Local and Michigan Headlines: Measure Introduced to Repeal Ban on Same-Sex Marriage; Brother Defends Local Administrator of Racist Website

Here are some interesting articles covering Grand Rapids and Michigan that were published elsewhere on the web in the past couple of days:

  • Byrnes same-sex marriage initiative surprises Mich. Democrats – State Representative Pam Brynes is introducing legislation to reverse the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. According to Brynes, the time is right with recent polls showing that most Michigan residents support same-sex marriage and even former Vice President Dick Cheney saying that it’s time.
  • Appeals court allows ACLU challenge on public defender system to go forward – A Michigan Court of Appeals in Ingham County has rejected a claim of immunity by the state of Michigan and allowed a challenge filed by the ACLU on behalf of a class of indigent defendants against the state’s public defender system to go to trial.
  • Senate bills would weaken environmental rules, privatize review – Michigan State Senator Judson Gilbert has introduced two bills in the Senate that would weaken environmental laws by taking away the state’s ability to make laws stricter than their federal counterparts. The bills would also require state agencies to review all laws and asses their friendliness to business.
  • Michigan’s Unkindest Cuts – This is a short commentary piece published over at Michigan Liberal that criticizes the state of Michigan’s decision to cut funding for the arts. The author argues that arts funding–always the first to be cut–is a critical means of attracting new residents to Michigan.
  • Man died defending home despite U.S. eviction moratorium – Late last month, local and state police wearing SWAT equipment and using an armored truck showed up at an Allen Park home to evict a man who was living in his house despite its being foreclosed. The man was shot and killed when police shot a barrage of bullets at his house. Now, several weeks after the shooting, it’s still unclear what happened.
  • Most of West Michigan’s federal stimulus money flowing to road work – The majority of federal stimulus money being spent in West Michigan is going towards roads. The Grand Rapids Press has a handy map highlighting the various projects that have received funding.
  • A question of race? Working couple stopped by police – The Muskegon Chronicle has a disturbing report about racial profiling: an African-American couple quit their job distributing phone books in the predominately white town of Grand Haven because they felt unwelcome after two encounters with police.
  • Mike Lloyd: The special privilege of a Press career – Grand Rapids Press editor Mike Lloyd–who is leaving the Press–gushes about his brushes with power over the years. While not particularly newsworthy, it’s a good reminder of why I’m so glad to see him go.
  • Grand Rapids’ Downtown Development Authority: Did members assemble illegally? – Grand Rapids’ Downtown Development Authority used a secret meeting to discuss a controversial spending plan. Unfortunately, it isn’t the first time the DDA has used secret meetings. The Grand Rapids Press has more in this must-read article.
  • Brother defends hate site operator Steve Reimink who has ties to alleged Holocaust Museum shooter – The brother of Steve Reimink–who was tied to a racist website operated by the Holocaust museum shooter–is trying claim that Steve Reimink is just a normal guy with no ties to organized racism. In the article from the Grand Rapids Press, the Southern Poverty Law Center says that is extremely unlikely.
  • Fair Tax plan wins big at convention – Tea Party activists in Michigan–an outgrowth of national rightwing protests against taxes back in April–are considering a ballot measure to implement a so-called “fair tax” that would replace Michigan’s taxes with a single higher sales tax.
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Local and Michigan Headlines: What Happened to Single Payer Health Care; College-Bound Michigan Students Unsure about Financial Aid

Some worthwhile articles published elsewhere in the past 24 hours or so:

Local and Michigan Headlines: Updates on Coal Plants in Michigan; Pete Hoekstra is Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World”

Here’s some interesting headlines covering Grand Rapids and Michigan from the past twenty-four hours:

Repairing What Shouldn’t Be Fixed

by Kate Wheeler

November 1, 1878. That was a particularly dark day for American Indians; the day that Captain Richard Pratt opened the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. His goal: to “kill the Indian, but not the man”–to “fix” Indians by teaching them that everything about being an Indian was wrong, and that Indian children needed to be as much like whites as they possibly could.

The staff at the Carlisle School and many others at schools like it continually represented themselves as working compassionately to “help” Native Americans find their footing in a White world. But the fact was that these schools were founded on bigotry, hatred, and an agenda to neutralize any future threat of Indian uprisings against Whites.

The Damage of Hidden Agendas

When President Hayes questioned whether or not Captain Pratt was needed more as a soldier than a teacher, Pratt snapped back in a letter that he was fighting a war to bring “civilization out of savagery! Industry and thrift out of laziness! Education out of ignorance! Cleanliness out of filth!” His actual feelings about the children he was “helping” is pretty clear in that passage.

Today, Indians throughout North America are still haunted with depression, high suicide rates, and substance abuse that are a direct result of the brainwashing their parents and grandparents endured in these schools, where they were told that nothing about themselves was right; that what was inherent within them needed correction or, better yet, abrogation.

History Repeats Itself

Do any of these techniques and results sound familiar? If you read the news last week, it should be ringing some bells. You would have heard of a dog-and-pony show that’s on its way to West Michigan with a similar message–put on by people who are attempting to create as much damage in the LGBT community as Pratt and his kind wreaked on Native American tribes. Love Won Out, a “reparative therapy” group, is going to be setting up shop at the Sunshine Community Church to help people with same-sex attractions heal themselves of their very natures.

Just like Pratt, Love Won Out, brainchild of the infamous James Dobson, professes public compassion for those who are “affected by homosexuality” and seeks to bring them “into the arms of their Creator.” This kindly language is mirrored by Dobson’s Family Research Council, which states “Compassion, not bigotry, compels us to support the healing of homosexuals.”

Two Faces, A Single Goal

But groups like this sound very different when they’re speaking to their base. Recently, as one example, Exodus International President Alan Chambers stated, “One of the many evils this world has to offer is the sin of homosexuality.”

And so Love Won Out and groups like them come to us with their hidden bigotry and their surface “compassion” and their agenda to kill the homosexual, not the man. And they offer their bizarre treatments, which range from suggesting prescriptions for Prozac to meditating on a tree when one feels same-sex desires to improving one’s hand-to-eye coordination (on the supposition that men who are bad at sports become gay out of pure shame).

Lack of a Scientific Basis

Although they claim a high success rate of turning gays into heterosexuals, the ex-gay industry never offers scientific data or actual statistics–mainly because their successes are mostly failures. These broken results were predicted by the American Psychiatric Association when it stated in 1998 that “the potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior…”

That scenario sounds so similar to the one being played out on reservations that you’d think that there’d be some value in the lessons of history–but apparently not.

Even worse, some ex-gay counselors insist to their clients that therapies to cure homosexuality are routinely used in mainstream treatment, a lie which is repudiated by groups such as the American Psychological Association. This professional organization issued a statement in 2006 which said, “For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure.”

Because the Bible Told Me So

With the force of all of the major mental health professional groups standing against them, how do groups like Love Won Out justify their ongoing march of reparative destruction? Why, because it’s mandated by the Bible, of course. The problem with that argument is that the Bible can be carefully cherry-picked to justify any evil under the sun, and has been. It’s been used as a call to war…as a justification for slaughtering Jews…as an excuse for empire-building and the eradication of native cultures…as a foundation for lynchings…as the rationalization for slavery. Remember that Jefferson Davis said in a famous speech, “Slavery was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible.”

The tactic of Biblical justification for human horrors once prompted Lord Byron to remark, “History is the devil’s scripture.”

When Love Won Out arrives in Grand Rapids, it will be funded by its $146 million budget. It will be fueled with a religious zeal to transform everyone into the same cookie-cutter view of what is acceptable–acceptable in the eyes of James Dobson, if not of God.

But the basis of this group, just like the philosophy of the Indian school educators, is absurdly flawed. Gays can’t be fixed any more than I could fix the fact that I’m straight, or five-foot-three, or that one of the major lines of my family is rooted not in Spain or Germany or Russia but in the Abenaki Nation. These things can’t be fixed because there’s nothing wrong with them.

We are each perfect in the richness of our differences. Someone should try that concept as a reparative therapy for the Reverend Dobson.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Film Looks at Philanthropy in Grand Rapids; Family Research Council Candidate for Hoekstra’s Seat

Here are some interesting articles published elsewhere in the past 24 hours covering Grand Rapids and Michigan:

Rally Tomorrow in Support of Benton Harbor Civil Rights Leader

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Tomorrow, a federal appeals court in Grand Rapids will begin hearing an appeal by the ACLU on behalf of the Benton Harbor activist Reverend Ed Pinkney who has been targeted by the government for his civil rights work in Benton Harbor.

Outside of the hearing, a coalition of supports will be staging a demonstration. An announcement of the demonstration was sent to MediaMouse.org:

ACLU Defends Persecuted Benton Harbor Civil Rights Leader in Grand Rapids Appeals Trial

Concerned Citizens Rally in Defense of a “Voice for the Voiceless”

Who: The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO), the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR), the Grand Rapids IWW, and people from throughout Michigan who support social justice.

Why: Rev. Pinkney has been fighting for social justice in Benton Harbor as leader of the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO). He was convicted by an all-white jury on trumped-up charges related to false allegations of voter fraud. The ACLU was successful in winning his release from prison, on bond, pending the outcome of his appeal.

What: Picket in Support of Rev. Pinkney’s Civil Rights

When: June 9, 8 am. Trial begins at 9 am.

Where:

Court Of Appeals Building

350 Ottawa

Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Local and Michigan Headlines: Mackinac Center Attacks Organized Labor (Yet Again); Poll Finds Support for Gay Marriage in Michigan

Here’s some interesting Grand Rapids and Michigan headlines from today and over the weekend:

Local and Michigan Headlines: West Michigan Ready for Wind Power Development; Recycling Improvements Proposed for Kent County

We missed yesterday, but here’s some recent Michigan headlines:

If we missed anything, let us know in the comments.

Wake Up Weekend Videos Now Online

Calvin College has posted the videos from this winter’s “Wake Up Weekend”–an annual celebration of animal advocacy–online. They are very much worth watching for anyone wanting to learn more about animal rights, animal advocacy, veganism, and factory farming.

The following video–just one of many–is of Nekeisha Alexis-Baker’s talk on “Speciesim, Sexism, and Racism: The Intertwining Oppressions.” We wrote about her talk over the winter and were quite impressed by it:

Ex-Gay Conference in Grand Rapids to be met by Panel, Protest

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I received a disturbing email earlier today about an “ex-gay” conference at Sunshine Community Church here in Grand Rapids. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, “ex-gay” ministries are rightwing religious/political ministries that operate with a homophobic/anti-gay agenda that says that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be “cured” by prayer and/or “reparative therapy.”

This particular conference is sponsored by a group affiliated with Focus on the Family called Love Wins Out. It’s part of a multi-million dollar industry of rightwing ministries focused on repressing LGBT people. The conference features sessions outlining “the family dynamics that can lead to the development of same-sex desires,” how lesbians are a result of “emotional dependency,” how to raise children “toward a healthy heterosexual identity,” and how to pursue legislative efforts aimed at stopping LGBT equality.

If anything good came out of the news, it’s that there is already serious organizing going into the countering the hateful message of the program, with Grand Valley State University organizing a panel discussion on ex-gay ministries and a protest at Calder Plaza.

An email from GVSU’s LGBT Resource Center provides some background information and outlines the events:

Dear members and friends of the LGBT community,

Focus on the Family is bringing their anti-gay seminar “Love Won Out” to Sunshine Ministry Church on Saturday, June 13th. This program has a “pray away the gay” philosophy.

To present another side to that conversation, Grand Valley State University will host a panel discussion on religion and homophobia that will feature national and local experts.

“Religion and Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in Our Community” is set for Thursday, June 11, from 7-9 p.m. in the Eberhard Center, Room 215, on Grand Valley’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus at 301 W. Fulton St. The event is free and open to the public.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, will begin the discussion with a presentation about the nature, validity, and impact of “ex-gay” reparative ministries or therapies. Truth Wins Out is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community against anti-gay misinformation campaigns.

Panel members will include the following:

• John Corvino, Wayne State University professor, author and lecturer;

• Milt Ford, director of Grand Valley’s LGBT Resource Center;

• Judith Snow, Grand Rapids area forensic therapist and author;

• Doug Van Doren, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ;

• Josh Sleutel, GVSU student, previous reparative therapy patient.

Join our Facebook group, “Religion & Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in our Community” The National Organization of Women is planning a protest response to “Love Won Out” on Saturday, June 13 at noon – Calder Plaza. Join their Facebook group at “Grand Rapids NOW Takes Action!

The event is sponsored by Grand Valley’s Division of Inclusion and Equity, Dean of Students Office, LGBT Resource Center, Women’s Center, Women and Gender Studies Department, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Liberal Studies Department, Allies and Advocates, and the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association.

For more information, call the LGBT Resource Center at (616) 331-2530. Tell your friends!