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April 11, 2010

Peter LaBarbera And His Christian Faith; Not Much Christianity Found In His Behavior

Posted in: Uncategorized

I think many people online confuse articulating conflicting views with hurling personal attacks and verbal or digital Molotov cocktails behind the safety of a keyboard and monitor. People say things on a blog or bulletin board they would never say offline to someone face-to-face.

~Pam Spaulding

In a gratuitous and somewhat unpleasant way, Peter LaBarbera has again has used my name and image as a stand-in for all who identify as transsexual, as well as a stand-in for all who sociopolitically identify as transgender. His recent Americans For Truth About Homosexuality post, entitled Listen Online: AFTAH Sounds the Alarm on ENDA as Grave Threat to Religious Freedom, is a post that refers to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), but Peter Labarbera seems to have made at least an equal attempt to make sure I paid requisite attention to both him and the post. Well, Mr. LaBarbera got my attention.

Thumbnail link: Autumn Sandeen, captioned by Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About HomosexualityAnd in that apparent attempt to have me pay him some attention, it really looks to me like he’s made a big attempt to bait me. Oddly, it feels like I’m dealing with a petulant schoolyard bully; I certainly I don’t feel like I’m dealing with an adult who identifies himself as a Christian.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

~Proverbs 26:4

What I’m not going to do is sink into the mire that Mr. LaBarbera appears to want to drag both of us down into. I’m not going to call him names. And in this post, I’m not going to address his political beliefs regarding ENDA — there are others who can do that. Instead, I’m going to take a few moments to explain why dealing with LaBarbera doesn’t feel like I’m dealing with a person who understands the Christian faith he’s taken for himself. I’m going to explain some Biblical issues with Mr. LaBarbera’s actions, and explaining why I don’t see his behavior being compatible with Christian doctrine. I think this is important because no one who shares both his conservative politics and identity as a fundamentalist or Evangelical Christian are calling him out for his behavior.

So, let’s begin with this rather lengthy, but hardly exhaustive, diary.

Looking at outward appearances

Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad.

~Psalms 41:6

As many already know, I served in the U.S. Navy from 1980 through 2000. I’m a retired, disabled, Persian Gulf War veteran; my disabilities are service connected, and my Veterans Administration (VA) disability rating is 100%. In the The Americans For Truth About Homosexuality piece entitled Listen Online: AFTAH Sounds the Alarm on ENDA as Grave Threat to Religious Freedom, Peter LaBarbera used a photo of me that I had posted on Pam’s House Blend. The photo that Mr. LaBarbera copied and pasted was taken from the Pam’s House Blend website. It’s a photo of me on the first day I presented as Autumn (February 6, 2003).

For yours and Mr. LaBarbera’s information, that photo of me that Mr. LaBarbera recently used on his Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) website was taken within the confines of the Veterans Administration San Diego Medical Center‘s Patient Health Library. In early February of 2003, I started working there as a student work study. In fact, that particular photo of me was taken on my first day on that work study job. My low paying job at the Patient Health Library that day — and for many more days following that day — was to serve the disabled veterans who needed help with materials. Oh — I got that job as a student work study for twenty-five hours a week because I was using VA benefits towards obtaining an Information Systems degree from National University.

I’m pointing this out because I’m a transgender identified disabled veteran who is proud not only of my military service, but I’m also proud to have served other disabled veterans. When Mr. LaBarbera picked an image of me — apparently an image of me that Mr. LaBarbera found to be an unattractive looking image of me — it was an image of me from a day and a location where I was serving a community of U.S. military veterans. Mr. LaBarbera apparently looks at an outward presentation of me in my early days of transition and sees an ugly person that should be feared by all Americans — a Samaritan-like outcast. But speaking of Samaritans…

Well, Mr. LaBarbera has recently captioned a photograph of me — a photograph he no doubt found on either the Pam’s House Blend website or the Pam’s House Blend PhotoBucket group. He “lifted” the photograph, then cut, edited, and pasted the photo to his Americans For Truth About Homosexuality website. In Mr. LaBarbera’s actions of “lifting” and captioning that photograph of me, I believe one can find a parallel to the behaviors of the Priest and the Levite within the Parable Of The Good Samaritan.

And, this is how I see Mr. LaBarbera’s behavior being unneighborly, and less than Christian: Mr. LaBarbera obtained this photograph of me that was taken at a location where I, not five minutes later, was working to serve disabled veterans. Peter LaBarbera wanted so badly to find me an ugly person that he took away a mental image of ugliness of me from a photograph taken on a date and at a location where I was serving disabled veterans.

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

~1 Samuel 16:7b

“Subject to rulers and authorities”

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

~Titus 3:1&2

I own the copyright to the photo of me that Mr. LaBarbera lifted from the Pam’s House Blend website/the Pam’s House Blend PhotoBucket group. Mr. LaBarbera should be familiar with fair use and Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation. If he had researched the law, he would know that he violated copyright law in how he obtained and republished the copyrighted image of me.

A simple point: To claim one is a Christian, but not follow the laws of the land one lives — especially when specific laws don’t specifically encroach upon one’s Christian faith — well, that’s actively not doing good; that’s actively not practicing one’s Christian faith.

Spreading explicit lies and defaming character

What is desirable in a man is his kindness, and it is better to be a poor man than a liar.

~Proverbs 19:22

[Way too much material to work with is found below the fold.]Mr. LaBarbera has now for a second time spread lies regarding how I “left” my ex-wife and children. (The first time he spread lies was in the AFTAH’s Taxpayer-Funded Tranny-Care? ObamaCare Could Mandate Free ‘Sex-Change’ Surgeries.) I don’t want to go into a lot of public detail on this because my ex-wife and children aren’t public figures — and frankly, they don’t deserve to be drawn into public discussion just because Peter LaBarbera is baiting me to bring my relationship and history with them into the public square.

I will say a few things though, since Mr. LaBarbera seems to be intent to continue to repeat his lies until I publicly correct him. First, my ex-wife is the one who asked to separate and divorce from me, and not the other way around. In 1996, I was at the end of a tour of duty at a Naval Base in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was up for orders at roughly the same time my ex-wife told me she wanted to divorce me. I was only offered one set of orders, and it was to the USS Coronado (AGF-11), homeported at a base in San Diego, California. Even though my ex-wife, like me, is from southern California, my ex-wife decided to not move back to California, but to stay in Virginia Beach with her new boyfriend. When my ex-wife and I moved out of the Navy Housing unit we jointly shared, she directly moved in with her then new boyfriend, who is now husband. I have been celibate since my marriage entered, so Mr. LaBarbera can’t truthfully say that I have, even by Biblical Standards, committed adultery.

Secondly, regarding my three children… Well, 1.) I have a relationship with my oldest child, and I have twins who want nothing to do with me. More than that I’m just not comfortable sharing. 2.) I paid child support for all of my children, and never missed a single month of sending financial support for all of my children. In fact, I sent more than I was legally obligated to send for extended periods of time. My oldest child has been over eighteen years of age for many years, so I haven’t paid child support for him for those many years; however, I paid child support for my twins until late last year — when my twins turned eighteen years of age.

The bottom line my ex-wife left me, and not the other way around; and in a real and legal sense, my children weren’t abandoned. But, Mr. LaBarbera characterizes me as having left my ex-wife and children, and implies that I did nothing to care for my children after my ex-wife and I separated. So, Mr. LaBarbera’s statements about my history with my ex-wife and children are false statements; Mr. LaBarbera is explicitly spreading lies about me. If Mr. LaBarbera continues in spreading lies about me regarding having “left” my ex-wife and children to “pusue [my] twisted ‘transgender’ dream,” I will seriously consider suing him for defamation of character.

O LORD, who may abide in Your tent?

Who may dwell on Your holy hill?

He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,

And speaks truth in his heart.

He does not slander with his tongue,

Nor does evil to his neighbor…

~Psalms 15:1-3a

The New Testament Parable Of The Good Samaritan should have taught Mr. LaBarbera the concept of who neighbors are — in the Biblical sense, I’m Mr. LaBarbera’s neighbor.

Picking fights

…[A]void foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

~Titus 3:9-11

In the spreading of explicit lies in mischaracterizing my behaviors towards my ex-wife and children, Peter LaBarbera is knowingly picking a fight with me. Yet too, when Mr. LaBarbera uses terms he knows to be epithets — such as the term “she-male” — he’s intentionally picking fights with members of the trans community.

His latest use of the term “she-male,” excerpted from the broadcast he highlighted in his post Listen Online: AFTAH Sounds the Alarm on ENDA as Grave Threat to Religious Freedom:

“And, the really incredibly dangerous part of this [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] bill is that they’ve extended it to so-called “transgenders.” And that’s with the she-male thing you were referring to. And that is really insidious.”

And just so we’re clear that Peter LaBarbera isn’t just using the term “she-male” as just a quote of CrossTalk host Jim Schneider, below are some other quotes of Mr. LaBarbera using the epithet. The first quote (where he’s specifically talking about ENDA):

The “transgender” lobby has copied aggressive “gay” activist tactics and is on the verge of creating federal “civil rights” based on gender confusion. Their top goal? Passage of the “Thought Crimes” and “ENDA Our Freedom” bills. If these become law, we’re talking about federal “rights” – and that means federal lawsuits – for “she-males” – biological men who act as if they are women and even demand to use female restrooms (see our story, “The Transg-ENDA: Man in Purple Suit Invades Ladies’ Restroom in Md.”).

And a second quote:

Disclaimer: This graphic is only a joke. Any resemblance to an actual woman is purely coincidental and highly unlikely. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that there is an incendiary device in this “she-male’s” pumps. We at Americans For Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH) have no reason to believe this man pretending to be a woman is actually a terrorist, nor are we implying that Arab-looking transvestites are terrorists or that they represent any serious threat to Americans other than to our sensibilities.

Mr. LaBarbera also quotes the TVC on his Americans For Truth About Homosexuality website using the epithet here:

Friends, it was obvious. There are many additional orientations that would have had to be included in sexual orientation. Also, they would have to agree to a definition of gender identity and they did not want that. They obviously did not want to define gender identity to include she-male, cross-dresser, drag queen, transgender, transsexual, etc.

…As well as quoting the Liberty Council’s Matt Barber — a board member of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality — on the AFTAH website using the epithet here:

Well, now Sean number two and other like-minded “gay” and she-male activists may very well get their wish – and parents may well be forced to explain to Junior why Ms. Johnson at parochial school has a five o’clock shadow, calves like Schwarzenegger, an Adam’s apple the size of a golf ball and is stuffed into a miniskirt like a ten pound turkey in a five pound bag.

Thumbnail link: Excerpts from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report No. 137, Spring 2010In his personal repeated use of antitransgender epithets, and in his repeating of others using the epithet, he demonstrates a reason why his Americans For Truth About Homosexuality group was listed as a hate group in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC’s) Spring 2010 Intelligence Report.

From the Naperville Sun‘s Local anti-gay group rejects ‘hate site’ tag:

President of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality Peter LaBarbera says he has “taken issue” with that, and is asking for a public apology from the organization and a debate with its president, Mark Potok. His organization, he says, while against homosexuality, is not a hate group. “You can disagree without being hateful,” LaBarbera said…

…LaBarbera contends that his organization and its Web site are no more hateful than the Catholic Church.

As for a public apology or debate, the SPLC says there’s none coming.

“He can debate all he wants,” said [Booth Gunther, the public affairs coordinator at SPLC]. “We stand by our designation.”

I’d like to point out that when Peter LaBarbera’s repeatedly uses the antitransgender epithet “she-male” in his writings, and when he repeatedly uses the antitransgender epithet “she-male” on public airwaves and in podcasts, he actually is using more hateful language regarding trans people than even the Catholic Church uses regarding trans people. In that one real sense, Peter LaBarbera is decidedly behaving more hatefully than the clergy and hierarchy of Catholic Church behave.

But I digress. When one looks at the words of Peter LaBarbera regarding me, as well as other trans identified people, it seems very apparent to me that he has used scorn ridden words to pick fights.

The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men.

~Proverbs 24:9

The SPLC obviously saw his hateful speech as abominable. And hey, it appears he’s using his hateful speech to pick personal fights with those he perceives are his enemies.

Not behaving towards others as Mr. LaBarbera wants others to behave towards him

Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

~Luke 6:31

That’s a famously simple quote attributed to Jesus Christ. It’s so simple in its concept, but such effort is required to follow the tenant of that, the Golden Rule.

Here’s a quote from Peter LaBarbera, from his AFTAH post Barber: The Hard Left and Fred Phelps Have Something in Common:

…Let me echo Matt Barber’s observation about the Hard Left: with all their name-calling and nasty smears of religious opponents, pro-homosexual militants like Joe Jervis (of the blog “Joe.My.God.“); Pam Spaulding, the “Jeebus”-[Jesus]-hating lesbian and creator of the “Pam’s House Blend” blog; Rachel Maddow with her crude and cruel “Teabagger” rants, and Wayne (“Anything But Straight”) Besen, proud creator of the “Porno Pete” slur directed at yours truly, have more in common with Fred than they’d ever admit. –Peter LaBarbera, Americans For Truth

Note that Mr. LaBarbera calls the “Porno Pete” phrase a “slur.” Here is an excerpt from the post he links to — entitled Wayne Besen Has Been Taking his Hate Pill again…. (underline emphasis added):

It looks like Wayne (“Anything But Straight”) Besen has been taking his hate pill again. Besen, who is out to prove, with Stalinesque zeal, that no homosexual can change – has written another diatribe against me and Americans For Truth.

Just as night follows day, we could have predicted that Wayne and his fellow “gay” comrades, including the folks at Box Turtle Bulletin (who alternate between high-minded critiques of pro-family research and mean-spirited name-calling), would ridicule – not the men at International Mr. Leather who were engaging in vile (“pig sex”) orgies at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton Hotel; not the “leather” vendors hawking twisted porn videos including those featuring “fisting” and “water sports” – but yours truly, for exposing these perversions.

Followed up with an update:

UPDATE: Since I posted this item below, Wayne Besen has put up another piece filled with lies against me. Thankfully, a couple friends have defended me on his site, but I’m afraid Wayne is losing it. As my son would say, chill… Click HERE for Wayne’s latest hateful blast against Americans For Truth.

It’s very clear that Peter LaBarbera considers slurs, name calling, and lies directed towards him, towards his conservative peers, and towards his self-identified Christian peers as unappreciated, unacceptable behavior. Yet it also appears that Mr. LaBarbera doesn’t practice the kind of behavior that he desires of others; Mr. LaBarbera is blatantly ignoring a pretty key tenant of Christian faith.

So, let me be clear about what I don’t like regarding what Mr. LaBarbera is saying and writing about me, is saying and writing about my friends, and is saying and writing about my trans-identified peers. This is so Mr. LaBarbera will know how to engage in Golden Rule behavior towards trans community members; how to begin to act like a good neighbor to his trans identified neighbors.

• For me personally I didn’t appreciate when Mr. LaBarbera, in the AFTAH post FRC Takes on Colorado Transgender ‘Bathroom Bills’, implied that I’m a bathroom predator of women and children. I also didn’t appreciate when he called me in that same post a “confused man” — Image: Autumn Sandeen's Department Of Defense Military Retiree And Veterans Administration Disability Identification CardsI’m not confused at all about my sex and gender at all, and I can point to Matthew 19:12 and Isaiah 56:3-5 as to people who live outside of societal sex and gender norms being accepted by his God as fully loved, and fully human.

I also didn’t appreciate it when Mr. LaBarbera called me by the pejorative “transvestite” in the AFTAH post Why We Need ‘Americans For Truth’. Mr. LaBarbera knew, even in 2006, that I’m a transsexual who sociopolitically identifies as transgender — he knows I don’t identify as a crossdresser.

I also don’t appreciate when Mr. LaBarbera puts my first name in quotation marks as he did here. In putting my name in quotation marks, Mr. LaBarbera appears not only to be questioning my sex and gender, but implying Autumn isn’t my actually my first name. So, Mr. LaBarbera is implying I’m lying about what my legal first name is.

For Mr. LaBarbera’s benefit, I’ve included images of two official photo identifications (with personal identification numbers and identification codes blacked out and “void” written across the cards so these can’t be duplicated and unlawfully reused) — my Veterans Administration disability card, and my Department of Defense retiree identification card — to show that my legal name is Autumn. If Mr. LaBarbera prefers to have his first name put in quotation marks in a manner designed to question his sex and gender, I would hope Mr. LaBarbera would contact me and tell me that this is how he wants to be treated. If not, then Mr. LaBarbera isn’t treating this other the same way he wants to be treated.

And lastly in relationship to how Mr. LaBarbera has been behaving towrds me, Mr. LaBarbera has brought my non-public figure ex-wife and non-public figure children into public discussion. Would he appreciate it if I started discussing his non-public figure wife and his non-public figure children in this public forum? If his answer is “No,” then he should have thought a moment before bringing my ex-wife and my children into public discussion.

• Perhaps Peter LaBarbera remembers this from the Pam’s House Blend diary I wrote, entitled CWA And Peter LaBarbera Behaving Badly In The Name Of Jesus (bold emphasis added):

[My friend Brenda Watson] staffed the Scouting For All booth during San Diego Pride. On the CWA’s July 24th (2008) podcast, CWA Policy Analyst Martha Kleder AFTAH’s Peter LaBarbera called Brenda a “homely man” and a “deviant” — and CWA Policy Analyst Martha Kleder compared Brenda unfavorably to the Addams Family, to which Peter LaBarbera chimed in and agreed. The excerpt:

Well, when Brenda’s tears dried, she did some online research and found Peter LaBarbera’s Americans For Truth About Homosexuality telephone number. So, she called him up to let him know she heard the podcast, and that he and Martha Kleder weren’t exactly being very Christian in how they hurled their insults. And, of course, it was easy for Peter and Martha to attack Brenda. To them, Brenda was an anonymous less-than-human-being — they said things on a podcast they would never say offline to Brenda face-to-face.

As if to confirm that assumption, Brenda told me that in her phone call, Peter said that he couldn’t remember exactly what he said in the podcast — he actually said “Sometimes I get carried away.”

I didn’t appreciate Mr. LaBarbera calling my friend unkind names in a moment where he says he became “carried away” — where he lost his self-control.

…[M]ake every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

~1 Peter1:5b-7

• As I said earlier about his use of the term “she-male” — and to which I’d also add use of the terms “tranny” and “transvestite” — I don’t appreciate the use of epithets used against my trans identified peers.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

~Matthew 5:43-48

Summary and conclusion

…[A]void foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

~Titus 3:9-11

I could go on with more examples of Peter LaBarbera’s un-Christian behavior, but I believe I’ve already made this point: Peter LaBarbera self-identifies as a Christian, but he doesn’t seem to be making any effort to behave in accordance with the Bible of his Christian faith. I don’t expect Mr. LaBarbera to be perfect (because all of us are less than perfect, and sometimes fail), but I do expect him — as a self-identified Christian — to better attempt at treating others as he wants to be treated, to better attempt to behave with kindness and thoughtfulness towards others, and to better attempt at giving public effort at keeping his self-control.

If Mr LaBarbera chooses not to live up to the tenants of his self-identified Christian faith in the way he writes and speaks, I’ll leave him with this thought from Proverbs 17:28:

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.

But that said, I usually find Peter LaBarbera’s foolish writings to be really, really entertaining. So, on one level I hope he never backs away from his keyboard, and I hope he keeps talking to religious right broadcasters and podcasters. He should just know that many of us on the progressive left are reading and listening to him not because he has anything of true value to say, but he gives us an example to hold up of religious right foolishness — of religious right wingnuttery — gone amok.

Please keep up the good entertaining work, Mr. LaBarbera — I know I enjoy laughing at your antics…and laughing at you.

Hat tip: Good As You

~~~~~

Further Reading:

* Good As You: Attacks like this one on Autumn will lead to Pete’s Fall

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