Thursday, May 17, 2018

$300 million in revenues and CBN cannot get its facts straight

Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson is chairman of the board of Christian Broadcasting Network. Perhaps that explains, in part, the outlet's blatant disregard for the truth.
Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network had revenues, for the year ended March 31, 2017, of $308 million. During the same year it had nearly 1,500 employees plus another 220 independent contractors. You might think that, with all of that, they could get the facts right. You would be wrong.

Consider this headline: 'Jesus Died...for Those Who Are in Pain': Why California May Ban This Message of Hope for Gays.

The word “might” is in there but if you told someone that the cupcake they just took in hand might explode, they would be unlikely to consume the pastry. CBN's message is very clear and the “might” pertains, not to the contents of the bill but to whether or not the measure is enacted. Thus, the headline is incorrect. If California AB-2943 is enacted it only pertains to commercial services (sold or leased). A misguided pastor is free to traffic in pseudoscience as long as money does not change hands.

While I am at it, gay people are not in pain because they are gay. Some gay people are in pain because they have been shamed by religious conservatives or bullied in some other form or fashion. The supposed message of “hope” is actually a message of disapproval. The roots of pray-away-the-gay are found in Alcoholics Anonymous which calls for a belief in a higher power. Treating gay people like they have a bad habit which is a choice is nothing other than a justification for oppression and discrimination. But I digress.

According to CBN:
Churches and ministries across California are rising up to fight a state bill that would limit how they minister to people who are struggling with same-sex attraction.

For Christian ministries, it's a battle for freedom of conscience and religious liberty. For the bill's supporters, it's a way to protect consumers.
The first paragraph, above, is incorrect. AB-2943 has no effect on how they minister to people. The only reason that gay people “struggle” is religious approval and the term same-sex attraction is bad-habit bullshit. The correct word is homosexuality.

As for the second paragraph I have about had it with everything being “freedom of conscience and religious liberty” as an excuse for opposing measure intended to protect LGBT people. They are trying to push the envelope on Free exercise of religion at out expense. At least they got the second sentence correct. It's about protecting consumers. The bill in question is an amendment to California's civil code pertaining to unlawful business practices. According to the code:
“Consumer” means an individual who seeks or acquires, by purchase or lease, any goods or services for personal, family, or household purposes.
The above describes a commercial transaction. The exchange of goods and services for money. But goods and services could mean Bibles, right? Wrong.

In fact, the factually challenged CBN makes that idiotic claim:
The bill's sponsor, California Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), was unavailable for an on-camera interview with CBN News. He has said publicly that the bill "does not ban Bibles nor does it ban the basic sales of books." However, broad language in the bill referring to "goods or services" indicates otherwise.
No it does not indicate otherwise and I am sure that they tried real hard to interview Evan Low. Goods and services is used in the existing civil code where applicable. For example, the following are just of the few things that are deemed unlawful:
Representing that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities that they do not have or that a person has a sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation, or connection that he or she does not have.
[…] Representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model, if they are of another.
[…]
Advertising goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised.
None of that would pertain to conversion therapy which is defined as:
“Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.
Practices?” We go to Black's Law Dictionary for examples:

  • Unfair Labor Practice: Action legally prohibited by an employer or union such as a refusal to discuss matters in good faith.
  • In Code Practice: A civil action is a proceeding in a court of justice in which one party, known as the “plaintiff,” demands against another party, known as the “defendant,” the enforcement or protection of a private right, or the prevention or redress of a private wrong. It may also be brought for the recovery of a penalty or forfeiture.
  • Federal Rules of Equity Practice: These are the rules that govern procedure in US courts of equity cases.
There are several more. They all require an action or activity as in the practice of law or the practice of medicine. The only ambiguity that exists is in the minds of people desperate to invalidate this bill. CBN provides the obligatory ex-gays:
Perhaps those most concerned about the bill are those who have struggled with same-sex attraction and found freedom in Christ.

Ken Williams and Elizabeth Woning minister at Bethel Church in Redding, California. They describe themselves as "once gay" and know personally that change is possible.
I have written about Bethel Church before. It is a massive operation and it all screams “cult!”

Bethel Church promises healing. They have Healing Rooms and they heal via television. The blind have regained sight, the lame have walked and stage four colon cancer disappears. Multiple sclerosis, gone. Those are the claims. For some reason a disproportionate number of healings are for the cure of plantar fasciitis (heel pain). Call me a cynic but this is a grift.

Both Williams and Woning believe AB2943 has the potential to upend their ministry and others that in any way charge to help people with sexual orientation. They are fighting for the freedom to offer counseling, church conferences, and books and other materials to those seeking change.
I think that they are worried about a dent in their revenue stream (which seems to be enormous). Bethel Church is like Scientology. It is a not-for-profit-for-profit.

Those are not the only crackpots CBN relies on:
At William Jessup University, a Christian college outside of Sacramento, president John Jackson also opposes AB2943.

"We have psychology classes. We have biblical counseling classes. We have regular conversations about human sexuality, about sexual orientation," says Jackson. "This bill as currently written might prohibit the sale of books and resources, might actually prevent coursework that addresses these issues because students pay tuition."
Nonsense. None of that has anything to do with a commercial transaction with a consumer (as defined in the bill) to change that consumer's sexual orientation. Tuition makes someone a consumer of educational services.

I think that these people know better. There really is no practical reason to oppose this bill unless you are a conversion therapy practitioner. It has no effect on the practice of religion or on Christianity. My best guess is that the opposition is based on not wanting to erode confidence in the ability to change sexual orientation or gender identity. That is important because the potential to change is used as the justification for discrimination. Once you accept immutability, there is no reason to oppose equality.

But there is another reason to oppose the bill. They dutifully oppose anything that might protect or benefit LGBT people. For them it is a zero-sum proposition. Anything that benefits LGBT people takes something away from them.

Then there has been the mob effect. The enterprise to oppose AB-2943 has had a snowball effect. In fact, as CBN points out:
Now, with this latest bill, the church appears to be waking up. Five hundred ministers have organized against it and 100 traveled to Sacramento last week. Bishop Ed Smith came from Zoe Christian Fellowship in Whittier. He says his church regularly ministers to those seeking to move away from same-sex attraction.
If I were to speak with Ed Smith I would ask him: “Suppose for the moment that you knew that AB-2943 would have no effect on your ministry. Then, in your opinion, would you still oppose the measure? After first insisting that is would affect his operation he would ultimately answer the question with a “yes.” He would still oppose the bill.

My next question would be: Obviously you have a reason for saying that. Would you mind telling me what that reason is? The next excuse would be followed by “suppose for the moment … ” and so on. He would probably become frustrated before he ran out of poor excuses.

As for CBN, their reporting is journalistic malpractice. They have a massive staff and budget. They should be able to get the facts straight rather than engaging in baseless fear mongering. Yet they have an audience that loves to feel persecuted and they have a chairman of the board who says all sorts of crazy things. Recently he claimed that the mass shooting in Las Vegas was because of disrespect for Trump.

So I guess that my expectation for truth and rationality is entirely unreasonable.

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