In February, Iraq's Interior Ministry denounced the music and fashions known collectively as "emo" as Satanic. Shortly thereafter, leaflets began appearing in Shi'ite neighborhoods around Baghdad -- Sadr City, Baya -- bearing the names of local "emo" kids, urging them to give up their depravity and get right with God. A sample text:
We strongly warn you, to all the obscene males and females, if you will not leave this filthy work within four days the punishment of God will descend upon you at the hand of the Mujahideen.
The Mujahideen weren't joking. Those four allotted days expired at the end of the month. Since then, according to the AP:
At least 14 bodies of youths have been brought to three hospitals in eastern Baghdad bearing signs of having been beaten to death with rocks or bricks, security and hospital sources told Reuters under condition they not be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Nine bodies were brought to hospitals in Sadr City, a vast, poor Shi'ite neighborhood, three were brought to East Baghdad's main al-Kindi hospital and two were brought to the central morgue, medical sources said.
Six other young people, including two girls, were wounded in beatings intended as warnings, the security sources said.
Leading Shi'ia clerics, even very crazy ones, have spoken out against the stonings, as has the Interior Ministry. From the AP:
... on his website on Saturday, Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shi'ite cleric whose followers dominate Sadr City, described "emo" youths as "crazy and fools", but said they should be dealt with only through the law.
"They are a plague on Muslim society, and those responsible should eliminate them through legal means," he said.
Before Dunkerton High School in Iowa agreed to allow the band Junkyard Prophet to run an assembly for its students -- and certainly before the school's officials agreed to produce the band's fee, which is ordinarily $1,500 -- school officials really ought to have run the band's name through Google.
If they had, they'd have realized that Junkyard Prophet is the proselytizing apparatus of You Can Run But You Can't Hide Ministries, a Christianist group with a message precisely as vengeful and violent as its name suggests.
The band's founder, officials would have learned, is drummer Bradlee Dean: the lugubrious beatmaker who called Barack Obama a heathen while delivering an opening prayer at the Minnesota State House, and who occasionally suggests that Christians should take their cues on gay rights from conservative, sharia-abiding Muslims.
But the school officials did no such Googling, and Junkyard Prophet appeared at the school on Thursday. They performed a concert, and then divided the school into three break-out groups: One for boys, one for girls, and one for teachers. (That may well mean that these angry zealots were left alone with the students after virtually no official screening at all.) From the Lacrosse Tribune:
"They told my daughter, the girls, that they were going to have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren't virgins," said Jennifer Littlefield, a parent upset with the band's performance.
Her daughter, Alivia Littlefield, 16, is a junior, and called Littlefield after the event.
"I couldn't even understand her, she was crying so hard," Littlefield said.
Littlefield also did not appreciate what she described as gay bashing.
"They told these kids that anyone who was gay was going to die at the age of 42," she said. "It just blows me away that no one stopped this."
Alivia was only one of many students left in tears by the band's breakout sessions (which, in addition to encouraging young girls to safeguard their virginity, reminded them to remain subservient to their future husbands). After Junkyard Prophet left the campus, an apparently sheepish Superintendent Jim Stanton addressed the school, emphasizing the "positive aspects of the group's message." But, according to the Tribune:
... he also told students the presenters shared "an opinion about intolerance that's not in line with the beliefs of the Dunkerton Community Schools."
"We promote tolerance for one another," Stanton said. "We will continue to celebrate diversity in our student body."
Nevertheless, it seems that students who attempted to depart Junkyard Prophet's breakout sessions were "shouted down" or "ridiculed as disrespectful" -- whether by school staff or by band members is unclear.
Dunkerton High has requested that Junkyard Prophet return their honorarium.
On March 6th, University of Nebraska football coach Ron Brown appeared before the Omaha City Council to testify against anti-discrimination regulations proposed by Councilmember Ben Gray. His argument, essentially, was this: By protecting LGBTs from employment discrimination, the council would grant its imprimatur to sodomy. (The idea that Bible-believing Christians might be both anti-sodomy and anti-employment discrimination never occurred to him.) Andy's been covering the Omaha drama extensively -- click here for the full back story.
As a gay Christian (that bleeds all things Big Red), and a long time season ticket holder that comes with a $1,000 dollar donation each year, I really felt betrayed by Coach Brown's comments. I am no stranger to this type of rhetoric. I was shocked to hear Coach Brown tie Memorial Stadium to his anti-gay statements.
I am a licensed registered nurse and an attorney. I say grace with every meal. I pray daily for those in need. I have dealt with homophobia since I was kid. I was bullied throughout school. In my twenties, I was fired from a job and kicked out of an apartment because I was gay. In my thirties, I was the victim of a hate crime and I was outed on the television show Survivor. Now in my 40s, I still hear the anti-gay rhetoric throughout my beloved state.
I am all for free speech. There are limits when a representative like Coach Brown who is associated with the University exercises his first amendment rights and states that his address is Memorial Stadium. I get that it was an attempt at humor; I can assure you that many gay and straight husker fans did not find it funny.
As you are aware, the University is comprised of all types of various colors, genders, ages, religions, and yes, people of different sexual orientations and gender identities. While Coach Brown's fight for his civil rights, is waning, the rights of gays and lesbians are far from secure. To hear Coach Brown, a representative of the University of Nebraska, use God and Jesus to argue against providing gays and lesbians protection from people that would harm them in the work place is beyond the pale. It makes me wonder what would happen if one of the football players came out. Would he bench them? Would he recommend kicking them off the team? I know former players that are gay. Has the University ever once asked them what it was like hiding in plain sight?
You can read the full letter here.
Osborne apologized, writing that:
I'm sorry that you've been offended by Ron Brown's comments. I can assure you that Ron's comments are reflective of his own views and do not represent those of the Athletic Department or the University.
But Ron Brown won't shut up. In interviews last week, according to Omaha.com:
... Brown also questioned whether he would have been criticized if he had testified in support of the anti-discrimination proposal.
“Should every employee from the University of Nebraska have to say that they're not representing the university?” Brown asked. “Would I have been OK if I was on the other side of the coin, in terms of if I was in favor of the proposal?”
Of course it would have, Ron, because in that instance you would have been repping the University's POV. Not all opinions are equal.
Here's hoping the ceremony was lovelier than the circumstances preceding it. Fischer and Robin live in Missouri, where Fischer for years taught music at a Catholic school (St. Ann) and served as part-time music director at a Catholic church (St. Rose Philippine Duchesne). He was always open about his sexual orientation, and about his relationship with Robin. As the couple prepared to fly to New York for their ceremony, Fischer announced his plans at a school staff meeting. There was applause.
But one fellow in attendance, a representative of the St. Louis Archdiocese, probably did not clap. He reported the news of Fischer's impending nuptials to his superiors, and the next day Fischer was fired.
From the Times:
Two weeks later, after news of his firing made headlines, he was terminated from his second, part-time job as music director for the Roman Catholic church where he and his partner, Charlie Robin, have worshiped for more than six years.
“I didn’t expect any of this,” said Mr. Fischer ... “I didn’t understand it would be, ‘click, you’re done,’ but it was.”
Fischer's firing prompted a storm of protest from parents at St. Ann's, but it did no good: Fischer had previously signed a statement promising to never take a "public stand" against church tenets, and marriage was considered such a stand. (Fischer has long served as the director of a gay men's choir; why that never counted as a "public stand" is unclear.) Fischer reports that his former colleagues have been supportive. From the Times:
Even with his firings, he received nothing but support from the pews. Even of the people who fired him, he said: “These are good people in a tough situation, having to toe a particular line. If they supported me they’d be making a statement against the tenets of the church. They signed the same witness statement that I did.”
Fischer has already received offers of employment from a secular school, where he'll begin teaching next semester. In the meantime, he and Robin are enjoying their weekend in New York; this evening they'll take in a performance of Priscilla: Queen of The Desert.
Chely Wright is the nu-country singer of hits "Shut Up And Drive" and "Single White Female" who came out of the closet in 2010 and shortly thereafter married her partner, the activist Lauren Blitzer. She decided to open the LIKEME Lighthouse, as it's called, because she grew up not far from Kansas City and remembers well the difficulties of coming of age in an area without resources for LGBT teens. From the Washington Post:
“This just gives so much hope to these outlying areas, that your major metropolitan area has a gay and lesbian center,” said Wright, who married LGBT activist Lauren Blitzer last summer. “That would have meant everything to me had I been a kid growing up in Wellsville, knowing that there is a beautiful facility in our major city, that that was OK.
LIKEME Lighthouse's ribbon-cutting ceremony is today at noon, and opening festivities continue into the evening with performances by Wright, Alan Cumming, and others. Lighthouse's website is up and fully operational, but it doesn't seem like the center's yet fleshed out its programming. The facility will be open, presumably for drop-ins, from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. on most days, but what teens will be able to do once they arrive hasn't yet been decided. Maybe Lighthouse is waiting on volunteers?
Thanks to Gawker for this week alerting non-Canadians and non-tweens to the existence of Carly Rae Jepsen. Jepsen, a 26-year-old Canadian pop star, has allegedly created an honest-to-goodness perfect pop song which has been slowly impressing itself upon young American eardrums since the Biebs recorded a video of himself dancing to it early this year.
The song's called "Call Me Maybe," and honestly, it's not perfect. It's not even very good. But the accompanying video ends with an endearing gay twist that would've been impossible to imagine popping up in a similar piece of bouncy pop trifle even only a decade ago, and that, at least, is awesome. Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...