Roundup: Sundown for Colorado Fundamentalists, TV and Teen Pregnancy

Brady Swenson

The sun may be setting on the political influence of fundamentalist churches; Study finds significant link between TV and teen pregnancy; 43% of women report sexual problems; 13 year-old rape victim stoned to death in Somalia for adultery; John Chittick walks the world speaking with teens about HIV/AIDS.

Sundown for Colorado Fundamentalists

Salon.com’s Mike Madden attended the New Life evangelical Christian church in Colorado Springs yesterday and filed a report that considers the waning political power of religious fundamentalists in America on the eve of the 2008 election.  New Life was, not too long ago, at the vanguard of the evangelical Christian churches’ rise in political power:

New Life isn’t just any megachurch. Its founding pastor, the Rev. Ted
Haggard, once led the National Association of Evangelicals. He helped
rally his flock — and conservative Christians around the country —
behind George W. Bush’s reelection campaign four years ago. For a time
it seemed New Life, the largest church in Colorado, was set to be the
vanguard of a political movement that would put the Bible into
policymaking for years to come, as Karl Rove and evangelical leaders
like Haggard teamed up to turn the country red.

But that was before the fall of its founder and before the 2006 midterm elections that swept Democrats into Republican Congressional seats all over America:

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But that was before Haggard was forced out
of his post after a scandal involving methamphetamines and a gay
hooker, two elements that don’t go over that well among
fundamentalists, and especially not when mixed together. Two days
later, Republicans lost control of Congress in the 2006 elections. Now,
two days before another election, with the polls pointing toward a
Barack Obama victory both in Colorado and nationwide, the country no
longer quite seems to be going New Life’s way.

Though Boyd did not make much mention of politics in his sermon yesterday he did take time to implore his congregants to vote yes on Amendment 48 that would redefine the word ‘person’ in the Colorado constitution to include zygotes at the moment of fertilization.  That amendment, which has been supported since the inception of its campaign by the leadership at evangelical churches like New Life, will likely fail tomorrow:

The same polls that show most Colorado voters will reject Boyd’s advice on the abortion amendment also show Obama leading in the state. Independent voters, who make up 26 percent of the ballots cast in early and absentee voting, appear to be breaking heavily for Obama. A Senate race, between Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Bob Schaffer, is considered a virtual lock for Udall.

Tomorrow could also turn out to be firther evidence that the political power of the social conservatives and the evangelical Christian movement that are so closely tied is waning:

Should places like Colorado, and Ohio,
and North Carolina and Virginia — all states with more than their fair
share of evangelical Christian conservatives — go blue on Tuesday, it
will be a clear sign that the sun may be setting on the political
influence of fundamentalist churches like New Life.

 

 

Study Finds Significant Link Between TV Sex and Teen Pregnancies 

A study, published today in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, tracked more than 700 12-to-17-year-olds for three years and found that those who viewed the most sexual content on TV were about
twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy
as those who saw the
least:  

"Watching this kind of sexual content on television is a powerful
factor in increasing the likelihood of a teen pregnancy," said lead
researcher Anita Chandra. "We found a strong association."  

Studies have found a link between watching television shows with sexual
content and becoming sexually active earlier, and between sexually
explicit music videos and an increased risk of sexually transmitted
diseases. And many studies have shown that TV violence seems to make
children more aggressive. But the new research is the first to show an
association between TV watching and pregnancy among teens.  

"This finding underscores the importance of evidence-based sex
education that helps young people delay sex and use prevention when
they become sexually active," said James Wagoner of Advocates for
Youth. "The absolutely last thing we should do in response is bury our
heads in the sand and promote failed abstinence-only programs." 

Time and MSNBC also cover the study. 

 

Almost Half of Women Have Sexual Problems

A recent study by Dr. Jan Shifren, an associate professor of obstetrics,
gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and
director of the Vincent Menopause Program at Massachusetts General
Hospital, found that about 43 percent of women report sexual problems and about 12 percent of women reports distress accompanying that problem:

Overall, 43.1 percent of those surveyed reported some kind of sexual
problem: 39 percent reported diminished desire, 26 percent reported
problems with arousal, and 21 percent problems with achieving orgasm.

Only 12 percent, however, reported significant personal distress associated with this problem.

And there were age differences. "The highest prevalence of sexual
dysfunction was in older women, but they experienced less associated
distress," Shifren said. "The most distress occurred at mid-life, and
the youngest women had the lowest prevalence of problems and of
associated distress."

 

13-Year-Onld Rape Victim Stoned to Death in Somalia for Adultery

HuffingtonPost.com reports on a tragedy that belies words:

A 13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in
Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants, a human
rights group said.

Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death Oct. 27 in a
stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of
Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing
witnesses. The Islamic militia in charge of Kismayo had accused her of
adultery after she reported that three men had raped her, the rights
group said.

Initial local media reports said Duhulow
was 23, but her father told Amnesty International she was 13. Some of
the Somali journalists who first reported the killing later told
Amnesty International that they had reported she was 23 based upon her
physical appearance.

Calls to Somali government officials and the local administration in Kismayo rang unanswered Saturday.

"This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed
opposition groups who currently control Kismayo," David Copeman,
Amnesty International’s Somalia campaigner, said in a statement Friday.

 

Man on a Mission: John Chittick Walks the World Talking to Teens About HIV/AIDS

A former art-gallery owner turned HIV/AIDS education expert and lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health has been walking the world’s streets for over a decade and estimates he has spoken with over 300,000 teens all over the world about HIV/AIDS:

In 1997, he launched TeenAIDS, created what he says was the Web’s first site for teens and HIV, teenaids.org,
and started his "World Walks." He operates on a shoestring budget from
private donations, and has avoided government funding because he
doesn’t "want any strings attached." (He shakes his head at the Bush
administration’s abstinence-only education.)

 

News Politics

Colorado Republicans Pick Anti-Choice County Commissioner for U.S. Senate Race

Jason Salzman

Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.

Glenn received about 38 percent of the primary vote versus nearly 25 percent for Graham, who finished second.

Glenn made no secret of his anti-choice stance during the primary election, describing himself in interviews as an “unapologetic Christian, constitutional conservative” and supporting “personhood” rights for fertilized human eggs (zygotes), a stance that could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

Consistent with this, Glenn is also opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision.

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Glenn frequently brought up his faith in interviews. For example, Glenn broke out from his Republican rivals at the GOP state convention in April, where he gave an impassioned speech during which he discussed Planned Parenthood and opposing abortion ​before delegates voted him on to the GOP primary ballot.

Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”

Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.

Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”

In the final weeks of the primary, Glenn was supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.

Duffy doesn’t expect the race to be “very competitive,” an observation that aligns with the “Democrat favored” assessment of the race by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Last year, Bennet was widely considered one of only two vulnerable U.S. Senate Democrats.

“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”

Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.

In 2014, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is anti-choice, defeated pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who hammered Gardner on his abortion stance throughout the campaign. 

Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”

Commentary Violence

Inciting Hatred and Violence: Unfortunately, This Is Who We Are As a Nation

Jodi Jacobson

As a country, we are more like those we condemn for espousing hatred than most Americans would like to admit.

“This is not who we are.” “This is not America.” These sentiments have become a common refrain in recent years in the response to everything from mass shootings to police abuse of power and police brutality toward protesters, to blatantly racist acts by members of a fraternity. In response to a CIA report describing the extent of torture and brutality used on prisoners in the “war on terror,” President Barack Obama asserted “this is not who we are,” because torture is “contrary to our values.” And in the wake of the mass shootings last year in San Bernardino, California, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated that: “Violence like this has no place in this country. This is not what we stand for, this is not what we do.”

But these statements are at best aspirational for a country in which the leaders of at least one major political party regularly exploit intolerance, fear, and “morality” to win campaigns, and in which the leaders of the other too often hide behind platitudes and half-measures intended to placate specific constituencies, but not fundamentally challenge those realities. They are at best aspirational for a country in which the beliefs of Islamic fundamentalists are condemned, but the same views when espoused by conservative Christian fundamentalists are given legal and social approval by both parties, because … religion. They are at best aspirational for a country in which women’s rights to their own bodies are a subject of ongoing debate, medical professionals are villainized and murdered, and rape and sexual assault are often blamed on the victim. These statements are also aspirational in a country in which we imprison people of color of every age, sex, and gender at rates far higher than whites; actively rip families apart by deporting millions of undocumented persons; and pass laws denying people access to basic human needs, like bathrooms, due to their gender identity.

We are not what we say. We are what we do.

Consider the events of the last 24 hours. A U.S.-born citizen (born in New York, living in Florida) opens fire in a large gay nightclub, killing at least 50 people and injuring at least 53 more. The shooter’s father suggested that the rampage was not due to religion but “may” have been incited by his son’s anger at seeing two men kissing. His former wife described him as being violent and unstable. He allegedly made a call to 9-1-1 to declare himself a supporter of ISIS. He used a military-grade assault rifle to carry out what is being called one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

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In the immediate aftermath, even before details were known, the following happened: First, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has most recently worked strenuously to oppose the rights of transgender students in his state’s schools, tweeted and shared on Facebook the biblical quote from Galatians, 6:7, stating that “a man reaps what he sows.” Translation: The people killed had it coming because they were gay. (His staff later said the tweet was prescheduled. It stayed up for four hours.)

Before any details were shared by the FBI or Florida law enforcement, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), known for scapegoating Muslim Americans and calling for racial and religious profiling, was on CNN claiming that the U.S.-born shooter was “from Afghanistan.”

In short order, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined the fray by appearing on CNN. According to the transcript:

“If in fact this terrorist attack is one inspired by radical Islamic ideology, it is quite frankly not surprising that they would target this community in this horrifying way, and I think it’s something we’ll have to talk about some more here, across the country,” he said.

Rubio [also] said it’s not yet clear what the shooter’s motivations were, but that if radical Islamic beliefs were behind the shooting, “common sense tells you he specifically targeted the gay community because of the views that exist in the radical Islamic community with regard to the gay community.”

Rubio would appear to share those views “with regard to the gay community.” He is against same-sex marriage and made that opposition a key issue during his recent run for the GOP presidential nomination. He opposes legislation to make employment discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation illegal, supports “conversion therapy,” and is against the rights of gay persons to adopt children.

What, exactly, is the difference between the hatred spewed by radical Islamists and that by conservative Christian fundamentalists in the United States? How can any less responsibility be laid at the feet of the U.S. politicians and their supporters for violence and terror when they espouse the same forms of hatred and marginalization as those they blame for that terror? Why are we so quick to connect the lone gunman in Orlando with Islam and so unwilling to connect the “lone wolves” like Robert Dear, Angel Dillard, and Scott Roeder with the Christian right, or to hold young white star athletes accountable for the violence they commit against women? Why are we so loath to talk about rational limits on an AK-47 assault rifle, a weapon of war, when mass murders have become routine?

It may not be pretty and it may be hard to acknowledge, but as a country we are more like those we rush to condemn than we are willing to admit. We are a country founded on and fed by a strong historical current of patriarchy, white supremacy, systemic racism, misogyny, discrimination, and scapegoating, all of which in turn feeds hatred, violence, and terror. That is part of who we are as a nation. Pretending that is not the case is like pretending that your severely dysfunctional family is just fine, and that the violence you experience daily within it is just an aberration and not a fact of life.

But it is not an aberration. Christian fundamentalist hatred is not “better” than Islamic fundamentalist hatred. White American misogyny is not “better” than Islamic fundamentalist misogyny. Discrimination and the abrogation of rights of undocumented persons, people of color, LGBTQ people, or any other group by U.S. politicians is not different morally or otherwise than that practiced by “other” fundamentalists against marginalized groups in their own country.

We are what we do.

We like to act the victim, but we are the perpetrators. Until we come to grips with our own realities as a country and take responsibility for the ways in which politicians, the media, and corporate backers of both help bring about, excuse, and otherwise foster discrimination and hatred, we can’t even begin to escape the violence, and we certainly can’t blame anyone else. We must aspire to do better, but that won’t happen unless we take responsibility for our own part in the hatred at the start.

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to clarify the details around the Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tweet.