This Week in Religion: Christians Continue Their Assault on LGBT Community

If you’ve ever pondered the best method for converting teenagers to your way of thinking, you probably haven't put physical abuse on top of your list. Yet that is exactly what Pastor Eric Dammann says he did to a teen boy outside his church’s youth group this week for being a “smart aleck."

The boy pushed the pastor’s buttons by not taking the Lord seriously, so Dammann “walked over to him and went BAM! Punched him in the chest as hard as I could. I crumpled the kid. I just crumpled him.” Dammann claims that moment led the teen to the Lord.

This advice is not unlike last week’s recommendation by television evangelist Pat Robertson, who condoned physical abuse against a kid who dared to mock Jesus on Christmas.

Pastor Dammann later apologized for his actions. In an interview with the Daily Mail, he said, “I would like to say that I do not endorse child abuse or ever will. My actions were inexcusable.” The video of Dammann talking about hitting the teen was removed from the church’s Vimeo page after the interview.

And if church leaders are not mistreating living people enough, a church in Lakewood, Colorado is attempting to mistreat them after death.

New Hope Ministries canceled the funeral of Vanessa Collier only minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Church officials noticed a video, which was scheduled to play during the ceremony, featuring an image of Collier kissing her wife. After being kicked out of the church, the services were quickly moved to a funeral home across the street. The move was highly inconvenient for Collier’s family and the 170 people who attended.

Chaplain Gary Rolando, who presided over the funeral, says New Hope Ministries welcome gays and lesbians to the church but asks that their alternative lifestyle be kept quiet on church grounds. Rolando still presided over the service after it was moved and called it a logistical nightmare.

However, Rolando accused Collier’s friends of politicizing her death, saying it was a shame that her friends used her death to “push an agenda.” Collier’s friends insisted that their friend deserved dignity after death; something the church did not offer her.

There's more evidence of the serious problems fundamentalists have with alternative lifestyles in Kentucky, where legislators are trying to pass a new bill that will force transgender students to use public restrooms of their birth sex, not their current gender identity.

The bill, called the Kentucky Student Privacy Act says its purpose is “to ensure that student privacy exists in school restrooms, locker rooms, and showers.”

Lawmakers said the bill was an “emergency” issue in Kentucky. According to the bill, “situations currently exist in which the privacy rights of students are violated, an emergency is declared to exist."

However, the bill's sponsors could not highlight a single situation where a student's privacy has been at risk. Blogger Hemant Mehta believes Kentucky legislators are probably referring to bills in other states requiring that transgendered people be given equal access to restrooms, employment and housing, and this bill is an attempt to counter the actions of other states. The law will require that a teacher attempt to give transgender students access to single-stall restrooms, or the controlled use of faculty restrooms but that accommodation will not include student restrooms, locker rooms or showers of the child’s gender choice.

This is an attempt to treat transgender students as sexual deviants even when the state has no evidence of any harassment or privacy violations by transgender students in restrooms or locker rooms.

“On the other hand, transgender students face disproportionate levels of bullying from peers and teachers, and the stigma is often rooted in policies like this one,” says Mehta.

The Christian right has long been on a crusade to discriminate against the transgender community. These efforts have garnered support of celebrities such as TLC’s Duggar family, who helped repeal a law in Arkansas that had given protection to LGBTQ citizens.

Meanwhile in Mississippi, lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that will make the Bible the official book of the state.

“The Bible provides a good role model on how to treat people,” Democratic State Rep. Tom Miles said. “They could read in there about love and compassion.”

Miles must be referring to lessons for fathers on how to negotiate a price for their daughter’s hand in marriage, or just how one should treat their slaves and concubines.

In a poor attempt to avoid violating the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, Democratic Rep. Michael Evans said, "the bill doesn't force anyone to read it.” However, Evans says he hopes the bill will encourage people to pick up the Bible.

Not all state residents are happy about the bill. Mississippi has a long history of literary greats residing in the state, and one of them was the late William Faulkner, a Nobel Prize-winning author.

Larry Wells, who married into the Faulkner family, said of the bill, “It’s impossible to conceive of a state abandoning its literary heritage like that...what would Faulkner and [Eudora] Welty and Shelby Foote and Richard Wright think? I think they would collectively link arms and say, ‘Go back to kindergarten, Legislature.’”

Laws such as this, that attempt to skirt federal laws, are just one of the many reasons Mississippi was ranked one of the most corrupt states in the nation.

A child who famously wrote about his visit and return from heaven now says it was nothing more than a hoax.

Alex Malarkey, who was six when he wrote the Christian book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, now says he made the whole thing up. “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” he said in a statement. “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to.

They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”

Malarkey and his father, Kevin, wrote the book in 2010. The book was a Christian bestseller, with more than 100,000 copies sold. It tells the story of Malarkey’s encounter with angels and his ascent into heaven after a 2006 car accident left him in a coma. Malarkey was paralyzed from the accident.

Malarkey’s recanting of his story has prompted bookstore owners to pull the book from their shelves. The publisher, Tyndale House Publishers and Christian retailer Lifeway Books announced on Thursday that they would stop selling the book.

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