Friday, October 24, 2014

City of Coeur d'Arlene, ID: Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is Free to Discriminate Against Gay Couples

Here is the case that's really gotten under my skin this week. I got into a huge back-and-forth over on GCN about whether or not LGBT people are worthy of being protected from discrimination because of this case. More on that later.

Anyway, earlier this week, the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Arlene, ID, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom. The for-profit commercial wedding chapel is suing over a local public nondiscrimination ordinance that bars local businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation -- as well as race, gender, religion, etc. The chapel's owners claimed that they were being persecuted by the city and facing thousands of dollars in fines and time in jail because of this ordinance and because of anti-Christian gay activists who wanted them to violate their faith.

Keep in mind that nobody filed a complaint against the chapel -- at least not until late this week after lots and lots of publicity. They weren't being threatened though the owners and their attorneys have been in contact with city officials for months trying to find out if they were affected or not by this ordinance. They scrubbed their website to eliminate evidence that they had previously been open to non-Christian and non-religious weddings. They also began the process of updating their business model so that they are actually exempt from the ordinance by becoming a non-profit and/or religious organization. And then they filed the federal lawsuit.

Guess what? The city of Coeur d'Arlene has determined that they are exempt from the city's nondiscrimination law -- making this whole lawsuit pointless:
The city of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, says the Hitching Post, a for-profit wedding chapel owned by two ministers, doesn't have to perform same-sex marriages. The city has been embroiled in controversy ever since the owners of the Hitching Post sued the city. They say a city anti-discrimination law threatened to force them to marry same-sex couples now that gay marriage is legal in Idaho...

Initially, the city said its anti-discrimination law did apply to the Hitching Post, since it is a commercial business. Earlier this week, Coeur d'Alene city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps’ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom saying the Hitching Post would have to become a not-for-profit to be exempt. But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit.

After we've looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation,” Gridley explained. 

Court filings show the Hitching Post reorganized earlier this month as a “religious corporation.” In the paperwork, the owners describe their deeply held beliefs that marriage should be between one man and one woman... Filings with the Idaho Secretary of State show the Hitching Post became a limited liability company on September 12

Court documents in the Knapps’ federal lawsuit show they signed a business operating agreement on October 6 that lists the following as the purpose of their LLC: “The Hitching Post is a religious corporation owned solely by ordained ministers of the Christian religion who operate this entity as an extension of their sincerely held religious beliefs and in accordance with their vows taken as Christian ministers. The purpose of the Hitching Post is to help people create, celebrate, and build lifetime, monogamous, one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.”
Local human rights groups encouraged the city to give the Hitching Post free range to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Here are some questions for you:

How did these Foursquare ministers (whose religious liberties are completely dashed at the theoretical possibility of serving gay customers on some hypothetical day) run his for-profit ministry when they served people of other faiths? Or no faiths? Because up until recently, they advertised a willingness to accommodate non-Christian weddings.

Here's a thought -- assuming that any gay or lesbian couple actually ever contacts them for a wedding and they don't have the wits about them to fib and tell the couple that they're already booked that day. What's to stop them from renting the for-profit chapel to a same-sex couple on their wedding day but having the couple bring their own officiate?

Why is it such a huge barrier for a Christian business owner to bend a bit to figure out how to remain a public accommodation and serve the public? Why could they figure out how to serve people of other faith but not gay people?

Instead, they file a federal lawsuit based off NO INCIDENT claiming FALSELY that they have been harmed. And "we" feel bad for them and wish that the people of those communities hadn't pushed existing public accommodation laws be expanded to included LGBT people -- presumably because we're not worth being protected from discrimination.

Let's say they're ordained Muslim clerics running a for-profit chapel business and a couple comes in to get married and one is blind. He has a seeing eye dog. That dog is viewed as "unclean." Discrimination based on disability is illegal under this same ordinance (not to mention the ADA). Should the cleric be allowed to discriminate against this couple because of the dog? It's a valid religious objection. Should the disabled couple move on without a formal process in place to file a complaint against this Muslim's chapel?

And if we think that the business owner should have the right to discriminate against any customer for any reason at their for-profit public business -- then why the heck do we have anti-discrimination laws in the first place? Every man or woman for themselves, right?

But this is all moot anyway. Because this ordinance had already come up with a plan to allow religious groups to legally discriminate against LGBT people and this business had already become a government-recognized religious organization.

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" Canceled After Accusations that Mama June is Dating a Sex Offender // Jon's Blog Mourns...

TMZ reported yesterday that Mana Jane Shannon from TLC's "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" has been secretly dating a convicted sex offender named Mark McDaniel. 53-year-old McDaniel was convicted of molested an 8-year-old relative of Shannon and just got done serving a ten year prison sentence. TMZ posted a picture of the two together.

TLC, according to TMZ, was not pleased about these revelations and issued the following reaction:
TLC is not currently in production on HERE COMES HONEY BOO BOO.  We are very concerned about this new information and are reassessing the future of the series.
I read an article on Radar that interviewed one of the Shannon's daughter, who outright denied that her mother was is contact at all with McDaniel. Apparently, his son has also denied that there was a relationship of any sort between the two. She also claimed that the TMZ picture was photo-shopped. Having seen the pic, I'm not sure that I believe that.

Then I learned the bad news earlier today: TLC has canceled "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."

The cancellation story is all over the place right now, but I learned of it via Facebook from Shannon herself in this video:

In the video, Shannon announced that she just got off the phone with executives at TLC and confirms that the reality TV show has been canceled. She outright denies these latest accusations. She confirms that she and Sugar Bear are no longer together, but says that they remain friends despite the break-up.

I don't know what to think. I obviously liked this program and I like the family enough that I follow along with them via social media. But I cannot imagine that TMZ would fabricate this story out of nothing. The truthiness of their article might be stretched, but I don't believe it's coming from nothing. I'm sure we will find out eventually.

It's probably just as well that they cancel the program outright instead of trying to create a new season of the program post-break-up. That made for horrible TV watching with the "Jon & Kate Plus 8" program and I'm sure it wasn't good for the kids. I mean, most of the kids in this program are nearly grown up. Still, it's not fun watching a family implode upon itself.

May I make a suggestion for a spin-off TV show though? How about "Here Comes Uncle Poodle -- featuring Alan and Honey Boo Boo?" I think it would be a lot of fun, TLC!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Riverdale" TV Series Coming to Fox!!

"Riverdale" Fan Trailer // Not Images from Fox!!
Archie Comics just announced news of a new television series based on their characters. The one-hour drama is titled "Riverdale." It will air on Fox and is being produced by Warner Brothers Studios along with studio-based Berlanti Productions:
Riverdale” offers a bold, subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica, and their friends, exploring the surrealistic twists of small-town life plus the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade. Set in the present in the small fictional town of Riverdale, New York. The show will focus on the eternal love triangle of Archie Andrews, girl-next-door Betty Cooper, and rich socialite Veronica Lodge, and will include the entire cast of characters from the comic books—including Archie’s rival, Reggie Mantle, and his slacker best friend, Jughead Jones. Popular gay character Kevin Keller will also play a pivotal role. In addition to the core cast, “Riverdale” will introduce other characters from Archie Comics’ expansive library, including Josie and the Pussycats.
"Riverdale" will be produced by Greg Berlanti's Berlanti Productions and written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

Dilton Jilted & Mocked by the Riverdale Girls
It is unclear at this time when the show will begin, but CBR reports that there is a "script deal plus penalty at Fox," which means that the network will pay a fee for the program whether or not it airs -- which implies that they likely won't drop it unless it turns out to be really, really bad.

After reading the article, learning the name of the program, and seeing the series description, I couldn't help thinking about the parody trailer for a fictional "Riverdale" movie. If you haven't seen it, you should do it. Right now. I'll wait.

It's their senior year in high school. Betty sacrifices her virginity to the boy who cannot commit -- only to find that sex has consequences. Jughead stuffs his face full of food in order to cope with his unrequited love for Archie. Reggie spirals downward in a world of sex and drugs. A steroid-hopping Moose erupts violently in a jealous rage. And Dilton gets ostracized one time too many. It's nearly four minutes of greatness.

If we're lucky, Fox's "Riverdale" will be done right like this fan film. Time will tell...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Archie: Riverdale Rescue": Halloween 2014!

I began writing about the "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" iOS gaming app back in October 2013. Since then, the game has expanded to PC users. It's an oddly addictive game where you are tasked with the improvement and beautification of Riverdale USA using a variety of recognizable characters, such as Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. A big part of the game also involves building emotional bonds between the various characters, leading to romantic couples, BFFs, and overall friends. I thought it would be fun to discuss aspects of the game that I find exciting, disappointing, and/or note-worthy.

Earlier this month, "Riverdale Rescue" offered a new Halloween-themed upgrade. This is the second Halloween upgrade that the game has offered. You can read about last year's Halloween upgrade here.

This year's Halloween upgrade is a little like last year and a little bit fresh. Last year, Lodge Mansion was transformed into a haunted house. This year, players are given the opportunity to purchase a Haunted House. The Haunted House is already fully upgraded so there isn't a process of slowly building up the house -- which makes sense since too many enhancements would make a haunted house seem less haunted!

There are several new tasks that I'm still working my way through. Most of them involve Betty, Veronica, and Jughead; but not all of them involve the Haunted House. Basically, the kids are preparing for a spooky party at the Haunted House and Betty spends many of the Halloween tasks making spooky snacks for the party.

When you upgrade "Riverdale Rescue" for Halloween, any pets that you have in play will be inserted into Halloween costumes for free. Presumably, these costumes will disappear sometime next month.

Hot Dog's "Hot Dog" Costume
Runty's "Spider" Costume
Caramel's "Puss N Boots" Costume
Vegas' "Cerberus" Costume
This Halloween upgrade also offers new character skins that you can purchase for various characters. Interestingly, they don't have new costumes for most of the main characters. Instead, there are costumes for Kevin, Dilton, Mr. Weatherbee, Ms. Grundy, Adam, and others. Check these out:

Moose: Frankenstein's Monster Costume // Midge: Catwoman Costume // Adam: Raggedy Andy Costume
Dilton: Human Fly Costume // Kevin: Liberace Costume // Cricket: Raggedy Ann Costume
Shrill: Corpse Bride Costume // Weatherbee: Mafia Don Costume // Grundy: Morticia Costume
Svensson: Cowboy Costume
Lastly, there are a bunch of props that you can purchase if you want to decorate your own private Riverdale.

So that's the "Riverdale Rescue" 2014 Halloween Upgrade. What's your favorite costume? I'm a big fan of Kevin Keller's Liberace costume. "Riverdale Rescue" has a tendency to make Kevin into a huge flamer when it comes to his various costumes. This Halloween isn't much different!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Idaho Chapel Stretches Truth about Fines & Arrests over Gay Wedding Refusals

Remember the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel that recently filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Arlene with the assistance of Alliance Defending Freedom? The commercial wedding chapel is suing over a public nondiscrimination ordinance that bars local businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation -- as well as race, gender, religion, etc. The chapel's owners claimed that they were contacted by a gay person for a wedding. They say they turned away that customer and now the city is going to fine them out of assistance and send them to jail.

Only problem? None of this actually seems to have happened:
City officials in Coeur d'Alene say they have not received any formal complaints that the Hitching Post wedding chapel has violated the city's anti-discrimination ordinance by refusing to solemnize same-sex marriages...

In response to the lawsuit, the city released a copy of a letter City Attorney Mike Gridley sent Monday to David A. Cortman, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based, conservative Christian "legal ministry." The ADF is representing the Knapps in their lawsuit. In the letter, Gridley confirmed the details of a telephone conversation he says he had Monday with Cortman.

Gridley wrote that his office has responded in the past to questions from the Knapps about their business - registered as a for-profit limited liability company with the Idaho Secretary of State's office. He admitted that the Knapps were told by his office that if a complaint was filed against them for refusing to provide service to gay individuals seeking to marry, they would likely be in violation of the city's ordinance, based on their corporate status. Violation of the anti-discrimination law is a misdemeanor with a fine as steep as $1,000, and as long as six months in jail

Gridley also noted that on Oct. 6, the Knapps filed an LLC operating agreement with the state indicating that the Hitching Post is a "religious organization." He told the Knapps' attorney in the letter that if the Knapps are "truly operating a not-for-profit religious corporation" they would be specifically exempted from the city ordinance...
Gridley wrote that the city will not prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies or other exempt organizations or anyone else as a result of their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.

In addition to exempting those groups, Gridley wrote that the anti-discrimination ordinance states that it "shall be construed and applied in a manner consistent with First Amendment jurisprudence regarding the freedom of speech and exercise of religion."

When contacted by The Press for comment, Don Knapp said the Hitching Post is not operating as a not-for-profit religious corporation. He also said he does not know ADF Attorney David Cortman.
To summarize, nobody has complained to the city of Coeur d'Arlene about being discriminated against by the Hitching Post. A religious law firm filed has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the wedding chapel, but the wedding chapel denies any knowledge of this. They apparently filed to become a non-profit religious organization two weeks ago, but now deny that they are operating as a religious non-profit.

Oh, and it looks like they have scrubbed their website to remove evidence that they have solicited by religious AND non-religious weddings. You really need to check out this link.

Gay Marriage in the USA -- 10/21/14

Wyoming stopped fighting against marriage equality earlier today. So now we have 32 marriage equality states -- plus Washington DC and an assortment of Native American reservations:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Christian Protesters Disrupt Same-Sex Weddings in North Carolina

Remember the Benham family? The family has a long history of anti-gay/anti-abortion protesting -- which led to the twins losing a reality TV deal and transforming them into martyred darlings of the religious right where they routinely compare their scuttled TV show to those poor folks who've been beheading by ISIS terrorists. But the family's activism goes back to the 80s and 90s when their father became a huge figure in the world of anti-abortion activism.

35 same-sex couples got married in Charlotte, NC, outside the local register's office on Monday, October 13, 2014. Unfortunately, their festive day was marred by a small number of protesters from Operation Save America, including Flip Benham:
Three anti-LGBT protesters were present outside the register’s office, including well-known street preacher and convicted stalker Flip Benham. He interrupted several couples’ weddings as supporters held up a large rainbow flag to block his view. Another protester waved a bible in the air as he screamed several profanities and vulgarities. He was asked by sheriff’s deputies to tone it down or leave. He opted for the latter. Despite the protesters, those gathered celebrated at each of the several weddings held outside the register’s office.
Can you imagine if gay activists began disrupting others' weddings?

Betty & Veronica Compete in a Pet Costume Party in BETTY & VERONICA COMICS DIGEST #227

I caught up with another digest comic book from Archie Comics. My latest acquisition is BETTY & VERONICA COMICS DIGEST #227, which features a Halloween theme in several of the stories. But I'm going to focus here on the lead story, which is a new lead story (as opposed to a reprint story).

In "Costume Drama," Betty and Veronica learn of a pet costume contest. Both girls initially find the concept of a costume contest for pets to be ridiculous. Betty goes so far as to complain that she would never put a costume on her poor kitty Caramel -- which seems odd since both girls just hosted a costume party for pets in the previous week's WORLD OF ARCHIE COMICS DIGEST #43! (I'm just saying...)

Pretty quickly though, both girls dream up costumes for their pets. Betty designs a cheerleader costume for Caramel and Veronica purchases a fabulous Cinderella costume for Fifi! Veronica thinks that Betty's homemade costume is amateurish and Betty thinks that costumes need a little bit of heart and a little less commercialism!

After a bit of mutual stewing, both girls come up with gimmicks that they believe will propel their pets to the winner's circle!

Check out Veronica's Cinderella prop for Fifi!:

And then check out Betty's scheme to highlight Caramel's cheerleading abilities!:

I'll leave it up to you to purchase this digest and figure out which animal ended up winning the costume contest!

This was a fun story with a twist-ending that totally made me chuckle! I think you'll like it, too! "Costume Drama" is written by Angelo Decesare, penciled by Jeff Shultz, inked by Jim Amash, and lettered by Jack Morelli.

As I noted before, there are several other Halloween-themed stories in BETTY & VERONICA COMICS DIGEST #227 -- plus some Sabrina and Little Archie tales. But there are also some non-Halloween stories so you don't find yourself totally overwhelmed by that theme!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

North Carolina Magistrate Quits to Avoid Gay Weddings // Plus: Wedding Chapels Struggle to be Anti-Gay in Marriage Equality States

Remember that older gay couple in North Carolina who tried marrying each other, but got refused service by one of the local magistrates? Magistrates statewide were reminded that they are required to serve the public -- not just the portions of the public that they approve of. Since then, at least one magistrate has resigned due to religious objections to same-sex marriage:
Magistrate John Kallam Jr. sent a letter to Chief District Court Judge Fred Wilkins and said he couldn’t fulfill his oath of office after same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina. His resignation is effective Oct. 31. 

“When I took my oath of office, I understood I would be required to perform weddings and have done so throughout my tenure,” Kallam said in an emailed resignation letter. “I did not, however, take that oath with any understanding that I would be required to marry same sex couples. It is my personal belief and a position of my Christian faith that doing so would desecrate a holy institution established by God himself.”
Keep in mind that his job is to officiate over civil wedding ceremonies -- presumably to couples who have no professed faith or church community. Otherwise, they would be getting married in a house of worship as opposed to going to the local magistrate. But I digress...

I actually have no problem with Magistrate Kallam resigning. I'm hopeful that he will find a new job that works for him.

Meanwhile, wedding chapels in other states are struggling to cope with marriage equality in their states. For example, it's difficult for same-sex couples in Las Vegas, NV, to find an Elvis-themed wedding venue:
After making calls to about 15 wedding chapels, 8 News NOW found that several of them refused to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples. The Elvis Wedding Chapel, which welcomes traditional and Elvis-themed weddings, said they wouldn't marry same-sex couples...

Dolly Deleon, the owner of the Vegas Wed Chapel, said she's a born-again believer in Jesus. "My faith won't allow me," Deleon said. She said she's been asked to wed same-sex couples before, but has found that mostly people accept it when she says no... "I would be a hypocrite if I said I'm a Bible-believing person and yet I would perform marriage that believe is solely against God's law,” Deleon said.
Because God's law is best practiced while wearing an Elvis Presley costume.

And then there is the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel which filed a lawsuit against the city of Coeur d'Alene, ID, over a public nondiscrimination ordinance that bars local businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories such as race and gender:
“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco said. “The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended.”
Alliance Defending Freedom also filed a temporary restraining order to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance.
It would be interesting long-term if the need for some people to discriminate against LGBT customers will ultimately result in the overturn of anti-discrimination laws for others on the basis of race, religion, gender, disability, veterans status, etc.

Personally, I'm tired of anti-gay religious folks taking on martyr status. I wonder if it would be better to give these businesses a grace period to get used to the idea of gays marrying. Either their businesses will naturally die out or else they'll realize that it's really not that big a deal.

Or maybe these businesses need to learn how to more discreetly turn away gay customers. Instead of saying something like... "Is this a gay wedding?? This is a decent Elvis wedding chapel. Our faith forbids us from performing gay weddings!" How about something like... "What was that date again? Oh, I'm sorry. We're totally booked up!" If nothing else, you still get to avoid performing a gay wedding and you don't come off like a total douche.

Maine Teacher Placed on Administrative Leave for Attending Seminar in Dallas, TX // Parents Concerned She'll Infect Students with Ebola

An unnamed teacher from Strong Elementary School in Strong, ME, has been placed on a 21-day paid leave of absence due to parents' concerns. It seems that she is attending a seminar held by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and that seminar is being held in Dallas, TX. The conference center is roughly 10 miles from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which is where a Liberian patient named Thomas Eric Duncan died from the disease and infected two of the nurses who cared for him. Keep in mind, this teacher isn't volunteering her time in Texas caring for patients with the disease. She's just in the same community.

In other words, parents believe that this teacher is now at risk for infecting their children with Ebola:
“What the parents were saying last night is that, you sent (this teacher) to a potentially harmful area for exposure, and then to come back and jump into the classroom on Monday seemed a little bit reckless,” (parent Matt) Dexter said.
Despite assurances from health officials about the low chance of contracting Ebola – and the fact that no one in Maine has contracted the disease – Dexter believes the government has failed to effectively educate people about how Ebola spreads, and worse, downplayed risk factors.

“I’m really tired of people telling everyone, on the news, starting at the national level, ‘zero risk, low risk,'” he said. “The bottom line is that there is risk. Are we more capable of handling this than Africa? Sure, but why walk around blind and jam people into hot spots we can’t control? It all comes down to personal responsibility.”
I understand that Ebola is scary. You are more likely than not to die from it if you catch it. But you contract the disease from direct contract with those who are infected -- specifically their body fluids and waste. It's worth noting that the people he was staying with are not infected. If this unnamed teacher was at risk for infection just for being within 10 miles are where he'd died, why aren't these friends and family members deathly ill?

It's not just Strong Elementary School that is irrationally panicking over Ebola:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for the Washington Post, who photographed Ebola victims in Liberia in September, was disinvited from a photojournalism workshop at Syracuse University even though he showed no signs of the disease for 21 days after his return to the United States. On Thursday, a woman flying on an American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago vomited in the airplane, and was subsequently locked in a bathroom by flight staff. In Hazelhurst, Mississippi, a crowd of parents pulled their middle school students from class Friday after learning that the school’s principal recently had traveled to attend a family funeral in Zambia, which is in southern Africa and about 3,000 miles from the outbreak in West Africa.
I've heard of hair salons who are turning away potential customers who have traveled "anywhere near West Africa in the past month." There was a community college that has rejected applicants from African countries.