Fox News contributor Ben Carson joined the growing list of American conservatives praising Vladimir Putin's Russia for its ultraconservative social policies, asserting that Russia is "gaining prestige and influence throughout the world" thanks to Putin's hardline brand of Orthodox Christianity.
In a February 12 column for TownHall.com, Carson echoed Pat Buchanan and Breitbart.com in musing that the former Soviet Union - once pilloried as the "godless, evil empire" - has long since overtaken the United States in the realm of "Christian values." Carson lauded Russia's religious conservatism while endorsing Putin's recent remarks suggesting that the U.S. and western Europe have become "godless" (emphasis added):
We used to characterize the Soviet Union as a godless, evil empire. Like many societies based on communism or socialism, the Soviets saw fit to minimize the importance of God and, in many cases, wreaked unimaginable persecution on religious people.
Why is faith in God anathema to such states? It's because they need to remove any authority other than themselves as the arbiter of right and wrong.
Interestingly, last year Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Euro-Atlantic countries, including the United States, of becoming godless and moving away from Christian values. Some may bristle at such an accusation, but when you consider that many Americans are hesitant even to mention God or Jesus in public, there may be some validity to his claim.We also casually have tossed out many of the principles espoused in the Bible and have concluded that there's no authority greater than man himself.
As secular progressives try to remove all vestiges of God from our society, let us remember the godly principles of loving our fellow man, caring about our neighborhoods, developing our God-given talents to the utmost so that we become valuable to the people around us, and maintaining high principles that govern our lives. Our Judeo-Christian values led this nation to the pinnacle of the world in record time. If we embrace them, they will keep us there.
While we Americans are giving a cold shoulder to our religious heritage, the Russians are warming to religion. The Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours. I wonder whether there is a correlation.
Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro asserted that "[t]his is not a country that discriminates against homosexuals," despite the persistence of marriage equality bans, anti-LGBT employment discrimination, and hate crimes.
In a February 10 interview with Fusion TV's Jorge Ramos, Shapiro weighed in on National Football League prospect Michael Sam's recent announcement that he's gay. Even as the rabid opponent of marriage equality, anti-discrimination protections, and efforts to end anti-LGBT bullying asserted he was "happy" for Sam, Shapiro reprised an argument he made in a Breitbart.com column depicting Sam as the useful pawn of a liberal media intent on proving America is homophobic. When Ramos pressed Shapiro on whether gays encounter discrimination in the U.S., Shapiro was unwilling to acknowledge anything more than "a vastly minute amount":
SHAPIRO: I would say there is a vastly minute amount of discrimination against gays in this country. The FBI statistics show there are about the same number of attacks on Jews in this country as there are homosexuals. This is not a country that discriminates against Jews and homosexuals. When we do find somebody who discriminates against homosexuals, they should be called out by every person of good-hearted intent as they are in the United States 2014. This is not 1952.
Evidence continues to mount that a new California law allowing transgender public school students to use the restroom facilities that correspond to their gender identity is being implemented successfully without causing the "anarchy and madness" predicted by right-wing media figures.
On January 1, California's recently enacted School Success and Opportunity Act went into effect, requiring public schools to allow transgender students to have access to facilities and extracurricular activities that correspond to their gender identity. A right-wing coalition aims to overturn the law in a November referendum, but an initial signature count suggested that the repeal campaign won't have sufficient signatures to put the law up for a vote. California officials have until February 24 to complete a signature-by-signature count.
Following passage of the law, right-wing media figures issued apoplectic predictions of bathroom harassment and inappropriate behavior, warning that students would pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into opposite-sex bathrooms.
Equality Matters contacted officials from a number of California's largest school districts to determine whether the right-wing horror stories about transgender students had come true in the first month of the law's implementation. Unsurprisingly, none of the school districts reported incidents of harassment or inappropriate behavior, with several pledging to continue accommodating transgender students even if the law is repealed in a referendum.
With 662,140 students enrolled in the 2011-2012 school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District educates more than one in 10 of all the students enrolled in California public schools. The School Success and Opportunity Act is hardly uncharted territory for the district, which began implementing trans-affirmative policies nearly a decade ago.
During that time, there hasn't been a single incident of bathroom misbehavior, according to Dr. Judy Chiasson, Los Angeles Unified's program coordinator for Human Relations, Diversity and Equity.
Contrary to predictions from the likes of Fox News' Greg Gutfeld and Bill O'Reilly that students would pretend to be transgender just so they could get into opposite-gender restrooms, "we have had no incidents of anybody pretending to be transgender," Chiasson told Equality Matters.
That's because the district has a case-by-case process in place by which to ensure that the district's transgender protections benefit students who actually are transgender.
"We go by the rule of thumb of 'consistent/persistent' [gender identity]," Chiasson explained. "We don't let children [decide], 'I'm gonna be a girl during P.E. and the rest of the day I'm going to be a boy."
Like Los Angeles, the San Francisco Unified School District codified transgender protections for its students well in advance of the statewide law.
"SFUSD policy has been in place successfully for ten years ahead of" the law, district spokeswoman Heidi Anderson said in an email. "We work actively with all families to guarantee their children are welcome and safe in our schools, and that of course includes our LGB students, gender variant students, and transgender students."
Anderson said that the district had "experienced no incidents" since the new look took effect - something she said wasn't surprising "given our success with this policy over the years."
Daily Caller gossip scribe Betsy Rothstein used the transphobic slur "tranny" to describe transgender activist Janet Mock, defending Piers Morgan against charges that his February 4 interview with Mock sensationalized Mock's story and stating Mock's new memoir wouldn't "even exist if she had not been born with a penis."
In a February 5 column titled "CNN's Piers Morgan unfairly gets his nuts handed to him by a tranny," Rothstein blasted critics who denounced Morgan for fixating on the physical and sexual aspects of Mock's gender identity during a February 4 interview on his show. Rothstein said the controversy was much ado about nothing, even as the title of her column contained a notorious anti-transgender slur (emphasis added):
The reason for his bad day centered around Janet Mock, a transgender woman he'd had as a guest on his program to discuss her new book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. That's right, he was helping her sell her book. But that wasn't enough for Mock. She really wants to sell her book. So a week after the interview was taped, she incited people in the transgender community, who accused Morgan of being "transphobic" and mistreating her by explaining that she was male before age 18. The fact is, Mock was born a boy with the name "Charles" and had a sex change at 18. Her beef is that she "identified" as a woman her whole life. And yet, she still had a penis. During the interview, Piers told her that her dress was something Beyoncé would wear. Mock replied, "Well, I live for Beyoncé. So that's a very good compliment. Thank you." Piers complimented Mock repeatedly throughout the segment, calling her "brave" and "gutsy" and a "remarkable lady." Instead of being treated like a zoo animal who is fed his part, Morgan asked questions he thought viewers would wonder about. For example, asking his audience how they might feel if they learned a woman they were dating was once a dude? Hardly an outlandish question to ask in reference to a transgender woman who is selling a book about her life experiences. But that was not in Mock's talking points. She wanted Piers to normalize her experience and speak to her as if she wasn't selling her book based on the fact that she is a transgender. Would the book even exist had she not been born with a penis? OF COURSE NOT. If we wanted a sanitized, publicist's version of an interview, fine. But that wasn't the case, nor should it have been.
Tonight, Piers had Mock back on his program in a live interview. He asked why he has had to endure 24 hours of abuse from the transgender community.
Rothstein's apparent belief that Mock couldn't possibly have truly identified as a woman until she underwent a surgical sex change reflects the very sort of "reductive thinking about gender" Mock decried in a February 4 interview with BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner. But Rothstein's focus on Mock's genitalia is standard fare at the rabidly transphobic Daily Caller, where even transgender high school students are considered fair game for journalistic ridicule.
Morgan - who continued to complain about Mock and his critics in a follow-up interview with her on February 5 - tweeted Rothstein's article, calling it an "interesting take":
Washington Times columnist Rebecca Hagelin denounced comprehensive sex education programs as part of a "deplorable" effort to sexualize the nation's students - ignoring data showing that students in such programs tend to delay sexual activity - and listing discussions of homosexuality as an example of the "lurid propaganda" sexual education allegedly promotes.
In her February 4 column, Hagelin tackled "sex propaganda in schools" as her "culture challenge of the week." Highlighting a story that originated with serial misinformer Todd Starnes of Fox News, Hagelin asserted that sex ed is "designed ... to encourage children to experiment with sex." She blasted sex ed programs that teach as "equal" and "normal" such activities as "male-female intercourse, masturbation, and homosexual practices" (emphasis added):
Imagine your sweet daughter, barely into puberty, coming home and showing you a photograph she took with her phone of a sex poster at school -- a poster that lists the many ways people "express their sexual feelings," including "grinding," "anal sex," "oral sex" and just about everything else you can think of.
Imagine, even further, that the school district representative, when asked about the poster, shrugs and says it is part of a health and science curriculum that "aligns with national standards" of sexuality education.
You'd be right to be mad.
But this isn't a thought experiment. This is real-life "sex ed" in the heartland of America.
Mark Ellis, a man whose daughter attends a public middle school within the Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas, made the news when he found out the truth about what goes on in America's schools these days. He was shocked at the explicit nature of the school-authorized poster and perplexed by the school's claim that its sexual education curriculum is meant to promote abstinence.
"This has nothing to do with abstinence or sexual reproduction," he said.
He's right. But, sadly, many of our nation's public schools teach the lurid propaganda every day.
Most sexuality education curriculum materials are designed not to promote abstinence but to encourage children to experiment with sex. Any kind of sex. Programs like the one Mr. Ellis protested present all types of sexual activity as equal and perfectly normal even for the youngest of children, including male-female intercourse, masturbation and homosexual practices.
The reason is quite simple.
For the political left, children have a "right" to have sex with no guilt, no consequences and no commitments. And they are going to teach them how to do it, by golly.
Educators, school boards and school districts have been snowed by "experts" who peddle the claim that "comprehensive" sex education programs are designed to promote abstinence as much as "safer sex." They are not. Sprinkling a few words about abstinence into a curriculum loaded with explicit "how to" information is simply a subterfuge.
The real agenda is to expose innocent children to sexual practices that they couldn't even imagine at their tender ages without some adult planting the idea into their heads.
CNN host Piers Morgan demonstrated how not to treat transgender subjects after a problematic interview with transgender activist and author Janet Mock, during which Morgan fixated on the physical aspects of Mock's identity as a trans woman and CNN included an on-screen description stating that Mock "[w]as a boy until age 18." Under fire for his handling of the interview, Morgan responded by bitterly denouncing Mock and her supporters.
Transgender activist Janet Mock appeared on the February 4 edition of Piers Morgan Live to discuss her new memoir Redefining Realness. Rather than focus on the book, however, Morgan repeatedly brought up Mock's physical characteristics and described her as a "boy" before her transition - reinforcing the common problem of journalists objectifying transgender bodies.
In an interview with BuzzFeed after her appearance, Mock took Morgan to task for trying to "sensationalize" her life in the interview. Mock objected to Morgan's focus on her physical appearance - at the beginning of the segment, he marveled that he'd never have guessed "you had ever been a boy" - as well as her sex life and physical transition.
Mock told BuzzFeed that Morgan's interview implied she wasn't a woman "until I got the surgery," while CNN and Morgan's descriptions of her as a former "boy" displayed "reductive thinking about gender." Moreover, Mock said, Morgan's queries about her relationship with her boyfriend and his reaction to her gender identity contributed to the perception that trans women are "deceiving" their significant others. As Mock told BuzzFeed, her "book is not about Aaron or my relationship."
Instead of treating Mock's criticism as a learning opportunity, Morgan lashed out on Twitter. While asserting that he's "always been 100% supportive of transgender rights," Morgan also referred to "STUPID" "transgender supporters" as "dimwits" for deigning to criticize him, calling Mock "a shameful" promoter of "nonsense" whom he wished he hadn't booked:
After months of denying and ignoring the persistent problem of anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace, Fox News displayed a newfound concern for employment discrimination - against religious conservatives.
On the February 4 edition of The Real Story, Fox host Gretchen Carlson hosted a "faith panel" consisting of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the 700 Club's Wendy Griffith, and American Atheists' Amanda Knief to discuss a new report from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation showing a correlation between religious freedom and economic performance. The panel delved into matters of religious views in the workplace, with Carlson suggesting that in the U.S., Christianity is no longer "allowed always as it was in the past":
CARLSON: Many people in the United States feel like in recent years in, there's been some sort of - well, that Christianity hasn't been allowed always as it was in the past, and that there seems to be some sort of attack on it, whether you believe that or not.
The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation doesn't link to the report on its website, although a summary in the Deseret News indicates that the report merely finds a correlation between improved economic outcomes and the loosening of religious restrictions, as in post-Maoist China. There's nothing in the summary pertaining to alleged religious discrimination in the U.S., of which Carlson didn't cite a single example.
Carlson's purported concern for workplace bias is noteworthy, given that it comes after Fox News has long been silent on anti-LGBT employment discrimination - a real, existing problem - or portrayed legislative efforts to combat it as a threat to religious liberty. After the historic Senate passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in November, Fox News devoted a grand total of 19 seconds of coverage to the vote.
In a refreshing contrast to the problematic and often transphobic coverage provided by other media outlets, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry used her eponymous show to allow a transgender woman to tell her own story in a segment that highlighted the importance of letting transgender people speak for themselves.
The February 1 edition of Melissa Harris-Perry featured an interview with transgender author and activist Janet Mock, whose new memoir Redefining Realness tells the story of Mock's experiences as a trans woman of color. Harris-Perry opened the segment by noting the challenges confronting the transgender community, including disproportionate levels of violence and harassment and employment discrimination.
In her interview, Mock told Harris-Perry that she wrote her memoir to empower other trans women by "bringing words to explain my experiences" and showing that trans people "exist in the daytime and live a very full life":
MOCK: I think for me [I wrote a memoir] because not enough of our stories are being told. And I think that bringing words to explain my experiences - and not only explain my personal experiences, but also, like, the political context was really important to me, but I knew that young girls needed a personal story that reflected them. And I think that a lot of women will see - a lot of marginalized women, at least - will see themselves in the experiences that I described in the story.
The segment differed sharply from other news outlets' coverage of transgender issues. In January, an article on the sports website Grantland outing transgender golf club inventor Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt was fiercely criticized and sparked questions about the role the author's reporting may have played in prompting Vanderbilt to commit suicide. Transgender experts and advocates said that the story and its tragic ending underscored the need for news organizations to get the input of actual trans people when reporting on issues related to the community.
The Daily Caller mocked and objectified transgender students in its report on a recent legal victory for transgender youth, a report that also featured the long-debunked claim that transgender students will engage in inappropriate behavior if they're allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
The Daily Caller accompanied a February 1 article titled "Maine's supreme court foists choose-your-own-bathroom policy on entire state" with a photo illustration of a woman screaming from behind a shower curtain, which the Daily Caller also used for another piece deriding transgender protections:
In the article itself, education editor Eric Owens continued his pattern of transphobic ignorance, often characterized by an objectifying fixation on the genitalia of transgender subjects. Blasting Maine's Supreme Judicial Court for its January 30 ruling that states must allow transgender students to use restrooms for the gender with which they identify, Owens wrote (emphasis added):
The supreme court of Maine has issued an opinion declaring that transgender children in the state's public schools must be allowed to choose their own bathrooms despite their genitalia or how uncomfortable other students may feel about it.
The 5-1 decision, which came down on Thursday, marks the first time any state's high court has ruled that transgender kids can use the bathroom with which they identify rather than the one matching their biological trappings, reports the Bangor Daily News.
The case, which originated in 2009 and stagnated for years in Maine's courts, involved a fifth-grade student who wanted to use the girls' bathroom. School officials said no because the student was not, in fact, a girl.
Jennifer Levi, director of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) transgender rights project, was pleased with the outcome.
"A transgender girl is a girl and must be treated as such in all respects, including using the girls' restroom," Levi stridently insisted.
The article's jump-page line read, "Transgender dudes cleverly force their way into female bathrooms all over the country":
One month after taking effect, California's new law allowing transgender students to use facilities and participate in programs that match their gender identities hasn't given rise to the horror stories predicted by the right-wing media, according to school officials around the state.
On August 12, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the School Success and Opportunity Act, extending to transgender students statewide rights that had already been recognized by large school districts like Los Angeles Unified School District. The passage of the law, which took effect on January 1, catalyzed a conservative misinformation campaign featuring the false claims that transphobic bullying is "not a big problem," that the law would allow bathroom "free-for-alls" with students exploiting the law to use opposite-sex restrooms, and that harassment would spike in restrooms and locker rooms.
In an interview with Equality Matters, Dr. Judy Chiasson, Los Angeles' program coordinator for Human Relations, Diversity and Equity, said that after nine years of implementing trans-affirmative policies, Los Angeles schools haven't experienced any of the problems predicted by right-wing critics of the law.
"We have had no incidents of anybody pretending to be transgender," Chiasson said.
As the district has for nearly a decade, Chiasson said that Los Angeles schools would determine students' eligibility for the law on a case-by-case basis, verifying that a student's gender identity has been "consistent" and "persistent." Conservative claims that the law would let students who aren't transgender sneak into opposite-sex restrooms and locker rooms won't pan out, Chiasson said, because such claims bear no relationship to the reality of implementing transgender protections.
"We don't let children [declare] 'I'm gonna be a girl during P.E. and the rest of the day I'm going to be a boy,'" Chiasson said.
Far from creating headaches, Chiasson said, the new law is helping prevent them.
"I can assure families that a law like this solves problems. It doesn't create them," Chiasson told Equality Matters. She cited a transgender male student who long believed he had to use the girls' restroom. That situation, Chiasson said, caused far more stress and discomfort than when he began using the boys' facilities.
And while the discredited Pacific Justice Institute - which invented a story about a transgender female harassing her peers in a Colorado high school restroom - has sought to stoke parental opposition to transgender rights, Chiasson said that Los Angeles' protections have been cheered by parents.
"Within LA Unified," Chiasson said, "we have a legacy of being particularly LGBT-affirming. The parents have been very grateful because we're giving them a school where their children can be affirmed and recognized."
Other school districts' experience with the new law dovetails with Los Angeles' experience with transgender protections.