Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Little History...

he Center for American Cultural Renewal (cfacr.org), or Vermont Renewal as it is sometimes known, is the offspring of an earlier, little known group called "Who Would Have Thought?" that was founded by the hard-core religious right activists Stephen Cable and Judith Sargent at the time that the Civil Unions Act was approved by the Vermont state legislature.

Stephen Cable, a Rutland, VT     (right) insurance agent, had been around for years. He is best known for angry, insistent "letters to the editor" that espoused unproven theories and opinions on human sexuality, with an oddly obsessive focus on gay sex. His spurious contentions about gays are based on "research" from very discredited sources such as Paul Cameron of the Family Rearch Council and the always entertaining Judith Reisman. (More on the notorious Cameron and the bizarre yet powerful FRC, as well as the slanderous bigot Reisman, in future posts).

Some say that Cable has had earlier personal connections to notoriously unsuccessful "ex-gay ministries" but certainly at his cfacr.org site we can see that he touts the work of these frauds now. Practicing what is called "reparative therapy" these groups programs have been roundly condemned by the American Psychiatric Association , the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers. These groups, along with the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Health Association, the Interfaith Alliance Foundation and the National Education Association put out the following statement more than 15 years ago:
The most important fact about 'reparative therapy,' also sometimes known as 'conversion' therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a 'cure.' ...health and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change young people's sexual orientation through 'reparative therapy' and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm.

The decision by the Vermont Supreme Court in Baker v. Vermont upset activists like Cable so much that he and his group urged the legislature to defy the Court. Anti-gay activists cared little about the effect that such a constitutionally dumb act would have had. They dismissed the recognition by the legislature of marriage being preserved for male-female couples. Like white supremacists in the 60's fearing the results of the US Supreme Court's decision in Loving v Virginia that struck down Virginia's anti-miscegenation law, Vermont's anti-gay activists like Cable based much of their argument on purported biblical prohibitions, misinformation and an appeal to the baser instincts of some Vermonters.

Cable and the other groups goal was then, and remains today, the institutionalization and state sanction of discrimination, supported by their own peculiar religious beliefs, with the ultimate goal to be the complete breakdown of church and state separation, leading to a state level (if not national) theocracy. To that end these activists pursued a narrow agenda in 2000, primarily that of driving from the state legislature those who had voted for Civil Unions and advocating for the removal from the Court of those justices that had affirmed the Baker decision. They were partly, although only briefly, successful. They, along with other groups that had fundamentalist or evangelical connections, like TIP (Take It To The People) and a group calling itself Take Back Vermont (Funny story here: The "Take Back Vermont" crowd failed to register the tradename "Take Back Vermont." Two Ferrisburg, VT women, sensing an entrepreneurial opportunity, registered the name for their Vermont-made products company. Succeeding groups like Vermont Renewal have learned from that lesson and are quite diligent about their "brands," so much so that they've left quite the paper trail), were able to see that 17 of the legislators who had voted for the Civil Unions Act were ousted in the November 2000 election. Most, if not all of the anti-civil union replacements that they supported or sponsored, had short careers due to the limited scope of their agenda. A successful legislator needed to be more than against something. The legislature is back to normal now and, despite the dire predictions of the anti-civil union forces, the sky has not fallen.

During this period Vermonters learned something about what other parts of the country had been going through in the name of religious intolerance. Fundamentalist cranks of all stripes showed up. Extremists like Randall Terry took up residence in the state. He was acclaimed and fêted by local anti-civil union activists like Rep. Nancy Sheltra (R-Newport). He was every bit as nasty as his reputation suggests and ironically, while working hard to deny Vermont lesbians and gays of their right to spousal benefits, he had just been censured by his church, the Landmark Church of Binghamton, New York, for a "pattern of repeated and sinful relationships and conversations with both single and married women." (Washington Post, February 12, 2000) Terry has since dumped his wife (not a very Christian a thing to do!) and has re-married to a former staffer.
"I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism."
— Randall Terry as quoted at an anti-abortion rally in Fort Wayne, Indiana by the Fort Wayne News Sentinel, August 16, 1993

More on Cable, his associates and many misrepresentations in the future.

Next up: Kevin Blier.

"What do fellow GOP conservatives say about The Center for American Cultural Renewal? "...(A)n organization with no Washington presence and little clout with social conservatives outside Vermont where it is based."


Blogger syn said...

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