Speed Read: Hate tour continues

HATE TOUR SHOWS CONTINUE: The death of virulently anti-gay protester Fred Phelps has done nothing to soften the Westboro Baptist Church’s activities. The group on Friday issued a press statement vowing to take its “God hates fags” hate troupe to picket outside the NCAA’s Final Four games in Texas April 5. The problem with basketball, says the church’s website, is that it is now “the sport known the world over for its newest fag superstar Jason Collins of the filthy Brooklyn Nets.”

QUIET ‘POINTS OF TENSION’: Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, the national LGBT Catholic group, said LGBT equality was probably one of the “points of tension” between President Obama and Pope Francis when the two met at the Vatican Thursday. “But it seems these issues were left to secondary meetings, and I expect they will continue to be a theme of U.S.-Vatican discussions,” said Duddy-Burke. “I believe LGBTQ Americans can be very proud of the President’s commitment to equality, and the way he speaks about the important role of faith in his commitment to justice. As Catholics, we will continue to work until the leaders of our Church come to the same place. Fortunately, we are seeing ordinary Catholics stand up for their LGBTQ friends and family members, and teaching Church leaders that this is absolutely consistent with our faith.”

AN ISLAMIC STRUGGLE: Faisal Kutty, an assistant professor teaching Islamic law at Indiana-based Valparaiso University, said in a March 27 essay in Huffington Post, that while Islamic law prohibits pre- and extramarital activity as well as same-sex sexual activity, it does not attempt to “regulate feelings, emotions and urges….” Kutty said many Islamic scholars have “even argued that homosexual tendencies themselves were not haram [prohibited] but had to be suppressed for the public good.” “Though not what the LGBTQ community wants to hear,” wrote Kutty, “it reveals that even classical Islamic jurists struggled with this issue and had a more sophisticated attitude than many contemporary Muslims.” Kutty wrote that “most Muslims have no problem extending full human rights to those – even Muslims – who live together ‘in sin’.” “[T]his is not about changing Islamic marriage (nikah), but about making ‘sure that all citizens have access to the same kinds of public benefits’.” Asked about the emergence of new anti-gay laws in such countries as Uganda and Nigeria, Kutty said, “Even when [laws are] based on religious sources, there is human agency involved in interpreting the divine will.  This interpretation will be colored and shaped by the social, economic, political and cultural contexts as well as customs and traditions passed on from forefathers.”

BILLY GRAHAM’S VOICE: Billy Graham, the 95-year-old minister who came to fame by broadcasting sermons to massive television audiences, is now said to be quite feeble and bed-ridden. But his son Franklin is going public with positions that he claims his father would be making “in the exact same way.” Franklin Graham says gays will spend an “eternity in hell.” He praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for the anti-gay laws passed in that country last year. And he’s criticized President Obama for “shameful” support of the rights of LGBT people. He’s called adoption by gays as “recruitment” and “exploitation.” In 2012, Franklin Graham issued a statement in North Carolina, quoting his father as supporting an anti-gay marriage initiative there. But Graham’s biographer, William Martin, said the statement was uncharacteristic of the senior pastor. “In the past,” said Martin, “I have heard him say with respect to homosexuality, there are greater sins.”

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