Blog of Rights

Joel
Engardio

Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 5:45pm
The Sunday collection plate is as American as religion itself. Americans are religious and generous when it comes to charitable giving. They often go together. There’s Catholic Charities and Mormons famously tithe a percentage of their income. Muslims are also big givers. One of the “five pillars” of Islam is zakat, which is a form of tithing. It is the religious duty of Muslims to help others by giving to charity. But Muslims in the U.S. are having a difficult time freely practicing this vital part of their faith. This short video, “Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity” explains why:

Our Gay Christian Neighbors

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 4:42pm

(Originally posted on the Washington Posts's On Faith blog.)

Near San Francisco's gay center, past the hill where Castro becomes Divisadero Street, a portable sidewalk sign points to City Church. That's where evangelical Christians gather every Sunday for worship in a converted theater. They are true believers: Jesus saves, Satan is real, sex is for the married and marriage is for the straight.

I didn't think a market for such beliefs existed in San Francisco, but hundreds of people and a full balcony proved me wrong. There were back-to-back services the day I attended. The congregants looked no different than the employees I saw on a visit to Google's Bay Area campus. These evangelicals wore Skechers, watched hulu, twittered and composted. They were high-tech professionals in their 20s and 30s who were mostly pro-life and partook of the body of Christ each Sunday. Many even voted Democrat because, abortion aside, it was the party they said that focused most on what mattered to Jesus — the poor, sick and environment. Same-sex marriage wasn't a factor because Barack Obama was against it.

I visited City Church because I wanted to see who in San Francisco might have voted for Proposition 8, which banned gay and lesbian couples from marrying in California. Nearly a quarter of San Francisco voters favored the ban, and that surprised me. Sure, the Bay Area overwhelmingly supported gays marrying, but in Silicon Valley — home to Google, YouTube, iPhone and a number of churches like City Church — 44 percent of voters didn't.

Alabama has the highest percentage of evangelicals, but by sheer size California has the greatest number: Two million, according to the Christian research firm Barna Group. The votes over marriage in California last year totaled 13 million and gays lost by 52 to 48 percent. That means any fraction of evangelicals changing their mind in the next, close election could make a difference.

A Gay Rights Life

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 12:08pm

Matt Coles, director of the ACLU LGBT Project, talks to Joel Engardio about his life working in gay rights, coming out, surviving the AIDS crisis and fighting for LGBT equality. Matt's conversation is divided into three chapters, each four minutes…

Protecting Children and Free Speech Online

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 1:55pm

This video explains how the ACLU proved that the Child Online Protection Act was unconstitutional.

Please note that by playing this clip You Tube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see You Tube's privacy statement…

On Mormons, Marriage, Tea Cups and Kettles

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 2:57pm

The lights of local TV cameras seeking gay-on-the-street sound-bites illuminated the darker part of Broadway on the Upper West Side where thousands of people marched the other night chanting, "Gay, straight, black, white, marriage is a civil right."

I was one of them, upset and disillusioned that a right could be so easily eliminated for an entire group of people that included me. Sure, New York has never allowed same-sex marriage. But it was a right granted in California until a simple majority of voters decided that gay relationships weren't equal to their own.

I joined up with the march in progress at West 66th Street, in front of Manhattan's Mormon Temple. The spot was significant because California's constitutional amendment was bankrolled largely by the Mormon Church, which urged its members nationwide to donate tens of millions of dollars to stop gay couples and their families from receiving the same legal recognition and protections everyone else enjoys.

Justice Denied: Voices from Guantánamo

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 10:31am

Most Americans have only seen Guantánamo detainees as one-dimensional caricatures. But a new ACLU video features original footage in which the men talk about their lives — before, after and during their detention by the U.S.

USA Today: Beyond 'Gay Marriage'

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 10:15am

Today's USA Today includes a personal essay by the ACLU's Joel Engardio. Marriage equality is in the courts, the legislature, and the media more than ever before, but "Beyond 'gay marriage'" reminds us:

At its heart, though, it’s often just…

Jimmy Carter on Accountability for Torture

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 9:10pm

Former President Jimmy Carter recently stated that he respects but disagrees with President Obama's decision to block the release of photographs that depict U.S. use of torture and other harsh interrogation methods under the Bush administration. The…

Prop. 8 Ruling a Blow to All Minorities

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 4:24pm

(Originally posted on the Washington Posts’s On Faith blog.)

Religious supporters of Proposition 8, the voter initiative that banned same-sex marriages in California, might feel good now that the state's Supreme Court has ruled that the measure can stand. But will those religious groups that are celebrating Prop. 8 today regret it later when they consider the precedent that's been set?

Prop. 8 has made it a lot easier in California for a simple majority of voters to strip away the rights of an unpopular minority. What happens when it's your time to be the unpopular minority?

History is unkind and too often repeats itself. Members of the Mormon Church, who were major supporters of Prop. 8, have ancestors who experienced some of the worst religious discrimination ever faced in the United States. In the mid-19th century they were driven by mobs from Illinois to Missouri and across the Wild West to Utah. It was wrong then to persecute Mormons for what they believed, just as it would be wrong now to try to force Mormons to accept members or marriages in their church they deem unworthy. There is freedom of religion in America for good reason. But that and other freedoms have been watered down in California, thanks to Prop. 8. The court now has less power to fulfill the purpose for which it was created: keep the tyranny of the majority from trampling the rights of the minority. Anyone can be a minority if enough people don't like the way you live, worship or think.

“We Still Have to Protest This?”

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 4:38pm

Free speech unplugged, unfettered. With a handheld camera, Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, documented the debate for and against same-sex marriage outside the California Supreme Court last Thursday.

Please note that by playing…
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