Saturday, September 16, 2017

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Online Extra: Political Notes: Poll finds many LGBT people eschew religion

NEWS


Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in San Jose recently marked its 30th anniversary as a Reconciled in Christ (welcoming and affirming to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities) congregation. Photo: Jo-Lynn Otto
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New polling results have confirmed what faith leaders have long known, that many LGBT people eschew religion.

According to Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, nearly half of LGBT Americans, at 46 percent, are religiously unaffiliated. The finding is roughly twice the number of Americans overall (24 percent) who are religiously unaffiliated.

The findings are from the firm's "America's Changing Religious Identity" report, which was released last week. It is the largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted, according to PRRI.

"I thought it was very accurate based on what I see among LGBTQ folks. I think it is harder in the Bay Area to come out as a Christian than as a queer person," said the Reverend Megan Rohrer, Ph.D., who is transgender and the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

Michael Chertok, a gay man who is president of San Francisco's LGBT Jewish synagogue Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, was also unsurprised by the findings. "In general, Americans are less religiously affiliated today. This is even more so in urban areas where many LGBT people live," Chertok, who was out of town attending a conference for LGBT Jews, wrote in an emailed reply. "And it is further exacerbated in the LGBT community, where some have not been accepted as who they are by their faith – and even worse, sometimes persecuted."

The report is based on findings from PRRI's American Values Atlas and interviews with more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states. It found that only 43 percent of Americans identify as white and Christian, and only 30 percent as white and Protestant. In 1976, roughly eight in 10 (81 percent) Americans identified as white and identified with a Christian denomination, and a majority (55 percent) were white Protestants.

"For a long time a lot of this was anecdotal. Now, we can more clearly see this decline in religions and can see it with greater accuracy," said the Reverend Jim Mitulski, a gay man who is the interim senior minister at the Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ in Needham, Massachusetts.

Mitulski said the largely white congregation is emblematic of the churches in decline. "And we are liberal," he said. "In a sense, while I hate to see the decline, I am seeing it firsthand."

Thus, the PRRI poll "does confirm what I have been seeing," added Mitulski. It also should be a wake-up call for political leaders, he said.

"The political message is they need to stop making alliances with conservative religious leaders who are trying to use religion to control people," said Mitulski. "They need to stop seeing their alliances with religious leaders and religious organizations as something they can translate into votes."

As for the findings about LGBT Americans, the report found few identify as Christian. Only six percent of LGBT Americans are white evangelical Protestant, according to PRRI, while similar numbers identify as white mainline Protestant (8 percent) and white Catholic (6 percent).

Fewer than one in 10 identify as black Protestant (6 percent), Hispanic Catholic (5 percent), or Hispanic Protestant (3 percent), reported PRRI.

The report found stark generational differences among LGBT Americans in their religious identity. A majority (56 percent) of LGBT young adults (age 18 to 29) are religiously unaffiliated, compared to one-quarter (25 percent) of LGBT seniors (age 65 or older).

Notably, Buddhists and Unitarian-Universalists have a much higher proportion of LGBT members than other religious traditions, reported PRRI. One in seven Buddhists (14 percent) and Unitarian-Universalists (14 percent) identify as LGBT.

As for LGBT Jews, the survey found that LGBT Americans are somewhat overrepresented among non-Christian religions with 6 percent identifying as Jewish, compared to 2 percent of the general public.

"Particularly over the past year, we've seen a sharp upswing in the number of people attending our prayer services and programs – and some of the highest numbers of new members joining our community in our history, including many young people," wrote Chertok.

The Reform Jewish movement (URJ) has embraced LGBT Jews, noted Chertok, ordaining gay, lesbian, and transgender rabbis, permitting rabbis to marry same-sex couples for many years, and encouraging congregations to reach out to LGBT Jews. The Conservative Jewish movement has followed this trend, he added, noting that even some of the most fundamentalist Orthodox Jews "are starting to show openness" toward LGBT Jews.

"In general, the American Jewish community has been relatively accepting of LGBT people, compared to some other faiths," wrote Chertok. "Jewish synagogues in most major American cities, like Sha'ar Zahav in San Francisco, have had an outreach to the LGBT community for more than 40 years."

While certain Christian denominations continue to preach against LGBT people, there are those that are LGBT-affirming, pointed out Rohrer, and welcome LGBT individuals looking for a religious home.

"I think in the same way people would understand if you go to one Chinese restaurant that serves terrible food it is not emblematic of all Chinese restaurants. Research churches like where you want to go to the movies or eat food," said Rohrer. "It is work to figure out what is a safe or supportive space. We can't just assume every faith community is going to be terrible because we had abusive experiences with one faith." Despite the poll findings, Mitulski said he doesn't believe that Americans' "religious impulse" is on the decline. Prior to his moving to Boston last year, he worked in Denver and in Dallas "where church-going – even among LGBT people – is very strong," he noted.

And many LGBT people "are still gravitating," added Mitulski, to more liberal religions. "All of this is to say church leaders need to take notice that LGBT people are spiritual people but not interested in homophobic, oppressive religions," he said. "In the end I don't think anybody is."

The full report can be found online at https://www.prri.org/research/american-religious-landscape-christian-religiously-unaffiliated/.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail mailto:m.bajko@ebar.com.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

In the News: Nonviolence Radio

1 PM “Nonviolence Radio” Empathic listening can do powerful work in nonviolence. In this episode, we talk with Edwin Rutsch about Empathy Tents and share a dialogue that he facilitated between Joey Gibson and Megan Rohrer, two key organizers (at political odds) from this past weekend’s rallies in SF/Berkeley.     Audio here: http://kwmr.org/broadcasts/10438

In the News: ESPN

Lincoln High School Announces 2017 Hall of Fame Class 
by Jeff Thurn September 5, 2017 11:15


Photo courtesy of SiouxFallsSchools via YouTube

 Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls will induct 10 new members into their Hall of Fame class in 2017.

Those members include Aaron Hove, Patrick Munson, Taun Toay, Frank Thomas, Bob Carlson, Chris Harper, Linda Yang, Megan Rohrer, Mary Cogswell and Thomas Lubeck.

If you want to get involved, you can contact Lincoln Athletic Director Joey Struwe at 605-367-7900.
The ceremony will take place Saturday September 23 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center and will include a meal with a ticket cost of $35.

Read More: Lincoln High School Announces 2017 Hall of Fame Class

Saturday, August 26, 2017

In the News: Time Magazine

Both Sides Gear Up for a Weekend of Protests in San Francisco

Updated: Aug 25, 2017 8:26 PM ET | Originally published: Aug 24, 2017
Update: The "free speech" rally planned for Saturday has been cancelled. Read more here.
Residents of San Francisco are bracing for thousands to descend on the city's streets this weekend — and hoping that there will not be violence. Weeks after a deadly confrontation between white nationalists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Va., right-wing organizers are hosting a "free speech" event near the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, and left-wing organizers have planned more than a dozen events around the city in response.

Though the organizers of the "free speech" event have disavowed white nationalism and say their intention is to gather peacefully, many fear that neo-Nazis will show up, a specter that has sent San Francisco's progressive activists into overdrive. "People are very alarmed by what's going on in the country," says longtime activist Cleve Jones, a well-known figure in the gay rights movement. "I have never seen the level of activity that I’ve seen over the last year.”

On Wednesday, the National Park Service issued a finalized permit for the "free speech" rally to a right wing group known as Patriot Prayer, allowing the event planned for Crissy Field to go forward. The expanse that runs along the city's northern shore is federal land, and the park service said that after consulting with their law enforcement arm, as well as the San Francisco Police Department, the decision was made to issue a permit "to promote the peaceful, non-violent expression of views."
The permit also came with conditions: not only will firearms be banned (normally concealed carry laws allow them in the area) but ralliers will not be allowed to bring anything that might be used as a weapon — pepper spray, drones, shields, bats, selfie sticks, as well as other items.
City officials do not have estimates for how many people might show up. But grassroots organizers believe there could be as many as 50,000 people in attendance this weekend, the vast majority taking part in counter-demonstrations that range from a musical celebration in Civic Center to a "mobile dance party" to the formation of a 100-foot "human heart" on Ocean Beach. Another right-wing rally planned for Sunday in Berkeley is expected to draw additional crowds from both sides.
Joey Gibson is the man behind Patriot Prayer (which he says is an "ideology" more than a group). His guess is also that the people at his rally will be vastly outnumbered by counter-protestors, and it's an educated one: The 33-year-old from Portland, Ore., has organized about a dozen similar events in the last several months.

Though they began as pro-Trump rallies, Gibson says he's left issues of "who you vote for" behind and is now focused on the belief that the First Amendment is being threatened by people who are intolerant of any viewpoints that don't match their own, on the left and the right. "People have a right to say whatever they want," says Gibson. "Hate speech is free speech ... Everyone has a right to be hateful. Unfortunately it’s not good for our society. But there is no debate, the law is the law.”
While he has publicly disavowed white supremacy and racism, Gibson also casts anti-fascist organizers known as antifa as one of the enemies of free speech — a belief that many white nationalists share. He acknowledges that individuals with extreme views have been attracted to his events in the past and that part of the intention of hosting an event in San Francisco is to show how "extremely intolerant" such liberal cities can be.

"There’s a lot people who disagree with the culture but they’re too afraid to stand up to it because they get called names, they get called Nazis, racists,” he says. There are people in cities like San Francisco who have "a meltdown when I’m sending a good message ... they’re going to get triggered and they freak out. That stuff gets on film and we send that film out so the country can see, they can see the insanity.” Such statements give credence to the notion that these rallies are being held to provoke the left, even if Gibson has spoken often about love and peace.

While officials are working to keep opposing groups far apart from each other, hoping the weekend ends without serious injuries as recent gatherings in Boston did, many expect extremists on the right and left to clash. Local lawmaker Mark Farrell, a driving force behind a "Peace, Love and Understanding" rally being hosted in the city's Civic Center, says his intention is to draw counter-protestors far from Crissy Field so that people can "celebrate our spirit in San Francisco in a way that does not give them any oxygen."

Like other city officials, Farrell has cast the Patriot Prayer event as a "Nazi rally" that will be catnip for white supremacists. When asked what he thinks of Gibson's statements about opposing such groups and promising to turn them away, he says, "I don't buy what they are selling for a minute."
His office oversees the area of the city that abuts Crissy Field and has been dealing with an influx of phone calls and emails from residents who are "angry and frightened," he says. “We want to do everything possible to encourage people not to show up at the event.”

Local organizers have been grappling with how to balance safety and the desire that residents in San Francisco have to make a statement about their beliefs. On a recent conference call, organizers from several groups swapped tips about how to maintain non-violence and traded ideas about what form protest should take.

Some of those ideas were high-minded, like setting up a website where people can, from the comfort of their homes, donate to groups that have missions antithetical to neo-Nazis. Others were lower brow, like taking dogs to poop en masse in Crissy Field before the rally was supposed to start. A suggestion to throw glitter on the rally's speakers was scrapped when someone pointed out that the glitter might hurt the "sensitive environmental habitat" in the area.

One of the people on that call was Megan Rohrer, a Lutheran pastor and volunteer chaplain for the SFPD. Rohrer, who uses the pronoun they, says some people also imagined unfurling a giant rainbow flag from the Golden Gate Bridge, which will be the backdrop for the "free speech" event.
Rohrer acknowledges that "there might be people who want to go there to have a violent encounter.” Many expect anti-fascist groups to meet the ralliers head on. But Rohrer also hopes people will attend a march from the city's Castro district to Civic Center instead. “The more we can feed people sandwiches rather than an adrenaline," they say, "the better our chances for keeping peace.”

In the News: NBC

San Francisco to Counter Patriot Prayer Rally by Eating Cake, Dancing and Leaving 'Dog Poop' at Crissy Field

Call it uniquely "San Francisco," but the City by the Bay has its own ideas for counter protests

The National Park Service on Wednesday granted a permit for a hotly-debated rally at Crissy Field this weekend.
Right-wing group, Patriot Prayer, last week applied for a permit to host "Freedom Rally San Francisco" on Saturday.
Despite criticism from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Superintendent London Breed, the National Park Service said, "We cannot deny a permit to anyone planning to exercise their First Amendment rights based on their political stance or beliefs."
Wary of whether the rally will draw white nationalists and invite violence, San Franciscans have made it known that racism and hatred are unwelcome in their hometown.
And the City by the Bay isn't stopping there. Residents have begun organizing counter-protests with unusual themes. 
Up first is "Leave your dog poop on Crissy Field" from 12 p.m. Aug. 25 through 10 a.m. Aug. 26. 
Organizers wrote on Facebook that the idea behind the event is to "leave a gift for our Alt-Right friends."
They continued: "Take your dog to Crissy Field and let them do their business and be sure not to clean it up! Watch out for landmines, friends! We can get together Sunday and clean up the mess and hug each other!"
San Francisco artist Tuffy Tuffington, who has two dogs, came up with the curious way to protest the Crissy Field rally, without needing direct conflict. 
"I was walking around and had this idea of people marching around in fields of poop," Tuffington said. "I thought that would be a nice form of civil disobedience and a way to not actually be there when they’re there."
He didn't know it would generate the interest it has, but is committed to making a stink — both literally and figuratively. So far, 525 people have demonstrated interest in this gathering, which has piqued the interest of nearly 3,000 more.
"I really intended for it to be a joke for my friends and I didn’t realize I made it public," Tuffington said. "A few hours later, there was 500 people interested."
Other counter-protesters, in true San Francisco style, are encouraging people to dance as "an alternative to hate, confrontation and aggression."
The "SF LovedUp Mobile Dance Counter-Rally" will last from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 26 at Marina Green Park. Attendees will not interrupt the white supremacist rally, but will dress in their "amazing colorful fabulous best" and "groove to cheesy, party pop dance athems," organizers wrote on Facebook. 
More than 1,000 people have said they will be at the event and nearly 6,000 more are interested.
Meanwhile, Stop the Violence, Galeria de la Raza, Queer Nation-San Francisco, Castro Community on Patrol, Unafraid, and a slew of other community organizations have teamed up with the Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer for what is described on Facebook as "San Francisco Peacefully Unites Against White Nationalists."
Organizers have issued a special invite to "all drag performers and sparkly freaks" to counter "violent behaviors" from 12 to 5 p.m. Aug. 26. 
They wrote: "Believing hate groups are coming to San Francisco to bait folk into helping them recruit others to their cause and to instigate violent behaviors so lawsuits can fund their hate work, we are uniting with diverse advocates and leaders around San Francisco who are urging safety, peace, and events that will help preserve the fragile diversity of Crissy Field."
However, this peaceful gathering will not occur at Crissy Field. It will be held at Civic Center, and roughy 2,300 people have signed up to attend and another 6,200 have expressed interest.
Supporters are also encouraged to attend a march for equality called "Come Together" at Harvey Milk Plaza between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. 
As Saturday's controversial rally nears, a growing number of unique protests are coming out of the woodwork.
"Sheetcake Picnic - Protest Alternative" invites people to Hellman Hollow at Golden Gate Park to — you guessed it — eat cake between 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday.
"I'm a left handed, Jewish homosexual. I don't always love labels, but I do love myself. And in these times of tension, that's something to celebrate," the event's organizer, Simon Betsadel, wrote on Facebook.
Instead of adding to hateful rhetoric at Crissy Field, Betsadel has invited people to lay on blankets, listen to music, and enjoy food and each others' presence.
By way of extravagence, "sparkles and eye makeup" are suggested, but attendees are free to "just do whatever gives you joy," he wrote.
Betsadel urged: "Let's think about everything we have that makes us diverse, fabulous, and totally unique." 
At the same time, Resistence SF is hosting "Calling All Clowns: Fascism is no laughing matter" from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Crissy Field Beach.
The gathering is a call to action for "anti-racist, anti-fascist clowns" to "mercilessly ridicule any neo-nazis, white supremacists, or alt right trolls who dare show their face in San Francisco," according to its Facebook page.
The group's Facebook page also advertises an event simply called "Resist SF" between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Crissy Field Beach. 
Organizers wrote: "Racism is evil. It must be eradicated from the face of the earth. We will not let facist, racist, morally bankrupt degenerates invade our beautiful city and spew hate. The time for passive tolerance is over. It's time to stand our ground. Its time to stand up."
Stressing the importance of relaying to protesters that there is no room for bigotry and hate in San Franciso, Resist SF cautioned: "We are not advocating violence or physical conflicts. We are advocating (participants) -- young, old, brave, bold; show up in force, create signs and disrupt the agenda of the unwelcomed hate groups.
"One voice. One people. One love. United we will stand."
It appears that San Franciscans also refuse to rob children of the opportunity to stand up for their home.
"The Cutest Lil Counter Protest" is billed as a peaceful, family-friendly protest.
The goal is to "smother hate with as much love and cuteness as possible," starting at 11 a.m. at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, according to Facebook.
A so-called "Cuties Parade" will start at 11:30 a.m. and end with a group photo in front of the de Young Summer of Love wall. Donations for the Southern Poverty Law Center will also be accepted.
An organization called Brown Lives Matter is hosting an "Anti-Racist Rally," which will start at 490 Marina Boulevard at 9 a.m. Saturday. 
The effort has picked up the attention of more than 300 people and aims to directly oppose Patriot Prayer's protest at Crissy Field. 
The Human Rights Commission has also spent days brainstorming on non-violent responses to the controversial free speech rally. To that end, the organization is setting up Help Against Hate stations across San Francisco and holding a peace festival, empowerment conference, community conversations and more.

In the News: 7x7

Love Trumps Hate: San Francisco Spirit Prevails as Bad Guys Cancel Rally at Crissy Field

By

It seems Crissy Field will remain pretty and pristine tomorrow as the expected alt right rally there has blessedly fallen through.

Earlier this afternoon, Joey Gibson, the group's organizers, announced he was pulling the plug on the rally, allegedly due to safety concerns. All we can say to that is Bravo! to the city, the GGNRA, and the many passionate San Francisco resisters who scared them away. Despite the cancellation, the many wonderful unity events planned at Civic Center, the Castro, and around the city will still go off as planned.
Gibson's posse is planning a (so far un-permitted) press conference at 2pm at Alamo Square Park. But just as we pledged to stay away from Crissy Field, we won't be taking our signs to the Painted Ladies either. (What's a press conference without the press?!) We'll be jammin' out to Michael Franti at Civic Center instead.
"Yes we are still on," said Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer—one of the organizers of the group San Francisco Peacefully Unites Against White Nationalists—in a Facebook message to 7x7. "All the planners of our events met with the SFPD to ensure the safety of our events no matter how the plans of the rally would change," she said. "Our desire to unite against hate and in support of love is even more resolved." // For more information on tomorrow's peaceful demonstrations, go to facebook.com.

In the News: Time Magazine

A Right-Wing 'Free Speech' Rally Planned for San Francisco Has Been Cancelled

Aug 25, 2017
A "free speech" rally planned for San Francisco's Crissy Field this weekend has been cancelled, the organizers said in a Facebook Live post on Friday.

The event was planned for Saturday by a right-wing group known as Patriot Prayer. Joey Gibson, the 33-year-old founder of the Portland, Ore.-based group, said that after consulting with law enforcement, he believed that people might be at risk for harm. "It doesn't seem safe. A lot of people's lives are going to be in danger," Gibson said on Facebook, adding that "tons of extremists" planned to show up and the event had the potential to become "a riot."

Gibson blamed liberal politicians and critics — who repeatedly characterized the event in terms like "Nazi rally" — for attracting extremist groups, despite his repeated public insistence that white nationalists are not welcome at the event. "It just seems like a huge set up," he said.
Instead, Patriot Prayer will host a news conference on Saturday at Alamo Square, to discuss the "rhetoric in San Francisco." The purpose of holding the rally, Gibson has said, was to challenge people on the left and the right who are too intolerant of any viewpoints that don't match their own.
California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat who represents the San Francisco area, tweeted that a news conference in Alamo Square would be "illegal as they have no permit."

Coming on the heels of a deadly clash between white nationalists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Va., many feared a reprise in San Francisco. A second right-wing rally was planned for Sunday in Berkeley, which repeatedly dealt with such blow-ups this spring. But according to ABC7, the organizer of that event has also asked that "no one come" due to "violent threats" and "grave concerns for the safety of the people attending my event."


The specter of neo-Nazi groups coming to the liberal city had sent progressive activists into hyperdrive on both sides of the bay. By Friday, they had organized more than a dozen counter-demonstrations in San Francisco and Berkeley, ranging from dance parties to a marches to the formation of a 100-foot "human heart" that would be photographed from the sky. People gathered on Friday afternoon for a "Unite Against Hate" event in San Francisco's city center, and residents have been bracing for thousands to arrive throughout the weekend.

Late Friday, it remained unclear whether rally-goers would still show up in Crissy Field. But the streets won't be quiet. Megan Rohrer, a Lutheran pastor who has been helping to coordinate the organization of those counter-demonstrations said, "They are all still on."