RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A Roman Catholic priest in Brazil is facing charges he abused eight boys in cases dating back to 1995, prosecutors said Wednesday, adding to a growing list of allegations against clergy in Latin America.
Father Jose Afonso, 74, is accused of abusing altar boys between the ages of 12 and 16, Sao Paulo state prosecutors said in an e-mailed statement.
Prosecutors said the reported abuses occurred this year, in 2009 and in 2001 in the city of Franca, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Sao Paulo city. At least one case was reported in 1995 in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais.
Afonso remains free while a judge decides if he should be jailed.
Calls to the Franca diocese rang unanswered. After-hours of calls to the offices of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops were not returned.
The case is the latest to hit Brazil, which has more Catholics than any other nation, and Latin America as a whole.
Earlier this month, 83-year-old Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa was detained in northeastern Brazil for allegedly abusing at least three boys after being caught on video tape having sex with a young man, a former alter boy.
He is under house arrest while an investigation continues. Two other priests in the same archdiocese as Barbosa are also accused of abuses.
A priest in Chile was charged recently with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including a girl he had fathered.
Earlier this month Chile’s bishops’ conference issued a statement apologizing for priestly sexual abuse and vowing a “total commitment” to prevent it in the future.
Also this month, a Mexican citizen filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. federal court in California against former priest Nicolas Aguilar Rivera and the Roman Catholic cardinals of Mexico City and Los Angeles, claiming they moved the priest between the two nations to hide abuse allegations.
Church reaction to the controversy around the globe has angered many who think the Vatican leadership has not acted strongly enough.
Pope Benedict XVI’s second-in-command outraged many this month in Chile when he said homosexuality and not celibacy was the primary reason for the abuse. The comments by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, were condemned by gay advocacy groups, politicians and even the French government.
Late Tuesday, a top Vatican official said the pope may issue a strong apology for the church’s handling of clerical sexual abuse cases when he attends a meeting of the world’s clergy in June.
Cardinal William Levada, who handles the abuse cases as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the comments in an interview broadcast on U.S. public broadcaster PBS, his first interview since the scandal erupted several weeks ago.
“It’s a big crisis. I think no one should try to diminish that,” Levada said.
He acknowledged the Vatican was caught by surprise, even though it was well aware of the scope of scandals in the U.S. and Ireland, but he also blamed “a certain media bias” for keeping the story alive.
Benedict has come under increasing pressure to admit some form of higher responsibility on the part of the Vatican for fomenting a culture of secrecy that allowed abuse to fester unchecked for decades.
Benedict has expressed sorrow and shame for the abuse, he has wept with victims and promised new measures to protect children and bring justice to pedophile priests. But he has admitted no personal or institutional responsibility, blaming instead the abusers themselves and their bishops for mishandling cases when they arose.
from The Associated Press
Archive for April, 2010
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A Roman Catholic priest in Brazil is facing charges he abused eight boys in cases dating back to 1995, prosecutors said Wednesday, adding to a growing list of allegations against clergy in Latin America.
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – The detention of an 83-year-old priest in Brazil for allegedly abusing boys as young as 12 has added to the scandals hitting the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, even as Chile’s bishops asked pardon Tuesday for past cases.
The allegations against Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa – and two other Brazilian priests – have made headlines throughout the world’s most populous Catholic nation and come amid accusations of sexual abuse by priests around the world.
The scandal erupted when Brazilian television network SBT last month broadcast a tape of Barbosa in bed with a 19-year-old that was widely distributed on the Internet.
The station said the video was secretly filmed in January 2009 and sent anonymously to the network. It was not clear if the 19-year-old, identified as a former altar boy who had worked with Barbosa for four years, had previous sexual relations with the priest.
SBT reporters went to Barbosa’s house and confronted him. Asked if he ever abused boys, Barbosa said he could only answer such a question “in confession” and cut off the interview.
Brazil’s legislature launched a sex abuse investigation, which produced allegations that Barbosa molested boys. The elderly priest was detained late Sunday. Prosecutors will now decide whether to file child abuse charges.
Barbosa’s lawyer, Edson Maia, plans to seek his release from detention, citing the man’s advanced age and arguing he has a fixed address and does not pose a flight risk, the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported Tuesday.
Congressional investigators said more than 20 witnesses were called and some testified Barbosa and two other priests in the same northeastern archdiocese had abused boys as young as 12, plying them with money, clothes and other gifts.
Bishop Valerio Breda of the Penedo archdiocese in the northeastern state of Alagoas said recently that all three priests had been suspended and that the church was conducting its own investigation. Breda could not be reached Tuesday.
The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops does not plan to comment on the case and all questions should be directed to the local diocese, spokesman Geraldo Martins said.
Latin Americans priests have faced a cascade of accusations of abuse of minors.
A priest in Chile was charged recently with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including a girl he had fathered.
Chile’s bishops’ conference issued a statement Tuesday apologizing for priestly sexual abuse and vowing a “total commitment” to prevent it in the future.
“There is no place in the priesthood for those who abuse minors and there are no pretexts whatever that can justify this crime,” said Monsignor Alejandro Goic, president of the Episcopal Conference.
“To the people directly affected and to the communities in Chile that have found reason for scandal in some priest, we ask pardon and urge them to tell us of these events,” he said.
On Tuesday, a Mexican citizen filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. federal court in California against former priest Nicolas Aguilar Rivera and the Roman Catholic cardinals of Mexico City and Los Angeles, claiming they moved the priest between the two nations to hide abuse allegations. An advocacy group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the plaintiff alleges Aguilar Rivera molested him in the mid-1990s when he was 12.
Two other lawsuits against Aguilar Rivera have been thrown out by California state judges who ruled a Mexican citizen could not sue another Mexican citizen in a U.S. court, but the advocacy group said the new suit employs an 1789 federal law that allows a foreigner to file a civil claim in the United States.
The whereabouts of Aguilar Rivera in Mexico are unknown.
In a report last week, The Associated Press detailed how its reporters around the globe had found 30 cases of priests accused of abuse who were transferred or moved abroad by the church and some escaped police investigations. Many had access to children in other countries, and some abused again. The probe spanned 21 nations across six continents.
Feeding the controversy, Pope Benedict XVI’s second-in-command outraged many last week in Chile when he said homosexuality and not celibacy was the primary reason for the abuse.
“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told reporters April 12 at a news conference in Santiago. “That is the problem.”
The comments by Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, were condemned by gay advocacy groups, politicians and even the French government.
On Sunday, a teary-eyed Pope Benedict XVI met with abuse victims in Malta and said the church will do everything possible to protect children and bring abusive priests to justice, the Vatican said.
The emotional moment carried no new admissions from the Vatican, which has strongly rejected accusations that efforts to cover up for abusive priests were directed by the church hierarchy for decades. But the pontiff told the men that the church would “implement effective measures” to protect children, the Vatican said, without offering details.
from The Associated Press
What’s the downside to digital special effects and 3D movies overtaking theaters? One, at least, is that fans may lose sight of actors like Anthony Hopkins.
At 72 years-old, the Oscar winner says offers of work have slowed in recent years, and he finds roles in movies such as his current “The City of Your Final Destination,” to be most enjoyable because films like it “are very quiet and internal.”
That is not to say that Sir Anthony doesn’t care to work with big action and special effects. He performed in recent horror tale “The Wolfman” and in computer animated “Beowulf.”
But with big-budget movies like “Avatar” or “Clash of the Titans” dominating major studio releases — movies in which the acting is done in front of green screens, and sets and stunts are digitally added into the films — character-driven dramas such as “City of Your Final Destination,” get less marketing money and play on far fewer screens.
As a result, performances such as Hopkins’s portrayal of an eccentric, older gentleman named Adam — his first time playing a gay man on screen — often fail to reach theater audiences.
“I’ve done a couple of green screens, and if they work that’s great,” he said. “But now the audience is so smart, and I think you watch some movies, and you can tell it’s green screen, and somehow that looks detached” from the acting.
That won’t happen with “City of Your Final Destination,” which was directed by James Ivory from a screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Along with Ivory’s producing partner Ismail Merchant, who died in 2005, the trio were responsible for hit dramas such as “Howards End” and “The Remains of the Day,” the 1993 movie that earned Hopkins his second Oscar nomination. He also won for playing killer Hannibal Lecter in 1991′s “The Silence of the Lambs.
But Merchant Ivory productions fell on harder times in the late 1990s and 2000s as action movies and comic book flicks gained ever greater clout in Hollywood. Their “The Golden Bowl” (2000) and “Le Divorce” (2003) bombed at box offices.
“City of Your Final Destination,” which was made in 2007 but is just now seeing a limited release in major U.S. cities over the next several months, tells of a young man who wants to write a biography of a deceased novelist named Jules Gund.
So, he travels to Gund’s home in a rural section of a Latin American country to obtain permission from the writer’s family. There he meets the writer’s sister Caroline (Laura Linney), his live-in mistress Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and gay brother Adam (Hopkins) who shares the guest house with his lover.
What plays out is a sort of family drama that, at every twist and turn, peels back the facade of the Gund family and of the writer himself.
The setting is lush, the acting from top craftsmen and women, and the directing and writing by a team that was once at the top of Hollywood’s pecking order. In short, it is a movie that, perhaps only for now, is out of favor in Hollywood and confined to so-called “art house” theaters.
“(James) casts people because he trusts actors to do what they do,” Hopkins said. “It’s a little like playing tennis. It’s kind of an easy game. I don’t like tension and examination and analyzing (a scene), just do the damn thing.”
“City of Your Final Destination” is Ivory’s first film since the death of Merchant, and Hopkins said the producer’s big, friendly personality was missed on the set in Argentina.
He said that on Merchant Ivory projects, the producer “was a big presence and one of those rare characters who could just get films made.”
Hopkins recalled that Merchant approached him about a film, once, and he asked Merchant where would he get the money to finance it. The producer’s answer: “Wherever it is now.”
And for now, in Hollywood, the money is chasing action, animation, comic books and 3D, and that means it gets tougher to find work for guys like Hopkins.
“I have slowed down a lot,” said Sir Anthony Hopkins, who was knighted by the British for his legendary career. “I just work when the work comes in.”
UNITED KINGDOM – David Cameron was urged to sack one of his frontbench team who said the age of consent for homosexuals should not have been lowered to 16 because it put teenage boys at “serious physical risk” and in danger of catching HIV.
Julian Lewis, the shadow minister for Defence and Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Hampshire seat of New Forest East, wrote to a constituent last week saying he had been “very strongly against” lowering the age of consent for gays from 18 to 16 because of the “seriously increased risk of HIV”. He appeared to compare it with the decision to prevent service personnel aged under 18 from fighting on frontlines. Last night, Dr Lewis reiterated his view, telling The Independent that anyone aged 16 to 18 who had unprotected gay sex was “at risk, and potentially at risk of their lives”.
His outspoken views have reopened debate about the party’s stance on gay and lesbian rights. Two weeks ago, the shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, suggested that owners of bed-and-breakfast hotels should have the right to turn away gay couples
On Tuesday, Mr Cameron attempted to draw a line under the row by declaring the matter was “all sorted” following an apology from Mr Grayling.
The age of consent for gay men was lowered from 18 to 16 in 2000. Dr Lewis wrote last week: “There is a seriously increased risk of HIV infection from male homosexual activity. When it comes to legalising practices that involve serious risk, I believe the higher limit should apply. This is the reason we no longer allow 16- and 17-year-olds into frontline situations in the armed forces, for example.”
Dr Lewis, 58, has a history of voting against legislation enshrining gay rights. He opposed adoptions by gay couples and also battled against the repeal of Section 28 – a law enacted by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government in 1988 to prevent schools from “promoting” homosexuality. Dr Lewis, does, however, back civil partnerships.
“One of the criticisms commonly made of gay relationships
is that very often they do not last,” he explained in his letter. “It therefore seems obvious to me that, when a gay couple wish to commit to each other, by forming a permanent relationships, they should be encouraged and assisted in every way.”
He added: “I wish to avoid the cliché which begins ‘some of my best friends are… ‘ but it happens to be true that my partner, Fiona, and I do indeed have gay friends.” Defending his comments last night, Dr Lewis said he would have supported keeping the age of consent for gay men at 18. He said he had not intended to make the “preposterous suggestion” that gay sex was as dangerous as fighting on the frontline.
However, he went on to say that engaging in unprotected gay sex put teenagers “at risk, and potentially at risk of their lives”. Dr Lewis added: “It is nevertheless true that someone is just as much dead if they are among one of the much smaller percentage of people who would be unfortunate enough to contract a deadly disease through a form of sexual activity as they are if they are in the frontline and they find themselves being injured or killed.”
Challenged about his views on the dangers of homosexual sex, he said: “I do not hold myself up as any kind of expert in this and I am willing to be shown I’m wrong if I am wrong, but I honestly don’t think I am wrong.”
The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, urged the Conservative leader to sack Dr Lewis from his shadow cabinet. He said: “[Mr Cameron has] been seeking the votes of gay people … but [his] frontbench team includes people who are against any notion of homosexual equality. [He needs] to show some leadership and sack Mr Lewis.”
Last night, the Conservative leadership distanced itself from Dr Lewis’ remarks, but allowed him to keep his job as shadow defence minister. “These are Dr Lewis’ long held and personal views,” a spokesman said. “They are not the view of the Conservative Party and the terms in which he expressed them is wrong. Under this Labour government we have seen a massive increase in HIV infections and STDs across all the population – straight and gay.”
from The Independent UK
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Opponents of the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy on gays in the military interrupted President Barack Obama with heckling at a Los Angeles fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer.
The protesters shouted to ask Obama what he is going to do about the policy, which prohibits gays from serving openly in the military. The shouts grew so insistent that Obama responded.
The president said that he supports overturning “don’t ask don’t tell” and suggested the protesters should be yelling at the people who don’t.
Obama has called on Congress to lift the ban, and military officials are examining how to do that.
Obama also told the crowd that Boxer opposed “don’t ask don’t tell” in the first place.
from The Associated Press
DALLAS,TEXAS – After the joy of a wedding and the adoption of a baby came arguments that couldn’t be resolved, leading Angelique Naylor to file for divorce. That left her fighting both the woman she married in Massachusetts and the state of Texas, which says a union granted in a state where same-sex marriage is legal can’t be dissolved with a divorce in a state where it’s not.
A judge in Austin granted the divorce, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is appealing the decision. He also is appealing a divorce granted to a gay couple in Dallas, saying protecting the “traditional definition of marriage” means doing the same for divorce.
A state appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments in the Dallas case on Wednesday.
The Dallas men, who declined to be interviewed for this story and are known only as J.B. and H.B. in court filings, had an amicable separation, with no disputes on separation of property and no children involved, said attorney Peter Schulte, who represents J.B. The couple, who married in 2006 in Massachusetts and separated two years later, simply want an official divorce, Schulte said.
The drawn-out process has been frustrating for Naylor, who says she didn’t file for divorce as an equal rights statement – she just wants to get on with her life.
“We didn’t ask for a marriage; we simply asked for the courtesy of divorce,” said Naylor, 39, of Austin, who married Sabina Daly in Massachusetts in 2004.
That year, Massachusetts became the first state to let same-sex couples tie the knot. Now, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia also allow them.
Gay and lesbian couples who turn to the courts when they break up are getting mixed results across the nation. A Pennsylvania judge last month refused to divorce two women who married in Massachusetts, while New York grants such divorces even though the state doesn’t allow same-sex marriage.
“The bottom line is that same-sex couples have families and their families have the same needs and problems, but often don’t have the same rights,” said Jennifer Pizer, a lawyer for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“It really is an unenviable position that the courts have put these couples in,” said Karen Loewy, an attorney at the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
Abbott, a Republican seeking re-election, declined to be interviewed for this story. He has argued in court filings that because the state doesn’t recognize gay marriage there can be no divorce, but a gay or lesbian Texas couple may have a marriage voided. Attorneys representing such couples argue that voiding a marriage here could leave it intact in other states, creating problems for property divisions and other issues.
“OK, you’re recommending voidance, but how does that work?” asked Jennifer Cochran, Naylor’s attorney. “Is it only void in Texas and can you void a marriage that’s valid in another state? The attorney general I feel didn’t answer those questions.”
In 2005, Texas voters passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by a 3-to-1 margin even though state law already prohibited it. Abbott has said he is appealing the Dallas divorce ruling for two men to “defend the traditional definition of marriage that was approved by Texas voters.”
Abbott disagrees with the judge in that case, who ruled in October that the same-sex marriage ban violates equal rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for the conservative Liberty Institute in Plano, called that decision “outrageous judicial activism.” The institute has filed a friend of the court brief to the appeals court on behalf of the two Republican state lawmakers who co-sponsored the amendment banning gay marriage: state Rep. Warren Chisum and former state Sen. Todd Staples.
“It’s a backdoor run at establishing same-sex so-called marriage against the people’s vote,” Shackelford said. “Once you grant the divorce, you are recognizing that there was a marriage.”
Dallas divorce attorney Tom Greenwald said he’s advising gay couples to wait and see how things play out in the courts.
“Getting the court of appeals to even accept the issue is a step in the right direction in getting some clarity on this,” he said. “We just don’t know how to treat it.”
As for Naylor and Daly – the latter declined to comment – they’ve been trying to figure out what to do since separating in 2007 amid escalating arguments.
The couple, who had real estate-related businesses and renovated homes, toyed with the idea of one of them moving to a state where gay marriage is legal until a divorce is finalized, but that didn’t seem practical.
Naylor said that eventually, she and Daly worked out a custody arrangement for their now 4 1/2-year-old son. Naylor said that when she heard about the Dallas divorce, she thought it was worth a try and filed for her own, even though several attorneys she spoke with weren’t so sure.
“They said it’s too up in the air, wait and see for appeals,” Naylor said. “I didn’t have a lot of time to wait and see.”
from The Associated Press
Today, NCLR launched a national media campaign to bring visibility to a tragic new case where Sonoma County, California officials separated an elderly gay couple and sold their worldly possessions despite the measures the men had taken to protect their relationship.
“In the 33 years of our organization’s history, this case is perhaps among the most tragic NCLR has ever been involved in,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “Clay and Harold had taken all of the necessary precautions, including living wills and powers of attorneys, to protect them in a time of crisis. Not only were their relationship and legal documents ignored, Clay and Harold literally lost everything. These appalling events demonstrate how urgently same-sex couples need full equality rather than a patchwork of rights that can be dismissed and ignored in a culture that still treats LGBT people as second-class citizens. This never should have happened to Clay and Harold.”
Clay Greene and his partner of 20 years, Harold Scull, lived in Sebastopol, California. As long-time partners, they had named each other beneficiaries of their respective estates and agents for medical decisions. As 2008 began, Scull was 88 years old and in deteriorating health. Greene, 11 years younger, was physically strong, but beginning to show signs of cognitive impairment. As Scull’s health declined, it became apparent that they would need assistance, but the men resisted outside help.
In April of 2008, Scull fell down the front steps of their home. Greene immediately called an ambulance and Scull was taken to the hospital. There, the men’s nightmare began. While Scull was hospitalized, Deputy Public Guardians went to the men’s home, took photographs, and commented on the desirability and quality of the furnishings, artwork, and collectibles that the men had collected over their lifetimes.
Ignoring Greene entirely, the County petitioned the Court for conservatorship of Scull’s estate. Outrageously referring to Greene only as a “roommate” and failing to disclose their true relationship, the County continued to treat Scull as if he had no family. The County sought immediate temporary authority to revoke Scull’s powers of attorney, to act without further notice, and to liquidate an investment account to pay for Scull’s care. Then, despite being granted only limited powers, and with undue haste, the County arranged for the sale of the men’s personal property, cleaned out their home, terminated their lease, confiscated their truck, and eventually disposed of all of the men’s worldly possessions, including family heirlooms, at a fraction of their value and without any proper inventory or determination of whose property was being sold.
Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Greene from their home and confined him to a nursing home against his will—a different placement from his partner. Greene was kept from seeing Scull during this time, and his telephone calls were limited. Three months after Scull was hospitalized, he died, without being able to see Greene again.
“Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years,” said Greene’s trial attorney Anne Dennis of Santa Rosa. “Compounding this horrific tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property or his beloved cats—who are feared dead. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.”
Greene is represented by Dennis along with Stephen O’Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O’Neill, Barrack & Chong in a lawsuit against the County, the auction company, and the nursing home. NCLR is assisting Greene’s attorneys with the lawsuit. A trial date has been set for July 16, 2010 in the Superior Court for the County of Sonoma.
from The NCLR
Duke University junior Justin Robinette claims his sexual orientation was the reason for his impeachment Wednesday as chairman of Duke’s College Republicans.
But his official impeachment article and members of the organization’s executive board said the impeachment and request for resignation was because of “conduct unbecoming of a person in a position of leadership” among other reasons.
“Comments were made directly to me and my executive board before and after the meeting concerning my sexual orientation, calling me a supporter of the faggot center, calling me ironic, calling me disgusting,” said Robinette, who is gay.
Carter Boyle, the new chairman of the chapter, said Robinette disrespected members of the board, deliberately ignored members of UNC’s College Republicans, did not attend events and used the organization’s funds for personal use.
Robinette described the reasons held against him as “petty” and said most had occurred prior to his re-election as chairman on March 16.
“There’s a defense to mostly all of them,” he said. “Those were mostly dummy reasons.”
He ran unopposed in the elections last month and was unanimously approved to continue serving as chairman next year by the same board that would impeach a month later.
Robinette said the organization’s constitution was amended Wednesday just prior to his impeachment so that a two-thirds vote of the executive board would be sufficient for impeachment rather than the whole body.
Following his impeachment, Robinette was asked to resign by 7 p.m. Thursday.
“I walked into a contrived meeting at 9 p.m. Sneaky amendments were passed, my comments were cut short and motions were made to move the impeachment forward,” he said.
But members of the executive board said Robinette himself voted in favor of the amendment that changed the procedure for impeachment.
Cliff Satell, former vice-chairman of the university’s College Republicans and president of the Duke Conservative Union, said he attended the meeting as a neutral observer. He said both sides were at fault, but he was appalled at the way the impeachment was carried out.
“There was no debate, no opportunity for rebuttal,” Satell said. “It was clear back room deal-making had been done.”
Although several members of the organization’s executive board knew Robinette was gay, executive director Samuel Tasher found out only the weekend before the meeting took place, Satell and Robinette said.
“The fact that it went from a few people knowing to a lot of people knowing was a catalyst to his impeachment,” Satell said. “If he wasn’t gay, he would still be chairman.”
Boyle, the new chairman, said Robinette’s sexuality wasn’t linked to the impeachment.
Boyle said Robinette used the chapter’s funds to buy Polo shirts and wrote them off as incidental purchases in February.
“He threatened to eliminate us from the board,” Boyle said. “He treated us like second-class people.”
Robinette was also elected last month to serve as co-chairman of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans alongside UNC junior John Eick.
Satell said the board only took action when they learned of Robinette’s sexuality and not when the events in question occurred.
“The timeline does not make sense for them to all of a sudden be bitching about it,” he said.
from The Daily Tar Heel
The White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court.
Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would “please” much of his base by picking the “first openly gay justice.” An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian.
CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: “The fact that they’ve chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010.” She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger “with a history of plagiarism” who was “applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers.”
The network deleted the posting Thursday night after Domenech said he was merely repeating a rumor. The flare-up underscores how quickly the battle over a Supreme Court nominee — or even a potential nominee — can turn searingly personal. Most major news organizations have policies against “outing” gays or reporting on the sex lives of public officials unless they are related to their public duties.
A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said he complained to CBS because the column “made false charges.” Domenech later added an update to the post: “I have to correct my text here to say that Kagan is apparently still closeted — odd, because her female partner is rather well known in Harvard circles.”
CBS executives at first defended the column, noting that it appeared in an opinion section that contains contributions from blogs and publications on the left and right.
Dan Farber, editor in chief of CBSNews.com, said that Domenech’s column “just got through our filters” and that if his staff had seen “a controversial statement like that, we’d want to get more evidence of its accuracy” before publishing it. “But once it is out there,” Farber said, “the better approach is just to address it head-on rather than trying to sweep it under the rug.”
He changed his mind about yanking the column after receiving an e-mail from Domenech, which the blogger also sent to The Washington Post. Farber said in a statement that “after looking at the facts we determined that it was nothing but pure and irresponsible speculation on the blogger’s part.”
“I offer my sincere apologies to Ms. Kagan if she is offended at all by my repetition of a Harvard rumor in a speculative blog post,” Domenech said. CBS initially added that statement to an editor’s note that also reported the White House denial.
In his e-mail, Domenech said that the naming of an openly gay justice would show “how far we’ve come as a society” and that this “will be an issue of political discussion, whether we like it or not.”
Domenech is editor of a year-old Web site called the New Ledger, from which the CBS column was reprinted. He is also editor of the City, a religion-oriented publication of Houston Baptist University.
The Post’s Web site briefly hired Domenech as a conservative blogger in 2006. He resigned three days after his debut after a flurry of plagiarism allegations that were trumpeted by liberal Web sites. The sites found signs of plagiarism in a movie review he wrote for National Review Online and, earlier, in his writing for the College of William & Mary’s student newspaper.
Domenech maintained that he did not knowingly use other people’s writing without attribution but said the “firestorm” had “reached the point where there’s nothing I can really do to defend myself.”
Rumors invariably raise a difficult journalistic choice: whether to report on them and give them credence, or withhold them and fail to acknowledge what insiders are discussing. Marc Ambinder, a blogger for the Atlantic, wrote Monday about what he called “a baffling whisper campaign” about Kagan “among both gay rights activists and social conservatives. . . .
“So pervasive are these rumors that two senior administration officials I spoke with this weekend acknowledged hearing about them and did not know whether they were true. . . . Why is she the subject of these rumors? Who’s behind them?”
from The Washington Post
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Gay porn star Brent Corrigan is available for birthday parties and fashion shows, but an attempt to book him for Yale’s Pride Month fell through.
Sean Lockhart, a well-known star in the adult entertainment industry who goes by the stage name “Brent Corrigan,” lambasted Yale students and faculty on his blog for rescinding his invitation to visit campus. Though Lockhart claimed on his blog that Yale faculty did not let him come to campus because they did not find him “appropriate,” Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Cooperative Coordinator Alejandro Bustillos ’11 said the decision not to bring Lockhart to Yale was made for a variety of reasons, ranging from cost to an already-overbooked calendar of events. An organizer of Pride Month added that Lockhart could only come to campus one day, and planners could not find a suitable “forum” for him to take part in that day.
Lockhart, who could not be reached for comment, wrote on his blog last week: “Various esteemed professors … and a few students were vocal enough in their opposition to my presence on campus. They didn’t find me appropriate for the scholarly adults that attend Yale University.”
Pride Month organizers had a number of reservations about bringing Lockhart, Bustillos said. He said the co-op had made arrangements to get the requested amount of funding, but Lockhart continued asking for more than planners thought necessary. Bustillos added that because of the many events to plan for Pride Month — 29 in total according to the Yale Pride Facebook page — organizers were already in the process of cutting some events and did not believe it was worthwhile to put extra efforts into booking Lockhart.
Bustillos, who said he was not directly involved in planning Lockhart’s visit, said the nature of Lockhart’s talk had never been nailed down and that discussions were still going on when Pride Month coordinators “scratched off his name.”
“We saw more issues with bringing [him] to campus than not having him here at all,” Bustillos said. “And we were on the rocks about having him anyway.”
Lockhart, who was the subject of scandals in recent years for making pornographic films as a minor and for making films without using condoms, might have spurred a controversy on a campus known for having groups like Community Health Educators devoted to promoting safe sex practices, Bustillos said.
“If we brought [Lockhart] to campus there might be groups that would backlash,” he said.
While Bustillos said it was true that “there was faculty involvement” in the decision not to bring Lockhart to campus, he said he did not know the nature of such involvement. The other Pride Month organizer interviewed said such involvement was limited to discussion with a college master about bringing Lockhart for a Master’s Tea, which did not pan out.
Director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources Maria Trumpler said she did not see Lockhart’s name on of any lists of Pride Month events that she had seen. Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said he was unfamiliar with the situation.
Still, visits from members of the pornography industry are not unprecedented at Yale. During Sex Week in February, transgender porn star Buck Angel spoke during a Pierson College Master’s Tea about his personal history. Two years ago, Sex Week also brought in heterosexual porn stars Ron Jeremy and Monique Alexander during a “Great Porn Debate” with opponents of pornography.
But Lockhart quipped on his blog that he had moved past his original disappointment about visiting Yale.
“I don’t fit in on an Ivy League campus,” he wrote on his blog. “I would likely leave an indelible impression that, try if they might, denizens of the school could never manage to wash away.”
from The Yale Daily News
Across the country today teens will be making a bold statement in their schools without saying a word at all- that is because today marks the 15th annual “Day of Silence” which is being organized by GLSEN — the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
For the day students are being encouraged to remain silent in school in an effort to raise awareness and speak out against verbal and physical bullying of gay and lesbian teens- and if the Facebook Page for the cause is any indicator- there could be more than 45,000 teens participating across the country.
In 2008, a GLSEN group in New Jersey reported great success with this initiative in their High School. The students participating made up t-shirts and ribbons that were worn not only by students who were gay, lesbian and bi-sexual, but also by students and teachers who both supported and talked openly about the cause and its importance.
Still, even with the positive feedback the organization receives and its many success stories there are socially conservative groups across the country that are against this day of silence, some even rallying for parents to keep their children home and calling it a waste of tax payer dollars.
Discrimination and bullying issues against students who are, or are suspected-to-be gay has been an issue teens have faced for years. When I was in High School, I had a friend who was a target of such verbal abuse. When it started he denied the accusations and tried to let them roll off his back- but around junior year he announced that he was bi-sexual. I think he thought this would have curbed some of the verbal attacks he was subjected to every day. Sadly, it did not. It only got worse.
I can remember vividly, another male classmate of ours would crack joke after joke about my friend’s sexuality. It was not funny. It was obnoxious. My friend pretended it did not bother him. He focused his mind else where and began obsessing over his weight, at points passing out in class from not eating and by the time we graduated High School he was a shell of the teen he once was not only physically but emotionally.
It wasn’t until college that he officially came out. He was not bi-sexual. He was gay. He had known it for quite sometime but until then he was not comfortable in his own skin to say it out loud.
The teenage years play such a crucial part of who we become as adults. My children are still young but I believe it is important to teach our children not only that it is a ok to be who you are but to also teach our children to respect their peers rights as well and not to pass judgment. Sexuality is only a small piece of what makes a person and does not define.
Ironically, years later my friend came face to face again with that classmate who once bullied him daily- at a gay bar.
If there were thousands of teens rallying around the message today’s Day of Silence is sending, possibly this classmate of ours might not have felt pressure to hide his sexuality by directing statements of hate at another teen who wanted nothing more than he wanted himself- to be accepted
from The Star-Ledger
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Minority Republican lawmakers sponsored a resolution this week honoring the 100-year anniversary of the Boy Scouts. This being California, the political equivalent of a school-yard brawl broke out.
Democrats ultimately killed the resolution after criticizing the Boy Scouts for excluding homosexuals. Predictably, Republicans became indignant and accused Democrats of defaming a cherished American institution.
It didn’t end there.
Democrats had introduced a resolution of their own honoring the Girl Scouts and included language that noted the organization does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
That drew yet more indignation from Republicans, with one GOP lawmaker accusing Democrats of improperly introducing sexuality into what should have been innocent proclamations of support for the two iconic youth groups.
“I would love to honor the Girl Scouts,” said Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Laguna Niguel. “I just don’t understand why this chamber wants to sexualize children.”
The Boy Scout brouhaha started in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. After Republicans introduced the anniversary resolution, some Democratic lawmakers equated the Boy Scouts’ policy of excluding gays with racism.
“Were the policy of the Boy Scouts to be that we exclude all African-Americans or Asian-Americans or Latinos, or any minority group, I don’t think there would be a single member of the Legislature that would commend them,” the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Los Angeles Democrat Mike Feuer, said in an interview later.
The resolution died in committee, wounding Republicans.
The Republicans say they were further incensed when they asked the Democrats to remove the line in the Girl Scouts resolution that honored the organization’s acceptance of any girl regardless of her sexual orientation. But the Girl Scouts resolution passed out of the committee unchanged.
“Equality for gays and lesbians shouldn’t have to be an issue that’s brought down to our children’s level,” said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Diamond Bar, an Eagle Scout and author of the Boy Scouts resolution. “Political agendas at the Capitol got in the way of this.”
Feuer said he was never asked to amend the Girl Scouts resolution, calling the Republican claims “utterly false.”
The Girl Scouts resolution advanced Thursday to the Assembly floor, where the partisan sniping continued.
When it was time for the Assembly to vote, Assembly Majority Leader Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, asked members for a simple voice vote, the typical way to approve resolutions.
But after it passed on the voice vote, Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, a San Diego Democrat who authored the Girl Scouts resolution, asked for an additional roll call vote. That meant each lawmaker’s vote would be a matter of record.
Republicans, of course, objected. Hagman said GOP lawmakers wanted to commend the Girl Scouts but did not want be on the record condoning their stance on sexual orientation. The resolution passed the 80-member house 48-4, with most Republicans abstaining.
Girl Scouts of America spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins said the organization was pleased with the honor given by California lawmakers and proud of its long tradition of including anyone.
In the end, California honored the Girl Scouts but not the Boy Scouts – which issued a statement saying it appreciated the effort.
“This is a long-standing societal issue,” Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said regarding the group’s membership policies.
The Girl Scouts resolution will now be taken up in the Senate.
from The Associated Press
A rising star on the Christian music scene is returning to the public eye with a new identity after a mysterious seven-year absence spent mostly on the other side of the world.
Jennifer Knapp is not only coming out with a new album, she is also “coming out,” a term the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter considers “very bizarre” as she nervously relaunches her career.
The 36-year-old Kansas native, who dated men during her college days, is braced for a backlash from religious fans who faithfully shot down whispered rumors about her sexuality over the years. On the other hand, she said in a recent interview with Reuters, “I’m definitely getting a lot more friendly winks from the girls (at her concerts) than I have in the past!”
No other singer of Knapp’s renown in the Christian music genre is openly gay. In the past, the industry looked dimly on those who deviated from the straight and narrow. Radio stations and retailers quickly dropped Sandi Patty and Michael English after they admitted to (separate) extra-marital affairs during the 1990s. Amy Grant was also blacklisted when she went through a divorce later that decade. All have since been forgiven to varying degrees.
Knapp is taking a preemptive stand anyway. She has recorded a mainstream album, and is not specifically targeting Christian radio stations and retailers.
“I just wouldn’t find it respectful at all to say, ‘Hey, this is something that you want in your store next to your Jesus statue,’” she said. “It would just be disingenuous to try and convince someone that they needed to do that.”
Still, Knapp considers herself a “person of faith” and recoils at the suggestion that she is turning her back on the church, an accusation that dogged the likes of Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin when they left gospel for pop stardom.
As a mainstream act targeting the adult album alternative niche — alongside the likes of U2 and fellow lesbian Melissa Etheridge — it is suggested to Knapp that she is now born again, again.
“Maybe that’s what I should have called the record,” she said. Instead, Knapp opted for the equally forthright “Letting Go,” which will be released May 11 through Sony Music-owned independent distributor RED.
It will mark her fourth album and first release since 2001′s “The Way I Am,” which received a Grammy nomination for best rock gospel album.
Knapp has sold about a million albums since releasing her 1998 debut “Kansas.” She toured relentlessly, and was part of the lineup of the 1999 Lilith Fair tour. She also won four Dove Awards, the gospel music industry’s top honors.
But increasingly exhausted and dispirited, Knapp lived the fantasy of many working stiffs by dropping out and traveling the world. She ended up in Australia, became a citizen, and now drops the friendly appellation “mate” into the conversation. She plans to spend most of her personal time Down Under.
But Knapp’s time in the wilderness was not all about shrimps on the barbie and Vegemite sandwiches. She underwent an early midlife crisis of sorts as she reexamined her faith, sexuality and career. Making music was the furthest thing from her mind.
Before Knapp met her girlfriend in the United States, she was celibate for 10 years, which she says is in line with the general expectation for unmarried members of the evangelical community.
“Anyone who has a decade of celibacy has ‘complete loser’ written on their back,” she joked, although she still respects those who do abstain.
Knapp’s new sexual identity is clearly a major talking point, but she does not view herself as a crusader in the gay community. She jealously guards her privacy and that of her girlfriend, who “doesn’t want to be famous in any way whatsoever at all.”
While fans will inevitably scour the songs for clues about her new love life, Knapp says she never writes songs about specific people. But she pulls no punches in the first line of the track “Inside,” singing: “I know they’ll bury me before they hear the whole story.”
“I hope that the defiance does come across as humble,” she explained. “If there’s any frustration, it’s trying to politely break the yoke of being asked to be something that I just can’t be, and with all humility go: ‘Just please be kind when you discover the truth.’ It’s kinda all you can do.”
MAPLE SHADE, NEW JERSEY – A teacher’s explanation to parents of a women’s history project planned for her third-graders contained these words: “If your child is a young man, he does not have to wear a dress or skirt.”
That didn’t stop a parent and a blogger from complaining that little boys were being asked to cross-dress as part of the “gay agenda.” From there, the Maude Wilkins School’s project about the evolution of women’s clothing quickly took on a life of its own – and now it’s been called off completely.
“In hindsight,” Superintendent Michael Livengood said Wednesday, “maybe a different activity could have been chosen that was a little bit more relevant to history.”
It’s the second time in six months that a New Jersey school program has attracted wide attention for something officials say was planned innocently. About 70 protesters visited a Burlington County school in October, upset about a song in which students praised President Barack Obama.
In both cases, administrators say, the ensuing uproar was due to blogs that spread the word but got the intent wrong.
The latest saga began this month when teacher Tonya Uibel sent a letter home with her pupils announcing that all third-graders at Maude Wilkins were required to participate in a Women’s History Month project examining how women’s fashion has changed over time.
The letter said, in part: “If your child is a young man, he does not have to wear a dress or skirt, as there are many time periods where women wore jeans, pants and trousers. However, each child must be able to express what time period their outfit is from. Most of all, your child should have fun creating their outfit and learning about how women’s clothing has changed!”
Janine Giandomenico, a mother of a boy in the class and a frequent user of online social networks, posted a complaint on Facebook. By Monday, her concerns had worked their way to Warner Todd Huston, an opinion writer and editor of the Publius’ Forum site.
He skewered the school and suggested that the timing of the event, scheduled for Friday, was designed to coincide with a national “Day of Silence” to protest harassment of gays.
“Pushing the gay agenda while feminizing our young boys through a cross-dressing day? This isn’t your parent’s grade school celebration, for sure,” he wrote.
On Monday, as the Web traffic swelled and national media outlets picked up on the story, principal Beth Norcia decided to cancel the fashion show. She wrote in a new letter to parents that instead, students would draw how women’s fashion had evolved.
One third-grader, Elizabeth Heisler, said as school let out Wednesday that none of her classmates had seemed confused about whether boys were supposed to wear dresses. The cancellation of the fashion show means she doesn’t get to wear her red and black “can-can” dress to school on Friday.
The episode confounded her mother, Andrea Heisler.
“I would never think my son was going to come to school in an 1800s dress and petticoat,” she said.
Livengood, who leads the Maple Shade Township school district, acknowledged that the initial letter could be misunderstood.
But he said the school wasn’t trying to make anyone uncomfortable – and wasn’t even aware of the gay rights protests scheduled the same day.
“It’s unbelievable to me that the wording of a letter to a group of third-graders has caused this,” he said. “Do they really think that our little group of third-grade teachers has conspired to try to get boys to cross-dress?”
The district hasn’t heard complaints from any parents besides Giandomenico, Livengood said.
She told The Associated Press via Facebook message that she would be available for an interview, but has not responded to subsequent requests. On her Twitter account, she had this to say: “WE WON-CANCELLED! THANKS 4 YR SUPPORT!”
Still, Livengood said, he’s learned a lesson – to make sure communications from teachers to parents are reviewed before they go out.
from The Associated Press