Saturday, May 07, 2005

Bull's Eye: Targeted by the Christian Right

Bull's Eye: Targeted by the Christian Right

As these e-mails prove, Traditional Values Coalition doesn't value friendship with unfriendly columnists

by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

About 6 AM, April 21st, I checked the e-mail. There were more than a
few with odd titles and from address I didn't recognize. I left them
for later and began the daily media run: CNN, New York Times, LA Times
and, of course, the web sites of several evangelical Christian
lobbying organizations to see what new propaganda they were floating.

When I visited the Traditional Values Coalition site, the title of the
lead story caught my eye: "Leftist Web Site Writer Blasts Traditional
Values Coalition." That looked interesting, so I read the blurb:

"Leftist Web Site Writer Blasts Traditional Values Coalition

"April 21, 2005 -- Homosexual activist and tenured Penn State
Professor Mel Seesholtz sees Traditional Values Coalition and other
religious organizations as a major threat to freedom in the United
States. Seesholtz is a contributing writer for 'Online Journal,' a
'progressive' web site (progressive is a leftist code word for

"In 'Democracy perverted, justice denied; The unholy march toward
theocracy,' Seesholtz says that the Traditional Values Coalition is
attempting to bring the judiciary under the control of the religious
right. According to Seesholtz, the judiciary is the 'only independent
branch of government that would thwart their plans to theocratize
America. Hence the fanatical campaigns to remake the judiciary 'in
their own image' and by any means necessary.'

"Writing in 'Counterbias' on April 6, 2005, Seesholtz accuses TVC
and other groups of engaging in 'American StupidSpeak' (ASS).
According to Seeholtz, 'The Traditional Values Coalition is a
veritable paragon on ASS. Last summer they teamed up with a group of
ultra-conservative clergy to damn homosexuality, same-sex marriage and
gay people not only because that was 'God's will,' but also to
'debunk' the claim by gays and lesbians that their fight for the legal
right to a civil marriage is a 'civil rights' issue."

"Pray for Mel Seesholtz. If you wish to contact him, his email
address is: [xxxx] Please be polite but don't expect a polite

"Leftist." Virtually everything is "left" of Sheldon's and the TVC's
theofascist political ideology. "Progressive" as a "code word" for
socialist? In the eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
Dictionary, "progressive" is defined as "of, relating to, or
characterized by progress; making use of or interested in new ideas,
findings, or opportunities." Sheldon and the TVC fear social change
and new ideas, so it's understandable the word "progressive" upsets

In a political context "progressive" refers to "one believing in
moderate political change and especially social improvement by
governmental action." Sheldon and the TVC have enthusiastically
supported any and all "governmental action" against gay and lesbian
Americans and jurists whose decisions they didn't like. They claim
such moves are "social improvement." Would their own definition of
"progressive" make Sheldon and the TVC code red socialists? They're
not of course, and neither is "progressive" a "leftist code word for

"Homosexual activist." I guess if you advocate equal civil rights for
all citizens, that's makes you a "homosexual activist." I can live
with that.

My initial thought was, "Well, I must be doing something right if Lou
and the TVC are after me!"

Then I recognized the devious nature of the
attack. It was inappropriate -- at best -- for TVC to list my
professional e-mail address, emphasize my employer, and provide the
"Mel Seesholtz" link to my colleagues' names and e-mail addresses when
they had absolutely nothing to do with my writing. But the tactic was
transparent: get "the flock" to pressure the university to silence me
or take punitive action against me. As New York Times writer Paul
Krugman noted in an April 5, 2005 OpEd, "political pressure [by
conservative Christian groups] will nonetheless have a chilling effect
on scholarship. And that, of course, is its purpose."

The "don't expect a polite response" was typical of TVC's boorish
character assassinations of anyone who dares to publicly challenge

As for those messages in my in-box, reading them -- and the multitude
that followed -- provided invaluable insight into the "minds" of those
who embrace Sheldon's and the TVC's perversion of Christianity and
unholy march toward theocracy. But more importantly, reading the
e-mails confirmed what I'd suspected: more and more people inside and
outside the "religious community" are getting fed up with Sheldon's
rhetoric of hate and specious arguments.

A polite (albeit often brief) reply was sent to the authors of even
the most disgusting, hate-filled e-mails I received from TVC
"Christians," including this depraved one: "Why dont you catch aides
and die, you pervert."

I'll spare you the other, even more disgusting messages from so-called
"traditional values Christians" who echoed Don's vile bile, but I do
want to share others.

Many did as asked: they "politely" -- and unctuously -- prayed for me:
"Dear Prof: I have only one thing to say to you. When judgement day
comes and God asks you what you have done for him, what are you going
to say? Will you say, "I have tried to thwart everything that is good
and comes from you Lord and I am a stumbling block to your people" If
this is all you can answer, I suggest you review your life and come to
Him in prayer, we Christians all over this country will be praying for
you to come to your senses."

Others hailed the new United States of Jesus in their own grossly
illiterate, deranged way: "what's up man? Don't you get it yet?
America (ZION) belongs to JESUS!! so... if your not happy here, along
with the rest of the rebels, I suggest you all leave Zion. It's only
gonna get better for Christ as time continues on. that is why they
call it, "Jesus land." I'm saying this with a big smile on my face.
well, do what you want, but I promise you, it's going the way father
Yahweh has planned. LIKE IT OR NOT........whatever. from, the messiah"

The writing and language skills of the flock could certainly use some
work, but I guess that's not part of their "biblical worldview."
Literacy was at an all time low in the Dark Ages when theocracy was
the norm, and that's the norm Sheldon et al want to reestablish. After
all, you can't run an effective theocracy if people are reading
unapproved works or coherently writing and thinking for themselves.

Some messages were so ill-informed about history, science, social and
cultural anthropology as to defy a reasoned response. This comment
came from a man claiming to have an MBA and an MS degree: "Thank God
freaks-of-nature like you don't reproduce; a few more years and your
kind will be extinct."

Here's a brief sampling of other messages received and replies not
sent to their writers during the barrage, but offered to them now,

"Mr. Seeshits:
"Your name certainly matches your outlook on life!"

Yes. When I see "shit," I try to alert others so they don't fall victim
to it.

"The Bible condemns homosexuality and you know it. You can try
and find fault with the Bible but there are no problems with the
Bible. The problem is with rebellious sinners who love their sin and
refuse to repent."

Yes. Leviticus 18:22 does state "You shall not lie with a male as with
a woman; it is an abomination." But if that is absolute truth, then
Leviticus 24:10 is also. It calls for anyone who "hath cursed" to be
stoned to death. Leviticus 20:14 calls for sinners to be burned to
death, and Leviticus 15:19 commands a menstruating woman be "put apart
seven days, and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean." Leviticus
24:11-16 that call for a community gathering in order to stone to
death those who plant two different crops in the same field or wear
garments made of two different kinds of threads. What different
threads are your garments made of, madam? And if I'm not mistaken (and
I'm not), wasn't Jesus more than a bit "rebellious" against the
self-righteous, politically motivated religious leaders of his time?

"Supporting the homosexual agenda and the homosexual lifestyle is
a direct support for the eventual destruction of American society.
Take a step back and look at the big picture. Certainly you can see
the destructive road that the homosexual agenda is leading America

Rep. Barney Frank succinctly expressed the so-called "homosexual
agenda" in his address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention:

"Specifically, we want all people in the United States to enjoy
the same legal rights as everyone else, unless they have forfeited
them by violating the rights of others. We believe this should include
some things that are, apparently, very controversial.

"They include the right to serve, fight, and even die on behalf
of our country in the military; the right to earn a living by working
hard and being judged wholly on the quality of our work; the right for
teenagers to attend high school without being shoved, punched, or
otherwise attacked; and, yes, the right to express not only love for
another person but a willingness to be legally as well as morally
responsible for his or her well-being."

"Even taking twelve steps back, I just don't see "the destructive
road that the homosexual agenda is leading America down." It seems to
me more like the path to liberty, justice and equality for all."

Most telling was the fact that the vast majority of those criticizing
my arguments admitted they hadn't read them. Rather, like good attack
dogs, they simply obeyed their master's orders. Not surprisingly, the
few who had read the articles said they didn't see a "march toward
theocracy" or anything resembling an attack on the independent
judiciary. Some links were sent to them, including one to a recent LA
Times article describing the efforts of evangelicals "to punish
jurists they oppose" by stripping their courts of funding and one to
Sen. Ken Salazar's letter to Focus on the Family's James Dobson
charging him and the Republican leadership with "hijacking
Christianity" and trying to "set up a theocracy." A link to Krugman's
New York Times April 5 OpEd was also sent: "Today, even Republicans
like Representative Chris Shays concede that it [the Republican party]
has become the 'party of theocracy.'" References to The Constitutional
Restoration Act were sent as well:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme
Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of
certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is
sought against an element of Federal, State, or local government, or
against an officer of Federal, State, or local government (whether or
not acting in official personal capacity), by reason of that element's
or officer's acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law,
liberty, or government." (italics mine)

Some messages expressed what many Americans feel as the leaders of the
evangelical Christian Right and their pocketed politicians continue
goose-stepping toward theocracy: "I'm sure you saw this bit of lunacy
that I attached. I am sorry and disgusted that organizations like the
Traditional Values Coalition even exist in our supposedly enlightened,
modern world. I am very grateful for your reasoned commentary -- a
voice of sanity in an America (and administration) that I don't even
recognize as my own any more."

More than a third of the e-mails I received offered support and

"I only know of you [through] the Traditional Values Coalition. I
have been watching their messages -- keeping my enemies close.

"I support the few notions of yours that they reported. The main
statement: 'Traditional Values Coalition and other religious
organizations as a major threat to freedom in the United States' -- is
sad and true in my judgment.

"So this message is my support for your speaking out against such
flaming bigotry."

Some did so with insight and humor:

"I'm one of those 'progressive is a leftist keyword for
socialists' who is on the religio rightist email list to keep an eye
on the loon wing of the Republican party.

"You must be doing something right since Rev. Lou is in a tizzy
over your ideas in today's TVC email. Looks like your root canal has
started hitting some nerve. Keep drilling...

"Good to know they are also all praying for you. The bible says
the 'prayers of a righteous man availeth much.' I don't think you have
to worry about 'Rev' Sheldon's prayers reaching God's ears.

"Keep hammering the truth, dude."

Another message noted the hypocrisy of TVC's attack: "If you want a
taste of irony, note that one of the articles he [Louis Sheldon] sites
as problematic is your offense to the religious right trying to
"remake the judiciary in their own image," followed almost immediately
by his article 'Rev. Sheldon Speaks Out On War Against Bush Judges'
where he complains that the judiciary is not being remade in their
chosen way."

Other messages among the most meaningful were those from pastors,
ministers and Christians fed up with Sheldon's hate-filled perversion
of their religion and his brazen grab for political power.

"The latest hate-mongering message from the TVC seems to be
written to incite their subscribers to send messages filled with their
vitriolic rhetoric against anything in which they cannot find
themselves. As a practicing Christian who disagrees with their message
and their politics, I wanted to send a note of thanks to you for
standing up to them.

"As a Christian, I understand that because of God's unconditional
love for us, our response ought to be showing that same love toward
all those who are not us (and incidentally as well as toward
ourselves). I wish that religious leaders such as Lou Sheldon would
read the Bible with a little more discernment toward finding their own
actions and activities. Perhaps then, they might find some connections
between themselves and those whom Christ came to change."

Another example:

"I see that [Louis] Sheldon has his knickers in a twist over your
telling it like it is about the Traditional Values Coalition and other
right-wing religious groups. Hope you're not getting too much abusive
or icky "we're praying for your soul" spam.

"I'm an Episcopalian and often pray for these people to see
through the haze of bigotry to what Jesus would actually be saying and
doing if He were living in America today and for people like you to
continue using your platforms well and wisely."

And yet another:

"Lou Sheldon and his 'Traditional' 'Values' Coalition continually
spam me with his hate speech, simply because I run the website for our
church. In his latest screed, 'Leftist Web Site Writer Blasts
Traditional Values Coalition,' he gives out your email address... so I
thought I'd send you a thumbs-up. Hope it doesn't get lost among the
dung thrown your way.

"When I saw the title of the spam, I was hoping it was about me.
It's important for people to get the word out about these groups
working behind the scenes, and anyone who cheeses off Sheldon has to
be OK.

"Good luck and God be with you in this fight!"

These messages made me think: true Christians would have no part of
the hate Sheldon and the TVC spew out in the name of "God." An "First Person" Commentary by Rob Hamm, posted on November
2, 2004, came to mind. The lead-in to the article read: "A
church-going mom called her gay son last night to ask what he thinks
about today's ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage and civil
unions in their native Oklahoma. The conversation didn't go as he

What did Mrs. Hamm have to say? To begin with, she voted against the
Oklahoma constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil
unions because, as she put it, "God meant for everyone to have choice
in their lives. That is all about being human, and anyone that takes
that choice away is acting like God. That is blasphemy, and I won't be
a part of it. I don't think it can be changed or should be changed
that you are gay. I don't know if you were made that way or not, but
as long as there is a possibility that it is internal and can't be
changed, I cannot judge anyone based on that. Besides, the Bible says
there is only one judge, and we should not be putting ourselves in his

Her son commented further: "She said that since my partner's family
had disowned him when he came out to them, he was now her son with all
the rights and privileges accorded to that position. It took 12 years
for my mom to get to this point, and I know the world's perceptions
and many decades of discrimination will take a while to change. I have
hope that I didn't have before this phone call that eventually the
true Christians like my mom will win out, and eventually basic rights
will apply to everyone equally, no matter what."

The time of liberty, justice and equality for all Americans will come,
inevitably. And then Louis Sheldon and the Traditional Values
Coalition will be exposed for what they are. Future generations will
read about them in history books and -- with knotted brows -- ask

originally published May 4 2005