Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dispatches from the Holy War: 01/17

Chris Godfrey

Iowa’s gay workers’ compensation commissioner, Chris Godfrey, sued the state, Gov. Terry Branstad, the lieutenant governor and a few staffers for defamation, harassment and sexual discrimination last week. And over in the United Kingdom, the Very Rev. Jeffrey John, dean of St. Albans, also gay, seems poised to take the Church of England to court for blocking his appointment to bishop --- twice.

Although the success of either the actual or the rumored lawsuit is in doubt, both cases illustrate what can happen these days as the good old boy network discovers some of the perils involved in tangling with pissed off gay guys.

In Iowa, Godfrey has invoked the name of Roxanne Conlin, attorney and sometimes Democratic candidate for governor and senate. Faced with the prospect of facing Conlin in court, strong men have been known to swoon.

Once smelling salts had revived him, Branstad, via the Iowa Attorney General’s office, asked for assistance from the law firm of LaMarca & Landry at a state-funded cost of up to $325 an hour (some four times the going rate for outside assistance) to defend him.

Iowa’s workers’ compensation commissioners serve on an appointive basis --- six-year terms intended to shield them (and their department) from politics. First appointed by Democrat Gov. Tom Vilsack to fill an unexpired term resulting from retirement, Godfrey was reappointed to a full six-year term (confirmed unanimously by the Senate) by Democrat Gov. Chet Culver during 2009.

Republican Branstad first asked for Godfrey’s resignation, along with those of other department heads from the Culver administration, in December of 2010, before he took office. Godfrey, citing the purpose of his six-year term and his record as commissioner, declined. When further efforts to convince Godfrey to play the political game failed, the governor slashed his salary by some $36,000 annually and began an alleged campaign of exclusion directed against Godfrey and his department --- setting the stage for last week’s lawsuit.

Branstad claims Iowa business leaders were calling for Godfrey’s head on a platter, something those leaders perhaps disingenuously deny. He also claims worker compensation costs had increased modestly during Godfrey’s tenure, something Godfrey attributes to factors beyond his control. Godfrey cites his flawless record, multiple exemplary performance reviews and broad peer acknowledgement of his department’s efficiencies.

The implication here is that Branstad is homophobic, which he denies, and there’s no particular reason to believe that he is, personally. Iowa Republicans are, however, institutionally homophobic, so it will be interesting to see where this all leads --- at considerable expense. As Conlin noted during televised interviews --- with a big smile --- the way to prove discrimination is to prove the absence of any other just cause. It’s not yet clear that political expediency is a just cause.


Across the Atlantic, there is general agreement that Jeffrey John would not win a lawsuit against the Church of England, which actually is licensed by the government to discriminate, if it chooses to do so, by exemptions to the Equality Act of 2010. So the effect would be primarily cathartic for a cleric consistently kicked around by the Anglican hierarchy and would highlight the peculiarities of the church’s current approach.

Jeffrey John

 Homosexuality itself is not a canon law barrier to advancement in the Church of England (women bishops are, however, still forbidden) so long as, step one, the candidate is celibate. John, although in a civil partnership, is in a celibate relationship. Gay men, however, are required to verbally repent (and presumably be absolved of) earlier wickedness if they ever have been sexually active. This, John has politely declined to do. Candidates also may be excluded if the hierarchy considers them “divisive.”

First appointed suffagrin bishop of Reading in 2003, John’s alleged friend, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, forced him out of that position to appease traditionalists. Nominated again in 2010, this time as bishop of Southwark, Williams allegedly again led the campaign to derail his appointment. So it does seem that John’s patience is wearing thin.

His case is complicated by the fact the Church of Engliand is an established church, ruled if push comes to shove by Parliament. While Parliament generally keeps its hands off the church, the idea of simply disestablishing it and cutting it loose from government to rise or fall (and its been falling for many years) on its own has gained in popularity of the years.

That would not affect church finances necessarily, since the government does not fund the Church of Engliand. It would, however, remove 26 unelected bishops from the House of Lords and end other perks involved in being part of the establishment.


The real Christians got together down in Texas over the weekend to endorse Rick Santorum as the inevitable Mitt Romney continues to gain in the polls, except of course for those real Christians still endorsing Newt Gingrich. I love it when Republicans fight. But has anyone heard of Rick Perry lately? Last I saw, he was defending as “aw shucks, ma’m, they’s just boys” those Marines photographed urinating on Taliban dead.


Anonymous said...

Frank, How do Gays, who wish to be
Christians, interpret the references to homosexual sex behavior that can be referenced in
the Christian bible? William Smith

Anonymous said...

Jesus never mentioned homosexuality but he sure did mention love your neighbor an awful lot...