Southern Religion

Civil marriage debate is owed balance and empirical evidence: Updated

The Charlotte Observer tells us that the Rev. Mark Harris, head of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, says he wants the a “civil” debate over same-sex marriage.

Yet they seem unsure about why he is leading a campaign to pass the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Although he and the BSCNC made that clear to them back in November. When the BSCNC took its official stand in favor the amendment (.pdf).

The North Carolina Family Policy Council understands that the BSCNC intends to create a church-by-church political machine to get the “preservation of marriage” amendment approved and to promote the decidedly unscientific Southern Baptist view of homosexuality:

The resolution on the Marriage Protection Amendment was introduced at the meeting by Jim Jacumin, president of the BSCNC Board of Directors. It expresses the BSCNC’s official endorsement of the proposed State Constitutional amendment, which would define marriage in North Carolina as only between one man and one woman, and will be on the ballot before voters at the May 8, 2012 primary election. The resolution (.pdf) also encourages “the churches of the Baptist State Convention to vigorously organize a strong effort among their members to support passage of the Marriage Amendment in the first primary election of 2012.” In addition to encouraging its member churches to engage in “loving, redemptive ministry to homosexuals,” it also states that the “North Carolina Baptists commit ourselves to… preach and teach the truth concerning what the Bible says about the creation of and divine nature of the institution of marriage, and against any government action to accept, sanction, approve, protect or promote same-sex marriage or legal recognition of same-sex relationships.”

The CO manages to get through the entire call for “civil” debate, by the leader of one side of that debate, without mentioning the North Carolina Psychological Association. Its position on the matter (.pdf) is a model of civility. The NCPA deals with the empirical evidence, and without the least hint of a raised voice or harsh word, explain that the best empirical evidence offers no support for banning gay marriage or any other such discrimination.

That’s as civil as debate can get, and proponents of it should have found a place in the otherwise thin, lopsided CO story.


The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families has responded:

We agree with Mark Harris’ assertion that we should keep the Amendment conversation factual – and do it in a civil way. Nevertheless, this type of discourse is something not seen in other states, especially from an industry willing to pit people’s religion – as well as gross misinformation – against families. We must be willing to honor the very real emotions, including pain and fear, that these types of discriminatory measures naturally evoke, especially when North Carolina’s particular Amendment is not only a permanent ban on marriage equality and civil unions – relationship recognitions that a majority of North Carolinians support – but also strips basic benefits and protections from loving couples, women, and children, and causes substantial economic harms to families, business and the perception of the state as a whole. No one of faith – or otherwise – will sit back while families lose their health insurance, domestic violence victims lose their protections, and loving couples lose their ability to see each other in the hospital. We can’t and we won’t let that happen. We will make sure that the families of NC are protected from this harmful, extreme amendment.

-Jeremy Kennedy, Campaign Manager, The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families.

December 27, 2011 - Posted by | Politics, SBC | ,

1 Comment

  1. To:

    Ann Caulkins (
    President and Publisher
    The Charlotte Observer

    Dear Ann:

    This is to express consternation and dismay that nobody at The Charlotte Observer has yet given me the courtesy of a response to my proposal for regular back-and-forth columns to run in your paper between now and the May vote on the proposed anti-gay marriage amendment to the North Carolina constitution.

    Here is what prompted me to propose the back-and-forth columns to you:

    On December 27, you published an article titled “Rev. Mark Harris; Pastor Hopes for ‘civil” marriage debate.”

    Reading that article, it would appear that Harris could have scant actual desire to engage in debate. What he might actually intend, as your published report appears to suggest, is to propagandize against gay human beings between now and the vote. Your newspaper, I regret to have to articulate, misled readers with a headline stating that Harris hopes for debate on the topic. What is worse is that your misleading headline led into and then permitted Harris an opportunity to gay bash.

    Right after the headline, you published Harris’s allegation of a “threatening” phone call he had received from an amendment opponent. Your newspaper used the word “threatening” to characterize the call Harris says he received, but then did not substantiate whether any threat had actually been made against Harris. The general shape of a formula of a threat is “Do A or B will happen.” Your article only reports that Harris was told that he “needed to stop “spewing hatred” toward homosexuals and their families.” Your reporter and writer David Perlmutt attempted to learn from Harris actual details of the alleged threat, it seems, but Harris did not supply those details. And nonetheless, you reported on the allegation as though it had been fact-checked and proven true.

    Allow me, please, to show you how exceedingly easy it would have been to report more responsibly about Harris’s allegation. Instead of publishing that “the Rev. Mark Harris fielded a threatening voice mail” you should have published “the Rev. Mark Harris CLAIMS he fielded a threatening voice mail.” Do you as a newspaper publisher comprehend the difference there?

    I wonder if it dawned on you — or on anybody at The Charlotte Observer — that Harris may have fabricated this story about a threat — with malice aforethought — the better to demonize gay human beings. If the alleged voice mail exists, where is it? I want to hear it. This particular tactic for demonizing gay human beings is widely used throughout the society by political gay bashers, as you may know. If an anti-gay political figure like Harris receives 500 well-reasoned and civilly-worded pleas for enlightenment and tolerance to every one or two nastily-phrased messages sent to him out of exasperated anger, then the figure will only talk about the two nasty notes received and not say a peep about the 500 civilly-worded ones.

    And that gets right to the heart of why it is so disturbing that The Charlotte Observer stated in its headline that Harris “hopes” for a civil debate. It isn’t at all civil to portray one’s political opponents as grotesquely rude, semi-human caricatures. The opposing viewpoint from Reverend Nancy Kraft tacked onto the end of the article does nothing to mitigate the irresponsible and seemingly propagandistic reporting done beforehand on Harris.

    It really is quite beyond belief that you as a news reporting organization left unexamined Harris’s outright duplicitous lie in this article that he doesn’t believe “people” should be discriminated against. In 2009, when the Mecklenburg County Commissioners passed a domestic partners benefits policy intending to see gay human beings treated more fairly, Harris lashed out vociferously and with heterosupremacist arrogance and cold-hearted cruelty. For example, in speaking against the gay fairness policy, he told WBTV “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    Are those the words of a person of political influence that sincerely and verifiably believes that “people” should not be discriminated against?

    Most American public school students have personally witnessed events identical or similar to an anti-gay bully hurling a victim against a corridor locker while yelling and snarling “Faggot!” at the victim. What you have permitted Harris to do in the pages of the Charlotte Observer is merely a refinement of that sort of anti-gay bullying. Harris’s set-up for dehumanizing gay people was that they are cursing and threatening him, and then he goes on, in your article, to claim that denying civil marriage rights to gay people is “absolutely essential to the future of humanity.”

    That kind of political hit-and-run gay bashing . . . left unanswered as though documentably true . . . is precisely why I proposed back-and-forth columns to you, perhaps to run on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I would write a column for a Wednesday; Harris could respond to it for that Saturday, and then publish an original piece the following Wednesday, to which I would respond on Saturday.

    Long-term committed gay couples have always existed no matter the harsh anti-gay social environments in which they have lived. The question is not whether there will be long-term committed gay couples in North Carolina, but rather whether the society in its majority will endorse political gay bashing of those couples. The issues involved merit actual debate instead of hit-and-run attacks against the minority. By the Charlotte Observer’s own description, Harris is a “point man” in the marriage amendment ballot campaign with influence over 1.3 million church-goers in North Carolina. I can not agree that a minority bashing “point man” should be described as hoping for a civil debate but then — out of cowardice, or lassitude, or whatever motives you may have — be allowed to slink away without actually engaging in civil debate.

    Having reported that Mark Harris hopes for a civil debate on the proposed amendment, why would you hesitate to put to the test whether he actually wants a civil debate? The opportunity for civil debate is right here and in your hands right now.

    Having received an automated response from your e-mail address that you are on vacation, I wrote directly to your editor Rick Thames, asking for verification of receipt of my proposal. I received no response.

    If The Charlotte Observer is going to publish articles claiming that a political gay-basher like Harris “hopes for ‘civil’ marriage debate,” the least it could do would be to make some effort to facilitate an actual debate. All I see from the article you published about Harris is gay-bashing propaganda with an opposing view thrown in at the end as an afterthought.

    Scott Rose

    Comment by Scott Rose | January 1, 2012

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