Chris Rodda 
Member since Oct 7, 2011


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Re: “UPDATE: Air Force called out for homophobic link

Rael Nidess ignores some enormous differences between the "Judaism 101" website linked to by the chaplain and the About.com section on Judaism when he says:

"I am sorry the gay female cadet's feeling were hurt by the 'kepto' analogy although I'm hard-pressed to think of another that would be less hurtful (but can easily think of many that would be far more so) and I reiterate that, had the Rabbi used the website Mikey listed as 'acceptable' she'd have found that same exact analogy there."

What are these differences? Well, for starters, the About.com section on Judaism has pages on ALL forms of Judaism, and very clearly states which pages present the orthodox, conservative, or reform perspective. The "Judaism 101" website linked to by the chaplain, on the other hand, presents ONLY the orthodox perspective.

Next, it is highly unlikely that a Jewish cadet exploring the About.com section on Judaism would ever find themselves on the somewhat obscure "Ask the Orthodox Rabbi" page where the orthodox rabbi makes the kleptomaniac analogy in the course of exploring the site. A user going to the main Judaism page on About.com would have to be very deliberately looking specifically for the orthodox view on homosexuality to find this page, and even then would have a hard time finding it. I can't even find a link to it on any of the main Judaism pages. On the "Judaism 101" page linked to by the chaplain, the "Kosher Sex" page is just one mouse click away, in one of the main menus right at the top of the homepage, meaning that anyone exploring the site even casually is likely to land on it.

And, even if a person somehow did manage to find the "Ask the Rabbis" page on About.com, the page gives three options - "Ask the Reform Rabbi," "Ask the Conservative Rabbi," and "Ask the Orthodox Rabbi" - giving the user a clear choice to go to the page that suits their particular beliefs. The "Judaism 101" website linked to by the chaplain, as I said, presents ONLY the orthodox perspective. This is the equivalent of the chaplain linking to a specifically fundamentalist Christian website as the only Christian perspective.

The first sentence of the About.com "Basic Christian Beliefs" page is:

"What do Christians believe? Answering that question is no simple matter. Christianity as a religion encompasses a wide range of denominations and faith groups, and each subscribes to its own set of doctrinal positions."

In that sentence, the word "denominations" is a link to a page of links to the specific denomination pages on the site, allowing the Christian user to choose the page that suits their particular Christian beliefs, just as the site's Judaism section allows the Jewish user to choose the pages that suit their particular Jewish beliefs, making About.com, even though it does contain an obscure page that makes the gay/kleptomaniac analogy, unquestionably preferable to the "Judaism 101" website linked to by the chaplain.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Chris Rodda on 02/19/2013 at 11:47 AM

Re: “UPDATE: Air Force called out for homophobic link

This chaplain could have linked to any of the countless other websites out there that have calendars of the Jewish holidays that don't contain the opinions of one individual, and aren't written from one viewpoint - in this case a strict orthodox viewpoint.

And, yes, it does matter what's on other pages of a site that a military entity links to as a resource because many people will explore a site further than just the one page that's linked to. MRFF received similar complaints when an Air Force officer sent out an email linking to an inspirational video on a Catholic website. While it was inappropriate for an officer who is not a chaplain to send out an email linking to any religious site, that was not the main complaint. The video itself was not offensive. It was the other material on the site that the people saw when they explored the site a bit because of being directed to it for the video. It turned out to not just be a Catholic site, but a Catholic site with a far right political message containing images of President Obama portrayed as Hitler.

This situation is similar. The calendar of holidays might be fine, but the material on other pages of the site is highly offensive to many, particularly on the site's page titled "Kosher Sex," which, among other things, goes as far as comparing gay people to kleptomaniacs.

Here is one of the emails MRFF got from a gay Jewish cadet at the Air Force Academy thanking us for writing to General Welsh on their behalf:

"Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF, I am one of the MRFF's clients regarding the current situation with the USAFA Chaplain's website's disparagement of LGB human beings. I am a cadet in the Class of 20XX and am in Cadet Squadron XX. I do not have much time as I have to get to class. But I wanted to thank you and MRFF for standing up for those of us who are LGB here at USAFA. I am gay, female and Jewish. I am not 'out' either as a gay person or a member of the Jewish faith. Because if I was, life here would be much harder than it already is. It would be brutal. That's messed up but that's the way it is. My future in the Air Force would be clouded forever. No matter that DADT is now officially gone.That website used by the USAFA chaplains to 'explain' Judaism is so terrible, speaking again as a gay person and a Jew. I may have a choice about being Jewish but I have no choice about my sexuality. I was born 'that way' and am not ashamed. Saying that I am like a 'kleptomaniac' because I am gay is so low that it does not deserve a reply by caring people. Thank you and the MRFF for taking up this fight."

MRFF works for its clients. Others may not see the chaplain's linking to this website as a big deal, but is is a very big deal to the cadets like the one who sent this email, and that's all that matters.

Chris Rodda
Senior Research Director
Military Religious Freedom Foundation

12 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Chris Rodda on 02/14/2013 at 9:38 AM

Re: “Air Force pilot challenges investigation, leading to complaint

See here for more about Maj. Dowty, including another instance of him posting his opinion that he knows better than his superiors in the Air Force (he does that quite a bit), and a photo of him (oddly, there wasn't a single photo of this guy anywhere on the internet so this one is of him from his Air Force Academy class yearbook, the only place a photo of him seemed to exist):

http://freethoughtblogs.com/rodda/2011/08/…

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Chris Rodda on 10/07/2011 at 6:54 PM

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