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JZ Knight, My Hometown Cult Leader

JZ_Knight

I grew up in Yelm, Washington, home to the Ramtha School of Enlightenment (RSE) led by cult leader JZ Knight.  To be honest, as a young child growing up in the 80’s around Yelm, I didn’t know too much about the RSE.  I don’t recall discussing anything religious or spiritual with my parents, and can recall only going to church a handful of times, and those were only the “traditional” Christian churches.  Despite not knowing anything about what the RSE was, everyone in school knew where the RSE was.  It was the enormous house hidden behind the white stone wall, with only the top most levels of the house visible as the school bus drove us by.  All the stories about the RSE were about how rich JZ Knight was; truth be told, none of us really knew who she was, or what she did to get so rich.

I moved from Yelm to Minnesota when I was a teenager, and almost everything about the RSE dropped from my life.  From time to time I would bring her up as something from my hometown, something that no one around me knew about.  By this time I had also learned JZ was a channeller someone who claims to host a non-corporeal entity so the otherwise silent and invisible entity can communicate with the physical world (us).  To put it another way, she pretends a spirit is speaking using her mouth, and to make you really believe, she talks funny.

Time went on, and as I grew up to an adult I always thought of her as something in my past, a curiosity but nothing more.  Then came Facebook, I had liked a Yelm page which posted an editorial from the Yelm newspaper , and there she was, JZ Knight.

The Ramatha School of Enlightenment was suing a Virginia Coverdale over the release of a controversial video in which she insults gays, Catholics, Mexicans, and many other groups.  As a member of the Trans* community, these bigoted remarks naturally caught my attention.  I would post a link, but JZ has had the vast majority pulled down from the internet.  (The videos are still out there, and if you know how to search, you can find them, and if you are internet savvy, I suggest you take a look as they are quite entertaining.)

Apparently when you join the RSE, you are required to sign a confidentiality agreement where, and I’m paraphrasing here, you agree to not release, discuss, or disseminate materials from the RSE without the consent of the RSE.  This is not the normal behavior for a religion;  however, the RSE does not claim to be a religion, although they do claim religious privilege when it comes to what they believe.

Though Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment is a for-profit school that does not hold itself out as a church or organized religion, the foundation of its teachings are spiritual and center around beliefs in the teachings of Ramtha, a 30,000-year-old warrior spirit channeled by Knight.”  RSE

So they want to be treated as a religion when it comes to their beliefs, but want to be JZ Knight Incorporated, a for profit business when it comes to everything else.  This is a problem because JZ Knight Inc sells a product to its students.  They make a claim of being able to educate and elucidate, and charge you for the special opportunity to learn this secret knowledge.  In an injunction discussed below, the RSE describes itself as “engaged in the business of retail sales, seminars, and publishing.”  I am not personally aware of any church or religious organization which would describe itself in that manner.  Yet, if you realize you’ve been swindled, that the secret knowledge you’ve been promised is a lie, you are not allowed to sue for your money back, because the school then turns around and claims the religious protections guaranteed by the first amendment of the US Constitution.  As mentioned above, the court ruled in favor the RSE, claiming the non-disclosure agreement was binding, and covered the videos and materials Ms. Coverdale had disseminated online.

Virginia Coverdale, like most former students of the RSE, has suggested that an investigation into the relationship between Thurston County officials and the RSE should be undertaken.  It was in fact, because of this belief of uncovered corruption, that the videos of JZ Knight making bigoted statements was originally released.  Under the Public Records Act of Washington State, Ms. Coverdale has now submitted a “request for documents containing correspondence between [Thurston County] and any employee of JZK Inc., Ramtha School of Enlightenment.”

Immediately the RSE sought an injunction against this release claiming it “will clearly not be in the public interest, and will substantially and irreparably damage” the school as well as harming “it’s right to due process of law, its right of free speech, and participation in the political process…”

As I have stated in previous postings, and on the podcast, I am a big fan scientific skepticism, the same rules of evidence apply to Ms. Coverdale’s claim of potential political misdoings, as any other claim.  First, who holds the burden of proof?  This lies on the those making the claim of possible misdoings by Thurston County officials.  Second, if true, would the claim be consistent with our current understanding of reality?  Yes, corruption of government officials by giving them favors or cash does is consistent with our current understanding of how the world works.  This does not mean the claim is true, it simply means the threshold of evidence is lower than if the claim was an extraordinary one, such as the government officials are actually grey aliens.

So as a scientific skeptic, my opinion is that Ms. Coverdale needs evidence, but if she produces said evidence I’ll believer her…..such as the evidence she has requested from Thurston County.  The evidence the Ramtha School of Enlightenment is seeking to keep from becoming public.  An important point needs to be made however.  The filing of an injunction by the RSE, is not evidence that Ms. Coverdale’s suspicion of political misdoings is correct.  There are many alternate hypothesis that are just as reasonable and plausible such as; the RSE has a culture of secrecy they are loath to part with, the RSE is incompetent, the RSE is mean, or the RSE believes everything in their injunction.  All of these are potentially just as true as Ms. Coverdale’s assertion, what we need is evidence, and as stated above, the request of Ms. Coverdale may give that evidence.

I’m going to end this already long blog post here.  I’ll keep you updated on this case, because as with JZ being my hometown cult leader, its resolution is important to me.  I will also go into the teachings of the RSE, and probably channeling in general in further posts.  People like JZ Knight raise my ire, she cheats people out of their money, she cheats people out of their dreams, she destroys families, and she’s not alone.

-Maddy

 

Florence High School (Updated)

Strawman Cartoon

The blogosphere of the Christian Right has been actively discussing a case of transgender harassment at the Florence High School in Colorado.  You can read all about it here, here, and here.  Or you can read about it from the original source piece at the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).  In fact, every single piece of reporting I found on this story, was simply a parroting of the original piece from the CBN.  The CBN’s source story itself is not exactly brimming with journalism, as there are no details given, with the lone exception that a letter was sent from the Pacific Justice Institue “warning against squelching privacy rights”.

So what’s going on here, how can a have a rational discussion on how to best solve the problems facing the teenage girls of Florence High School who are being harassed by this transgendered individual?

Perhaps there is another way to approach this problem.  Begging the question is an informal logical fallacy in which the original assertion that becomes the foundation of the argument is itself is not established as factual or accurate.

In the case of this story, the original underlying assertion is a transgender person was harassing other students in a restroom.  There are no facts given to state the exact nature of abuse or harassment.  There is no indication if this was the transgendered students first offense, or if there is a history of disruptive behavior from this student.  There is no timeframe given for the original assertion.  Did this harassment occur last week, last month, last year?  What was the prior relationship of the alleged harasser to the students claiming harassment?

Many of the details would of course not be able to be released as all parties involved are most likely minors.  However, with basic facts missing, there is no way one can construct a rational opinion based upon facts on the best solution to a problem I’m not even sure actually exists.

Here is where we encounter another logical fallacy, that of the straw man, an argument which distorts a viewpoint into something easier to argue against.

If you take the CBN story at face value, if everything reported in this story is factual and accurate, then it is obvious who is at fault.  It is easy to understand and come to agreement that having transgendered students in the bathrooms of the cis-gendered students is only asking for harassment, trouble, and is unfair to the cis-gendered students who feel violated.  The implication of this story is that all male to female transgender students are secretly trying to get into the girls bathroom where they can wreak havoc on the purity of the naïve and innocent cis-gendered girls.

It doesn’t take much critical thinking to realize reality is rarely as simple as a straw man argument.  Why would the CBN and the PJI make such an argument?

The PJI is currently in the middle of a legal action to overturn California School Bathroom Bill AB 1266 which allows transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender they identify as.  Having a villain to use as an example to voting parents who are on the fence is not out of the realm of possibility, although I must stress, there is purely conjecture on my part.

Whether the events which transpired at Florence High School were in the manner described by the CBN, or if the events that transpired were more innocuous, or perhaps completely fictitious, a discussion needs to take place.  We need to decide how we are going to handle the integration of non-binary gender into society at large, including our public school spaces.  It’s not going to be an easy discussion to have, too many heels are already dug in deep, and there is a lot of misunderstanding, fear, and downright bigotry to contend with due in no small part to the religious fundamentalists.

However as the Florence High School Student Handbook tells its students:

You have to set goals that are almost out of reach. If you set a goal that is attainable without much work or thought, you are stuck with something below your true talent and potential.

Perhaps we can set a goal of acceptance, and work to make every person understand and feel accepted, regardless of their gender identity.

-Maddy

[UPDATED 10-20-2013]

So it turns out that entire story was fabricated, and as I had guessed (see above story) it was a way to create a strawman argument to build support for their opposition to legislation in California.  For a complete breakdown of this story, and interviews from the family of this poor girl follow this link.

Still A Country for Old Men (and Women)

bush wedding

Generally when we in the LGBT community discuss the older generation, it is a somewhat dark subject.  While there are very few people in the world I wish death upon ( ok maybe this guy ) there is a general consensus in our community that the only way for us to gain a complete victory on our civil rights, is to have the older generation die off.  But is this really the case?

While there is an obvious demographic split with younger people far more likely to be supportive of LGBT civil rights as seen this graph from 2009, this is not the only factor to consider.  It is my firm belief, that young people in the 1960’s and 1970’s were more likely than their parents to be accepting of interracial marriage and civil rights in general.  However, one only has to look around today to see that racism is unfortunately still present, and still an evil that permeates our society.  We ostracize those who make their hate public, make laws in an attempt to prevent that hate from influencing employment and house, and still the hate persists.

In a similar manner we should expect to be fighting against the hate, intolerance, and secret bigotry against the LGBT community for decades.  This doesn’t mean we need to take it laying down, but rather we need to fight back, we need to not forget our allies, we need to make sure we are not being discriminatory even as we are being discriminated against.

The picture above is George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, and was a Republican president from 1989-1993.  He is 89 years old, he and his wife Barbara Bush just served as official witnesses to a same sex couple’s wedding.  I’m not going to get bogged down into the politics during his presidency, or what his positions were 20 years ago, I wasn’t a fan of his then, and looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I am still not a fan of decisions he made during his presidency.  What’s important here is my opinion that we have people of a much older generation, supporting LGBT civil rights, and they shouldn’t be written off as our enemies.

Why is it we in the LGBT community, who understand what prejudice feels like first hand, are so quick to prejudge others based solely upon their age?  We need to understand and fight our own prejudices, even as we work to fight against the prejudices of others.  Let us not forget our allies.  Let us not forget how many of the older generation are veterans in the war for civil liberties, how many fought for racial equality, women’s rights, and who will fight for LGBT equality.

Let us not marginalize our allies simply because they have grown old, let us instead remember it was an 83 year old woman named Edith Windsor who brought the case to strike down the Defense Of Marriage Act in the US.

Edith Windsor

Edith Windsor

H. Adam Ackley

RNS-H-Adam-Ackley

“I did not get a sense directly from the individuals with whom I was speaking that they had a theological problem with transgender identity. I did get the message that it has to do with their concern that other people, such as donors, parents and churches connected to the university will have problems not understanding transgender identity.”

H. Adam Ackley was not fired from his teaching position due to poor performance, student complaints, or misbehavior.  According to statements, he was not even let go for violating Azusa Pacific University’s, the private Christian college, theological position on transgender.

No, H. Adam Ackley was let go because he might make some potential donors feel icky.  My words, not his, not the college’s.

The current evangelical church in America, and across the world are finding themselves facing a real theological divide, one that is more generational than biblical.  The Christian bible is pretty clear on its stance towards homosexuality with passages in both the old and new testaments proclaiming death or damnation for homosexuals and effeminate men.  However, this same holy book, supposedly written by an all knowing and all seeing god, didn’t appear to anticipate a world where we accept some people are not born the gender their genitals would have us believe.

Gender is not binary, human sexuality is more complicated, and for a group like the Christians who continually try and impress upon how “fearfully and wonderfully” made we are, they seem reluctant to embrace the wonderfulness of diversity.

There are many Christians who are willing to reinterpret their holy book, to forget the nauseating passages regarding bigotry, in the same way they forget or reinterpret the passages pertaining to genocide, infanticide, rape, and slavery.  While I think they are fooling themselves, and I believe as a whole the world would be better off without religion, the LGBT movement should remember these liberal religious folks are our allies.

Its sad to see anyone lose their job over bigotry, perhaps the Christians on the left should begin to stand up to their brethren on the right.  Perhaps the Christians who have chosen to define their faith in a manner that encompasses love and compassion for all their fellow humans regardless of gender or sexual orientation, should make their voices heard.  Make colleges like Azusa Pacific University fear losing your donation, support, and future education dollars, not just those from the bigoted right.

-Maddy

Unkind Stranger

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I tell myself its going to be easy.  I tell myself the people who don’t understand don’t matter.  I tell myself lie after lie, amazingly i know I’m lying the whole time; yet, despite that knowledge, I go out anyway.

If you normally pass, does make it easier or harder to deal with the laughter, the whispers, the stares that shift when you look?  If you know you don’t pass for one gender or the other does shouldn’t that make the heartfelt pain easier to deal with?  After all, you knew what it was going to be like before you went out, you knew those were lies you were telling yourself.

What is it about a stranger’s rejection that we find so hurtful?  Why is it a loved ones acceptance can wipe away the hurt and trauma of a stranger?

I’m not looking for answers.  I’m not here to deal with my emotional trauma the best way I know how.  I need to examine it,  try and understand exactly what it is that hurts, to question this as I do everything.

Unkind Stranger, your laughter, rejection and dehumanizing behavior will have their intended effect.  You will break my heart.  You will make it harder for me to leave my house.  You will make it harder to love and accept myself the way I should.

Unkind Stranger, you will not break me.

You will not take away the strength and solace I find in the arms of my wife.  You will not remove my will and desire to make this world a better place for generations to come.  You will not change my gender, you have however changed me.

When I come out of my house tomorrow, I will have healed, but I will not have forgiven, and I will not have forgotten.  I will remember there are others out there who don’t have a wife like mine to go home to.  Others who have no refuge from you and the Strangers like you.  Others who have no refuge from a family who treats them the way you treat them.

Unkind Stranger, there are people like me out there you have killed.  People who couldn’t handle living with your scorn, and people who couldn’t live with themselves in the manner you demanded.  Unkind Stranger, you are responsible for their destroyed lives, and for their death.

Tomorrow I will get dressed, and lie to myself.  I will tell myself its going to be easy.  I will tell myself the people who don’t understand don’t matter.  I will do it so that one day those lies will he true.  That one day you Unkind Stranger will be having to go home to the arms of a loved one, upset, angry, frustrated, miserable, depressed; because the world moved on and left you behind.

Good bye Unkind Stranger, we will meet again tomorrow.

-Maddy

Representative Democracy

Paula_profile

This is not a political blog or podcast, however, from time to time we will bring up relevant political information.   The following conditions, both pro and con are in my opinion fair game:

–          Implications for the Transgender community

–          Anti-Science (creationism, global warming denial, etc.)

–          Pseudo-science (alternative medicine & “quantum” mumbo jumbo)

–          LGBT friendly people running for office.

It is this last category which I wanted to mention today.

Paula Overby is running against John Kline (incumbent) for the Minnesota 2nd Congressional District, which also just happens to be my district.  Ms. Overby has stated she wishes her campaign to focus on issues rather than her gender.  While we at the Transatheist blog cannot more heartily agree, we look forward to the day when no one should have to even mention this, although it would be humorous to see certain candidates such as Rick Santorum have to continually answer questions regarding his gender and sexuality…..but that’s just me trolling.

So where do the candidates stand on the issues relevant to this blog?  Her opponent, Representative John Kline has a long voting record against the issues many of us in the Transgender community find important.  In 2007 and 2009 he voted against expansion of the Federal definition of hate crimes to include gender and sexual orientation.  In 2010 he voted against the repeal of Don’t ask / Don’t tell.  In 2012 he voted to disallow the use of federal funds to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

To be fair to Representative Kline, Ms. Overby does not have a voting record on these issues to attack; however, I am going to make a radical assumption and predict Ms. Overby’s voting would be different on all of the above.

As this campaign progresses updates will be posted here, and this campaign will definitely be discussed on an upcoming episode.  We are in the process of putting together a questionnaire of science & athiesm topics, which we will be emailing to both Representative Kline, and Ms. Overby.  We’ll post the questionnaire and responses (if any) to the blog.

If you’re interested in learning more about Ms. Overby’s positions on issues you can head to her website at Paulaoverby.com, you can follow her blog , or follow her on Twitter @PaulaMirare.  Finally you can read an interview she did with the Mintpressnews.com here .

-Maddy

Miley Vs. Macklemore

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Its been 4 days since Twerk was first used by someone over the age of 17 in the professional healthcare setting I work at. Yet, my coworkers are still discussing the amateur stripper dance of Miley Cyrus.

I don’t want to be misconstrued, this is a sex positive blog, and will be a sex positive podcast. What Miley does or doesn’t do with her body, and who she does or doesn’t do it with is nothing I have any plans on passing judgment on.  You will not find slut shaming on this blog.  Her performance is only worth critique in that perhaps she should’ve hired a sex worker for some instructional dancing.

What I find frustrating is a hip hop group have found mainstream success, and are not blatantly homophobic, yet this doesn’t seem to interest many. There are most likely a variety of reasons why; homophobia (especially in the hip hop community) is not forefront on the minds of most Americans; its easier to be appalled at a young woman actions when you think of how they may or may not be influencing your daughter; and the age old clichés of “kids today” “in my day girls wore clothes” etc.

Yet despite the rationalizations of why Macklemore’s performance isn’t talked about more, I still find myself wishing this was a bigger deal. Wishing that we still took a moment to look around and realize there are still over 37 states in this country where gay marriage is illegal.

I realize this is a transgender blog, and I realize the issues of the “LGB” community don’t always affect on the “T”. However equality is something we all need to stand together on. When same sex marriage is legal, then by default transgender marriage is legal, as it no longer matters to the state whether the genders listed on the marriage license are opposite.

So what does this have to do Macklemore and the VMA’s? Its a start, and hopefully its a sign of change and acceptance within the greater hip hop community. A community dominated by old stereotypes of gender roles, dominated by sexism and masculinity stereotypes that should be discarded rather than aspired to.

-Maddy