person who knows something of the process of the resolution of grievances in the parish situation, I am acutely aware of the fact that there are always two sides of the matter being investigated by the official Church authorities.

There is, of course, legitimate reason for some claims of power-based harassment by clergy of people in the congregation, and these are generally understood as needing to be resolved – if only to quell the gossip that might surround the issue and the resultant confusion among the members of the congregation affected.

However, there have been glaring cases of clergy being falsely accused of a standard of behaviour that would indeed be untenable if they were proved to have been true. This is why an independent facility for investigating complaints is absolutely essential for the health and well-being of the individuals concerned – and of the parish in which the situation is alleged to have taken place.

Although clergy – because of their pastoral role in the congregations in their charge –  may be seen to have a notional ‘power’ over their congregants; there is always the possibility of  a parishioner making false claims about clergy behaviour, in a situation where it might be difficult to prove either the truth, or otherwise, of the allegations made. This is why the diocese needs to provide adequate means of external investigation as to the truth, or falsity, of such allegations.

Of course, there are always particular reasons for someone to wrongly accuse a priest of misbehaviour – some can be connected to a person’s dislike of a particular member of the clergy team. Another reason can be that of the social, mental or spiritual health of the complainant. In every case of complaint, therefore, a fair and rigorous investigation must always be available from a source outside of the parish, to ensure justice prevails for all concerned.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A Question about the future celibacy of Catholic Priests

 
Pope Francis at a Vatican mass this month, for cardinals and bishops who have died in 2017.
 Pope Francis at a Vatican mass this month, for cardinals and bishops who have died in 2017. Photograph: Pacific Press/Barcroft Images

Pope Francis may consider ending the celibacy of the parish clergy, at least if local bishops want him to. That much seems clear from the confused reports and counter-reports emerging in advance of a conference of Amazonian Catholic bishops in Brazil.

This is a special case of a more general problem affecting the church worldwide. There are far fewer men coming forward for ordination than it needs. In France the average age of the clergy is over 60; in Ireland Maynooth seminary, built to train 500 priests a year, this year had only six new entrants.

Ending the celibacy of the parish clergy is something any pope could do with a stroke of the pen. It wouldn’t require a change in doctrine. And in some limited cases, it has already been ended in the west. Former Anglican priests in Britain and the US have become married Catholic priests; members of the eastern rite Catholic churches serving Ukrainian immigrants in the US have married clergy, just as they do in their homeland. But bishops all around the world are keen for this disruptive pattern not to spread. The Anglican experiment was established in the teeth of resistance from the English Catholic hierarchy, and is clearly going to die out within a generation, since no new married men are to be ordained.

The bishops’ hostility is easy to understand. A married clergy would break the economic and cultural basis of the church in the west. Parishioners would have to pay for the priest’s family, who would need a house as well as an income; the priest would belong to his family as well his flock; there would be divorces, as there have already been in the US. Clergy who had already signed up for a celibate life would be full of resentment at others not having to make the same sacrifice. Yet the present situation looks increasingly unsustainable.

Pope Francis, Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013
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 Video screens show Pope Francis celebrating mass on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013. Photograph: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

What makes the Brazilian case unique is that the pressure for a married clergy appears to be coming from the local bishops. In 1970 92% of Brazilians identified as Catholics; by 2010 that figure had dropped to 65%. Almost all the loss was accounted for by the rise of Pentecostal churches, which allow married leaders and offer far more public roles to women, along with a theatrical form of Christianity.

There are still 140 million Catholics in Brazil today, but only 18,000 priests to serve them. In the Amazon regions, the problem is most acute. Efforts to import priests from elsewhere in the country have largely failed, because of cultural differences. Elsewhere in the world, especially the US and western Europe, a shortage of home-grown priests has been patched over by importing them from the developing world. But that works only in countries with a language, such as English or Spanish, that is spoken globally. That’s not the case for Brazil’s Portuguese speakers.

One thing is absolutely clear. If this change is made, it will not be imposed by Rome, and it will not be global. Pope Francis is already facing furious resistance to his efforts to soften church attitudes to remarried divorcees. The Anglican example shows how bishops otherwise regarded as liberal can reject a married clergy when they feel it is imposed on them.

A suggestion that the next worldwide gathering of bishops in Rome discuss celibacy has been voted down by the preparatory group. But if the Brazilians decide they want it, and possibly even more radical measures – such as a greater formal role for women in the parishes – Pope Francis won’t stand in their way.

 Andrew Brown is a Guardian columnist

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This article from the U.K. ‘Guardian’ website, published on 8th November 2017 by its columnist Andrew Brown, draws attention to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil is currently understaffed by its celibate clergy. Consequently, some Brazilian Bishops may have requested Pope Francis to offer special dispensation to ordain married men in areas where the shortage of priests is hindering the local mission.

This does not mean that there will be any widespread dispensation for the ordination of married men in the Roman Catholic Church – despite the fact that certain ex-Anglican clergy have been ordained into the Catholic Church on their renunciation of Anglican Orders after the widespread ordination of women into Anglican Churches.

Nevertheless, in places where other Christian Churches have their own married clergy – such as in South America, where these Churches are growing numerically while the growth of the Catholic Church is being hindered by a lack of vocations to the celibate priesthood – the prospect of recruiting married men into their seminaries may be seen as one way to make up the shortfall where priests are thin on the ground.

Such a departure from tradition is never taken lightly in the Roman Catholic Church, but the present Pope – despite the enemies he has already made by his willingness to reform the traditions – has proven his determination to put pastoral exigency before tradition.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Church of England and the gender debate

Sir, Your leading article (Nov 13) tells us of a 1,000 per cent increase in referrals of trans children in the past six years at the Tavistock clinic in London, suggesting a causal link between publicising gender fluidity and the increase of mental disorientation among the young.

Progressive cultural values have produced the highest levels of mental distress among our young in recorded history. Melanie Phillips (Comment, Nov 14) rightly links this ideological struggle with the clash between traditional Christianity and progressive gender politics. Her analysis, that the Church will not only lose this struggle but will destroy itself in doing so if the present leadership of the Church of England continues its allegiance to secular values, is prescient. At stake lies not only the virtues that have underlain the best parts of our culture but the mental health of our most fragile children. As a society we urgently need to reject the politicising of gender identity and exaggerated notions of fluidity. We must allow our children to be safe in the given biology of their bodies. 


The Right Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden
 
Missionary bishop for the Christian Episcopal Church

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Sir, As the teacher suspended for “misgendering” in your news report (Nov 13) I find it very unhelpful for the CofE to be a force in normalising behaviour and policy that have potentially grave consequences for our children, and which as a result also harm the ability of Christian teachers, parents and students to live out their faith in accordance with their sincerely held belief that we are all born biologically male or female. Statistics indicate that gender confusion itself and other co-morbidities lead to self-harm and suicide, not bullying.

When we embrace and promote gender confusion, without questioning it or properly addressing it, we are doing our young people a tremendous disservice and are artificially reinforcing behaviour that will dissipate in 98 per cent of cases.


Joshua Sutcliffe

Oxford

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Sir, When Christians, and parts of the Church, change their minds about things (eg, sexuality) it does not necessarily mean that they are embracing the secularist agenda or, pace Melanie Phillips, caving in to the pressure from powerful interest groups. It could just be that we are trying to apply the message of the Gospels to our changing world.

Many of us have come to the conclusion that, over the centuries, the Church has been complicit in causing untold harm to people whose sexuality was outside what was then considered the mainstream. Harm to people harms the Body of Christ, and also harms the whole body of society. It makes our faith harmful which, as far as I am concerned, is inexcusable.

Tradition isn’t always right.

The Rev Canon Timothy Kinahan
Helen’s Bay, Co Down

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Sir, I am surprised that Melanie Phillips, in her article, is still pursuing the discredited notion that the Church of England is capitulating to the tide of secularism. Does she not realise that those she labels as “liberals” take Scripture just as seriously as those she calls “traditionalists”, and that those who she believes are “set on remaking the world in the image of ‘me’ ” are actually set on reforming the Church in the loving image of Jesus Christ?

Unless the Church of England does this it will indeed lead to an emptying of pews by a nation that has judged the Church and found it sorely wanting in love and truth. It is not secularism that we need to fear but a growing fundamentalism of pharisaical proportions that worships the letter of the law but not the truth behind it.


Jayne Ozanne

Lay member of the General Synod, Church of England

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In this extract from the Letters to the Times, we have two letters from each side of the arguments that have been provoked by an article written by Melanie Phillips in the Times issued on 13 November. Without knowing specifically the contents of that article, I cannot comment on its specificity, but from the letters included here, it must have been written against the recent decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury to ban the bullying of LGBTQ children in Anglican Church schools in the U.K.

Interestingly, the first Letter; by schismatic ‘Bishop Gavin Ashenden’ – ordained to represent a foreign quasi-Anglican Church in the U.K. – quotes the original author of the 13th November Times article, in his insistence that “ As a society, we urgently need to reject the politicising of gender identity and exaggerated notions of fluidity. We must allow our children to be safe in the given biology of their bodies.” –  This, in spite of the now established fact; that Trans-Gender youths are more likely to be safe when the Church and Society recognise their need to be comfortably ‘at home’  with what they know is the different ‘reality’ of their own bodies.

The fourth, and final letter here, by Jayne Ozanne, who is a Lay member of the Church of England General Synod, decries the efforts of Melanie Phillips, and others like her who insist on categorising those in the Church open to the recognition of difference in sexual-orientation as “liberals”,  who do not take the Bible as seriously as Traditionalists. This claim, Jayne says, is not only false but leads to the disaffection of thinking Anglicans who have learned to be discriminating in their interpretation of the Bible – towards the long due recognition of the demands of Love and Justice in our modern world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Why Christian Conservatives Supported Donald Trump

EVANGELICAL AUTHOR ON WHY CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES SUPPORTED TRUMP

Though he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, the Electoral College carried Donald Trump across the line with razor thin victories in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Nationally, he relied very heavily on support from a base few would have associated with Trump at any other point in his life—Christian conservatives. For decades, this group has advocated the sort of stern public morality that Trump has, for decades, publicly despoiled. And yet, despite his many flagrant sins—indeed, despite his refusal to repent for them—Trump won the support of America’s most self-consciously pious voters. Over the twelve months since, political observers around the world have been asking one perplexed and frustrated question: Why?

In his new book, Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him, Stephen Mansfield seeks to answer that question. By contextualizing the 2016 race, briefly recounting Trump’s religious biography, and exploring the mindset of the “Values Voters” who turned out en masse, Mansfield works to make their choice intelligible. RD’s Eric C. Miller spoke with him about the lessons learned.

Just over a year ago, 81 percent of white, evangelical Christian voters supported a presidential candidate who could be the perfect avatar for everything they claim to oppose. Why?

They did it mainly because they felt traumatized in the wake of the Obama years and terrified by the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency. You have to realize that, if you were a religious conservative in America, coming out of the Obama years you felt like the administration had bombarded your faith. There was a strident LGBT agenda, a strident pro-choice agenda, lawsuits against—for instance—the Green family of Hobby Lobby for not wanting to fund abortifacients in their employee insurance, and even small orders of nuns were sued.* In the culture of conservative evangelicalism, there was a feeling that there had been a war declared upon their tradition. And Clinton would be more of the same.

*Fact Check: Lawsuits were not, in fact, filed by the government against the Green family or against the Little Sisters of the Poor (to whom Mansfield presumably refers). In fact, both entities, backed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, filed suit against the federal government. In addition, while the Green family, the Little Sisters, and other conservative Christians, believe that morning-after pills are “abortifacients,” the science shows that they are not. – The Eds.

So there was a very strong sense of fear and shared anger that turned people toward Donald Trump. We should remember, though, that he did not have the majority of the evangelical vote in the primaries, but as it became clear that Clinton would be waiting in the general election, I think it became obvious to a lot of religious conservatives that there was only one candidate who was—call it what you will—crass enough, harsh enough, bombastic enough, or strong enough to defeat her, and so they put their hopes in him.

As I say in the book, I think they vastly overdid it. They let their fear and their anger drive them to a virtual religious re-branding of Donald Trump, and I think it will have serious blowback for religious conservatives in America. But that’s what they attempted, and that’s why I think there was such broad acceptance of Trump among religious conservatives.

Your presentation of the white evangelical case against Obama is generous. But as I read this familiar list of complaints—about contraception, same-sex marriage, Planned Parenthood—it still seems to me that they are claiming the “religious freedom” to strip away other people’s freedoms, and that they feel embittered when they can’t. Having presented their case, are you sympathetic to it?

Well, I’m a Christian and a right of center conservative—not extreme right, but right of center—so I do understand some of that case. I do think that the Obama administration was overly strident against certain forms of traditional religion. But I take a different view on some issues. To put it bluntly, I am free of the fear about the future that many of my fellow Christians seem to feel, and I take a more libertarian attitude toward the acceptance of views other than my own in a healthy democracy.

I think the average religious conservative in America is afraid because they feel their America slipping away, that they’ve lost their position—their “privilege” if you want to call it that—and certainly their liberties. They feel like there is a fight for an America that once was and no longer is. Because I am a historian, but also because I think differently about the issues, I don’t share that same sense of paradise lost. I think we are stepping into a new world and a new order, and that evangelicals are going to have to learn to live within it rather than always raging against it.

You seem amenable to the idea that a lot of white evangelicals were so angry about Obama and the last eight years that they were willing to support just about anyone to get the Democrats out of the White House. So, as the saying goes, they “held their noses” and voted Trump. But political scientists have investigated this claim, and found that “Evangelicals who voted for Trump felt the same level of warmth for him as did other Trump voters.” Have they been claiming a reluctance that they didn’t actually feel?

I think there is a capacity for American voters to convince themselves that they are voting for the best of candidates in the worst of worlds. Many of them, when they leave the polls, will say yes, this is someone that I am enthusiastic about. But the speed with which Trump has lost popularity among evangelicals since taking office makes me wonder if they weren’t simply convincing themselves that he was the best option at the time and that, somehow, their vote was a “righteous” vote.

He’s had about a 10-15 percent drop-off in support from the evangelical community since taking office. So while there may be a sort of exaggerated self-reporting around the time when an evangelical casts a vote, there is some indication that there was never really that depth of devotion. I don’t think their support was ever very deep, and it seems to be weakening quickly.

It is well established that party affiliation is a major influencer of voting decisions, and equally well established that about ¾ of white evangelicals have voted Republican in the last several presidential elections. So are we overthinking this? Were they always going to vote for Trump simply because they always vote for the Republican?

I think that you’re making a good point, which is that there is a degree of essentially unreserved support for the most conservative candidate in any given election. But Donald Trump went beyond what a normal conservative, Republican candidate can count on from the religious base. He not only polled a high percentage of practicing evangelicals, but also non-practicing evangelicals.

(Some scholars make the distinction between practicing and non-practicing, meaning those who identify as evangelicals but don’t go to church regularly, and who tend to have higher rates of addiction, divorce, arrest, etc.)

He activated—and I’m from the south so I get to say this—the “Bubba vote,” even the non-religious Bubba vote. So Trump went beyond what John McCain received, what Mitt Romney received, even what George W. Bush received. I think that is attributable, again, to a lot of the anger and fear that these voters were feeling. Between his economic empowerment message and his overt support for religious liberty, I think that played very well within both practicing and non-practicing evangelical cultures.

You touch on race at several points throughout the book, usually as part of a list of Trump sins that white evangelicals were willing to look past. But white evangelicals are a white constituency by definition, and Trump ran a campaign based largely on racial demagoguery. Are white evangelicals more supportive of Trump’s racism than they’re willing to admit?

Well I can’t say that they are supportive of his racism, but they are definitely tolerant of it. This is one of the issues that I raise in the book. He got 81 percent of the vote from white evangelicals, and now evangelicals of color are looking at their white co-religionists and saying, Well I guess it didn’t matter to you that he was making those racist statements. I guess it didn’t matter to you that he has these feelings about Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, etc. So I don’t know that white evangelicals were supportive of his racism, but it certainly wasn’t a deal-breaker.

I’m a little bit sensitive about this because—and I don’t mind injecting my story into this—that was one of the main reasons why I couldn’t vote for Trump. I have African Americans in my family, I have black nieces and nephews, and I couldn’t look them in the eye having voted for a man who seems to hold them in such disregard. All of that to say that this is all very questionable. I would be careful not to accuse white evangelicals of supporting Trump’s racism, but it’s very clear that they tolerated it and they voted for him anyway and that has created a very serious fault line in the evangelical community between believers of color and those who are white.

On top of everything we already knew about Trump’s views on women, the Access Hollywood tape went public less than a month before the election. At that point, I thought that he was totally done because there was simply no way that evangelical Christians could possibly justify supporting a man who said the things that he said. But they did. So what are we to make of their attitudes concerning infidelity, divorce, harassment, sexual assault, and toward women in general?

That is, in my opinion, a low-water mark for American evangelicalism. People who had stood before television cameras and in their pulpits and absolutely decried sexual excess and misconduct, and who pushed a very strong sexual purity message, were then able to turn around and say publically that, you know, “boys will be boys.” These were revelations about Trump abusing women—grabbing them inappropriately, speaking of them as though they’re meat. That was an extremely disturbing moment when we watched, as you say, these evangelicals making excuses for him. And I am very critical on this point in my book.

Donald Trump is Donald Trump. He’s not hiding who he is and he has never hidden from us who he is. He’s never even claimed to be born again or to be a great spiritual leader. But those around him, those religious right leaders who made excuses for him at that moment, who tried to rebrand him as Lincoln, as Churchill, as Cyrus the Great, Nebuchadnezzer, or whatever else, have not only caused a lot of damage, but I think compromised their entire message.

More disturbing, perhaps, recently the Washington Post has run a couple of articles in which they’ve asked whether there is anything that Trump could do to cause these evangelical leaders to withdraw their support from him, and their answers make clear that their thinking is transactional. “We support him until the last breath because he gives us access that no other President has given us.” They are admitting to the transactional nature of their relationship with him, and I think that is a dramatic step down from the loftier pulpits that they should be maintaining.

You’ve dedicated the book to the Millennial generation, and you told National Public Radio that the young adults you’ve interviewed have been repelled by the “hypocrisy” of Trump supporters in the church. What hopes and expectations do you have for these young people in the years to come?

Well, I like that they are oriented toward social justice, I like that they question what has come before them—I think only good can come from that. I’m sorry that they feel distanced from their churches because, in many cases, their evangelical churches have been too political.

But I’m not sorry that they’re searching, I’m not sorry that they’re raising questions, and I think ultimately this will produce good [things]. I think its good that there are tough conversations happening at dinner tables all around this country, in which Millennials are questioning their Boomer and Xer parents, and saying what in the world were you thinking? I think it’s challenging easy thinking and generational laxity, and I think it will do a lot of good. I’m glad the Millennials are the fly in the ointment, and I think they are striking out in some important directions.

I live inside the Beltway but outside the District, in Alexandria, Virginia. As you know, we just had a gubernatorial election in Virginia, and 70 percent of young voters voted for the Democratic candidate—and against Gillespie, who was the GOP candidate. That is almost twice the number in the previous election. So the young, probably in reaction to Trump and to some of the machinations on the Right, went strongly for the Democrat. I think that is an indication of future trends. It will probably settle down, but I think that the social consciences of the young are raising some important questions. We need to listen to them and I think we will be a better country for it.

(Article from ‘Religion Dispatches’)

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In his interview with author Stephen Mansfield, correspondent Eric Miller draws some interesting comments from him – about the disaffection of many millennial Evangelical Christians for Donald Trump, and those of their Churches who elected him:

E.M: You’ve dedicated the book to the Millennial generation, and you told National Public Radio that the young adults you’ve interviewed have been repelled by the “hypocrisy” of Trump supporters in the church. What hopes and expectations do you have for these young people in the years to come?

S.M: Well, I like that they are oriented toward social justice, I like that they question what has come before them—I think only good can come from that. I’m sorry that they feel distanced from their churches because, in many cases, their evangelical churches have been too political.

As Stephen Mansfield suggest here, and in his book, ‘Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him; there seems to be a degree of disingenuousness on the part of the Conservative Evangelical Voters – who helped to put Donald Trump into power in the U.S., about the wisdom of their choice.

It seems the fears of the ‘liberal’ alternative – with Hilary Clinton likely to become the next U.S. President at the last Election – caused the Evangelical Preachers and Teachers who were bemoaning what they saw as America’s moral decline under the liberal Democratic leadership of President Obama – to grasp at the only Republican they calculated as able to win the election against Clinton. The trouble was, they had not taken the trouble to examine the libertarian character of the man they saw as their Saviour.

With the inevitable reaction against Trump by millennial Evangelicals, Stephen Mansfield recognises that, in their disaffection with the leadership of President Trump, the blame lies mainly with their elders in the Conservative Churches to which they belong are virtually responsible for the combative situation into which their country has now been projected.

Mansfield hopes that the future of America – in the hands of these millennials whose consciences have been pricked by what they regard as a moral lapse into hypocrisy on the part of their Evangelical Leaders – is the country’s best insurance against total collapse of America’s credibility as a leading world power based on social justice and a moral code.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Same-sex marriage result: Australia votes ‘yes’

Stephanie Peatling

  • Australia has voted ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage;
  • 61.6 per cent of people voted ‘yes’ and 38.4 per cent of people voted ‘no’;
  • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on politicians to respect the will of the people;
  • Mr Turnbull wants legislation passed by Christmas; 
  • debate on the legislation is likely to begin tomorrow.
  • __________________________________________________________

YES result: How the day played out

(For a proper progressive time-frame of the action on the Referendum – Scroll UP from the botto of this article)

It started with a statistician, and ended with a bill introduced to the Senate. Look back at the defining moments of this historic day.

It’s the end of the day. What happened?

My thanks to Andrew Meares and Alex Ellinghausen for their superb efforts and to you for reading and commenting.

You can follow me on Facebook.

Andrew, Alex and I will be back in the morning for the start of the parliamentary debate. Please join us. Until then – have a wonderful evening.

If you’d like to see Australia’s ‘jubo’, as the photographers refer to scenes of jubilation, look no further.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott is speaking to Sydney radio.

“I’m not going to vote against the will of the people,” he says.

“I am not going to try to stop this going through the Parliament. There will be no filibustering, no clever political tactics.”

I have seen some disappointment the ‘yes’ vote wasn’t higher.

Let me put it in context for you.

At 61.6 per cent the ‘yes’ received more votes than Labor or the Coalition have ever got at a federal election.

The highest vote ever for the Coalition was 56.9 per cent in 1966. The highest vote ever for Labor was 53.2 per cent in 1983.

There is applause for Senator Smith as he introduces his bill.

The motion is passed on the voices which means debate will start tomorrow at 9.30 am.

This is the only item the Senate will consider tomorrow.

Senator Dean Smith with Senators Louise Pratt, Janet Rice, Skye Kakoschke-Moore, Penny Wong and Derryn Hinch after the ...
Senator Dean Smith with Senators Louise Pratt, Janet Rice, Skye Kakoschke-Moore, Penny Wong and Derryn Hinch after the introduction of the Marriage Amendment Bill on Wednesday. Photo: Andrew Meares

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Greens leader Richard Di Natale is making the same noises.

He says the consensus bill “is the position the Greens support”.

“Think very, very carefully about entrenching discrimination to appease your colleagues rather than listening to the Australian people who spoke so clearly today.”

Senator Wong is speaking: “I believe the Australian people voted to remove discrimination and I trust the bill will reflect that.”

She is not indicating there is any scope for amendment.

Senator Brandis says there is “no government view” on the bill but he has his own thoughts.

He says he will move an amendment to make it clear there is nothing in the bill to make it “unlawful for people to hold and express their own views on the subject of marriage”.

Attorney-General George Brandis in the Senate on Wednesday.
Attorney-General George Brandis in the Senate on Wednesday. Photo: Fairfax Media

Attorney-General George Brandis is speaking on the bill in the Senate.

He says debate will begin tomorrow and will continue until it is “finally disposed of”.

He thinks this could take the whole of the week of November 27.

This means there is only one bill before Parliament.

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Senator Paterson has pulled his bill.

“I am very pleased with the strong ‘yes’ result today. At last, same sex couples will be able to get married, as I have long advocated,” he said in a statement.

“The Parliament must now quickly pass a bill to legalise same sex marriage. It is clear the majority of senators believe my colleague Senator Dean Smith’s bill is where we should start. I will now work constructively with my parliamentary colleagues over the coming weeks on amendments to ensure that the strongest possible protections for the freedoms of all Australians are enshrined in the final legislation.”

We’re just waiting for the debate about whether Senator Smith’s bill will go ahead to begin.

Any minute now.

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The Australian public has delivered its overwhelming opinion towards the enactment of legislation for Same-Sex Marriage in their country. 

Despite heavy support for the NO Vote by the Sydney Anglican Diocese ($1 Million -worth) – being a true measure of the diocese’s conservative evangelical roots at Moore Theological College, which probably lowered the majority of YES Votes in the New South Wales State – the overall nationwide approval, at 61.2% of those voting, probably turned out to exceed any of the opposition’s expectations.

All that remains now is for the Australian Federal Parliament to pass the legislation – which will bring Australia into line with New Zealand’s current legislation on Equal Marriage. The Prime Minister wants this to happen before Christmas.

The result of the plebiscite was greeted by the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, as a “Victory for Love, Equal Rights and Justice”.

Former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott said, on Sydney radio: 

“I’m not going to vote against the will of the people. I am not going to try to stop this going through the Parliament. There will be no filibustering, no clever political tactics.”

It will be interesting to see what those opposing the legislation will now do in response.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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