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The Orlando Shooting Launches A War On Christianity

by David French

Somehow, Omar Mateen’s massacre has put American Christians on the defense.

We are now fully through the looking glass. A Muslim man walked into a gay nightclub and gunned down 49 men and women, most of them gay or lesbian. He paused in the middle of his massacre to call 911 and a local television station, making clear that he wanted the world to know he had pledged allegiance to ISIS. There are no dog whistles here. This is a textbook example of jihadism in action, plain and simple. Yet somehow, Omar Mateen’s massacre has put American Christians on the defensive. Yesterday, Anderson Cooper grilled Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, accusing her of hypocrisy for expressions of support for slain Floridins. Why was she hypocritical? Because she opposed same-sex marriage:


The New York Times editorialized about the domestic threat to LGBT Americans and declared that they were “casualties of a society where hate has deep roots.” The “society” the Times condemned wasn’t the ISIS caliphate — it was America, and specifically states such as Texas and North Carolina that are fighting federal edicts that demand that men should have access to women’s restrooms. The Times couldn’t bring itself to condemn Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but it attacked North Carolina governor Pat McCrory and Texas governor Greg Abbott.

Even well-meaning Christians are adopting the secular-progressive line. In a viral Facebook post, popular writer and speaker Jen Hatmaker declared, “We cannot with any integrity honor in death those we failed to honor in life.” She then proceeded to offer a standard leftist broadside against Evangelicals, arguing that Christian “anti-LGBTQ sentiment has paved a long runway to hate crimes.” The principles, such as they exist, seem to be this: If you oppose same-sex marriage or mixed-gender bathrooms, then you not only can’t legitimately grieve the loss of gay lives, you’re partially responsible for the massacre in Orlando. Conservative efforts to protect religious freedom and freedom of association from unprecedented infringement will kill people. Never mind that all the actual evidence in the case points to Islamic motivations extrapolated from well-known and widely shared interpretations of Shariah law, somehow those darn Baptists are to blame.

Does this mean that Barack Obama would have been complicit in the massacre if it had happened four years ago, before he publicly changed his stance on same-sex marriage? What about Hillary Clinton? She opposed gay marriage until 2013. Her husband signed the Defense of Marriage Act. The Orlando shooter lived for years under Democratic administrations that opposed same-sex marriage. I guess Bill Clinton shares some blame as well.

I don’t have the words adequate to express my contempt for this view. Does any living, sentient being believe that if a Christian had launched this attack, these same liberals wouldn’t blame his religious beliefs? The so-called “reality-based community” ignores the actual evidence in the attack — Mateen’s own loudly declared jihadist beliefs — in an attempt to shame a community whose primary “sin” is opposing the sexual revolution. But there is something even more sinister at work than garden-variety anti-Christian bigotry, aided and abetted by gullible believers such as Hatmaker: Americans are being purposefully and intentionally distracted from our true enemies. Once again, the jihadist threat is being minimized.

Some on the left simply refuse to believe what terrorists say about themselves and about their intentions. Osama bin Laden couldn’t have really attacked the World Trade Center in part out of a desire to avenge Christians’ 15th-century conquest of Muslim Spain. Iranian leaders don’t really mean “death to America.” Muslim nations that mandate the death penalty or other draconian criminal punishments for homosexuality don’t truly express the will of their people.

The result is bigotry running two ways — an unreasoning, irrational hatred of American Christians and a comprehensive denial of Muslim moral agency. American Christians are responsible for things they don’t believe. Sharia-observant Muslims, by contrast, aren’t responsible for the things they do believe. And make no mistake, said Muslims don’t care a whit what the New York Times, Anderson Cooper, Jen Hatmaker, or any other anti-Evangelical terror apologist has to say. To them, one American life taken is as good as any other. They will attack again, maybe at another gay bar, or another office Christmas party, or a coffee house, or a sporting event, or a church. And when they do, there will surely be some Americans who excuse their actions out of eagerness to blame other Americans, instead. –National Review

Here’s How Orlando Responded When The Westboro Church Crashed A Victim’s Funeral

by The Gaily Grind Staff

As the first of many funerals began in Orlando this week, the hate group Westboro Baptist Church threatened to protest the victims’ funerals as their grieving families gathered to mourn their loved ones.

As promised, at least 6 members of the Kansas-based hate group showed up in Orlando Sunday morning, but their hate was met with thousands of Orlando residents who formed a human wall of love to shield the families of the victims from their hate.

Orlando Shakespeare Theater members joined efforts to keep the protesters from disrupting the funerals of those killed at gay nightclub Pulse. They spent the last few days using the theater’s costume shop to build 11 sets of “angel wings.”

“Volunteers will be wearing these large, white angel wings to show their support, proclaim love, and block the view of mourners from potential protesters,” said artistic director Jim Helsinger.

“Our focus is to bring forth a message of peace and love. Hatred is running rampant through our everyday lives. But as a group, we choose to lift ourselves above that hatred. We feel as so many others do, that love and compassion for our community and our humanity are the answers that so many people are desperately searching for.” -Gaily Grind

A Possibility Worth Pondering

Author Unknown

Consider the following . . . if Adam and Eve were Chinese, there would have been a high likelihood that they would not have fallen into the Devil's temptation, which means they would not have been driven out of Eden because instead of eating the forbidden fruit, they instead would have eaten the snake! -Contributed by Ralph

Orlando Tragedy And The Tangled History Of Jihad And Homosexuality

by Ali Olomi

When Omar Mateen, a young American-born man attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, he chose his target deliberately. The horrific attack left 49 dead and more injured in a community that is already marginalized and regularly faces discrimination in the United States.

Early reports indicated that Mateen declared his allegiance to jihadist groups. Later investigation revealed that he was likely struggling with his own sexuality as he frequented the nightclub and was a user of gay dating apps. To many this may muddy his motives, but only if one doesn’t understand the history of jihadism.

Jihadism is a particular strain of political and social reform that emerges as an anti-colonial movement in the Muslim world. In response to the threat of European hegemony, jihadism resisted violently and through that violence sought to reform the Muslim world.

At the heart of jihadist political violence are specific conceptualizations of gender and sexuality. Jihadism imagines a glorified militant masculinity that protects the Muslim world from the European threat and purifies its societies of internal decay.

Traditionally, Islamic history has been relatively tolerant of sexual diversity, and gay, lesbian, transgender, and intersex individuals occupy quite public spaces in medieval Muslim societies.

The progenitor of the modern Salafist movement, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, lived in a world of declining Ottoman power and in the face of growing European imperial might. European visitors to Muslim lands saw the tolerance and diversity of sexual desire as a sign of Islam’s backwardness. To European orientalists, the Muslim world was simultaneously a place of exotic sexual fantasy and desire, as well as a place of sexual perversion.

Orientalist depictions of a languid and hedonistic culture captured the imaginations of Europeans. Works of art like Ingre’s Grande Odalisque depicted concubines in pleasure houses. Travel accounts like that of CS Sonnini disapprovingly noted, “It is not for women their ditties are composed: it is not on them that tender caresses are lavished; far different objects inflame them.”

According to historian William G. Clarence-Smith, “Many secular Westerners perceived homosexuality as evidence of primitive survivals or biological decay. Such notions influenced modernizing Muslim reformers, seeking to strengthen their country.”

Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab linked what he saw as the decline of the Muslim world to sexuality. To him, the sexual diversity that was characteristic of much Islamic history was a sign of decay needing to be expunged. In response to the orientalists’ imaginings of a decadent and sexually perverse Muslim man, Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab called for a jihad to purify the Muslim world.

The first jihads by Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s followers were against the intersex and gay custodians of the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina. For centuries, these guardians had stood watch over the holiest sites of Islam, but to Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and his followers, they were representatives of the social order that had to be violently overturned.

Clarence-Smith goes on to say, “Wahhabi forces thus sought to cleanse the holy places of Mecca and Medina of homosexual activities…Tolerance was no longer acceptable…jihadists were keen to reform the sexual mores of the faithful.”

The first jihad of the modern era was not against the West, but against gay Muslims.

At the center of that jihad was a formulation of militant masculinity. Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s Salafi followers defined their heterosexuality and indeed, their virility through the oppression of gay men. While lesbian women were also marginalized, gay male sex in particular was deemed subversive to the Salafist.

The Salafist ideology would later inspire the jihadist movements of Al Qaeada and Daesh (ISIS).

In a perverse way, these groups respond to a sense of emasculation. The impotency of the Muslim world in the face of first European colonialism and later American militarism engenders a sense of insecurity which each jihadist group attempts to redress.

Daesh’s use of sexual slavery and execution of gay Muslims is not a remnant of medieval Islam, but a modern expression of anti-colonial violence enmeshed with jihadist rhetoric glorifying a militant masculinity that reimagines Islamic history, erasing the diversity, complexity, and tolerance in favor of a rigid political application intended to reclaim some perceived sense of past potency.

Daesh’s propaganda unveils their sexual anxiety. Images of Daesh fighters posed in heroic screenshots, mirroring superheroes and video game characters are telling. Daesh fighters are depicted as hyper-masculine, capable, and violent.

In many ways, this type of masculinity is not unique to the Muslim world. Only those ignorant of history can ignore the way the 2nd Amendment has been racialized; the right to bear arms is often the right to bear arms against immigrants and people of color.

Trump’s call to “make America great again” plays to the same ideas of a lost masculine potency that can be regained through violence and oppression against immigrants, black people, Mexicans, and Muslims.

While American militancy is defined as oppositional to immigrants and people of color, jihadist formulations of masculinity are defined by its exclusion of women and violence against the LGBTQ community. Both are expression of toxic masculinity.

It is tempting to see jihadism as a solely religious expression, but its history is entangled in anti-colonial anxieties that mangled and redefine religious expression deliberately and in opposition to the broader historical arc of the Islamic world. One cannot ignore how Omar Mateen’s homophobic violence contrasts with the valorization of homoeroticism in Rumi. Or how he committed his heinous acts during the month of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting for Muslims and a month that calls upon the faithful to make peace.

That Omar Mateen abused his ex-wife is not coincidental. Violence against sexual minorities goes hand-in-hand with violence against women. If gay individuals became a sign of moral and societal decay that needed to be purified, then women became a symbol of vulnerability that needed to be protected.

The forced veiling of women is a testament to the endeavor of jihadist militant groups to supposedly preserve society. As scholar of gender, Minoo Moallem, notes in her work on fundamentalism in Iran, “The veil signified an Islamic femininity… through an Islamic femininity and a complementary masculinity, reinforcing heteronormativity as central to the practices of citizenship.”

Omar Mateen’s attack against the LGBTQ community is a deliberate action by a man participating in a militant masculinity, a type of jihadism that defines itself in such acts of violence. He imagined himself as part of a brotherhood of jihadis who recognize one another through the regulation of women and subjugation of sexual minorities. It is an insecure definition of masculinity played out in imagination and expressed in horrific violence.

At the heart of jihadism is a both a rejection of Western influence and a simultaneous acceptance of European orientalists’ diagnosis that paints the ubiquitous acceptance of sexual diversity as a sign of Islam’s decay and moral laxity.

To the jihadist the decay of sexual diversity is purified through violence. Omar Mateen’s assault on the LGBTQ community fits into a history of jihadism that redefines sexual mores vis-à-vis violence.

The greatest threat to this violence, is the reminder of the sexual diversity present throughout the history of Islam. –Religion Dispatch

10 Things I Hate About Christians

Why I Blame Christians For the Orlando Tragedy

by David Smalley

“Now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians.” I couldn’t agree more! But I didn’t say this. Wanna take a guess at who did?

Although many of us have said it, this quote from two days ago wasn’t from Bill Maher or Barack Obama. It was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. It almost sounds like he’s anti-Christianity or against religious liberties, doesn’t it?

I know when we on the left say it, we’re deemed anti-Christian. So why does Cruz get a free pass? Because here’s the whole quote:

    “For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging, now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians.”

Really? Now is the time? Because it would help you be anti-Muslim?

In November of 2015, Cruz attended an anti-gay conference with known “Kill the Gays” Pastor Kevin Swanson, who said on that very stage that gays should be “put to death.” Cruz happily walked on stage and shook Swanson’s hand, and gave his own “pro-traditional-family-values” rhetoric.

But now, Cruz wants to act like he’s “pro-gay” in an attempt to gather us around his Muslim-hating table. No thanks.

Christians like Cruz do an amazing balancing act in their minds when tragedies like Orlando happen. Conservative Christians attack Muslims and talk about what a hateful religion it must be, while liberal Christians blame the lack of gun control.

It’s so predictable, it’s sad.

Of course extreme radical Islamic views are to blame in this issue. So is mental health. So is a lack of gun control. (This killer was under investigation by the FBI for terrorist activities and still had access to buy guns.)

But Christians, this is your fault, too. Yes, even though the killer was Muslim. Why? Because your religion breeds hate even though you try your best to ignore it. Your religion has imprinted its brand of anti-gay rhetoric as normative on the United States’ culture, in which this killer was born and raised.

Your rhetoric of normalizing “that’s gay” as a pejorative, and “fag” as an insult, and “queer” as strange or weird, and “marriage” only being between a man and a woman, has perpetuated this hate.

You’ve told gays, lesbians, and transpeople for years that their family isn’t a family. That their love isn’t love. That their sexual behaviors aren’t moral.

This leads to a cult-like societal mindset that gays are somehow sub-human; less worthy of respect, less worthy of equality, less worthy of life.

When Nazi soldiers spoke of “exterminating” Jews, they didn’t speak of them as humans. They called them “rats.” How did it get that far? Public rhetoric for years and years that became normal language to demonize a minority. That’s how.

You can say that you’re a liberal Christian. Fantastic. Welcome to partial reality. But your ‘holy’ book, in both the Old and New Testaments, says that gays are worthy of death, just like this killer decided. Just like Islam teaches.

That’s why there’s blood on your hands, Christians.

You have it in your home, and you display it proudly and call it “The Good Book.”

You let Sunday School teachers lead your children in Bible Study, and feel good about what you’re doing.

You demand that Presidents lay their hands on the good book and swear to be honorable to our country.

You’ve cultivated a society in which we lay our hands on the good book before we are trusted to tell the truth in a court room.

You’ve done this. You’ve perpetuated this false “brokenness”of the LGBT community. You’ve created this sub-human culture.

This is why I blame you.

But it’s not too late. I have a request for you at the end of this writing that I desperately want you to take seriously.

But first, let me go ahead and address your comments before you make them:

“That was just the Old Testament!” Wrong. Romans 1:26-32 says gays, and anyone who supports them, are worthy of death. So if you’re a liberal Christian, God wants you dead just as much as he wanted gays dead in Leviticus 20:13.

“Jesus died for us, and we don’t live by that law anymore!” While Hebrews 8 does speak of the Old Law being “obsolete,” those weren’t the words of Jesus. In fact, they contradict him. He addressed this directly in Matthew 5:17-20:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Did you catch that last part? Not only should we continue to follow the Old Law, but those who teach the Old Law are righteous in the eyes of Jesus. Let that sink in.

“Jesus came to teach us love and peace!” Wrong. In Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus says:

    “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”

This whole concept makes Christians incredibly uncomfortable. And it should.

While it’s easy for you to blame “Extreme Islam” for this horrific tragedy, you’re glossing over the fact that you’re part of the problem.

You’re holding on to something horrific, and praising it as though it is wonderful. You’ve put on the jersey of a team you disagree with. You’ve taken on a label that makes you uncomfortable with a doctrine you disagree with. You don’t have to keep it.

You can still love your neighbor, help in society, put others first, join like-minded communities, sing wonderful songs, and make amazing differences in this world as a Secular Humanist. In the name of Equality. In the name of Love.

Please consider embracing real Humanist love over divisive hatred in sheep’s clothing.

Your religion is only peaceful if you ignore most of it.

Today, I plead with you, to let it go.

-Patheos

Seeing Adversity From God’s Viewpoint

Isaiah 55:8-9

When adversity hits you like a ton of bricks, it could easily throw you into a pit of discouragement and despair. Although you may regard difficulties as setbacks, the Lord sees them as times for great advancement. His purpose in allowing them is not to destroy you but to stimulate your spiritual growth. In His great wisdom, the Lord knows how to take an awful situation and use it to transform you into the image of Christ and equip you to carry out His will.

Every adversity that comes into your life is sifted through God’s permissive will. That doesn’t mean the difficulty itself is His perfect will, but He’s allowed the trial to touch you so that He can use it to accomplish His wonderful purposes for your life. Although some of the suffering we see and experience seems senseless or blatantly evil, we must recognize that we have a very limited perspective and cannot always understand what the Lord is doing.

Our heavenly Father sees every aspect of life, but our view is restricted to what is right before us. His plans include not only you but also all of His creation, and they reach from the beginning of time to eternity. Though we’ll never grasp the infinite mind of God, we can know His faithfulness and love.

When you can’t understand God’s ways, focus on His perfect knowledge, wisdom, and power rather than the magnitude of your sorrow. Remember, He sees the entire picture and loves you more than you can imagine. This is a time to walk by faith, as perfect understanding comes only in heaven. –In Touch Ministries

Jul 1, 2016

May 22, 2016

Kentucky Tax Payers Forced To Fork Over $18 Million For Creationist’s ‘Ark Encounter’ Theme Park

The taxpayers of Kentucky will be forced to put their money towards a creationist theme park built by evolution-denying Christian fundamentalist Ken Ham, who seeks to spread the seed of misinformation to the malleable minds of children.

The Courier-Journal reports that the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority approved the “long-pending” application of the Christian ministry Answers in Genesis for the tax breaks this  Monday.

“A state board restocked last week with new appointees by Gov. Matt Bevin has quietly approved the long-sought tax incentives worth up to $18 million for the controversial Noah’s Ark theme park due to open this summer in Grant County,” the Journal reported.

The Lexington Herald Leader also reported that the tax break “initially was approved by the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority in 2014 under Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, but it was later canceled after tourism officials learned that the theme park would hire only Christians.”

    “Ark Encounter officials sued the state in federal court, saying the state’s decision to withhold the tax break violated its free speech. In January, U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove ruled that the theme park was eligible to receive the tax incentive, which has neutral requirements that can be met by religious and secular groups alike.”

The project will be dedicated to framing bible myths as science and historical fact, such as the idea that the earth is only 6,000 years old, humans and dinosaurs inhabited the planet at the same time, Noah gathered two of every animal in a boat and survived a flood, etc. The theme park is scheduled to open on July 7, 2016.

“It’s unfortunate that the government is giving tax incentives to an organization that is discriminating against its own citizens,” said Daniel Phelps, a Lexington geologist and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, referring to the park’s policy of only hiring Christians. –Dead State

'Religious Freedom' Bills: Opinions Are As Different As Individuals In The South

By Kevin Conlon, Polo Sandoval, Leigh Waldman, Christopher Lett, Emanuella Grinberg, Ed Danko and Nick Valencia

A spate of bills across the nation, but especially across the South, has pitted religious freedom against LGBT rights, resurrecting the specter of the civil rights movement, which saw religion and race locking horns many decades ago.

In North Carolina, it's about which bathrooms transgender people can use. The same concerns have been raised in South Carolina's legislature.

Tennessee says it wants to protect the religious freedom of therapists who wish not to treat the LGBT community.
And in Mississippi, the bill covers everything from wedding DJs to adoption services.
What's up with all the religious freedom bills?

CNN journalists fanned out to gather a spectrum of opinions from around the South. Those sounding off provided a variety of opinions, ranging from outright approval to tepid acceptance to concern to denunciation. Here are some of their stories.

Bartender

Mark Leopold, 28, is white, straight, privileged, educated and, when he moved to Jackson, Mississippi, for his wife's job, he was perfectly cognizant that he could be viewed as a carpetbagger. The Syracuse, New York, native was also aware of Mississippi's reputation for being slow to progress in many ways.

He was surprised when he arrived two years ago. The people were welcoming, humble, gracious and "sick of being the ass-end of every joke." He and his wife have already made lifelong friends during their short stint in the Magnolia State. He called them "the best people we've ever been friends with," and those friends are now distraught, as he is.

"It's sickening and mystifying," the Ivy League graduate said. "This law is not going to personally affect me, but so many of our friends that we've become close with down here either have young children or about to have kids, and you can tell when you talk to them that they don't know if this is an environment they want to bring a child up in."
The argument that the bill protects Christianity in one of the most devout states in the Union seems spurious to him. It appears Mississippi is acting like "an animal backed into a corner, and lashing out against progress, freedom, love, anything that they can to preserve the way that they think that things should be." And this is to say nothing of the potential brain drain the law could spawn, he said.

"People that are educated, progressive are not going to want to stay in a state that promotes discrimination. So people that have moved here such as my wife and myself, it's not encouraging for us to stay here," he said. "How could we live in a place that is openly encouraging discrimination? People that we're friends with, too."

Evangelist

Franklin Graham is the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, and is an accomplished evangelist in his own right. The 63-year-old North Carolina native believes his state's Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which bans people from using bathrooms that don't correspond with their biological sex, protects "women and children against sexual predators."

In a Wednesday post to Facebook, he applauded Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who recently said that if the law protected one woman or child from being molested, it was worth it, and any company that didn't appreciate "the worth of our children" could take their business elsewhere.

He also took aim at PayPal in the post. The online payment company announced this it was nixing plans for an operations center in Charlotte because it would be "simply untenable" to employ people in a state where team members wouldn't enjoy equal rights. Graham said this earned the California-based company "the hypocrite of the year award!"

"PayPal operates in countries including Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Yemen, for Pete's sake. Just last month PayPal announced they would be expanding in Cuba, a country in which homosexuals and transgender people have been imprisoned, tortured, and executed," he wrote. "And under the current law that they are so strongly protesting, PayPal could have chosen their own corporate bathroom policies."

Photographer

Maia Dery is a photographer who teaches her craft as an art instructor at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, and she feels the politicians in her state who stand by House Bill 2, aka "the bathroom bill," could learn a thing or two from talking to someone who isn't in politics. She's looking at Gov. Pat McCrory, in particular.

"It might not do him any harm to spend some time in civil discourse with people who disagree with him, because that is completely lacking at the state level and at the national level as far as I can tell," the 50-year-old said.

McCrory could benefit from a "10-day backpacking trip with people who disagree with him, not a party conversation. I'm talking about an immersive experience," said the surfer and blogger who enjoys leading photo expeditions to capture images around the Tar Heel State.

H.B. 2, she said, while problematic, especially for the economy and tourism, is only a symptom of a bigger issue: biased redistricting efforts that favor the conservative majority and dilute the voices of progressive voters on issues, which is "how we got this Legislature. That's how we got H.B. 2. That's how we got voter ID laws and restrictions on early voting."

More than a repeal of H.B. 2, she'd like to see efforts to bridge what she calls "a pretty intransigent cultural divide." In short, she said, "What we really need is sensible voting districts with diversity in all of them that allows us to have a vigorous debate at every level."

Baker

Jeromie Jones, 30, experienced discrimination firsthand when he was preparing to wed his now-husband and tried to rent a wedding venue. Jones is African-American, as was the venue owner, who told him, "We don't serve your kind here." It was already hard being a black man in Mississippi, he said. But gay and black? Sheesh.

The owner of Cakes by Kake King in Pearl, Mississippi, Jones was born and raised in Mississippi, and as a Christian, he never understood how people wondered aloud how he could reconcile loving God and being gay. But now, with what some observers call "one of the worst" religious freedom bills in the country set to take effect in July, he is downright ashamed of the place where he grew up. He now feels like a second-class citizen and worries that instances of discrimination will increase.

"I am absolutely outraged, especially being a black homosexual male. ... I'm considering moving my shop to Texas," he told CNN. "It's going to be more blatant than ever because now they have religion to justify it. The state has made it OK."

"It feels like I'm leaving behind something that I worked so hard for. It took me nine months to open, and I feel like I birthed this," he said from his shop. "And now I have an opportunity to share it with my husband and our kids one day, and we have to pretty much pick up and move everything because I don't feel like that we're ever going to be appreciated here for who we are. We're never going to be looked at as equal."

Seamstress

Jackqulin Buchanan's mother taught her to sew, a skill that has been passed down in her family from generation to generation. She now owns Seam-ing-ly Perfect Alterations Boutique in Jackson, Mississippi, where she specializes in sewing formal wear, namely for weddings and proms. She considers her Christianity an integral part of her business and says, "I don't compromise my faith or my belief in any way."

If a gay couple visited her shop to buy wedding outfits, she would first share her beliefs, she told CNN. If they insisted on patronizing her business, "I would probably decline on servicing them because I believe that marriage is instituted by God between a man and a woman."

She doesn't "profile" her customers, she said, and she certainly wouldn't refuse to serve customers because they're gay -- "We all gotta wear clothes, so I am in the business to dress everybody" -- but if a gay or lesbian couple wanted her to provide them with tuxes or gowns, she'd politely send them elsewhere.

"I don't care what it is you come in for, I'm here to service the community. However, as far as marriages are concerned, that's different for me. You know I'm not going to be a part of that setup," she said. "In a marriage, there is the head of the marriage and that would be the male, and it gets confusing when you have two males, so crossing the line starts confusion and that is something that I don't believe in. So I'm not going to promote it, so they can walk away."

Sports announcer

Long before Charles Barkley dazzled on the basketball court and before he earned a reputation for his outspoken personality, he was a child in Leeds, Alabama. He was born in the same year and a short distance from the infamous Birmingham Church bombing. The horrific act forever changed the tenor of the fight for civil rights.

"You'd think 53 years later, we wouldn't be having these same things," he said of North Carolina's "bathroom bill." It always seems, he says, that the South is leading the way when it comes to discriminating against classes of people.

"The one thing that bothers me about Christian people is they're always talk about religion, but they forget about not judging other people," he said. "Sometimes, especially with this situation with the lesbian and gay thing, they hide behind the Bible.

"Money always speaks," Barkley said. He would like to see major corporations standing up for the people who work for them. Most big companies have minority or gay employees, so it behooves them to "represent your co-workers." The NBA, where he spent 16 years plying his trade, could lead the way, he said.

"I think the NBA should move the All-Star Game from Charlotte," he said. "You know, as a black person, I'm against any form of discrimination -- against whites, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, however you want to phrase it. It's my job with the position of power that I'm in -- being able to be on television -- I'm supposed to stand up for the people who can't stand up for themselves."

Therapist

"What happens if it were reversed?" asked Nashville therapist Jeannie Ingram of Tennessee's proposed legislation that would permit therapists and counselors with strong religious beliefs to reject LGBT patients. What if, she posited, she decided as a lesbian therapist that she would stop treating heterosexuals? Or that she wouldn't help a couple who had had an affair?

Growing up in a Southern Baptist home in Birmingham, Alabama, Ingram knew as a teenager that she wanted to help people in life. Upon graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she worked as a crisis counselor at a rape-and-suicide hotline before shifting to counseling family members who lost loved ones to suicide. Eventually, she "just hit the wall" and made the move to couples therapy.

"I really fell in love with the work of helping couples heal with their struggles. I dearly love marriage therapy," Ingram said. One of her goals is to ensure that her clients feel safe in sharing anything without fear of being judged. "I think (Tennessee's House Bill 1840) has the potential to send the message that they could get shunned if they don't find the right person."

Ingram attends a Lutheran church in Nashville and has no beef with religion, but she feels the bill conflicts with the American Counseling Association's code of ethics. The bill, she said, "comes way too close to making discrimination a legal precedent. That's the last thing a hurting society needs."

Rental operations manager

Charlie Comero was disappointed when he learned that he had to start using the women's restroom in North Carolina, thanks to the state's Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which puts transgender people such as Comero, who does not identify with the gender on his birth certificate, in the uncomfortable position of being forced to pee with women.

The Charlotte resident decided to prepare for the confusion that could arise from a man with a high and tight fade in the women's room.

He printed cards to hand out that read, "I'm following a law that was passed on March 23. I am a transgender man who would rather be using the men's room right now. This is likely uncomfortable for both of us. Please contact your legislature and tell them you oppose HB2."

One day, he ducked into the government center to use the women's restroom. On his way out, he passed a woman who kindly pointed out he was using the women's room. She refused to take the card. He realized later that many people probably don't know what it means to be a transgender man or woman.

Their perceptions might be based on pop culture caricatures such as Tim Curry's "sweet transvestite" from the "Rocky Horror Picture Show." For some, the word "transgender" might bring to mind "RuPaul's Drag Race," a celebration of pageantry focused more on performance skills than gender identity.

Minister

Barney Self is a man of two different worlds. In one, he is president of the Tennessee Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and a licensed marriage and family therapist. In the other, he is an ordained Southern Baptist minister at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville.

He is opposed to same-sex marriage, but he says this doesn't affect his job as a therapist: "I am delighted to work with whoever comes into my office."

When a new client comes in, Self lays everything on the table and shares with them his beliefs and values. From there, the client can decide how to proceed.

"If a client says to me, 'I'm gay and you're a Baptist; I don't feel comfortable,' I give them a list of other therapists that they might feel more comfortable with. It's a co-constructive reality."

Tennessee's House Bill 1840 hurts this process and creates a unilateral format that is not constructive to the client and makes them feel uncomfortable, he said. This bill does more harm than good in his opinion and "ultimately, it legalizes malpractice."

Dressmaker

Barney Self is a man of two different worlds. In one, he is president of the Tennessee Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and a licensed marriage and family therapist. In the other, he is an ordained Southern Baptist minister at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville.

He is opposed to same-sex marriage, but he says this doesn't affect his job as a therapist: "I am delighted to work with whoever comes into my office."

When a new client comes in, Self lays everything on the table and shares with them his beliefs and values. From there, the client can decide how to proceed.

"If a client says to me, 'I'm gay and you're a Baptist; I don't feel comfortable,' I give them a list of other therapists that they might feel more comfortable with. It's a co-constructive reality."

Tennessee's House Bill 1840 hurts this process and creates a unilateral format that is not constructive to the client and makes them feel uncomfortable, he said. This bill does more harm than good in his opinion and "ultimately, it legalizes malpractice."

Dressmaker

"To me there is one God -- I mean I believe in Christ Jesus, some people believe in Buddha or in [Hinduism] -- but at the end of the day, I look at it like it's a math problem," says Maurice Jackson, 33, of Rock Hill, South Carolina.

"There are multiple ways to get to 4."

Jackson, an IT supervisor for a large company, sees multiple equations in play over "bathroom bills" -- specifically H.B. 2 in his home state of North Carolina, and a similar bill introduced this week in South Carolina -- and believes that instead of contention there should be room for compromise.

"I just know what I believe, and I'm not going to force that on nobody," said Jackson. "Not even my kids. ... if they decide that they choose to go another route I'm going to still love them, I'm not going to try to abandon them from the family name, because that's just ridiculous. That's me being a hypocrite of all the stuff I was taught about love, which that sums up everything in this situation. There's so much hatred and not a lot of love going out."

The 33-year-old Jackson said that if South Carolina were to pass a "bathroom bill" (which he believes won't happen) and companies and organizations sought to punish the state economically, then most blue-collar people likely would "stand their ground more."

Jackson said he can understand fears that ordinances allowing transgender people to use the restrooms consistent with their identity could be abused -- that "if you're a ... registered child offender, you can basically change your identity and then you still have access to go in these bathrooms with kids."

He says he believes compromise on "a unisex bathroom" should be considered.

Certified public accountant

Terry Livingston is a certified public accountant at Gamble & Livingston CPAs, LLC, where he works with his husband, Steve Gamble, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The two met in college, have been together 32 years and got legally married two years ago in Washington, D.C.

Their accounting firm has been serving small businesses and individuals in their community since 1988. But helping folks with their taxes isn't all that's important to them.

Livingston is the co-founder of TAKEOVER Grand Strand, whose mission is advancing acceptance of the LGBT community in the Myrtle Beach area through increased visibility. He decided to start the organization because "it wasn't enough just to be tolerated, [he] wanted to be accepted, too."

The proposed bathroom bill is a direct attack on the LGBT community, he told CNN affiliate WPDE.

"This bill makes the 12th proposed bill introduced this year that in some way includes anti-LGBT language in it," he said. "So far, none of them have reached the floor for a vote and we want this to not to be voted on, too."

The nation's past demonstrates the problem with LGBT legislation, Livingston said.

"Some propose a separate bathroom option for transgendered, but history has proven separate but equal does not work," he said.

Pastor

Robert Green occupies what he calls the "messy middle ground" when it comes to religious freedom laws.

The senior pastor at Fondren Church in Jackson, Mississippi, said he supports the "spirit of the law" because of his belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, but told CNN he doesn't think its government's place to

"legislate morality."

"I have a view of scripture. "But what I believe, I don't want to impose it on you."

"I personally think Jesus would bake a cake for a gay couple, but would he be minister at that wedding to provide the sacred sanctions? I think that's a different story altogether."

While Green takes comfort in knowing the new law means he now cannot be forced into presiding over a same-sex wedding, he admitted he wasn't even sure if he could have been in the first place, and didn't know of anyone who had.

"It was an overreaction," he said of the action taken by lawmakers, "and it has hurt Mississippi so badly." -CNN

Pat Condell: Vamos a culpar los Judios


~Contributed by Ralph